Tuesday, May 24, 2016

hayfever strikes

the hayfever has come a knocking a week earlier than last year, and that was early enough. Here we go again with the itchy streaming eyes, constant runny nose and death by a hundred sneezes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Photos: No bees were harmed during these photos

... because they had already expired.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Science: Swallowed a battery?...help is on the way

The Economist reports of the creation of a little robot type structure that can be swallowed and guided to accidentally swallowed batteries (before you ask 'is this even a thing?', it is - apparantly 3,500 Americans swallow batteries each year). The little origami robot finds and wraps itself around the battery and is then guided through the rest of its digestive journey, so to speak. Pretty amazing stuff.


3 things you really need to know about this blog author

Hah hah, made you click.

Listy articles with click-baity titles are spreading across the Internet like a the plague. I'm seeing them appear in the financial media with increasing frequency, even from the likes of the FT, who are actually doing an okay job of it so far.  Bloomberg however are once again are making a dog's dinner of things. I clicked on a Bloomberg article titled something like '5 things you need to know to start your day' and it was basically a short paragraph on five topics in the press. A better title would simply have been 'Morning Summary'. I do like the Bloomberg iPad app but their website layout doesn't sit right and they seem to be going after the millennial market with their naff article titles. It's an interesting demographic to go for, as I'm not sure that's where the money is...how many millennial clicks equal that of a well heeled moneyed individual? I'd like to think they have done the analytics.

Bloomberg...a closed garden

So I'm reading a generic Bloomberg article on the currency markets and it finishes with list of `other things we've been reading'. The odd thing is every article linked to was also from Bloomberg. Either Bloomberg don't quite understand presenting link collections, or they are only reading their own material.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Siemens Healthineers - the Karstens are winning : (

 Siemens Healthcare recently changed it's name to Siemens Healthineers. You can watch the cringe-worthy launch here. I've been to a few corporate events and lived through several rebrands, but this takes the biscuit. 

Making matters worse, Siemens' PR page has a picture of a guy who looks pretty similar to Karsten, the spoof PR/Marketing character from the excellent Aussie comedy Utopia (also titled Dreamland).

Siemens Healthcare unveiled its new name embodying the company

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Film: Captain America - Civil War

I was feeling a little guilty for enjoying "Captain America: Civil War" a bit too much, but then I read how the movie is a perfect illustration of Kantian ethics vs Utilitarianism. I'll be pulling this reading out the next time somebody raises their eyebrows at my viewing habits.

As to the ethics of watching the film on Putlocker...I think I'll park that one for another day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quote: John Authers in the FTWeekend

A piece of timeless wisdom from John Authers in the FTWeekend:

"We view the world in stories. But the story does not always precede the fact. In markets, we often adjust our story, and our view of the world, to fit the fact of a move in the price."

We would do well to remember this bias.

Food: Weetabix Protein

Because the typical breakfast cereal comprises a carbohydrate scaffold that can be readily modified or added to, cereal manufacturers love it when a new diet fad comes along as they can easily tweak their product to suit. Of course, modest adaptations are partnered with exaggerated marketing claims. Take the new Weetabix Protein for example. The bold packaging design sure suggests it packs a protein punch, right? It turns out that a standard serving of the new Weetabix Protein provides a mere 3.1g of additional protein over the regular Weetabix. It's really not much to be shouting about.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Quixote - 400th year

I've never been able to find a way into Shakespeare, whose 400 year anniversary is being celebrated far and wide this year. I haven't given up yet though and await a decent translation from olde worlde English in to contemporary English. On that note, Cervantes' masterpiece, Don Quixote, is also 400 years old this year and there are several excellent translations to enjoy. The one I have read over and over, and over ... and over, is by Edith Grossman. This version remains my desert island book.

After a quick rummage around on the internet I found an interview with Grossman which answers a question I long asked (in my mind) of the translator - did she consider the story a tradegy or a farce:

Guernica: How do you see it — as a sad book? A funny book? Both?

Edith Grossman: It’s very interesting. Over the years my opinion has changed. When I first read it, I read it in translation as a teenager. I was sixteen or seventeen years old and I thought it was the saddest damn book I ever read in my life. What happened to Quixote just broke my heart. And through my twenties I saw it as an immensely tragic book. But as I got older I found it funnier and funnier. And when I was translating it I was actually laughing out loud at times, because some of the scenes are high comedy and some are the lowest kinds of slapstick burlesque. And so I saw myself finding it funnier and funnier. But of course all great comedy has a sub-stratum of tragedy, so I think it is both immensely sad and tremendously funny.

Friday, April 22, 2016

30 year Japanese government bond yield

Investors are currently willing to lend to the Japanese government across all time horizons for almost no return. This has been the case for some time for short-term funds (i.e. the front end of the yield curve) but we are now seeing close to zero yields on Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) with a 30-year maturity. There will be a rationale behind this but that doesn't stop it being a pretty worrying sign that things are seriously amiss in the capital markets.

(chart via FT's twitter)

Visitors in the garden

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nerve bypass - controlling movement of a completely paralysed limb

This is very cool.

BMJ study: 'Dietary fats: a new look at old data challenges established wisdom'

The BMJ recently published an interesting paper that digs up some previously unpublished data on an old study, and questions whether polyunsaturated fat provides any protection against heart disease over saturated fat. The change in oil did have a noticeable change on cholesterol levels but this didn't translate to changes in heart health. 

Here are some exceprts from the editorial: 

"It is widely accepted that diets rich in polyunsaturated fats protect against heart disease...This new study re-examines recovered data from a double blind randomised controlled trial that took place 45 years ago. The Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) followed 9423 participants from state mental hospitals and a nursing home for 4.5 years. The trial tested whether replacement of saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid (an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat) reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and death through a reduction in serum cholesterol concentration. 

As expected, the diet enriched with linoleic acid lowered serum cholesterol concentration. But it did not reduce mortality: in fact participants in the intervention group had a higher mortality than controls. The pooled results of the MCE and four similar trials failed to find any reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease."
'These unexpected results proved difficult to stomach for researchers at the time. The trial ended in 1973, but it took until 1989 for the results to be published.' 

'While we wait for further clarification, we should continue to eat (and to advise others to eat) more fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We should avoid salt, sugar, industrial trans fats, and avoid over eating.'

Here is the conclusion of the study:
Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes. Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.

Ideas at the House: Michael Mosley at the Sydney Opera House

If you are even remotely interested in nutrition and health, the first forty odd minutes of this presentation will be worth your time.

Netflix: Dreamland

Netflix has a neat Australian office comedy called 'Dreamland' tucked away in its catalogue. It pretty much nails the absurdities of the modern workplace.

One of my favourite clips (the first half of the video below) is of an employee who is being performance reviewed. He can't hold himself back from from spewing out meaningless jargon-laden sentences, some of which I plan to sneak in to my next appraisal. As a self assessment the employee believes he is 'delivering desired performance outcomes on a consistent basis'. He is 'task orientated', which means he is oriented .... to task. During his short time in the organization, he has 'contributed to the functionality and efficiency of the workplace' and has best of all is his key strength which is his  'general tendency to identify, strategise and solve problems as they arise.'

Sunday, March 20, 2016


... it's been a while since I posted anything. A case of curator's block perhaps.