Monday, October 18, 2010

Ineptness as Art Form


BRT has commented on the financial mess we are in MANY times, the most recent of which was the post titled Tomfoolery. An addendum must be added as James Kunstler's brilliant article, The Surrealistic Vista details why the foreclosure debacle is even worse than you can possibly imagine.

The US real estate racket was already in enough trouble with the collapse of bubble pricing and then the consequent effect on untold tons of mortgage-backed securities and derivatives of them buried in the vaults of banks, insurance companies, municipal investment accounts, pension funds, and other repositories of trust. It certainly has been known for years that the value of these clever instruments is somewhere south of where they represent themselves to be - but since the crash of 2008 accounting legerdemain kept a lid on that putrid stew. The new wave of mortgage and title fraud now threatens to drive their value down to zero, that is, quite a bit lower than even the previous worst-feared estimates of mark-to-market apocalypse.

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects." 
— Herman Melville 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ant & the Grasshopper


We are lousy stewards of the planet. We pollute, we take and we plunder and nature is beginning to fight back. If we don't change our ways, our hegemony on planet earth is over. BRT has talked about this quite often as climate change is the 900 lb. gorilla looming ever larger even though we continue to believe it's a hollow threat that "really doesn't matter" if we close our eyes and pretend it's not there,

Half the tropical forests in the world – the lungs of our ecosystems – are gone; by 2030, at the current rate of harvest, only 10% will be left standing. Ninety percent of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise “there is no blue frontier left.” Half the world’s wetlands – the kidneys of our ecosystems – were destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate one thousand times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a “biodiversity deficit” in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.

When this is combined with James Lovelock's dark view, it may be too late to make a difference.

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.




I, for one, hope he's wrong hut his take on a catastrophic event like the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet acting as wake up call is spot on.


World's largest ice sheet melting faster than expected: East Antarctic sheet shedding 57bn tonnes of ice a year and contributing to sea level rises, according to Nasa aerial survey.


The Ant & The Grasshopper sounds pretty apropos if you ask me.

The Land of Stupid


This diagram shows the physical harm pot does to the human body. Note that cigarettes and booze rank higher along with speed, coke, heroin and meth, facts the government conveniently ignores when it comes to CA possibly legalizing the drug, something that should have been done years ago. As a matter of note, Marijuana has been smoked for over 10,000 years. 

The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug.

I have a better suggestion for Holder and his crew, go after the Wall Street banks, you know, the bastards that ripped us off for billions while putting together shady investment deals (Credit Default Swaps, Derivatives etc, etc,)  that blew up when the housing market crashed. At least it would show he is actually doing something of value instead of vainly trying to change the fact pot is basically legal in CA no matter whether the initiative passes or not on Nov 2.

End of Rant

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Told You So

Back in 2007, BRT talked about a new Google mobile OS called Android. Seems the prediction regarding the mantra that Open Source rules, appears, in this case, to be spot on.




Message in a Bottle


I have been fascinated by quantum computers for years, not for secure communications or radically fast number crunching via true parallel processing, but rather by the potential of capturing reality in ways unimagined by any other system known to man. Key to making this happen is the ability to stop, store and manipulate light (i.e. quantum memory) in real time, something thought not possible to achieve, in a practical sense, until now.

"Light entering the crystal is slowed all the way to a stop, where it remains until we let it go again," explains lead researcher Morgan Hedges. "When we do let it go, we get out essentially everything that went in as a three-dimensional hologram, accurate right down to the last photon.

While reading this, one sees how John Wheeler's brilliant concept of It From Bit applies with the notion  information may be the driving engine of existence. (Boltzmann deserves mention here as well.)

What is reality, then? Wheeler answers his own question with the koanlike phrase "it from bit." Wheeler explains the phrase as follows: "Every 'it'—every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits."


When added to Seth Lloyd's interpretation, the conversation about reality and quantum computing becomes rather interesting.

  "And what is the entire universe computing, ultimately? “Its own dynamical evolution,” he says. “As the computation proceeds, reality unfolds."

IMHO, man is getting closer to building a reality engine theoretically able to recreate existence in ways akin to the Matrix, a most exciting yet unsettling prospect when viewed against a world filled with violence, intolerance, ignorance and greed.

As for the Message in a Bottle, bit, read below to see if the song applies. To me, in a strange way, it does.

Dr Sellars' team has previously performed an experiment that 'stopped' light in a crystal for over a second, more than 1,000 times longer than was previously possible. He said that the team is now bringing together systems that combine the high efficiency with storage times of hours.


Addendum: The computing part of QC took a big step as solid state error correction now works as seen by research being done at Yale and USCB.



"Light entering the crystal is slowed all the way to a stop, where it In this new study, the team was able to achieve an entangled state by placing the three qubits in a superposition of two possibilities -- all three were either in the 0 state or the 1 state. They were able to attain this entangled state 88 percent of the time.


With the particular entangled state the team achieved, they also demonstrated for the first time the encoding of quantum information from a single qubit into three qubits using a so-called repetition code. "This is the first step towards quantum error correction, which, as in a classical computer, uses the extra qubits to allow the computer to operate correctly even in the presence of occasional errors," Girvin said.




Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Darkness, Darkness

Darkness, Darknessthe start point for The Youngbloods' elegiac album, Elephant Mountain, stays in your mind forever but, as per usual in BRT, this brief tome is not about music but rather about perception and how reality is dark and for good reason.


Researchers looked at the physiology of the retinal ganglion cells whose job it is to respond to a dark spot on a brighter background, simply called off cells, wondering why the brain would have clusters of off cells and not an even distribution across the retina. In addition to being more numerous and branching together in dense, bushy clusters, they also have smaller dendritic fields than the cells responsible for seeing light spots. By branching together more densely in clusters, they collect more synapses per visual angle. Thus, researchers concluded that the retina devotes more resources to processing dark contrasts, a natural capability reflected in the fact that there is more dark information in the world around us.


Researchers tested the hypothesis by measuring the spatial contrasts in natural images and quantifying the distribution of lightness and darkness. At all scales, the authors found that natural images contain relatively more dark contrasts than light.

In reading this, it makes eminent sense because  The Second Law of Thermodynamics states, in essence, that heat can never flow from a cold body to a warmer one, thus explaining why reality is mostly dark and entities like us must adapt to this inescapable fact or die.

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.” - Niels Bohr

Monday, October 04, 2010

Tomfoolery



It's been a while since posting anything of interest but one has to work to survive and something had to give but now, most of the insanity is finally behind me so I can again concentrate on the ongoing insanity we call finance and how it relates to the notion of tomfoolery. To whit...



The flawed practices that GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have recently begun investigating are so prevalent, lawyers and legal experts say, that additional lenders and loan servicers are likely to halt foreclosure proceedings and may have to reconsider past evictions.


Problems emerging in courts across the nation are varied but all involve documents that must be submitted before foreclosures can proceed legally. Homeowners, lawyers and analysts have been citing such problems for the last few years, but it appears to have reached such intensity recently that banks are beginning to re-examine whether all of the foreclosure papers were prepared properly.


In some cases, documents have been signed by employees who say they have not verified crucial information like amounts owed by borrowers. Other problems involve questionable legal notarization of documents, in which, for example, the notarizations predate the actual preparation of documents — suggesting that signatures were never actually reviewed by a notary.


Other problems occurred when notarizations took place so far from where the documents were signed that it was highly unlikely that the notaries witnessed the signings, as the law requires.


On still other important documents, a single official’s name is signed in such radically different ways that some appear to be forgeries. Additional problems have emerged when multiple banks have all argued that they have the right to foreclose on the same property, a result of a murky trail of documentation and ownership.

In looking at this sad and incompetent trail of greed perpetrated by the banks, one sees how dangerous and addictive tech can be with its unique ability to transform seemingly simple financial transactions of buying and selling houses (or doing foreclosures) into abstruse financial instruments (Credit Default Swaps, Derivatives etc., etc., etc.) able to be sold without the need for "real" verification as long as the housing boom went on and people could "trade up" to cover mortgage costs but when the market went south and foreclosures reared it's ugly head, verification became a very big deal, thus creating a fubar of historic proportions, a concept totally alien to the Darwinian world of tech where it either works or it dies and no one is too big to fail.

But tomfoolery also exists in the tech world as well with Oracle suing Google for clean room rewriting of Java and Paul Allen suing Apple and Google, along with significant others, for violating patents covering virtually all the ways people access the web even though Interval Research, the company Allen ran, went out of business over 10 years ago.

"A firm owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed a lawsuit against Google, Apple, Facebook, and other companies alleging that they have violated patents related to search, multimedia, screen pop-ups, and database management.


Interval Licensing filed the patent lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington. The companies named in the lawsuit are AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube.


Interval Licensing holds patents of Interval Research, the now-defunct company founded by Allen and David Liddle in 1992 to research information systems, communications and computer science. The patents in the lawsuit cover fundamental Web technologies first developed at Interval Research in the 1990s, Interval said in a press release.


The patents covered by the lawsuit are:


U.S. Patent No. 6,263,507, for "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data."
U.S. Patent No. 6,034,652, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."
U.S. Patent No. 6,788,314, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."
U.S. Patent No. 6,757,682, for "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest.

In looking at the merits of the case, from the perspective of a non lawyer, thank god, it would appear one could question what the role of an attention manager may be. Does an attention manager consist of a horn blast, a peep or a whisper or could it be a graphic, text or video image vying for one's attention and how does the attention manager work? Is it the entire browser or a subset or would it be a connect to an app working with the browser. In any event, it's surprising that the patents shown here appear not to be technically well defined even though Allen was a programmer by profession and should know better but one never knows, do one?

If by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot. - Samuel Beckett


Oh, I forgot, Microsoft (and Apple) are suing Motorola (and Google) because of their success in the smart phone business, something MS assumed would not amount to much as they tried to maintain their hold on the desktop while the world went online.


In the end, litigators rarely win anything of merit. Go ask Ashton Tate to see why .