Saturday, November 28, 2009

Debtor's prison in Dubai

From an article about debtor's prison in Dubai.

He'll stay there longer if no one steps forward to pay his $44,700 debt.

"If they cannot pay, we cannot release them," said Lt. Col. Abdulhalim Mohammed al Hashimi of the Dubai Central Prison.

Apparently, 40% of the prison population are there because they can't pay there debts. Now, I may be missing something here, but the words 'catch' and ' twenty-two' are ringing pretty loudly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It ain't over yet

A few items on the radar:

- Gold is flirting with the $1,200 level. It is what it is.
- EUR/USD is above 1.50. USD/JPY is at 86.50. Nice.
- Short-term rates keep turning negative in the US. This means that one group of people are paying another group of people to hold their deposits for them. It's all a bit topsy-turvy.
- The FTSE is down by over 3% today.
- Dubai is imploding. The government didn't just build out on to the sea, but they also built on a sea of debt. Too much G and not enough T has left a gaping hole in the state's finances and the government is seeking a 6-month delay on paying its debts. Note, when companies and individuals can't pay their debts, they are effectively bankrupt. I don't think Dubai will default, but the cost of a helping hand from neighboring countries could impose a pretty severe burden. The go-go years are clearly over ... but they are over pretty much everywhere, so hey-ho.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lio Bolin

Check out the work of Mr Liu Bolin:

There's a lot more here. The last picture is something to behold.

(Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Katlama comments

Following on from earlier:

"Firstly, I would like to congratulate Riz on what sounds like and epic and triumphant adventure. Alas if only Sir Thomas Cook was still around you could have received the credit which you so richly deserve. You are truly a man of stature. I am in agreement with your assessment, if only fried for maybe 60 seconds longer the resulting Katlama would have been more complete and able to compete with the mid-range Katlamas abundantly available in the culinary epicentre of the UK, Birmingham also know as Katlama Capital.
So now as I sit at my humdrum workstation at my mediocre job my mind can't help but wonder if there could be other Katlama's in London so that I can compare Tayabs offering and set a benchmark for the London Katlama's. Something that has not yet been achieved! If I have come this far in my quest It would be rude not to wouldn't it?
Tonight I will sample the first of my home grilled Katlama's, feedback to come! I personally prefer the red sour sauce than the white minty concoction. I am yet to dine in at Tayabs, so let me put this out there for anybody interested in a monthly Katlama Klub for like minded people. Comments Welcome!"
A Katlama Klub sounds cool, though a few more sources of katlama may need to be located first. A while back I also thought about a chain of Katlama outlets in the London regions, toying with the name Katlama King and Katlama Kafe. You could serve pre-cut katlama up like a pie, with different sauces (I'm loving the red sauce - some times I like to cut it with a little bit of the minty stuff on top). There is another brown tamarind sauce which has onion chunks in it, which is also delicious. Based on its general low price I imagine the cost per katlama is darn low, suggesting big profits could be made (if you didn't eat all the stock first, of course). If I had the resource, I'd be straight in with this idea. One day.

Sainsbury's basics range - Shortbread, tea and apples

I tried the Basics range teabags last week, buying 80 teabags for a mere 28p. I thought they'd taste gross but they're actually okay, even if they only contain the scrapings off the tea factory floor. The Basics range apples, which are 80p for a pack of about 8-10 small apples, are also really nice. I actually prefer these over the more expensive brands because they are smaller.

Continuing the experiment, today I bought a packet of Basics shortbread, which cost a mere 12p. It's surprisingly nice. If you are worried that the biscuits are filled with artificial junk, here is the list of ingredients: Wheat Flour, Butter (From Cows' Milk), Vegetable Margarine (Rapeseed Oil, Palm Oil, Salt), Sugar, Sea Salt, Natural Flavouring. Nice and simple.

I wonder what else is out there in the Basics universe. I've already seen shower gel price at just 10p!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Adventures in Katlama Land

At around midday today, I popped out of my accountancy college at Waterloo to grab lunch only to be hit with a gale force wind and torrential, instant-soaking rain. With weather conditions so grey and grim, it was not shaping up to be a good day for trekking into East London in search for the 'precious' katlama, as discovered by Harry.

However, by 4 o'clock, the skies had cleared and I quickly made my way to Aldgate East in search of Tayyabs. After a bit of hunting and asking around I found the restaurant tucked away in a back street. Once there, I partook in a couple of vegetable samosas, some delicious kebabs, a coke, and a katlama, all for a mere £6.00. It's unbeatable value. And the katlama? It was good, but it wasn't quite up to scratch (the benchmark is high!). Don't get me wrong, I finished it off, thank you very much indeed, but the thin fried pastry that encases the mince meat wasn't quite crispy enough. Nevertheless, I will definitely be back, and next time I'll make sure my bags isn't so stuffed to the brim that I can't smuggle a few katlamas home. It's important to note that even the Birmingham spec katlamas don't always deliver the goods when cooked up and served in restaurants, but when they are grilled at home you almost always get a nice crispy outer layer...delicious. Harry, it would be good to know how some of your katlama's turned out when heated up at home (?).

If you do go to Tayyabs, pay no mind to the menu for the katlama is notable by its absence. Indeed, when I enquired the waiter looked at me with a quizzical 'Watcha talking about, Willis?' look, but he soon realised they were holding what I wanted. Also, when it came, folks on the adjacent table immediately quizzed me about this rarely-seen-in-the-south delicacy ... the katlama force is strong.

Today, I am a contented man.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Harry's Great Katlama Quest - to the Victor the Spoils!

Harry's comment from the 'Katlama Update....' post:

KATLAMA's Found in London! (Not actually sure of what the plural of Katlama is however!). The fine culinary pastry has been found! Whilst on a Katlama reconnaissance mission last night in Whitechapel, I visited an establishment called Tayyabs on Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel. Much to my amazement my eyes widened as they met with the unique UFO shaped masterpiece of Asian Cooking! In euphonic delight I purchased eight without hesitation and was pleasantly surprised with the accuracy in design with that of the original Birmingham Katlama's, however they could be improved with a little extra spice in the filling.
Nevertheless.. my next movement is to have Greggs stock Katlama's! I am in the process of writing to the Head of Production at Greggs Ltd and will keep you updated with progress.

Fair weather reader's will not understand the importance of this, so let me spell it out. It is nothing short of a MIRACLE. To have discovered a katlama that nearly matches Birmingham spec, within the boundaries of the M25, is a very proud moment. I'm off to London for an accountancy course tomorrow and if I'm brave enough to challenge the elements, I may trek up to the famous Tayyabs to sample the disc shaped delight that is the katlama.

Thank you Harry. You've made my day, and maybe my weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Watched a few movies of late:

- The Fantastic Mr Fox - Pretty fantastic. ****

- The Fourth Kind - Very shaky story and not enough alien. *

- Men Who Stare At Goats - Quirky and enjoyable fare ***

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cooking quote - White Heat, Marco Pierre White

'I've worked for over ten years for recognition, and now I've got it. I've got money now, but I'm no happier. It's not material things that bring me happiness. Perhaps that's why I work with food, with growing things. ... My respect and admiration for life has come from food, through food.'
- White Heat, Marco Pierre White

Monday, November 02, 2009

Vitamin D - more of the same

Every now and then I check Google News for the latest findings on the sunshine vitamin. Here are some of the latest (past week):

- Vitamin D Deficiency Tied to ESRD in Blacks
- Vitamin D might lessen your flu risk
- Fight Off Back Aches & Pains This Winter With Extra Vitamin D
- Low Vitamin D Tied to Heart, Stroke Deaths- Low vitamin D linked to higher risk of breast cancer
- Vitamin D 'may cut premature birth risk and protect newborn babies'

And from the Scientific American, 'scientists found that the lower the subjects’ vitamin D levels, the more negatively impacted was their perform­ance on a battery of mental tests. Compared with people with optimum vitamin D levels, those in the lowest quartile were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired.

Now here's the thing. It is highly probable that in many instances low vitamin D could simply be a marker of poor health versus actually being a causal factor, and in all these cases correcting one's vitamin D level would offer little to no direct benefit. However, there is quite a bit of (mounting) evidence favouring vitamin D supplementation and very little downside, and for now at least that makes supplementation a very good trade.

Paul Tudor Jones 'Trader' film is here ... for now

The extremely hard to find Paul Tudor Jones 'Trader' documentary from the 1980s is on-line here. For folk who don't know this chap, he is a premier league hedge fund manager who called the 1987 crash - the call is captured in this video, which is pure 1980s, through and through.

I had a lazy Sunday today and watched the whole thing, which is about 55 mins long. Some years back, Jones apparently tried to buy up all the video copies in an effort to withdraw it from public consumption. Now that we're in a digital age, it's constantly appearing on sites only to be taken down shortly after, so if you want to see it, act fast.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Milkeshake City - danger, danger

Last night we sampled the delights of Milkshake City in Friern Barnet, London. The idea is simple and effective - you take your pick from an almost infinite list of chocolate bars or biscuits, and then watch as your selection gets blitzed up with milk and ice-cream, transforming into a delicous milkshake. I had a liquidised Snickers which was first rate, if a touch on the heavy side (though we mustn't start counting calories when partaking in such ventures!).

The business concept has launched in the teeth of the recession but it could well succeed given the desire for comfort eating in times of crisis. A key problem Milkshake City may face is dealing with very low 'barriers to entry', because if the idea has legs there is very little to stop Starbucks, etc from jumping into the fray.


A couple of interesting links

- The Wall Street Journal highlights an unintended consequence of government meddling:

Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama's stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart. The federal credit provides from $4,200 to $5,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and when it is combined with similar incentive plans in many states the tax credits can pay for nearly the entire cost of a golf cart.

... The IRS has also ruled that there's no limit to how many electric cars an individual can buy, so some enterprising profiteers are stocking up on multiple carts while the federal credit lasts, in order to resell them at a profit later.
- The Armchair Economist by Steve Landsburg is a wonderful introduction on applying economic principles to daily life. It was published a great many years ahead of the likes of Freakonomics, The Undercover Economist etc, and remains my favourite book of the bunch. Well, Landsburg finally has a blog; it's part of his new book launch, and hopefully it will run for a long time into the future.