Friday, January 28, 2005

The 'Innate Differences Between Men and Women' a la Lawrence Summer

Here is a weird article about studies to decipher from just where in our genes do the differences originate. ( I keep watching thes articles hoping to defend how Lawrence Summers was misunderstood. Get it? he was misunderstood; he didn't mean women were less intelligent.)

The main gist of the piece is how gene study can help to give us a closer picture on how the genes choose directions making up our abilities in mathematics or or science.

What struck me in this article (or here) was this paragraph:

  • "Yet while the genes for Huntington's disease and height were easy to isolate, the genetic basis for many other characteristics and diseases is not. Researchers have been unable to pinpoint a gene for homosexuality or alcoholism.. "
When I first read it I thought the reporter had said that homosexuality was a disease. Am I right that it still does imply something close to that? Hmm. And would gay men be pleased that their genes have a certain characteristic that 'made' (sic) them gay? I would wager that the FT will be getting a few letters here.

Another disturbing quote:
  • "One possible avenue of research is through the small group of people who were born male, but with such small penises that doctors in the 1970s and 1980s decided to turn them into females shortly after birth. Because the boys were raised as girls, social conditioning was taken out of the equation."
Considering my size, I wonder how close I came to being a girl. hee hee.

BBC Coverage Censured

I have my favorite news stations and favorite newspapers; BBC TV news and the Financial Times newspaper. Both English, don't you know.

But as with most news media, there is something like bias and in my opinion more importantly, poor practices that I believe go unnoticed. In this FT article (or here) you can read how they are censured publicly, and, well surprisingly, by their own "independent panel commissioned by the corporation's governors " for "ignorance, stereotyping and unintentional bias" but stopping well short of systematic bias.

My experience, which I believe can be replayed throughout the world is this. When I was in Belgrade, about a year after Milosevic was deposed and only 4 months after he was flown out, I began to notice how what was reported on the BBC was just a bit off kilter - and indeed occasionally the complete opposite - to what was really going on locally. For example, the strength and support for Mr. Kostunica was at times, heavily overplayed by the BBC when there was indeed a fairly decent support from the rural and common man in Serbia. But on the street, especially in Belgrade, Kostunica was a strong nationalist. Sure he wasn't as fervent as the candidate and party who inherited the Milosevic power base, but he was definitely a vocal opponent to many of the demands made by the Western countries regarding reforms, extradition of war criminals and even on Kosovo.

But this was never received airplay. Of course one might say I was heavily on the side of the late Prime Minister Djindic whose reforms worked in my favor as an investment banker. But Kostunica was presented by the BBC as the moral antithesis to Milosevic and the guiding light to a brighter future of Serbia. Was it oversimplification alone? Or was it that the story came about when some anecdotal information made its way to London by local correspondents in Belgrade and then some geopolitical expert at the top of the BBC food chain decided to present what he or she feels is what is going on there. And then this story is 'fed' back to the local correspondent to concoct into a story for air.

I seriously believe this is the method of origin for many stories. As a result I consider each and every time I watch the BBC present a story from emerging Europe: are they spinning something like what I saw in Serbia?

Another case that comes to mind happened only a few days ago. The 4 Britons released from Guantanamo (sp?) were coming home. On the TV news their histories were presented briefly something like this: Mr. A was caught learning to make bombs in Pakistan, Mr B. had met Osama Bin Laden at a training camp, Mr. C was involved with raising money for terrorist cells, etc. But on the website, the very next day, none of this was mentioned. Mr. A's capacity as a computer engineer, Mr. B's family ties and being a religious activist, and Mr. C's love of travelling were mentioned. Also, their was more focus on two other individuals that didn't have citizenship in the UK for whom the English reportedly did not lobby strenuously enough (My details may be a bit off, but I swear I captured the spirit of the presentation. )

A good explanation is simply that someone in a before-we-go-to-print/air meeting says, 'our take on this should be how the yanks got it terribly wrong for imprisoning four nice boys, right luv? Play down the being at the wrong place at the wrong time angle. And not a whiff of any bomb making, if you please!' Keep it in mind.

But I still like the BBC more than CNN.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Ted Turner "lost his mind".

Noticed this DRUDGE REPORT FLASH about Ted Turner accusing FOX of being the propaganda arm of Bush, and in -to be honest - a humourous vein that this station is using tactics similar to Hitler.

I don't get FOX news over here, relying on BBC and CNN for my international news. I have heard that it is a bit gung ho, sure. But come on folks, why don't the complaints about CNN get the same treatment. There are surely more cases of liberal bias there. (And while I watch CNN and BBC, and like BBC more, I still have some harsh criticism for their coverage policies).

But, what I did like was the comment from the FOX spokesman : " "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind -- we wish him well." "

Rolling Stone decides to accept Bible ad

Two things struck me as odd in this article about Rolling stone hesitantly accepting and advert for an edition of a "new Bible translation aimed at young people".

First, the way in which the Rolling Stone responded in mega-corporate legal like wording saying that the company, (not "the magazine") had: "addressed the internal miscommunications that led to the previous misstatement of company policy and apologize for any confusion it may have caused." Something that just goes to show that even the most cutting edge, liberal organizations seem to turn into conservative big business, right-wing sounding, corporations. Why? Because they are making money, hiring many people, selling a magazine around the world - and they want to protect their ass! Remember, you only become a conservative when you have something to conserve.

Secondly, they lisited a few other organizations that agreed to display the bible advertising (uh, for money, of course.) Tell me if you see anything a little out of place in this list: "Other media outlets that agreed to carry the ad include Modern Bride, The Onion, and AOL, Lockhart said. AOL, like, is a unit of Time Warner."

The Onion???!! What next, Mad magazine, and National Lampoon?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Pill's Surprises, for Patient and Doctor Alike

This article about using an antidote to an anti-depressant, because of low sexual appetite, starts a bit slow, but then, I just had to laugh.

"While shopping, she said, she spontaneously had an orgasm that had lasted on and off for nearly two hours ."

Did the doc have some concerns? Not really.

"After all, since when is an orgasm a cause for alarm?"

Friday, January 21, 2005

Beer for 15 Crowns !!!

Come to Tulip Cafe for Bernard 11 degree and 12 degree beers for 15 kc.

That's 50 Euro Cents or 65 US Cents.

Special until the end of January.

And if you ask me, a bleak winter in Prague is a good time to be intoxicated.

A New Day Yawns

A New Day Yawns
Originally uploaded by Dantravels.

from Sydney Morning herald

And there is just no way that I could improve on that comment.

I was expecting some really raucus protester friction but aside from some pepper spray and a guy sneaking in to shake hands with the Pres, there was nothing.

But Jenna yawning makes the whole thing so..well, normal. Don't you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Quit smoking: a national law in Bhutan.

This small Himalayan country decides one day to outlaw smoking in one fell swoop

It raises a couple of issues right off the bat. No more smoking-tourism? Only earthy, non-smoking types allowed?

It would be interesting to see a group like the tobacco lobby come in to bribe,, I mean influence someone just on principle, using NRA tactics.

However, "It also helps that Bhutan has few smokers compared other nations." {Some negative Kudos to slate for bad grammar (like mine). It is 'compared to', or am I wrong? }

Lastly, a weird comparison of Bhutan to Johnny Depp: "If Bhutan were a celebrity, it would be Johnny Depp—reclusive, a bit odd, but endearing nonetheless." Say what??

Come on, this was too obvious.

The first lesson learned: No Digital Cameras.

In fact, I am surprised that Doonesbury states the obvious.

Goochie goochie poo!

Dos PP
Originally uploaded by George.
So I am testing Flickr because the Hello photo posting program is way too confusing and difficult.

And the test is, ta da! A dog wearing a rabbit outfit.


Because this woman should be JAILED FOR PUTTING SUCH A STOOOOPID OUTFIT ON HER DOG!! For cryin out loud, dogs have feelings and shame, too!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Portable Cellphone Booth

It is here but you need Quicktime.

PC Crap. Give the guy (Lawrence H. Summers) a bloody break!

Come on folks! the guy was invited as a 'provoker' and spoke his mind, his real opinion. And the joke is, everyone thinks that his opinion was that women were less capable mentally. But I believe he meant something along the lines of "looking at statistics, these are the facts, and my guess is.. etc" The New York Times > Education > No Break in the Storm Over Harvard President's Words

After all, what is 'innate'? Of these three definitions, let's just accept that it could have been possible that he meant the first.
1. Possessed at birth; inborn.
2. Possessed as an essential characteristic; inherent.
3. Of or produced by the mind rather than learned through experience: an innate knowledge of right and wrong.

I.e. because they can have babies and men cannot, and are more likely to care for the child than the father because, for example, they generate milk.

NYT: "At Friday's conference , Mr. Summers discussed possible reasons so few women were on the science and engineering faculties at research universities, and he said he would be provocative.

Among his hypotheses were that faculty positions at elite universities required more time and energy than married women with children were willing to accept, that innate sex differences might leave women less capable of succeeding at the most advanced mathematics and that discrimination may also play a role, participants said. There was no transcript of his remarks" (emphasis, mine)

My point is this: If women have babies and they just so happen to stay at home more, is it only a point of discrimination to say that they are more likely to stay at home? Or should we all be forced to say that they are pressured into staying at home due to discrimination. Don't get me wrong; I believe there is STRONG discrimination at the work place. Especially in investment banking. And I believe it should be rectified. But I also believe it won't be in my lifetime.

After all, Summers did say that one reason was 'discrimination may also play a role' (note that this was quoting the participants).

Now the guy in forced to be all humble and probably go out and have his picture taken with large groups of female causes. He supposedly has lost funding from some successful female alumni.

So don't sue him. Sue our maker! Oh, no don't go all religious on me! That was a joke!...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Spring Time for Harry!

First, try saying this next line with an ironic jewish voice (like Jerry Stiller, Ben's Dad) "What, these days you must be Jewish to wear a Swastika?"

Then take a look at this link at to see why I am so perturbed at the crap Harry gets pitched at him. My only complaint is thatperhaps he should have told his friends to leave the cameras at home! {Didn't you realize they would sell your soul for a laugh?} .

But my point is that with comedies like "The Producers" waving Hitler in your face with great songs like "Springtime for Hitler" we really do get the feeling that only Jews can 1. wear costumes of Nazis (that ridicule them, afterall), and 2. only Jews can defend Harry.

Jewlicious does a good job, though. Take a look at the comments to this article.

And keep in mind a visual of Mel Brooks wearing a Nazi Uniform in "To Be Or Not To Be", where he plays an actor who looks like Adolf Hitler in Wartime Poland.

"Comedy is tragedy plus time," insists Alan Alda's character in the Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Sing it:

"Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Winter for Poland and France
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Come on, Germans, go into your dance

I was born in Dusseldorf, and that is why they call me Rolf
Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party"

Taxi Cab Crisis

I wonder how many Prague bloggers are going to comment on the Mayor getting ripped off by a cabbie. I would say over half of them.

Prague mayor, Pavel Bem, at the request of one local newspaper, took a cab ride posing as tourist. Bem said he was not surprised at being overcharged, since he has been waging a war against cabbies lately for this all too common offense. But he was surprised as just how much he was overcharged. 500%!

Prague is a great town for all you outsiders reading. But the main annoyances would be pickpockets on the trams and metros, and the taxis that overcharge around the central, touristy areas. (the other annoyances, such as the surly women behind the counters, the smelly-armpit colleagues, are diminishing.)

I just wonder how he disguised himself? German tourist? Italian? American? or Japanese, perhap?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

How Radicals Organize Like Institutions They Hate

I don't know how I got to this site but a few things struck me as odd about the guidelines to form a working "plenary" on organizing the "Anti-G8" meeting ("An International Networking and Co-ordination Meeting for those wanting to build radical resistance to the 2005 G8 Summit").

I was expecting notes on how to fill molotov cocktails, where to get Italian and Spanish holiday-thugs, and how to inflict the most pain in one bite. All this should be in the notes from the Prague demonstrations back in 2000 or 2001 when the Worldbank, or was it the EBRD, had their gathering here. To be quite frank, I believe those wielding Molotov cocktails should be targeted and if the Molotov bottles are thrown, guns could be used in self-defense. Imagine the Czech cops who had to have surgery for burns.

This meeting will take place in Tuebingen, Southern Germany, from 26th -27th of February. These notes are very amusing if you look at the organizational nature of the notes. Too complicated for your average holiday radical, I would think. I am sure there are some disclaimers to this portrayal of their own activities, but you got to think that this is kind of weird.

Also on this site, in the sidebar is "Capitalist crap that you secretly love?" Makes me react (oops, reactionary???) with the old saying, "you become a conservative once you have something to conserve".

Monday, January 10, 2005

Awful Plastic Surgery: bad boob jobs and duck lips.

How about some afternoon fun? On a site called, Awful Plastic, the author (with entirely too much free time on his hands) has chronicled a slew of celebrities who have had a nip and tuck, a few injections, liposuctions, hair-implants and yes, the 'bad boob job'.

In fact the titles in the sidebar are especially precious: "Ouch, my face is too tight", and "Ooops, I Messed Up My Face". But my all-time favorite, is "Hi, Duck Lips", describing a few over enthusiastic collagen injections.

I remember my first introduction to collagen, back in Australia we had a colleague named ... should I?? What the heck, named "Bibi" (because she hated her name "Beverly"). Well Bibi had rock-hard boobs, (from the occasional, purely accidental, bump in the hall - I swear!) and puffy lips from one indepthly rumoured collagen injection - all on a small frame. Oh, and the fluorescent red hair.

But one day she went away, and came back a little delayed from her holiday. And I recall passing her desk in the trading room (oh, did I mention she was in sales on the trading desk? Very popular with the clients), and a quick glance at her normally smiley face was met with a frown that looked like she had got a hockey puck in the face. Ouch! And my face must have grimaced surprisingly because I got a sad and pity-me look back.

All the more reason to glance at the cleavage, I guess.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Emissions Trading (huh?)

For the same reasons supporting the Kyoto protocol and a bunch of other agreements, in reaction to the claims of the critics ofgreehouse gases and those against global warming, and basically for some who are simply in it for the greed, the world is now experiencing (as of 2005) a huge paradigm shift in the management of reduction of pollution: Emissions Trading.

This is basically bringing to the market place the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gases. Basically, giving everyone a limit on how much they can pollute and slowly reducing it over time. Those with excess "allowances" can sell theirs to other who need to pollute a bit more (for yearly periods at a time). The overall goal is basically to foster the trading of allowances with the goal of distributing the liability of reduction. And if you pollute too much (over your allowance which is based on the size of your factory, plant, generator, kilowat generation, smokestack, etc) you get a huge fine.

I am interested in it because of the chance to trade a new commodity. For those of you who don't know, I am what you call a sales trader. Something like a broker but with a little more oomph to it. Basically I have been trading gold, silver, currencies, and then later emerging market shares, and even some distressed debt. I will never claim to be in the same idiot's club as those guys on CNBC or at the Nasdaq ringing the bell. Buy my background in a bunch of countries, watching the egos grown and crushed, fortunes amassed and missplaced, ethics touted and ignored,.. gives me the ability to be a wide ranging cynic and opportunist into these fields of irrationality. I never made the huge cash-out and have chased the latest gold rush more than a few times, only to pawn my shovel at the end.

And now, with that poor sales pitch, I am looking at the burgeoning market for European Union Allowances, Emission Reduction Units, Certified Emisssion Reductions, Joint Implemetation, etc etc. Basically the complicated system of getting everyone on board and making these tradeable units fungible (a real word meaning "exchangeable")

Why do I go for this rare and bizzare smoke trading market?

A number of reasons. One big one is to keep me employable (because being bored and useless in Czech equities sales to UK brokers is a major threat). Also to expand my capabilities. And to make some money. And... to enjoy one of the greatest pleasuires in a traders life. Buying and selling with a Wide Spread. What Joy!

Many early markets like the early days of Czech and Ukrainian Equities, or Serbian Savings Bonds, give traders the opportunity to buy from the market (in this case the local emitters in Central Europe with surplus allowances) and sell to the Western professional Brokers of and end investors and users (like the big petroleum refineries and energy generators).

And it is all starting now. Keep an eye on this market. My company may or may not make the grade. But we are keeping our fingers crosssed.

Fat in the Saddle, Again

Back in the saddle. I have been busy and tired. And travelling. Sure New Years was fun. It was good to have a friend out from London for a week; taking him to the Czech mountains for cross-country skiing, down hill skiing, a decent new years eve party (actually kind of fun) and then a water park and some shooting pistols at a Karlin gun range.*[disclaimer here] Oh and the nice young lady he met.

And then another great friend came later and unfortunately was alone to wander while I was working and even on a day trip to Budapest. Nice dinners, sometimes cooking for groups at home, then walking dogs, staying out to even 11; it really takes its toll. Good to have friends come to visit. But it makes me tired. (slept one tram stop past my work this morning; had to jump off in mid dream not knowing for sure where I was and with numb legs).

But after all sad and done, I am tired! And FAT. Handlebars on a thin frame do not look good. Time to take a break and realax, enjoy life at home with the wife. And fulfill that 'will start exercising next week' promise.