Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bird flu mutates to seal flu

Scientists may respect moratoriums, but nature does not. Evolution recently carried out an influenza experiment of its own on the coast of New England. Last fall, 162 dead harbor seal pups washed up on the beaches of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 
In a paper published Tuesday in the journal mBio, a team of scientists reports that the pups were killed by a new strain of influenza. Their research indicates that the virus evolved from bird flu, gaining the ability to spread from seal to seal — a real-life example of the transformation that scientists have been exploring in their labs. NY Times
This is scary.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mea Culpa from Asma al Assad Vogue Interviewer

Remember that notorious article praising the Assad's family in Vogue magazine (the article has since been removed but you can read it as Assad's presidential website), well the writer of that article writes a long numbing mea culpa in Newsweek.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

hate speech

Below an excerpt from a book published this year, "The Harm in Hate Speech," by Jeremy Waldron. Unlike Canada and most European countries, the US treats hate speech as a protected form of speech, and racist organizations are permitted to parade publicly. Waldron gives arguments in favor of restricting 1st ammendment protections in the US to not include hate speech. The book is reviewed in the New York Times.
It is sometimes objected that [anti-hate speech] laws simply drive hate underground. But in a way, that is the whole point: we want to convey the sense that the bigots are isolated, embittered individuals, rather than permit them to contact and coordinate with one another in the enterprise of undermining the assurance that is provided in the name of society's most fundamental principles. True, there is a cost to this: such laws may drive racist sentiment out of the marketplace of ideas into spaces where it cannot easily be engaged. But the notion that what we most need for expression and publication of this kind is a great debate in which Nazis and liberals can engage one another honestly and with respect for each other's points of view is a curious one. Of course we ought to be able to speak out in favor of our most fundamental commitments. But presenting them as propositions up for grabs in a debate---as opposed to settled features of the social environment to which we are visibly and pervasively committed---is exactly what the speech in question aims for. Its implicit message to the members of vulnerable minorities is something like this: "I know you think you are our equals. But don't be so sure. The very society you are relying on for your opportunities and your equal dignity is less than whole-hearted in its support for these things, and we are going to expose that half-heartedness and build on that ambivalence every chance we get. So: think about it and be afraid. The time for your degradation and your exclusion by the society that presently shelters you is fast approaching." If this is the message of hate speech, then it is not at all clear that public engagement is the sole appropriate response; nor is it at all clear that driving this message underground is altogether a bad thing. (95--6)

Free Board Game software

Vassal Engine is a free and open source game to play your favorite board games. It has more than 1000 games playable. Superawesome.

Ideas to rescue to Euro

Two concepts are already out there, of course. There is the arch-liberal idea that, simply put, calls for allowing them all -- both the troubled banks and the deeply indebted countries -- to go broke. The resulting recession, of course, would be painful. But it is the necessary catharsis, proponents of this idea say, following past spending excesses. 
Then there is the left-wing strategy, which calls for the immediate introduction of communitized European debt in the form of euro bonds in addition to a Continent-wide banking union. German taxpayers would become the primary backers of European debt, and a euro-zone-wide deposit guarantee would help ensure the stability of banks in the bloc. Other ideas tend to be a mixture of these two approaches.Spiegel

Thursday, July 26, 2012

UK is fucked

This is by no means exclusively the fault of the government, whose geographical position leaves it more vulnerable than the US is to the problems of the eurozone.
But you're left with the fact that they chose to undertake an ideologically driven effort to effect a structural shift of the British economy out of producing public services and into private market production at the very same time that the UK's heavily financialized economy was forced to undertake other large shifts. They combined that with demand policies from the Bank of England that were totally inadequate given what they were trying to do on the fiscal side. And on top of that, they've raised a bunch of taxes for no reason at all that I can tell. It's a total mess. (Slate)
 Nobody learns from history. If you cut down the size of the government when the economy is weak, your economy will go to the shitter. Austerity is killing Europe.

Use Generated Content Manifesto

Treat our data like it matters. Keep it secure and protect our privacy, of course—but also maintain serious backups and respect our choice to delete any information we’ve contributed.
No upload without download. Build in export capabilities from day one.
If you close a system, support data rescue. Provide one financial quarter’s notice between announcing the shutdown and destroying any user-contributed content, public or private, and offer data export during this period. And beyond that three months? Make user-contributed content available for media-cost purchase for one year after shutdown Zalman
What happens to your data if Facebook got acquired or shutdown? Don't think it won't happen. MySpace was the shit only 5 years ago. Digg was the shit 6 years ago and now it was sold for peanuts.

It's a hard problem since we don't pay for a lot of stuff on the Internet.  One of the smarter decision for nomadlife is to rely on blogger to power the blogs associated with it. It has a lot of limitation but on the upside, the content will last a lot longer than if it's powered by my server (but yes, Google can go down too). People invests tons of time on their writing and it should not be just erased away in history.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

India Assam Riot

Since Friday, when the orgy of violence began, more than 70,000 people have fled their homes, with at least 60 villages belonging to both Bodos and Muslims in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts reduced to cinders. The spiraling violence led to the cancellation of 11 trains that left around 20,000 passengers stranded in different places in the state. India Times

This is the location of Assam. Notice it shares some border with the Muslim dominated Bangladesh. This is a massive communal riot between the Boda people and the Muslim immigrants. Madness.

Running of the bulls

Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado Shooting

71 shot, 10 killed in Colorado after a Batman Dark Night premier shooting. The Denver Post has the most comprehensive report on this. TPM has great coverage as well.

This is the prime suspect of the shooting

James Holmes, a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado. What a sick son of a bitch.

Jordan Ghawi is blogging about this event. His sister, Jessica, was killed in the theater. 
Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic. The veracity of any other statements not issued by myself or Peter Burns should be questioned.
This guy got shot, survived and post some pictures here
The reddit thread is here.
I work as at Denver Health Medical Center. Here is what happened on our end:
1:00 AM We are called and told there is a large shooting with many injured up to twenty people are heading to the ER with shooting injuries -We move patients and bring down surgeons as the ambulances move in
1:30 AM Patients start to show up one has buck shot wounds throughout (nonfatal), another a shooting to her forearm, multiple others, hemodynamically unstable patients brought to OR
4:00 AM most patients have been stabilized things calm down

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Olympic Sex

Still, some coaches try to limit late-night activities by enforcing 11 p.m. noise curfews, banning alcohol consumption or, in the case of USA Swimming, forbidding cross-gender visitation in bedrooms. Amanda Beard, with two golds, four silvers and one bronze medal to her name, was in a relationship with another swimmer during the 2000 Games but says, "People would walk around for miles to try to sneak somewhere."
Many on-the-prowl athletes maintain that they're driven by a simple human need: intimacy, if only for a moment or three. For most Olympians, the ramp-up to the Games is lonely. Not unlike movie stars on a far-flung movie shoot, the Olympics present the perfect opportunity to find a partner who understands where they're coming from. "Think about how hard it is to meet someone," Azevedo says. "Now take an Olympian who trains from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. When the hell are you supposed to meet someone? Now the pressure is done, you're meeting like-minded people ... and boom." ESPN

Open Source Warfare

The bombs that Abu Akhmed described, known in Western military jargon as improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, have done more than kill Syrian soldiers and deny the Syrian Army access to Syrian terrain.

The weapon that has long been championed in the popular imagination and public discourse of underground fighters as a means to kill or drive off foreign occupiers — whether Russians in Chechnya or Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan — has been turned against a standing Arab army by its own people. NY Times
Everybody learns from everybody. This time the Syrian rebels are learning from its compatriots in Iraq and other places in using IED effectively against a standing army.

A lot of ideas about this type of rapid adoptions of ideas and learning are discussed in this invaluable blog Global Guerrillas

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time for Assad to Panic

Syria's Defence minister, Assad's brother-in-law, Assistant vice president and interior minister killed in a suicide bombing by its inner security circle. The Guardian has more.

There are also sporadic reports of Syrian soldiers defecting the regime.

FP has a short obituary for each of the dead above.
Mohammed al-Shaar: Syria's interior minister was another military man, rising to the ranks of lieutenant general. A 30-year veteran of the Syrian military, he had previously served as the military police chief in the northern city of Aleppo and as the director of Sednaya prison. He was seen as one of the enforcers of the regime, periodically blasting what he claimed were "terrorists" seeking to undermine Syria's stability. In one typical quote, he vowed to "strike back with an iron fist at anyone tempted to tamper with the security of the country or its citizens."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This is Maratua, East Borneo

This is Maratua, a pristine island in East Borneo. To get here you take a flight to Tarakan and then endure 3 hours of speed boat over sometime rough seas. This will get you to Derawan Island, a small island nearby with fresh water and small village. You can get cheap accommodation and stock up for food in Derawan.

After that, you take another speed boat from Derawan to Maratua on an open sea. Depending on the months and the time of day, this route might not be passable. |Sometime the sea just gets too rough.

Our boat had to turn around in our first attempt due to rough seas - we had a 9 meters boat with 10 passengers. At mid point we had a 1 meter waves and it was going to reach at least another half meter before we got to the calm area near Maratua.

There are small population of villagers in Maratua which does not have 24 hour electricity. This island does not have its own fresh water source so people rely on rain. This limits the growth of population in the island.

There are two resorts in this island, one is called Paradise owned by a Malaysian investor (above picture was taken from there) and the other owned by a French investor. The overnight stay in Paradise is roughly about 45 dollars per night all inclusive.

We did not stay in Maratua since we already got a free accommodation in a nearby Sangalaki Island, home to the Manta Rays and Green Turtle.

Sangalaki island is a tiny island that can be walked around in less than 20 minutes. Every morning you will find many mature Green Turtles returned to the island to nest and drop 200 or so eggs. It would take 60 days for those eggs to hatch.

There is only one eco lodge here currently under restoration. There is no water source here as well. This, in combination of its tiny size, eliminates the possibility of sustaining a village so there is none here. The only full time people living in this island is two families as part of the Indonesian government conservation agency and a few workers doing restoration work for a 9 rooms ecolodge which is set to reopen in two months time.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

World Best Airlines 2012

  2. Asiana Airlines 
  3. Singapore Airlines 
  4. Cathay Pacific Airways 
  5. ANA All Nippon Airways 
  6. Etihad Airways  
  7. Turkish Airlines 
  8. Emirates 
  9. Thai Airways 
  10. Malaysia Airlines

Bottom line, the Arabs and East Asians know how to deliver on air travels. 

Olympics Security Shambles

Private security firm G4S says it stands to lose up to £50m after admitting it is unable to provide enough staff to fulfil its Olympic Games contract, a failure that forced the government to this week call up 3,500 troops to fill in at the 11th hour.
The beleaguered security company said on Friday night that it "deeply regrets" the problems, adding: "G4S accepts its responsibility for the additional cost of the increased military deployment resulting from the shortfall in workforce delivery."
The company's admission it is in line to take a major financial hit over the shambles came hours after the prime minister weighed into the row, warning that firms which failed to deliver on their contracts would be pursued for the money. Guardian
G4S won 248 million Pound worth of contract to provide provide 13,700 security guards for the Olympic 2012. They are short 3500 guards as of now, forcing the UK government to literally send in the cavalry to fill up the gap. What an incompetent bunch of folks. Even worse, now the whole Olympic is managed by a firm that has no clue on how to run and plan the logistics of recruitment. Cross your finger that there's no serious security event happening in this Olympics.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Poland is becoming less Catholic

A giant statue of Jesus Christ was erected in the Polish town of Swiebodzin in 2010. But it has failed to become the tourist attraction some locals had hoped for. The Catholic Church is not as big a draw as it once was for people in Poland.
Only slightly more than 44 percent of young people say they go to church on Sundays, compared with 62 percent in 1992. Forty-two percent admit that they do not observe all religious commandments. Hardly anyone pays attention to rules about things like sexual abstinence before marriage anymore. The number of illegal abortions runs into the hundreds of thousands every year. In addition, four-fifths of Poles are bothered by the fact that the church regularly intervenes in politics. Spiegel

Monday, July 09, 2012

Skip the pasta

One diet was low-fat and thus high in carbohydrates. This was the diet we’re all advised to eat: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein. One diet had a low glycemic index: fewer carbohydrates in total, and those that were included were slow to be digested — from beans, non-starchy vegetables and other minimally processed sources. The third diet was Atkins, which is very low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein.

The results were remarkable. Put most simply, the fewer carbohydrates consumed, the more energy these weight-reduced people expended. On the very low-carbohydrate Atkins diet, there was virtually no metabolic adaptation to the weight loss. These subjects expended, on average, only 100 fewer calories a day than they did at their full weights. Eight of the 21 subjects expended more than they did at their full weights — the opposite of the predicted metabolic compensation. (NY Times)
 This short experiments shows that low carb diet is the way to go to lose weight and maintain it since it removes the 'adapted metabolism' process (using less energy as you lose weight, hence burning less calories)


Find a rejoinder published a few days later in the same newspaper here. (Jesse)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Runaway Coup de ta

In the capital, Bamako, Sanogo and his men quickly made themselves at home. The captain held court from the office of the Zone 3 commander at Kati, a rundown colonial structure that became increasingly well-equipped. Each week, construction crews poured cement, updated the electrical wiring and hauled in new office chairs, their metallic legs still covered in plastic.

Months later, the future of both Mali and Sanogo remains uncertain.

A poll of 1,100 residents of the capital found that after the initial shock, about 60 percent were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the coup because it put an end to a regime viewed as corrupt.

"Our democracy? It was a facade," said 54-year-old Soumara Kalapo, who took part in pro-coup demonstrations after the putsch. "Our democracy needed this coup so that it could right itself. ... It was a democracy run by, and benefiting, a mafia."

But in his last blog post before leaving Mali for the U.S., anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse lists the disastrous consequences of what happened, including the suspension of more than a billion dollars in aid, the closing of Bamako's flagship Grand Hotel and the government's loss of control of half its territory. Last month, Islamic fundamentalists announced that they now hold the major towns in the north. (The Jakarta Post)
And now Timbuktu (north of Mali) lie in ruins.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Cavalary is coming in to rescue Timbuktu

"Deployment of troops in Mali is imminent," said Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas director for external relations. "We are very concerned about what is happening in northern Mali, particularly with the carnage and killing, and barbaric acts that are going on in Timbuktu, and the destruction of heritage sites.
"We are preparing to deploy between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to fight against these terrorists," Musah added. "The problem is that we are going to have to engage in urban warfare because they have occupied the major centres of northern cities, they are not wearing uniforms, it is going to be very difficult to separate them from the locals."
The news follows months of fighting between Mali's national army, secular Tuareg separatist rebels in the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and extremist groups. The Tuareg rebellion in the north – one of the causes of the military coup that toppled Mali's civilian government in March – has become increasingly fractured, with the MNLA pitted against Aqim and Ansar Dine,
The fucking Islamists have been destroying the precious Sufi Musims' heritage by destroying their holy tombs and cultural artifacts.

UK Bankers are crooks, too

The furor is over revelations that Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and other banks were monkeying with at least $10 trillion in loans (The Wall Street Journal is calculating that that LIBOR affects $800 trillion worth of contracts).
The banks gamed LIBOR for two semi-overlapping reasons. As noted here last week, there were instances of Barclays traders badgering the LIBOR submitters to "push down" rates in order to fatten their immediate bottom lines, depending on what they were trading or holding that day. They also apparently rigged LIBOR downward in order to produce a general appearance of better health, essentially tweaking their credit scores a few ticks upward.
Read more
I don't understand yet what LIBOR is but the reporting coming out of the scandal is both infuriating and frightening. They are all crooks, without the honor and all should be put in maximum security jail. It has already force the CEO of Barclays to resign.
This is unbelievable, shocking stuff. A sizable chunk of the world’s adjustable-rate investment vehicles are pegged to Libor, and here we have evidence that banks were tweaking the rate downward to massage their own derivatives positions. The consequences for this boggle the mind. For instance, almost every city and town in America has investment holdings tied to Libor. If banks were artificially lowering the rates to beef up their trading profiles, that means communities all over the world were cheated out of ungodly amounts of money. Read more
The Economist rings an alarm bell
What may still seem to many to be a parochial affair involving Barclays, a 300-year-old British bank, rigging an obscure number, is beginning to assume global significance. The number that the traders were toying with determines the prices that people and corporations around the world pay for loans or receive for their savings. It is used as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion-worth of financial instruments, ranging from complex interest-rate derivatives to simple mortgages. The number determines the global flow of billions of dollars each year. Yet it turns out to have been flawed.
Over the past week damning evidence has emerged, in documents detailing a settlement between Barclays and regulators in America and Britain, that employees at the bank and at several other unnamed banks tried to rig the number time and again over a period of at least five years. And worse is likely to emerge. Investigations by regulators in several countries, including Canada, America, Japan, the EU, Switzerland and Britain, are looking into allegations that LIBOR and similar rates were rigged by large numbers of banks. Corporations and lawyers, too, are examining whether they can sue Barclays or other banks for harm they have suffered. That could cost the banking industry tens of billions of dollars. “This is the banking industry’s tobacco moment,” says the chief executive of a multinational bank, referring to the lawsuits and settlements that cost America’s tobacco industry more than $200 billion in 1998. “It’s that big,” he says. Economist

Friday, July 06, 2012

How to reduce recidivism

It is brutal but it also reduces low level crimes in Malaysia. When you get 10 lashes + 3 weeks in jail, you will think twice of pick pocketing and other misdemeanors.  The guy above was convicted of rape.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

word watch

The US presidential campaign is underway, and that means we are going to be treated by the press to a variety of colorful words used figuratively to mean "to criticize." Here is the first one:

"Unions and other outside groups played a huge role during that cycle by tarring-and-feathering Republicans as corrupt and wedded to the increasingly unpopular policies of President George W. Bush." (NYTimes 5-Jul-2012 "Can the Democrats Catch Up in the Super-PAC Game?")

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

CERN disovered new particle

They found a new particle. Yay.

The crash of America's Middle Class

"I actually tried panhandling a couple months ago," she says.
"I was so broke. I had, like, a dollar. And I didn't know what else to do, so I went to the library and Googled 'effective panhandling.'"
"Really?" I ask. "I wouldn't make that up," she says, laughing. "There were a lot of different strategies. One site said do not dress up, dress down. Look sad. Don't be negative in your signs. Say thank you constantly. Be humble for real, don't be phony-humble." Rolling Stone
And governments only bail out banks.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it. NY Times
People are trying to do goddamn much. I am used to that kind of person but now I have cut down a lot and life is definitely better and I am going to cut down even more.

Microsoft's lost decade

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.” Vanity Fair

Now you can use this as a business case study for your MBA program. The article points out that iPhone now makes more money than all Microsoft combined.

Microsoft lost the browser (IE6 won the browser war and then it stopped received funding for development for 4 years), it lost the phone wars (it started waay back in 1999 for Windows CE smart phone and stagnated ever since), it lost the advertising war (it just wrote off 6 billion dollars of its aQuantitative acquisition) and many many more.

Check out this Asymco chart that shows that Macs are getting into parities into Window's machines.

We're sorry edition