09 November, 2016

Scattergraph, or May You Live In Interesting Times

Statistics are an interesting enigma to me. Not so much they themselves, as a study. That part isn't really an enigma. It's wonderfully and most gorgeously concrete, that part at least.


The enigmatic part is the human relationship with statistics. How we use them and abuse them; how we perceive them under disparate circumstances; how different people perceive the various statistics and give weight to them according to the different circumstances; how our behaviours change according to the various statistics that we are given, and under what circumstances we have been given said statistics; etc. etc. ad nauseam et infinitam, blarg; and all this to say that what we as a species do with numbers is absolutely hilarious, ridiculous, heart-breaking, and inspiring.

I'm both impressed and disgusted with us, guys. So weird. But overall, I am learning how our behaviours as a species change over time, and I'm starting to appreciate how lucky I am that I can change and learn so fast. Okay, so I'm a bit of a mutant, so what? Doesn't make me any better or special, and I'm not going to be able to help humanity unless I stop my habit of scattergraphing a series of stochastic behavioural reactions to equally random interactions on a daily basis just to see what sticks and what doesn't. What appears to stick and to not stick, I should say. Ugh, just when I think I've gotten pretty good at perceiving the most minute details about people -- tiny changes in appearance being particularly obvious -- I think I'm getting good at separating the actual words coming out of their mouths from what they are thinking, thus interpreting their true reactions... but nope. I think I'm far from the only person not to be able to do that though, aspie or no aspie.

People's reactions to me however I can control -- whether I tell jokes, act robotically, telegraph my location, or remain unseen -- and people always appreciate help in one way or another, it's obvious that humanity needs it. The key is learning who to help, when to help, how to help, in what measure, and in what order. Specifics that work for me.

Funny thing is (it's actually hilarious if you like irony), I can use statistics to type a bunch of numbers and letters into a machine (that is in turn conjured into existence thanks to a bunch of numbers and letters) that will in turn allow me to be able to discern who to help, when to do so, how to do so, in what measure, and in what order. The order part I don't particularly like; but short of completely burning down the fabric of society, I can't really have influence or change present social relationships and dynamics, so I have to work with legacy architecture. That's ok. We can put set numbers to that.

So. I could help the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time by effectively tetrising existing technology into people's daily lives, and you can do that by observing their habits and their levels of consistency, amongst other things. The trick is to make a tool that will make the change in people's lives pleasant in some way; make the benefits noticeable and obvious; and to reward the use of said tool. We are all a bit pavlovian, I guess. So the benefits of the change have to be almost instantaneous, whereas the change itself has to be extremely gradual; and it has to use statistics of some sort for it to be convincing and accepted as beneficial before the change actually occurs.


10 June, 2016

Who the hell are you people??????

All of the sudden, people are reading my blog. This thing has been dormant for absolutely ages. Who is reading this, and why?? I'm a pretty boring person -- at least, I think I am. Whelp, I don't know why you are here, but please post comments. Years ago, my comments box got invaded by a bunch of Chinese people. Very weird, and initially I thought they were spamming for internet points or invisible monetary reasons, but I found out later that that was not the case. Even experienced minor Chinese internet celebrity for a while, much to my total ignorance and mild amazement. Yes, that was an intentional oxymoron. Don't know who you are, but you're probably not in China right now. You're probably the summer interns at my work. And if so, please be aware of the kind of behaviour that is and is not appreciated by the EAs on the trading floor. If you're not sure about what that might be, just ask someone. Always better to ask first -- never, ever be embarrassed to ask questions. And please, for the love of everything that is good in the world, don't use fricking Verdana as a font; it is the least ecologically sound font around, and THANK GOD it is no longer our official font. Trebuchet, all the way. And find out what a trebuchet actually is. And to the person who dumped a tampon into the toilet today: I am on to you. Don't do it again. Ever. Read the sign that I posted in the loos. Because I will pull a Samuel L. Jackson on you if you do it again.

On a more positive note, I think that there is tons of potential amongst the group of interns that we currently have, and am looking forward to seeing some of you on a permanent basis! God knows we need more young people. If you're smart, you'll learn how to use all MS Office applications like the backs of your hands, and will continue being the polite, communicable, honest, confident, and team-worthy people that you ostensibly are. Keep up the good work.

26 May, 2016

When I die

Sooner or later, it will happen, despite all my lucky stars, despite my luck at cards, despite having pulled out my own innards. I still have trouble believing that I am still alive. I've died about twenty times a day, for about 30 years, but I'm still here.

I want my epitaph to read WATCH THIS SPACE.

12 July, 2015

Ελλάδα κρίση

Almost every single media narrative in North America for the economic crisis in Greece gives a rather simplistic story: the government spent too much money and went broke; the generous banks gave them money, but Greece still can’t pay the bills because it mismanaged the money that was given. It sounds quite reasonable, right? Those "lazy" Greeks! Those "reliable" Germans! This story has the added bonus of feeding into pre-conceived notions about south and north European nations. How convenient.

This is obviously a lot of nonesense and manipulation, not only about Greece, but about other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland who are all experiencing various degrees of austerity. It was also the same lie that was used by banks and corporations to exploit many Latin American, Asian and African countries for many decades.

Greece did not fail on its own. It was made to fail.

In summary, the banks wrecked the Greek government and deliberately pushed it into unsustainable debt so that oligarchs and international corporations could profit from the ensuing chaos and misery. Does this seem like an emotional argument? Let's look at the facts.

Since people seem to like simplification, let's take a mafia analogy. There is truly little difference in the business performed by organized crime, and that performed by international finance. Look at how the mafia would take over a popular restaurant. First, they would do something to disrupt the business – stage a murder at the restaurant, or start a fire -- maybe rob the place themselves, if they thought they couldn't get caught. When the business starts to suffer, the Don would generously offer some money as a token of friendship. In return, Salvatore the Snake takes over the restaurant’s accounting, Luca Five Fingers is put in charge of procurement, etc. ad nauseam. Needless to say, it’s a journey down a spiral of misery for the owner who will soon be broke and, if lucky, alive.

Now, let’s map the mafia story to international finance in four stages. Again, simplistic, but I see little essential difference between the two. The predatory capitalism that is so revered in our societies is just that, whether the business be legal or illegal.

Stage 1: The first and foremost reason that Greece got into trouble was the “Great Financial Crisis” of 2008 that was orchestrated by international bankers. If you remember, banks came up with an awesome idea of giving subprime mortgages and other dubious debt instruments to anyone with a heartbeat. They then packaged up all these ticking financial bombs and sold them as “mortgage-backed securities” at a huge profit to various financial entities in countries around the world.

A big enabler of this criminal activity was another branch of the banking system, the group of rating agencies – S&P, Fitch and Moody’s – who gave extremely high ratings to these destined-to-fail financial products.

Unscrupulous politicians such as Tony Blair got paid by large-scale international banks to peddle these dangerous securities to pension funds and municipalities and countries around Europe. They knew that they were selling dangerous products to those who could least afford to lose: but people trusted them because they were supposedly the "experts", and people -- especially the Boomer generation -- had long been conditioned to believe said "experts", in the financial, medical and scientific fields. Banks and Wall Street gurus made hundreds of billions of dollars in this scheme.

But this was just Stage 1 of their enormous scam.

Stage 2 is when the financial time bombs exploded. Commercial and investment banks around the world started collapsing in a matter of weeks. Governments at local and regional level saw their investments and assets evaporate. I was trying to survive in Ireland at the time, but the change in Dublin was nothing short of shocking.

Vultures like Goldman Sachs and other big banks profited enormously in three ways: one, they could buy other banks such as Lehman brothers, Bear Sterns and Washington Mutual for pennies on the dollar. Second, more heinously, Goldman Sachs and insiders such as John Paulson (who recently donated $400 million to Harvard, money that he basically stole, like a reverse Robin Hood) committed fraud in that he had made bets that these securities would fail.

Of course, since he had known about the shitty products that he sold as gilded manna in collusion with S&P and others, Paulson made billions, and the media celebrated his perspicacious acumen. Third, to scrub salt in the wound, the SIFIs (the "too big to fail" banks, which were sanitized into "Systemically Important Financial Institutions" -- Orwelllian doublespeak if ever I've heard it) demanded a bailout from the very citizens whose lives the bankers had ruined. In the U.S., they got hundreds of billions of dollars from the taxpayers and trillions of dollars from the Fed, which is revealing itself more and more to be nothing but a front group for corporate banking oligarchs like the Paulsons, in collusion with the so-called upholder of justice, Eric Holder .

In Greece, the domestic banks got more than $30 billion of bailout from the Greek people, which the home banks had to pay on to the international banks as repayment for "debt". The supposedly "irresponsible" Greek government had to bail out these vampirical bankers.

Stage 3 is when the banks forced the government to accept massive debts. In order to weaken the Greek economy, they did what had worked so well in the past, which was to downgrade the bonds of a country -- since the S&P and other so-called "objective" institutions that people trusted basically did what they were told. And that’s exactly what the bankers did, starting at the end of 2009. This immediately makes the yields on the bonds go up, making it more and more expensive for the country to borrow money or even just roll over the existing bonds.

From 2009 to mid-2010, 10Y Greek bond yields almost tripled. This financial assault brought the Greek government to its knees, and Goldman Sachs and its partners won their first debt deal of E110 billion.

Then, in 2011, when the Greek prime minister refused to accept a second massive bailout, the banking consortium forced him out of the office and immediately replaced him with the Vice President of ECB (European Central Bank). What the hell. Can you imagine Credit Suisse or Credit Lyonnais forcing out Joe Oliver because Canada was endebted to the Suisse National Bank or the ECB? No elections needed. Screw democracy. And what would this new guy do? Sign without discussion every single document that banking consortium placed in front of him. Nice.

By the way, the very next day, the exact same thing happened in Italy where the Prime Minister resigned (it was Berlusconi so no great loss), only to be replaced by a banker/economist puppet, Mario Monti. Ten days later, Spain had a premature election where another banker puppet won the election.

The banking consortium(s) had the best month ever in November 2011.

A few short months later, in 2012, the exact bond market manipulation was used when the bankers turned up the Greek bonds’ yields to 50%!!! This financial terrorism immediately had the desired effect: The Greek parliament agreed to a second massive bailout, even larger than the first one.

Now, here is another fact that most people don’t understand. The loans are not just simple loans like you would get from a credit card or a bank. These are loans come with very special strings attached that demand privatization of a country’s assets. Remember Godfather III? Remember Hyman Roth, the investor who was carving up Cuba among his friends? Compared Hyman Roth with Goldman Sachs or IMF (International Monetary Fund) or ECB, and there isn't that much essential difference.

Stage 4:
Now, the humiliation of a nation began under the name of “austerity” or “structural reforms.” To service the debt that was forced upon it, Greece had to sell many of its profitable assets to oligarchs and international corporations. And privatizations are ruthless, involving everything and anything that is profitable. This wave of Greek privatization included water (the country is very dry), electricity, post offices, airport services, national banks, telecommunication,port authorities (which is huge in a country that is a world leader in shipping, and why shipping is no longer of actual importance to the economy of the Greek people -- they can no longer profit from it anyways) etc.

Of course, the ever-manipulative bankers always demand immediate privatization of all mediawhich means that the country gets photogenic TV anchors who spew establishment propaganda every day and tell the people that crooked and greedy banksters are saviors; and slavery under austerity is so much better than the alternative. Fortunately, "those lazy Greeks" are also bloody smart, and very few of them actually drink the Koolaid forced upon them. Unlike most North Americans, who seem to drink it up as if it were ambrosia, something I'll never understand.

In addition to that, the bankers also get to dictate every single line item in the government’s budget. Want to cut military spending? NO! Want to raise tax on the oligarchs or big corporations? NO! Such micro-management is non-existent in any other creditor-debtor relationship.

So what happens after privatization and despotism under bankers? Of course, the government’s revenue goes down and the debt increases further. How do you “fix” that? Of course, cut spending! Lay off public workers, cut minimum wage, cut pensions (same as our social security), cut public services, and raise taxes on things that would affect the 99% but not the 1%. For example, pension has been cut in half and sales tax increase to more than 20%. All these measures have resulted in Greece going through a financial calamity that is worse than the Great Depression of the U.S. in the 1930s.

After all this, what is the solution proposed by the heartless bankers? Higher taxes! More cuts to the pension! It takes a special kind of a psychopath to put a country through austerity, an economic holocaust. And yet... PEOPLE IN CANADA ACTUALLY THINK THAT THE GREEKS ARE JUST LAZY AND SHOULD REPAY THEIR DEBTS!!! GREEK CANADIANS EVEN THINK THIS!!!!! It's nothing short of tragic.

To make it worse, it's what Harper is trying to do in Canada as well. Erode the healthcare system and privatize "inefficient" public services, ostensibly to make them more "efficient"; but in reality, profit is the clear motive. Make CanPost more profitable,privatize it! But profitable for whom? For Harper, the Canadian oligarchic families, et. al.

If every Greek person had known the truth about austerity, they wouldn’t have fallen for this. Same goes for Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and other countries going through austerity measures. The sad aspect of all this is that these are not unique strategies. Since World War II, these predatory practices have been used countless times by the IMF and the World Bank in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Which is why I have ZERO respect for these types of institutions. All they've served to do is propagate the particular brand of "capitalism" that continues to skew this world into Koyaanisqatsi. This is a world out of balance.

This is the essence of the new world order that is propagated by the likes of Harper, Clinton, Trudeau, Obama, Berlusconi, Cameron, and many others — a world owned by a handful of corporations and banks; a world that is full of obedient, powerless debt serfs.

So yeah, that's why I am glad Greece gave a great big middle finger and voted no. I really wish people here in Canada and the US would start waking up soon, too, but media have too pervasive a grip on public opinion, and people still generally have it too easy here, despite massive erosions in health because of the government-sanctioned reduced quality of the food supply. Keep people weak and they can't revolt. If we could get the Gen Y and Millennials to stop being sidelined from the distraction-oriented entertainment complex and pay attention to the fact that they are being robbed of their health, their futures and their planet, maybe that would make a difference.


NB This post is edited and contains similar ideas to a post that I read last week at some point, but can no longer find the source. If you are the source, please let me know and I'll credit you.

06 July, 2015

Varoufakis is the closest thing to a hero I have

This article in today's Gardo pretty much says it all.

"He is a man who walks like he talks, and that talk is open. This is so unlike the secretive deals usually made in airless rooms in Brussels. Here is a politician acting on his beliefs. He will be remembered not for his style, but for his substance. He faced down the automatons by insisting the Greek people should no longer be punished. And his people were with him. He refused the Eurocrats’ parameters and secrecy. He spoke with decency, and not in code. He is not afraid of the word “collective”."

Love that guy. AND he rides a motorbike!! Nuff said.

Congratulations, Greece, for choosing the short term pain/long term gain option. Back to the Drachma, or forward to the Bitcoin if you really want to be ahead of the game! Rev up tourism and exports, neglecting your shipping, and you'll be find. Cheap vacays in Greece again, whoot!

22 October, 2014

Fall already, motorcycle riding and driving in Toronto

What happened to the summer? Where did it go? I think ebola, ISIS and the US Republican Party ate it.

This summer went WAY too fast, but I made some progress in life so it was relatively fruitful and fulfilling. I am WAY more confident riding my motorbike, Gunilla, in Toronto traffic, despite the fact that people aren't as used to motorbike riders over here and the fact that everyone drives in the style of whatever country they're from, resulting in total schizophrenia on the roads. In Italy, I'd be able to see patterns in traffic chaos because everyone drove relatively consistently, and everyone over there drives manual shift.

In Toronto, it's more difficult to predict who will be the asshole on the road, who will be looking out for others, who will be texting, etc. But this is compensated by wider roads and more space for bikes to go. Unfortunately, the bicycle riders are _extremely_ jealous of their hard-won bike lanes, and get extremely possessive and territorial when you ride a motorized vehicle in "their" bike lines. One guy went so far as to try to film me with his phone while riding his bike. It was funny seeing him yelling at me about safety when he looked like he was about to fall off his bike trying to film me.

This summer I showed a dramatic increase in my self-confidence with my bike on Toronto roads. I stopped trying to obey all the Canadian rules and just started riding like I used to in Italy, and thus far I've gotten a few parking infractions, but that's it. I admit to speeding a lot, but who the heck goes 90km/h on the Gardiner? I admit, however, I have to stop using the west Lakeshore and DVP as my own personal racing circuits. In case there are cops reading, I DIDN'T DO THIS, but going 170km/h on the portion of the Lakeshore that's used as the Indy track IS NOT A SMART THING TO DO. Although I suppose it would be really, really fun. If you're into that kind of thing. If, lol.

I also finally got my full Canadian driver's license, at long last. I had one for years in Italy, but lost it and couldn't get it back because I was no longer a resident of Italy, so I've been living without for the past three years. It's admittedly been driving me a bit crazy (get it??? argh, sorry) not having a car, but now I can buy one! I think I'm going to go with Zipcar for a year and see how much I really use a car here in T.O.

I almost bought a 2014 MV Agusta Brutale that an Italian guy here was selling. It has been my dream bike ever since I saw one for the first time at the Moto Show in Bologna in the 90s. It was white and gold, my colours, beautiful. I'll upload a pic of me on it. Fricking amazing bike. But I found out that if I keep a vehicle for 2+ years, my insurance goes way down, and I'd have to sell Gunny because I can't keep two bikes because my ex-boyf who very kindly lets me store bikes in his garage for the winter just bought ANOTHER bike (he now has 6, 4 of which are functional), so he doesn't have room for two of mine. So I'm keeping Gunny until next year, and if I don't buy a car next year and just go with the Zipcar, I'll see who has the Brutale next summer, and buy it then.

07 August, 2014

A New Dawn -- First Swim in the Lake

Life here in Toronto has been pretty interesting this summer. Never a dull moment, and the weather's been pretty good, if a tad on the chilly side. I've been learning SOOOOO much about society and people and myself. It's been great zipping around town on Gunilla, my motorcycle. The looks that I get from guys are hilarious!!! The jealous women are really funny when they try to hide it. I've been cleaning up my new neighbourhood in a soft, yet threatening way, and the police are starting to pay attention also because there was a stabbing a few days ago. That's gotta stop. Today I went for my first swim in Lake Ontario in ages, and it was a tad cold, but the water was very soft and it felt niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.