Thursday, 30 April 2009

Howard is now leaving and this will be the last post written here on Swine Flu

Missmarketcrash has been swept away from her usual favorite control-freak topics of things-out of-her-control such as economics, the stock market and the weather.  I am now trying to drop the flu topic and get back on course.  Before I do, here are some great geeky links worth a read.  My obsessive readings have led me to the humble opinion that there is not enough data yet to have an informed opinion but the media hype is worthwhile if it can get us to use common sense and engage in civilized behavior.  Covering one's mouth with a tissue can go a long way and washing hands after any bodily function that emits things ought to be a matter of course, but, these measures shouldn't be taken into our psyche to a Howard Hughes level.

I happened to be out last evening and a quick flu conversation took place.  The brave and esteemed BBC war reporter/editor husband of a friend dismissed the topic as bad media hype with a roll of his eyes and a quick word about regular flu deaths and other more prevalent infectious diseases.  As you would, if you were a war reporter who faces doom on a regular basis.  "It could happen to me" is not in his makeup.  His wife was much the same.  I quivered on the edge of my seat, with the facts I'd read over the past couple of days on the tip of my tongue.  But, I sat silent as he is correct in the sense that there is no sense getting worked up about the situation.  However, I do think it is worth taking an analytical rather than an emotional perspective.  The analytical starting point?  It is a new creature.  We've not had a novel human-to-human viral flu-like form like this in many years according to the scientists. So, it is worth getting geeky to clarify points of that idea and learn more.  What the scientists can't do is tell you the future.  But more and more data will give more and more of a picture.

So, for the analytically minded, glances at WHO and the CDC can clarify any media warps you might experience as these are the primary scientific sources the media spins their stories from. Beyond that, a database list of Swine sequences from the National Center for Biotechnology Information is a must read for science geeks.  The various other pages on the site can get you up to date in a breeze.

Or, if that is all too terribly geeky, one could visit the Fluwiki and read it with a critical eye. It does tend toward the hysterical side and may contain incorrect information.  It is probably better to stick to the BBC if you are after layman's science than Fluwiki, but, it does have some interesting valid threads.  Finally, as I do like to end these posts on a humourous note, here is a link to a UK public health ad campaign called "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" .  When the sneezing man rolls his eyes in a knowing way, I can't help but laugh.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The School Project

The school has sent home a one pound coin with the choice of 

a) keep it
b) give it back
c) use it to invest in materials to generate more money to contribute to a charity in Ghana.

Thankfully, or, not so thankfully, my son has elected to go with choice C.  Now what?  Sell lemonade?  Sell cookies?  Sell plant seedlings?  Sell some artwork? Make greeting cards? What could an 8 year old do?  What project would generate the most money, be innovative, and, loads of fun?  Should we sell to the public-at-large, or, should he just milk his parents for cash?

At the moment, the obvious winner would be to print up some facemasks with cool designs...but, my black humour is incredibly inappropriate for the age group.  The other answer is self-referential - he could start up a TED conference for children...but, alas, the he would be me and that is not right either... shall I guide him to think of his own project?  I think it is important the idea and the execution is genuinely his own...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

An informative read

There was is a study published by the CDC in 2005  entitled "Serologic Evidence of Human and Swine Influenza in Mayan Persons". It is an informative read and the references cited also look interesting.

Howard Hughes meets Henry David Thoreau

The little microcosm that is my back garden is thriving.  This morning, a new birds nest was under construction in the ivy wall.  Across the way, in a large hedge, the faint peeps of baby birds twittered as the mother flicked in and out of the foliage with worms.  The lacy heads of purple carrots have emerged.  Wild bluebells have spread to spectacular effect.  A giant allium is just beginning its tall catwalk in partial bloom.  New baby grass beckons.

Pandemics and economics have left this little patch of paradise untouched.  There is nothing more delightful than eating breakfast whilst watching a starling build its nest.  If you could cross Howard Hughes with Henry David Thoreau, that is where I am at this morning.  Panic and denial have both seized the wheel.  Isn't there another choice of driver available?

Monday, 27 April 2009


Zeitgeist is a marvelous word.  The German language is like a box of legos, with similar shapes and size relations in different colours that can be connected.  And then these constructions shift subtly in context.  It is a wordsmiths playground.  

Volksgeist (spirit of a culture) vs zeitgeist (spirit of the times) vs weltgeist (spirit of the world) - all very idealistic in essence....but not always in application.

Today, less idealistic, as we are in a grippezeitgeist.  I like how flu is grippe.  It sums up the spirit of the illness.  Angstgeist!  The weltwirtschaftgeist is under siege.

I'm sure the above is all a bit slightly wrong.  But, invention is fun.  It all seems much more mundane in english - "mood/spirit of the world economy" seems downright dull in comparison to weltwirtschaftgeist.  Which, in character, seems to carry more of an inherent warning.

Achtung baby.

The Zeitgeist

Missmarketcrash has a guest blog today on Knowing and Making, an economics site run by Leigh Caldwell.  See here for a word cloud of the most commonly used words used on economic blog sites in the past week.  And, see here for my analysis of the cloud...

Do take a wander around the site.  A fellow Londoner, Leigh provides insightful analysis from both a local and international perspective.  And he has found a marvelous purpose for the word "zeitgeist".

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Black Swine

Moby Dick has arrived.  Hollywoodsters who have been churning out financial doom and gloom screenplays have been handed a new sub-plot twist.  Swine Flu.  The plot has been returned to that old favorite, man vs nature.  

Missmarketcrash does not mean to make light of the alarming new news.  And she does not intend to get wrapped up in it.  Back in the 90's a mutual friend who was going through a painful divorce had to watch his ex-wife catapult to Hollywood stardom via the popularity of the movie, Safe.  Forever in my mind, when pandemics, or viral fears or general paranoia about invisible things hit, all I can see is Julianne Moore.  And her ex-husband in the background.  The twisted web of associations have brought her face to the front of my mind this morning.  Broken hearts, success, fear, ambition, viruses.

So, I guess my new screenplay would feature Miss Moore.  Let's twist her into the current economic crisis and have her married to a major bank CEO.  Perhaps she is an ambitious stay-at-home bank wife in charge of a charity.  And she secretly loathes him and hates the second position of importance seat she has in the household.  She goes off to do some pr for said charity and comes home full of new self-worth and enthusiasm. Mr. Bank CEO who is under a huge strain and cannot get out of his own headspace is woefully selfish and neglecting his wife as he combats a world economic crisis.  She ends up seeking solace in the arms of a charity intern, young and handsome and full of save-the-world generosity and attentiveness to the wife. But then...a viral pandemic begins to surface.  For some reason, it is only affecting wives of bankers.  The bankers themselves are spared.  The news breaks, and, eventually the virus origins are traced to the small circle of charity workers.   

The charity was devoted to the protection of an almost extinct variety of black swan.   The intern had caught the disease by trying to resuscitate a dying black swan. The swan had a new mutated viral strain caused by swimming in a pond with run-off from a nearby pig farm owned by some wealthy hog traders.  The intern was a charity party regular and "walker" for many other bankers wives.  The disease rippled through the community of bankers wives and filtered down to the gardeners, interior designers, housekeepers, shopkeepers and everyone the wives had contact with.  And then, onward from that.  Because the busy stressed bankers were not around, or paying attention to their wives, they never became infected.  But everyone else dies.  The only remaining humans are the bankers and some escort girls.  The bankers and a few escort girls (the ones who did mail order shopping rather than go to the shops) live on, oblivious to the destruction around them.  And then, they all die too when a massive meteor falls from the sky.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The close-knitted village

Very crafty fundraising idea in an English Village....from the BBC here....

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Offshore Garden

Missmarketcrash is so looking forward to getting lost amongst the follies at the upcoming Chelsea Flower Show.  Last year, a pleasurable amount of weeds were featured.  Missmarketcrash's own field of cornflowers and tortoise-food friendly weeds was delightfully on-trend, much to the consternation of her tidy neighbors.   

This year, economics will be featured to humourous effect.  Sarah Eberle will showcase three financially-themed gardens.  The funniest of all will be "The Offshore Garden".  According to the RHS press release it will be a "tax haven" surrounded by a water feature with three stepping stones.  The garden may be flooded to cover the stepping stones and prevent access. A remote controlled boat also features.

Clearly whoever steps into that boat is going to be taken for a ride by the media...politicians and high-profilers beware!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Val is back in the Car...

Sad the sea. Sad the sea.  There they were, on the dashboard.  Val reached for them and put them on.  Everything looked clearer, and darker.  She turned the key and pulled away, glancing absentmindedly.  Slowly she floated down the road, oblivious to what was behind her.

It looked like a good day.  The phrase kept streaming but stayed inside.  Sad the sea, almost audible.  Sad the sea, sad the sea, sad the sea.  She flicked on the radio to stop it.  Then she saw it. Straight ahead, it glimmered and turned black, a thing laying across the horizon.  A blip, then gone.  She glanced in the mirror.  Again, and now it was behind her.  And then ahead.  She did not know which way to look.

But she kept going.

Certainty vs Uncertainty

Are you experiencing a-type control freakish tendencies in these times?  Fret not, here is a chart that clearly indicates uncertainty is on the downswing and certainty is moving closer to a midpoint and on the upswing!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Depression Fear vs Fear of Spiders

An Outsider Economist?

Missmarketcrash is headed off-topic for a moment today to link to The New York Times featuring an article on a film made by an old friend, Scott Ogden.  A film about four unknown "outsider" artists made by an artist who is surely on the "inside" is an interesting thing.

Could one imagine an "outsider" economist?  It seems impossible but perhaps there must be a few out there...

Missmarketcrash herself with her mad internal dialogues probably fits that slot fairly well...if she were only more analytical and obsessive...

Ok.  Just analytical.  But a few crazy charts are clearly needed.  I'm working on them.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

I'm a wallflower

Can how you feel make things better even if things are the same?  Are things the same?  Ok...the banks are releasing glorious numbers, the markets are jumping for pleasure and the "green shoots" phrase is sprouting up everywhere.  As predicted, these numbers are splendid.  Unless, of course, one starts digging.  Or thinking.  It is more than likely if we all stop digging and thinking, we can blink ourselves back into a recovery of sorts.  But then the dreaded time thing remains.  

How long can we remain fools?   The stock market world is either collectively drunk on hope and dancing on tables, or, leaning cooly against the wall with a bit of a scowl watching the dancers.  Those teetering institutions that are now all called banks are the caterers.  Only they know what is really in those hors d'oeuvres.  The food has been so artfully arranged it is hard to tell what everything is.  The U.S. government is the band.  They are deciding what number to play next.  So, it is a bit quiet, save the trumpeter who is mucking about, tuning up, emoting squeaky unconvincing cheerful noises.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Blog on Holiday...FYI...

I promise to write tomorrow.  This coming Monday is the last day of the Easter holidays after three weeks with the children off school.  And I will be back full form, essays galore.  Can't wait!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The best of time...

I'm still thinking about time.  This is a really lovely portrayal of how I'd like time to be.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Magic, Fake or Mere Abstraction?

Magic, Fake or a mere abstraction?  With Goldman reporting luminous numbers and other banks soon to follow, the markets are split decision on how to cope with the Emperor's new clothes.  Here is a handy list of the most shorted stocks in March with average daily volume.  But what you really want is a CDS chart on the "banks".

A few people have pointed out that Goldman Sachs have just reported on a four month quarter, based on accounting rules changes as they are now classified as a bank.  But no, they have not.  December has just disappeared from reports.  But AIG payoffs and mark-to -whatever accounting has brought a bountiful supply of new numbers.  Expecting some cheerleading from de-TARPing intentions, Goldman is leading the way in attempts to raise more cash from private investors.  

What does this all mean for down the road, later on, the future?  It means there will have tobe  changes in the concept of time to cope with it all, lest the magic wear off.  Out with Newtonian time, in with Bergson and others...perhaps the Buddists come in handy at this juncture.  

Missmarketcrash has now run out of time to discuss time as the children are now doing something very very quiet which must be investigated...more to follow...apologies for the topic drop, but, I do promise more -- in good time.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Alex out of context

Missmarketcrash has finally found her long lost best pal Alex again.  Joy Joy joy and joy - he will no doubt save Missmarketcrash from empty brain syndrome whilst entertaining the kids during the Easter holidays.  Bear with me, there is one more week left before the blog returns to "normalcy"...

Words of wisdom from Alex for you today:

"When incentives change, rules change, and when the rules change, the structure changes.  We're at the stage where the structure is just starting to shift..."

I like Alex out of context best.  But, for Alex in context, visit him at seeking alpha here.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Easter Bunny has gone Mad

The Easter Bunny has gone mad.  Not one, but two brands of luxury chocolates are sitting keyboardside here this morning.  The handmade Rococo and the luscious Artisan du Chocolat arrived sometime during the night.  And why on earth has the Easter bunny gone to such extravagant measures in times of austerity?  Surely Cadbury would suffice?  

No.  Missmarketcrash has calculated that the amount of Cadbury required to satisfy a serious chocoholic is at least eight times more than eating one posh chocolate.  And, this morning, in the great taste-off of posh chocolates, Missmarketcrash has determined that five Rococo's are required for every Artisan eaten.  So, in the name of waistline and budget, I recommend you stick with Artisan, specifically the salted caramel balls.  Salty Balls, raised eyebrow, small smirk.

The Easter Artisan du Chocolat is a mad day-glo red bunny that appears felted.  The "felt" look is clearly dyed cocoa.  A bit over the top for a refined company, but, just the medicine for these ridiculous times.  Said red-felted bunny might be over-stylish, and, a no-no, but, it is on just the right side of kitsch, teetering on a mad precipice of good taste and devil-may-care.  The accompanying eggs are in trendy-of-the-now hues of orange, green and a marvelous blue.  With white and dark and light brown to set them straight.  The austere white has a mad green cream inside which is both frightening and delightful. 

Thank you Easter Bunny.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Poeme Electronique

A soggy drippy Easter weekend with the children inspired a visit to the Le Corbusier exhibit at the Barbican yesterday.  The foundation for many a grim high rise housing estate was laid before our very eyes.  The older child noted his habit of erecting buildings on pillars seemed African. Around the corner, the primitive masks of Africa danced before our very eyes in a film entitled Poeme Electronique by Le Corbusier and Edgard Varese.  African masks, religious icons, bones, war images, sexy women, nuclear war, taxidermy, space, industrial gadgets, babies, cities, family meals and Le Corbusier's architecture all flashed by accompanied by an ahead-of-its-time electronic musical piece.  It was a heady mix of powerful manipulative imagery that Damien Hirst would likely approve of.  The children thought otherwise, but, enjoyed the music.  It was made in 1958 and certainly reflected the concerns of the time.  

What would Le Corbusier have used as images today?  The primitive, the space-age, and the mushroom cloud would no longer feature.  Civil unrest, melting icebergs and imploding economies would perhaps be the replacements.  Suburbia would probably overshadow the importance of cities.  Taxidermy is still hip, in a weird kind of way.  Industrial gadgets would give way to computers, ipods and the like.  "Life" has changed, but, the song remains much the same.  Here is a colorized version...the soundtrack is still pretty amazing and timeless...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Class Thing

Missmarketcrash had a delightful game of scrabble last night with the posh mums.  It is easter holidays here in leafy London and the children have been having tennis lessons during the time off from school.  With one child in state school, and, one in private, it was inevitable these two worlds of distinctly different mums would meet each other somehow.  And so they did.

Like the best hollywood kind of drama, the private school mums confided to me last night that they had met the state school mum at the tennis pickup.  And I gather it did not go so well. There seemed to be some kind of general agreement that state school mummy had been dismissive and abrupt. Oh dear.  Like a rabbit in the headlights, I imagine she was terrified by my bunch.  Or, the more sinister implied possibility, she was "ill-mannered".  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  State school mum was taking my state school child off for a playdate.  Her son is a gem of a boy, full of zest and good manners.  An A-list type of boy.  I do not know state-school-mum well but I am pretty sure she cannot be a savage with such a fantastic child.   I did sputter to the posh mums that state-mum was a super-mum and seemed to have few faults save looking perfect at all moments and being a bit short.  The posh mums did laugh quite a lot afterward addressing the class issue head-on and it all became a bit of a folly.

On the flip-side, after an evening out with some of the new state school mums a few weeks ago, I was on the other side of the class war.  After meeting a group of new mums and being asked which school my son had transferred from.  "DCPS" I mumbled.  And where is you other son? "DCPS" I mumbled again.  A mum at the table took that very opportunity to go silent.  The rest of the table followed suit and an arctic wall was erected. Cigarettes were lit in that quiet cliff-hanger kind of way.   The head mum then began to pontificate how terrible it was that someone could be bumped down the waiting list for such a good school just because some family who happened to live a bit closer had a credit crunch and decided to change schools... How dreadfully direct.  

So. What does Missmarketcrash think about the class thing?  Nothing.  And a lot.  It is an unavoidable thing here.  In a utopia, I'd say as long as you are a good scrabble player, you are in.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Boss-napping in France

Feisty feisty France.  I once shared a summer-house with a lovely french girlfriend.  She was certainly as anti-authoritarian as one could be.  But rules of cooking were sacred.  The mussels must be prepared just-so.  The wine could only be this one for that dish.  Dinner was always at 8:45.  Rules and righteousness walked hand in hand.  On other girlish topics, she was an anarchist.  One should never ever wear anything "in style".  Make your own way and make your own clothes.

The French are busy being terribly terribly French these days.  A few weeks back, a group of workers kidnapped the bosses inside the company and blared rock and roll music at them as a negotiating tactic for a better layoff package.  There were a few other incidents of what the media has dubbed "boss-napping" in previous weeks at a French 3M plant and a Sony factory.  Today brings another episode at an adhesives factory facing closure.

I think the keyword here is righteousness.  My french girlfriend certainly was.  It was a concept that brought a strong justification for any action.  The difficulty with righteousness is that the "right thing" or "ethical thing" is always seen from a narrow point view.  One's own perspective is clearly the only correct one.  And that strong individualist streak of righteousness belies its religious roots.  Or, if one is religious, righteousness can be employed as a dangerous justification.  But I am digging myself in here.  I do like the French, and my French girlfriend, should she be reading this.  And I love her mussels.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Print your own Money...

Alternative currencies issued by local community groups in America 
are growing in popularity.  The latest to join the trend is the Detroit Scrip.  Hippies, capitalists and marketeers can all shake hands with different agendas.  Alternative currencies have been in use for many years; Ithaca Hours were among the first issued.  BerkShares have also been in existence for some time.  Here is a slightly too long and rambling video on Ithaca Hours - the ending is humorous if you can last that long...

Bank of America - annual report

The Bank of America annual report was sprawled on the doormat this morning.  It was a dead mouse scenario.  Should I pick it up?  Look at the thing?  Save it somehow?  Or ought it go straight to the bin?

It quivered in the breeze.  I gingerly picked it up and brought it into the back garden.  I stared at it.  It stared back.  I left it in the shade and walked away.  

But curiosity won, and, my feline tendencies decided to go play with it.  Exhaustion, tedium, blindness, near-death by reading complex accounting,  but curiosity did not kill the cat.

The cover is simple simple simple, like a generic grocery product.  The Bank of America logo, which resembles an American flag as farmer's fields on a global curve has been chopped.  One quadrant of said logo emerges from the left spine and looks much like the sharp beak of a bird of prey, perhaps an American Bald Eagle.  The rest of said bird is left to your imagination, residing somewhere in the air, off the spine.  The beak looks as if it is about to swallow the words "Bank of America".  If they skewed the text a bit, it could definitely look like a dangling worm. Is this bird beak thing a reference to the infamous "Government Stake"?   Is the graphic designer really that clever and twisted, or, has Missmarketcrash injected too much of her own reading of the design?  I shall have to ask Ken.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Journal of Slow Capitalism

Missmc has been laying low with illness and simultaneously hosting visitors this week.  But -

Let's leave that finite universe. Outside, there is a rising market, purportedly a classic bear trap, more anarchy in Strausberg, and a melted iceberg.  All conceptually related to capitalism if one wants to lean that way.  Human Behavior is the grand umbrella.  Things to look toward to guide our thoughts on these matters are so varied.  What choices we have to flesh out our perceptions of things  - television, news, magazines, blogs and  websites are the immediate wallpaper.  What a change that is for civilization.  

The church, the pamphleteers, the radio of old did not convey the same sensory bombardment as the immediacy of the now.  We are adapting and growing filters, both in our brains and with technologies to help us think about things.  One can gather from the rising popularity of slow this and slow that movements that there is a need for ponderous thoughts rather than the fast track digestion of things.  I agree.  A few ponderous moments for CEO's would work wonders. Rather than running from this report to that meeting and such, some ponderous slow moments to reflect and think as individuals rather than herd animals could work wonders.  And I do not mean golf.

Rather than cash performance bonuses, what about additional holiday time off for CEO's and higher management who contribute a thoughtful article to the yet-to-be-invented but much needed Journal of Slow Capitalism?

Friday, 3 April 2009


The Economist magazine plans to open a theme park in East London.  Click here to view an interactive park map on the website...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A ramble...

From the suburban mall design of the Excel centre to the icon-known since-childhood nostalgia of Buckingham Palace, a parade of British architecture has swirled by during the coverage of the G20 summit.  Even spiderman himself was seen today climbing the iconic Lloyds building.  The very large glass sheets of the ruptured RBS building featured yesterday.  Broken, climbed, removed, iconic.  If all these were amalgamated together in form and idea, the result would be a major architectural nightmare.  And probably have a Topshop inside it featuring spiderman t-shirts, ripped see-through blouses, and vintage teacup patterned frocks.

Oh.  And perhaps an anarchist outfit or two.  Missmc has just learned that anarchist fashion is going to be the big next thing in the fashion world.  If the gay guys are onto it, well, it is coming.  And what strange bedfellows anarchists and gay guys make.  Though I guess the Stonewall Riots do make it all make a bit of sense.  Watch out Black Bloc, you are about to have a makeover.

G20 fashion

Missmarketcrash has been watching the G20 events through a feverish haze.  Blog is on the lightest side of light today as I am ill ill ill.  Yesterday brought a fashion show featuring Michelle Obama, and a bit of mayhem both festive and non by demonstrators.  But where was Carla?  I was disappointed she was not in the let's-compare-outfits photo events.  The G20 leaders mostly sported dark suits, white shirts and stripy ties.  The Queen was in a lovely shade of pink.  Michelle Obama had numerous costume changes and they all looked reasonably good. Angela Merkel wore a white suit that defined "sensible".  Gordon Brown looked as if he had had a facial and the usual dark circles under his eyes were missing.

The Climate Camp people were festive and brightly colored, some with flowers.  The anarchists were in standard black with headgear.  There were people dressed as zombie bankers, straight out of a Tim  Burton film.  Makeup trend-followers - take note.

All in all, it was a sea of fashion diversity.  My vote for best outfit would probably have gone to Carla, but, as she was missing, I would have to say the Queen wins.  That just-perfect-pink created a fuzz of lovelyness that extended far beyond the suit.  A hazy pink cloud of comfort.  And that sure felt good in these troubled times.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 Dinner -who is sitting where?

Missmarketcrash so loves a dinner party.  Here is the seating plan for the G20 summit dinner....