Archive for July, 2009

Jul 19 2009

Better Fire Fighting?

Published by under General

How to fight fires is not a topic I know much about, but the ‘hose’ and method described in this article is interesting and sounds promising. A laser like jet of water cuts a small hole for the water to enter a closed space. Less water used, less need for people to go into a burning building. That description doesn’t do it justice. Read the better description.

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Jul 14 2009

“Unburdening Made Easy”

Published by under General

I don’t know what this site represents. It appears to be a professionally prepared site and I stumbled on it via an ad in Facebook. What does the company do besides take your money?!

“Is money tight?
Offer your soul out for rental and save up to 70% on the extraction procedure!”

Anybody has had their soul stored? Rented someones else’s soul? What’s it like?

Update (7/27/2009) – There is an ad for this company in the paper edition of the New Yorker dated today! Get em (or give em) while they’re hot!

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Jul 14 2009

Machine vs. Machine

Published by under General,Speculative

A small financial trading firm, Themis Trading LLC, has published an interesting paper on how various firms use extremely fast short term trading program to make/scam/steal profits from the various electronic exchanges and ultimately from everyone else who is dependent on efficient markets (i.e. almost everybody via mutual funds, pensions, etc.). The process involves using programs running on machines with extremely fast access to the exchanges’ machines to place transactions based on what other machines are doing (e.g. breading up and trading blocks of shares). This paper was published about six months ago and other press articles has described aspects of it. It seems that a lot of people know about this game, but it was new to me.
Recently, a former Goldman Sachs programmer was accused of stealing their program trading code which may have been used in implementing such a scheme. In that case, the U.S. Attorney said in court “..this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways..”. Fair when G-S uses it, unfair when someone else does? That seems a little odd.
What intrigues me is the battle of machines involved in this game. From the descriptions, the ‘intelligence’ is programmed in by their owners and the machines just implement the strategies very, very quickly (microsecond?) before other participants can trade. It feels like ‘front running’ and old game in which a trader hears of a coming trade and buys/sells in front of it (which in turn sounds a lot like insider trading).
The machines do not represent “smart machines” which figure out strategies or tactics. Or, maybe they do……

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Jul 11 2009

Dry Storeroom No. 1

Published by under Books,Speculative

by Richard Fortey
“The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum”

This is not an official history of the museum, but a tale written by one man who worked there for many years. His view of the place and its contents. The contents he describes cover all the possibilities; the buildings, the staff, the specimens, and some visitors and events. Organized by museum department, etymology, geology, etc., it describes the science and the people liberally laced with gossip and anecdotes.
Systematic classification is what natural history is all about and it seems to require obsessive, dedicated people to grasp and document all the details and differences of hoards of specimens. I could never do it, but it makes interesting reading.
This is a good book to leave laying around and to read a few pages at a time. Otherwise you can drown in or become bored by the sequence of short tales and classification details that make up the bulk of the book.

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