Credit ratings and sovereign debt, the FT and using your dark side for good

September 26, 2011

Hello again!

We are going to take a brief look at a new topic which has been widely reported. Credit rating agencies and sovereign debt. Recently Standard & Poor’s downgraded America to AA+ from its very precious AAA credit rating, which was a severe blow to the US. Italy has suffered with the same problem, and (to state the obvious) so has Greece, and it’s all down to the amount of government borrowings (sovereign debt) that each country has accrued. It affects a country’s ability to borrow more money and more importantly – it can and might well do in the near future – bring down other countries with it if it were to default on its’ borrowings, so a less than perfect AAA credit rating is a much higher borrowing/lending risk and a cause for concern.  The European Banking Authority has published a 2011 EU-wide stress testing exercise and the BIS has produced its September Quarterly Review, showing a weaker outlook for the economic climate. At the Business Insider they have published a list of the Euro banks’ exposure (derived from the BIS) if Greece defaults on its debt. Business Insider are also following the Goldman Sachs elevator tweets. Here’s one of the latest in this highly entertaining saga, which I am following.

I have been a registered user of the FT e-version for a quite a while now, and was very pleasantly surprised to receive a new e-mail service from them this week. It’s called the Best of the FT – and it’s a new-look monthly newsletter for registered users. It’s free – of course – or I wouldn’t highlight it for you. The FT says “This issue we spotlight the FT Trading Room, highlight the FT’s Future of Banking Global Banking in depth series and showcase the very latest FT special reports.
Plus latest FT headlines, hidden gems and must-reads.” Register yourself and enjoy all the reports that are provided from a diverse selection of articles, special reports, banking and finance, luxury goods, country reports and much more. KPMG has been selected to lead the probe into the UBS trading scandal. I read it in the FT.

I have previously written about LifeHacker because I have learned so much from reading this particular blog. Back in August there was an article called  How to use your dark side for good, written by Adam Dachis. The article takes us through many ways to put us (the good guys) at an advantage when we are at the potential mercy of the bad guys. Adam says “For example, it’s unquestionably useful to understand whether you’re a good victim and what makes you a good target. If you know why you’re being selected by the bad guys as a good mark, you can look at the different methods they may use and consider how you can counteract them.”  He’s used some good visual examples (Pinnochio and the not-so-friendly bunnies from Wallace & Gromits’ The Wererabbit, for instance.

Finally Guido Fawkes highlights a Sara Teather stand-up routine at conference, that was so not funny it was just sheer embarrassment, and it made me cringe. I should stick to politics if I were her, because comedy is definitely not her forte.

That’s all for now. Back again soon.

 


The “Google Generation” of researchers, the legacy of Project Gutenberg and the ultimate insult

September 9, 2011

Hello again, I did say I’d be back again quite soon – and here I am.

I have just responded to a colleague on Twitter who couldn’t locate a specific article, and it’s a bit of an eye-opener, even though it doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

Once upon a time I took a contract position in a University teaching information literacy – which included beginners to advanced Internet research as one of the topics. It was a popular module and well attended by the students, but the first time I taught this particular topic, I was expecting the students to wipe the floor with me, after all – this is THEIR generation – isn’t it? They didn’t – far from it. I sparked their imagination with the huge array of search strategies and tools for the job at hand. The article I sent to my colleague is about a report sponsored by JISC and the British Library entitled The “Google Generation” not so hot at Googling , after all and it’s written by Nate Anderson.

How’s this for a front cover? If they wanted shock factor – they achieved it. That’s just horrid!

The report is called: Information behaviour of the researcher of the future, and you’ve got the url to read this fascinating study for yourself. But I liked Nate Anderson’s comments about plagiarism and instant gratification because it mirrors a blog about young employees searching Google to sort out their corporate tech problems instead of calling the help desk. ServiceDesk360 posted the blog Young employees ignore helpdesk, search Google instead. Bomgar, who researched this corporate behaviour, says these employees are known as “Millennials”. Hmmmm…..I could call them something but it wouldn’t necessarily be “Millennial”.

The founder of Project Gutenberg , Michael S Hart, passed away recently. If you don’t know what Project Gutenberg is – you may be reading the wrong blog. Apparently there are 37,000 e-books freely available and that is a sheer amazing  legacy to leave to the world.  An article in The Atlantic says: “In an obituary on the Project Gutenberg website, Hart is remembered for the depth of his commitment to literacy. But the early texts speak to a core civic hope that is related but distinct: that there is power in ideas and that by spreading them we could make this country better. Sure, the number-one most downloaded book on the site is, by a long shot, the Kama Sutra, with more than 25,000 downloads. But Michael S. Hart, and by association his project, were about something much bigger than that.”  Thank you so much Mr Hart for leaving such a great legacy to the world;  rest in peace.

The Ultimate Insult has arrived in the form of an article twittered by another colleague Arthur Weiss.  This time I am definitely not at a loss for words. Disgraceful!  How dare the US government and their “security logistics” tactics get in the way by banning firefighting heroes from attending such an important event – and on the 10th anniversary of this sad occasion. They lost people too. This is unbelievably disrespectful. Firefighters – ignore all and do as Arthur says: Just turn up anyway.

9/11 – show some respect and include the firefighters.

You may or may not know that I have data coming in from quite a range of resources, including those from MI5 and the FBI. The FBI has a Gotcha section and recently they highlighted Operation Double O. I cannot believe anyone could be stupid enough to carry out a robbery, blow their nose and then leave a dirty tissue for forensics to play with the DNA.  Have a look at the podcast.

There’s more to come – but I’ll leave you with this for now. Back again soon.


Some fun stuff and some economics

March 24, 2011

Hello again!

I’d like to bring to your attention some fun stuff I found very recently, and then take a look at what’s happening in the world.

The Internet is an amazing place and I’m a bit of a lurker, but it is being used in ways that are not always wholesome, and I’m not talking about phishing, trojans, worms or spyware et al. I’m talking SPAM! What do you do with this stuff when it drops into your junk box? Well, Online Tech Tips, from a computer guy (Aseem Kishore) has the answer. There’s no point in me explaining it to you because he’s already done the hard work, screen by screen. I love these new tools for making fun out of those who seek to abuse us via our tech, and I also like the visual clouds software that has been produced (wordle et al) because they are nice little pieces of software that people have written and put out into the public domain for us to try them out. Spam Recycling.com is a quirky way to while away an hour on a wet afternoon. . So – to all spammers – we can now turn your dross into an art form!  If anyone manages to produce something really cool, I’ll happily post a copy here for everyone to see and you keep the copyright of your spammer artwork of course! Now, lets see what I can make…………

I’m amazed by the amount of reporting recently on energy use and petrol/gas prices across the world – especially in times of a global downturn, political instability, wars and natural disasters.

Well, let’s start with the Chancellor’s Budget yesterday.  1p off petrol duty and £100m given to councils to fix potholes (Yippeee), but don’t get the champagne out just yet because the oil companies are going to pay 32% tax on their oil and gas production, where they were previously taxed at 20%. Never doubt that this tax will be passed onto the lucky consumer to cover at the pump, as the oil companies have to placate their shareholders with large dividends. The consumer has to find ways to reduce the burden of petrol taxes imposed on them, and many new ideas are being born via Internet services on how to save money to counteract these(hidden) hikes. I’ll be looking at these new Hybrid online services soon as there are a good number of them sprouting up.

So, let’s go back to petrol prices. The UK doesn’t just obtain its oil and gas from the North Sea and surrounding regions, it purchases it in advance on the global commodity exchange markets, known as the futures markets. It’s a complex system, but the price of keeping our cars on the road doesn’t look like it’s going to drop or even stabilise anytime soon, as there’s too much going on in the world that is going to affect world oil and gas prices. The UK doesn’t have the technology to refine certain types of oil, and so relies on other refineries abroad to do it for us. There’s a cost involved – obviously.

I saw this great article in The Economist – that, if you are interested in global economics – will explain what is happening right now in the oil markets. Entitled “Oil Markets and Arab Unrest:  The Price of Fear – A Complex Chain of Cause and Effect Links the Arab World’s Turmoil to the Health of the World Economy”. This article explains how oil prices affect the global economy and how intervention by OPEC, global central banks, and OECD countries can affect it. It also explains what governments are doing to replace the use of petrol/gasoline with alternatives such as replacement biofuels or alternative transport such as electric cars. And finally, what are the renewable energy alternatives that can satisfy Asian country requirements; those who have ongoing and increasing needs for power as their infrastructures grow and their countries become more developed? Also, take a look at the comments posted at the end of the article. It’s such a massive subject, that I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at this, and renewable energy again in later blogs. Feedback as always, is acknowledged and published.  I’ll be back soon.


Google ain’t working

November 16, 2010

Hello!

I’ve got a gripe today: It’s called Google. Read this please, and then follow on. I received the following correspondence:

“LEGAL WARNING: Our science & technology team has recently launched Google web software to protect and secure all Gmail Accounts. This system also enhanced efficient networking and fully supported browser. You need to upgrade to a fully supported browser by filling out the details below for validation purpose and to confirm your details on the new webmaster Central system.

Account Name:
Pass word:
Country:
Note: Your account will be disabled permanently if you failed to provide the details required above within 72hours. Gmail will not be held responsible for your negligence.
The Google web Service.”

To me, this is clearly a spoof phishing jobbie. BUT my gripe is this: How come Google can suck in our personal data ad infinitum for future use – but when we want to alert them to these dodgy scams, we cannot CONTACT them? We go around and around in circles because they only provide the “positive” side of using Google in the help sheets, and you cannot ever speak to a human being. The very least Google ought to be doing as a Duty of Care to the global masses which created Google’s popularity, is to alert them to these dodgy practices. Right or Wrong? GOOGLE – HELLO!!!!  stop playing with your algorithms (if there’s  a  double entendre there – it’s intended)  and talk to me and the world please……

An alert on the Google home page globally might be nice for everyone. That’s a really small ask and you know it, when you can add beautiful diagram-enhanced anniversaries on a whim. Come on Google – do it for all of us. 🙂