24 February, 2011

Plus....this really worries me

Since 2008 I've been thinking that the next big oil price spike could be the start of dramatic changes in the world... and now that next big spike is here.

It's not what's going to change that worries me so much as how fast it will change. Most people will be able to adapt if the change is slow.

Opec can take up the Libyan slack, of course, so is this spike artificial panic, or an actual spike? And does that really matter?

Systemic Lacunae

I am bucking my own trend, because I want to post a link that has nothing to do with what I want to say in the post.

I am posting that link -- a speech by Munger, a investment partner of Buffett's -- that offers a lot of good investing/life wisdom, stuff that I've learned too but that can't really be taught. But he's made a pretty good stab at it and it definitely deserves to be preserved. I've saved his speech in a Word doc called "Very good business advice.doc" that I'm going to try to remember to read and APPLY while I'm at business school.

But what I want to talk about is systemic lacunae, and relate it to the issues we face. Because a lot of people talk about all the problems in the world, and how to fix them, but it's difficult to fix a problem when you're not exactly sure what it is.

Today we live in system sets, within institutions, which are themselves systems. We are all systemised, institutionalised, we can't help it -- nor should we, necessarily. A lot of benefits have been brought to people because of instutions. I used to be vehemently anti-instutionalist. Now, I'm not. I'm much more objective these days.

But when people develop much faster than their systems and institutions... what then? Big gaps open up in the systems, and no longer meet the needs of the people -- they can fall through the metaphorical cracks.

Right now, there seems to be a lot of talk about how to fill these gaps, because a lot of our institutions are so big that it would required a very, very large amount of effort to change them, and their change would risk hurting the people that it should be helping.

So a lot of energy goes into filling these gaps. Rightly so. But people just keep on changing more, while their systems basically stay the same. So these lacunae get bigger and wider, and more issues and problems arise because of them. And so they require more energy to fill. And so on.

So, I'm thinking, if filling the gaps doesn't work, and changing the system doesn't work, what then? What are our other options?

I don't have any answers, but I believe we should start examining and thinking about what our options are.

23 February, 2011

What the US really thinks of Italy

Yet another reason to hate Berlusconi, as if he hasn't given you reason enough.

It's pretty sad that Berluska has been kissing up to GW Bush and Obama for all this time, and this is how far his ass kissing has gotten him. Exactly nowhere.

I feel sorry for Italians, but then again, I got a message on my FB wall a few weeks ago, after posting some Rubygate-type articles, from an Italian friend (not the brightest bulb in the world, but a fun guy) telling me to stop posting all this anti-Berluska nonsense, that he's only being criticised "because everyone is jealous of him", and that I should "relax".

I guess people get the government that they deserve. But I know a lot of good, smart, really really hardworking people in Italy, and they definitely do not deserve this clown.

If I had a little more flexibility in my life right now, I'd copy Garibaldi's march down the boot of Italy to Rome, and mobilise Italian people to get rid of Berlusconi. A smart leader would appeal to Italian's sense of nationalism, which has always been subordinated to their sense of regionalism, to change the leadership in Italy. Berlusconi (and the 2006 WC) has done a lot to boost a sense of pan-Italianism, so maybe that would work.

I can't remember if I posted it or not, but Montanelli's comment that Berlusconi's Italy is the worst Italy he has ever seen -- and that coming from a guy who lived through Mussonlini's regime, and who once was told off/complimented by Hitler (can't remember which, think the former).

I really miss Montanelli. Heck, I really miss Italy today. I'm glad that I left in 2004 though.

21 February, 2011

Free dialup internet access for Libyans - Spread the word

http://LeakSource.wordpress.com/ A Message from Anonymous: Free Internet for Libya Dial-Up: +494923197844321 User: telecomix Password: telexcomix 12 lines are available for Libyans only الإنترنت مجانا في ليبيا الطلب الهاتفي : +494923197844321 العضو : telecomix كلمة السر : telexcomix 12 خطوط المتاح

16 February, 2011

China Tech Ghengis Khan in the making

China china chinaaa ni hao ma wo hen hao ne ni bu ke chi wo ai ni xai jien gong xi fa choi wo mama se dai fu... and thus I have exhausted my Chinese.

I think it's time to learn it properly!!! I doubt I'll ever be able to learn Chinese as well as I know (knew) Italian, but it looks like a fun language so along with Spanish this year I want to improve my Mandarin.

Neither Google nor Facebook have been able to crack Chinese markets effectively on the same scale as they have in the ROW, so some powerful Chinese companies have done their own thing and now have enough cash to go shopping in the US. Fun!!! I wonder what Tencent's going to do with Riot Games, looks like a great combination!!! I wonder how much Riot Game's culture will change after the takeover. The Chinese would be smart if they left it alone, and set up a Chinese office of their own -- same technology, with some variations. Cool, if I had a few spare bucks I'd invest in these guys.

Xai Jien!

15 February, 2011

Three women to judge Berlusconi

Is this justice or vendetta? Cri and I are having a convo about it on FB right now....

Whatever shall become of our famed cabarettista??? OMG the day Italy gets rid of Berlusconi I will fly back and join in the celebrations.

I wonder how (un)popular Berlusca is with the Italians overseas? Do they care? Have they become so integrated with their new homelands that they couldn't care less what happens in Italian politics?

And the most important question... could they be mobilised to get rid of him? Hmmmm?

Hiybbprqag the Mountweazel

THIS is such a fantastic headline I had to post it here...

Lillian Virginia Mountweazel... great name, sticks out in your head, and if you're a bit of a bookweenie and curious, makes you wanna look it up elsewhere to see if her fate -- dead “at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine" -- is real or not...

"If Mountweazel is not a household name, even in fountain-designing or mailbox-photography circles, that is because she never existed. “It was an old tradition in encyclopedias to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright,” Richard Steins, who was one of the volume’s editors, said the other day. “If someone copied Lillian, then we’d know they’d stolen from us.”"

In an era of re-tweets and rapid exchange of ideas, of search engine battles and information wars, how can you tell if someone's copying you? Add a Mountweazel.

Circular momentum

I started to do a little job search today, to look at what kind of jobs I could get with an MBA in CSR and finance/marketing/whatever at a place like Google, and the job list at the Dot Com was a bit meh... but then I found the Dot Org, which is MUCH more interesting, and it's funny cuz the dot org led me to the SKoll, which I have been reading for ages now. And on the Skoll site, I found what I think could be my dream job. This is my dream job, just in case anyone at Skoll is reading and wants to make me an offer.... NOT I'm soooo unqualified, not yet.

The link above goes to a response to the WSJ article "The Case Against CSR", a response by Charles Cameron which I should have posted here last year.

Soooo.. w/r/t a job,

Translation Activisation Station

Activisation as in activism.... not a very good neologism though, just trying it on...

Google finished a really interesting programme in 2010 involving health care and volunteer translation called HealthSpeaks. It uses crowdsourced translations (still a bit iffy in my mind, especially in a field like health care, but hey) to make more healthcare information available in local languages where people wouldn't have much exposure or access to education in English, but do have internet access.

In other words, total coolness.

Woah, holy cow! Look what I found!

I must have really been living under a cave -- if you consider the EU a cave. Pretty nice cave they have over here, I must say.

Anyways, very glad to have discovered google.org, it is definitely a place I will be applying after I finish business school. They have all kinds of tech apps and ways to connect with other people interested in CSR and improving non-profits, such as the All for Good one I just added. They made it really easy to add to my blog -- MUCH easier than figuring out how tell the blog how to open links in a new page, very easy code I'm sure but where do they give you that option in the blog auto-bot?


13 February, 2011

Kudos to FT: Sustainable Finance Awards

I've always wondered about awards: why we give them to each other, why we place so much importance on them even when we know the voting's skewed, etc.

Business awards are a funny thing, and I don't know how much impact this will make, but it is undubitably a sign of the times.

The Financial Times and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today launched the FT/IFC Sustainable Finance Awards, a major global programme designed to recognise the institutions across the financial industry that have shown leadership and innovation in integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into their business.

The FT/IFC Sustainable Finance Awards evolve out of the FT Sustainable Banking Awards, which over five years established themselves as the world’s leading awards for banks and other institutions focused on sustainable development. The transformation of the Sustainable Banking Awards into the Sustainable Finance Awards reflects the major shifts that are taking place across the banking and investment community, which faces growing pressure to incorporate environmental, social and governance factors into all levels of decision-making, from risk management and product design to actual investing and financing.

Willful ignorance

I've been wanting to take a step back and think about why America is a laggard in the fight against climate change. I would posit a handful of explanations:

Psychological: The consequences of climate change are too awful to contemplate. Therefore, we're denying the issue, as we used to deny monsters in the room by hiding under the blanket. If you don't look at it, it can't look at you.

Economic: The costs of a large-scale effort to fight global warming are too steep to bear. Therefore, we're trying to ignore the issue, or pretending it doesn't exist, or we believe that the economy (including development) is more important.

The fact that Democrats are always hammering on about climate change and Republicans aren't suggests that this is a political issue, not a scientific one. This creates a feedback loop: if climate change were real, why is it so polarising? Because it's so polarising, it must be slightly suspicious.

Why should we believe in climate change? Where's the evidence? All we know is what scientists say, and scientists are sometimes wrong. And don't even get me started on Al Gore.

Metaphysical: God isn't going to let millions of people die in an epic drought.

I suspect the metaphysical denial is quite rare—but given the comparative religiosity of American culture and the stereotypes thereof, it gets a lot of air time. It is also the least valid of the reasons for denial (partly because in the given system, God obviously does let people die). The other explanations are more common. In the Rasmussen poll, for example, a plurality of respondents said that "there is a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth."

That last response in the poll is the most dangerous. Business leaders in the US should really fight the notion that you can't make money and save the environment. Untrue!!!

12 February, 2011

Carbon Negative sounds pretty good to me

I've been mulling ideas about corporations' involvement in projects that would normally be the domain of governments, regulation, de-regulation, what profit actually means, etc. and came across this site, which quotes:

“Expect companies who are serious about GENERATION G and the environment to quickly move from merely neutralizing and offsetting their undesirable eco-effects to actually boosting the environment by going the extra mile.”

How can consumers and gov'ts incentivate corporations to go that extra mile? Or should corporations be expected to just go there on their own? And how would these efforts be viewed by consumers who are skeptical and doubt the altruistic nature of the corporations?

More questions: how can companies whose reputations have been tarnished by past misdeeds regain the trust of its consumers and potential employees?

Cape Town Sandbag house

This site -- Bridge of Love -- is a bit hokey, but it's Green Tips page is pretty good, and scroll down and you will find pics and details of a house built in Cape Town entirely out of sandbags.

Sand is something there is LOTS of in CT, and apparantly it is ok with the city's building regulations to build relatively complex houses out of sand in sandbags. It doesn't get mouldy, and the sandbags supposedly last 500+ years so they won't disintegrate any time soon.

The idea for the build is credited to www.ecobeam.co.za, which will not currently load on my browser grrr...

I hate Scientology

Kudos for Paul Haggis and Jason Beghe and others for opting out despite being relatively "successful" Scientologists, and for speaking out about this cult.

Good article by the New Yorker, as usual. I love them, but their comics stink. Kidding, not really.

09 February, 2011

Pretty good Vanity Fair article about the Irish financial crisis

I remember when the crisis hit Dublin. In the space of a week, a flurry of for rent and for sale signs went up on properties along Dame Street, businesses closed, and my hopes of getting a job in Ireland after I graduated evaporated.

Funny how Michael Lewis mentions the property developers. When I came to Dublin in 2004, the first house I rented with my then-boyfriend was from a terribly stuck-up, pompous nouveau-riche type with his own real estate company (basically him and his wife, and a timid bird of a receptionish), which though I didn't know it at the time was a great indication of what the rest of Dublin society was like. Real estate dealers and property developers quickly became synonymous with brainless asshole in my view.

08 February, 2011

Jules Verne Day!

I've felt bombarded with events in the past few days, and found so many interesting links that I stopped posting here so much, but I think this simple url deserves a quick post today! I thought it was cool how Google gave Jules Verne his own day, especially since France gave him a whole year on the centennary of his death in 2005. It made me think about how much influence a writer can have on the imaginations of scientists, and how it's often the imagination of writers whose ideas become real, by inspiring the goals of young people who grow up to be engineers. I'm glad I'm a writer. I hope one day I can overcome my challenges and really learn to express myself fully in writing, and write lovely, crazy sci-fi and adventure books.

06 February, 2011

Coral in Sudan dying off at record speed

I remember the first time I went diving in the Red Sea, the fantastic colours, the flashing fishscales, the movement of the water.

I'd better get back there soon or there won't be any more coral or fish left. Coral is such a delicate species that I really doubt that it will still be around in a decade.