Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fix

"On Libor, his views are equally straightforward: "The idea that you allow a load of banks to set rates by telling you what number they think it should be, you're going to have a problem."

Libor should in future be set based on actual rate data, he suggests, by a commercial organisation such as Bloomberg.

But, given the recent scandals in the sector – Libor, swaps mis-selling, HSBC's money laundering claims – why then has the Government not stepped in to clean up the industry?

"It's amazing, isn't it? There is a grave desire to talk gobbledegook and somehow think this will solve the problem."
Beyond banking, Smith isn't, on the whole, supportive of Government intervention.

"Government intervention in business is one of the worst things you can have," he says, citing the tobacco industry, where the ban on advertising allowed the industry's main players to remove one of their major costs and ensure that they will never have a new competitor.

Asked what he thinks of Vince Cable's idea of setting up a "permanent forum" on achieving long-termism, Smith puts his head in his hands.

"Write 'Smith put head in hands'," he smiles. His views on the Business Secretary are damning: "Shouldn't we have somebody who knows something about business as Business Secretary, wouldn't that be a good idea?""

Terry Smith: The idea that you allow a load of banks to set rates... you're going to have a problem - Telegraph

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mitt the Twit

"Thank goodness for Mitt Romney that Britain is not America’s 51st state. It would long since have joined New York in the solid Democratic column. “Who invited him?” asked the Daily Mail last week, following Mr Romney’s string of gaffes about the Olympics.

The Washington commentariat is fond of disparaging Fleet Street – usually with good reason. In terms of intrusion, iniquity and, on occasions, pure invention, the UK tabloids are Olympic gold medallists. But the UK media has a reasonable track record at detecting bluff. One example was its scepticism about the reasons for invading Iraq, a stance that often set the British press at odds with their more patriotic US counterparts.

Another is Mr Romney’s awfulness as a candidate. It has nothing to do with insight: the UK media are only stating bluntly what is on everyone’s minds. Headlines like “Mitt the Twit” showcase how irreverent British tabloids can be. Yet they present in caricature what many Republicans are happy to volunteer in private. But then the Republican “establishment” long since resigned themselves to the trials a Romney nomination would entail.

Six long years after he first emerged as presidential candidate, time is fast slipping away for Mr Romney to define himself favourably. At a moment when the US debate should be dominated by a weakening economy, Barack Obama’s campaign keeps shifting attention back to Mr Romney’s mangled biography.

The more worrying answer from a Republican point of view is that things could actually get a lot worse. The polls, which show the two candidates in a dead heat, flatter the Romney campaign. With unemployment above 8 per cent – it may even rise when the July payroll numbers come out on Friday – and growth again slowing, an incumbent president would ordinarily be headed for defeat. The fact that Mr Obama is still favourite, if only by a whisker, offers an extraordinary rebuke to Mr Romney’s campaigning skills.

Which brings us back to the Olympics. The first rule of foreign trips is that the candidate must avoid offending his hosts. Mr Romney did so before his aeroplane even left the tarmac. To become the butt of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s humour only a few hours after having touched down takes some doing. The fact that within 24 hours Mr Romney went from describing himself as “disconcerted” with London’s preparations to being “very delighted” also drew attention to his best known flaw – a tendency to say one thing then contradict it soon afterwards with the same robotic certainty.

All good politicians bend to the wind. With the exception of his hair, Mr Romney gets blown all over the place at the slightest gust."

Why the UK was right on Romney - FT

Friday, July 27, 2012

FR12






Went to Fuji Rock for the weekend. First time for Joli and was a great weekend in the mountains. The Stone Roses were excellent on Friday night. The line-up was a bit weak on Saturday, although Justice provided an absolutely brilliant cliamx. As usual we left slowly on Sunday after a good lunch, having to return to Tokyo and the real world for Monday. With a large number of friends and acquaintances in attendance it was really good fun. All the standing, walking and dancing took its toll on our middle aged backs. Might have to have training program ahead of next year!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Amis

London Riots: "It’s not class anymore. It’s money. And for very good reason. Money is a much more fluid medium than class, and much more measurable, too, than class. It is the sort of society where—it’s not very rational—people look at fame and feel deprived if they haven’t got it, feeling that this is a basic, almost a human right, a civil right. And also feel the same way about wealth, I suppose—why haven’t I got it? And plenty of people got it who don’t deserve it. It’s as if it’s all up there for grabs, but it isn’t coming their way."

London vs. New York: "And they’re on a par in terms of inequality—a really striking thing, an evil thing. In the middle of the century and beyond, the tendency was very much egalitarian—the lessening of divides. But now, both here and in England, inequality is on the level it was just before the First World War. It’s gone back to that—it has just relapsed to those ruling-class kind of levels. That whole ameliorative energy, and tendency, has been reversed, just in the last ten or twenty years. And I think it’s tremendously demoralizing for a society when the divide gets that big."

Empire: "America is due to decline, but it’s not declining yet. And that’s the big difference in feel between the places, London and New York. It’s a magnificent world city, London. And its history is there, and its present. But there’s a sense of unreality about it."

Phone hacking: "The fact that this is the kind of thing we’re interested in is in itself a condemnation. That it’s all on such a vulgar and intrusive level. Why is that appetite? There isn’t what my father called the cruising hostility of the English press—where they’re looking around for something to attack. You don’t feel that there’s a great reservoir of resentment in the press as you do in England."

New New Yorker Martin Amis Talks Terrorism, Pornography, Idyllic Brooklyn and American Decline - Vulture

Nowhere else to go

"It's like when I go to the gym and there's no freshly washed socks, so I take the pair that's relatively clean."

Falling Global Rates Boost Appeal of Japan - WSJ

Really?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Run

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Land Without Guns

'In part by forbidding almost all forms of firearm ownership, Japan has as few as two gun-related homicides a year.'

"To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you'll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don't forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Of course, Japan and the U.S. are separated by a number of cultural and historical difference much wider than their gun policies."

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

It's certainly not a perfect place, but as an Englishman, whilst having attended 'shoots', the attitude to weapon ownership here matches my own. If you want to own guns, go ahead, knock yourself out. Ammunition? Not so much.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Up next

The Olympics.

"A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on the way to the London Olympics: Athletes stopped breaking world records. World records are now decades old in classic men’s Olympic sports such as the long jump (1991), shot put (1990) and discus throw (1986). Many scientists have concluded from recent events that athletic performance is hitting a wall.

“Improvement has substantially stopped or reached a plateau in several specialities,” he wrote. Berthelot has predicted that the “human species’ physiological frontiers will be reached” in most sports around 2027.

But what these researchers are detecting isn’t some final biological frontier but rather a lull in technological enhancement. Athletes have always relied on science to push the bounds of achievement. Olympic athletes’ great stagnation, then, is really a temporary halt in innovation."

The Great Olympic stagnation? - MR

This got me wondering about winning the TdF. I think everyone will have sat up and taken note of the way in which Sky achieved their great result(s). Surely when other teams can train their riders to the same extent then we will end up with the minute differences between winning and losing being based on technology (or mishap).

Colorado

"But aside from what the Constitution actually says (you have the right to bear arms as part of an organized and regulated militia; i.e. Army, police, National Guard) I don't inherently believe in stripping everyone of the ability to defend themselves, their family, or their property with a firearm.

But who, in the course of their daily routine, needs an assault rifle, body armor, tear gas, and a gas mask? Really think about it and be honest with yourself. I'm not even so much against these things in and of themselves as I am the irrational belief that anyone actually needs them for any useful purpose.

And while I have time for the theoretical argument that you might need them to defend yourself from the government, I have no time for the reality of that statement. From a purely practical standpoint unless you literally have your own military, your odds aren't great.

In the end, this is about all of us being honest with ourselves and determining the difference between what we want and what we need. Do you need to purchase that 5th pistol and carry it in public to dinner? Do you need that body armor to go deer hunting? Do you need that assault rifle to protect yourself from government forces that you've never encountered (and never will)? If so, what kind of life are you living? And would you mind terribly living it somewhere else?"

Plea for Common Sense on Gun Control

Not bad, not bad at all

via The Guardian


And now.. the Olympics.

Friday, July 20, 2012

No valid argument

"There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it," he says. "I would be absolutely astounded if population growth and industrialisation and all the stuff we are pumping into the atmosphere hadn't changed the climatic balance. Of course it has. There is no valid argument for denial."

Sir David Attenborough: 'This awful summer? We've only ourselves to blame...'

Thursday, July 19, 2012

WYSISNWYG

1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?

2. A clerk at a butcher shop stands five feet ten inches tall and wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?

3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?

4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

5. What word in the English language is always spelled incorrectly?

6. Billie was born on December 28th, yet her birthday always falls in the summer. How is this possible?

7. In British Columbia you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg. Why not?

8. If you were running a race and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?

9. Which is correct to say, “The yolk of the egg is white” or “The yolk of the egg are white?”

10. A farmer has five haystacks in one field and four haystacks in another. How many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in one field?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Controlled Performance

"Control’ is the word that crops up again and again.

“To all the people who are suspicious of performance, sport is all about performance, so you have to have more than performance as a basis for your suspicion,” he says. “We can’t be suspicous of everybody who performs without some other reason to be suspicious. I think it’s quite sad."

Tim Kerrison: the man behind Bradley Wiggins’ Tour - Cycle Sport

But pro cycling has time and again provided foundation to the suspicion. I need to believe Sky are clean. I do believe they are. Thanks a lot Frank.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TdFtunes



ITV's highlight coverage has been great.. the music even better.

Tour de France 2012 music playlist: week one

Friends

"As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.

Once people start coupling up, the challenges only increase. Making friends with other couples “is like matchmaking for two,” said Kara Baskin, a journalist who works in Boston. “Not only are you worrying about whether the other woman likes you, you’re also worrying if her husband likes you, if your husband likes her, if your husband likes him.”

ADDING children to the mix muddles things further. Suddenly, you are surrounded by a new circle of parent friends — but the emotional ties can be tenuous at best, as the comedian Louis C. K. related in one stand-up routine: “I spend whole days with people, I’m like, I never would have hung out with you, I didn’t choose you. Our children chose each other. Based on no criteria, by the way. They’re the same size.”

External factors are not the only hurdle. After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship. Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with.

You have come to grips with the responsibilities of juggling work, family and existing friends, so you become more wary about making yourself emotionally available to new people. “You’re more keenly aware of the downside,” said Mr. Koppelman, 46. “You’re also more keenly aware of your own capacity to disappoint.”"

Interesting throughout.

Friends of a Certain Age - NYT

TdF

Stage winner David Millar rides in a breakaway in the twelfth stage on July 13, 2012.

(Left to right) Peter Sagan, Gorka Izaguirre, Philippe Gilbert, and Sandy Casar sprint at the finish line of the 14th stage in Foix on July 15, 2012
Loving the Tour. Rest Day today.. then it gets even better. Pics via here

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hosepipe

"Physical retailers have long argued that once Amazon plays fairly on taxes, the company wouldn’t look like such a great deal to most consumers. If prices were equal, you’d always go with the “instant gratification” of shopping in the real world. The trouble with that argument is that shopping offline isn’t really “instant”—it takes time to get in the car, go to the store, find what you want, stand in line, and drive back home. Getting something shipped to your house offers gratification that’s even more instant: Order something in the morning and get it later in the day, without doing anything else. Why would you ever shop anywhere else?

If Amazon can send me stuff overnight for free without a distribution center nearby, it’s not hard to guess what it can do once it has lots of warehouses within driving distance of my house. Instead of surprising me by getting something to me the next day, I suspect that, over the next few years, next-day service will become its default shipping method on most of its items. Meanwhile it will offer same-day service as a cheap upgrade. For $5 extra, you can have that laptop waiting for you when you get home from work. Wouldn’t you take that deal?

I bet you would. Physical retailers have long argued that once Amazon plays fairly on taxes, the company wouldn’t look like such a great deal to most consumers. If prices were equal, you’d always go with the “instant gratification” of shopping in the real world. The trouble with that argument is that shopping offline isn’t really “instant”—it takes time to get in the car, go to the store, find what you want, stand in line, and drive back home. Getting something shipped to your house offers gratification that’s even more instant: Order something in the morning and get it later in the day, without doing anything else. Why would you ever shop anywhere else?"

I Want It Today - Slate

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Six Pack

"Scientologists mark the path to the "Bridge" with ascending grades or stages, and, Janet Reitman's Rolling Stone story reports, Cruise is at the very advanced "OT VII" stage. Operative Thetans, Reitman says, have "have total 'control' over themselves and their environment. OTs can allegedly move inanimate objects with their minds, leave their bodies at will and telepathically communicate with, and control the behavior of, both animals and human beings."

Scientologists Think Tom Cruise Has Telekinetic, Telepathic Powers

So. Scientology gives me X-men powers? Have you seen these guys abs? I am in. Superhero-me-up.



San Fermin Festival


A penny for his thoughts.

In pictures: the atmosphere in Pamplona during the San Fermin festival - Telegraph

San Fermin 2012: Running of the Bulls - Boston.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

G-Zero

"The craft of government has become defensive, reactive, small-minded and profoundly frustrating to watch. If you doubt this, consider those endless eurozone summits or American fiscal debates."

A crumb of comfort for investors - FT

Read the ingredients on the tin carefully

"“He (Brown) was facing a problem that was a world scale problem where a number of financial institutions had become voluntarily short of gold to the extent that it was threatening the stability of the financial system and it was obvious that something had to be done.”

Responsibility is evaded by all bar those on whose shoulders it ought to rest. The gold panic of 1999 was expensively paid for by the British public."

Revealed: why Gordon Brown sold Britain's gold at a knock-down price - Telegraph

It's a bit "conspiracy theory".. but smelly indeed.

This, however, is VERY farking smelly.

"The bailout conditions for Spain’s banks would force any lender taking aid fully to write off their preferred shares and subordinated bonds, according to a draft memorandum of understanding seen by the Financial Times.

Spanish banks have €67bn of subordinated and hybrid debt outstanding, according to Bank of Spain, much of which was sold to retail investors as savings products.

“The difference between Spain and other European countries is that these instruments are held mainly by retail investors,” said Daragh Quinn, a banking analyst at Nomura. “People who bought them might not have known exactly what they were investing in”."

Spain pressed to inflict losses on savers - FT

I have a Spanish Bank account.. they were offering 4.4% APR in a "Special Guaranteed Fund" with capital 100 % guaranteed at maturity or Private Bonds with 4.2% APR.. I wonder if this was investing in hybrid debt alluded to above. Seemed too good to be true, so didn't 'invest'. PHEW!




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Money for Nothing

"Japan, he reckons, can probably maintain its present course for several decades, living off the country’s mountainous savings and protected by its relative isolation. “Compared to what’s going on in the outside world, Japan still feels pretty good,” he says, contrasting it with what he perceives as the economic crises and social dislocations raging in Europe and the US. “It’s not obvious to anyone that we’ve gone off the rails. If the old system had completely fallen apart, we might have renewed it,” he says, half regretfully. “It’s an open question as to whether this is a form of warped happiness. But the fact is, if Japanese youth are in dire straits, they’re not aware of it.”"

Youth of the ice age - FT

Monday, July 09, 2012

Brit

"The government has announced a major update to the citizenship test taken by all those who want to settle in Britain with a UK passport."

UK citizenship test: Could you pass on British history? - Guardian

Friday, July 06, 2012

Time flies

"Try this exercise: Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you're looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here's the kicker: you never see your eyes move. What is happening to the time gaps during which your eyes are moving? Why do you feel as though there is no break in time while you're changing your eye position? (Remember that it's easy to detect someone else's eyes moving, so the answer cannot be that eye movements are too fast to see.)

The more distant future of time research may change our views of other fields, such as physics. Most of our current theoretical frameworks include the variable t in a Newtonian, river-flowing sense. But as we begin to understand time as a construction of the brain, as subject to illusion as the sense of color is, we may eventually be able to remove our perceptual biases from the equation. Our physical theories are mostly built on top of our filters for perceiving the world, and time may be the most stubborn filter of all to budge out of the way."

Brain Time - D. M. Eagleman

Time Machine

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Phoom

“Phoom.” That is the sound she wants from a punch. “When it’s tak, tak, like that, it is OK, not powerful,” she will say, throwing me a mock punch. “Phoom! That is powerful.”

India's shot at Gold - Intelligent Life

Photobomb


Sloth photobombs volunteers in Costa Rica - CBC

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

In Dependence Day

"Our forefathers shed blood rather than render unto King George. Yet today we madly mortgage our nation’s future to foreign powers, piling debt upon debt without limit or thought as to how it will be repaid. These debts ensnare our children and grandchildren even as we stop having them, confident in the knowledge that the government will take care of us in our old age, so why bother with the trouble and expense?"

On America's In Dependence Day - ZH

Inquiring minds

"Then consider this observation by a senior FSA regulator:
"The real threat is not a bank's management hiding things from us: it's the management not knowing themselves what the risks are, either because nobody realises it or because some people are keeping it from their bosses."
A wide-ranging public inquiry could bring out the deeply problematic scale and complexity of global banks. It could show that most banking employees do not have headline-grabbing salaries. And it could get some of those regular employees to talk about how their bank is a zero-trust, zero-loyalty environment, creating a culture of fear that makes sounding the alarm or blowing the whistle so unlikely.

Eventually, a Leveson-style inquiry into the DNA of finance would ask why politicians allowed all this to go on. It would then summon politicians as well as financial lobbyists to reveal the quid pro quos. What do Tory donors from the world of finance expect for their donations? And does Miliband really want Tony Blair to explain publicly what he does as "special adviser" to JP Morgan? The former prime minister receives a reported £2.5m a year from the banking giant. Nice work if you can get it, and this is the kind of pay awaiting Cameron after he steps down. How is a former prime minister ever going to call for the break-up of too-big-to-manage banks when one such bank pays him more in a year – for a part-time job – than he could make in a decade leading the country?

A wide-ranging inquiry into the practices and culture of banking will not restore public confidence. But it will lay bare for all to see a sector where parts seem not so much out of control, but beyond it."

A real banking inquiry would expose a sector beyond control - Guardian

Nine Steps


I could do with a Stella right about now..

Millenials

"Here's my list of grievances:

They're cocky.

They nonchalantly move through life doing things I wouldn't have dreamt of doing to any of my superiors, let alone the owner of my company, when I was their age.

They take things for granted.

Millenials seem to think they have a ton of options. That makes them less aware of how grateful they should be for the things they have. Recent graduates (regardless of where they went to school) from time immemorial have been asked to make copies and bring people coffee. Millennials, on the other hand, seem to think someone should have rolled out the red carpet when they popped out of school.

They think they're exempt from rules

In the beginning, before they understand implicitly that carelessness is not a value we favor, almost all millennials demonstrate they don't care what the consequences of their actions will be.

They don't follow through

If they end the day without finishing a task, they'll come in the next morning and forget they needed to finish it. Our normal expectation for an adult over 21 is that they are able to take care of tasks with little supervision without having to be reminded.

They don't want to pay their dues

Too many of my young staffers seem to think they're entitled to a high salary and the most glamorous tasks when they have no experience or proven track record.

Can you please show up to work today? On time?"

A Gen-Xer's Rant: What's Wrong with My Millennial Employees? - Inc

Generation Y

Yep.

Evolution of the F1 Car

Edvald Boson Higgs Sagan #tdf

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Dislocation

"As part of that, we had to explain the "dislocation of Libor from itself". As the trader put it, everyone knew that we couldn't borrow at Libor, you only needed to look at the price of our credit default swaps – effectively survival insurance for the bank – to see that.

Libor had dislocated with itself for a very good reason – to hide the true issues within the bank."

Libor scandal: How I manipulated the bank borrowing rate - Telegraph

"There were already overt threats to drag Paul Tucker, a leading contender to take over from Sir Mervyn King as BoE governor, in to the mire by suggesting that his unit somehow condoned fantasy Libor quotations.

But that’s not the point. You just don’t threaten the Bank. The City of London is not some sort of financial democracy. It is a hierarchy. It is not Capitol Hill; political brawling is prohibited.

Bob Diamond might have come to learn that in his 16 years at Barclays. But apparently not."

Barclays, PB* - FT Alphaville

Monday, July 02, 2012

Munehisa Homma

This article is from 2008, but very good.

"Munehisa Homna had many insights that paved the way for the absolute return managers of today. Translated adages from his main book: - "Market action is more important than news." "Prices do not reflect actual value." "Buys and sells are decided on emotion not logic."

"The market told us we were entering a recession several months ago. It also clearly implied the credit crisis was not "contained"."

"The yen carry trade has damaged some that didn't realize that a low interest rate doesn't mean a weakening currency."

"As Honma said, the cheap can get much cheaper."

"Equity analysts visiting companies is useful in many countries but I have seen little evidence of its utility in Japan."

Lessons from the Best-Ever Hedge Fund Manager - Seeking Alpha

(Munehisa Homma, was a rice merchant from Sakata, Japan who traded in the Ojima Rice market in Osaka during the Tokugawa Shogunate.)

Therapy

"Dear Dr Mander

You British people are so touchy. I've been working here for a few years and I've noticed it about you guys. Something to do with that famous "reserve". You're a bit prickly. So I run a bank and make a lot of money. In the US we're way more relaxed about people being super rich. That's the American dream. You're in it to win it. But here it's all envy and bitterness. I accept that some of my Barclays guys got a bit carried away with some trades. They asked a few favours on some interest rate stuff that was kind of bending the rules. Stuff happens. I'm not condoning it. But they're kids. They were horsing around, making a few bucks. Jeez. Whaddya want – socialism? But I've got, like, the whole of British establishment up my ass now. I said I'd give up my bonus didn't I? I mean, that's what you people care about so much. Bonuses, bonuses, bonuses. But it's not good enough for you. It's all: Resign! Criminal investigation! I need to get a handle on this stuff. It's killing my share price.

Bob Diamond

Dear Bob

The ideal course of action for a man in your position would be penitence. It needn't be sincere but it has to be convincing. But since you are incapable of even fake contrition, you need extraordinary public relations manoeuvres. Your personal brand is not helped by being named after a luxury item. Consider repositioning yourself as a different arrangement of carbon atoms. Bob Graphite, for example, has an earthier ring."

Dr Gerry Mander: the therapist the stars trust - Guardian