Friday, August 31, 2012

Morsi does Tehran

Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi has said that the "oppressive" Syrian regime had lost all legitimacy, in a blistering speech in Tehran that provoked the Syrian delegation to storm out and amounted to a stunning rebuke to his Iranian hosts.Guardian
Well done sir.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

London Paralympics 2012 Opens

It looks awesome.

Obama does aMa at Reddit

This is awesome. Check out his Ama (Ask Me Anything) at Reddit. He got around 10,000 questions and brought down the site.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living la vida Putin

According to the authors, Putin has overseen a phenomenal expansion in the awarding of presidential perks. At his disposal are 20 palaces and villas, a fleet of 58 aircraft, a flotilla of yachts worth some 3bn roubles (£59.2m), a watch collection worth 22m roubles and several top class Mercedes.
Nemtsov and Martynyuk say the 58 aircraft Putin has access to comprise 43 planes and 15 helicopters. One of the aeroplanes, an Ilyushin-96, features an $18m cabin fitted out by jewellers and is said to have a toilet that cost $75,000 alone. The report reveals four yachts, including the Olympia, which the authors dub "the real diamond in the Kremlin flotilla". Fitted in rich mahogany, the five-storey yacht includes a jacuzzi and marble bathroom and costs $50m to maintain yearly, they allege. Guardian
It's good to be Tzar.

Stirring New Zealand Military Funeral Hakka

Haka is used throughout New Zealand by many, not only Māori, to demonstrate their collective thoughts. There is a haka for each of the Services, as well as the Defence Force. Units with the NZ Army have their own haka. This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their Unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit's parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time.

Haka --sometimes termed a posture dance could also be described as a chant with actions. There are various forms of haka; some with weapons some without, some have set actions others may be 'free style.' Haka is used by Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) for a myriad of reasons; to challenge or express defiance or contempt, to demonstrate approval or appreciation, to encourage or to discourage, to acknowledge feats and achievements, to welcome, to farewell, as an expression of pride, happiness or sorrow. There is almost no inappropriate occasion for haka; it is an outward display of inner thoughts and emotions. Within the context of an occasion it is abundantly clear which emotion is being expressed.

Quote of the day

The Arab on the West Bank is from the West Bank. He didn't move to Israel, Israel moved to him. Jeffrey Goldberg

Monday, August 27, 2012

Modern airliners are actually slower than their predecessors

Specified cruising speeds for commercial airliners today range between about 480 and 510 knots, compared to 525 knots for the Boeing 707, a mainstay of 1960s jet travel. Why? “The main issue is fuel economy,” says Aeronautics and Astronautics professor Mark Drela. “Going faster eats more fuel per passenger-mile. This is especially true with the newer ‘high-bypass’ jet engines with their large-diameter front fans.” MIT

Best year ever for US weapons sales

Iran is good for US weapon business

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an “extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion. NY Times
No wonder there are so many factions in the US politics are happy to hit the drum of war against Iran. 

The rise of intolerance against Muslims in Indonesia

Two people were killed and five were injured in an attack on a group of Shia students and teachers in Sampang, East Java, on Sunday. Around 30 Shiites, most of them children, were traveling from Nangkernang village on the island of Madura, bound for Bangil in East Java. Shortly into their trip, they were stopped by about 500 men from mainstream Muslim groups, preventing them from continuing, said Umi Kulsum, who was at the scene. The Jakarta Globe
Shia muslims that is. A lot of Muslims consider Shias as heretics.

  PEW Research

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Man on the moon

And about that famous strange-sounding sentence: I have always heard that he believed he had said, and in any case that he intended to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." I choose to believe him. James Fallows
Whenever I look at the moon I am reminded of that precious moment, over four decades ago, when Neil and I stood on the desolate, barren, yet beautiful, Sea of Tranquility, looking back at our brilliant blue planet Earth suspended in the darkness of space, I realized that even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone. Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a historic moment in human history. Buzz Aldrin

This is an interactive recreation of the Apollo 11 mission 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reasons why return journey feels quicker

Humans however are aware of the passage of time and are easily influenced by attentional demands over a target interval. Humans have an “attentional gate” through which the signals from the clock must pass in order to reach the accumulator. If the individual decides that the passage of time is important , then the attentional gate is opened wide and signal accumulation is maximised. If the passage of time is unimportant then the gate is narrowed and fewer signals are accumulated. Assuming that the estimate of time duration depends on the count registered by the accumulator, it is easy to see that the same objective time duration, eg 15 minutes, will seem longer when waiting for interview that while relaxing. And, memorising the complex figure requires more attentional resources than memorising the circle, leading to a narrower gate and a lower signal count. IrishTimes

Robot NICO is in the process of recognizing itself

The robot's name is NICO, and has been developed by Brian Scassellati and Justin Hart, who together have already taught the robot to recognize where its arm is in three dimensional space to a very fine degree, a feat never before achieved with a robot of any kind. The next step is to do the same with other body parts, the feet, legs torso and of course eventually the head, which is the most critical part in giving a robot self awareness, which is the ultimate goal of the project.
This is huge if they manage to made it recognize its whole body or at least the face.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Winners of the National Geographic photo contest can be found here.

UK's retarded approach to Assange's case

In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an extradition request from Spain. His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt. Despite a lengthy legal action and a daily picket outside parliament called by Chilean refugees, including women who had been tortured under Pinochet, the British government reneged on its obligation to Spain's criminal justice system and Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile. Assange has not even been charged; yet the determination to have him extradited is much greater than ever it was with Pinochet. (Baltasar Garzón, whose request for extradition of Pinochet was denied, is representing Assange.) And there is a history of Sweden (and Britain) rendering asylum seekers at risk of torture at the behest of the US. Guardian

The smugglers of Central Asia

During the day, when Uzbek border guards patrol its streets, Mingdon is a sleepy Ferghana Valley town. But after night falls, Mingdon, a hamlet of 10,000 on Uzbekistan’s frontier with Kyrgyzstan, turns into a smugglers’ paradise.

From Kyrgyzstan come bundles of Chinese clothing, crates of electric Chinese appliances and an endless parade of Chinese comestibles. From Uzbekistan, smugglers ship fresh fruits and vegetables into Kyrgyzstan by the truckload. EuroAsia.Net

Smuggling is a fact of life in a border town. In my island in Indonesia, we smuggled cigarettes to Malaysia and we 'imported' sugar.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Greece's death by a thousand cuts

Athens has not been having an easy time coming up with the €11.5 billion in cost cutting measures over the next two years it has promised Europe. Indeed, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is reportedly set to request an additional two years to make those cuts during meetings later this week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and French President François Hollande on Saturday.

But according to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the financing gap his country faces could be even greater. During its recent fact-finding trip to Athens, the so-called troika -- made up of representatives from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund -- found that Greece will have to come up with as much as €14 billion to meet the terms for international aid. Spiegel
They are short 14 billion Euros in cuts.

R.I.P Tony Scott

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dancing on top of a time bomb

The next big war will be a naval war and it will happen in East Asia

Japanese activists have swum ashore and raised flags on one of a group of islands at the centre of an escalating territorial dispute with China. 
The coast guard in southern Japan's Okinawa prefecture said nine or 10 activists had made an unauthorised landing on Uotsuri Island, part of the small archipelago known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu. The uninhabited islands surrounded by rich fishing grounds are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. (Guardian)

China is embroiled with territorial disputes with Japan over Senkaku and with Vietnam, Philippines and several other countries over Spratly islands.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Exodus of Bodo people in India

From Thursday night till late on Friday, when more than 2,500 people left for the northeast in four special trains, Chennai Central resembled a huge refugee camp. Each time a train rolled on to the platform, there was a concerted rush to get in. More than 300 people were seen crammed into a coach designed for 72. Every inch of space inside, even the toilets, was taken.

The exodus began after hundreds of people landed at Egmore railway station to board the Chennai-Dibrugarh Express. But only around 300 could get in. Those who couldn't flooded Central station by around 11 pm. Soon, others began arriving in batches from different parts of the city with their belongings, including buckets and bed rolls, accompanied by women and children. They kept arriving till around 4am on Friday . Many waited for hours for the trains to come. Some slept while others were seen swatting mosquitoes. Times of India
This is the upshot of the Assam riot that involved the native Bodo people in the Assam region and the Muslim migrants from Bangladesh (We covered the riot here. Now the Bodo people in Northeast of India are returning to Assam on the rumors of retaliation against Bodo people by Muslims.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

China's Political Sex Scandal

The photos initially surfaced last week with the mocking title "comrades in charge," as two of the men were thought to be Wang Minsheing, head of the Communist Party in Lujiang county, in the eastern province of Anhui, and his second-in-command. (Not P90X fans, apparently.) Delighted/outraged Chinese netizens shared elaborate NSFW photoananalyses and various amusing memes like this Nike spoof and the one to the left that plays on claims the images were photoshopped. Gawker
I don't think this is uncommon in China. China is full of well attended brothels catered for businessmen and politicians.

Martian Solar Day 2

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Boomtown Germany

Other German regions are also courting young people from the European Union's crisis-ridden countries. Companies are looking for engineers and other graduates, as well as bricklayers, electricians, welders and caregivers. "In fact, almost all industries, especially small and mid-sized companies, are desperate for new employees and trainees," says Norbert Czerwinski, a human resource development expert in the southwestern city of Mannheim. Unless countermeasures are taken, the Rhine-Neckar region of southwestern Germany could see a shortfall of about 35,000 skilled workers by the end of 2013. Workers from Southern Europe are in demand in booming towns like Villingen-Schwenningen and Schwäbisch Hall. Unfortunately, these are place names that mean almost nothing to people in Spain and Portugal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ecuador takes Julian Assange

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has agreed to give Julian Assange asylum, officials within Ecuador's government have said.

The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at Ecuador's London embassy since 19 June, when he officially requested political asylum.

"Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange," said an official in the Ecuadorean capital Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions. Guardian
The founder of Wikileaks is out of reach from the hand US Federal Government, for now. 

Indonesia continues to ban active military and police from voting

The Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that military personnel and police would not be allowed to participate in 2014 elections because Indonesia’s political infrastructure was still too fragile to allow armed officers to participate in politics. The Jakarta Globe
We put this role after the 1998 revolution. The armed forces used to have seats in parliament etc and we moved to ban the armed forces involvement in politic. We went as far as banning active soldiers from post. I don't like the last part of the decision but it is understandable as we were in military regime for 50 years until in 1998. It took a while to purge the bad habit and grow political maturity of the country.

The non coup of Egyptian President

You must have heard about Morsi's revamp of Egyptian's military leadership. He replaced the head of the armed forces, the defense minister, the head of every branch of the military, the chief of intelligence and some more.

Yes it is a big move but it is not a coup. He is within his rights as a democratically elected President to revamp the national security apparatus of Egypt.

The purge also allows younger generals to fill up the top positions and inject fresh ideas on how to run the security system in the country. Field Marshal Tantawi, the ousted Defense Minister for example is 76 years old, way past retirement age.

Yes, I don't think the generals went out happily but there are enough support within the military ranks for Morsi to make this move.

Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012 was awesome

Regardless, they are latecomers to a long-running trend. At the Seoul Games in 1988, 26 percent of participants were women; in London, 44 percent were. NY Times

Vietnam Air On Flight Bikini Show

Portraits of an Indian wedding

Click here for more fabulous pictures.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Google Death Benefits

Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk: Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34 thousand Google employees qualify.

“One of the things we realized recently was that one of the harshest but most reliable facts of life is that at some point most of us will be confronted with the death of our partners,” Bock says. “And it’s a horrible, difficult time no matter what, and every time we went through this as a company we tried to find ways to help the surviving spouse of the Googler who’d passed away.” The case-by-case do-goodery was formally implemented in 2011. In addition to the 10-year pay package, surviving spouses will see all stocks vested immediately and any children will receive a $1,000 monthly payment from the company until they reach the age of 19 (or 23 if the child is a full-time student). Fortune
This is awesome and it provide peace of mind for thousands of Google's employees. Bravo.

Hello from Gale Crater


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Roman ship found almost intact in Italy

An almost intact Roman ship has been found in the sea off the town on Varazze, some 18 miles from Genova, Italy. Discovery News

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Meet the Fokkens

When Martine Fokkens bustles into the small grocery store early in “Meet the Fokkens,” a 2011 documentary portrait of identical twin prostitutes, she calls out a cheery hello to the man behind the counter. She has a purple hat and orange scarf framing her plump white face and a Chihuahua tucked under an arm, and what she needs, she announces, is a box of condoms. She was 69 when the movie was shot and still plying her trade from one of the picture windows in Amsterdam’s red-light district. Two years earlier her sister, Louise, had hung up her own riding crop because, as the second twin explains in this insistently upbeat movie, “I couldn’t get one leg over the other.” NYTimes


Sienna, Italy

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Everest Diet

First, your body automatically ramps up your breathing rate as you go up in altitude. By the time a climber reaches Base Camp on Everest, at eighteen thousand feet, the respiratory rate has roughly tripled. If you were taking a breath every ten seconds at sea level, then you’ll be sucking in a breath every three seconds at Base. The impact on the metabolism is striking. If all you did all day long was sit in your tent at Base Camp doing absolutely nothing but breathe, you would still burn about three thousand calories a day. Forget about the Atkins Diet or spending hours on the elliptical machine—planting your butt at Everest Base Camp is the world’s most effective weight loss program. Scientific American
No wonder there's no fat people in Nepal. 

9t of August - Singapore's Sex Night


Standard Chartered bank ran a rogue unit that schemed with Iran's government to hide more than $250bn (£160bn) in illegal transactions for nearly a decade, according to a scathing report by New York regulators that may put intense pressure on the management of the UK-based bank.

According to the report filed by the New York state department of financial services (NYSDFS), when warned by a US colleague about dealings with Iran, a Standard Chartered executive caustically replied: "You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians." Guardian
Yet another bank scandal. They are really a bunch of crooks, aren't they?

Monday, August 06, 2012

16 Egyptian border police killed

Video of border police killed in the attack (graphic)
An anonymous Egyptian security official was quoted by Egypt's state-run news agency, MENA, as saying that Islamist elements who infiltrated Egypt from the Gaza Strip through tunnels are behind the attacks, along with other Islamists situated in the areas of El-Halal Mountain and El-Mahdia in eastern Sinai.

For their side, however, Gaza strip rulers Hamas stressed it has not been involved in the attacks, saying it would never infiltrate Egypt’s borders nor use its weapons against its army in the wake of a deadly attack that left 15 Egyptian soldiers dead on Sunday. Ahram
Egypt has just recently allowed Palestinians in Gaza to cross border without visa and there is a warm relation between the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt with Hamas of Gaza.

Sinai has always been the Wild West of Egypt. The Southern Sinai has several major tourist destinations such as Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh. The Northern Sinai, which share borders with Israel and Gaza, primarily deals with smuggling.

After the revolution of last year, the Norther Sinai has become more lawless. In 1979 Camp David agreement, Egypt is not allowed to front army in Sinai area without Israel's consent. This has limited the ability of the Eygptian Army to control the area.
Below is a video from IDF that shows its attack against one of the stolen APC from the Egyptian border

They did it!

Scene of celebration of Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Curiousity Mars Lander has successfully landed in Mars! This is a picture of the landing.

It is the most complex landing of any object in remote planet ever. It involves a parachute, a sky crane and a lander. This is science fiction stuff.

5.57am: The spacecraft is now inside the orbit of the Martain moon, Phobos. During the entry, landing and descent phase, some 76 pyrotechnic charges will be fired aboard to probe to release weights and release the parachute. Shedding twin 75kg tungsten weights on arrival allows the spacecraft to get aerodynamic lift: instead of dropping like a stone, it can fly through the thin Martian atmosphere. The spacecraft has to sense its position and atmospheric conditions and use small onboard thrusters to steer its way to the landing site.

5.53am: The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is now within 10,000km (6,200 miles) of the planet. The probe accelerates as it arrives at Mars, then slows as it ploughs into the atmosphere. One of the first moves the spacecraft makes pulls the heat shield into a forwards position. Friction with the atmosphere will raise the temperature of the shield to more than 2000C.

Check this page to get the first images beamed from Mars.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Vietnam holds it first gay parade

The first gay pride parade in communist Vietnam took place in the capital Hanoi on Sunday with dozens of cyclists displaying balloons and rainbow flags streaming through the city’s streets.

Organised by the city’s small but growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, the event went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colorful convoy of about 100 activists despite their lack of official permission. The Jakarta Globe

This is awesome. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Thursday, August 02, 2012

How to lose 440 million dollars in a day

This is the news and this is the explanation. In short, don't deploy your test code in production by mistake

So, lets say that you wanted to develop software to send these market making orders and handle the fills that come back. You would build an internal order book (kind of like an exchange) that you could send orders to with your new market making code (which you want to deploy, sending orders to NYSE RLP book). To get some of those orders filled on your internal test book, you will need another piece of logic that does market taking (sends orders to hit the resting orders (from your test market making code above)). So, your market making code is sending improving orders, and then your market taking code goes through, sees those resting orders and sends matching orders to generate fills on your internal test book. All of this is internal testing, nothing has been connected to an exchange yet. No real dollars, no real orders going out, just bits moving around on your test workstation/server. You are just making sure that you can send market making orders, and can accept fills back from the exchange. No big deal. This is a basic test.

Now, NYSE RLP goes live on Aug 1. You are ready with your freshly tested market making code. At first RLP book is only available on a handful of stocks. However, when you deployed your new code, you accidentally put it in production on the actual NYSE book (which has hundreds of stocks), not just the NYSE RLP book (which has a few). Also, you put your market taking test code into production along side the market making code. So, both sides (market making and market taking) of your test code are now in live production on the full NYSE book. With real dollars.

Your market making code is going out and improving the bid and ask prices on dozens of NYSE stocks (not just the handful in the RLP book), which is not good. Further, your market taking test code (designed to send matching orders at your open orders and generate fills) is doing its job too, by sending orders to match resting orders. The problem is that this code is crossing the spread constantly, hitting everything. If stock XYZ has a bid at 10.00 and ask at 10.02, then your market making code will buy at the ask price of 10.02 and sell at the bid price of 10.00. You just lost 2 cents on 100 shares, so 2 dollars. Now, let that run for 45 minutes at top speed. You have now lost 440M dollars. (reddit)

And this one has all the gory details, including charts.

So these massive losses is only possible when the trades are automatically executed by software. The terms for this is High Frequency Trading, in which computers execute many simultaneous buy and sell orders in micro seconds. Many firms in Wall Streets depend on these type of software and they are complex and can be unpredictable.

Felix Salmo from FT touched on this issue earlier.
The fact is that a lot of the stock-trading world, at this point, especially when it comes to high-frequency algobots, operates on a level which is simply beyond intuition. Pattern-detecting algos detect patterns that the human mind can’t see, and they learn from them, and they trade on them, and some of them work, and some of them don’t, and no one really has a clue why. What’s more, as we saw today, the degree of control that humans have over these algos is much more tenuous than the HFT shops would have you believe. Knight is as good as it gets, in the HFT space: if they can blow up this badly, anybody can.
 Knight Capital just got black-swaned.

Lucky Kansas City

If you live in Kansa City, some awesome bandwidth is coming to you thanks to Google Fiber. You will join the futuristic world and enjoy the vast Internet access running at 1000 MB both ways, just like what they have in Korea.

Egypt's new cabinet

No Porn for Pentagon

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites, according to the agency’s executive director. Bloomberg
Porn is like Kudzu, nothing escapes it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The new Digg is here

After various attempt to reboot itself, the new Digg is here. It's quite neat.