Friday, 31 July 2009

Animals are not allowed on the beach

The stock markets as of late have been on a high.  Volume is at an all time low and the summer lull is setting in as the tide beckons.  The high is generating a lot of interest for what is normally a fairly dull time of year.  Perhaps our handy electronic gadgets are partially to blame.  

I'd say...see you in September.  Shut off that gadget.  The world is not going to change much before that.  Or, sell out and jump back in sometime in October.  That way, you get a proper relaxing stretch to curl your toes into the warm sand.  I could be wrong so consult your own astrology charts.  

Speaking of charts, one of the best chart-sters out there is Doug Short.  Check his charts out here before you unplug for the summer.  If you are bearish, look at this one.  If you are more bullish, this is the one for you....

Now turn that thing off.

Thursday, 30 July 2009


If I were a boy, I could throw on a pair of shorts and head to the beach.  Alas.  Four stores and five utterly wasteful hours later, I have a new swimsuit.  Apologies for a blogless day.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A dark bit of forward thinking...

With predictions of more commercial and private real estate woes upcoming and a ripple effect in action, U.K. building firm Bowmer & Kirkland have capitalized on the shifting landscape.  As one opportunity dwindles, others appear.  So what have they added to their portfolio of expertise? Security and surveillance.  That is one dark bit of forward-thinking.  

Read more here on Contract Journal...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Cynical Girl

A cynic?  Is Missmc a cynic?  Not in the ancient Greek sense.  I did try to shed all worldly possessions for a year, but, ended up slumming it in the Hempel for a stint.  The minimal decor wafted an air of posh loony bin, with clusters of out-of-bloom orchids sequestered in the back stairwells.  It was blank, tranquil and served a nifty asian breakfast.  But an utter failure as far as asceticisms go.

But a Cynic in the modern sense?  Is Missmc disillusioned?  Wry perhaps.  Skeptical.  Inquiring and critical.  Is that cynical?  Only to a cynic.  Loop de loop?

Being cynical is so, well, 80's.  Everyone was a cynic back then.  One had to be.  Light-hearted cynics appreciated the kitsch of Thatcher.  Heavy cynics approached the same Reagan/Thatcher icons with a darker kind of cynicism.  A type of cynicism that contributed to the distasteful feeling of the word as it carried a certain kind of hatred.  How to be optimistic and opposed?  Very tricky.  The music world tried various ways of filling the cynic space up.  I see another article on 80's cynicism in music evolving here.  I shall resist, and, leave you with this 80's classic...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Link - Bank of China targets UK Borrowers

The English do like a bargain and summer reductions are on.  And the summer tourists are in town.  Putting the two together, it was as busy as Christmas in Selfridges on Saturday.  With the weather as dreadful as it is, that is no surprise.

Back at home, whilst cuddled up with my only-20%-off-and-why-is-that new bedspread, reading the FT, I came to the most unstylish conclusion that the FT is kind of the perfect complementary colour for it.  Don't read that sentence again.  Missmc is clearly dull dull dull.

More interesting to you perhaps than shades of beige-y pink and my less-than-dynamic Saturday evening is what was emblazoned across the front of the FT:

Well done China - I'm impressed.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

TED Global 2009

The TED Global 2009 conference has just ended.  You can visit a host of ideas that were on offer at the TED blog here.  If you are an expert in a particular field, the sessions most likely featured something you already are familiar with.  So...ho-hum...I know that might dash through your brain.  But TED wants to expand your boundaries and draw you outside of your field of expertise.  One ought to TED by jumping into learning about something unfamiliar.  TED encourages the cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas and boundary-breaking.  And, with this, you can draw insights from far-flung topics to relate to your own set of knowledge, and, expand your intellectual horizons in theory and practice.  Speaking of intellectual horizons, TED Global 2009 had a session on the creation of an artificial brain.  Read about it here on the BBC. 

Without a corporation footing your attendance bill, it is a tad too expensive to attend.  Alas, Missmc will remain an armchair TED.  Boundary-jumping is Missmc's passion.  A favorite past TED session is below.  I've not found any current 2009 Global TEDtalks posted on Youtube, but, I do hope they will appear in a bit of time...

In the meantime, I leave you with the crows...

Friday, 24 July 2009

I'm a carnivore. Let's leave it at that.

Ah.  The week is drawing to a close.  Missmc has been enjoying some rather magnificent Italian food this week, courtesy of the au pair.  She is settling in and a very good addition to the house.  When she arrived with a gigantic block of parmesan we just knew it was a friends forever kind of thing.  

I am on shorter working days from 9-1 rather than the usual 9-245.  That last hour really does make a difference, so, I will have to send some blog apologies for the caliber of summer writing.  The idea of lunch has taken on a bigger role with the Italian in residence and the one-o'clock thing is really now 1230 as we need at least an hours lunch.  So much for lunch at the keyboard.  The food bill is going down rather than up as pasta has taken on a much bigger role in our diet since her arrival.  

I am trying to relax and enjoy the summer.  But my personality is far from a leisurely Italian so it does challenge me.  I do believe her way is the right way as far as I can see, so, I am trying to ease myself into a less high strung state.  If I keep eating pasta, my metabolism ought to slow down and perhaps my personality will find a similar adjustment.  But, in all honesty, I think I am a die-hard carnivore in every way.  

So.  How does diet influence personality?  There have been ten billion studies proving the benefits of a healthy diet.  An obvious thing.  Less obvious is the carnivore thing.  I seem to be pasta-resistant and crave a chunk of meat.  Is this cultural, genetic, or, some kind of nature/nurture intertwining?

The next ponder, on the economic front, is diet, personality, and work habits.  I think this topic is a snarl of things-that-cannot-be-proven and hovers close to eugenics.  So, I shall flee.  Heil.

I shall just embrace my inner carnivore without further thought and request vitello tonnato for lunch.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Missmarketcrash is recalibrating.  What a delightful word.  This word has been busily employed as of late with regard to the financial crisis.  Colin Gleadell, in his article on the art auction markets in the summer issue of Art Monthly, noted that recalibration was the phrase bandied about by Sotheby's with regard to the current contemporary art market.  He ends his article noting that "more recalibration could be in order".  

On FT Alphaville, recalibration appears here in an article entitled "How U.S. institutions are recalibrating strategies".

Recalibration is a second fine tuning of a measurement standard.  That is, as far as I can tell.  It is a word often used, but seldom pinned down in meaning.  In fact, it is not a word at all according to my very large compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.  

The current usage of recalibration implies an adjustment of expectations rather than the second fine-tuning of a measuring standard.  In other words, it is asking for a change in reality, with the measured results looking more "realistic" against the new background.  This usage generously hovers close to the original non-definition, invoking a sense of accuracy.

Accuracy lies at the crux of the recalibration usage mania.  With murky times, we want sharp glasses.  Accuracy is satisfying in these times.  Recalibration gives us a sense of accuracy and control.  It is the proverbial rose-tinted glasses, but, for a more precise type.  Like an accountant.

There-in lies the appeal of recalibration.  It is much like a change in accounting standards.  It makes things look better.  

Yes.  If our expectations are recalibrated, it can all run rather smoothly again.  The new accuracy is gaining momentum.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The ethics of open source...

Missmc has been seriously derailed by this flu-like illness.  The saving grace is Missmc's little netbook arrived in the mail today.  Cute cute cute and light as a feather.  I have been sent into the world of Linux and Ubuntu and it does look like a nice place to get lost.  I suspect that the wandering geeky part of my brain will be in residence on this website for the next few weeks.

Part of the open source philosophy is that I might be a useful member of the community.  I am all for using free software, but, part of that bargain is giving back to the community by tweaking the programs.  Alas, Missmc does not code.  I feel an ethical dilemma sitting on my shoulder. I feel like a parasite.  Speaking of parasites, there have been a slew of articles outlining how parasites can modify the behavior of the host.  A fascinating study revealed a correlation between traffic accidents and infection with Toxoplasma.  This link was cited by Alex on MR last week.

Missmc has always toyed with a "there is something in the soil" theory about unrest in the Middle East.  Studies like this make me want to run out and collect some samples for analysis in regions that have a long history of turmoil.  Something in the local soil that gets in humans and makes people fight fight fight.  Anyone want to hire me to overlook a study?  I thought not.

Back to Ubuntu.  Will I, as a parasite, modify my host's behavior?  Possibly.  I can tell them about bugs, and, I've seen a few already.  That is only useful after I make sure they are issues not already known.  And I don't have time for that.  So...where can I send some flowers?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

FYI - Blog ill...

Apologies my friends - I am just too tired to post today...

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Dulwich Swine

Child number two has flu-like symptoms.  So does Missmc.  We've been to all the local pharmacies and thermometers are sold out.  Ours broke over the weekend, but, a hand to the forehead and a bit of sweating tells all.  I've an amazing chesty cough, a good wheeze, a sore throat, a headache, and some sweats.  I am tired but not terribly exhausted and have experienced much much worse.  Child number two is not a good patient.  He is crying, mean and horrid.  And as he is five, he does not have an off button except the one that has him down on the floor flailing about something or other.  That is not his usual demeanor - he is a generally cheerful little soul.  

A call to the local doctor's office had me on hold for one-half hour.  I hung up, and, called NHS Direct.  NHS Direct said to hang up unless you are dreadfully ill.  So, I hung up.  We will remain uncounted and unseen unless things get worse.  And, I guess life will be a bit boring.  I think the tennis is cancelled and all other socials.  Bah.

I started last week with this and felt it was likely not the swine thing.  But, as it might be, we will be responsible citizens and lay low.  We have been exposed to three swine families in the past two weeks.  So, it seems very likely...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Well done Mr. Koons. Very American of you.

Missmc gave the new au pair a tour around London yesterday.  We stopped by the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Serpentine, children in tow.   Inside were things that ought to appeal to children.  But they did not.  Three inflatable monkeys, arms linked, cascaded from the ceiling, holding up a chair.  A lobster did a headstand balanced with one claw on a refuse bin, the other on a chair.  Pop pop Popeye made an appearance in several large scale kitschy paintings with some more inflatable animals and airbrushed girls.  A host of seaside inflatables did tricks around the room.  

We continued onward to lunch at the Orangery and discussed the exhibition.  The Italian au pair found some English words to say something to the effect that the show gave her nothing to think about.  The eight year old gave it a 3 out of 10.  Even with a vast background of visual art to prop up looking at pop readymade hybrids, Missmc was drawing an utter blank.  The Serpentine staff were trying to sell catalogues with a Big Issue like fervour.  The subtle approach to catalogue sales had been thrown out the window.  The whole exhibition experience was so so utterly American, from the overt commercialization, the cheap ready-made, the advertising-like veneer of the paintings, and all things that go Pop, and disappear, leaving a trail of waste that would not ever decompose.  And so, therein, lay the content.  Missmc gingerly picked it up and looked it in the eye.  The American Dream was full of stuff.  Useless stuff.  Materialistic.  Produced in China.  Props.  Reliant on pure associational sensationalism appealing to base emotions.  

Well done Mr. Koons.  Very American of you.  I hated it all.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Swine Thing...

The swine thing is having a moment again here in Dulwich.  Three different playmates of my children have families sitting about infected to varying degrees with the flu.  A mum with the flu phoned me last evening and asked if we could meet up as she had some money to pass on for the teacher's end-of-year present.  No no and no!  Stay home.  Or send an envelope through my front door that I can quarantine for a few days.  Laugh if you must, but, being asthmatic, I think my aversion is justified.

Behind the scenes, the Flu thing is being approached with a bit more proactive precaution by various businesses in London.  Like - how will the firm cope if a large number of workers are telecommuting?  The BBC reports that BT feels confident it can handle any surge in home broadband demand.  BT customers might argue with that point-of-view.  At another global company, the employees have been issued masks and have gone through several strategy meetings with key staff.

Missmc is the only person left in the world besides large corporations worried about the flu.  Missmc has an immune system that goes a bit mental with any germ or allergen that comes by.  It is overactive and produces great vials of mucous and fights things to the extent that the battle floods the body with so many weapons that the weapons of slime bring down the body.  An ordinary cold can slide into pneumonia at the slightest tease.  At the moment, I am sitting here with a giant migraine as so much snot is sitting in my right cheekbone.  Personally, I've lived with this all my life so it does not seem out of the ordinary.  Asthma is an autoimmune disease.  It means the body does not understand when its defenses are self-destructive.  So - my perspective on the flu thing is going to be very different to the shrug of the shoulders most people are adopting...

So.  Mostly-I-am-trying-not-to-worry, but, every now and then, I think....oh dear....

Thursday, 16 July 2009


Ah.  Missmc is definitely officially middle-aged.  A clever investment banking friend is in shock shock shock as her husband walked out the door last week into the arms of a younger woman.  Ow.  With two young boys it is not a good situation.  I passed on the number of the au pair agency this morning to her.  Life will be quite impossible for such an accomplished woman without a sidekick.  It is stressful enough to be working in the city right now without that on top of things.  

I officially now do not like middle-age.  What a painful bit of news.  In fact, I am speechless.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The future looks good or evil

I did spend a good amount of last evening dreaming of my soon to arrive mini-netbook and its Ubuntu operating system.  I am a Mac girl heart and soul, but a bit of Ubuntu is a nice seasoning.  What blogger wouldn't like a bit of Open Source?  After all, it is a philosophical match.  

We are headed toward topics that will shape the future.  And back to the past.  Back in the good old days of mainframe architecture, ideas now being put forth in the "cloud computing" arena are commercial rehashes and remashes of old school ideas.  As a young girl, I was on the BBS - now I am on Facebook. The portion I was utilizing was set up by a major computer company and was purely an internal site.  But large and global.  And shared.  And the content was created by the users.

If one extrapolates some of these structures out of the computing world we do get a flavour of things.  So - whither thou goest?  We are in the appropriation, collage, remix and share phase of civilization.  We've been there quite a while in the cultural arena.  The evolution of this into various parts of our every day lives is quite a neat phenomena.  I've gone from mainframe to pc and have been sent back to something resembling the mainframe.  How social.  

And how economical.  My little netbook is a give-a-way.  Pretty soon, I'd venture to say we'll get them free in cereal boxes.  They will hook into their own little locked homepage upon start-up and run an ad by us before giving us some freedom to roam.  A culture of cereal crazed Wheat-a-Bix fans will develop. That seems more than ok to me.  On the other hand, if McDonalds joined the netbook marketing give-a-way movement then I would have to call the whole thing evil. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Where was I today?  Apologies.  Our house is falling to bits and the day was taken up with ridiculous sourcing of workmen.  After that I treated myself to a new mini-notebook.  And wondering about Ubuntu.  I went with the Ubuntu option.  Did you know Ubuntu is not just an operating system?  It is also a soft drink.  The company is owned by a mum I know.  That is a better topic today than the topic du jour - Goldman.

My other pal is chomping at the bit for me to discuss her voluntary paid leave from Accenture.  I will make her wait.  I started with Ubuntu and I shall end with Ubuntu.  There are plenty of economics tangents in both the concept of Ubuntu as a philosophy, as an operating system, and, as a soft drink.  The generosity of humankind can indeed be profitable.

Now can someone please tell workman number one who appeared at my door that his South London approach to quoting for a job was the furthest thing from Ubuntu in essence and he shall not be hired?

Monday, 13 July 2009


Brunch has been a long time favorite meal of New Yorkers - a lazy weekend, some newspapers or a few friends.  It is the ultimate in slow dining.  Here in London it is still not a bona fide trend, but, the idea is catching on.  With that, I give you a link to the London Review of Breakfasts - a highly entertaining and well-researched blog.

I can't resist the opportunity to make Brunch an economic topic so I shall send you to the article entitled "The Credit Brunch".  My personal favorite article is "Solving the Breakfast Class Divide".  Have a wander around the site - it is egg-straordinary.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The economics of pure abandon

 "Appearing Rooms", an interactive sculpture by Jeppe Hein is in its third or fourth year of residence on London's  Southbank.  A minimal maximal, it is a grid of fountains with walls of water that appear and disappear.  In you go, across, hop, run, wet.  Or not.  If you remain outside, as a viewer, the people inside become the sculpture as they navigate and dare to be wet or not.  Yesterday there was a party of girls celebrating a sweet sixteen.  Dripping wet happy devil-may-care everything one could imagine doing was accompanied by girly screams of delight.  It seemed an exhibitionist's dream until I went inside the sculpture.  If you go inside, the people outside do not matter to you.  At all.  Inside, you can stay in a grid with a friend, or, dare to leap to the next square, together, or, apart.  You can walk through a wall of water, or, wait for the wall to disappear, and, stay dry.  Trapped alone, trapped with friends, trapped with strangers - it all happens.  It is an exercise in risk-taking, or, pure abandon.

I'm tempted to soar off on a philosophical tangent or two right now, but I shall refrain and leave that to you.  I will say that the Southbank is one of the most successful and pleasurable urban areas in the world and a boon to both the economy, and, well-being.  Why?  The answer is in the sculpture and the skate park and the street furniture.  It is interactive non-commerce. But the commerce side profits from that.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The View From a Falling Tree

Our visitors are still here and it is lamb and mint and radish and peas and feta evening so I must go out and forage....We began the visit with a children's party and I have just about recovered.  In between, a bit of work has been wedged in.

Next week our au pair arrives and I am filled with relief.  She is a PhD student in Environmental Economics.  Very PC and very interesting.  In celebration of her arrival, I'd like to link this video on the BBC -

The View from a Falling Tree.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Steinbeck Redux...

Mr. and Mrs. Bomp lived in a big house in a leafy suburb of London.  Mr. Bomp was a successful lawyer for a big firm.  Mrs. Bomp was the perfect housewife.  The stress of the Great Banking Thing had been wearing down Mr. Bomp for months and months.  He had turned from being a jolly dismiss-it-all-wafting-it-aside kind of fellow to something else entirely.  Every evening he worked later and later, much to the demise of Mrs. Bomp.  He was striving to remain useful.  There was less and less work at his firm and eventually he was reduced to a three day week and 25% of his pay was taken away from him.  He continued to work late in the evenings of the three days for good show.  On his days off, he thought he would study up on something that might be useful to his profession in the future.  Mrs. Bomp thought otherwise.  She had a long list of things-to-fix-around-the-house that she posted on his coffee cup every breakfast-time.

The friction and tension grew between them like a bad fungus.  They kept their cheerful masks on and carried on.  Mrs. Bomp grew paranoid that Mr. Bomp was having an affair though he was not.  Mr. Bomp resented her cheerful little notes and felt despondent that his career had been rendered meaningless.  The little bomps started hitting and punching other children on the playground for no apparent reason.

They went through several chapters of little scenes which illustrated the thick walls forming around them.  The economy continued to tilt.  The psyche of the family mirrored the psyche of the nation.  They tried to begin anew, in a smaller house, with a smaller mortgage and it was an utter failure.  I think the ending was mysteriously gruesome and the beginning of another story.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Jacko and the stock market...

I love this non-story posted on clusterstock

"Jacko funeral wreaks havoc on the stock market"


Blog disgruntled...

Guests are arriving tomorrow.  The economics of it all are starting to dance in front of my weary eyes.  Special foods for picky eaters, fresh flowers for those that like things just-so, and oh so many trips here and there for stuff seems reasonable and good hostess-y.  But, alas, today is running away from me, and, they are not even here yet.  The real price of having guests is the time factor.  Today is a write-off work-wise.  And blog-wise. 

I am of course, looking forward to the other side of the equation of time and money.  That will be the pleasure derived from spending time with the guests.  In between trying to work. 

I must be a better guest than a hostess.  A good hostess would be enjoying all this.  I'd much prefer to be on the other side of the fence.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Walking Through My Mind

The privately educated second child is home for the summer holidays.  Child number one is in state school and his term finishes on the 22nd of this month.  Things seem a bit unfair.  We devoted Saturday to the state school child and put him in charge of the weekend entertainment.  His list was a fun one.  We began with a stop to a shop that sells everything Japanese and more.  He chose one book on Japanese graffiti, two graphic novels and a couple of Japanese movies.  Afterward he recommended we see some art.  My kind of day. 

"Walking Through My Mind" is the title of the current exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.  In an everything-is-connected way, the installation by Jason Rhodes is simultaneously logical, obsessive, and messy.  There is a machine that periodically puffs perfect giant ponderous smoke rings out into the gallery.  We hurried the boys past a literal bit of formalist pornography and continued onward.  We entered a gigantic tunnel of parcel tape by Thomas Hirschorn that divided into rooms with small scenes - all completely covered in said tape.  It was an affirmation of my children's creative obsession with parcel tape turned into a claustrophobic playground.  Brain chambers?  Empty cans of drink, tinfoil people wired to the ceilings, a few parcel tape beds and lots of philosophical texts were campfired inside.  After a scamper through that we headed to the upper galleries.  The boys immediately were drawn into a red room.  Trademark polka dots by Yayoi Kusama covered the surfaces of the walls, ceilings, and some floaty blobs.  A few mirrors funhoused the effect of it all.  We continued on to the roof of the Hayward to sit on a few more Kusama blobs.  Finally, something they could touch.  Whew.  

The work of Charles Avery shows the semantic and creative connections between two dimensional and three dimensional works as they transmogrify into something else.  The older child was tuned in and a big fan, but, that was lost on the four year old.  His mind is constantly doing that up front, and, that process has not be sublimated.  Less playground but no less delightful, it was a nice subtle addition to the exhibition.

"Walking Through My Mind" was a neat curatorial concept that could have included almost any work of art.  In this instance, the curators focused on works that drew these "behind the scenes tangents" into the limelight.  My mind found itself on its own reflective journey that lasted into the evening and this moment of afterward was pure pleasure.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Better, lower, or worse than expected...

Stand in front of the mirror, pretend you are a deadpan Bill Murray type, and read these titles from the BBC...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

extra trading on the nyse

Something but what?  As the fourth of July weekend commences, the NYSE decided to add an additional 15 minutes of trade due to technical glitches.  Someone dumped 5, 220, 795 shares of Bank of America at that very last moment.  Other financials were at high volume.  Did someone remember everything was still not fixed?  The unemployment figures were deeply distressing.  They have brought the naked emperor a mirror.  He must have been displeased.

Missmc is officially on summer hols and recommends a gin and tonic.  


London is in the midst of a heatwave.  I had a blissful afternoon swimming in a friend's pool in Dulwich with my son.  The pool is owned by the same people who own two of the local shops.  In their toy shop, paddling pool sales are up up up.  I bought one.  And two gigantic squirt guns.  And a watermelon.  And two new floaty dresses.  My wallet has been slimmed down and the economy will be thankful for all the hot weather.  Surely the FT will have an article on the consumer spending impact of the heatwave this Saturday.

Speaking of the FT, Willem Buiter has written another thoughtful article.  He proposes an "FDA for new financial instruments and institutions".  Read it here...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Do accounting changes make economic changes?

This seems like old non-news to me, but here is an article on Bloomberg regarding AIG's credit default swaps and the ongoing risks of such things.  

An excerpt:

The $192.6 billion figure for the swaps is comprised mostly of $99.4 billion tied to corporate loans and $90.2 billion linked to prime residential mortgages, the insurer said in a May 7 filing. The combined total was reduced from $234.4 billion on Dec. 31.

Most of the home loans tied to the European swaps are first-lien mortgages for owner-occupied properties, the insurer said in March. The other transactions include secured and unsecured corporate loans.

The fair value of the derivative liability was $393 million as of March 31, compared with $379 million on Dec. 31, according to AIG filings.

But I think the new news part of it has to do do with the reclassifying of the reporting of these securities as "risks".  I could be wrong as the article is a bit shy on nitty-gritty-detail.  Missmc is confused because the last she heard on the topic was that the diminished value of these securities did not have to be accounted for as losses by the banks if they were held to maturity.  And that might be why Citigroup is still alive.  Murky murky murky complex changes.  Do accounting changes make economic changes?

When the loss is lost (but you can't say that), it is risk.  It does all make sense, but, only theoretically.