Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Mimic Octopus

This thing is awesome.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Issue

Spontaneous Generations, the online academic STS journal, has a new issue. Its worth browsing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains...

So my wife and I have been looking at starting our own business either in the U.S. or in a couple of other countries with which we are familiar.

It is an utter nightmare.


Because of the piles upon piles of government regulations.
We thought about buying a plot of land and building a hostel. But do you know how many permits and inspections you need to build anything? And then of course you need more permits and inspections to open a hostel/B&B.

We also thought about opening a pub. But do you know how many permits you need to do that? Just to get a liquor license you have to wait months and pay thousands of dollars and even then you might be denied because some government official has decided that there are "too many" bars in your neighborhood.

We've also thought about a dive shop but there again permits, mandatory insurance costs, etc, make it an utter nightmare to even think about.

The rhetoric of politicians, as usual, doesn't match reality. We are told how important supporting "small business" is and yet the reality is that often the most insurmountable hurdle to starting a small business is the government itself.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thinking about being a lawyer?

Watch this. Its funny.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Corruption in American Fisheries

As part of my ongoing series about corruption and ineptitude in America here is a sad article about the sad state of marine and coastal management in America. As some one who has spent some time researching and promoting sustainable coastal management policies in the developing world it is depressing to be reminded how badly the developed world screws up its own management systems.
One small critique however of the article. The author is writing from a clearly "hard-green" perspective which I think is outdated and unhelpful. Demonizing coastal resource users and their buddy politicians, even if they are "demons," is not productive. Environmentalists have been doing it for the past 50 years ever since Rachel Carson and the results have not been good. We need a new strategy.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Western World and the Developing World do not exist.

Unfortunately Africa is still trailing behind. Hans Rosling has a great presentation here.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Following (made up) rules and attempting to rant constructively

So my now wife and I have been working pretty hard for the past couple years. And we want to buy a condo in America. We will not live there, my mother will. She is on a fixed, but steady and reliable income. We have enough money to pay for the condo outright, but figured we could use that cash in other ways and with interest on mortgages so low right now thought it would be better to get a loan. The mortgage payment would be a little more than half what my mother would pay us in rent.

If you think that it should be an easy slam dunk for us to get a mortgage, you would be completely wrong.

We are apparently considered very risky. This judgement is of course based on a variety of rules that banks use to determine risk. One of which is, apparently, that anyone outside of the U.S. isn't making real money.

Why are we risky? Well actually according to one lender we are not. They pre-approved us. But then decided that since we wanted to borrow less than $50,000 dollars they are no longer interested. They told us they "want our business" but that its their rule not to lend less than $50,000.

So we go to another lender. This lender doesn't forbid itself to lend less than $50,000. Great. But then they don't accept Power of Attorney, i.e. my mother can't sign for me, and won't evaluate my foreign owned income (again its not real money apparently).

And so three rules, that have zero bearing on the underlying financial risk realities of my situation, prevent me from getting a loan. Rule 1. My money isn't real. Rule 2. No lending under $50,000. Rule 3. No Power of Attorney.

We are buying the condo anyway without the banks.

Rant over.

But what I find interesting about this whole situation is how it is a microcosm of what seems to have occurred (and to be still occurring) in the US financial industry. The rules of the game are so detached from reality, and actually prevent people from thinking critically and engaging with reality, that they create and alternate world, a "model," from which banks nevertheless make real judgments about how "risky" we are.
What is sad about this is ultimately not that we aren't getting the loan, but that banks are not performing their primary economic function which is to match capital with ability which is the engine of economic growth. Instead the banks' risk rules are funneling capital to those who not only do not produce economic growth but end up in bankruptcy.

We should all be afraid when the banks themselves can no longer judge a good investment because they have constructed a set of rules that don't allow them to deal with reality.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Franklin Pierce was an American President?

I'm certainly no scholar of American history but I had thought I would at least recognize the names of all the American presidents. And then I found this guy, our 14th. Who was he?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Super worms

So these spider gene enhanced silkworms are pretty badass.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"America is committing suicide."

Good interview of New York mayor Micheal Bloomberg.