Author Archives: louiszyphire

“A job like any other, a life like any other.”

On a scale of 1 to 10 that runs the gamut of human achievements to overcome adversity this ranks a solid 11.

Vladislav Rogozov was the first man to perfom an auto-appendectomy and in the Antarctic to boot. That means he cut out his own appendix because there was no one else around to do the job. The following excerpt is not for the squeamish. If you have the guts (ha) go over here and read the whole tale.

Following Rogozov’s instructions, the team members assembled an improvised operating theatre. They moved everything out of Rogozov’s room, leaving only his bed, two tables, and a table lamp. The aerologists Fedor Kabot and Robert Pyzhov flooded the room thoroughly with ultraviolet lighting and sterilised the bed linen and instruments.

As well as Rogozov, the meteorologist Alexandr Artemev, the mechanic Zinovy Teplinsky, and the station director, Vladislav Gerbovich, were selected to undergo a sterile wash. Rogozov explained how the operation would proceed and assigned them tasks: Artemev would hand him instruments; Teplinsky would hold the mirror and adjust the lighting with the table lamp; Gerbovich was there in reserve, in case nausea overcame either of the assistants. In the event that Rogozov lost consciousness, he instructed his team how to inject him with drugs using the syringes he had prepared and how to provide artificial ventilation. Then he gave Artemev and Teplinsky a surgical wash himself, disinfected their hands, and put on their rubber gloves for them.

When the preparations were complete Rogozov scrubbed and positioned himself. He chose a semi-reclining position, with his right hip slightly elevated and the lower half of the body elevated at an angle of 30°. Then he disinfected and dressed the operating area. He anticipated needing to use his sense of touch to guide him and thus decided to work without gloves.

Btw, the headline will become clear if you finish the article.

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Entgegen der Krise

Da es hier in letzter Zeit so Ernst war, etwas zur Aufheiterung: Old Jews telling jokes.

Leider konnte ich das Video, das ich hier zeigen wollte nicht einbettet. Aber das oben fand ich auch sehr lustig. Nachdem es fertig ist, sollte man unter weitere Episoden die Folge mit Charlotte Bornstein, “Food Issues”, anschauen.

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Bubbles and depressions

Another fine article by Matt Taibbi about the bailout economy and how the banks are running a giant con game on the taxpayer. If you have the stomach to read it, that is. Here’s one excerpt about how the toxis asset bubble is now reinflating:

One trader, who asked not to be identified, recounts a story of what happened with his hedge fund this past fall. His firm wanted to short — that is, bet against — all the crap toxic bonds that were suddenly in vogue again. The fund’s analysts had examined the fundamentals of these instruments and concluded that they were absolutely not good investments.

So they took a short position. One month passed, and they lost money. Another month passed — same thing. Finally, the trader just shrugged and decided to change course and buy.

“I said, ‘Fuck it, let’s make some money,'” he recalls. “I absolutely did not believe in the fundamentals of any of this stuff. However, I can get on the bandwagon, just so long as I know when to jump out of the car before it goes off the damn cliff!”

This is the very definition of bubble economics — betting on crowd behavior instead of on fundamentals. It’s old investors betting on the arrival of new ones, with the value of the underlying thing itself being irrelevant. And this behavior is being driven, no surprise, by the biggest firms on Wall Street.

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Gil Scott-Heron is back with the devil

Gil Scott-Heron ist back. For those who don’t know him, he was one of the most outspoken black poets and social critics of the 70ties. He is widely considered to be a frontrunner for modern hiphop. His most famous poem is “The revolution will not be televised”.

The Guardian has an interview up now:

“People keep saying I disappeared,” the singer tells me, laughing heartily, when I speak to him. “Well, that’s a gift I didn’t know I had. You ever see someone disappear? That makes me a superhero, right?”

The humour, though, conceals a great deal of heartbreak and an epic struggle with addiction, both of which are referred to obliquely on his raggedly brilliant version of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil” on the new album. “Early this mornin’, when you knocked upon my door”, he sings, “And I said, “Hello, Satan, I believe it’s time to go.”

Though Gil Scott-Heron insists he did not disappear, that he kept playing club gigs in America and did the occasional tour, that he was writing, if not recording, the news that kept on filtering back from his long winter in America was always bleak. It seemed at times as if the most astute musical social commentator of the 70s and 80s had metamorphosed into a character from one of his own sad songs of suffering and struggle. On the sombre and still-startling “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”, recorded in 1971, he described a junkie trapped in a blighted inner-city ghetto who lived inside “white powder dreams”. Thirty-odd years later, he seemed to be living those lyrics.

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Bombenalarm

Diese Story ist wirklich der Hammer: Die Slowaken hielten es offenbar für eine gute Idee, die Sicherheit ihrer Flughäfen zu testen, indem sie unwissenden Touristen Bomben ins Gepäck steckten und dann warteten, ob diese gefunden würden. Offenbar klappte das nur bei sieben der acht Versuchskaninchen. Nummer acht schaffte es nach Hause und wurde dort prompt ins Gefängnis geworfen. Nach drei Tagen bequemten sich die Slowaken dann, ihren ausländischen Kollegen von ihrem drolligen Experiment zu erzählen (Sie behaupten, das schon vorher getan zu haben. Momentan schiebt man halt den Schwarzen Peter herum). Der Tourist wurde dann wieder frei gelassen…

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David Simon is the man

This here is a nice interview with “The Wire” creator David Simon. As you might know “The Wire” ist the greatest TV-show ever made – at least in my book.  It’s a pretty long interview about the show, writing for TV and the state of the US. Here’s a good quote:

“Good” being the operative word there. I don’t want to reduce The Wire to one big theme, but would you say that a major thrust of the series was the idea of institutions versus individuals?
Yeah, that permeated it. One of the things we were saying was that reform was becoming more and more problematic as moneyed interests—capitalism, which is sort of the ultimate Olympian god—become more entrenched in the postmodern world. Reform becomes more and more problematic because the status quo is arranged in such a way as to maximize profit and to exalt profit—particularly short-term profit—over long-term societal benefit and/or human beings.

Which is kind of the classic problem that comes up with capitalism and industry.
But I’m not a Marxist. I am often mistaken for a Marxist.

Oh, no, I wouldn’t guess that about you. I think of you as being, besides a writer, more of a critic and an observer.
It’s one thing to recognize capitalism for the powerful economic tool it is and to acknowledge that, for better or for worse, we’re stuck with it and, hey, thank God we have it. There’s not a lot else that can produce mass wealth with the dexterity that capitalism can. But to mistake it for a social framework is an incredible intellectual corruption and it’s one that the West has accepted as a given since 1980—since Reagan. Human beings—in this country in particular—are worth less and less. When capitalism triumphs unequivocally, labor is diminished. It’s a zero-sum game. People paid a much higher tax rate when Eisenhower was president, a much higher tax rate for the benefit of society, and all of us had more of a sense that we were included. But this is not what you really want to talk about, I know.

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Party like it’s 1993

Ich präsentiere: die aktuelle Nummer 1 der englischen Charts – “Kiling in the name of” von Rage against the Machine. Anscheinend hatte eine Gruppe von Leuten die Schnauze voll von den Casting Shows, deren Gewinner regelmässig um die Weihnachtszeit die Charts anführen und hat via Facebook eine Gegenbewegung ausgelöst. Das Resultat: besagte Rage-Single ist Nummer 1. Was nebenbei her belegt, dass gute Musik zeitlos ist – zumindest gerade jetzt für ein paar Tage. Hier noch ein Link zum Spiegel, der dazu ein kurzes Segment gemacht hat. Ich geh jetzt ein bisschen bangen. Der Rest der Platte ist nämlich auch extrem geil!

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Finanzminister mit Gedächtnisproblemen

Wie die Finanzkrise gezeigt hat, braucht man integere Leute mit Verantwortungsgefühl, um den Weg in die Zukunft zu weisen. Deshalb macht man auch einen der Protagonisten eines Bestechungsskandals zum Finanzminister und ignoriert das dann hinterher…

 

 

 

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The deep waters of the economic crises

While all the old, rich and powerful keep mumbling about recovery at the end of 2010, I tend not to believe in it. If anything 2010 will be worse than 2009. My opinion may rest in part on the fact that I am not rich, and therefore do not stand to loose my position of power. Mind you, I am well aware that these people will weather the storm better than me, but the thing they built their world upon may be going away for good…

The problem with the economy is that the chain of dominos is rather long and recursive. That means, we saw some banks topple and thought it was the end, but it was only the beginning. Take the following article about the ghost fleet off of the coast of Singapore:

The Aframax-class oil tanker is the camel of the world’s high seas. By definition, it is smaller than 132,000 tons deadweight and with a breadth above 106ft. It is used in the basins of the Black Sea, the North Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the China Sea and the Mediterranean – or anywhere where non-OPEC exporting countries have harbours and canals too small to accommodate very large crude carriers (VLCC) or ultra-large crude carriers (ULCCs). The term is based on the Average Freight Rate Assessment (AFRA) tanker rate system and is an industry standard.

You may wish to know this because, if ever you had an irrational desire to charter one, now would be the time. This time last year, an Aframax tanker capable of carrying 80,000 tons of cargo would cost £31,000 a day ($50,000). Now it is about £3,400 ($5,500).

This is why the chilliest financial winds anywhere in the City of London are to be found blowing through its 400-plus shipping brokers.

Between them, they manage about half of the world’s chartering business. The bonuses are long gone. The last to feel the tail of the economic whiplash, they – and their insurers and lawyers – await a wave of redundancies and business failures in the next six months. Commerce is contracting, fleets rust away – yet new ship-builds ordered years ago are still coming on stream.

Read the rest, it is well worth it. Especially considering there is a lag of three years between ordering a ship and getting it. That means the shipyards are currently busy building ships nobody needs and that might be scrapped on completition.

Now we get to the recursive part in the domino theory. Once the companies that are currently buys building ships nobody needs run out of orders in about two years time, they will close down, laying off their workers, which in turn will deepen the cirsis.

‘know what I’m sayin’ …

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Drugs to be partially legalized in Mexico

Seems the mexican government is contemplating to legalise the possession of small amounts of drugs – not only pot but harder things as well.  If this will come to pass, it will be big. The first government to end the senseless stupidity that is the war on drugs or, at least, curtail it. Plus other news of southamerican moves in that direction.

From the Guardian:

Mexico is in a curious position: a battlefield in a drugs war that has claimed some 14,000 lives since December 2006, but also a laboratory for an experiment that goes beyond even Argentina’s – opting no longer to prosecute those carrying small quantities of marijuana, cocaine, heroin or synthetic drugs.

Decriminalisation is openly aimed at redirecting stretched resources against the warmongers and opening prison space to accommodate them rather than petty addicts. Few serving Mexican politicians have tried to pretend that, without the war, the legislation would not have been considered.

In Tijuana, addicts cannot believe their luck – those arriving at the Narcóticos Anónimos session are amazed that possession of up to four lines of cocaine or 50mg of heroin will be legal. Juan Morales Magana, 17, a windscreen-washer and registered methamphetamine and heroin addict, was working out how many hits the legal limit of 40mg of meth would get him, though his counsellor, an evangelical pastor, was ambivalent: “I wouldn’t want anyone to think that, just because it is legal, one should live like this for fun. Drugs are the scourge of our society. All this can do would limit killing between small-time cholos [gangsters] for street-corner turf, allowing the army to go after kingpins and middle men. The danger is that kingpins will accelerate the domestic market if possession is legal and smuggling into the US more difficult.”

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