Friday, November 30, 2007

Predictions

As technologies start to converge, the mobile phone is quickly becoming the core tool for many things digital.

Sat-nav: Many of the latest mobile phones now come with a built-in sat-nav GPS system (free), so we can expect those clunky, dash-board sat-nav systems to die out in coming years.

Cameras: This technology is getting better and better, with mobile phones offering 5 MP cameras with a decent flash and even 3x optical zoom. We are close to the point where mobile phone cameras operate just as well as the low end point-and-shoot digitals.

Music and video: Phones already perform this function very well. Usability is not as good as with the ipod but this will change. Expect ipods to die out over time.

We are getting four devices in one: mobile phone, camera, GPS, music player. Separate devices will continue to sell, but for most people I expect the mobile phone will quickly become replace all.

ps - I haven't added 'internet access' here, because it probably won't replace other devices, but it's another strong plus.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weng Weng!

...we love you !

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quick thought - waste




Coming back from the gime, I realised my gime training gloves are quite tattered and torn; they've been in this condition for many months. Then I thought about a favourite shirt of mine that has a hole in it ... and my jacket, whose inner lining is falling out ... and my trainers, which are ten years old and are quite battered. And my mobile phone, that is scratched and dated.

However, the point is that all these items are still highly functional. Whilst I could have replaced them a long time ago for the sake of image, I would be forgoing over 50-90% of the usage that is still on offer. Indeed, I find that after a bit of wear and tear, items seem to take on more of personality, and that we become less concerned about molly-coddling them and more focussed on using them for serving their purpose.

So, instead of replacing things just when you think their time is up, give them a chance. The old dogs may have some life in them yet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Should women stay at home?


Do you hark back to the 'good old days', when women stayed at home and the man went out to earn the family bread? Well, economist Gregory Mankiw has just blogged on a study that finds the health of both husband and wife deteriorates when women enter the workplace:

This paper finds a strong positive correlation between female labor force participation and negative health outcomes for middle-aged men and women, and suggests that this correlation is mediated by household-level stress. At the cross-country aggregate level, I show that labor force participation of women is associated with increased mortality rates among both men and women. At the individual level, I find that married men whose spouses work are more likely to die within 10 years, to have high blood pressure and to self-report worse health outcomes. The findings do not appear to be the result of reverse causality. The mortality effects, both aggregate and individual, are especially large for deaths from ischemic heart disease, while weak to moderate for cancer. These findings match well with the medical evidence on the link between stress and health.
Personally, I blame the stresses of work. When a single person in a relationship is working, the stresses can probably be more easily defused than when both people are working. I must research this more thoroughly in order to build a solid case (excuse) for not working.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Into the Wild

When the film opens, we are treated to some lines from Lord Byron's Childe Harold:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,

Film: Into the Wild


Into the Wild is a film, based on a book, based on an article, all based the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young university graduate who abandons his lifestyle (money, friends, family) and heads off to Alaska in search of an adventure to find himself in nature.

Filmed largely on location in Alaska, Into the Wild is a must watch for anyone with a sense of adventure.


The Outsider by Albert Camus


Just finished reading 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus. It's a quick read that centers around a character who is lacking in basic human emotions and ends up suffering all the more for having this condition. The second half of The Outsider makes up for the first half, which I found slightly boring. The book is widely hailed as a masterpiece but I found the style of writing a little stilted. Despite the occasional flash of brilliance, I came away from the book somewhat disappointed, having expected more. As a standalone piece of work, I can only give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

However, I raise this to 4.5 out of 5 after reading a handful of the reviews and analysis of the book. I do this not because The Outsider is widely praised by others (although it is), but for the issues it raises, the debate is generates, and the enquiries it makes, touching on:

* Existentialism (though Camus says he is not an existentialist)
* The theory of the absurd (with respect to life, death, society)
* Determinism / non-determinism
* Being truthful and the role of lying to ourselves and to other in everyday life, especially with respect to expressing emotion

Talking heads can add extra layers of complexity and depth to almost any work of art, but in this case, I can see quite clearly how all these issues are touched on to differing degrees. However, I can't give the book 5 out of 5 because it failed to get me thinking about these issues on its own - whether the fault lies with the book or the reader is an interesting question, but you can guess where I, the reader, place the blame!

---

Here's a good bit of insight on The Outsider from Albert Camus himself (via the Guardian):

In his own afterword to a 1955 edition of the book, Camus wrote: "A long time ago, I summed up The Outsider in a sentence which I realise is extremely paradoxical. 'In our society, any man who doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death.' I simply meant that the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn't play the game ... He refuses to lie. Lying is not only saying what isn't true. It is also, in fact especially, saying more than is true and, in the case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. We all do it, every day, to make life simpler. But Meursault, contrary to appearances, doesn't want to make life simpler. He says what he is, he refuses to hide his feelings and society immediately feels threatened. For example, he is asked to say that he regrets his crime, in time-honoured fashion. He replies that he feels more annoyance about it than true regret. And it is this nuance that condemns him."

Quick though - death

Until we become at one with death as a concept and as a reality, we are forever living scared.

The Saudi Prince and Fredo


Billionaire investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, is looking strikingly like Fredo from The Godfather.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quick thought - life

It's a balancing act between doing enough that we don't become bored, and not doing too much that we become stressed out.

The Ten Commandments, Mafia style

Found in Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo's hide-out:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quick thought: Why is everything on the internet free

It's simple: extremely low barriers to entry. Competition detects and squeezes out any abnormal profit.

For example, I was able to test out an economics blog project with no start-up capital. Okay, it didn't work due to technical reasons (read: laziness), but the whole the point is that is was almost free to try out.

Everytime we see a new technology shake things up in the commercial world, the winner is always the same; the consumer.

Harlequin ladybird invasion


This little beast is invading our land. It's the Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), also known as the Asian lady beetle. I've been removing a couple of these little things from the house every day for the past week and I'm not alone. The Harlequin is spreading from south to north like wildfire over the past year, and while the bug brings benefits (it eats aphids) there is a strong risk that it will out compete and wipe out many of the native species of ladybird. This sucks big time, especially since the Harlequin likes to work its way in to our houses when it gets a bit parky outside. And it isn't completely innocent - it's been known to bite, it feeds off our fruit, and it leaves a stinky yellow trail in its path.

I've taken to squishing these bugs when I come across them and recommend you do the same. Otherwise, prepare for the worst.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Liberal Conspiracy


Sunny Jim Bob - creator of Pickled Politics and regular contributor to Comment is Free (Guardian) - is the brains behind the launch of a new political site called Liberal Conspiracy, a space that brings together political bloggers belonging to the liberal left, giving them a collective voice.

I imagine Liberal Conspiracy will quickly become the 'go to' place for insight on this political persuasion's collective thinking, but I am also expecting some meaty debates on the more contentious issues. Top stuff.

Getting paid to read a blog

Woo hoo, I just got paid by Felix Salmon for reading his blog!

Finance Blog - Market Movers by Felix Salmon: Paying Readers: The Results - Portfolio.com

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Odd dreams (a blogger's self indulgence)

A few nights ago, I dreamt that I put a little pressure on a tooth and it popped out like a plug, bathing my mouth in blood. The dream stopped there.

Last week, I dreamt that I was back in middle school, sitting an exam with the rest of the class. I looked out of the window and saw a group of sword wielding, ninja assassins, dressed all in white. They were running across a roof top of a nearby school building. The ninjas pushed down several cars (yes, cars) off the roof top, which rolled down and crashed through the window of our class room. No one was hurt and everyone remained calm. The dream stopped there.

Film: Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises is a grimy, Godfather-esque, gangster drama that delivers on almost every front; we find depth, quality acting coupled with decent dialogue, and good direction (note to new directors: stop shaking the camera all over the place, it is a cheap trick that adds nothing other than giving the audience a headache). The central story is decent enough, and while it may rely a little too much on coincidence, this is a small quibble. It may seem strange for a gangster film not to have any guns but this is no loss as Eastern Promises delivers the quite possible the most memorable fight scene of the year. Overall, highly recommended if you are not of the queasy sort and are in the mood for something on the darker side.