March 29, 2008
for the last year or so i have been using a blackberry and have had to do without FM radio on my phone. it wasn’t a feature i used a lot, but enough to annoy me when it’s absent. i’ve never felt the need to get an MP3 player, in fact my camera and various other devices all offer this functionality and all remain unused, although the same radio programmes i want to hear when on the move are often available as podcasts. the other day i stepped from the car to catch a train whilst in the middle of a radio show that i wanted to hear. as i stood on the platform i contemplated downloading the podcast later that evening, finding where i’d got to etc. and i realised that it just shouldn’t be this way, and it didn’t have to be. so this is what i’ve bought. it looks like a nano, offers a sufficient (for my purposes) 1GB storage, FM radio, MP3, AMV, WAV, is a voice recorder. it has a 1.8 inch colour screen etc etc. it costs £14.
March 28, 2008
i’ve been reading duns scotus. the trigger for this is his influence on charles sanders peirce, and it’s possible to see, in scotus, peirce’s jumping off points. but what strikes me, as it often does when reading philosophical writers from several hundred years ago, is the god stuff. it is everywhere. one asks oneself how any of it can be taken seriously when there is a constant reaching out to a cosmic being. this is a great example, in the middle of, what would be, a sound essay:
Therefore, if substance immediately moved the intellect naturally to know the substance itself, it would follow that when a substance was absent, the intellect could know that it was not present. Hence, it could know naturally that the substance of bread does not exist in the Consecrated Victim of the Altar, which is clearly false.
Sometimes, like with Spinoza, you get the feeling that the god stuff is placed in the correct places so that the writer doesn’t get lynched. Spinoza does away with the big cheese neatly but mentions his devotion in passing, thereby enabling him to get on with the job. admittedly this didn’t make him popular. It’s often difficult to tell what is a truly held religious belief from a pragmatic wish not to be persecuted as a heretic.
of course we shouldn’t forget that god, or monotheism, was an important step in the evolution of science. where once there were many gods (explanations for individual experiences), there emerged one (a general explanation). a general catch-all explanation allows individual processes that can be analysed. it’s all about how, not who.
today was an incredibly frustrating day in corporate wonderland. however a blog post by johnnie moore made me smile at the end of it.
It’s said that Tony Blair admitted his discomfort at finding, during his first months of office, that he kept pulling the levers of power and then discovering they weren’t connected to anything.
Lately I’ve been using a phrase I made up - “blancmange leveragers” to describe folks who are over-attached to being in control, and inventing new schemes to make things happen. The more elaborate their “tools”, the fancier their diagrams, the more abstract their language, the bigger their “announcements” and the more sanctimonious their tone… the more I see them leveraging blancmange.
i think this is exactly right.
coming from a smallish start-up bought by a large corp, i am constantly struck by the agility of the former and the torpor of the latter. is it possible for a large corp to operate like a start-up? in some ways it’s not. there are more regulations for a listed organisation. like it or not bureaucracy is always going to be a feature. nevertheless i remain convinced that it is possible to achieve agility and focus despite size. a lot of it is to do with hiring. i prefer to think of it as casting. there’s a reason behind google’s infamous hiring process. and it’s not just hiring. jack welch’s GE ran on firing the bottom 10% each and every year. jack tells a story of entering a 5th avenue shoe store and being recognised by the manager. “mr welch”, he says, “i saw you on TV saying that you have to fire the bottom 10% of the workforce. I only have 10 sales staff, do i have to fire one?”. Welch replied, “only if you want to be the best shoe store on 5th avenue”.
quote of the day - Zac to Zoe:
No offence, Zoe, but you’ve ruined my life.
March 22, 2008
those who worried about the fact that this brave new world of finance lacked a safety net were dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned. In fact, however, we were partying like it was 1929 — and now it’s 1930.
For those (many) commentators who insist that it’s not going to be so bad, it’s worth looking at what the commentators either side of the 1929 crash were saying. For example:
“We will not have any more crashes in our time.”
- John Maynard Keynes in 1927
“… a serious depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall.”
- HES, November 10, 1929
“All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed… and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S.”
- President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933
March 20, 2008
it was with some amusement that i read yesterday that the Fed were expected to make a massive cut in interest rates. Massive cuts can be made when there’s something to cut. When rates are 3% there isn’t a long way to go. The eventual .75% cut left rates at 2.25%. Expectations are now that, by the end of the summer, rates will be 1%. Soon they’ll be paying you to take out a loan. All this happened in Japan in the nineties and it did nothing to resurrect their economy in the short term.
In the last couple of years everyone has known that the bubble would burst, but no one knew when. People acted as though nothing would happen. Now everyone is “shocked” at the extent. Today a bunch of sheisters tried to take down HBOS. Who knows what bank may be next. It’s pretty clear that the Bank of England cannot support another large bank failure. People I know were today ensuring that they had no more than £35k in any one account (the government guarantee limit). Ironically most of the cash was flowing into Northern Rock, since they are the only bank whose total deposits are guaranteed.
If you have a bubble, and it bursts, blowing in more air is not going to help. The US (and other economies) are consuming beyond their means. The US borrows $3billion each and every day to finance its deficit. A correction (recession) is a necessity. Artificially holding this off is going to make matters worse, not better. And it could get a lot worse. What would happen if the dollar collapsed? A dutch film examines the issue. In the film a US economist says:
all of a sudden a lot of people in China, who are riding bicycles, are going to find that now they’re going to be able to afford automobiles. Maybe they’ll send some of the bicycles over here because we won’t be able to drive these SUVs anymore.
What is delicious about all this is that steadily all of the power has transered to a silent partner, China. Their participation, in bailing out the US, is what’s holding up the facade. Right now they’re saying very little to upset anyone. But one decision could end it all. For a long time there has been speculation that China sees its inevitable victory in economic, rather than military, conflict. They’ve held fire and can now see the whites of the enemy’s eyes. It’s hard to believe that they have not considered this very carefully. Will they, won’t they?
Perhaps the olympics are going to be far more significant than anyone could foresee. What better stage could there be? The Chinese like the grand gesture. It could be the party of the century.
March 17, 2008
March 14, 2008
the internet has killed off some nice money-spinners, or so I thought. there was once a time when any reasonably large company paid someone significant sums to collect press cutting that mentioned the company or its associates. With the advent of RSS, news streams and search engines, those days are gone. But no, i discover they are alive and well, peddling to companies a service that could be had for nothing, if only anyone could be bothered to spend 20 minutes setting up some criteria. oh well.
I should say that there are circumstances where such services may be of use, where there is content hidden behind pay-walls, local papers with no net presence etc. But these are few and far between and probably not why a company wants this kind of service anyway.
Aside from an RSS stream on google news, i recommend unfolding news.
I wanted to buy a domain name. It was taken. I looked it up on whois and found that it had been owned by this guy for 10 years, that he was not a trader, and that there were no contact details. I went to the registrar and tried to get them to pass on a message but they were having none of it. Years ago I would have been stuck, short of hiring a PI or being willing to do days of work. Luckily he had quite an unusual name and had two initials. I paid a small sum to look up the name on the electoral role and found a good candidate. I then paid another small sum to obtain an ex-directory number. Not only that but in order to pitch the offer correctly I took in a satellite view of his house in google maps, and found out his age and occupation, all before picking up the phone. Quite scary in a way. And, yes, I bought it.
March 12, 2008
Check out flickrvision, it’s uber cool. i think i could watch it for hours. there’s a map of the world and images appear from wherever they are posted to flickr, as they are posted. Yes, just like twittervision.