Friday, February 29, 2008
Light, sweet crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped to a new trading record of $103.05 a barrel in electronic trading before slipping back to $102.07 a barrel, down 52 cents, by midday in Europe.
On Thursday, the contract jumped $2.95 to a record settlement price of $102.59 a barrel.
Prices were supported by comments Thursday from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said the American economy is not immediately threatened with stagflation, a combination of economic weakness and rising inflation.
61c/l petrol price rise on Wednesday
I may not be a racist, but what I freely admit - and I know some people are going to be shocked and horrified by this - what I freely admit to being, and as much as freaking possible, is a...CYCLIST ;-)
This morning for some inexplicable universe shattering reason I emerged out of bloggy slumber at 4am. No special reason. I was just wide awake. Funny thing was entropy had gotten the better of me on Thursday night...I got home from work at around 8pm and doing a bike ride, while important, just felt like MORE work.
So when I woke up at 4am with no clothes set out, it was like my bodies own alarm clock had kicked in saying: you may be too lazy to go for a ride, but we (fibres, tissues, brain chemicals) NEED to get out there. The only thing worse than getting up at some god awful hour to go riding is...to not get up. And have to face your loser couldn't-face-the-morning self for the rest of the day at work...
It wasn't all a bed of cycling clothes though. I spent 30 minutes of my impromptu cycle prep incarnated as Hurricane Katrina, trying to unearth my newly purchased newly batterised Heart Rate monitor belt. I failed. Grrrr. But once I stepped out into the morning, cool air washed and invigorated my internet irradiated cells.
What a lovely morning. And somehow no one started moaning about racism. We just rode innocently, little ruby blinks dancing along warm wide roads. At the end of the ride it felt like everything is going to be all white. Waitaminute. I meant to say right. Right.
Also: UFS - Just Shoot Me
The Saudi government has been extremely quiet about the detention of Fouad al-Farhan, a 32-year-old father of two who has become a rallying cry for bloggers.
Al-Farhan -- known on the Internet as the "Dean of Saudi Bloggers" -- was arrested on December 10 shortly after one of his blog entries was critical of influential Saudi religious, business and media figures.
"He is still being investigated," Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told CNN this week.
The Bruin Development Forum writes that the disturbing video made by white Afrikaans male students at UFS opens up a sore wound, a wound that has been festering for some time. Their view is that it is just the ‘tip of an iceberg’, and that the racism of Afrikaners towards other Afrikaners (whatever their skin color) must be completely and utterly eradicated. The writer does not say how.
Another blogger, Reggie, calls the video ‘sick’ and ‘nauseating’. Reggie writes: ‘What is needed is a deeper questioning of the violent culture that pervades our entertainment, our lifestyles and our social interaction.’
A blog calling itself Entropy goes even further: ‘I always thought the Free State was a strange place inhabited by weird people. That suspicion is now confirmed.’ Entropy feels that race relations have been set back 20 years.
On a blog called Hottest Gossip , the video receives 53 responses. Comments range from disgust, to one person, Bernice saying:'I am ashamed to be South African.’ Frenchgal writes that Afrikaners are ‘the worst people on Earth.’
Miguel: ‘Apartheid is not over yet.’
Tebogo: ‘THOSE WHITE TRASHES DESERVE THE DEATH PENALTY’
Tmo writes: ‘Well this just a sad reality in SA , it shows that apartheid may be over on the papers but not on people’s mind!!! last month a white boy in joburg went to a township and shot black people with no apparent reasons’.
Trixy: ‘All this crap and 2010 round the corner………!!’
Sadly a lot of the racism in the video appears to incite even more deep seated racism. Clearly a lot of South Africans are still unhappy about race wherever they may be in the country. Interestingly though, the topic has not really caught fire on the blogs. The hottest topic on the blogs right now is ‘Johannesburg’ (blogs about Paul van Dyk, Arno Carstens and Celine Dion) and then ‘genre’.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
I’m well aware that the readers of this blog don’t come here to read about oil, or politics. Most of you come to check out my photographs and read about me – well, the regulars anyway. Believe it or not the most popular searched for item on my blog is a sexual position called ‘italian chandelier’.
I’m not sure what it’s doing on my blog in the first place other than routing a lot of horny university students from the USA to my website while I’m sleeping in the suburbs of Johannesburg. Anyhow, so much for me being the star attraction. But I know I’ve been providing less and less personal glimpses for a variety of reasons.
Where I am Now
I’ve been living in Johannesburg for 7 months now, and it has been a terrific move. Almost every aspect of my life has improved; I mean that. I am pretty happy to be where I am.
The difficulties I’m having are probably pretty obvious. It’s coping with change, meeting new people, coping with changing working, living and exercising environments. Exercise is one of the highlights. I train now at the top Health Club in the country, Melrose Arch. I’ve been to some impressive clubs, including The Point and Constantia, and Melrose Arch is very impressive. Part of the fun is going there with my buddy Alex; a very dedicated and balanced individual.
Alex has introduced me to the Standard Bank cycling club. I’m a member and it has been awesome riding along some of the most beautiful and tough routes in the city. Northcliff is one of the beacons on our route. I’ve also participated in races in Johannesburg that I would never have made the trouble to participate in if I didn’t live here. All of them have been phenomenal just in terms of organization and the sheer amount of cyclists attending. Each one is a festival of cycling, a mini Argus.
Alex has also introduced me to a lot besides cycling and the local gym. I’ve somewhat reluctantly tagged along to the occasional church meeting, and although my beliefs haven’t changed, I have re-evaluated what I believe to be the importance of ‘community’. If there is one thing churches do right, they help families be good families, and they bring families together. This is something wonderful and affirming, and something our society sorely needs.
Alex has been a sounding board for a lot of my concerns regarding the global and national economy. He is in possession of a lot of facts, and has expert opinion on his side. Nevertheless, no matter how intelligent you are, it seems we do tend to see what we believe we are seeing, and not always what is actually there.
I brought some of the best stuff from my exhibition in Bloem, and I’m quite proud that two large black and white photographs are framed and hanging in a classy bedroom in Victoria road, Houghton. I’ve recently published photography in the Rapport, The Times and Sunday Times, and over the next two months Leisure Wheels will be publishing a bunch of pictures associated with a two part article. True Love will also be publishing pictures I shot this past weekend, and a few upcoming photos.
Roxanne Meyer has been a tremendously exciting discovery. It is almost impossible to take a bad photo of this girl, and you realize how special she is when you shoot other models. She is also very special for her work ethic and humility. She comes across super-confident but she’s still just a young 19 – almost 20 year old – trying to do her thing and also please and keep happy the people that love her. She is also enormously talented and – I reiterate – very hard working. She’s got a lovely bubbly personality. In the short time I’ve known her she has essentially realized what she wants and performed in two different movies within days of each other.
I’m thrilled to be working with her and it has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with inspiration. She swims 12 – 14km a day and I have tremendous respect for that sort of grim – almost terrible – determination.
I am currently busy with a new novel-for-the-movies called The Butcher The Butcher. It’s written with Roxanne in mind, and I already have interest from an independent producer/director who was involved with Triomf and has extensive experience at the SABC. I’ve also offered Weston DeWalt (author of The Climb and a documentary filmmaker who once commented on my blog) the first option for filming rights.
On hold are HOLIDAY and FIRE, ICE AND THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, both post apocalyptic stories about environment and climate collapse. HOLIDAY has been enthusiastically endorsed by all my friends who have read it. Publishers won’t even take a sniff. I’m considering forking out around R7000 to publish it with Xlibris (a self publishing arm of Random House). FIAWWW will be resuscitated once The Butcher is finished and klaar.
I’ve had some success publishing articles in mainstream media, and a recent article on South Africa rocketed to the top of Ohmynews most popular articles of the week.
In progress right now is a Seoul Press Tour scheduled for the end of April. If I don’t go to that I will do the Panorama tour.
Cycling [abridged version - the original was 2 pages long)
Last year Southern Free State Cycling interfered with my licensing, and this happened specifically because an asshole decided to sabotage my attempt to ride at SA Cycling champs... The fact that I was blocked by outside forces from doing SA’s dealt a huge blow to my motivation and enthusiasm for the sport. Thanks for that. Unfortunately I believe quite a few people took great satisfaction in that. These are people with an incredibly nasty, sucky attitude. I went through a long period where I had actually decided to quit cycling. Part of the despondency was the commitment involved in training, and the struggles to overcome sickness, and then to have people intentionally go out of their way to mete out their fucked up schemes of justice against someone who wants to get on his bicycle and ride – and these are churchgoers – it left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth. I had that recurring sense of loss – where you’ve done a lot of work, apparently for nothing. It was also a great time trial route on my back door, my age group was quite wide open, but there you go, the opportunity was spoiled and lost.
It was Alex who began to inspire love, confidence and the original spirit of cycling,and being in Gauteng made it easier to start again. Alex is in awesome shape, and he reminded me of the cyclist I once used to be. He also said that there is not much point sitting around getting fat…do you need to have a license to get fit? Isn’t training itself a reward?
Part of the despondency was also personal. How could I allow a small bump in the road to derail my plans? But after a while more and more people expressed their displeasure with CSA. The cyclist who died, Ryan Cox, may be alive today if the sports body that should have taken an interest in him had been there for him. He had to borrow money from a fellow cyclist for his operation. That isn’t right.
Today I am in pretty decent shape, but it has taken a long time to build up some momentum. It is difficult to build when you are transferring your life to another location geographically, and in the last 3 years I’ve done that a lot. The good news is, I am starting to improve quickly now. I am settled and strong, and the motivation is there. The Argus is on the cards, but I still haven’t decided for sure. I’ve hurt a few muscles in the last race, and there are one or two other issues. But I am in E, and I believe I can improve on last year. Even if I don’t do the Argus, I will be training through winter and setting my sights on good performances later this year.
Sorry, I’m not going to be sharing any personal anecdotes here, although there are some juicy ones. On average, things are looking positive; plenty of avenues for growth and creativity. To some extent growth depends on to what extent the gatekeepers allow you through to do anything new.
Alex and his family have really welcomed me into their home and it’s awesome to have great friends nearby. What great people.
I have made an effort to meet people in Johannesburg. I even went to local church – that’s huge for me. I recently took my landlady to a movie premiere and I’ve met a few people at gym (Roxanne for starters). But otherwise I’ve had incredibly bad luck. I’ve really met a string of people – girls mostly – who need counseling or at least time management training. I’m not sure why people give out business cards if they never answer their phones? This has been quite a low point, but since I have a girlfriend I’ve been fairly okay with the constant cancellations and postponements. It may have something to do with everyone being enormously ‘busy’. I’m just not someone who is happy to send 30 sms, 20 emails, and make 15 calls in order to meet once for coffee. It’s too much admin.
Is this town filled with high maintenance people?
Marriage may well be on the cards within the next two years.
What I’m Reading Right Now
I’ve ordered First Man on the Moon and World Made by Hand, from Amazon. I’m reading scriptwriting books and re-reading the likes of The World is Flat. I’m busy writing The Butcher The Butcher so I am looking at scripts in a similar genre.
Big things are happening here, but I need to be fairly discreet at this point.
I’ll be watching Juno, No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood in the coming weeks. I’m keen on being Barry Ronge’s alter ego. Nick Wrighte. Barry’s tastes seem to me are not as vigorous, youthful or in touch as they once were. I still find his writing very necessary reading and I’d like to interview him or at least have a conversation with him. I also intend to shoot a short film myself, hopefully before August this year. A surprisingly good film, I thought, that I’ve seen recently was The Kingdom.
I need to do another Ironman soon. Probably 2009.
As I say, the cycling thing really made a mess of my momentum and it’s my fault that it did, but I’m at a significantly lower level now than I would have been. This continues to make me angry.
Like Alex I’d like to be more involved in MTB, doing events such as the Epic, and other tours. He is doing Sani to sea over the next few days and next year I’d like to be there with him.
Publishing a book, that’s way overdo.
Producing a script.
Having this blog hit 100 000 by end of December this year.
Making a difference in terms of the common delusions people suffer from.
Being seen as an intelligent commentator and intellectual on urgent issues facing human beings not only in this nation, and in the world today.
This website belongs to a Swedish company that is apparently one of the most profitable in Europe. It’s a continuum scrolling down site, so there are no pages as such, even when you click on a link, you’re still part of the total ‘page’. All advertising obviously has the advantage of being associated with all traffic coming to ‘one’ page. It’s interesting because this approach breaks most of the conventional wisdoms about web design and is very successful.
Click here to view.
Having lived for two years in the UK and for four years in crowded South Korea, I’ve returned to South Africa a different person. While I left embittered and angry, I returned feeling a love and relief to be home.
I found the life of a foreigner exciting and enriching, but also lonely, finally becoming monotonous.
My awareness that things are different in South Africa began on the flight home - I sat beside a black couple, young students who had been holidaying in Thailand. Back on home soil, I found the economy booming: almost 5% GDP, the highest in 20 years, inflation at its lowest in a decade, the exchange rate almost impossibly strong.
On the surface, there’s a pleasant racial harmony in the shopping malls where blacks and whites graze together like sheep in their contemporaneous efforts at consumption.
It’s a sharp contrast from the homogeneous dullness of England and especially Korea. Here is an energetic diversity, especially in the youth.
I’m now back in Bloemfontein, a student city in the centre of the country, where I grew up under Apartheid when the city was a mostly Afrikaans, Christian conservative city.
It’s a lot less conservative now, and a lot more cosmopolitan.
A lot of student housing in the suburbs is filled with international students, from as far away as China, but mostly from African states like Nigeria, Namibia and Lesotho.
Our next door neighbour is a black doctor. The girls around here are stunning. Both whites and blacks take care of their appearance; many wear eye-popping blouses and skirts.Big hair, for the boys, appears to be in. And Bloemfontein has become officially cool, now that local boy, Ryk Neethling, the Olympic swimmer, has become South Africa’s favourite celebrity.In February, I took part in a local 100km bicycle race. At least 4 of the cyclists in our bunch were from Lesotho, and another half dozen black cyclists were locals. I’ve cycled for a few years, but being in a bunch with black cyclists was new for me, and I soon found out, also for them.
The school I attended in Bloemfontein did not permit blacks to attend. Even when I was a student at Free State University in 1991, there was just a trickle of black students.
In my 7 years at university, I remember how shy, lost and cliquey the African students were, as well as the tension and antagonism in the white hostels when the black students moved in.
Six years have passed and I’m back on campus. I’ve signed up for a post-graduate course at the University of the Free State. I’m one of 26,000 students.A third-year student of Social Sciences “jokes” that a very cute black guy “thinks he’s white” because he has a white girlfriend. She adds: “He can do so much better”. Everyone in the group laughs. It’s casual now, on campus, but there are occasional incidents. I’m told that an Afrikaans guy from the Reitz hostel beat up a black girl from Zimbabwe last year.
I’m inspired and thrilled by the new youth, the vigour and turns of colour, but is it all just a meretricious guise?
In search of an answer, I interviewed my Drama lecturer, an Italian lady by the name of Manuella Lovisa. She says students come from as far afield as Uganda and Eritrea, many from neighbouring Lesotho, and believes that both local and international students are beginning to feel more at home on campus. “You get a sense of it in the classroom. They’re more oriented now, and showing greater confidence,” she says.
Two years ago, there was unrest at the university. Ms Lovisa says there were rallies (she points outside her window), “out there”, in the road below, calling for cheaper university fees. All appears to have been resolved; there have been no rallies since.In fact, the Free State University now has a reputation for leading the transformation process, becoming a truly multicultural village. These transformations and language policies have been endorsed by Nelson Mandela.
I approached a number of students for their views.
They told me “there are too few black lecturers at the university”. One girl from Namibia, studying medicine, commented: “My lecturer told me, in front of the class, that he didn’t think I’d make it to my final year”. She felt insulted.
She says the white lecturers are difficult to approach, and offer tips on tests to white students but not to black students.
Her friends agreed, saying blacks aren’t given enough opportunities. I argued that, because of affirmative action, when they leave university, doors are opened for them, and not for white students. Lebo says they’re shut out of the intervarsity, and important functions have a few token blacks.
Again I argued that it might just be a case of preparation, like an athlete making ready for a race, and it takes time to integrate into a new environment. But I surrendered when they cited a number of disheartening anecdotes.
The medical student is explicitly angry at whites, saying: “I don’t like whites”. She tells me that at the time of the (recent) rugby match between the Bulls and the Cheetahs, she was walking on campus and someone called out: “Hey kaffir”. It wasn’t the first time.
The girls tell me that on the surface, the appearance is pleasant, but under the cover is a lot of resentment.
Blacks blame whites for a lack of opportunity, and 10 minutes later, sitting down to dinner with my Afrikaans girlfriend, her brother and others say the same thing: they blame black people for the lack of opportunities.
I pondered: “Maybe both sides are blaming the other, when neither is to blame. Maybe, for example, trying to get a job is just difficult. But each side is in the habit of heaping blame on the other side. Maybe our focus should be on doing what’s possible, instead of blacks blaming whites and whites blaming blacks for every thing that seems unfair. Life is unfair”.
This started a lively debate. The Free State, and Bloemfontein, has one of the lowest rates of employment in the country. Local success stories like Ryk Neethling did not wait for opportunity. They worked hard and seized their chances. Isn’t that a law of nature?
Isn’t our racism just an excuse?
South Africa has been called “The World in One Country”. It is. It has beauty and diversity in its countryside, its flora and fauna, and its people.
In the old South Africa, the mantra under the emblem read, Unity is Strength. We did not believe it, not enough to live it. But I do believe that, slowly, South Africa - the country with 25% of the wealth of the African continent - is starting to heal. The country, at times, has the appearance of Eenheid. I believe we are finding our way, although there’s a long way yet ahead of us all.
NVDL: I wrote this last year when I was a student at UFS.
I do think their fiery stance says something important though. Before we condemn we need to be clear on exactly what the facts are and exactly what was happened. It may well be that play-acting was involved. If this was the case, those who shouted the loudest and howled in protest might be guilty of...well, jumping a gun. Inciting unnecessarily. The media, are you listening? Even so, this is still very damaging and comes at a difficult time, a stressful time for a lot of South Africans. It feels like a throwback to the old black white bullshit.
Is having a sick sense of humor a jailable offence?
He says the white Afrikaners have overreacted in a big way to the changes happening on campus. They've had absurd demands like wanting their own private parking places.
It's gratifying to hear that an Afrikaans guy can speak so eloquently and passionately - in English - about who South Africans could and should be, because this guy is Afrikaans, a modern Afrikaner who plays in a band.
We both know one of the okes who made the video, a blonde dude orginally from Namibia. When I first heard the video I swore I recognised the voice. Then on the cover of the Star I saw his picture. What's disturbing about this guy, let's call him D, is that there's so much other stuff going on behind the scenes. I met him on a Christian cycle tour, and there's this disconnect between the Mr. Nice Guy (I think he was voted the most ideal man to marry at the end of the tour), the rugby playing Guy's Guy and then The "Fear Factor" Host.
How many of the rest of us are leading double lives like this? To what extent in this country do we pretend to be nice people living in harmony, but we go home to a piggish existence, all grudges and prejudices intact? I'm not only addressing this to the common man, but our political leaders as well.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
If Michael can't come up with $24,525,906.61 in 3 weeks (March 19, my brother's birthday, is the deadline), he will have to sell Neverland. This will be the most famous foreclosure ever, just another American unable to pay the mortgage...
Jackson hasn't been spotted at Neverland since June 2005. In that time he's
lived in Bahrain, Ireland and Las Vegas among other pit stops on his global
tour. It is assumed that Jackson will just do nothing and let the property go up
for auction since he probably does not have the money even though he refinanced
his $300 million loan from Fortress Investments with help from Sony Music, HSBC
and Barclays Bank.
Bloemfontein - The University of the Free State (UFS) cancelled all classes on Wednesday afternoon after a protest march by hundreds of staff and students
against a racial video made last year by white students.
UFS spokesperson Anton Fisher said all student classes were suspended after the protest march.
"It's to calm the situation on campus."
Go here for more.
NVDL: Ummmm...now every student can't go to class, even those who don't care about toilets, cakes and Reitz. This means the minority involved in these streke get even more attention. Sorry, I'm not sure if cancelling class was the solution.
That said, when I attended English some lecturers seldom turned up, and the English Department itself was shockingly dysfunctional. I even started a grievance procedure and their response was to attack my blog for saying what I'd experienced [search 'Raftery']. Even they violated their own grievance procedures!!! Crazy! Guess everyone is going to skrik wakker now that everyone is watching. Lekker.
Feel like an argument? Then THE RAP is just the thing for you!
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If there is something or someone you want to write about this is your opportunity to turn thoughts into words. Within 6 weeks you will understand the principles of writing for a visual medium and what it takes to be screenwriter. The course is also ideal for novelists who would like to adapt their work into a visual medium, or writers who want to write stageplays. The course will
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Saturday, February 9, 16, 23 and March 1, 8 and 15, 2008From 14:00 until 17:00
Resource Centre, Waterfront Studios (former Sasani Studios), 1 Port Road - enter the blue door at the Red brick building at the end of the parking lot and come up the stairs.COSTThe cost is R900. If you are a registered student or scholar, a pensioner, a SABC staff member, the cost of the course is R700.
Since he launched The Writing Studio eight years ago DANIEL DERCKSEN has presented over 200 workshops in scriptwriting and creative writing throughout South Africa. As a published playwright, writer and movie journalist, he is a qualified ETD Practitioner (Education, Training and Development) - accredited by SAQA (The South African Qualifications Authority) - working in accordance with the principles of the Department of Education and focusing on outcomes-based education, training and development, and has been involved in movie journalism for more than 20 years. Read more
For background, go here.
Police use stun grenade on campus
5 arrested on UFS campus
The CPIX number beat forecasts of 8,4% rise and is widely expected to jump further in the first quarter of the year, adding to pressure on the central bank to raise rates again.More.
"This confirms that inflation remains a very big problem. It is putting serious pressure on the Reserve Bank," said Efficient Group economist Fanie Joubert.
NVDL: Why is this happening? Because the commodity that underpins everything we do is getting more expensive, and sorry to say, will become more expensive over the permanent term. If you think this is a temporary feature unfortunately you're living in a fool's paradise. Koo koo.
We have so little free time these days. Ever notice how hard it is to schedule something with someone new you have met? I've gone through this process a few times now with a few different people. The initial enthusiasm tends to become eroded by the frustration of hit and miss calls, and schlepp of smsing, and unanswered emails.
Diarising time may seem to be a solution, but by the time your 'appointment' comes up, you;re not in the mood, not ready or just generally overstressed. Being spontaneous works only if you luck out on random slots of free time at the same time. That almost never happens.
Finally one person - the more sensitive one - decides: let's try to make a specific plan to see each other. The other person feels trapped, controlled, it's even more added stress. Solution - leave each other alone and go back to work, spending time in front of your computer and stuck in traffic jams on the way to work. This is what life is all about. We were born to be egotistical money making machines, not fathers, friends, daughters, sons or lovers. Get back to work!
The Big Question: Why is South Africa proposing to cull thousands of elephants?
If the world was overrun with elephants, I'd put my hand up and say: "Er...let's cull." But if small or even large reserves reach their capacity, you don't cull an animal that has completely disappeared from other areas, and is absent from other reserves. You take the extra animals there. Is that so hard to comprehend?
Follow the money trail...
South Africa elephant cull move condemned (+video)
Watch video here.
A video of University of the Free State (UFS) employees on their knees eating meat which had been urinated on was condemned “in the strongest possible terms” by the university yesterday.
The video, made by the Reitz men’s residence, surfaced yesterday morning and follows riots by the students at the campus last week over the university’s hostel integration policy.
“The Executive Management (EM) of the UFS condemns this video in the strongest possible terms as a gross violation of the human dignity of the workers involved,” the university said.
For the rest of this article from Sowetan online, go here.
Volksblad: 'n RASSEBOM het gister op die kampus van die Universiteit van die Vrystaat (UV) in Bloemfontein ontplof. (Click here for Video)
NVDL: Big shit is happening on that campus. I should know, I was there. The Afrikaners feel like they have had to give up everything, all their traditions, even where they live on campus. Lots of angry people.
Gold 963.95 Up 1.52%
Platinum 2169.00 1.17%
Brent Crude Oil 100.12 Up 0.65%
Rand - $ 7.4790
NVDL: I sometimes think what is bad for the world, is good for us. But even if it is true, I'm not sure if it is true for very long.
SINGAPORE - Gold roared above $955 an ounce today to its highest level ever, with investors pouring money into the metal after oil hit a record above $101 a barrel and the US dollar tumbled against other currencies.
Spot gold rose as high as $955,70 an ounce, with buying particularly from investors and speculators in Japan. It was up from $946,60/947,40 late in New York yesterday and has gained more than 14% this year.
Silver rallied to its loftiest level since November 1980 on investor buying as it was still cheaper than other precious metals. Palladium jumped to its best level in more than six years while platinum hovered below last week’s record.
"Investors are still very concerned about the fluctuations and troubles in other markets," said Darren Heathcote of Investec Australia in Sydney.
"Let’s just say $970 is not inconceivable. As I guess $1 000 is not inconceivable. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to sell gold," he said.
From: Gold hits record high on surging oil, euro
During the Carnival City race I experienced probably the most extreme cramping ever, and I have done plenty of 150+ rides in much harsher conditions. In South Korea I once rode the second 75km with almost no water and no food. I got jittery towards the end in the 35C + heat, and high humidity. But I suffered far more during the 100km at Carnival city in less hot conditions and with two water bottles on board.
The cramping was so chronic I essentially lost the use of muscle groups for a few seconds. That's right. Muscles locked and I couldn't use them. Crazy. This also happened to various muscle groups, as though a snake was moving through both legs, finding muscles to play boa constrictor with. It is now 3 days later and I am still limping around and sore, not from the exertion, but from having to push through so many sets of muscle cramps.
I'm not slashing Phedra as something you must never use. I'm just saying it has side-effects, and one of them is it tries you out. If you use it, drink lots of water before the race, and as much as you can during the event. But my advice for 100km + races is not to use it at all.
Figures show the suicide rate among 11-17s in Wales, although small, is five times higher than in England.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, he describes a runaway suicide craze in Micronesia. Gladwell writes that before the 1960's suicide was unknown in Micronesia, and after the first suicide, it caught on quickly so that by the 1980's Micronesia had the highest per capita suicide rate in the world. Suicide was hot.
Exactly how hot? Well the USA has a rate of 22 per 100 000. Micronesia's rose to 160 per 100 000. Gladwell says that teens would commit suicide if they saw their girlfriends with other boys.
"On seventeen year old boy hanged himself after being rebuked by his older brother for making too much noise." - writes Gladwell.
Even more shocking is the ideation of suicide. Kids start to want to 'try' hanging to 'see how it feels'. There's excitement and daring involved. Gladwell calls it a contagious epidemic of self-destruction, engaged by youth in the spirit of experimentation, imitation and rebellion...it becomes an important form of self-expression.
South Africa has their own brand of suicide crazy youngsters. They're called train surfers. Check it out:
Train surfer buried
'Disturbing' child suicide rate
While Micronesia took the suicide world by storm once upon a time, the Japanese are consistent performers. Anything from bankruptcy to failing one's exams is grounds for jumping in front of a bus.
One Japanese suicide every 15 minutes
But the leading contempers today are indians girls.
Indian teens have world's highest suicide rate
The average suicide rate for young women aged between 15 to 19 living around Vellore in Tamil Nadu was 148 per 100,000. This compares to just 2.1 suicides per 100,000 in the same group in the UK.
The global suicide rate stands at 14.5 deaths per 100,000, with suicide the fourth leading cause of death in the 15 to 19 age group. However, in the Tamil Nadu study, suicide was the number one cause of death among these adolescents.
Notably, young women were much more likely to kill themselves than young men - the reverse of the rest of the world. In Western countries, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Hanging was the most common method used, followed by poisoning using insecticide.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Crusty, dusty and rusty describes the Mars of today.More.
Surface features of the Red Planet, however, hint at a watery past where torrents of groundwater carved out deep canyons, formed sweeping fans of sediment and cemented together huge fault lines.
"Groundwater probably played a major role in shaping many of the things we see on the Martian surface," said George Postma, a sedimentologist at UtrechtUniversity in the Netherlands.
Postma collaborated with Virginia Tech's Erin Kraal and others to recreate Mars' fan-like sediment deposits with a scale model. The group detailed their findings in a recent issue of the journal Nature.
A separate new study by Allan Treiman, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, details the role of groundwater in depositing minerals in rocky Martian crevices.
NVDL: Is this a story about Mars or Earth in a million years? Can't quite make it out...
Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything "free" was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You'd get one thing free if you bought another, or you'd get a product free only if you paid for a service.
Over the past decade, however, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies — the shifting of costs from one product to another — but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It's as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely. (Shaving cream?)
You know this freaky land of free as the Web. A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending. In 2007 The New York Times went free; this year, so will much of The Wall Street Journal. (The remaining fee-based parts, new owner Rupert Murdoch announced, will be "really special ... and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive." This calls to mind one version of Stewart Brand's original aphorism from 1984: "Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive ... That tension will not go away.")
Scenario 1: Low-cost digital distribution will make the summer blockbuster free. Theaters will make their money from concessions — and by selling the premium moviegoing experience at a high price.
Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.
The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero.
Hudson: What do you mean "THEY cut the power"? How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!
Once upon a time, not long ago, right here, a body drifted, still strapped to her seat, her vehicle drifting, floating through the sea of space. The body was not dead, but asleep. It belonged to the only survivor, a woman, who once lived in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, in South Africa. Perhaps her body washed up on a beach in Australia. All we know is she was taken somewhere and then the people asked her a lot of questions.
“How many times do you want to hear the same story?” she said, after 3 hours of questioning.
“We can corroborate some elements of your story. For reasons unknown South Africa lost power, and the affects of crime and AIDS and corruption had a cascading effect. But for reasons unknown the country was set for self destruct, and you freely admit to running away from and thereby abandoning a once thriving democracy.”
“Look, I can see where this is going and I’m telling you…”
A woman, an accountant, rifles through some papers. “He was a politician and a crook, with concentrated acid for blood – these are your words…”
“Did IQ’s drop while I was away? We all knew what was happening but we didn’t know where to start doing anything about it. So we just didn’t do anything. And when the shit had hit the fan we kept on hoping things would get back to normal. But of course we were way fucking past normal.”
“Thank you, that will be all."
“God damn it, that's not all! Because the same thing happens overt and over again in Africa, and millions end up dead, or stuck in intractable poverty and suffering. If one of those presidents gets down here then that will be all! Then all this - this bullshit that you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye!
“We don’t need to learn the lesson. We have poor people in Australia. They live in the territories. Have been doing so for years.”
“You have no idea what you’re dealing with. Even if I tell you exactly what you’re dealing with, you’ve still got no idea how much shit is involved.”
Apone: All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed?
But they called her up a few weeks later, because they needed stuff that was said to be abundant in South Africa, coal, and people and things who went there weren’t coming back any more. They wanted to know what was happening..
“You throw me out to the wolves, and now you want me to go back there? I don’t want to go back. I have nightmares. The rapes, the guns, the mobs. I wouldn’t be any use to you even if I did go.”
We are making our home into a gallows. And it seems no matter how many times we explain to ourselves what is happening in this country, we come away thinking everything will be fine. It’s our greed that drives us, and greed is a coward. It hopes to get something for nothing.
Ripley: You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage!
When you have a man not yet president already crushing the judiciary, shutting down a crime fighting unit and making threats to the media, you can bet the transition under this man, as president, will not be pleasant. He has vowed to make all policies, all actions by private citizens the business of the ANC. This is known as state run civil society. It’s socialism and communism. It is how African tinderbox African dictatorships are born and burn, but we will all burn in the fire…except of course, our Dear New Leader.
Read the following dialogue but imagine this is happening in South Africa, not somewhere out in space. It comes down to the same thing anyway: no one can here you scream:
Bishop: Well, that explains it then. The A2s always were a bit twitchy. That could never happen now with our behavioral inhibitors. It is impossible for me to harm or by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being.
Ripley: Well, somebody's gonna have to go out there. Take a portable terminal, go out there and patch in manually.
Hudson: Oh yeah, sure! With those things runnin' around? You can count me out.
Hicks: Yeah I guess we can just count you out of everything, Hudson.
Bishop: [speaking under Hicks] I'll go.
Hudson: That's right, man.
Bishop: I'll go.
Hudson: Hey, why don't you go, man!
Bishop: [more loudly] I'll go.
Bishop: I'll go. I mean, I'm the only one qualified to remote-pilot the ship anyway.
Hudson: Yeah right, man, Bishop should go. Good idea!
Bishop: Believe me, I'd prefer not to. I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid.
Hudson: That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?
As deserving (or not) as many of last night’s Oscar winners were, it was hard not to notice one glaring omission among the Best Picture and Best Director nominees: Sean Penn’s haunting adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.From veryshortlist.com
Starring Emile Hirsch and Best Supporting Actor nominee Hal Holbrook, the film tells the true story of twentysomething Christopher McCandless, who boyishly wandered around the American West before dying of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. While Krakauer’s book delved deeply into his subject’s motivations and psyche (was he selfish or stupid? Spiritually lost or psychologically ill?), Penn, who wrote and directed the film, smartly reduces his narrative just to McCandless’s quest — the places he saw (gorgeously shot by cinematographer Eric Gautier), the fellow American wanderers he met (Vince Vaughn is particularly winning as one of them), and how he and those he encountered were changed by the experience.
Beautiful, restrained, funny, and sad, Into the Wild is a celebration of our national instinct for liberty and the lengths to which true believers will go to find it. That golden guy doesn’t know what he’s missing.
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NVDL: There was some full frontal nudity in this film which probably relegated it 'art movie' status. The nudity was incidental in the way that when you are in the bush and you see a big fat oom or a little girl running around. It reinforces the sense that we people are also animals in a simple sense, and in the important sense that nature is where we belong.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade in January while the median price for a home dropped for the fifth straight month.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 0.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units, the slowest sales pace on records going back to 1999.
The median price of a home sold in January slid to $201,100, a drop of 4.6 percent from a year ago.
Monday, February 25, 2008
1. To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance.
2. To make a false show of; feign.
To disguise or conceal one's real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance.
1. One who plays tricks or pranks. trickster
bad hat, mischief-maker, trouble maker, troublemaker, troubler - someone who deliberately stirs up trouble.
Because if you do become our president, there will be trouble for ordinary citizens, black and white.
The maneuvers that the big banks are making nowadays, along with their enablers at the Federal Reserve and elsewhere in Washington, really amount to little more than the old Polish blanket joke -- in which (excuse my concision) the proverbial Polack wants to make his blanket longer, so he scissors twelve inches off the top and sews it onto the bottom. Only in this case, the banks are shearing x-billions of losses off the top of their blankets and re-attching x-billions of new debt onto the bottom. This new debt, of course, goes to cover the old losses and only represents further losses-to-be-reported-later, since the banks are basically insolvent. Borrowing more money when you're broke doesn't make you less insolvent.By James Kunstler
The banks can probably keep this gag running a little longer, but not without consequences. My guess is that it spins out of control in March sometime when some more hedge funds blow up and at least one big bank, perhaps Citi, rolls belly up like a harpooned whale. The game is really over, and all the playerz know it. The consequence of continuing to pretend the meta-fiasco of Ponzi endgame is fixable will be an even more shattering depression than the one we're already in for.
We are a much poorer nation than we thought we were and the reality is just too hard to face. Nobody from the most august banker (Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson) to the lowliest wanker (the WalMart inventory clerk who "bought" a house outside Phoenix with a no-money-down, payment-option, adjustable rate mortgage) can believe that this is happening. The candidates for president are pretty much assuming that vast financial resources will exist to be deployed against a range of problems. Everybody is going to be hugely disappointed.
When you introduce perversities into an economic system, they invariably end up expressing themselves as distortions. The economy that evolved the past two decades, driven by the perverse securitization of wishes and frauds, will now express itself in a stark cratering of American living standards. Incomes and jobs will vanish, massive quantities of stuff will collect dust on the WalMart shelves, the fragile infrastructures of daily life will go to shit, and there will be political hell to pay. Every attempt to avoid a straight-up workout of our massive losses, will represent another layer of perversity and more consequent destructive distortions.
I feel sorry for the next president. Even as he takes the oath of office, the nation will be flying apart like a seized-up engine. Since the fiasco in finance is happening in lock-step with Peak Oil (and very likely because of it at a fundamental level) we can expect one of the distortions to take the form of oil shortages. These shortages will come not just from demand bottlenecks in a stressed-out world oil allocation system, but because exporting nations will start demanding payment in Euros or something besides the depreciating currency that reflects our disintegration, and we'll have a problem coming up with payments that amount to at least fifty percent more than we're used to shelling out.
Once the US gets into serious difficulties with our oil supplies, every other sector of the economy wobbles, including especially the food-growing sector, which cannot function without copious amounts of diesel fuel and hydrocarbon-based soil "inputs." Americans will go hungry, and not just the "underclasses."
Along in this process somewhere, there is huge potential for armed conflict with other nations. If the unraveling gets traction while George W. Bush remains in charge, the US may answer bellicosity from oil-exporting nations, or energy-hungry rivals, with truculence of our own. Things can get out of control very fast in such a situation. Nations that were happily selling us salad shooters six months earlier may be targeting our naval vessels with a different sort of shooter, say a Sunburn missile. In any case, we will be acting with a bankrupt, exhausted, and over-extended military, and the best case outcome would leave us merely isolated and marooned geopolitically on our own continent, with dwindling energy and mineral resources and an angry, demoralized population.
This time around we have more to fear than fear itself. The banking executives, government officials, and candidates for president are not doing the nation a service by concealing and ignoring our losses. Finance, as the driver of an economy, is finished, but the deployment of capital is still an indispensable arm of a real economy. Sooner or later we'll get back to money that stands for something and banks that function as credible repositories of wealth. But we haven't even started down the path to that place, and the longer we pretend that we don't have to go there, the worse the journey will be.
NVDL: And so ends the spectacular phase known as the generation that 'Wanted Something For Nothing', but instead took everything for themselves leaving Generation Next with Nothing For Something. They (we?) will break their (our?) backs laboring on farms to pay the piper for a chaotic climate and the eviscerations of long term stagflation. I don't think we will get back to a money system again. Money will be invisible after this, banking will be online, but it will be based on the value of real assets that exist in the real world. We will mortgage everything in future, houses, cars, the lot. And thus commerce will finally come to resemble what it always was: trading goods (not for money, but for goods you don't have). Just a theory.
SEOUL, South Korea - Hard-charging former businessman Lee Myung-bak took
the oath of office as South Korea's new president Monday, vowing to revitalize the economy, strengthen relations with the U.S. and deal with nuclear-armed North Korea.
The conservative, pro-U.S. Lee, nicknamed "The Bulldozer" for the can-do image he honed as a construction company CEO and later as mayor of Seoul, was sworn into office in a colorful outdoor ceremony at the National Assembly in the presence of tens of thousands of onlookers.
"Economic revivalis our most urgent task," Lee said in his inauguration speech.
NVDL: I may be travelling to Seoul at the end of April for a few days on a writing assignment.
Jean Temkin writes: In the past 14 months, the oil price has risen 79%...the situation has changed drastically over the past four months as the dollar gained against the rand. With the rand at a 17-month low against the dollar, the outlook for the petrol price is bleak. Depending on a combination of the rand’s value and the oil price, calculating counts for petrol is dicey, but the next one looks like R8,30/l.NVDL: I don't know about you, but I am already feeling the pinch of higher prices. Foodwise and petrolwise. It's becoming harder to make ends meet. I'm seriously considering NOT going down to the Argus for exactly the reason that I may not be able to afford to do so. It's a want, not a need.
Jean Temkin writes: Risks include a US recession and political uncertainty. Investors are concerned about Zuma’s August 14 trial and a shift to the left in the ANC leadership.
NVDL: I've been realistic about our economic prospects, others call this pessimism. A friend says that we haven't grown at the rate we have (in SA) for a long long time. Things can't be better. Exactly. After such a long 'good' run, we're due for a protracted 'ill turn'. Not only are the microeconomic fundamentals dodgy, so is the world economy. The global economic malaise is looking increasingly to me like the ruckus going on pre- The Iraq War. Everyone had their theories, and in the end, most people supported the war, didn't they? I didn't. But the same reasons for the mêlée into Iraq are the reasons behind the growing malaise everywhere. Expensive oil, stupid.
HOLLYWOOD — “No Country for Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s chilling confrontation of a desperate man with a relentless killer, won the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, providing a more-than-satisfying ending for the makers of a film that many believed lacked one.
The Coens, who live in New York and remain aloof from the Hollywood establishment, also shared the directing and adapted screenplay awards. Joel Coen thanked the academy members for “letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox.”
No film ran away with the night, however, as the 80th annual Academy Awards gave a bruised movie industry a chance to refocus its ever-inward gaze on laurels instead of labor strife.
Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for his portrayal of a ruthless oil tycoon’s rise from the sweat and sludge of wildcatting to wealth, power and madness in “There Will Be Blood.”
Tilda Swinton took best supporting actress for playing a nervous wreck of a corporate lawyer who throws morality under the bus of her ambition in “Michael Clayton.”
The indie delight “Juno,” about a pregnant teenager with a mouth on her, won for best original screenplay, by Diablo Cody, who once worked as a stripper. She tearfully thanked her family for “loving me for who I am.”
Click here to view slideshow.
NVDL: I watched 'Michael Clayton' over the weekend. George Clooney is a bozo; Tilda Swinton put in a perfect performance, but then she was made for this role. Later I will post an article titled: Is George Looney? He is currently featured in TIME magazine - including on the cover - but I believe he is one of the most overrated actors in movie history. And that's all he knows: how to be a movie star (and apparently all he wants).