Friday, 27 November 2009

What about Dubai?

Apologies. I've been slacking on the blog. My work week has been shortened by four hours by a very-ridiculous-situation. With that, I'm finding it rather hard to sneak in some keyboard time. I expect the next few weeks with work deadlines, Christmas shopping., loads of parties and the dreaded end-of-term school Roman project my son is dithering on completing ought to just about finish me off.

How on earth working mums find the time to do the Christmas thing is the wonder of the day. Mail order? Sneaking away early from work? I've been doing both and naughtily slotted in a hairdressing appointment yesterday to ease the stress. I had visions of cascading locks, a messy kind of fresh out of bed look. I emerged the dot opposite, with blow-dry straight straight hair. I felt shiny, organized and quite unlike myself. It occurred to me I ought to cry and make him start anew. But I did not have the time.

Hair? No no no. Never mind the hair. What about Dubai? The answer is, thank goodness for Thanksgiving. The U.S. markets were closed yesterday, which most hopefully was helpful. I'll be watching today - futures look a bit grim at the moment. But, apart from market movements today, what does this all mean in the big picture? I'll tell you. It is a lot like my hair. Appearances can be deceptive and little things can reveal the true state of things. I'd much prefer it goes all messy upfront rather than this nervous tic repressed state we are being held in. Thin ice is never much fun. Let's slosh.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

"Incentivising"...

Coca-cola "incentivising" buskers on the London Underground to sing a Jingle?

Oh dear. More here on the BBC...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Try and control it...

Oh my. Man-made blizzard paralyzes China?

Read about it here.

The China Meteorological Administration has produced the following video to explain artificial rain, and, whether or not it is harmful. See it here on their website...(in Chinese)...

There is perhaps an analogy to quantitative easing but I shall resist...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Contests...

Contests. Would you rather enter a contest based on luck, or, on skill? Or, are you a contest avoider? If you are a contest-player, how strongly do you ever feel about winning?

For instance, Missmc feels very strongly she might win things based on skill. I might play those. As far as luck contests, I've no strength of feeling. And, with that, I am a contest avoider, though the odd "hey...I might get lucky" moment does cross my mind from time to time.

Which is more satisfying? Winning contests of chance, or, winning contests of skill? For me, it is winning games of chance. Because it seems so utterly magically Santa-claus-y when random luck happens.

I ought to be more attracted to contests of chance more than to contests of skill if I find chance-based contests more satisfying to win. But I have no particular attraction to them.

Obviously it all comes down to my a-type tendencies and skeptical nature. Perhaps it is time to play some more chance-based kinds of contests and loosen up...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Channelling my inner Goldie Hawn...

Missmc does not deserve to be in the intermediate pilates class but was placed there purely for economic reasons. There were only two beginners this term so I've been asked to join in with the ladies-who-know-what-they-are-doing. I am now officially the class clown. This role I truly relish.

Until tomorrow morning. When the muscles howl and mewl and remind me that I am not intermediate, my sense of humour might just wisp away. I expect I will curse the beginner-ladies-of-Dulwich who ought to be standing alongside me in the name of solidarity. Things might be tight, but, really, other things need to be umm...tight.

I am terribly inspired by my high-maintenance teacher - mostly because she has a delightful sense of humour. She has gone from long haired brunette to short haired blonde this week. I can just imagine if I had made that leap. Within weeks, I'd be scraggly and brunette and take to wearing a hat. I'd be muttering about my feminist mother letting me down, not teaching me that it is okay to be glamourous. She read Ms magazine and liked Gloria Steinem and other hairy 70's feminists. Who I loathed when I was young. They were gross. Looks do matter.

I'm having flashbacks of rebelliousness and think I might just have to become a blonde someday soon. My mother would faint.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Dread Spread...

The recent insider trading investigations have honed in on Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors. Ah. Art has entered the picture. Cohen is a voracious collector of contemporary art and is one of the top ten collectors (from a monetary perspective) worldwide. Here is a New York Times article on his influence on the art market. Here is a profile on Cohen in Business Week Magazine from 2003. Hedgies have been good customers of contemporary art and the closing of several funds has indeed had an adverse influence on the art market. This status-du-jour set of collectors has the potential to sully the good name of art if investigations again spill over from the finance world to the art world...

Big shadows of dread are creeping over Chelsea..

Friday, 6 November 2009

*%$£*%& Forecasting


The dutiful side of me won out and threw me in the car, staring at my iPhone map and deposited me at a coffee morning with the school-mums. You are right -- that is a bit out of character. I survived. Just.

As we were walking out to our cars afterward, one of the mums started fretting about the weather forecast over the weekend. A harp crescendo strummed. No more idle chatter about children -- here was a serious topic - the weather! Here was something I could relate to - something to be lyrically obsessive about. After-all, I am a believer. But, I shielded myself with a fond goodbye and jumped into my car. And checked my email. As it happens, a friend had just sent me a great weather site link - The Fucking Weather.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Eros-a-nomics

The plumbers in America and the U.K. are both under the sink, mucking about. The Bank of England is on tap for today. Yesterday, the U.S. Fed announced the continuation of "exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period".

"The public seems to have some more confidence - they seem to have believed the talk about green shoots, but actually the data haven't really looked that way at all."

Former MPC member Professor David Blanchflower

David Blanchflower is known as as an expert in the Economics of Happiness and has published several papers on various tangents on the topic. In one study, he asserts that as the GDP goes up, happiness does not necessarily follow. But what about down? I've not found anything by him on that, but, Blanchflower is a big advocate of copious amounts of sex and a long-lasting relationship.

So. Ummm....extrapolating all that, it does appear there might be a variable that could help get the world back on its feet. Perhaps another Valentine's Day needs to be added to the calendar. Right now.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Danish Innovation...

Hurrah! Danish educators have it right. I think I have to move to Denmark now...

From the BBC...who, from the tone of it, seem to find this incomprehensible...

"Free"

It is the time of year when Christmas suggestions for the children's grandparents are sent. I've been thinking about what my children enjoy and it really does not seem to involve much that I could put on a list. My children are growing up in a world where the phrase "the best things in life are free" is the working reality. But that is only because they have discovered all the free games apps on my iphone. They obviously need an ipod touch. But the price tag seems too dear to put on the grannie list. Dilemma. I could spring for one, but two??? That ruins my austerity pledge.

And what about the grandmother list? What else do they play with? Other children, ropes, pens, paint and paper. And cardboard boxes. What else? Nothing. There is only so much lego needed in one house.

Back to the concept of free. Free art, free information on the internet, and free games are offered up to them on a daily basis. Behind the facade of free, there are large corporations footing the bill. Will my son really go out and buy a Volkswagon when he grows up just because they have sponsored the nifty little racing game I have downloaded for him? Will he someday click on one of those google paid-for ads? More than likely, somewhere along the way, he will pay for something. More importantly, they have impaled volkswagon on his mother's brain. Nothing new. Television, radio and newspapers have operated on similar models. But much of the "free" we are provided with in the new online world is sponsored by large global companies. Where is the "local" and "independent" in this new model? Well. That is coming. I can now picture a start-up industry something like desktop publishing evolving that designs nifty little entertaining apps for small businesses. And big apps to umbrella small businesses with their little apps. It is happening already for some small firms, but, they haven't exactly hit the entertainment nail on the head. Big hint: silly games hit a wide range of consumers.

Digressing again. Now I've got a company idea, but, no Christmas list for the children.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Wallow

There is so much going on with the markets and the economy at this very moment and Missmc has been off shopping? I know. But the behind-the-scenes scrambling both here in the U.K. and the U.S. is frothing over and bubbling out from under the lid. Even the bloggers have been called into the Treasury for a meeting. Honest engine. Read it here.

RBS and Lloyds have just been given a second bailout of 51million. The FTSE is not pleased. This week is one of those deja-vu weeks for Missmc. I'm having flashbacks. I'm drinking tea.

Dead banks, lifted from graves sit on the grassy banks. Some lie there forever. Some decompose with remaining bits scattered about. Some are given to some taxidermists. Like Cher, they rise and offer promise. They look good.

Look. Rain pelts shamelessly down down down. Wallow. Follow the streams down the window. They race. The one on the left pauses. The other wins. Hours pass. Radiators clink. The blanket smells of horses and must. Another life. The past comes forward, not linear, but a rhizome of mildew, puffeting through and through.

Retail Report

Missmc has a retail report for you this morning. After spending a whole day in some of the bigger London shops I can report that the bountiful Christmas markdowns that occurred last year will not be as bountiful this year. Why? There is far less stock out there. Selfridges has re-vamped. The who-is-not-there-anymore-or-have-they-been-moved made Missmc a bit faint. Some brands have disappeared (Marchesa) , some not so terribly exciting brands (Cos) have popped up. The whole second and third floors have been turned topsy-turvy causing Missmc to have to break her rule about wandering up to the dowdy third floor as the dowdy is no more.

After that dizzying experience it was onto the Gap. They have a bountiful supply of puffy coats for a price that makes one gasp. As an animation? Picture the hard eyes of fairtrade glaring so intensely that little holes are burnt on your backside as you walk the 66pound thing up to the register. I ended up buying it and then returning it. Not for political reasons, but, more that I decided I did not need to look like everyone else this year.

Topshop? Yes. Full of shoppers. Full of stock. But the jumper I saw seven weeks ago is still being featured and there are millions of them. That seems very un-topshop. Fast fashion appears to be slowing down a bit.

Liberty. I was the only customer. I felt like a wounded fawn wandering through a dark forest. The salespeople all attempted to guide me, lure me, dress me and help me. It felt a bit desperate.

Banana Republic. Ok. I needed a few plain well made jumpers. Found them at a very good price. Serious deflation is underway.

Fenwick? Yes. The shop is still much the same but also appears to have far less stock.

All in all, the women's retail landscape is changing. Perhaps for the better. Pleasure is being redefined as we speak. But, honestly, the answer is not Cos.

Friday, 30 October 2009

CIT Friday...

Well - there is no shortage of action on the CIT thing today and the markets have turned all bloody and halloweenish. In addition to the Goldman deal, here is a deal between Icahn and CIT. Everyone but the U.S. Government is throwing a hand into the restructuring of CIT.

I'm headed into town tonight and no doubt will run into a few drunken bankers.

I'll have more to say over the weekend.

Linky-links - More Goldman and CIT

Ah. My mind is a big blank as I ponder Halloween. Halloween. I spent yesterday hanging little homemade flying bats all over the kitchen. Today I am spinning a spiders web and making some ugly cakes. One pumpkin is sporting a wink, the other is about to be thrown in the garden as something is oozing from the bottom.

I know. You want to know about CIT. The other Halloween story. Ok. As they are busy counting votes from last night, there is no answer. Bloomberg thinks the CDS market is signaling a pre-pack bankruptcy. Read that here. I expect some kind of trickle of more definitive news on that topic will appear over the weekend, making for a bit of a halloween hangover on Monday marketwise...

Oh - and by the way - this just in - on Goldman and CIT . The one billion dollar payoff has been modified. Tell me more.

I feel like Martha Stewart this morning with this heady mix of domesticity and finance info. An old friend of mine was the infamous whistle blower on dear Martha. He then went on to work for an art dealer at a gallery I used to be represented by. He was promptly fired for his honesty. Here is a story about the gallery here.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

My-my-my-my-my-my-my-my 1929

Whilst in Glasgow, Missmc was invited to a depression-themed party hosted by an author-friend. I was unable to attend - almost thankfully, as dress-up events are not my thing. But I did catch up with my friend during the day whilst she was cooking up a large vat of soup for the event. A quick google reveals that she is not the only one thinking of depression-themed parties. This website gives a complete how-to.

Does nostalgia make it fun? Of course. The veneer of the past adds a step of removal. So what would a credit crunch party reflective of this era, thrown in 80 years time feature? Well - nostalgia with a twist. In America, they might follow a recipe from (friend plug) The Lee Bros. new book "Simple Fresh Southern". The Lee Bros. are the current kings of the twisted nostalgia genre.

Moving on, what would we wear in 80 years time to reflect "The Now"? Well, for men, it would be likely be those little mini-plaid checked shirts. Skinny legged trousers for the humourously inclined. For the ladies, let's hope the 80's trend is forgotten. I am sure we ought to be wearing jeans or something really short. And a nice moth-eaten something.

The music? Oh dear. There will be nothing as reminiscent as the lovely sounds of swing available. I am guessing it will be Lady Gaga, Ting Tings and something horrid like Coldplay.

God forbid. Coldplay. Let's hope all this settles and we can, in time, forget this period entirely.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Is business slow?


Missmc has been the recipient of some very odd hotel marketing strategies as of late. Rooms in trendy east London for 1pound? Link here. Or, how about some free spa credits in Palm Springs...that sounds a bit more enticing. A self-enclosed universe of elegance-meets-camp design next to the splendor of Joshua National Park...I can almost feel the sunshine.

Am I going anywhere? No. Up until last year, Missmc would happily skip off here and there on a whim. Now? Well...we were on a train to Glasgow. Need I say more?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daydreaming...

On the train back from Glasgow last night we fell into the future. Brown rough-cast houses sullied the landscape. So what if? What if they were all painted in magnetic paint in some kind of grid that allowed them to become giant pixelated video walls? Not in a glowing way, but, rather, more subtle, like the Kindle. What if one could google a new exterior picture -- a skin for the house anytime? In the winter, one could favor a picture in dark colours to absorb the sun's energy and warm up the house. In the summer, an image that was predominantly white would bounce the heat away. It would be both a plus and a minus to easily change the exterior of your house by digitally placing images on them. I am certain this would lead to many people opting out of wanting to live so close to their customized neighbors. Football fans just might make this one of the worst ideas that has ever passed through my brain.

But I do kind of love that we are far enough into the future that this is indeed possible.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Quick FYI

Missmc is headed to Scotland tomorrow morning for a rainy rainy dark and don't forget to change the clocks holiday. I'll be posting from the iPhone so posts might either be sporadic, or, short...

The Loyalty Card


My oldest son has just sold me two drawings. After purchasing, he gave me a "Loyalty Card". How sweet. My very first item of this type. There is nothing as lovely as the thought that I will now be loyal to him. Forever and ever. He is one step ahead of his younger brother now.

Gosh. The eight year old has a company name, a logo and a loyalty card. The future looks bright. Or, at least, like capitalism.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Mervyn speaks...

Ok. Speaking of the children, let's get back to the economy. Mervyn King had a bit to say on the children's behalf during an impassioned speech that is the news of news today.

"We shall all be paying for the impact of this crisis on the public finances for a generation."
- Mervyn King

His speech will no doubt turn into a bit of a political football, but, the essence ought to be digested in pure form. Last Autumn there was great debate on the reshaping of Too Big to Fail institutions. With the advent of a rapidly rising market and the return of credit (a bit), these kinds of discussions have fallen by the wayside. But, as noted by many, the problems within the financial sector remain. The concept of "Moral Hazard" ought not to be the residue left in people's minds from this speech. Because that is an emotional discussion. What ought to linger and blossom from this is not Mr. King's solution but the re-opening of the discussion of new models and approaches. I have not read a good proposal for a solution yet. Yet.


Digression...

Well. Missmc is not thinking of the usual topics today. She is thinking of her son. Who is on the very sensitive side. Last evening, Missmc took a bunch of boys to the halloween school disco. What is an eight or nine year old boy to do at a disco? Two of the boys who came along immediately started running about and intimidating the younger boys. It was like watching a pack of dogs decide whether to play or bite. And bite they did, breaking a boy's costume and reducing a few to tears. I passed one of the rabid boys back to his father. I had the other apologize. My sensitive son opted out of the mean games, and, asked to go home.

I am still horrified, and, filled with more than a bit of despair. Hence the digression from the usual topics. Dear blog, are you there? I need a cup of tea.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Carl Icahn, CIT and Goldman Sachs

Sooo. We have Carl Icahn offering to bail out CIT. We have Goldman Sachs suing Carl Icahn over a an entirely different matter. We have Goldman looking to profit from a CIT collapse. We have Mr. Icahn in a similar position, but in a more stealth kind of way.

Here is an exclusive interview on The Street with Mr. Icahn regarding the CIT loan.

Here are two articles. The first from is from Forbes discussing Goldman Sachs v. Carl Icahn. The second elaborating on the naked shorting of Delphi is here on Bloomberg.

Gosh. It is time time time for CIT, The Movie. We've got villains, fist shakers, and ordinary Donut Vendors. It is a horrid circling vulture scenario.

Maybe an online kind of Cluedo Game could make it all a bit more fun. Is it Professor Plum selling CDS in the Billiard Room or is it Reverend Green cooking up something nasty in the kitchen? Or, are there two villains battling to be the best murderer? If I just had a bit more time this morning I'd set that up...

Movember

What man hasn't fantasized about growing a moustache? Here is your chance, and, good excuse. Movember is a charity that raises funds for Men's health. The website is astonishing and worth a visit. I recommend a visit to the Lab and Mo Space. I will personally make a pledge for anyone who signs up as a result of this mention, as, well, I've a soft spot for moustaches...

Let me know via email to "Fritzsupernova@hotmail.com".

Sunday, 18 October 2009

How the World is...

Missmc has seen it all. From Primrose Hill to Shoreditch and many points in between, the Frieze Art Fair has cannily provided a glimpse into how-the-world-is. In Primrose Hill, the Museum of Everything is a shrine to the art of everyone the Frieze Art Fair is not devoted to. Inside an ex-recording studio used by the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney, an exhibition of 'naive' art is hung salon style over the ramshackle space. It is like stepping into the looniest part of the brain, the Freudian zone of things-that-should-be-kept-in-the-back-of-the-mind. Intense obsession reigns. At the MoE I was lucky enough to see the screening of MAKE, a movie made by my friend Scott Ogden. If you see MAKE, you will develop a love for these uncomfortable and sometimes absurd works of art. The touching humanity he lends to the portrayal of four 'outsider' artists is contagious.

It was in keeping with the spirit of the Frieze VIP tourbus that whisked Missmc around to East End Galleries last evening. The highlight was the bus itself. The drivers were 'outsider' drivers who seemed to have been given command of a bus for the very first time. We nearly toppled into Maureen Paley's understated digs as our driver careened over the curb. Nettie Horn's gallery provided a fantastic Mojito to enhance our journey. Anselm Kiefer's M-o-n-u-m-e-n-t-a-l pieces at White Cube provided a fitting last stop before we headed off on foot to dinner.

The hushed bus conversations provided opinions about this year's art fair. Everyone was in near agreement. The humour, the follies and the absurdities were gone. And, everyone was craving the escapism of yesteryear. No one wanted to be prodded into seriousness. But the contemplation side of a folly-less universe is no doubt spurring things full circle back. Get ready for the return of the Sincerely-Absurdly-Dry (SAD?). Al Taylor, we need you back.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mug on Wheels

With a 2.2 billion dollar loss for Bank of America announced today, I thought I ought to let you in on a little secret. Shhh. They are having a sale.

Shop Here. My favorite is still the mug on wheels.

The Invisible Hand is not George's friend either.

Ah. What a coincidence. HE speaks. The invisible hand is no longer his friend either. Here.

Is feeling guilty about a position he has taken?

George Soros and the Invisible Hand are no longer your friends.

Brightly coloured cutting edge with a sense of humour?
or
Understated lux grey-and-black-maybe-navy-or-an-occasional-flesh-coloured-thing?

Art Students and the Wealthy rubbed shoulders yesterday at the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park. Sometimes the costumes were swapped, and, then, well, one ought to know better. The press were hungrily badgering for signs of d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. Gallerists were canny to the gloom and doom game and had several pieces "on reserve", but, not fully sold. Some collectors haggled. Most dealers stood their ground. The best things sold with dignity. Sales have always been rather hush hush at Frieze, except in 2007 when things sold out before the doors opened. Those days are gone.

So what was on offer? Missmc focused yesterday on the Frieze Projects, presentations of art things that were not for sale. The aforementioned Superflex film was darkly humourous, with the phrase "George Soros and the Invisible Hand are no longer your friends" lingering after her down the hall. After that, I went to see the project by my old friend Anton Vidokle and his collaborator, Julieta Aranda. It was an alternative currency like the Ithaca Dollar thing, but, for artists and art workers. I looked for a giant something that was supposed to have "crashed" into the building but missed it. Rumour has it it was taken away.

Admittedly, I was seeking out the works that referenced finance or economics. In the past, the art world consideration of economics would be to include more artists from non-western countries that perhaps did pieces that reflected their culture.

Economics is a really hard topic for artists. Art is not about money. Art is not about money. Art is not about money. It is about ideas. It can be art about ideas about money, but, that only works in a recession. Otherwise, the money topic lifts art out if its ideas-based realm and plops it down uncomfortably, kind of 80's style, next to the topic of artists-who-knew-how-to-make-a-lot-of-money but were not necessarily good. And that kind of art ruins the market for both collectors and artists alike. Art is about money.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

No News is Good News.

Are you feeling post-modern? Here is a very neat report from the PEW research center that deconstructs perception of the economic crisis from an examination of media coverage in the United States. Bottom line? It is politically-driven. And? No news is good news.

(HT Yves Smith)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Hypnosis and the Financial Crisis in Four Parts -

Would you like to visit a hypnotist to guide you through the financial crisis? You may do just that at the Frieze Art Fair where artist-activists Superflex are presenting a four-part film work on just that topic. Here is a sneak preview.

The Financial Crisis - trailer from Superflex on Vimeo.

The Wayward Royal

Missmc's email inbox is cluttered up with jolly party invites as the Frieze Art Fair is in town. My ticket for the event is somewhere lost in the post, thanks to a series of Royal Mail strikes. I've been told I can pick it up at the event so all is not lost. There are electronic tickets but my invite happened to be the old-fashioned kind.

Regarding the strikes, the BBC reports that big companies such as John Lewis and Amazon have already contracted with other private carriers and cancelled using the Royal Mail. After all, Christmas is coming.

For a large corporation, changing carriers is an easy option. For a private citizen or small business there are less choices and they are all a good deal more expensive. As far as other options, there are things one just cannot do via email. Lovely thank-you notes on creamy stationary are just not replaceable by email or ecards. And the large check I've just sent out for some new wooden double-glazed sash windows has also gone astray.

This is terribly-timed and looks unresolvable. And, my Economist Magazine keeps going missing. Probably for good reason. I am sure whatever they have written about the strikes is unsympathetic.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Ontology and me

Ontology. Is that a word we've heard an awful lot about of late? It is one of those words that has seeped into every discipline precisely because it is one of the most general words out there. If one wants to present something in a logical way and give it gravitas, well, it is the word for you. Hook it onto most anything and you've got a thesis.

"The Ontology of the Financial Services Industry"
"Ontological Modeling of Semantic Pre-Dispositions"
"Ontology and Nothingness in Modern Economic Theory"
"The Ontology of post-Lehman accounting rules changes"

Ontology and me. A dandy children's book. After all, children are very Wittgensteinian by nature. Their usage of a word determines its meaning. Some ontologies that purportedly investigate meaning are based around such a perspective. It comes natural to children.

What on earth have I had for lunch? Well. It is earnings week and the debates over whether things are bad or good requires careful report reading to incorporate cost cuts, accounting changes and other things that have helped merrily chug us along. That is, if one is inclined to look at these things as a kind of oracle as to where things might be going. It is most helpful these days to have two heads. One with its own opinion, and, one that understands the ontology of it all.

I need a cigarette.

Do not cross go, do not collect 200 dollars.

"Now is the appropriate time to focus on a transition of leadership..." ( businesswire)

No kidding. Run. Nothing personal, but golly, I'd opt for a rest from it right about now as well.

Yes. I am back with my CIT obsession. Read more here.

I'll talk to you later --

Missmc's escape-with-the-girls to S's farmhouse-in-Mallorca weekend has been cancelled. Alas. No matter, England needs us. The latest data on the UK inflation rate is grim. The BBC story features a fat woman in a purple shirt walking by a 98p shop. No No No.

Here in Leafy Dulwich, the girls have indeed been scrimping and saving. Charity" clothing swaps and fell-off-the-back-of-the truck handbag sales have spread a weedy rhizome over the area populated by Bankers' wives. But thrifty is and always has been a virtue here. The moth-eaten cashmere is the perfect foil of modesty as long as you keep up with the personal trainer sessions. Call it the high/low. It is a much harder look to pull off if you are actually a girl who works. The moths never get to the cashmere and there is no time for the gym.

Thankfully, I'm somewhere in between. And I'm off to my Pilates session. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, 12 October 2009

To know is not enough...

Here is your chance! Does anyone have a question for any of the 2009 Nobel Laureates? The most interesting questions will be answered by the prize winners. Click here to submit your queries...

Any questions that are not answered might be answered here.

Bridge for sale...

From the BBC...

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Poitin

Have you ever? Missmc hosted a spontaneous dinner party for a few Irish boys last evening. I am completely and utterly surprised just how well I feel this morning. One was a Journalist, the other, a Wit. We were chatting away about the Irish economy. Suddenly, the Wit leapt up, his eyes gleaming. "You must have some Poitin!" he exclaimed. He ran out the door and appeared in a blink with a bottle of clear liquid. I brought out some antique crystal glasses to disguise our digressions. It was all very merry, to say the least. I was quite surprised when I woke this morning to find I could still see clearly.

The only side-effect from my evening is that I am incredibly certain I can understand this movie without subtitles. Here is an excerpt from Poitin, the movie.


Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and Rocket slams into the moon all in one day

Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize? Rocket slams into moon today? Sounds like the news is on a roll.

I was just gathering my thoughts before the news. I was lost in a tangent of thinking about absurdities and how they are often just on the right side of innovation and have practical application. And I was looking for something to illustrate that. I failed in finding the perfect example and things digressed when I ran into these happy skipping dogs...(see below). Japanese culture excels at the absurd and innovation. The practicalities of applying that seem to escape me in this particular example.

We are firmly planted in the future and its unimaginable possibilities today with the rocket, the Obama and the happy skipping dogs....you connect the dots...


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Make do and Mend

The BBC has adopted the Miss Make Due and Mend model and Newsnight is exploring in a very old fashioned way what it might mean. Old-fashioned? The host has packed her sewing machine into her car. Call me modern, but, that is not the first thing I would bring. I'd probably get a free skype to skype phone sim card for starters. And I might fix that old laptop under my bed and throw it in my bicycle pannier. The sewing machine strikes me as a slightly dated and sexist icon. Never mind the car.

On the programme, Mary Jane Baxter is trolling the country looking for ways to earn some cash along the way. Perhaps she should exit the country. A friend of Missmc who was a company director in the construction industry is about to accept a two-year contract in Qatar as he has been unemployed here for four months. His family will remain behind in sunny London. All a bit heart-breaking to say the least.

The old make do and mend certainly was about the sewing machine. But, what does it mean in this modern world? I will certainly be curious to see if this BBC adventure evolves...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Cute little button economics

Missmarketcrash is hopelessly addicted to the new iPhone. I know, I know - I am late to all of this and it is not anything new. You are correct, but, I still cannot help thinking about it even if this is old-hat. It is new to me.

This morning we plugged the little iPhone into a big amp and speakers and spent breakfast-time listening to digital radio stations from all over the world, courtesy of WunderRadio. We went from the lower east side of New York to Hungary, a stop by London, and then, over to Japan whilst eating our toast. Japan was the big winner, providing us with the category of "anime" music that was simultaneously simple and complex and suited the spirit of the little iPhone.

I've yet to find the best sowpods dictionary application or something to make my son practice his violin but I am confident these things will be found with a bit more time. Time is the thing here. The iPhone seems to be my little crystal ball that revealed how the internet of the future will continue to be shaped. It is what they have hoped for, and, it seems to be coming true. I actually paid £3.00 for the little WunderRadio. I have never paid for content on the internet. So, here goes the future. You might read I am both disappointed and slightly pleased.

The Financial Times has a free mobile iPhone application downloadable from Apple. It is a bit of a lure that might result in a paid-for subscription. If I am feeling old-fashioned and do not wish to download the little app, I can just bookmark FT through Safari and up it will pop rather than downloading a cute little button. But the button is easier.

Application downloading does seem like something one is less inclined to shrug away from paying for. It is relatively new and we are being trained that it might cost money. It provides a simple just-press-the-button-and-enter-your-password-and-we-will-charge-you interface that simply and cheerfully shifts consumers into more paid-for internet content. Newspapers must be crossing their fingers. I quite like newspapers so this is the kind of thing I'd like to see rescue them.

On the other side of things, I am grateful that there will always be something for free. Like this.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Oh the power...

Gosh. I almost feel like I have to write about CIT again. Or Goldman. My new shiny white iphone arrived yesterday and, well, I've been a bit busy organizing it, and, myself. With all the third-party applications available, one would think a financial institution application for the iphone is in order for the truly obsessive. It ought to be a little game. Imagine being able to move thin markets, profit handsomely from loss, the possibilities are endless. I think perhaps it ought to be modeled along the lines of "Rolando", a nifty little games program I downloaded last evening that operates by tilting the phone this way and that way. One can save the little Rolando's with a light tap or tip...or leave them stranded...

Oh the power!

Monday, 5 October 2009

CIT and Goldman Sachs

Missmc is still on the Halloween theme. The deadline for the CIT debt exchange is October 29th. If it fails, bankruptcy would be filed in the days following. How fitting. The FT is also obsessing over the CIT thing and two articles appeared over the weekend which discuss the relationship Goldman Sachs has with all this. No doubt, the Goldman conspiracy theorists are chattering again. The FT held back, but, did slide in the adjective "perverse"...in a really polite way.

These articles are apt to cause confusion as there are two issues and two FT articles. Firstly, as stated here, Goldman provided rescue financing last summer with an agreement that they would be paid 1billion if the company goes bankrupt or defaults. The second FT article concerns itself with a second source of profit for Goldman should CIT file bankruptcy. They are indeed a large holder of credit default swaps on CIT. The amount, and who is standing on the other side of these holdings is unspecified. You may read about it on the FT website here.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Spooky...

Missmc has been out three nights in a row again after a grueling week.  Thankfully, I was drinking blueberry juice last night rather than whatever it was that I had too much of the evening before.  Blueberry juice?  It was that, or, falling asleep at the dinner party with our spy friend.  The spy was in good form and spent a good amount of time analyzing the books in the host's loo to comedic effect.  It was a welcome diversion as it is often quite hard to catch up with old friends that, really, have about 300 taboo topics sitting like a herd of invisible white elephants at the table.  He is a gem.  And, if you must ask, he is not a spook.  He is a "civil servant".

We also spent some time over the weekend in the V&A.  It was another case of things being not really what they seem to be.  We toured one of the Cast Courts and marveled at reproductions of an endless number of tombs, caskets and monuments, mostly medieval.  It was strikingly in harmony with the "Telling Tales" exhibition of contemporary design at the V&A.  Walking from the medieval into the contemporary was not much of a leap as death, fantasy and allegories continued on.  It was all very October.

Medieval and October are of course bound together conceptually with their joint obsession with death, as nature retires and sheds its leaves and hunkers down for the winter.  The markets tend to go all goth and join in with this autumn spirit.  Is human nature really that predictable to revisit gloom on a predictable basis?  If any clues can be taken from the art and design world, the answer appears to be yes.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Donut-shaped Recession

The markets have begun the October plunge as anticipated by some.  Missmc has sat through the rally with the cash-on-the-side bunch.  It is the looking at the wizard behind the curtain phase of things and, well, really, he is not so bad, just a bit of a charlatan.  Not an evil kind of charlatan, but, rather like the parent that turned out less glorious through adult eyes.  You know, the one you still yearn to see as you did as a child.

The financial markets may bump down slowly with a half-grin and run the course as long as we do not experience something ummm...like a CIT bankruptcy.  As noted in the Financial Times, the bankruptcy likely hinges on the CDS levels on CIT and who holds them. There is at least 52billion worth of CDS out there on CIT.  My thoughts?  Havoc and the straw that...?  Quite possibly, if coupled with other economic variables.  If you've read yesterday's post we can perhaps begin to call this whole affair the beginning of the Donut-shaped Recession.   More on that here on the BBC with the news that "Dunkin Donuts President quits"... 

I know, I know.  you are visualizing that.  There is a hole.  As for going round and round upon itself, well, that is a shape that would be impossible to graph, but, entirely understandable as an abstract...;)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Put your helmet on.

Are we back where we were last autumn?  With a cliff-hanger of a bankruptcy looming for CIT today in the U.S., I know, you are sitting there, thinking, well...the markets are not going to have a flashback. They are experienced, and resilient.  Let's hope.  According to this article in the Independent, it would be the fifth largest bankruptcy in American history, should it happen.  It has been in the news on and off for a while, and, I have put up some insulation between the story and I.  A bit of a hole was punctured in this protective snug when the Independent mentioned that it would affect thousands of Duncan Donut franchise owners.  

Donuts?  They can go.  But it would clearly be disastrous across the board nonetheless.  Hence the insulation.  Put your helmet on.

To end on a better note, the metaphorical structure of the donut is worth a ponder.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

And so, I wait...

Dizzy.  My once-clear head is oscillating between various understandings of the markets and the economy.  The truth of the matter is that we are in purgatory.  My understanding of this in-between-place is that it is only temporary.  The hardship of it is there is really no timescale given to the temporariness of the state.  And so, I wait.

This economic purgatory has little to do with the purification of souls.  Many would like that, but, it is not what will move things one way or another.  More to the point, economic and market data are various shades -- but most notably chameleon, as data twists and blends into whatever reality is called for.

Missmc is growing weary of doom and its opposite friend faith, tired tired tired.  Both have a point of view that obscures things.

And so, we are back to "And so, I wait".  It reminds me of Beckett, not necessarily Godot. "Existentialism for Control Freaks" would be the subtitle.  The best one can do when things are unclear is not to seek clarity, but, to keep the nose down, diverted and amused.  Otherwise, someone will spot you muttering down the street and then your life will be stuck because, well, you waited.

With that, I leave you this.  It has nothing to do with anything except that it is simply astonishing.  Thanks to lovely perfect-bodied L. for the link.


Friday, 25 September 2009

Two stories about toast

I was walking with O. through a Design exhibition yesterday.  We were chatting away about the nature of invention when she stopped in her tracks and said "I invented the best thing in my dream last night but I can't remember what it was".  She said "it was something really simple and obvious".  We chattered on and wandered here and there.  Hours later, she remembered what it was.  She said excitedly, "Yes.  Now I remember.  I invented Beans on Toast".

After the laughter subsided, we took a detour into the student wing of the exhibition.  It was my turn for a toast moment.  I'd read something on the web a few months back about a man that decided to make his own toaster from scratch.  Yes.  Before my very eyes, was the Toasterman.  I was ever so slightly awestruck and blubbered "Are you the toasterman?" at him. He was.  Trumpets and exciting music.  The absurdity of his project coupled with the more serious theoretical side of it was a mix that leapt straight to the essence of all things Missmc loves.  Here is a link

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Capture it before it is gone...

Whilst the markets are gyrating after yesterday's Fed announcement, let's divert ourselves into something more pleasant.   My little son is in the midst of trying to master the art of writing with a pencil.  He is hopelessly distracted from the task, and more than a bit disinterested.  We've patiently avoided pushing him last year as the resistance level was high.  Alas, his first spelling test is on Friday and he is making an effort.  Up until this point, he has delegated his writing to his best friend in the class.  All my Mother's Day cards were written by T.  I do think my son will be perfect for an upper managerial position in the future.

The beginning attempts at letter formation have a real charm.  With that, I am embarking on preserving his sweet attempts with this nifty website.  Fontcapture will turn any of your scrawls into fonts you can use on any Mac or PC.  If you do not have access to a scanner, you can take a photograph in good light and turn it into a JPG file before uploading...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

What's happening in Tunbridge Wells...

Missmc attempted a tennis lesson this morning but was swept to courtside observer status by the hacking cough.  No matter - it was lovely to be outside and listen to idle chatter about inflating alligators, christmas raffles and the New York French Laundry, Per Se.   It was delightful, and, the sun made an appearance to tone up my swine-ruffled skin.  Much more stimulating than my usual morning surf.  I do need to get out more.  Back home, in bed again, I have looked for the least boring link to offer you as I am shirking away from an essay and looking forward to a snooze. With that, take a look at this  article  in the Independent entitled "Foreigners moving to Britain to go Bankrupt"...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Space Girl

Well.  Three out of four of us have had swine flu in this house and we've all had very different experiences with it.  Child number two had a breathless, puking, non-stop hacking, heart racing panting mega-wheezing but No Fever version.  I had the same, but, with a fever.  My husband had a "cold".  What all these experiences had in common was the sudden severity of the onset.  This flu gets down to business.  It does not creep up on you slowly, giving you warning signs like an ordinary cold/flu.  It dives right in and tries to annihilate you.  Even my husband of the mild cold version had his symptoms come on with a vengeance.  Suddenly, without a warning of a drippy nose or swollen gland, or, sore throat, he was down, with all of the above plus a hacking cough.  He of the stellar immune system was back in form after a few days, but, is still hacking like the rest of us.

I've been taking Tamiflu and it seems to work.  I am going to get out of bed today.  I've been so useless, and, have not even been able to read.  I have managed a few online scrabble games between naps with a New York friend.  Thank goodness for that as my brain feels like a cauliflower.

Speaking of vapid, one of my friends sent me this video as he thought it might make me feel better.  I do think it has had an effect!  



Monday, 21 September 2009

It is back.

Missmc officially has swine flu (again?  well- this is certainly unmistakably IT!) and will write again as soon as some energy and wit are restored.  Tamiflu has helped, but, this is a wretched wretched flu.  I recommend avoiding it at all costs. 

Friday, 18 September 2009

Rubik's Cube Accounting

Vivid dreams about Rubik's cubes and accounting woke me with a start last night.  In my dream, someone had just invented a 3-D accounting tool based on the Rubik's Cube.  I was sitting at a formica table under a fluorescent light across from a man in a brown suit watching a demonstration.  It was amazing and a neat way of fitting several "realities" together so they matched on all sides.  As well,  they could be linked to other cubes though sometimes that caused unforseen shifts...

Since when has Missmc ever concerned herself with accounting?  The only logical source for this dream might be either this or this.  The first This concerns itself with accounting changes that are available to Apple that might just make it look much more rosy for them.  The second This is not accountancy per se but is in effect, a way of looking at how things are going.  And they appear to be going nowhere in this article about idle cargo-less ships parked off the coast of Malaysia.  

The dream progressed to that part where the Rubik's cube accounting man was proposing that Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 be customized and given names rather than Q's.  He proposed that  companies ought to give evocative titles to each quarter before they happened and then try to fit the reporting in to match.  That would replace the numbers with a "story" and make for much better annual report reading.  Imagine...

Q1 - "Making Worlds" (ht Daniel Birnbaum)
Q2 - "The Texture of Time" (ht Nabokov) 
Q3 - "Perception and Paradise"
Q4 - "Expanding Horizons"

Well.  The mind runs with possibilities and shaping references abound.  There is sound evidence from all this that I would make a most unsuitable accountant!  But creativity is helpful in the most unlikely places...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Hungary?

Missmc has been busy interviewing new au pair candidates.  It is an interesting process that speaks volumes about current economic conditions throughout Europe.  This season it is the year of the Hungarian.  Italy was the summer pick.  Previous to that, there was a bountiful supply of Polish workers.  

We've hired a lovely Hungarian girl who is arriving next weekend.  She is an educated out-of-work television editor who would like to take a year in London to be sure her English stays intact as she has devoted considerable time and effort to getting her English language diploma.

Here is a link to the Hungary Economy watch blog.  The first two articles give an in-depth look into "What is going on in Hungary".  And the more thorough answer is here, should you become hooked on long sentences without humour...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The recession is over.

The European Stock market is on a big climb this week whilst the U.K. unemployment numbers are doing the same.  Repeat after me "unemployment is a lagging indicator".  It is a truism.

In the U.S., Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has declared that the recession is over. Hat's off everyone -- and do include a gleeful toss into the air.

The Truism.  Some truisms are locktight, such as "All men die".  Others, such as " Seeing is believing", "A little knowledge can go a long way", and "Actions speak louder than words" are more in the realm of cliches.  Is "unemployment is a lagging indicator" a cliche or a truism?  I'd say it is a cliche.  

I obviously have the skeptic hat on this morning.  I shall stop stop stop.  And walk into the sunshine, stretch my arms, and admire the new dawn.  Except that it is too late for that.  I'll have to settle for a toast at sunset.  Missmc from here on in vows to take "the glass half full".

That is a cliche in essence, but, a truism in a most literal sense.  Cheers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The shops are full of dark things.

Economy?  Did someone say economy?  You want to hear about that?  It is everyone's guess what is happening these days.  Inflation in the U.K. has fallen a bit more than expected, according to the latest report.  From Missmc's girlie perspective, the large numbers of bargains that were available in the shops last month confirm that.  I was holding back, like everyone else, until I stumbled upon an amazing Armani skirt for 10% of the original price.  It was on it's 5th markdown, languishing in the dark shadows of the back of a really nice shop.  I went back today to pick up a pair of boots I had on order that I paid full price for.  

Am I the only person paying full price?  The shop was desolate.  Sales people were over eager, and, slightly off-putting.  The summer sales racks were still lurking in the corners.  The salesman commented with a wry arch of the eyebrow that the autumn things would be on sale before the summer sales disappeared.  

Forgive me for a shopping report - tis the season.  I can say, there will be an awful lot of people dressed in black and grey this year.  The shops are full of dark things.  And red.  Oh dear.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Gilligan's Island


Do childhood television and movies influence your persona later in life?  I'd answer yes.  The only television show I watched with regularity and passion as a young child was Gilligan's Island.  Shipwrecked on an island, each episode revolves around the potential of getting off the island through self-initiative and invention.  I remember thinking whether I wanted to be Ginger, the movie star, or Maryanne, the kind girl.  I waffled back and forth, and decided I wanted to be the Professor.  But that was impossible, being a girl.  I'd have to settle on marrying him.  I had a huge crush.  There is more than a slight resemblance between the Professor and my husband in the looks department.  The same eyebrows.  And both the Professor and my current husband are hopeless when it comes to solving the practical problem at hand - the-how-to-get-off-the-island-question.  Both are diverted like dreamers toward inapplicable innovative ideas that soak up time and add no added value outside of the headspace they come from.  So we remain stuck on the island.

After so many childhood years of such a show, I ought to have learned a bit.  The Professor is not the answer.  The female role models were lovely, but, let's face it, I'm neither the movie star or kind girl-next-door type.  On the island, they had adventures and good times.  It was a pretty cool place.  A small society. With people most unlike each other with distinct personalities. Oddly, there were not children, but, Gilligan was somewhat like one.  The millionaire and his wife were grandparent figures.  It reflected life in a family, without being one.  It reinforced the roles different people contribute to a society and the value of the collective, rather than the individual.

So.  All that leaves me with an admiration for a collective group but a desire for escape from such a thing.  Some rather hopeless female role models, a lust for the smart man who cannot solve the problem at hand, a disdain for idiots and fat men, and a skewed vision of what grandparents are for...

I'd better go mend that hole in the boat.  Surely I am capable.  But I'd like to take everyone along with me.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A Mannie?

Silence.  Yes, I've been missing.  The certain thing is that I've no shortage of good material at hand.  Alas.  I've promised to keep quiet about a few things, things that would make you laugh.  Pity.  Any story about seven inch gold stilettos does deserve a brief mention.  You'll have to use your imagination.  I'll add that it involves a yacht.

But I was not there.  I've been busy attending other water-themed parties.  I'm afraid to delve into them lest my invites stop coming.  I will say, from my most (un)serious economic eye, things seem to be improving if one can judge by the party variable.  Festive festive festive.  

All these joyous evenings have spurred Missmc into replacing the soon-to-be-departing au pair. I thought I'd found one a few days ago, but, she accepted another triple the pay of our offer.   No wonder.  When describing her to some friends I said "the only drawback to this girl is that she seems far more competent than me with regard to taking care of the children".  My friend's husband, ever a source of wit, retorted "that's not hard".  

So I've been looking looking looking.  I thought I'd found another candidate last night.  A boy nanny, otherwise known as a "Manny".  He was Czech, just fresh out of law school, and, a tennis semi-pro amongst other things.  When I described the mannie I'd found to my husband a slow animation began to take over his face.  The eyes saucered.  The jaw jutted.  The response came two hours later.  "If you want a mannie, I'd be okay with that".  

I hadn't thought the mannie would be for me.  But then, of course, it had crossed his mind and wandered into mine.  I really truly thought the boys might enjoy a boy for a change of pace.  But I had clearly stepped into uncharted territory.  We have had years and years of terribly pretty girls living with us as I thought my young boys would naturally take to someone who was attractive.  I haven't ever been threatened by their presence.  Gosh.  I must be daft.  

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Dull is the new black

Coming up on the one year anniversary of the Lehman debacle, the financial journalists have gone all New Years Eve-ish in writing.  The reflections on the past year are everywhere.  I expect a few top ten lists to be issued soon.  What is in and what is out.  

At the moment, "the new austerity" seems to be the trend in outlook.  The FT has a new blog entitled "Money Supply".  This article on the Bank of England furthers this outlook this from a forecasting perspective.  

I just went to buy a pair of shoes and the nice mid-high range has been removed from our local shop.  Instead, a cheap mass-manufactured Spanish range is in stock, with a private label insert with the shoe store name on it.  Private-labeling it is supposed to give it cachet, but, the trick does not work.  They are of dull design and the label does not make them any better.  

Where am I going with all this?  Get ready for the dulling down of things.  Dull is the new black.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Freeform

Over the weekend, we headed to the Southbank with the children.  There was an exhibition entitled "Pestival" that dealt with all things creepy-crawly - insects to be precise.  The highlight was walking through a giant scaled model of a termite nest.  Inside the nest was an enthusiastic fellow who explained the architecture and habits of termites.  Architecture without architects is a fascinating topic and these termites are ancient leaders of the green movement.  Nests are constructed in a way that provides natural "air conditioning".  The man inside the hive lecturing was Dr. Rupert Soar.  He was not an ordinary insect expert.   The head of a company called Freeform Engineering, Dr. Soar has extrapolated the ideas found in termite hives and combined them with rapid prototyping technologies.  I first encountered a rapid prototyping structure when I was in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.  Artist Robert Lazzerini used rapid prototyping machines to manufacture skewed sculptures.  

Back to the termites.  Philosophically, the marriage of what a termite constructs combined with the use of rapid prototyping technologies for use in architecture is a good mix.  I love the idea of printing a building layer by layer, using robotics.  Building complex structures such as those made by termites would not be readily achievable without this technology.   Whilst listening, I imagined several people must already be developing large scale use of rapid prototyping for use in architecture, and, according to this article in the FT, that is the case.  I do think this company has a very interesting angle on it with the incorporation of green structures based on termites nests.

It is really this kind of thinking that makes the world go round.  I wish them baskets of success.

Monday, 7 September 2009

If everyone were like you, you would not be here...

A good friend is in training at her management consulting firm to specialize in capital markets.  She has sent a few text updates in the past few days outlining her progress.  Day one, text one was a garble of panic over the billion pages of notes she had been given.  Day two was a bit more gleeful, as she had won the mock trading contest handsomely.  I am really looking forward to today's update.

Meanwhile on the BBC, the headline reads "Gender pay gap in city 'shocking'".  It is a bit of a non-article as it is a more complex topic than the length of the article allows for.

I am fully confident my friend will excel in her new field.  One of the primary contributions to her success will be that the issue of motherhood will take a second seat to her drive to the top.  I'm really rather of proud of her for that.  

But I do feel that one should not say such things aloud lest it is misunderstood and she or I are swept off to a thunder-struck island where lightning bolts crackle down every second in punishment.  "If everyone were like you, you would not be here" boomed the voice down from the clouds as a million small horrid creatures ran about shrieking, darting into holes and popping out with a "boo" and slowly slowly torturing us into submission...

No.  Enjoy your course.  That was fiction.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Quick Link --

The re-start of the art season has collided with back-to-school.  Yes yours truly has been out a bit too late again repeatedly this week.  For you, that means a link rather than something written by me.  Apologies.  Next week I shall devote myself to you wholeheartedly.  In between the parties.

The Global Financial Chess game continues.  See here - "Hong Kong recalls gold reserves"...interesting, interesting interesting!  

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Back to school


It is the first day of school for the little one who is entering first grade.  After the summer, the basic back-to-school conversation with parents is a quick kiss-kiss-lovely-to-see-you-how-was-your-summer-yes-it-rained-but-we-had-a-splendid-time-and-you-and-you-hows-your-fine-thanks-you-are-looking-well all conducted with big grins and suntanned faces.  Behind the facade, it is "I-might-be-late-let's-get-in-line-oh-my-oh-my-boy-is-going-to-the-big-school".  

And, to make it a bit more complex for our house, son number 1 is in tow.  Son number 1 used to go to the lovely prep until the credit crunch.  He is now waving goodbye to his lucky little brother who is dressed in his old uniform, going to his old school.  Big brother will be returning to his state school next week.  The plan was that he would stay home this morning with his father and have some quality time to spare him any misery as he longs longs longs to go back to the prep.  At the last minute, little brother refused to go unless big brother came along.  Mad scramble, big brother dressed, out the door, on the bike...and in all that, we forgot our bike helmets.  We made it anyway but had to suffer the disapproving looks from the uber-mum who noticed us en-route.  Eeesh.  And I had thought I was organized.  

After that, I ran into the Blonde.  I complimented her on her fine choice of jacket which happened to be mine from days of old that she had picked up in a charity sale.  From her reaction, it was clear that perhaps I should have not ID'd it.  Oops.

The saving grace of it all is that it is conker season.  Horse chestnuts are just starting to fall and provided good distraction on the way home for big brother.  And he will see all his old school friends tonight at tennis.  Thank goodness.


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Global Financial Chess

Gyrating markets are dealing with a new bit of law from China regarding derivatives.  See this article in today's Wall Street Journal.  Over the weekend, there was much confusion over whether China had a new stance on derivative contracts.  Some on that may be read here.

So.  What on Earth?  All interpretations and points of view aside, this is the other reason the September markets are in for a ride...

A tidy maneuver and the first move in what might be a long game of global financial chess...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Slacking off.

My head is in New York and my body is in London. School will commence this week, party invitations that require shopping for dresses litter my desk, and a bit of work beckons. But it is sunny. I'm between states and think perhaps for today, I shall head back into holiday mode.

Amidst the wildfires of L.A., I have a piece in an art exhibition at LaXart opening tomorrow. Here is a live webcam that might be engulfed by flames sometime in the next week.  Looks awfully smoky there...

And the markets.  The markets.  As promised, September looks to be a roller coaster ride.  Hang on.  I'm now headed out in the sunshine for some pure bliss.  The markets are another form of reality, and, I'd rather be elsewhere.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Ordinary as Spectacle


I'm back. The "ordinary as spectacle" crept up over and over again whilst traipsing through New York City. New York is a foodie town and current trends often reflect larger cultural shifts before they are evident elsewhere. Things that are reflective of society often are repackaged, remarketed and franchised to the rest of the world. So what is in vogue? Places with simple limited menus - vanilla, chocolate or strawberry served in a Guy Debord kind of spectacle of simplicity. In other words, you will notice the ordinariness of the place in a way that makes it less ordinary.

Back in the good old days, when stylish boutique hotels and restaurants started popping up around the city, there was a trend amongst my peer group to avoid such places. Instead, we'd go skipping happily into the biggest dives in town, eating and drinking under graffiti laden walls and wood paneling. They were our secret places, off limits to tourists. Inside we'd encounter the odd dwarf junkie shooting up, but, that made it "real". And then, this kind of thing became trendy, and, hidden bars and restaurants with no names started popping up to appeal to this anti-place instinct. We'd been packaged. Onward we marched into Williamsburg and Greenpoint into obscurity. Investment bankers followed. Trendy residential buildings sprouted.

Nine years later, this "authenticity", this "ordinaryness" has taken another twist. I spent an evening uptown in touristville in the upmarket Parker Meridian hotel. We went to the cafe inside entitled "The Burger Joint". It was a genuine piece of performance art. The queue was about 45 minutes. The sign, painted on cardboard gave precise instructions. Know what you want before you reach the counter or you will be sent to the back of the line. A real New Yorker kind of rule. A staccato menu was posted -- hamburger, cheeseburger, or grilled cheese. Don't forget to say how you would like it cooked. Wood paneling laden with graffiti and tacky old-school posters adorned the walls. Familiar trendy songs of old wafted in the air. Fire leapt from the tiny open kitchen. Phones rang, people jostled for tables and the service was crisp and laid the onus for pleasure on the customer side.

What should one think upon entering an upmarket New York Hotel and encountering a scene from the lower east side of old? Beyond irony, turning left at sincerity and grabbing a few props along the way, it was pure theatre. And a very odd thing to think that the cherished hipster experience had gone full circle in clientele. The path from from a) it is genuine and the people are from places you have never known to b) here come the artists to c) let's market that to d) it is no longer genuine but the people are again from places you have never known...

The ordinary as spectacle had gone full circle. Loop de loop. And the burger was most delicious.

There are indeed too many things in the world. That is something that was highlighted by the economic crisis. Guilty about consumption? No problem. New York is on the case. If you are offered three quality items, no more, it cuts out the anxiety for you. And you can still overpay for that ice cream cone, or hamburger, guilt free.

So. You will know when the economic crisis is over when these places no longer hold the heart and soul approval of NYC foodies. When the ordinary as spectacle subsides, and, a more ornate kind of culinary presentation again reemerges (like the tall food embelishments of days past), well, then, perhaps we've gone past back on track and the bubble alarm ought to be ringing again...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Certain Death

The Durian fruit was the star attraction at today's party. I'm in Connecticut, a conservative kind of place that requires a bit of novelty for a proper fete. And novel in Connecticut is the Durian. It was supplied by the very-novel-in-this-part-of-Connecticut three gay men that bought my Mum and Dad's house after Dad died. Somehow, they have become an extended part of the family. My childhood home now features a fantastic cocktail lounge with different seating areas and a bar where the living room once was. We had a fishpond when I was young, but this has grown and now features hundreds of Koi and is surrounded by the most astonishing garden. Anyway, back to the fruit. As promised, it had a very distinct odour and tasted like a garlic infused mango. My thoughts wandered towards Durian cocktails and I pictured mixing it with a bit of dark rum, crushed ice, and fresh mint. It seemed the right thing to do. A quick google on Durian cocktails after the party revealed the troublesome information that mixing alcohol and this fruit would result in certain death. My interest was certainly piqued. But I am still here. I'm glad to have found the following article that lays rest to this myth. At least, that is, in relation to mice.

More on subliminal stimulation...

I drifted off to sleep last evening wondering whether the phrase "subliminal stimulation" was an appropriate description of the use of music on the Weather Channel. It is certainly a neat little phrase. But is it subliminal? Marketing and music have a long history, from the good old fashioned radio to the use of music in shopping environments. I've been using spotify to listen to music as of late. I like being able to generate a random playlist for different colours - type in white, and, every band or song with the word white in the title pops up. I've been through the rainbow in both english and german. What fun.

Another very clever way to market music has popped up. Barcodes. "Grum" is a U.K. dance producer that makes barcode posters one can point a mobile phone at to download a song. Read more here. 2-D matrix barcodes are all the rage in Japan, and a whole design industry has grown up around the idea. See some examples here. After all, why should a barcode be just a barcode? Why not make it a bit more fun? This is not a particularly new idea, but, it is one that is finally gaining some momentum in use. Expect more hieroglyphics to be entering your life soon.

Ah. Subliminal stimulation. That is the marketing strategy of this decade. Slide it in - outright selling is out out out. Make it fun. Make it participatory and interactive. And make it self-replicate. Don't make do, make it happen...

It will likely cost you something but you might forget that part.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Predictions...

Predictions. Thinking about Bruno (see Leigh's post below) and thinking about hurricane Bill, the thread here this week has been about predictions. One of the more marvelous things about the USA is the Weather Channel. If you live in the States, you no doubt think the Weather Channel is daft, repetitive, and, full of commercials. On the WC (oh dear - apologies), it is only serious weather if they can find some sort of way to feature an automobile in some kind of weather peril. Prone to sensationalism, preying on fear, and like a drug to a control freak, the weather channel works every angle like a preacher. But really, if you live in the UK where the meteorologists go home and stop working at 5pm every evening, a 24 hour on demand Weather Channel is an amazing thing. At least to a girl like me.

I must say, one of the things that started to upset me a bit last evening whilst waiting for the Hurricane update was the insipid background music. Apparently they think differently. To the extent that one can buy a track of Weather Channel Muzak. I kid you not -- find it here. I do hope Bruce Bueno does not conduct his interviews with anything like that playing in the background. But perhaps he uses it on his clients. Game Theory must have a chapter or two on the use of subliminal stimulants...

Surfing Hurricane Bill...

Hurricane Bill...

Under the Bellowing Tower...

I've been marooned without a computer in a small Rhode Island fishing village, listening to the bellowing hoot of dueling lighthouses. Though I was without a machine, I did have the good fortune to watch the Weather Channel last evening and learn a hurricane was headed directly towards our idyllic location. An evening beach walk confirmed this fact, as the beach had all but disappeared under the rising tide. This morning Missmc sat on the cliff under the lighthouse and watched the surfers in all their hurricane glory. What a way to end a week at the beach - gazing at wetsuits dodging sea rocks whilst careening about on twenty foot waves...I could have spent the rest of my life there, on the hill, under the bellowing tower...

Alas. I am back in Connecticut. I do hope to grab hold of this computer this evening and tell you more.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Guest posting: game theory and Iran

Hello again to missmarketcrash's readers. I have the privilege once again of making the occasional contribution while she's on holiday.

Today, in honour of missmarketcrash's Rhode Island resort, I was very interested to read this article from her near-neighbour the New York Times.

My own work is about using behavioural economics to understand, predict and perhaps influence some aspects of decision making.

So it was fascinating to learn about Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (must remember not to compress this to 'Bruno' which is what I nearly typed) who does something similar but based fully on rational actor theory. He uses game theory techniques and a software system to project how power plays and coalition building will result in political or business outcomes.

Now lots of people are sceptical about the effectiveness of this kind of prediction. It's clear that the results are highly dependent on the input parameters - in the Iranian example, he suggests that Ahmedinejad's "desire" is 90, "power" is 5 and "resolve" is 90. To be honest this sounds like nothing quite so much as the strength, stamina, intelligence and charisma scores in Dungeons and Dragons, but you do have to start with some numbers if you're going to build any kind of model.

The article may be oversimplifying his approach, but these figures seem just to be assumptions not based on any empirical measurements. The proof, in any case, will be in the pudding, but it's a little slippery to get hold of any testable predictions because lots of it is covered by commercial confidentiality - or worse, national security. However:
...a study by the C.I.A., now declassified, found that Bueno de Mesquita’s predictions "hit the bull's-eye" twice as often as its own analysts did.
Anyway my interest is piqued because, despite the suggestion that this is based on a rational agent model, it appears to use some very psychological variables which aren't incorporated into standard game theory: preferred outcome, desire and resolve. I suspect that behavioural game theory might be a better description of this.

I will be following Mr Bueno de Mesquita's work with interest - we will have an interim result by October as he has predicted a student uprising in Iran.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Fishing with Missmarketcrash

Don't feel left behind.  I am jumping on the plane, but, a flash bulletin - do be sure to check in from time to time as I will manage to post somehow.  And - the better news, you will likely be treated to a little post from my blog-associate, the analytical Leigh...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Catch of the Day...

Missmc is leaving on holiday tomorrow.  A search of wifi hotspots in the idyllic Rhode Island fishing village I am headed towards comes up completely empty.  There is a library, but it is miles miles miles and miles away.  I could go fishing off the docks and make friends with a high-tech fisherman.  I can picture reeling in a big tuna whilst typing away to you...

I did try to get a 3G iphone yesterday with the added fantasy of tossing the wretched  netbook into the sea.  I froze with indecision and left the shop.  A two-year contract at 44pounds a month is too much of a commitment for me when rumours of the iphone being released from O2 captivity abound.  And so, I wait.

I think I will miss you.  When, and, if I can, I shall post.  I do think it is going to be rather quiet from here until September.  In the meantime, visit knowingandmaking.com.  Leigh seems to be on a bit of a roll with his daily posts and will surely have something on offer to amuse you.

Do check in from time to time for The Catch of the Day...aka...Fishing with Missmarketcrash.  Surely I will manage to post somehow...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Pitfalls of Globalization...

live chat with dell below -

 11:53:06    Customer  Missmc 

Initial Question/Comment: battery not removable, sound not working, mousepad faulty, password missing, complete folly
 12:13:59    System  System 
You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat

 12:13:59    System  System 
Connected with Americas\sourav_choudhury
 12:14:19    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Thank you for contacting Dell Hardware Chat support for the UK and Republic of Ireland. I am Sourav and I will be assisting you today, please give me a couple of minutes while I pull out your system records.
 12:14:43    Customer  Missmc 
hi - the system was freezing and i tried to remove battery as no other reset was working and the battery is stuck. this machine just came back from repair.
 12:15:31    Customer  Missmc 
also - i don't know the password to do system updates.
 12:15:40    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Hello, Susan. How are you doing today?
 12:15:48    Customer  Missmc 
ok
 12:16:48    Customer  Missmc 
is there any way to get you to take this computer back and send me a fresh one? i am leaving on hol thurs and bought it to do work with me and it seems to have a host of problems.
 12:17:32    Customer  Missmc 
are you there?
 12:17:44    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Yes, I'm.
 12:18:42    Customer  Missmc 
so...what do you think?
 12:18:45    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, I see that, the system you're referring to has UBUNTU as the Operating System.
 12:18:52    Customer  Missmc 
that is correct
 12:19:47    Customer  Missmc 
besides the system freezes, it seems more to be a hardware issue with the battery stuck and bad mousepad...
 12:20:18    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, you'll need to contact our UBUNTU Support on 0844 338 1122.
 12:20:25    Customer  Missmc 
and sound issue...and everything issue. can we do an exchange and start fresh???
 12:20:44    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
They would certainly be able to assist you with your query today.
 12:21:10    Customer  Missmc 
that is crazy. i am not paying for phone support. i want this computer replaced. it has been a lemon since it landed.  It just came back after a week of service at Dell for software issues.
 12:22:44    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, I'm afraid, as the Operating System installed is UBUNTU, I'll not be able to assist you with your query today.
 12:22:45    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Hence, you'll need to contact on the above mentioned phone number.
 12:22:46    Customer  Missmc 
are you there?
 12:23:12    Customer  Missmc 
this is a hardware issue, not an os problem.
 12:23:42    Customer  Missmc 
battery and keypad - can we start there? they are disfunctional.
 12:23:42    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Please understand, as per process, you'll need to contact UBUNTU Support on 0844 338 1122.
 12:23:58    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
They are available from Mon - Fri, 8AM - 8PM GMT.
 12:24:11    Customer  Missmc 
i have paid for millions of h9ours getting the first problem sorted. i want someone to come take this computer back
 12:25:04    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
There is no chat support for the UBUNTU Dept. and you've reached the wrong dept.
 12:25:43    Customer  Missmc 
yes but can you give me the we-will-take-your-computer-back and give you a working one dept - something online so i don't have to queue and pay?
 12:26:38    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, if you contact the above mentioned phone number, the Technicians on the phone, will certainly be able to assist you address your queries for today.
 12:26:46    Customer  Missmc 
ultimately, this is a hardware issue.
 12:27:48    Customer  Missmc 
i do not have an ubuntu problem. i have a hardware problem.
 12:28:44    Customer  Missmc 
are you there?
 12:31:04    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, please understand, you'll need to contact Ubuntu Support, as I'm not authorised to assist you for this issue.
 12:31:29    Customer  Missmc 
is there a dept. that i can reach via online to get this computer exchanged?
 12:33:38    Customer  Missmc 
are you there?
 12:34:50    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, I'm afraid, there is no online support, for UBUNTU Dept. and you'll need to contact them on the above mentioned phone number.
 12:35:14    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
You can contact UBUNTU Support on 0844 338 1122.
 12:35:28    Customer  Missmc 
I am not asking for ubuntu dept. I am asking for customer service to exchange fault hardware. it is not the os that is the issue.
 12:37:55    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
I can provide you the contact no. of the Customer Care Dept. but they will not be able to assist you with this.
 12:38:31    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
You'll need to contact the UBUNTU Technical Support Dept. and they'll certainly assist you and if required will also provide you with a replacement system.
 12:40:04    Customer  Missmc 
a battery problem is not a software problem - why can't you assist? this has nothing to do with ubuntu
 12:41:56    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, please understand, an issue with a battery could sometimes be due to a BIOS issue. This has to be checked and resolved in the Operating System as well. Since we are not trained on UBUNTU I would not know which BIOS update to run or know where to look for an update. This is the reason there is a separate UBUNTU queue.
 12:42:24    Customer  Missmc 
no. that is not the case. the battery is literally stuck in the machine.
 12:45:01    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
I understand that however there are other issues with the system as well such as the sound issue. These need to be addressed in Ubuntu. In addition your request for a replacement machine can only be looked into by the Ubuntu department
 12:46:36    Customer  Missmc 
can i have the customer care number? i am really n9ot happy to keep spending money on service calls when this machine arrived with some issues, went back for service, and now is having more issues. it is costing too much to deal with a system that has not worked properly since arriving.
 12:47:16    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Sure.
 12:49:06    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
You can contact Customer Care Dept. on 0844 444 4712 / 0844 444 3792. They're available from 9AM - 6PM GMT, Monday to Friday.
 12:49:06    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
You can also email them.
 12:49:16    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
 12:50:31    Customer  Missmc 
thank you. this is really now a customer care issue I am sure you would agree.
 12:52:22    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
Susan, as you have technical issues with the system, Customer Care Dept. might recommend you to contact Ubuntu Technical Support Dept.
 12:52:44    Agent  Americas\sourav_choudhury 
But, you can still go ahead and discuss the matter with the Customer Care Dept.
 12:55:37    Customer  Missmc 
it is a pity that following a script on your end prevents you from assisting with this problem. thanks, susan