Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Film: Django Unchained

Oh Django Unchained is most good. It is a graphic, unadulterated Tarantino masterpiece, with blood splatterings galore, lots of revenge, and some great comedy sketches that would be comfortable in a Monty Python episode. Also, with Tarantino good dialogue goes without saying (excuse the pun).

Christopher Waltz is exquisite and he and Jamie Foxx make a cracking pair as they go around the country seeking fortune by way of bounty hunting. although Foxx's ultimate objective is to find and rescue his wife from slavery. Unlike Gangster Squad, which I watched last week, Django Unchained is highly memorable, although I am actively trying not to remember Samuel L Jackson in this movie..the guy is so scary creepy he almost makes you shiver.

**** 1/2

On  a side note, while my memory for day to day things is horrendous, Django Unchained marked a highpoint in my ability to recall actors who I may have only briefly glimpsed. About three of four years ago there was a western film called Django on a second rate freeview channel, which I watched for all of five minutes. I recall the actor's name was Franco Nero, though, and I managed to point him out straight away when he appeared in this movie. Now if only I could recall some useful facts with this level of precision!

Film: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad had the potential to be a great film. The cast is stellar and the sets are fantastic. Unfortunately the derivative story and weak final shoot-out made it highly forgettable. Immediately after watching the movie on cheap Tuesday (£3.25 for a ticket), I felt generous and gave it 3 stars for it's simple, popcorn entertainment value. Having had a bit of time to reflect, I'm downgrading the rating as the film really should have delivered more than it did.

** 1/2

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book: The Consolations of Philosophy: Seneca's Praemeditatio

Here is Seneca's "praemeditatio (a mediation in advance) on all the sorrows of the mind and body to which the goddess (Fortune) may subsequently subject us":

The page was snapped from The Consoliation of Philosophy, which was reviewed earlier.

Zen and the Art of Cheese Making

"Hence we concluded that making fine cheese is an art not easily acquired—a trade that needs to be studied thoroughly and practiced long and patiently. We are satisfied that no set of rules will apply in all cases in the manufacture of cheese. Rules are no doubt necessary and useful, but need to be varied to suit variations of temperature, size of cheese and other circumstances, as experience and good judgment seem to dictate."

Towards practical, high-capacity, low-maintenance information storage in synthesized DNA

The Economist reports on the fantastical idea of storing data on DNA:

... After a few more drinks and much scribbling on beer mats, what started out as a bit of amusing speculation had turned into the bones of a workable scheme. After some fleshing out and a successful test run, the full details were published this week in Nature.

... It should, think the researchers, be easily capable of swallowing the roughly 3 zettabytes (a zettabyte is one billion trillion or 10²¹ bytes) of digital data thought presently to exist in the world and still have room for plenty more. It would do so with a density of around 2.2 petabytes (10¹⁵) per gram; enough, in other words, to fit all the world’s digital information into the back of a lorry.

... Modern, digital storage technologies tend to come and go: just think of the fate of the laser disc, for example. In the early 2000s NASA, America’s space agency, was reduced to trawling around internet auction sites in order to find old-style eight-inch floppy drives to get at the data it had laid down in the 1960s and 1970s. But, says Dr Goldman, DNA has endured for more than 3 billion years. So long as life—and biologists—endure, someone should know how to read it.
From the entry in Nature:

"Current trends in technological advances are reducing DNA synthesis costs at a pace that should make our scheme cost-effective for sub-50-year archiving within a decade."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bertland Russell: In Praise of Idleness

If only it were so. Some passages from Bertland Russell's essay 'In Praise of Idleness' (1932):

"...When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours' work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently. I am not thinking mainly of the sort of things that would be considered 'highbrow'. Peasant dances have died out except in remote rural areas, but the impulses which caused them to be cultivated must still exist in human nature. The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part."

"....Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Comic: I don't understand how my brain works

From the genius that is xkcd

Blog rant: the itv logo

To me, the itv channels are good for Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and the occasional Van Damme movie. I have never expected much from this family of stations, for their glory days are arguably well behind them. All I ask for is a measure of consideration for viewers' sensitivities; instead, I get the complete opposite as my senses are knocked for six every time they display new their logo, something they can't help but do at every available opportunity:

What is this ugly thing supposed to represent. The level of curviness is horrid, the move to lower case completely unoriginal and passe. It isn't quite comic sans but it's close.

And then, just when you think it can't get any worse, they do this:

I give up.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick thought before turning out the lights

Practice lightness. 

Light is your friend, it finds, darkness your enemy, it hides.

Not top-heavy, not bottom-heavy,

not heavy in weight, not heavy in thought.

Light is speed, lightness of foot, lightning quick

Light illuminates.

Speak lightly, tread lightly, think lightly

Light is energy,

Life is in the light.

Be like light my friend.

Book: The Chap Manifesto: Revolutionary Etiquette for the Modern Gentleman by Gustav Temple & Vic Darkwood

The Chap Manifesto is a sensible guide on the practicalities of fulfilling your Chap destiny, something that is not so easily achieved when the modern world present so many obstacles at every turn. As with the The Chap Almanac, the Chap Manifesto is a book of hits and misses. However, it too gets four stars because when it hits, boy does it strike at the very core. My favourite snippets can be found further down the page.


Counter-acting those who only half-listen to you, while they are busy texting away, or "multi-tasking" (also known as doing several things badly all in one go):

Scientific proof of the benefits of smoking:

 A masterful piece on how a chap can operate to his fullest in the modern workplace:

 And finally, a proportionate response to uneccessary winter wear:

Film: The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment is a nice, light, comedy drama starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine way back when in 1960. Everything about this picture is beautiful, especially the little apartment, which is decorated in a style that is very much back in vogue. The story has the innocence and confusions typical of a P.G Wodehouse novel, portraying a world that never could exist as much as you may want it to.


 Ah, the life of an accountant

Jack Lemmon strains his spaghetti using a tennis racket.

Fitness goal

From now until April 18th, I will eat clean, eat more, and train harder with a view to getting to 10 stone (currently 9.3). I'm off to the gym tomorrow to sign up.

Looking forward to this.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book: The Chap Almanac - An Esoterick Yearbook for the Decadent Gentleman

An enjoyable, whip of a read, The Chap Almanac provides advice and guidance on all the key aspects of Chappism. These include:
  • The fine art of umbrella jousting
  • The way of Pyjama Dharma (see below)
  • The art of good husbandry ("Many women are hungry when arriving home from work, so this might be a good time to enquire about dinner.")
  • The semiotics of footwear (brogues and the Oxford are more than acceptable, trainers and sandals are not reasonable dress options).
  • Rbelling against portion control (those tiny milk cartons and miniscule butter portions in take-aways and cafeterias)
  • Picnic feng-shui
  • The glory of debt.(the pinnacle is going to prison because the public are footing the bill for your stay)
The Almanac also includes colorful profiles on a series of chap and chappess eccentrics, including  Marcel Proust, Baron Corvo, Lady Hester Stanhope, William Beckford, and my favourite of the bunch, Kenneth Gandar-Dower, a true all round chap who accomplished more than a hundred ordinary men in a quarter of the time, with feats including the bringing back of a pack of cheetahs from India for the purpose of racing around British greyhound tracks. What a chap. Read the Wikipedia entry on Gandar-Dower and prepare to be dazzled by his brilliance.

 **** [Warning: After reading this book you may find yourself searching the web for a good set of winceyette pyjamas and a fine evening robe. I'm not saying this happened to me, which of course means...]

A pet peeve .. but not "too much"

You know how some people get annoyed when they hear other people say "literally" in the wrong context?

- "he had to cut back inside on to his left, because he literally hasn't got a right foot" (Jamie Redknapp).

- "we were literally living in each other's pockets" (singer talking on a morning chat show on C4, talking about touring)
- "paper is literally the ghost in the machine" (intellectual on Radio 4 talking about the historical role of punch cards in early computing machines)

Well,  my pet peeve is with the usage of the words along the lines of "not too much", some thing I am guilty of all too often. For example, when a host is eagerly filling my plate I may say "woah, not too much". The implication is that the host was purposely going to overfill the plate, out of spite perhaps?

Elsewhere, in a recent article by NHS Choices, it is noted that "..too much caffeine is not a good idea, and can lead to a range of unpleasant side effects...". First, everything is toxic at sufficiently high doses. Second, of course too much caffiene is not a good idea. Why? Because it's "TOO MUCH".

Big snow's a comin' to the British Isles

The forecast for Friday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nabokov, index cards and a sharp pencil

Dipping into my housemates "Penguin book of Interviews", I was reminded of the wonderful practical applications of index cards:

"His books are written on index cards so it is possible to start in the middle and insert scenes as he wants. He writes in a 3B pencil that he says he sharpens compulsively."
- from an interview with author Vladmir Nabokov

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) from laptop usage

My new aesthetically displeasing set-up

A few weeks ago I started to experience nervous pains in my wrists and lower arms, along with a pins-and-needles sensation in my hands. After putting my grey cells to work, I deduced the cause to be my beloved laptop - the small compact keyboard and pointer stick were surely doing my paws no favours. I promptly ordered a simple keyboard and mouse from Amazon (Microsoft bundle for £12.99 including postage). When the kit arrived it was put into immediate use. I also created a makeshift docking station (shoebox with holes for the cable spaghetti to feed through) to raise the height of the screen. A week later and the pain has already reduced to a barely noticeable level. To think, had this issue carried on, my important works would have had to have been put on hold indefinitely!

Random comic

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What comes around goes around ... universal karma

Approaching my place of work this morning, I reached into my bag for my swipe card only to find that it had disappeared. There were no guest passes available either so I was prisoner to the work place (there are only so many times you can borrow other peoples swipe cards to use the toilets). My tea intake had be cut back severely to reduce bladder turnover. To make matters worse, I learned that spare cards were unlikely to be issued in the near future. I feared that the next few weeks, possibly months, would be spent in this tea-less, office prison of my own making.  I drafted my resignation in case it got too much.

On my way home, I was walking to my car when I spotted a set of Honda car keys in the middle of the path. I tried them on all the cars in the multi-storey car park but to no avail - any hope of a joy-ride was dashed. Forlorn, I went to the nearest office and left the keys at the reception desk.

As I was driving away,. I noticed a man in a side road searching his pockets. When I concluded that his fumbling was nothing untoward I made enquiries as to whether they were his keys I had found. They were. I directed him to the office. He was happy. I ventured on.

When I got home, I searched the pockets of some trousers on my rail and discovered my swipe card.

He had his keys, I had mine.

The universal karmic equation held.

The Katlama Post revisited

I hit upon a vein of widespread discontent and yearning when I posted this piece back in 2007, lamenting the lack of katlamas in the south. The post has had some 2.5k views and continues to draw comments. The latest comment was made by MJ just a few days ago, "wish i could find katlama in London. when ever i go to brum i have katlama". Prior to this, commets from various folk suggest East London is the place to go for the venerated katlama. Alas, I currently live in Windsor and don't stand a chance of finding one within a reasonable distance. These are trying times

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lego ninja through a drinking glass

This picture is for Week 3 of the Photo-a-Week Project. The theme this week is "Cylindrical", a bit of a toughy!

Film: Unknown

Unknown is widely rated as a mediocre film. Not knowing this before watching it, and being able to forgive over-the-top, extended action sequences (hey, it's a Liam Neeson action flick, what do you expect!), I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, this movie acheived something that most movies in this genre fail miserably at: it kept me guessing throughout. Some movies like Inception and Memento are designed to befuddle and they do so admirably, but the relatively straight forward action-thrillers which try to keep the audience guessing typically fail at the first attempt. For that, I give it a generous four stars!

Blowing Frozen Bubbles

One of my favourite pictures from last week's photo-a-week "Bubbly" theme belongs to this set of fantastic shots, where the photographer has blown bubbles in freezing conditions (-11 degrees). The bubbles seem to freeze in mid-air, sometimes shattering into fragments on the way down.

I haven't posted any images due to copyright restrictions. Just click here to go through and visit the set.

Quick thought

One cannot and one must not aspire to all that is admirable.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Astronaut meets alien bubble

Astronaut meets alien bubble, originally uploaded by Riz RMF.

This is for Week 2 of the Photo-a-Week Project. The theme this week was "Bubbly", a good opportunity to bring the lego out : )

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book: The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

The Consolations of Philosophy is a wonderful little book by armchair philosopher Alain de Botton. De Botton uses the widsom of prominent philosophers and thinkers to address various life concerns including unpopularity, money, frustration, inadequacy, broken hearts and difficulties. The clarity of the writing on display is of the highest order and the book succeeds elegantly in its objective. Indeed, not only will this book shade your thinking on the various topics covered but it also serves well as an introduction to the thoughts of eminent philosophers. Good stuff all round.


Passages for posterity:

"Stoicism does not recommend poverty, it recommends that we neither fear nor despise it. It considers wealth to be a productum, a preferred thing – neither an essential one nor a crime. Stoics may live with as many gifts of Fortune as the foolish. Their houses can be as grand, their furniture as beautiful. They are identified as wise only by detail: how would they respond to sudden poverty. They would walk away from the house and the servants without rage or despair."

… Montaigne had filled his library with books that helped him cross the borders of prejudice. There were history books, travel journals, the reports of missionaries and sea captains, literatures of other lands and illustrated volumes with pictures of strangely clad tribes eating fish of unknown names.”

… quoting Montaigne: “Just as in dress it is the sign of a petty mind to seek to draw attentions to some personal or unusual fashion, so too in speech; the search for new expressions and little-known words derives rom an adolescent schoolmasterish ambition. If only I could limit myself to words used in Les Halles in Paris.

But writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence. So strong is this bias, Montaigne wondered whether the majority of university scholars would have appreciated Socrates, a man they professed to revere above all others, if he head approached them in their own towns, devoid of the prestige of Plato’s dialogues, in his dirty cloak, speaking in plain language.

It is tempting to quote authors when the express our very own thoughts but with a clarity and psychological accuracy we cannot match. They know us better than we know ourselves. … We invite these words into our books as homage for reminding us of who we are. But rather than illuminating our experience and goading us on to our own discoveries, great books may cast a problematic shadow. They may lead us to dismiss aspects of our lives of which there is no printed testimony.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Status displays - I've got you labelled

An interesting passage from an old Economist article (March 2011), finally copied out so I can throw the paper copy away.

"Rob Nelissen and Marijn Meijers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands examined people's reactions to experimental stooges who were wearing clothes made by Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, two well-known brands that sell what they are pleased to refer to as designer clothing. As the two researchers show in a paper about to be published in Evolution and Human Behavior, such clothes do bring the benefits promised: co-operation from others, job recommendations and even the ability to collect more money when soliciting for charity. But they work only when the origin of the clothes in question is obvious.

In the first experiment, volunteers were shown pictures of a man wearing a polo shirt. The photo was digitally altered to include no logo, a designer logo (Lacoste or Hilfiger) or a logo generally regarded as non-luxury, Slazenger. When the designer logo appeared, the man in the picture was rated as of higher status (3.5 for Lacoste and 3.47 for Hilfiger, on a five-point scale, compared with 2.91 for no logo and 2.84 for Slazenger), and wealthier (3.4 and 3.94 versus 2.78 and 2.8, respectively).
To see if this perception had an effect on actual behaviour, the researchers did a number of other experiments. For instance, one of their female assistants asked people in a shopping mall to stop and answer survey questions. One day she wore a sweater with a designer logo; the next, an identical sweater with no logo. Some 52% of people agreed to take the survey when faced with the Tommy Hilfiger label, compared with only 13% who saw no logo.

In another experiment, volunteers watched one of two videos of the same man being interviewed for a job. In one, his shirt had a logo; in the other, it did not. The logo led observers to rate the man as more suitable for the job, and even earned him a 9% higher salary recommendation.

Charitable impulses were affected, too. When two of the team's women went collecting for charity on four consecutive evenings, switching between designer and non-designer shirts, they found that wearing shirts with logos brought in nearly twice as much—an average per answered door of 34 euro cents (48 American ones) compared with 19 euro cents when logo-less. It seems, then, that labels count. The question is, why?
The answer, Dr Nelissen and Dr Meijers suspect, is the same as why the peacock with the best tail gets all the girls. People react to designer labels as signals of underlying quality. Only the best can afford them."

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Film: Drive (2011), better on the second viewing

When I reviewed this film previously, I gave it four stars. I may have been taken back a bit by the violence. I also recall needing some light relief after some heavy study sessions, which Drive didn't provide. Well, I have just watched it again on DVD and the rating goes up to four and a half stars.This movie is a modern noir classic to be.

Drive is understated and over violent but the violence is not so extreme when viewed on the small screen, which is a plus as it helps to balance out the movie. It has a moody, tense atmosphere due to the 80s soundtrack, which can feel a bit haunting at times. Another feature of the way this movie is made is that some people watch it and think that not much is happening, making it feel drawn out. Actually a hell of a lot happens and the film is much shorter than many films. Anyway, enough apologies and justifications, just go watch it and make up your own minds!

**** 1/2 (HMV is selling this film for £3. As soon as I put my rental copy back in the post, I'm going to buy me a copy).

Film: Life of Pi (3D)

The Life of Pi is true to the book: a simple story, well told, with a twist. This is an advantage and disadvantage, depending on whether you enjoyed the book in full, which I can't say I did. I did enjoy the it for the most part though, which mean't I wasn't disappointed at all in the film because I knew what to expect from the story.

For me, the best part of the film is the first half an hour when Pi is on land. The introductroy zoo scenes are breathtakingly beautiful in 3D (this is the first 3D film that I have seen that makes good use of the technology), and the backstory about how Pi got his name is memorable and funny. This is definitely one for the big screen.


Adam Smith Quote - production versus consumption

The good libertarian, free-market minded folk over at Cafe Hayek have posted this here quote by Adam Smith (he's the chap on the back of the British £20 note). It's one to keep in mind:
"Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.  The maxim is so perfectly self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it.  But in the mercantile system the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end and object of all industry and commerce."
As consumerism has been aligned with much that is evil, feel free to replace the word "consumption" with "use", and "consumer" with "user". Of course, the user or consumer can, in many instances, also be the producer.

Book: Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo

I received this book as a Christmas present by some folk who know me too well. Bleach Volume 1 is the first of a long-running Manga series. In this book the central character is a young chap by the name of Ichigo Kurosaki and a "Soul Reaper" by the name of Rukia Kuchiki (top left), whose occupation is to battle with evil spirits called Hollows. There is a lot of swordplay, an interesting story and great graphics. It took a few pages to get into but once the ball was rolling, the book was difficult to put down. For added quirkiness, Manga comics are read back to front and from left to right.

**** 1/2

Monday, January 07, 2013

Hooked on Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is the first American series I have been hooked on since The Wire and The Shield. My sister lent me the first series on DVD and even though these episodes were broadcast back in 2008, their age doesn't show. The range of characters is diverse, the acting is top notch and the story is developing at a decent clip. The show is gritty but also darkly comic, and it certainly asks a lot of moral questions if you care to ask.

There are lots more seasons of these show in store, so I've got me some viewing to look forward to in 2013. Let's see where this goes. And no spoilers please. I've held back from Googling the show to see the latest going ons, so as to keep the element of surprise.

9.5 out of 10 (7 episodes watched)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Dali Atomicus - cat hurling was involved

I recently happened across this amazing photo of Dali. It looks like a meticulous piece of Photoshop magic but is in fact the real deal. The shot took many attempts and many cat throws to make it happen (see out-take production pics below)!

A few production shots:

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Book: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything by Robert H Frank

The Economic Naturalist attempts to answer a host of questions using the tool of economics. I found this book to be a bit of a mixed bag, with some of the answers found wanting when searched up on the internet. Fortunately, each Q&A is around a page in length so the less interesting questions can be passed over. My recommendation would be to first read The Armchair Economist, Freakonomics, The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life, and then to pick this up if you are still hungry for more.

Where the book does succeed quite well is in getting the reader to think about decision making in economic terms  and to question why things are as they are. It's also a good reminder of some of the key economic concepts such as the Law of One Price, Opportunity Cost, No Free Lunch principle, Sunk Costs and the Tragedy of the Commons.

Among the interesting findings:

-  Why are milk cartons rectangular shaped but canned drinks cyclinder shaped? 
It's all about economising transportation and shelf space, which is much more costly when refrigerated.

- Why do ladies clothes have buttons on the opposite side to mens clothes?
It's possibly so that men could more easily draw their swords in days gone by, and also because ladies of high standing were often dressed by another, and the fashion simply trickled down...both of these are not confirmed as definitive.

- Why are DVD boxes bigger than CD cases when the size of the disc is identical? 
This is due to shape of legacy shelf storage that was made for VHS video cassettes.

- Why does a worker's wage rise more quickly than their productivity?
Employees are paid less than they are worth in their early years but this flips around in later years. This reduces the incentive for dishonest workers to join; they are less likely to be around in the later years when they are effectively being back-paid for their earlier hard work.  It's effectively a very delayed bonus system.


Superheroes in historical photographs

Really good work from Agan Harahap, and a hat-tip to Kottke for the pointer. 

Considerations of the self - who am I, who will I be?

This study substantiates what we all learn by growing up - that we are poor predictors of our rate of future change. It is useful to consider when making long lasting decisions (e.g. extreme home decoration, tattoos, rapidly depreciating sports cars that we grow out of) and the earlier it is acknowledged and internalised the greater may be the potential benefit to the individual. Here is a short podcast by one of the authors.

The End of History Illusion

"We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences." 

In the podcast, some of the explanations put forth forth for the expected result that people project their current selves forward in time are:
- Most people are happy with who they are and like to believe that they understand themselves, which makes the idea of changing into something they don't yet understand difficult.
- Prospection is a very different process to retrospection in that it is easier to look backward than it is to look forward. To look forward, you need to imagine a range of possibilities concerning values, tastes, etc. So, instead of  admitting you don't know and it is too difficult to answer, people may confuse this difficult with a belief that substantial change is unlikely.

I for one, look forward to the changes and have little expectation of how I will evolve. In the past decade, I have developed tastes for courgettes and aubergines, marmite, and stronger cheeses. Oh yes, and anchovies! My film interests remain wide and sometimes weird, although I have less interest in rom-coms etc. My music interests have fast migrated away from rnb (what was I thinking...just kidding!). In the future, I would like to 'get' some classical pieces. I mean come on already, at what age does this happen?

Friday, January 04, 2013

Screaming at 10pm anyone?

That's what you may do, every night, if you live in the neighbourhood of Flogsta in Uppsala, Sweden:

I really need to open a tumblog or some such like to post these "things from other sites that I find cool". Until then they'll keep on popping up here.

The sound of information pouring into your PC

I discovered this sound of nostalgic electric sweetness a few months back.

I'm surprised I haven't heard this in the big wide world as a ring tone. I imagine it would leave a puzzled look on the young fledglings while those a bit longer in the tooth would give a knowing nod of recognition. 

Scrooge - the most unknowingly charitable of all people?

Christmas may have passed us by but it's still worth reading Steve Landsberg's insightful perspective on why many of Scrooge's behaviours are to the widest possible economic benefit. Here are the key bits:
... His meager lodgings were dark because darkness is cheap, and barely heated because coal is not free. His dinner was gruel, which he prepared himself. Scrooge paid no man to wait on him.

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that’s a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

...  In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world’s resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.
If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer—because you produced a dollar’s worth of goods and didn’t consume them.

Who exactly gets those goods? That depends on how you save. Put a dollar in the bank and you’ll bid down the interest rate by just enough so someone somewhere can afford an extra dollar’s worth of vacation or home improvement. Put a dollar in your mattress and (by effectively reducing the money supply) you’ll drive down prices by just enough so someone somewhere can have an extra dollar’s worth of coffee with his dinner. Scrooge, no doubt a canny investor, lent his money at interest. His less conventional namesake Scrooge McDuck filled a vault with dollar bills to roll around in. No matter. Ebenezer Scrooge lowered interest rates. Scrooge McDuck lowered prices.
Christmas will never be the same again.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Book: Hedge Hunters by Katerhine Burton

Hedge Hunters profiles 18 hedge fund managers, including a few of the big names in the business (Chanos, Pickens, Robertson), and discusses the managers' backgrounds and strategies. The book is in a similar vein to the classic Market Wizards series but unfortunately Hedge Hunter's doesn't manage to get under the skin of what makes the managers tick and is lacking depth and excitement. Perhaps Burton didn't ask the right questions or perhaps these managers were reluctant to drill down into specifics. Either way, the text comes off as a little bland.

If viewed from the lens of practical utility however, the book served a valuable purpose. As well as providing a reminder that there is no single model of success, a comment by fund manager Michael Steinhardt was invaluable in stressing the importance of staying the game and continuing to build up experience, a factor I had largely dismissed when I shut up shop several years ago.

"In the course of a career, a money manager can make x decisions or 50 times x decisions. He who makes 50 times x decisions learns more"

*** 1/2