Friday, November 30, 2012

Lego ninja fest


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bruce Lee: Lost Interview with Pierre Berton

An interview with Bruce Lee, one of my childhood heroes. 


Important facts about Chuck Norris


When Chuck Norris looks at himself at a mirror, there is no reflection. There can only be one Chuck Norris.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.

Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.!

(selection from http://www.chucknorrisfacts.com)

Universal Soldier 4: Day of Reckoning

Fans of the Universal Soldier series will be looking forward to the next installment with baited breath. As the old saying goes, "The fourth is always the best".


"... it's Hyams' surreal, aggressive filming of these events that gives US:DOA a potent dose of adrenaline. The fight scenes are shot not as overblown bouts of mindless mayhem, but as savage, damaging encounters, filled with so much blood and gore that it's clear the production's Red Food Coloring budget was substantial. (Yes, it indeed looks like most of the red stuff is courtesy of squibs, not a computer, which is really refreshing.) The director isn't looking to make a by-the-numbers sequel, he's got a vision, and bathes his movie in atmospheric dread so that every sequence feels like it wants to inflict pain on the audience. There's a severely grimy mass-killing/fight scene in a brothel that will absolutely send all but the most committed genre fans for the exit, and the very fact that the film is referencing APOCALYPSE NOW at the end - right down to Jean-Claude as a painted up Col. Kurtz stand-in - definitely earns it points for thinking outside the box a little" (source

Scott Adkins fans will also be happy to learn that Ninja 2 is in the works! 2012 has been quite the renaissance for action films.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Gun sweded


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Batman sweded


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Qick thought: probability and the spurious correlation

I wonder how the probabilty of finding spurious correlations between random variables changes as you increase:

  • the number of observations
  • the number of variables
  • a combination of the above

John McAffee is blogging while on the run in Belize

The multi-millionaire founder of McAfee AntiVirus keeping a blog while he is on the run in Belize. He is wanted by the authorities for an alleged murder and various other charges. From today's blog post:

"There have been some comments pointing to my mispellings,bad  grammar, etc. as being an indicator of my unhinged state.  I am 67.  I left in a hurry and do not have my glasses (When I am near my property I am unable to enter the front buildings of my property, which is where my own room is.).  I have no spell checker on this tiny device which is not a computer.  I am on the run and sleep less than three hours per night.  I have no money and, some days, no food.  I would beg that my detractors cut me a tiny bit of slack."

Mr McAfee is also tweeting while on the run.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Film: Argo

Argo's subject matter - a hostage situation at the height of the US-Iran crisis in the late 70s - isn't something that will appeal to many on face value alone, but it really deserves to be seen widely. The movie has won rave reviews from critics and viewers alike, and I'm not going to say anything different.

Argo manages to blend serious events with a decent quantity of humour, much of which is provided by the ever wonderful Alan Arkin. Affleck himself isn't bad by any means when he is infront of the camera, but it is behind it where he is turning into a master of the craft. Importantly for this type of movie, the story doesn't drag and while it is filmed in a realistic manner, there is no overly gruesome violence.

****

This is the original Argo poster (Argo being the fictitious movie that was used as cover in an effort to sneak out some Americans who were trapped in Iran):


In the trailers to Argo, we were reminded of Gangster Squad, which is looking nail-bitingly brilliant, even if it is little more than an updated version of The Untouchables.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some agreeable quotes from a Greek philosopher - Epictetus


“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

“Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.”

“Don't just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents."

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

"No man is free who is not master of himself. A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things."

“Asked, Who is the rich man? Epictetus replied, "He who is content.”

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chipflation

The price of a small bag of chips in my local vicinity has just climbed from £1.40 to £1.60. Chipflation doesn't creep up with the general index. It bides its time and then, all of a sudden, when the chip shop patron least expects it, several years of inflation will strike over night.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shock & Awe by Jim Al-Khalili

This is the best science documentary series I have seen in a while. You can catch the second episode on iPlayer right now. Also, some generous folks have kindly posted the three-part series to Youtube...enjoy it while you can folks.


My last day at BPP accountancy college (if I pass)

My last day at BPP Reading, remembered from the perspective of the hot drinks vending machine:

Coffee, white, with sugar.
Mocha.
Tea, white, with sugar.
Delicious Creamichoc.
Mocha.
Hot Chocolate.

Fellow students of said institute will relate to this ritual.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ukridge by P.G. Wodehouse

I've read Ukridge once already but I had to go back to it. I knew it would make for the perfect antidote to hours of Audit revision, that it would serve as one of those great rebalancers of life's perspectives when the stresses of the calculator got too pressing.

From page 2:


just wonderful

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book:A Taste of the Sun by Elizabeth David


A Taste of the Sun is another book from the Penguin Great Food series, and unlike my first effort this one firmly belongs in the collection.

Elizabeth wrote on Mediterrenean food in the mid 1900's and was a key influencer of the modern British plate. This book is a just a small sampling of her work but it does make you want to read more, and eat more. My favourite sections were the chapters on pasta, fish soup and toast.

A bit of background on Elizabeth David from Wikipedia:

"Born to an upper-class family, David rebelled against social norms of the day. She studied art in Paris, became an actress, and ran off with a married man with whom she sailed in a small boat to Greece. They were nearly trapped by the German invasion of Greece in 1940 but escaped to Egypt where they parted. She then worked for the British government, running a library in Cairo. While there she married, but the marriage was not long lived.  After the war, David returned to England, and, dismayed by the gloom and bad food, wrote a series of articles about Mediterranean food that caught the public imagination. Books on French and Italian cuisine followed, and within ten years David was a major influence on British cooking. She was deeply hostile to second-rate cooking and to bogus substitutes for classic dishes and ingredients. She introduced a generation of British cooks to Mediterranean food hitherto barely known in Britain, such as pasta, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salami, aubergines, red and green peppers, and courgettes."

Quick unfinished thoughts: catching-up

- Lack of sleep? You are a zombie until you've had some caffeine, had a nap, or just had a little time to relax. Only then do you have a chance to 'catch up' with yourself.
- Jet lag? You've pretty much left yourself behind, possibly in a different country altogether. After a day or two, you suddenly 'catch up' with yourself and are back to normal.
- Too busy doing too many things? Some time, sooner or later, you will 'catch up' with yourself and will be at a loss, you'll be itching to do something, anything, to feed the addiction and distraction of being busy. And you'll race off, until you next 'catch up' with yourself. Keep running.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quote from an FT on Decision Making

"Good choice architecture can help overcome our tendency to make poor decisions because we procrastinate, avoid complexity or simply turn away from high-stakes decisions and hope they will resolve themselves. We know we should invest more in retirement plans, for example, but many of us avoid doing so because they are hard to understand. Companies that allow monthly withdrawals from employees’ pay get around this by making saving more effortless. 
Even more influential has been the work of the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. His experiments have demonstrated the effects our cognitive biases have on decision-making. Our aversion to losses makes us too cautious. Our tendency to anchor choices on certain assumptions makes us give too much weight to information that might be irrelevant. Our fear of contradiction makes us seek out information that confirms what we already think."
Full article "Decidedly better choices"

Book: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Read a few months ago.

A previous housemate recommended this book before he left. I promptly ordered it, deciding that his cup of tea could well be my cup of tea (a metaphorical cup as he never really drank tea and when he did I recall that it was with sugar, with is not to my liking, so I wouldn't really want his actualy cup of tea...come to think of it, we have no cups in the house, just mugs...I digress). The Princess Bride is a swash-buckling fairy-tale adventure of the highest order and could well be my second favourite (Don Quixote forever takes the prime spot). It is brisk, funny, full of sword play and escapes, and comes with a brigade of brilliant characters.

From the introduction:

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
"Has it got any sports in it?"
"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."

****1/2

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Peter Thiel and Gary Kasparov on the need for risk in innovation


Our dangerous illusion of tech progress

By Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel

.... During the past 40 years the world has willingly retreated from a culture of risk and exploration towards one of safety and regulation. We have discarded a century of can-do ambition built on rapid advances in technology and replaced it with a cautiousness far too satisfied with incremental improvements

The 2008 crisis lingers. But its main cause goes back more than three decades to the depressed rate of technological progress since the 1970s. If we want to escape not just today’s crisis but the whole post-1970 era of bubbles, busts and wage stagnation, our only option is to accelerate technological innovation.

Many investors practise a fake form of long-term thinking. Portfolio managers see the returns of the 20th century and project those far into the future. Tomorrow’s retirees are betting their fortunes on the success rates of yesterday’s companies. But the vast wealth registered by modern capital markets came from technological feats that cannot be repeated. If nobody takes the risk to invent products that produce new industries and new profits, then analysing historical returns from the 20th century will be no better guide to our future than researching crop yields from the 10th century. Without innovation, faith in the stock market is a kind of cargo cult.

The dotcom boom of the 1990s was a clear case of investors mistaking hype for innovation. But the housing bubble of the 2000s was similar because it was assumed that house prices would appreciate in a world of technologically driven growth. After all, it had always happened before.

However, we bounded forward in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to a generation of scientists who did not just believe in a better future but invented it. They popularised jet aviation, fed a growing world with the harvest of the “green revolution”, switched on the first nuclear reactors for civilian power, launched the first satellites for communications and built the first integrated circuit, laying the foundations for decades of innovation in information technology.

The genuine progress in IT from the 1970s up to the 2000s masked the relative stagnation of energy, transportation, space, materials, agriculture and medicine. IT enabled the processes of globalisation and efficient management that delivered economic growth without increasing real median wages. But it also induced a misleading sensation of technological acceleration. We can now use our phones to send cute kitten photos around the world or watch episodes of The Jetsons while riding a century-old subway; we can programme software to simulate futuristic landscapes. But the actual landscape around us is almost identical to the 1960s. Our ability to do basic things such as protect ourselves from earthquakes and hurricanes, to travel and to extend our lifespans is barely increasing.

Today when people say “tech” they think of a small cohort of computer-related companies rather than the continuing transformation of every industry that people envisioned back in the 1950s. On the campuses of Google and Apple, high-design bathrooms or espresso bars might look very different from the average non-tech company but their balance sheets show the same vast piles of idle cash you’ll find at Pfizer or Chevron. If we were living in an era of accelerating technological progress, Apple could reinvest its returns in new projects instead of fighting patent battles over old ones while moonlighting as the world’s biggest hedge fund.

Our culture has not caught up with the reality of stagnation. Our institutions are addicted to incrementalism. The only huge leap proposed is a leap backward: to slow down for the environment’s sake. But the only means for humanity to consume fewer resources is through new technology. Governments are biased toward managing and thereby perpetuating problems. The cold war glory days of Nasa and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are long gone. Meanwhile, Wall Street analysts’ quarterly earnings expectations encourage short-term thinking at publicly traded companies.

The most innovative companies of the future will be private ones, which enjoy more freedom than governments or listed companies. They will have be able to invest in technologies too risky for politicians to endorse and too futuristic for venture capitalists to fund.

Above all the future will be created by individuals. Those with the most liberty to take on risk and make long-term plans, young people, should consider their options carefully. Education is invaluable but student debt can be crippling to entrepreneurship. The coming generation of leaders and creators will have to rekindle the spirit of risk. Real innovation is difficult and dangerous but living without it is impossible.

The writers are a former world chess champion and the founder of PayPal. Tonight they are participating in an Oxford Martin School debate on technology at the Oxford Union

Tim Harford on the importance of corporate failures

.... the idea that corporate failure reflects economic vitality makes a good deal of sense. In a study published in the Journal of Financial Economics in 2008, Kathy Fogel, Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung compiled lists of the 10 largest employers in each of 44 countries across the world. Fogel and her colleagues found that when the membership of this elite group of companies changed frequently, the economy in question was more likely to be growing quickly.Perhaps more impressive is the fact that churn in the top 10 list in a given year was correlated with fast growth over the subsequent decade. Even more striking, the results were being driven by the extinction of corporate dinosaurs rather than the rapid ascent of new stars. The ability to fail quickly – and without much collateral damage – is a tremendous economic asset. Just think of the companies we now think of as too big to fail.
I think this idea has aspects to it that port rather well to the personal domain i.e. you don't want your chosen activities to be so dominant and rigid such that you continue along with them simply because you have become overly 'invested'. This would apply to your chosen profession (have the transferable skills so you can chose to change your path if needed i.e. ask how easily you can hit the 'fail' button with your current employer); to your hobbies (low barriers to entry and exit enable experimentation and breadth of experimentation); and to your purchases (be wary of locking into long-term expenditure commitments and don't forget that many large purchases have associated maintenance costs that later come to bite). All in all, stay nimble and flexible for better personal growth.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Groupon

They floated at $20 not so long ago. After yesterday's profit warning, the shares are down at  $3.29 in after hours trading. That's a reduction of over 80%. Like most of the reduced price offers sold on the Groupon site, this one is also not worth taking up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Conformity and the elevator experiment

Discovered as a snippet in Tim Harford's recent talk about Making Mistakes at the Sydney Opera House. Harford is on top form with this one.


Film: Skyfall

Skyfall isn't amazing but it does plenty enough to keep you entertained through it's long run time. There is a marked absence of technological gadgetry this time around, which takes a bit of adjusting to but is a strong positive for the movie. The other stand out positive is Javier Bardem, who plays a wonderfully menacing pyshco villain. On the negative side, the female characters other than M are pretty weak, and Moneypenny's lines in particular don't seem to go anywhere. There's also a lack of humour in the movie, but this is just a continuation of the Daniel Craig era Bond, where the role is played less like a comic book spy and more like the rough and ready Jason Bourne.

Overall, Skyfall is worth watching, especially with so little else on at the moment.

***1/2

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

On line lectures - the Floating University: Psychology

The Floating University is a must for enquiring minds. The current course offering is a single module call "Great Big Ideas", which comprises of a series of video lectures and quizzes covering a variety of wide-ranging topics.

I've just finished the lecture on pyschology, which was a success; it surpassed my expectations and left me wanting more. Each topic presentation has been very well thought out for the interested beginner and includes a transcript, outline, glossary and quiz. The presenters are also pretty much the cream of the crop: you've got the likes of Lawrence Summers, Stephen Pinker, Michio Kaku and William Ackman.

I'm looking forward to revisting this space (oh no, corporate speak has entered my blog vocabulary!) with a bit more rigour once my audit exam is out of the way....talking of which, I'm not sure how listening to a 45 minute lecture on the applications of pyschology will help me pass an Advance Audit & Assurance paper in four weeks time...maybe in ways I don't understand..yes, that must be right.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Ninja Baby!


What's invisble: oh, the wonderment!

This reminder of how little we know about the invisble world is a must-see if your general state of wonder needs a little pep. Courtesy of John Lloyd of QI fame.

Daniel Kahnemanon Why Moving to California Won't Make You Happy

Levni Yilmaz - Things I Have Worried About

Levni Yilmaz - The Loner



R Kelly "Write Me Back" ... and reaching the dead end alley of rnb

It is interesting to note that R.Kelly's biggest single is a 1996 track called "I Believe I Can Fly", and that his latest album "Write Me Back" contains a track called "Clipped Wings" and another track titled "Falling From the Sky".

I listened to a few tracks on Youtube and they aren't bad but they certainly don't have a strong vibe of originality about them. I imagine it is more rewarding to go back to the best songs of the era.

On a separate note, I feel I've completely grown out of rnb. Most of my music favourites in my late teens and early twenties were rnb based but they slowly dropped away and now there is almost nothing left bar the occassional Proustian(ish) moment when I hear the odd track on the radio. I guess whereas actors, directors and authors age and change as you change, perhaps the genre of rnb is too narrow to be able to adapt with the individual. The question is what fills the gap? Well, Radio Paradise continues to be my main station of choice but for the time being I am unthethered to any genre.

Food related quotes


One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. - Luciano Pavarotti

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. - John Gunther

I’ll bet what motivated the British to colonize so much of the world is that they were just looking for a decent meal. - Martha Harrison


Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea. - Pythagoras

Henry Jame' advice on a picnic: It should be "not so good as to fail of an amusing disorder, nor yet so bad as to defeat the proper function of repasts".

On Tea:

 If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. - Gladstone, 1865

Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea. - Author Unknown

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. - C.S. Lewis

Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things. - Saki 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cat in a box

A Magoo will endeavour to make every box a home. This is my paper recycling box.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sitting continued

Bernardino Ramazzini in 1700 wrote a seminal work called De Morbis Artificum Diatriba [Diseases of Workers]. He writes of office life:

The maladies that afflict the clerks . . . arise from three causes: First, constant sitting, secondly the incessant movement of the hand and always in the same direction, thirdly the strain on the mind from the effort not to disfigure the books by errors or cause loss to their employers when they add, subtract, or do other sums in arithmetic. . . . Incessant driving of the pen over paper causes intense fatigue of the hand and the whole arm because of the continuous and almost tonic strain on the muscles and tendons, which in course of time results in failure of power in the right hand. . . .

Those who sit at their work and are therefore called “chair-workers,” such as cobblers and tailors . . . become bent, hump-backed, and hold their heads down like people looking for something on the ground; this is the effect of their sedentary life and the bent posture of the body as they sit and apply themselves all day to their tasks in the shops where they sew. .. . Since to do their work they are forced to stoop, the outermost vertebral ligaments are kept pulled apart and contract a callosity, so that it becomes impossible for them to return to the natural position. . . . These workers, then, suffer from general ill-health . . . caused by their sedentary life. . . . But it is not so true of many other sedentary workers, potters and weav-ers, for example, who exercise the arms and feet and in fact the whole body; this keeps them in better health because the impurities in the blood are more easily dispersed by such movements. All sedentary workers suffer from lumbago. . . . They should be advised to take physical exercise, at any rate on holidays. Let them make the best use they can of some one day, and so to some extent counteract the harm done by many days of sedentary life. . . .

Book: Chef at War by Alexis Soyer

The Chef at War is part of the Penguin Classics "Great Food" collection, which supposedly brings together some of the best writings on all matters prandial.

The Chef at War does not belong in this collection. The author changed the lives of soldiers on the battlefield with his ingeniously designed stove, but he should have stuck to cooking and teaching, and left the writing of his experiences to someone else. Soyer's writing is all dull as dishwater, so much so that I eventually resorted to skim reading the book even though it's only 100 pages in length! To read of this man's great influence makes it all the worse.

The best thing about The Chef at War is the cover. Read the Wikipedia entry and be done with it.

*

Following on from the earlier post on the dangers of sitting:


The first recorded anecdote of exercise as a treatment for heart disease is thought to be from William Heberden, who wrote of a man with angina pectoris in 1772: “I knew of one who set himself the task of sawing wood for half an hour every day, and was nearly cured” - Source

Something to consider during the ad breaks?

For a fascinating history of physical exercise as a preventative of heart disease I recommend this article.