Archive for November, 2011
Robert Harris’s latest book The Fear Index is a thriller set in the exciting world of high finance and computing. The fact that it is genuinely thrilling, given the topics, is testament to Harris’s skill.
The story revolves around a genius boffin physicist called Dr Alex Hoffman who creates a program that can learn, analyse and help pick stocks and shares. Essentially it’s an AI stock trader. The program looks at data and learns how to predict when stockbrokers are getting particularly jittery. As I have written before, traders are very easily panicked but if you could predict what stock they were about to crap themselves about before the market does, you could make a fortune by shorting stock (essentially a bet that the share price will go down).
The program works brilliantly and keeps getting better and soon Hoffman and his business partner are making so much cash it would cause an anti-capitalist to have an instant nervous breakdown. But strange things are happening at home - Hoffman is attacked by an intruder in his house and he receives a first edition Darwin book from someone.
I can’t relate any more of the story but it is a thriller so you should know it gets very exciting.
I have been trading for about 6 months now, so am a mega expert on how the markets work and the terminology used, but don’t worry. Mr Harris explains everything very well. The financial stuff is just background anyway. Think of this book as more of a Michael Crichton techno type of novel.
I enjoyed The Fear Index. It was gripping, exciting and well written. Sadly there were a few things I felt let it down a tiny bit. The characters where slightly cliched. The scientist isn’t good at dealing with social situations and doesn’t care about money, just his work. His business partner is a good looking ex-London trader who lives a bachelor life, treats women as objects, and wants a really flash yacht. As with most fast-paced thrillers though, this doesn’t really matter.
The Fear Indexhas a number of themes it is trying to explore. These are all well and good but occasionally feel a bit hammered home by quotations. The AI is like a new lifeform that is learning and evolving. Theme: evolution - so there are lots of quotes from Darwin. Is the Doctor truly in control of his creation? Here’s a quote from Frankenstein. There are other quotes from people like Bill Gates and Clinton concerning people, fear, computers, etc. It could be argued that these quotes enhance the themes discussed and add new angles to the narrative but if that is the case then I felt the themes weren’t quite explored enough. Which is slightly contradictory, so ignore me.
To summarise, I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Fear Index. While I may have stated that it could have done with a bit more characterisation and exploration of themes (without the bullet-point feel of the quotes), it should be kept in mind that this is a thriller. It’s also set in the high-speed world of finance and computing and the events take place within a day. So in fact, job done. Enjoyable, interesting, fast-paced, and recommended. Enjoy.
Now that google maps can spy on every corner of the world, the unemployed can systematically check out every square foot of the planet. Consequently one of them has discovered some weird-assed stuff in the Chinese Kumtag desert near Tibet. These things are massive and spooky/cool. There are numerous theories floating around the internet already and these include some kind of targeting display (doesn’t really make sense), giant wind farm/solar power generator (doesn’t look like that), plans for new cities (minus the buildings), and a whole host more.
I have the answer. They are clearly military in nature and are either something to do with aliens or the groundwork for a doomsday device. The sort of thing a mad scientist like Dr Evil would build that induces earthquakes/ causes all volcanoes to explode/ has some weird magnet that would cause the moon to crash into the earth/ generally fuck things up. There really is no other explanation. We need Fox Mulder, Indiana Jones, and James Bond to investigate this now. Or even someone real. If not the internet may implode from speculation. The above image can be found here on google maps.
If you think the above pictures is odd, check out these.
This one looks like an airport. Two airports in fact – except one seems to be glowing. WHY? To help planes land at night? To guide UFOs in? The link to google maps is here.
To stay with the airport theme, here is a weird circular thing. It looks uncomfortably like a massive target and if you go to google maps here, you can see that there are a few crashed aircraft on it. Almost as if to just freak you out.
To return to bizarre massive glowing things, here is a huge rectangle of the stuff. This is 10 miles long and 5 miles wide. It could be a reservoir but why the weird colour? Satellite problems? Also governments tend not to build reservoirs in deserts. It looks like a swimming pool for colossal aliens.Google link here.
There are quite a few more but I will end with my favorite two. This one is an odd grid. It’s obviously an audio death device. If you go to google maps here you can see destroyed cars. These are destroyed cars, on a huge weird grid, in the middle of the desert. Just thought I would reiterate that point.
The final picture is of the biggest oddity. This is 18 MILES LONG and simply cannot be for anything normal. It really should be looked at on google, so click here. The only thing I can think of is a test track for filming a Chinese Top Gear. Or they are a really unimaginative take on the Nazca lines.
So there you go. Mental. Internet spods with time on their hand are finding more of these things. Doomsday devices or something to do with aliens. Mark my words. Either is just as likely and just as cool.
Thanks to Gizmodo for the pictures and pretty much the entire story. You can read more here: http://gizmodo.com/5859081/why-is-china-building-these-gigantic-structures-in-the-middle-of-the-desert
I guess I felt like writing about this after being bored with all the news about the Occupy London crowd in front of St Pauls. First there was the Occupy Wall street lot in America and quite frankly they have a massive point. The USA has huge wealth inequality. Apparently the top 400 richest Americans have the same amount of dosh as the bottom 150 million. Real lords and peasants material. According to CIA rankings that is a worse situation than that suffered by say, Egypt. Who seemed pretty pissed off recently.
The majority of the protesters come across quite well. There’s the odd twat, there always is, who advocates bringing down capitalism or killing the rich, but on the whole the message is that wealth distribution needs to be more equal. There are even some quite decent suggestions on how to do this.
This campaign has spread across the world. Here in London the protest has made its point but feels like it is losing credibility. The message, which is a good one, is largely the same. Perhaps I’m just being a victim of biased selective press but our campaign seems to have a lot more pillocks being even more vague. I’ve seen a lot more interviews with protesters who are against capitalism itself. Others who just hate rich people – a common sentiment on this envy-ridden isle. I haven’t seen many coming up with any decent solutions, just pointless comments about how capitalism doesn’t work. What shall we replace it with then you idiots? We need solutions not vague whinging – we aren’t all students.
I’m not going to come up with a solution as I’m not a trained economist or someone who has even vaguely studied how the system works. So I won’t be so arrogant as to denounce the “system” because you know, people shouldn’t be so rich yeah? The decent and logical idea of supporting a capitalist system but one with more regulation and checks is thankfully present and supported by the intelligent organisers. I suspect they are the older and/or more educated. But I think they should stop now.
One reason is that the twats seem to be becoming more prevalent. People with signs like ‘What would Jesus Do?’ and ‘Rich beware your days are numbered.’ Their days aren’t numbered you moron. There will always be people better off than others and this has been the case since the dawn of time and in all societies. Getting rid of the rich will just mean that they move countries and we end up even poorer. London is one of the major financial capitals of the world and brings in billions into this country. It would be dumb to scare this money off as Britain will be poorer for it. What is needed is not redistribution of the wealth Robin Hood style, but tighter regulations and controls. I’ve fuck all idea how to do this myself but there are plenty of independant experts (some are among the Occupy London crew) who could certainly make an informed start.
Alas the morons are ruining it. Apart from mentals dressed as Jesus completely missing the point, and the anti capitalists and rich haters doing the same, there are other elements. Last night a 1000 protesters marched on Trafalgar square (a capitalist hotbed), presumably to complain about the nasty Lord Nelson stopping the lovable dictator Napoleon from invading and covering our streets in gold and socialist joy like he did to so many other parts of Europe. Another group split off and headed for Parliament where they starting fighting with police and smashing things. Amusingly they were wearing those Guy Fawkes masks the dude from V for Vendetta wore seemingly unaware that each mask bought creates more profit for the huge conglomerate Time Warner (who owns the image). Way to stick it to the man!
The final nail in the coffin for me is that the church are now chipping in. The Archbishop of York has started banging on about it. What the hell does it have to do with him? Does he not feel the slightest bit hypocritical that archbishops were the CEO equivalents across Europe for a millennium? The wealth gap was massively worse then. The upper echelons of the church in England during the middle ages, of which the Archbishop of York ranked second, lived in incredible unbelievable luxury when the vast majority of people literally lived in shit and starved. They made it worse by telling the superstitious peons to hand over cash or they would burn forever in hell. With that money they built things like hugely lavish cathedrals. Cathedrals that while admittedly spectacular seemed more to wow a medieval audience into parting with cash than anything Jesus probably wanted.
I remember a bit in the bible (I’ve read it and am an atheist – make of that what you will) a story where Jesus and his mates watched a rich man and a poor man give to charity. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Rich bastard’, he simply commented that percentage-wise the poor guy gave more to the pot.
To answer the question, what would Jesus do?
I suspect he would agree with lessening the wage inequality. I suspect he would be mildly exasperated that people still miss the point of nearly every point ever made. I also suspect he would marvel at the beauty and majesty of the building of St Pauls but would then be horrified when he found out what the building was for and how the church has been behaving in his name.