Monday, April 30, 2012

Golden Week

Monday, Thursday and Friday are 'Golden Week' holidays this week. Whilst the weather over the weekend was glorious, it would seem the forecast for the week ahead is not so pleasant. Some rain due. We are heading up to Niseko on Wednesday to hang out. I'll swim (indoors - shoulder strain permitting), ride (bike ta-Q-bin-ed). And read. And eat. And sleep.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sheep Invaders

Radio Time Machine


x + (100 + x) = 110

"Q: If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

If you answered $10 you are inclined to believe in religion. If you answered $5 you are inclined to disbelieve.

Why? Because, according to new research reported in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, the $10 answer indicates that you are an intuitive thinker, and the $5 answer indicates that you solve problems analytically, rather than following your gut instinct.

Psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, predicted that people who were more analytic in thinking would tend not to believe in religion, whereas people who approach problems more intuitively would tend to be believers. Their study confirmed the hypothesis and the findings illuminate the mysterious cognitive process by which we reach decisions about our beliefs."

Scientists claim the way a person answers simple math problem is a good predictor of their belief in a religion - Boing Boing

Move



If you could only perform five exercise movements for the rest of your life, which five would you do?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Facebook Kapitall

April Showers

"Officials issued eight new flood warnings in the region urging local residents to take “sensible precautions” against the continued bad weather.

The storms come as parts of England – including the South West – suffer one of the worst droughts since records began. The South East, East Anglia, Midlands and parts of Yorkshire have also been given official drought status.

Despite the conditions the EA has said it is unlikely to be enough to replenish near-empty reservoirs and allow them to lift the hosepipe ban.

Britain on flood alert as Environment Agency warns of torrential downpours in eight areas - Telegraph

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hours of fun


Shr'edit



Go full screen and turn the volume UP.

The Emperor's New Clothes

"In a recent essay on Facebook’s prospects, investment advisor Josh Brown called it a “red giant” — a star that, having grown too large, starts to consume its own resources and eventually implodes and becomes a white dwarf. Investors who are looking for a meteoric return on the company’s initial offering should consider the fact that they may wind up with shares in something very different."

What if Facebook isn’t so special after all? - GigaOM

Money CAN buy happiness

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alone together

"In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens.

..an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done..

Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices."

The Flight From Conversation - NYT

"There’s no question that a Facebook or Twitter chat can’t substitute for a face-to-face conversation with someone you care about. But is anyone really saying it should? It feels as though Turkle is proposing a false dichotomy, as though all the online communication we engage in somehow takes the place of “real-world” conversation. It’s like an updated version of the old image of young people sitting alone in their basements playing video games instead of going out to meet their friends in the “real” world.

Tufekci argues the online world and the so-called real world are almost indistinguishable now, and in many cases they tend to support each other rather than the opposite.

If anything, online connections tend to spark or promote real-world connections.

Virtually every technological development related to media, from newspapers and paperbacks to television and the Internet gets demonized at some point as people try to pin the blame for human nature on some external force. But in each case, it’s how we choose to use these new tools that matters, and that is something we all have in our power to change, for the better as well as for the worse."

Is the Internet making us more lonely or less lonely? Yes. - GigaOM

Click Yes

"Most sites are required to have Privacy policies. It's an idea that serves no useful purpose, yet one, and if you don't, people get all upset. But no one reads them, and most people incorrectly assume that if a site has any privacy policy, they must keep data private.

The reality is that the incentives of a privacy policy are to not use it to keep your info private. In fact, the incentives are to make a privacy policy as permissive as possible. Because the only time you get in trouble is not if you fail to protect someone's privacy... but if you violate your own privacy policy.

A new report notes that if you actually bothered to read all the privacy policies you encounter on a daily basis, it would take you 250 working hours per year -- or about 30 workdays. Most privacy policies take about eight to ten minutes to read. They also ran some tests to figure out how long it actually takes people to read and/or skim privacy policies.

They put all of this together and estimated that it would normally take a person about 244 hours per year to read every new privacy policy they encountered... and even 154 hours just to skim them.

Imagine if you read terms of service and end user license agreements too... Of course, sometimes those include little hidden gems. Like the time a company put a clause in its EULA that the first person to read that clause and contact them would get $1,000. It only took four months for someone to actually spot it."

To Read All Of The Privacy Policies You Encounter, You'd Need To Take A Month Off From Work Each Year - Tech Dirt

Portrait of Lotte

#BeyondOutrage

"What makes America’s current polarization remarkable isn’t the severity of our disagreements but our utter lack of engagement debating them.

People can only learn from others who disagree with them — or at least from witnessing debates between people who respectfully and civilly disagree.

Without respect and civility, it’s not a debate – it’s just name-calling."

Why Anyone Should Care that Bill O’Reilly Calls Me A Communist - Robert Reich

Monday, April 23, 2012

HTFU


  • Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist.
  • Resist “catastrophic thinking”.
  • Practice gratitude and generosity.

Can You Instill Mental Toughness? - Time

Dixia Cheng

"Tunnels stretch for miles on end – stark lighting just about illuminating the gloom – while mementos of a time when the threat of nuclear war loomed large can still be seen, albeit covered in mold. Incredible to think that these labyrinthine passageways were designed for the safekeeping of an entire city; indeed they comprise a city in themselves.

The Cold War triggered a profusion of bomb shelters that were once so ubiquitous some science-fiction stories foresaw humanity’s future lying underground. Movies like George Lucas’s THX 1138 predicted entire subterranean civilizations that had left the surface world behind. But could this really have come to pass?

In 1969, as tensions between China and the Soviet Union were reaching boiling point due to the border clashes centered around the Zhenbao Island incident, Communist China envisioned just such a subterranean future. What’s more, the ruling government acted upon it. Today, the remains of the herculean task they began – burrowing out all manner of bunkers and basements below the surface – still exist underneath the bustling streets of Beijing.

Forty percent of Beijing's population were to enter Dixia Cheng in the event of emergency, with the rest routed to shelters in the mountains around the city.

The original network of air-raid shelters and tunnels that make up Beijing’s Underground City – also known as Dixia Cheng – is said to extend all the way from the center of the Chinese metropolis to beyond the outskirts near the Great Wall. The subterranean complex was excavated primarily by hand – by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, following an edict and rallying cry from Mao Zedong. “Dig deep the tunnels, keep vast the stores of grain, and never seek hegemony,” pronounced Mao. And the people dug.

In total, the tunnels (at least what's left of them) are thought to cover 85 square kilometers (33 sq mi), linking the city's major districts anywhere from 8 to 18 meters (26–59 ft) below street level. The complex was designed to shield those inside it against either conventional or nuclear attack, and was dubbed the ‘Underground Great Wall’ – a reference to its protective design. The tunnels were secured by thick concrete and lead-lined doors, some 20 centimeters (8 in) thick, which could be sealed to prevent flooding. And airshafts and special hatches were built in an effort to safeguard against chemical weapons and radioactive fallout.

Key to Dixia Cheng’s protective capabilities was the idea that this should be a stronghold where people could live – and for a long time. The plan was that it be able to house up to 40% of Beijing’s population, if not all of the city’s then 6 million inhabitants – or so it was claimed. The tunnels were extensively ventilated and the complex equipped with water well sites and grain storage reserves as well as medical and schooling facilities. Cafeterias and a movie theater were provided, and later even shopping areas and a roller skating rink.

However, with international tensions perceived to be melting away, work on the complex ended in 1979. The Underground City lay largely forgotten, at least to younger local residents, though some tourists did gain access, and activity underground persisted. Gradually Dixia Cheng became a ‘shadow city’ where over time entrepreneurs opened cheap restaurants, stores or hostels catering to poor migrant workers. Then, in 2000, in the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the hodgepodge subterranean network was officially reopened, and visitors flocked in to take a peek at its relics of the past.

This flurry of commercial activity lasted all of seven years before it was decided that Dixia Cheng should be made off-limits again. However, many people were unwilling to let go of their livelihoods without protest, some having been there for decades. The authorities prohibited business owners from renting space in underground shelters but have failed to act on similar rulings in the past. Meanwhile, any promises of affordable housing for residents would well be met with doubt, as previously such projects have often resulted in buyouts by developers who resell the homes at a higher price.

What will the future hold for this Cold War testament to the power of the collective will? With more and more tunnels being destroyed or blocked off for reasons of safety or security, opportunities to explore Dixia Cheng are dwindling. Many of the subterranean passageways are shallow enough that they interfere with subway expansions and the deeper foundations needed for the construction of new buildings. And urban development tends to get what it wants.

A recent report in the China Daily announced plans for a new underground city to offset the strain of overcrowding in Beijing. Hoteliers from the existing subterranean spaces demonstrated as recently as 2010 to preserve their businesses, but recent reports describe the increasing frequency of tunnel closures, and the sense is that Dixia Cheng is largely abandoned and falling to pieces, with flooding described.

Some tour operators still include the Underground City in their packages, but travelers are advised to make haste if they want to see this vast, sprawling relic beneath Beijing before it disappears forever."

Beijing's Secret Underground City - Enviromental Graffiti

The Man Who Quit Money

Kardashian trance

"It is true that the European financial fiasco is a story of such fantastic mystifying complexity that the public can't possibly be expected to follow each twist of the plotline. But the fact is that nothing was fixed for Greece or after Greece and the hazard of evermore profound wreckage is assured.

The plan for stabilizing Spain's hemorrhaging insolvency position works as follows: Spain's big banks borrow billions from the European Central Bank (ECB); the Spanish banks then turn around and lend the Spanish government the money to fund a bailout operation for the Spanish banks; the Spanish banks then use the bailout money to buy Spanish sovereign bonds, that is, lend money to the government.

The world received news of this dangerous idiocy with a yawn.

No one in the American media is paying attention to the unfolding tragedy of Japan - and by this I refer not only to the unfinished Fukushima saga, but the parallel story of Japan closing down virtually its entire nuclear power industry necessitating gigantic additional imports of oil and gas to generate electric power - all of which points to the likelihood that Japan will become the first advanced industrial nation to bid sayonara to modernity and return to a neo-medieval socio-economic model of daily life.

What I wonder is how long the American public will remain in its Kardashian trance. I think this grim interval of crisis consolidation is drawing to a close and, like the buds swelling on every tree in New England, events will soon burst into astounding efflorescence."

As If Nothing Matters - Clusterfuck Nation

Been a while since I linked to Jim. He's still writing magnificently.

Friday, April 20, 2012

WOOFER

"Had I taken a wilderness medicine class, I would have known this: When you reset broken bones, you don’t yank. Instead, you pull, slowly and firmly, gradually allowing the bones to settle back into place.

Truth is, I should have taken a proper first-aid course 30 years ago.

So I coughed up $600 for one of the best training experiences in the country, the NOLS Wilderness First Responder course (nicknamed Woofer, a loose take on its acronym), and braced myself for ten straight days, nearly ten hours a day, of medical instruction.

“By the end of this class,” Downey says, “you will know how to deal with everything from a tension pneumothorax to torsion of the testes.” (That’s a punctured lung and twisted nuts to you laymen.) Stout and direct, with sandy blond hair, Downey encourages us to view this course as preparation for emergencies in places where there are no lifesaving machines, the med kit is smaller than your sandwich, and “you are the doctor on call.”"

FIRST, DO A LITTLE LESS HARM - Outside

Add the course to the list.

Bystanders

Force India team vehicle flees fire bomb before Bahrain Grand Prix - Guardian

"No one, it seems, wants to be here, apart from the race organisers, although the Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel struck a crassly insensitive note when he said: "It is not a big problem and I am happy once we start testing tomorrow because then we can start worrying about the stuff that really matters like tyre temperatures, cars …"

When he was told that a lot of people did not want Sunday's race to take place, he added: "I haven't met them. Maybe it is because I only arrived this morning. I haven't seen much of what people are talking about.

There are fears of more violence tomorrow, since the time after Friday evening prayers is normally the most volatile. Friday also marks the start of the "Three days of rage" by the pro-democracy demonstrators."

F1 hunkers down for Bahrain Grand Prix as tensions rise in Manama - Guardian

'the important stuff'.. keen political commentary from the 24 yr old, whilst the old men controlling the 'sport' show huge levels of insensitivity too. I hope this doesn't get worse. I have my doubts.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Power = Smart

"While everyone was cheering or gasping over the billion dollar acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, a few were looking more carefully at just how the deal got done: by Mark Zuckerberg, working alone. Only when the deal was as good as done, did he deign to tell his board.

Zuckerberg's board members, if they have any gumption, may not be too pleased that they weren't consulted and, if they choose to, will almost certainly be able to pick holes in the Facebook-Instagram agreement. But they're unlikely to sulk for long and Zuckerberg may feel he doesn't need them anyway, especially given his control of the company through 57% of its voting rights. The board is there to keep compliance officers happy and for no other reason. But it doesn't speak too well of the board members themselves if they're happy to be fig leaves.

More critically, however, Zuckerberg's aversion to advice, while it may not cause any harm to board members (except a few bruised egos), could cause him harm. Every CEO I've ever seen becomes trapped sooner or later by power and money. They start to believe they're infallible--and they're surrounded by people eager to confirm that. Vast amounts of cash solve most problems, at least for a while. Power and money together are terrific defenders against robust debate, critical thinking, and innovation. Richard Fuld, James Cayne, Dominique Strauss-Kahn are just a few examples who come to mind as imperial and narcissistic CEOs no one ever wanted to challenge.

Don't get me wrong. Zuckerberg is smart; of course he is. Anyone who can convince half a billion people to use a mediocre piece of software with monotonous regularity clearly must be smart. But no one is smart forever."

Mark Zuckerberg and the Perils of Soloists - Inc.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fire Engine

via Indexed

Too Big to get Smaller

"As Bloomberg notes, the five banks that held assets equal to 43% of the US economy in 2007 before the financial crisis and the bank bailout now control assets that equal 56% of the US economy:"

Giant Banks Now 30% Bigger than When Dodd-Frank Financial “Reform” Law Was Passed - ZH

The Only Way to Save the Economy: Break Up the Giant, Insolvent Banks - Washington's Blog

Banks Seen Dangerous Defying Obama’s Too-Big-to-Fail Move - Bloomberg

"And here’s the really crazy thing; there aren’t even 20 gamblers in the derivatives markets to diversify the risks, there are only four that matter — all four of whom are also “the House.” In other words, because only four big banks hold 94% of the derivatives, they all owe money to each other in virtually incalculable ways."

“Net Sober” - Daily Reckoning

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Other Inconvenient Truth

Spamazon

"FORTUNE – Perhaps it should be called Spamazon.

Until recently, if you had typed "Steve Jobs Isaac" into the online retailer's search box, the first choice that popped up wasn't the best selling book by Walter Isaacson, but instead one with the same name and a similarly sounding author, Isaac Worthington. The book appears to be selling, even though Amazon's one reviewer gives the book a single star and calls it a "poorly produced pamphlet." Presumably, Worthington's book is based on exclusive interviews with Jeve Stobs.

There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

And if you want to buy bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon, be careful where you click. A number of Amazon shoppers looking for the book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman ended up with Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels, which until recently was also on Amazon. Says Kahneman of his doppelganger, "There is no such expert, it's a rip-off. The comments on it are quite amusing – rather shocking that Amazon allows this sort of thing."

It's perhaps more shocking that Amazon (AMZN) not only sells the books, it's also helping their authors create them. All of the apparent copycat books that Fortune found on Amazon were made through CreateSpace, which is a division of Amazon. Authors can use CreateSpace's system to design and self-publish their own books. The books then go on sale on Amazon and other sites. Amazon splits the proceeds with authors.

"It's the book equivalent of spam," says lawyer Eric Rayman, a former attorney for Simon & Schuster. "Amazon should be taking steps to stop this. It's bad for consumers and it's bad for the book business."

Amazon's knock-off problem - Fortune

Also.

"DRM on ebooks is dead. (Or if not dead, it's on death row awaiting a date with the executioner.)

It doesn't matter whether Macmillan wins the price-fixing lawsuit bought by the Department of Justice. The point is, the big six publishers' Plan B for fighting the emerging Amazon monopsony has failed (insofar as it has been painted as a price-fixing ring, whether or not it was one in fact). This means that they need a Plan C. And the only viable Plan C, for breaking Amazon's death-grip on the consumers, is to break DRM."

What Amazon's ebook strategy means - Charlie's Diary

"I think he’s right, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. DRM is a religion for old-growth media executives. Rational thought could lead them to this solution, but won’t, because they’re starting with an irrational bedrock assumption: that there can exist a technical solution to defeat piracy. Their belief in DRM is a matter of faith, not logic.

If I’m wrong though, and the publishers see the light of day and start selling DRM-free ePub books, I think that’d be a win for Apple, in the same way that dropping DRM from music has helped, not hurt, Apple’s music business. Amazon is the one whose Kindle devices and apps do not support DRM-free ePub books."

Charlie Stross on Amazon’s E-Book Strategy - Daring Fireball

Monday, April 16, 2012

DCS

"In March 2006, Henry started experiencing symptoms more severe than the itchy dots he’d had 16 years earlier. This time, however, he was several hours into a combat mission, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Middle East, and more than 13 miles above the ground. “The first thing that happened was the pain in my knees,” he says. “I kind of blew it off because it was very, very light. But this was bilateral”—the pain was in both knees. “They never taught us before: Bilateral is bad. So I just pressed on, of course; that’s what we do.”

Over the next five hours, Henry developed an intense headache, nausea, and extreme fatigue. The pain got worse. At one point, he hallucinated that the airplane had rolled 30 degrees to the left. He began to feel disoriented and sluggish, a sensation he likens to intoxication. At one point, he snapped awake, not realizing he’d dozed off.

“That’s when I go, Okay, I’m not feeling well, and I had to fess up,” he says. He hadn’t wanted to be grounded due to what he thought was an inconsequential medical problem, or to let the younger pilots hear that he returned complaining of a mere headache.

Henry contacted his ground mission supervisor, who woke up the squadron commander back at Beale Air Force Base in California. By that point, Henry had essentially forgotten how to fly his airplane."

Killer at 70,000 Feet - Air & Space

Game Over

“It’s almost game over at Sony,” said Yoshiaki Sakito, a former Sony executive who has worked for Walt Disney, Bain & Company, Apple and a start-up focused on innovation training. “I don’t see how Sony’s going to bounce back now.”

The company still makes a confusing catalog of gadgets that overlap or even cannibalize one another. It has also continued to let its product lines mushroom: 10 different consumer-level camcorders and almost 30 different TVs, for instance, crowd and confuse consumers.

“Sony makes too many models, and for none of them can they say, ‘This contains our best, most cutting-edge technology,’ ” Mr. Sakito said. “Apple, on the other hand, makes one amazing phone in just two colors and says, ‘This is the best.’ ”

How the Tech Parade Passed Sony By - NYT

Censorship

"I haven't tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy," he said.

Brin acknowledged that some people were anxious about the amount of their data that was now in the reach of US authorities because it sits on Google's servers. He said the company was periodically forced to hand over data and sometimes prevented by legal restrictions from even notifying users that it had done so.

He said: "We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great … We're doing it as well as can be done."

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin - Guardian

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pink Ticket

The Adominable Charles Christopher

Architecture translated

Architecture translated

Survival Condo

"SALINA, Kansas — Tucked deep beneath the Kansas prairie, luxury condos are being built into the shaft of an abandoned missile silo to service anxious -- and wealthy -- people preparing for doomsday.

So far, four buyers have plopped down a total of about $7 million for havens to flee to when disaster happens or the end is nigh. And developer Larry Hall has options to retro-fit three more Cold War-era silos when this one fills up.
"They worry about events ranging from solar flares, to economic collapse, to pandemics to terrorism to food shortages," Hall told AFP on a tour of the site.

These "doomsday preppers", as they are called, want a safe place and he will be there with them because Hall, 55, bought one of the condos for himself. He says his fear is that sun flares could wipe out the power grid and cause chaos.

He and his wife and son live in Denver and will use their condo mostly as a vacation home, he says, but if the grid goes, they will be ready."

Doomsday shelters line Kansas missile silo - AFP


http://survivalcondo.com/

"Will we have guns ? Yes, and Ammo too."

No details yet as to whether these beds are included in the $2 million purchase price.

Everlane

It’s an exciting, collaborative and experimental effort. It’s just the beginning of this journey, and it’s one we hope you’ll join us on.

"It's an industry fact: Your typical designer shirt sells for 8 times what it cost to make. But it doesn't have to be this way. We've set out to challenge conventions and build a new retail model.

We have no physical stores, no middlemen taking their cut and no crazy brand markups. Instead, we create our own luxury basics and sell them exclusively at Everlane.com. New designs each month, never over $100."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dracula Awesomeness

Caine's Arcade



"A 9 year old boy - who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad's used auto part store - is about to have the best day of his life."

UK outlook

"Back to the outlook for the UK. There is no denying that it is grim; however, and despite all the weaknesses of the UK economic model, it has two key advantages over most of its European neighbours.

Firstly, it is a currency issuer rather than a currency user, meaning that it has full control of its monetary and currency policies and can apply precisely the policy required at any point in time rather than being held hostage to the needs and requirements of the others. As a currency user, it cannot overtly default unless it chooses to do so, although there are ways it can default covertly as we shall see later.

Secondly, the UK has gone much further than most other countries in terms of restructuring its labour markets, granting it key advantages over its European competitors many of whom are still saddled with labour market practices that do not stand a chance in today’s environment where the market place for both labour and goods has turned truly global.

Having said that, the UK is in trouble. On several fronts. To begin with, the UK has not yet got its debt crisis under control. Despite talking the talk, debt has escalated further since the crisis erupted in 2008, making the UK one of the most indebted countries in the world. When combining debt from the three main sectors – households, corporates and the public sector – of the major economic powers only Japan is now more indebted than the UK and it is only by a fraction."

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH - Pragmatic Capitalist

Facegram

"Facebook, a company with a potential market cap worth five or six moon landings, is spending one of its many billions of dollars to buy Instagram.

To understand this deal it’s important to understand Facebook. Unfortunately everything about Facebook defies logic. In terms of user experience (insider jargon: "UX"), Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever — a chaotic mess of products designed to burrow into every facet of your life.

Remember what the iPod was to Apple? That’s how Instagram might look to Facebook: an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly.

To some users, this looks like a sellout. And that’s because it is. You might think the people crabbing about how Instagram is going to suck now are just being naïve, but I don’t think that’s true. Small product companies put forth that the user is a sacred being, and that community is all-important. That the money to pay for the service comes from venture capital, which seeks a specific return on investment over a period of time, is between the company and the venture capitalists; the relationship between the user and the product is holy, or is supposed to be.

So if you’re an Instagram user, you’ve been picking up on all of the cues about how important you are, how valuable you are to Instagram. Then along comes Facebook, the great alien presence that just hovers over our cities, year after year, as we wait and fear.

You can’t blame users for becoming hooting primates when a giant spaceship dumps a billion dollars out of its money hole.

Tens of millions of people made a decision to spend their time with the simple, mobile photo-sharing application that was not Facebook because they liked its subtle interface and little filters. And so Facebook bought the thing that is hardest to fake. It bought sincerity."

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out - NYMag

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Mockery of a Man

"In the 1980s, the crews from Oxford and Cambridge were often regarded as a bit of a joke. With the odd exception, the blue boats seemed to be stuck in a time-warp, made up of an exclusive club of British private schoolboys, with posh accents whose eights were often not that fast.

Fast-forward to 2012 and it is a different world. A ruthless performance-based agenda has changed the boat race brand out of all recognition. The two multinational eights are right up there with the best in the world. Unless they are incredibly talented, most British private schoolboy rowers who gain places at Oxford or Cambridge would struggle to find a seat in either blue boat.

The two crews that Oldfield recklessly stopped in the middle of an enthralling contest were actually far more representative of the level of excellence that we see in elite-level international sportsmen and women, than of any social elitism of a bygone era.

Those eighteen blues had won their places on the start-line through their willingness to submit to an extraordinarily tough training programme. They, in common with the vast majority of rowers in the world today did that, not for financial gain – there is no money to be had in rowing – but for challenge, team-spirit and the deep satisfaction of personal achievement.

The rowing community at least, will remember Oldfield's stunt as a misguided assault on the values they hold dear."

Rowing is elitist, but not in the way Trenton Oldfield thinks - Guardian

The opening paragraph rings true to me. I was lucky enough, worked hard enough, to row with the Nottingham County squad during my University days. The Blue boats would come and train with us. Heavyweight vs. Lightweight crews, but if memory serves, we weren't ever in any trouble racing with them. Later the Heavyweight guys learnt how to row at higher rates and the fitness levels got much closer too. As for Trenton's "protest", he is a 'mockery of a man'.

'When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you. I know … exactly what you were protesting. You were protesting the right of 17 young men and one woman to compete fairly and honourably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition. You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuits of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man'

William Zeng - No. 2 and American Rhodes scholar, studying for a DPhil Computer Science, Oriel College,. Oxford.


Monday, April 09, 2012

There's an app for that

"Our desire for thrills often works against our better judgment. As a species, we derive pleasure from thinking about what will come.

Your best defense, of course, is to be aware of your vulnerability and maximize your information. But when it comes to shopping for experiences, emotions all too often rule.

The problem is clear: We don't think when buying an experience. Or at least, we don't think enough.

With a little help from Apple, an app fixed the problem almost completely.

A lot of American entrepreneurship is showing up in app markets, and the world of sports experiences is no exception.

This kind of development is spreading rapidly. And that's just the beginning. The information imbalance is finally shifting."

Would I Lie to You? - Grantland

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Obligatory Hanami Photo

Happy Easter Sunday

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Empty Chair

"Adults may still mentally link Amazon with Barnes & Noble, but to teenage customers, Amazon is now synonymous with store. That turning point might be Bezos’ greatest accomplishment. In officially transforming Amazon from an online bookstore that sells other stuff to a retailer—and business ser­vices provider—that once sold mostly books, he has taken one of the original Internet bonanzas and created a success story all over again. Its stock is up 397% in the last five years.

Jeff Bezos’ managers at Amazon find him formidable enough. But the figure that overwhelms their lives goes by the internal nickname “the empty chair.” Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, “the most important person in the room.”

“We don’t focus on the optics of the next quarter; we focus on what is going to be good for customers. I think this aspect of our culture is rare.”

Amazon’s Kindle, for example, came into being because Bezos, internalizing hundreds of data points, believed millions of people would want a crisp e-book reader that could download any book in 60 seconds or less. He set that delivery target without getting pinned down by technical issues about the right compression ratios or transmission speeds for book files. Engineers were free to solve technical challenges as they saw fit. They just needed to make it right for consumers. It took years for Amazon to master the hardware necessary to build such devices, but Bezos didn’t blink. When one finance executive asked how much he was prepared to spend on the project, the CEO shot back: “How much do we have?”"

Inside Amazon's Idea Machine: How Bezos Decodes The Customer - Forbes

Absolutely fascinating throughout.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why Las Vegas is moving to Macau

"By 2006 Macau’s casino revenues had surpassed those of Las Vegas, until then the world’s largest gambling town. Today, the quantity of money passing through Macau exceeds that of Las Vegas five times over

Even by China’s standards, the speed of Macau’s growth is breathtaking; for a decade, the economy has ballooned, on average, nineteen per cent a year—nearly twice as fast as mainland China’s. In 2010, high rollers in Macau wagered about six hundred billion dollars, roughly the amount of cash withdrawn from all the A.T.M.s in America in a year.

After six years of studies and surveys, Lam views each gambling table as a “microscopic battle,” a standoff between science and faith. On one side is the casino, which can reliably calculate its advantage to two decimal points. On the other is a collection of Chinese beliefs about fate and superstition, which, Lam says, “people know are irrational but are part of the culture.” He ticked off some received wisdom: To improve the odds, wear red underwear and switch on all the lights before leaving home. To prevent a losing streak, avoid the sight of nuns and monks when travelling to the casino. Never use the main entrance. Always find a side door

In 2009, New Jersey regulators decided that a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Ho’s daughter Pansy failed the state’s requirement that casinos avoid business with “notorious or unsavory persons.” Far more surprising is what happened afterward, when New Jersey gave MGM an ultimatum: cut ties with the Ho family or lose a stake in Atlantic City’s highest-grossing casino. MGM chose Macau, and it is now selling its stake in Atlantic City."

THE GOD OF GAMBLERS - The New Yorker

Cruise

"In yet another public relations setback for the beleaguered cruise industry, Somali pirates today said they would no longer board cruise ships, citing “unsafe working conditions.”"

Citing Safety Concerns, Somali Pirates Refuse to Board Cruise Ships - The Borowitz Report

My mother-in-law's concerns will now be alleviated. However, I would have thought the proposed Copenhagen to St. Petersburg trip would be more at risk from Vikings than Pirates?

Monopoly

"Tokyo Electric Power is facing a revolt by corporate customers after the utility said it would sharply increase the price of electricity, highlighting the difficult choice Japan faces between accepting higher energy costs or restarting nuclear plants that were shut after the Fukushima accident last year.

Tepco, which has a near-monopoly on electricity sales in Tokyo and the surrounding area, is seeking an average 17 per cent rate increase for large users in contracts that were due to be renewed from April 1. But so far fewer than one in five customers have agreed to the rise."

Tepco faces revolt over price rise - FT

Fools

“SPAIN is facing an economic situation of extreme difficulty, I repeat, of extreme difficulty, and anyone who doesn’t understand that is fooling themselves.

Of course markets are uneasy.”

Pain in Spain - It’s back - The Economist

A Strat is Born

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Boom


"Great Britain's team pursuit men won a spectacular gold medal at the World Track Cycling Championships as they beat Australia with a world record. Ed Clancy, Pete Kennaugh, Steven Burke and Geraint Thomas clocked three minutes 53.295 seconds in Melbourne."

Track Worlds: Great Britain beat Australia with world record - BBC

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Toxic



As discussed this morning over breakfast.

Against Expectation



Gold: "I think that we had an intermediate peak at $1921 on September 6 of last year. Then we dropped sharply to $1,522 an ounce on December 29, 2011. Since then we’ve had a feeble recovery. I think that the correction period is not yet over. I’m not selling my gold because I don’t trust governments and I don’t trust the Federal Reserve, nor would I trust the ECB or other money traders in the world. They are all going to print money. I still recommend to hold gold."

Japan: "I happen to believe that money printing will continue and I would probably buy financial shares and I believe that the Japanese market may outperform all the other markets against all expectations in 2012."

MARC FABER: BUY GOLD, JAPANESE EQUITIES - Pragmatic Capitalist

Marc Faber is a pessimist and the author of the Gloom, Boom, Doom report He also said this on CNBC y'day: ""Somewhere down the line we will have a massive wealth destruction that usually happens either through very high inflation or through social unrest or through war or credit market collapse," he said. "Maybe all of it will happen, but at different times. I think that people should own some gold and I think that people should own some equities, because before the collapse will happen, with Mr. Bernanke at the Fed, they're going to print money and print and print and print," he said. "So what you can get is a bad economy with rising equity prices."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Why We Get Fat

"While it’s easy to believe that we remain lean because we’re virtuous and we get fat because we lack self-control or discipline, the evidence clearly says otherwise.

Not all foods containing carbs are equally fattening. The most fattening foods are those that have the greatest impact on our insulin and blood sugar levels. These are the easily digestible carbs. Anything made of refined flour (bread, cereals, and pasta), starches (potatoes, rice, and corn), and liquids (beer, pop, fruit juice). “These foods,” says Taubes, “flood the bloodstream quickly with glucose. Blood sugar shoots up; insulin shoots up; We get fatter.”"

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It - Farnham Street



Bombing

"Early last Saturday, the Mt. Baker Ski Patrol used a helicopter to do control work as there was significant potential for large destructive slides to come inside the ski area. This image is a result of that work. This result proved there is a very deep and still active layer in the snow pack."

via Helicopter Bombing on the Shuksan arm and Hemispheres

Brand

"The Brand Japan 2012 survey had a consumer market category targeting 1,000 brands, as well as a business market category for 500 brands. It was conducted online over November and December of last year. Overall brand power scores were calculated based on the responses of some 52,000 people aged 18 and older.

The rankings are as follows (with last year’s ranking in parenthesis):

1. (11) Apple
2. (1) Google
3. (2) Uniqlo
4. (7) YouTube
5. (6) Disney
6. (4) McDonalds
7. (3) Panasonic
8. (5) Nissan
9. (39) Dyson
10. (9) Rakuten"

via Nikkei.com

Reality/Perception

“When you are at Goldman sitting on a $10 billion prop desk, everyone is your friend. When you are on your own at a hedge fund, you find out who your real friends are.”

Goldman Diaspora Falters as Flamand Hedge Fund Declines - Bloomberg

A Conversation with Peter Thiel and Niall Ferguson

Have enjoyed watching Niall Ferguson just recently in Channel 4s 'China: Triumph and Turmoil'. Here he is with Peter Thiel, the founder of Twitter.