Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Global Financial Meltdown

Ok, I don't really think so but I keep seeing that headline. I can see in the coverage that they will pass something.

If you read nothing of this post, read the time article here. It has a great perspective on what yesterday's vote really represents.

(Note: i wrote this on the bus and didn't have time to proofread it :(

So this morning I am going to walk around to a few banks and move my money around a little.

After last night I remember why most people don't think about big world scope events too often. I wanted to find out more details on what happened yesterday with the bailout so I read some stories and called my brother. Then I didn't sleep well and had bad dreams.

If you would have asked me yesterday I would have told you I don't want the bailout, but now I'm not sure. It's natural for an economy to rise and fall, to naturally correct itself. But we have not allowed that to happen for so long that we are in the situation we are in today. The economy has been in trouble since 1990 and we have been artificially propping it up. We saved the economy from recessions in 1990, 1994, 2001. Every time they artificially prop the market up it makes the eventual fall worse. That is where we are today.

Every time they lower the interest rates any of my friends looking to buy a house are happy, but I get scared. "Record low interest rates!" Again!? Every time they do that I think "They are doing that to keep people spending because the economy is in trouble." But that is only going to work for so long. What will happen when they cant save it anymore? Well that is where we are today, it finally got out of control because they couldn't save it with lower interest rates or the other normal tools in the financial arsenal.

But $700 billion dollars. I don't believe that will save us forever. So if this is just another stop gap measure, if it takes $700 billion dollars to save us for a while than what will it take if that doesn't work? Every time we push it off it makes it even worse the next time. If it takes $700 billion dollars this time, what will it be like when that is unsustainable.

Remember, the point of all this is to KEEP YOU SPENDING. The money they are using to prop up the banks wont make your life any easier. If you are barely scraping by, you will continue to barely scrape by. If you and your spouse both need to work, you will both need to keep your noses to the grind stone. And if you have been living life on credit cards without a care in the world you will keep on charging because for you the world hasn't changed.

But continually falling interest rates, banks going bankrupt and being bought out of the blue are signs that things are not getting better. Things are downright weird. There is a thing called derivatives that are hard to understand but from what I gather are insurance against bad debits. The worldwide derivative market is estimated at somewhere between 400 and 500 trillion dollars. That is almost 10 times the entire global Gross National Product!! How can an economy like that even exist!? This is new. The global derivatives market has been growing especially over the last 10 years so this is something new.

Honestly, I don't even know exactly how the derivatives will tie into all this but the fact that a market can be that big is a sign of how much is going on when no one is looking. I know they are part of what lets banks keep good numbers on the books but I dont totally get it.

Even with all the shifting of numbers and lowering of interest rates, has that really helped normal people? No, the seperation between the rich and poor has been growing. I think my favorite article about what happened yesterday is this one from Time. It frames the rejection of the bailout as a revolt. And I think that is what it was. If the economy doesn't get this times will get hard. So of course the politicians are going to vote for it. But they were so inundated with calls that they didnt dare vote for it. This is a decision I think the people actually made. Maybe partly because they don't understand how bad things will get, mostly because they see no reason that their money should go to these few rich people that fucked up.

But I can see in the news coverage today that the vote will swing. The reality of how bad it might be will start to sink in and there will not be as many calls next time. It will go from fury to a feeling of helplessness in a system that is to big for them to understand. They will let their leaders do what they think is right, even though they don't know either and are just as scared.

Jesus, i wish I was my brother so I could explain this better. But thanks for listening, I'm glad I got that out. :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

FW: 12 Noon, Black Rock City

It's hard to explain even the little I have seen of Burning Man, but this guy has an awesome post about his experience that helps, here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Booknotes, something different

I have been thinking more on how to unlock notes and quotes from books. Instead of underlining I am using a spreadsheet (tabular data, easy to reuse, reformat when i figure out what's next).

Many ideas can be accurately tagged with 2 opposing ideas. I am going to use this quote from Ron Paul's book The Revolution (p. 61)

To those that argue that we cannot allow the states to make decisions on abortion since some will make the wrong ones, I reply that that is an excellent argument for world government – for how can we allow individual countries to decide on abortion or other moral issues, if some may make the wrong decisions? Yet the dangers of a world government surly speak for themselves. Let us therefore adopt the constitutional position, one that is achievable and can yield good results but that shuns the utopian idea that all evil can be eradicated.

Let's imagine that we are trying to tag this in the same way that del.icio.us or Flickr uses tags.


In the tags for this one quote you can see already the trouble with being able to tag ideas and having them all in a communal pool. One person may see this as something that reinforces their pro-life stance, another may see it as reinforcing their pro-choice stance, another may disagree with a finer point and have a whole 3rd take on it (ex. it is not a final yay or nay since it allows it in states). Standard views on tags would be so cluttered they would not be as helpful as they are on del.icio.us. It wouldn't be totally so, for example the above quote would have more pro-life, more states rights tags. But I think there would still be more clutter than in previous applications of tagging.

But I kinda like that it would be cluttered. Maybe there is some good in having them grouped. I have always hated dichotomies. I think that most all divisions into 2 categories are false because there are usually many more choices and shades.

But more harmful than the limitation of choices, it makes you think of the 2 ideas as separate, sitting on opposite sides of a battlefield with swords drawn and words prepared to fire. The substance of what the sides care about, the soldiers protect behind them. The differences become what we focus on, separating people that care about the same thing more and more. But the enemy across the field is a mirage. Each army of believers protects what they care about, they keep it at their backs and they have their backs to each other. Conservatives & liberals, creationists & evolutionists, Nikon people & Canon folks, Deadheads & Death Metal rockers, All sides of a coin, heads & tails. As tired as the coin analogy is, it is my favorite. We take the analogy for granted just like we take the oppositions for granted. 2 sides, heads and tails, the coin spinning, makes people think of a choice between 2 things. But it is two sides of the same coin. The analogy rarely makes people think of the coin's weight as you hold it in your hand, how it was forged, the ridges on the edge (or sometimes not), that place on the circumference where there is no chrome, the imperfections and age when you really look at it.

The coin has substance. It is complex. The side you are looking at is only your perspective. No matter which side you look at you are still playing with a fucking coin.

So what i wonder is, if there is a way to bring ideas together that are valued by both sides of an argument to remind them that they are both interested in the same thing. Us vs Them is a very natural human way to think about things. But I think it is often fed by a mass of people together, and by individuals that want the difference to remain. Or maybe that want the other side GONE, not realizing that it would damage what they really care about to have them gone. Photography would not be served by having Nikon wiped away and Canon remain. Our government would not be served if all the conservatives said "Hey you are right!" and all become liberals.

So when you get people to see the substance of the issue instead of the differences in the sides, what do we do now?

First, further dispell the false dichotomy. Not just show the shades but show the relationship to other things. When I think of ideas, I think of a web or piece of string mashed and balled up. Things are related and may be connected on a couple main threads but also touch other ideas in ways you never expect or could predict. They should be allowed to connect like that. A tree structure isn't enough.

But again the question, what about those connections where ideas and the people that brought them there have their backs to opposite sides of the same coin?

I'm not sure, but I want to keep thinking on it.

Akk its 1am. Night!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


READ, originally uploaded by jessamyn.

Tonight I am reading and thinking about booknotes. I am reading a couple books that I have to underline things all the time so I can remember what is important but there is so much I want to remember.

Here is my normal process,

* Underline things I find interesting. (pen or pencil)
* color the edge of the page so I can find important pages by looking at the side of the book. (highlighter or marker)

But this system still has the info locked in the book. In college I had a piece of paper that I would make notes on with page #s and that stays with the book. But I am not in college anymore. The paper was handy when I had the assignment of writting a paper on the book. The paper was just notes of things I found interesting. The notes would add up to the single goal of writing a paper. But without the assignment, what I find interesting in the book and the directions I might take it are so varied that writing notes is too big of a task. The lack of a goal engorges the possibilities beyond what seems manageable.

I have often considered using colors on the edge to distinguish types of notes but never found a categorization that fit for anything.

But with either of my processes, whether I only underline, or write notes and keep that with the book, the ideas are still locked in the book.

My brother is the opposite of me. I like a book that is marked, noted-up, and that looks used. My brother sees books as sacred and likes them pristine.

He made a comment recently that "writing is lonely work" There is much about writing that is lonely, but it is researching that we were discussing at that moment. So I started thinking about how true that is. And it is partly because what you find interesting is locked in the book. A collection of undxerlined passages and notes may form a picture to someone else but you are the best person to make sense of it.

So I'm thinking tonight about how to free that information. And I'm wondering what you do when you read, even if its still locked in the book,

how do you try to remember what you read?