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You reap what you sow

  • Posted by howies
  • 24 February 2009


Dear bankers,

You had the good times.

You drunk the fine wines.

You drove the fast cars.

You lived in the big houses.

You did well.

And as bosses go, greed was a good one to work for huh.

He paid well.

He turned a blind eye to all your risk taking.

He didn’t care about the long term.

As long as the money kept rolling on in the short term.

But along the way you lost your way.

You forgot how to be a banker.

To be cautious, to be careful, to lend what you could afford.

Somehow you got on a treadmill that you couldn’t stop.

Then suddenly, like a game of pass the parcel, the music stopped.

And instead of just one person left holding the parcel, we all got it.

We are all going to pay for your blind greed.

Yet we didn’t get to drive your fast car, drink your fine wine, or sleep in your big house. But you want us to share in the pain. Hmm.

And now you still want to have a bonus. Double hmm.

Well, maybe you should look upon keeping your job as a bonus.

Another one you don’t deserve, huh?

Two years ago

  • Posted by tim
  • 14 January 2009


An old mate of mine told me that if the economic situation worsens and if it looks like Labour will lose the next election they will for sure pass the plans for the third runway at Heathrow before they go, making labour the bogeymen and gifting the conservatives a decision that they would had made themselves but now dont need to due to this action. 

He said too many Labour politicians will be looking for jobs on the boards of companies and corporations to supplement their falling incomes and lack of job security so housing plans and whatever else they can do to feather their nests in the future by sucking up to industry and doing them favours will be rushed through in this last phase of government.

 On top of that he said that all the green and eco focus will dissappear during this unstable period along with their morals.  It's not that this is news annoyed me at the time, it was the predictability of how easy these people are to read and how true my pub mate was. 

Great ideas do not belong to political parties or our kings or queens, they belong to individuals. Political party names stifle thought and ideas, as do the empty vessels disguised as humans that they use to get their party point across. They restrict and limit a future we have funded at our own expense for them to live in at our expense.

Labour, Conservative, Liberal and whatever else we get thrown at us have never worked ever, they are flawed to some greater or lesser degree, leaving us with the lesser of the three evils and letting us know that neither evils better than the other, they are just here to show us what doesn't work. They are words that are past their sell by date as they describe their single definition of their vision when we as people are diverse and have multiple personalities which define our individuality. 

What matters to us surely are ideas that work that are tried by trial and error, ideas either work or they dont. If Labour and Conservative were called ideas as opposed to political parties they would have been binned years ago as being out of date and ineffective and a waste of our time, fatally flawed ideas. We will continue to be addicted to this mind numbing predictability we are force fed by these these fools who want to rule us as long as we are happy to let someone else be responsible for us.   

Rosa parks was not accompanied by a politician on that bus and Ghandi got beaten to pieces by an Army representing a political party and our country, dont trust a single one of them, make your own salt. The people have the power, not the words Conservative, Liberal, or Labour. 

I hope they never build that terminal. 




Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.  ~H.L. Mencken, 1956

Tamsin Omond did a great talk at the Do Lectures about the damage Aviation does to the environment. here it is below, please make a little time in your day to check it out.

evan williams

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

Dear Evan,

Would you come and speak at the do lectures.

I know you are busy and we are far away, but with a name like williams you must have some welsh roots. Let us know, glad twitter is doing well. all the best. David.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Blogger Should Do

I was recently asked about the "death of blogging" for this article in The Economist. I didn't get back to the reporter in time, though, so my comments ended up, ironically, on his blog. (Conclusion: I don't believe blogging is dying, but...it's complicated. Like in most healthy ecosystems, new species are breeding. Whether or not they're called "blogging" is a question perhaps best left for scientists, but there are many new forms that are undeniably part of the blogging genus.)

Last night at the Churchill Club, I was quoted as saying that Twitter "will dwarf Blogger." I do believe that, but it will be no easy task and will not be soon. Blogger is big. Really big. That chart was from six months ago. Is it losing traction? I don't know. It doesn't look like it was then. And since then, the team over there seems to be kicking ass. A glance at Blogger Buzz show's they've been launching feature after feature the last few months. Launching any features when you're that big is usually a daunting task. Shows that a lot of years building a solid platform have paid off. 

So, the question is: Where do they go from here? Part of that, I suppose, will be determined by where the Google powers-that-be decide Blogger lands on their priority list, given the leaner times. Clearly it's not one their cash cows, but it's also not a side project they're dabbling in. I've heard it makes money (from AdSense on blogs they host), but I really don't know. In fact, I know so little about Blogger these days, I feel like I can actually write about it as an outsider. 

From a product perspective, I do feel like they could get more out of the capabilities and incredible usage they already have. Here's an unordered list of some of the ways I'd look to do that if I were in charge:

Build a Network of Networks: Building more interconnection between users and blogs is clearly part of the focus now with "followers." It's something we realized we were remiss in not doing more of way back when we built the (not very good) profile pages in 2004, when Friendster was the big thing and Orkut was launching down the hall. There are a ton of mechanisms to do this, but one thing to consider: Don't try to make one big network. Perhaps enable anybody to create a blog network/community thingy. (There might be a doc around there about "Blogger Hubs" -- not sure if it's still relevant.)

Point People to Good Content: When it comes to interconnectedness, don't just try to make it more "social." Social is important, but pure socialness can be achieved elsewhere. One unique thing about Blogger -- vs. say Facebook or MySpace -- is the content. How can you make the content more interlinked and use the network to get more attention to the good stuff, thus rewarding the creating of more good stuff? You know what the most-viewed/commented/linked-to post on Blogger was today. Show it to me! I bet it's interesting! (Even better: Show me what's most popular within my blog network.) BTW, if revenue, not just usage, is a priority, this plays to that, because it's the content focused blogs that can make the money.

Get More Out of the Navbar: The toolbar you have at the top of millions of blogs could do so much more. This is where you can put the feedback mechanisms, interlinking mechanisms, etc. NextBlog could be a whole thing! Make that so I never wanna stop clicking because it always shows me something awesome. (Think StumbleUpon within the Blogger network.)

Prettier Templates: When it comes down to it, many people just want a page that looks good. This a large part of Tumblr's appeal, in my opinion. You gotta upgrade those templates. I know prettiness is not a focus in your culture, but bring them into 2007 at least web design, if not 2009. 

Help People use the Layout Engine: The new templating system does everything anyone would every want. But you kinda gotta be a programmer who likes programming in production, in a textarea, in a language you've never used, to tap into it. Yes, there's point-and-click design and widget goodness, but it seems...hard. Can you make it seem fun? Can you make it so pseudo-developers can figure it out and others can leverage that? Layout sharing perhaps (kill two birds)? 

Make it Fast: You've made some progress on slimming down the posting form page (at least in Draft). But I don't know if we've fully embraced the Google mantra of speed is every. I predict you'd see a 30% increase in posts if you made posting twice as fast. (That goes for the whole workflow, not just the posting form.)

Become the Aggregator: One possible answer to the question to what role does the stand-alone blog live in the age of a million-and-one generalized and specialized participatory web experiences is as a personal aggregator that reflects back the other stuff one does on the web. Yes, I'll load all that stuff into FriendFeed, but that's not my "online presence" as we used to say back in the day. Everybody (or at least a lot of people) needs an URL -- and one without a ? in it. I want my tweets, and my photos, and my whatevers to show up on evhead.com (hosted by Blogger) in an attractive way. 

Put Ads in the App Interface: For example, the published landing page alone must get millions of views a day. And it's the perfect point for someone to go elsewhere. See if you can target it off what they wrote about. No one will mind (much). And strengthening your revenue story will strengthen your position in the company. 

Do Something Radical: I almost feel like this list is way too conservative. Not that I think Blogger's in trouble. But I suspect there something potentially more awesome that you could pull off by leveraging what you already have. You probably have those ideas. When there are so many great things to do that you know will work, it's hard to not focus on them. But it might be time to try something wacky.

Sorry, I know you've already thought of these things. When you're working on a product and people on the outside tell you what you should do, acting like they're all smart, it's annoying. The hard part is building stuff, not thinking it up. Carry on. (But seriously, the prettier templates thing.)

Tea manifesto

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

i am a tea junkie.

right now i am doing my normal january thing - no choc, no coffee, no alcohol and no tea.

i miss the no tea the most.

i made everyone a cuppa tea this morning, including myself out of habit.

then had to watch it go cold as i remembered it was january.

anyway, i saw this the morning.


we even get a mention.

pete, if you are reading this, lets ask them to do a piece for the catalogue.

pete, if you are not reading this, where are ya?

Manifesto of the Tea Appreciation Society 

1. We want to sing the love of tea.

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be loose leaf tea, boiled water, a tea pot, a china cup and a biscuit.

3. Literature has up to now magnified idleness, and slumber. We want to exalt these slow movements of ecstasy, feverish boiling of the kettle, the pour, the perilous stir, the rattle and the clink of the spoon.

4. We declare that the splendour of the world has been enriched by an old beauty: the beauty of tea.

5. Beauty exists only in considered brewing. There is no masterpiece that has an aggressive character. Poetry is not a violent assault on the forces of infusion.

6. We want to glorify peace - the only cure for the world - militarism, patriotism; these destructive gestures kill the beautiful ideas of the human race.

7. We want to visit museums and libraries, encourage philosophy.

8. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work; the revolt, smashing the supermarkets; we will rejoice in the baking of bread; the polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern music as we play our ukuleles: the nocturnal vibration of the worms in our compost; our spirits suspended from the clouds by the thread of cup in sleeve tea bags; and the gliding flight of creativity whose propeller sounds like the sipping of enthusiastic tea drinkers.

work hard

  • Posted by howies
  • 6 January 2009


i am reading a book about warren buffet.

one of the richest men in america.

as a kid he had a paper round.

he worked out he delivered 600,000 papers in his time.

i like those who made something from nothing.

Graydon Carter

  • Posted by howies
  • 10 December 2008

I bought my first copy of vanity fair over a year ago

The editor

The editor

I read the editor's letter and laughed and nearly cried as this guy tore into George Bush like I have not seen in a mainstream magazine.

thinking it was a one off, but hoping it wasn't, I bought another one.

and another one.

and another one. and so on.

it wasn't a one off. 

every month without fail, but with a humour that just gets to me, he just explains why george bush has been the worse president in american history.

this month he rails about what president bush is doing before he leaves office. trying to write 130  new regulations to weaken or undermine federal laws protecting their environment, civil liberties and personal liberties. 

'it's the environmental equivalent of stuffing the china and silverware into your suitcase before clearing out of the guest room'

Planet finance meets planet earth

  • Posted by howies
  • 4 December 2008



vanity fair article

vanity fair article

And hits it with a big bump.

This is a brilliant brilliant article on the credit crunch by Nial Ferguson.

He is a Professor of history and business at Harvard.

But don't let that put you off, this a simple, insightful and understandable read.

"As long as the there been banks, bond markets, and stock markets, there have been financial crises. Banks went bust in the days of the Medici. There were bond-market panics in the Venice of Shylock's day. And the world's first stock-market crash happened in 1720, when the Mississippi Company - the Enron of its day - blew up.'

It will give you a good understanding of how we got into this mess in the first place and, perhaps more importantly, will give you some perspective on the mess that we find ourselves in right now.

Vanity Fair (£3.90)

Herman Daly on youtube 6 parts

  • Posted by tim
  • 3 December 2008


click view to see the other 5











This little number below comes from the Adbusters site. It raises some points that we all need answering and at the end i have also included a couple of links to other great sites where energy and banking issues are discussed in open debate. I hope you find them of use. Here's Herman. 

The turmoil affecting the world economy unleashed by the US sub-prime debt crisis isn’t really a crisis of “liquidity” as it is often called. A liquidity crisis would imply that the economy was in trouble because businesses could no longer obtain credit and loans to finance their investments. In fact, the crisis is the result of the overgrowth of financial assets relative to growth of real wealth— basically the opposite of too little liquidity. We need to take a step back and explore some of the fundamentals that growth-obsessed economists and commentators tend to neglect.

After winning the Nobel Prize for chemistry, Frederick Soddy decided he could do greater good for humanity by turning his talents to economics, a field he felt lacked a connection to biophysical reality. In his 1926 book Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt: The Solution of the Economic Paradox, (a book that presaged the market crash of 1929), Soddy pointed out the fundamental difference between real wealth – buildings, machinery, oil, pigs – and virtual wealth, in the form of money and debt.

Soddy wrote that real wealth was subject to the inescapable entropy law of thermodynamics and would rot, rust, or wear out with age, while money and debt – as accounting devices invented by humans – were subject only to the laws of mathematics.

Rather than decaying, virtual wealth, in the form of debt, compounding at the rate of interest, actually grows without bounds.

Soddy used concrete examples to demonstrate the flaw in economic thinking. A farmer who raises pigs faces biophysical limits on how many pigs he can take to market. But if that pig farmer took on debt – a promise to repay at a future date – he would in effect be issuing a claim or lien on his future production of pigs. If he borrowed the equivalent value of 100 pigs, he could represent the loan on his balance sheet as “-100 pigs.”

click view to read more

While debt as the farmer’s accounting entry is negative, negative pigs do not really exist. If the farmer should suffer a series of lean years and be unable to pay the interest, he might soon owe more pigs than could be raised on his farm. After a year, with interest looming, he’d show “-110 pigs”; in 5 years, “-161”; in 40 (assuming a patient bank), “-4526.” When the bank finally came to call on the pig farmer to collect repayment of its loan, it could well find that most of the virtual wealth that had grown so appealingly on its books had to be written off as a loss.

Soddy’s insights show us that the institutions of a growth economy lead to the type of crisis that hit the US economy in 2008. Real wealth is concrete. Financial assets are abstractions. Existing real wealth serves as a lien on future debt. For example, the 100 dollars of virtual wealth that I carry in my wallet are a lien on real wealth in that those dollars enable me to buy pork at the store.

The problem that we’re seeing in the US has arisen because the amount of real wealth is not a sufficient lien to guarantee the staggering outstanding debt which has exploded as a result of banks’ ability to create money, loans given out on shaky assets and the US government’s deficit, which has been stoked by financing the war and recent tax cuts. All of these factors are exacerbated by the compounding mechanism on debt. The debt is growing, and consequently, it is being devalued in terms of real wealth.

The conventional wisdom is that when faced with the threat of recession and business failure, the solution is to grow the economy so we can grow our way out of the crisis. But because the wrong diagnosis is made, namely that businesses are in trouble because access to credit has tightened, the wrong solution is proposed. Even if we could grow our way out of the crisis and delay the inevitable and painful reconciliation of virtual and real wealth, there is the question of whether this would be a wise thing to do. Marginal costs of additional growth in rich countries, such as global warming, biodiversity loss and roadways choked with cars, now likely exceed marginal benefits of a little extra consumption. The end result is that promoting further economic growth makes us poorer, not richer. The cost of feeding and caring for the extra pigs is greater than the benefit of eating extra pork.

To keep up the illusion that growth is making us richer, we deferred costs by issuing financial assets almost without limit, conveniently forgetting that these so-called assets are, for society as a whole, debts to be paid back out of future growth of real wealth. That future growth is very doubtful, given the deferred real costs, while the debt continues to compound to absurd levels.

What allowed symbolic financial assets to become so disconnected from underlying real assets?

First, our economy is based on fiat money (paper money issued by governments) that has value by convention but isn’t backed by any physical wealth. Second, our fractional reserve banking system allows pyramiding of bank money (demand deposits) on top of the fiat government-issued currency. Third, buying stocks and “derivatives” on margin allows a further pyramiding of financial assets on top of the already multiplied money supply. In addition, the financial sector was very inventive in coming up with new financial instruments that were designed to circumvent government regulation of commercial banks to protect the public interest.

The agglomerating of mortgages of differing quality into opaque and shuffled bundles that led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis should be outlawed. The US balance of trade deficit has allowed us to consume as if our economy was growing real wealth instead of accumulating debt. So far, US trading partners have been willing to lend the dollars they earned from running a trade surplus back to us by buying treasury bills but these treasury bills are liens on yet-to-exist wealth. Of course, they also buy real assets and their future earning capacity. Our brilliant economic gurus meanwhile continue to preach deregulation of both the financial sector and of international commerce (i.e. “free trade”).

How then do we clean up this mess?

A massive bailout – and having the US taxpayer take on billions in bad debt – is merely a way to keep the growth economy from failing a little longer while allowing it to continue degrading the planet. Propping up such a destructive system makes no sense. Instead, we need to redesign our laws and institutions to foster an economy that remains within biophysical limits.

I would not advocate a return to commodity money (such as gold), but would certainly advocate gradually increasing reserve requirements for banks. Commercial banks should act as financial intermediaries that lend other peoples’ money, not as engines for creating money out of nothing and lending it at interest. If every dollar invested represented a dollar previously saved, we could restore the classical economists’ balance between investment and abstinence. Far fewer stupid or crooked investments would be tolerated if abstinence had to precede investment.

Of course the growth economists will howl that such measures would slow the growth of GDP. I say so be it – growth has become uneconomic, and we have limited time to bring the economy into line with the biosphere’s carrying capacity.

Were Soddy still around, I doubt he would be surprised by the havoc wreaked by all these two-legged Wall Street pigs, given that they were left free to raid whatever troughs they could poke their snouts into while drawing on conventional economic thinking to disguise their mess as innovations in finance. But I also think he would be disappointed that 80 years after the publication of his book, we still haven’t figured out a way tether the economy to reality – to ensure that the number of negative pigs can’t grow without limit.


Here's more from Herman on the energy crises. 




Whirled bank group  The World Bank seeks a new President to implement failed policies and ensure continued global poverty. No experience necessary.

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