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Assembled in the USA from 100% Chinese parts.

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31st August 2015

10:50pm: Jon Stewart Certainly Seems to Be Enjoying Retirement

He really does, doesn't he?

24th August 2015

5:19am: Another Monday, another crash.

China stocks suffer biggest one-day fall since global financial crisis.

23rd August 2015

4:36am: Today's Google doodle--at least in certain countries including the UK, France, and Belgium--celebrates Paul Otlet, co-founder of the Mundaneum:



The Wikipedia page says
The Mundaneum was an institution created in 1910, following an initiative begun in 1895 by Belgian lawyers Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, as part of their work on documentation science. It aimed to gather together all the world's knowledge and classify it according to a system they developed called the Universal Decimal Classification. Otlet and La Fontaine organized an International Conference of International Associations which was the origin of the Union of International Associations (UIA).

The Mundaneum has been identified as a milestone in the history of data collection and management, and as a precursor to the internet.

19th August 2015

5:12pm: From a piece in today's Guardian:
The hacked infidelity site Ashley Madison apparently retained enough personal data about users to identify them to spouses – as the site’s hackers have claimed – despite offering a paid-for “full delete” service, which charged users £15 or $20 to remove all their information.

On the database of Ashley Madison accounts, which was posted online by the hackers on Wednesday, accounts that had been wiped by the dating service had their real name, username, email and profile information removed as promised. But the company seems to have retained the date of birth, city, state, post- or zip code, country, gender, ethnicity, weight, height, body type and whether the user smokes or drinks – providing enough information to reveal a user’s identity.

It also retained what kind of relationship a user was seeking, their current relationship status, what they were open to sexually, what turned them on, and what they were looking for in a partner. For instance, one user marked as having paid for their account to be deleted can be tracked to a specific tower block in London, where knowledge of their date of birth and appearance would easily identify them to friends or spouses.

18th August 2015

9:12pm: MeWe.
As part of my continuing effort to grab my name on every available social media platform, I have just created an account on MeWe. If you're already there, you can find me at https://mewe.com/i/serene.randomness

14th August 2015

3:35am: https://watson-pi-demo.mybluemix.net/
drwex and hammercock both tried this so I thought I'd give it a spin.
The IBM Watson Personality Insights service uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more.

We need a minimum of 3500 words and ideally 6000 words or more to compute statistically significant results. See the science behind the service.

Ideally, the text should contain words we use in every day life relating to personal experiences, thoughts and responses. See usage guidence for details.

My results:

Your Personality*

You are inner-directed and skeptical.

You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. And you are authority-challenging: you prefer to challenge authority and traditional values to help bring about positive changes.

Experiences that give a sense of well-being hold some appeal to you.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider independence to guide a large part of what you do: you like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them.

*Compared to most people who participated in our surveys.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 3.36.45 AM

Data Behind Your Personality

Big 5
Artistic interests7%
Achievement striving54%
Activity level4%
Emotional range41%
Prone to worry17%
Susceptible to stress31%
Openness to change86%
Visualization of Personality Data

Big 5
Adventurousness (78%)
Artistic interests (8%)
Emotionality (17%)
Imagination (89%)
Intellect (93%)
Authority-challenging (96%)
Achievement striving (55%)
Cautiousness (82%)
Dutifulness (22%)
Orderliness (29%)
Self-discipline (24%)
Self-efficacy (77%)
Activity level (5%)
Assertiveness (16%)
Cheerfulness (5%)
Excitement-seeking (4%)
Outgoing (5%)
Gregariousness (2%)
Altruism (13%)
Cooperation (72%)
Modesty (9%)
Uncompromising (22%)
Sympathy (97%)
Trust (33%)
Emotional range
Fiery (33%)
Prone to worry (18%)
Melancholy (34%)
Immoderation (29%)
Self-consciousness (50%)
Susceptible to stress (31%)
Challenge (6%)
Closeness (4%)
Curiosity (8%)
Excitement (3%)
Harmony (30%)
Ideal (2%)
Liberty (6%)
Love (20%)
Practicality (29%)
Self-expression (2%)
Stability (3%)
Structure (3%)
Conservation (6%)
Openness to change (86%)
Hedonism (47%)
Self-enhancement (64%)
Self-transcendence (47%)

Cute, but I'm not sure if it's that accurate about me. Or maybe my writing really doesn't express my extroversion very well. The visualization is attractive, though.

IBM Watson now has 6124 of my words on file, if it matters.

More documentation is available at http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercloud/doc/personality-insights/overview.shtml

5th August 2015

1:11pm: "Trotsky, DON'T."

Audio only. Safe for work unless your workplace doesn't like email or revolutionary humor.

(h/t ER)
1:05pm: My friend JH says a guy he knows contends that the traffic light, and traffic obeying their signals, is a hallmark of civilization.


28th July 2015

10:53pm: I feel like I should do some sort of photo meme juxtaposing Donald Trump's and Boris Johnson's hair.

27th July 2015

1:07pm: Oliver Sacks had a beautiful piece in Friday's NYTimes.

12th July 2015

9:05am: I want to take this course. At "£162, including VAT, per person", I grant that it's more expensive than many flights, but it looks interesting and fun.

8th July 2015

1:05pm: From https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-stock-market-crash-punches-a-hole-in-xis-china-dream/2015/07/08/13d22e66-2579-11e5-b621-b55e495e9b78_story.html:
“It is remarkable to us how analysts and investors around the world who deeply believe in the laws of economics and free markets have tacitly bought into the idea of Chinese exceptionalism,” wrote Anne Stevenson-Yang, director of J Capital Research.
11:32am: There's so much to say about the ongoing stock market crash in China but I'm on the road so I can't really take time to post.

The very short story is that the market is crashing. The government is panicking because it unwisely tied its reputation to a rising market. It compounded its error by trying all kinds of measures to stop the fall--all of which have failed--which have damaged their reputation even more because it has made it clear that the authorities have no idea what they are doing.

Millions of people have lost money speculating in this market. Prices are falling so fast that most of the stocks traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges have had their trading suspended, either because their prices have fallen to their daily limits or because their companies have requested that their stocks be suspended. At the rate things are going, there won't be any stocks left to trade at all by the end of the week.

It's an amazing spectacle. The authorities look powerless and incompetent. Mostly it's something the Chinese government did to themselves. And it was all so predictable: it is the nature of market bubbles to burst even faster than they inflate.

5th July 2015

7:09pm: Will you look at that! The Greek people voted no.

Monday is going to be a very interesting day in the markets, and elsewhere.

3rd July 2015

10:44pm: This is nuts: China blames the shorts
Now that the Chinese are experiencing a market crash--sorry, correction--that we all expected, they are blaming short-sellers. You could have predicted that as well.

James Mackintosh:
Late on Thursday they announced an investigation into manipulation by short sellers, while the futures exchange seems to be discouraging people shorting, or betting on price falls.

In practical terms, the action failed: stocks fell again, leaving them down 12 per cent on the week and down more than a quarter from their peak three weeks ago, with extraordinary intra-day swings.

In principle, though, the action is just wrong. The reason the stock market is falling isn’t short sellers, it’s long sellers. More precisely, the hordes who’d been piling into stocks and pushing prices through the roof over the past year are selling, and that was entirely predictable (the difficult issue was when there would be a rout, not whether there would).


China’s authorities hope to avoid the 72 per cent fall they saw after their 2007 stock market bubble popped, coincidentally identical to the drop in the Nasdaq after the dotcom boom. As well as attacking short selling, they have cut rates and tried to ease the pressure on margin debt to allow yet more leverage to pile on top of what analysts say is probably already the most use of broker-supplied loans to buy stocks than ever before in recorded history. One of the barmiest rule changes was to allow brokers to accept pretty much anything from antiques to houses as collateral against loans; if the brokers were to take advantage of the rule change, customers could literally bet the house on shares going up. On top of that, on Friday the securities regulator confirmed it would slow the pace of IPOs, freeing up more cash to buy existing shares. If anyone wants to.

Ultimately the government has it in its power to turn the market round if it really wants to, since it can create unlimited money to buy shares, but so far there’s no sign that such uber-QE is under consideration.

China’s an authoritarian one-party state, so its efforts to bend the market to its will perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise. Western investors shouldn’t feel superior, though: Britain first banned short-selling in Bank of England stock just three years after the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street was set up in 1694, and short selling bans and probes have begun after plenty of the big market crashes since – including the post-Lehman collapse. It never did any good, and regulators and politicians never learnt the lesson: it’s almost never the shorts who cause the problem, but the longs who first drive prices way above reasonable levels, them rush to get out.
9:51pm: "You can't learn from history if you keep rewriting it!"

28th June 2015

5:45pm: Banks will not be opening in Greece on Monday morning.

If you didn't get your money out of Greek banks already, it's too late. Lisa Pollack of the FT tweeted two photos showing what happened when a friend tried first to withdraw €100, then went to another machine to try withdrawing €40.

From BBC coverage of the bank closure:
Greek banks are expected to stay shut until 7 July, two days after Greece's planned referendum on the terms it had been offered by international creditors for receiving fresh bailout money.

Greece's capital controls
  • A maximum of €60 (£42; $66) can be withdrawn from an account in one day

  • Overseas transfers of cash prohibited, except for vital, pre-approved commercial transactions.

23rd May 2015


A couple outside a polling station in Drogheda, north of Dublin, after voting in Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage on Friday. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian

From http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/22/irish-voters-travel-home-around-world-vote-same-sex-marriage:
Ireland is on course to become the first nation in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote, leaders on both sides of the historic referendum campaign said on Saturday.

Early tallies from open ballot boxes across the Irish Republic indicate a strong showing for the pro-same sex marriage proposition. The trend suggests that there will be at least a 2-1 majority for the yes side.

A huge yes vote from the republic’s electorate would mark another major milestone in Ireland’s journey from a Catholic church-dominated state to a more liberal, secular society.

30th April 2015

7:46am: I really want The Luggage.

I'm surprised no one has yet written a crossover where the TSA encounters The Luggage and hilarity ensues.

28th April 2015

7:35am: This is a nice piece on how one woman was judged based on her apparel choices. It's from a few months ago but it just crossed my inbox.

26th April 2015

9:43am: Nationalists at Westminster: Ireland and Scotland a century apart
This is a good paper. If you believe as I do that the lessons of Ireland can provide insight into the current politics about Scotland, give it a look. It gives a helpful overview of the history of both cases and an analysis of the situation in the run-up to the 2015 general election.* I read it as an attempt to slow the SNP's clear momentum in the polls, but written to provide information and history in its arguments. Even if you don't agree with the paper's contention that the SNP is only progressive inasmuch as it advances the nationalist cause, its suggested compromise of removing Scottish MPs from Westminster, and its conclusion that the SNP needs to keep its alliance options open in order to maximize its bargaining leverage, it's still worth a read, particularly for its capsule history of Irish nationalist representation at Westminster. ([profile] cerebralpaladin, I'm looking at you.)
One sure prediction about this election is that it will have a strong territorial dimension. Indeed, it is set to be the first UK election since 1910 in which territorial issues are crucial to the result. While MPs from Northern Ireland could come to play a key role in post-election negotiations, they are relatively few in number. This pamphlet therefore concentrates on the Scottish National Party (SNP), which looks likely to become the largest of the small parties after 7 May. Despite their rejection of independence in last year’s referendum, significantly more Scots are saying that they will vote nationalist in this general election than in the last one.more excerpts behind the cutCollapse )Amusing pull quote: "The SNP is an insurgent party but, unlike the new Greek government, it is not guided by a game theorist."

Britain's voters go to the polls a week from Thursday.

*Here I'll borrow some disclaimers Neal Ascherson includes in his piece in the Guardian (also worth reading) comparing Irish and Scottish nationalism at Westminster: "Any comparison with Ireland rouses alarm in Scotland, so here come the disclaimers: Scotland was never a colony settled by foreign conquerors; England did not control Scotland by fire and slaughter; Scotland has no Fenian tradition of conspiracy in the cause of independence; and, best of all, Scotland has no political Ulster."

Edited to fix link to Ascherson piece.

24th April 2015

8:58pm: I have a hole in the front of my yellow polo shirt. And I have been a bit concerned about it.

Then I looked in the mirror and discovered that no one can see it from the front, only from above.

The things you are concerned about yourself may not be the way others perceive you.

On the other hand, the holes along the shoulder seam of this shirt are obvious.
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