BBC News – Phone box has new life as library

BBC News – Phone box has new life as library: “A traditional red phone box has been recycled into one of the country’s smallest lending libraries – stocking 100 books.

Villagers from Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset can use the library around the clock, selecting books, DVDs and CDs.

Users simply stock it with a book they have read, swapping it for one they have not.

‘It’s really taken off. The books are constantly changing,’ said parish councillor Bob Dolby.

He added: ‘It is completely full at the moment with books. Anyone is free to come and take a book and leave one that you have already read.

‘This facility has turned a piece of street furniture into a community service in constant use.’

A resident dreamed up the idea when the village lost its phone box and mobile library in quick succession.

Westbury-sub-Mendip Parish Council bought the phone box from BT in a national scheme for a token £1.

BT has received 770 applications for communities to ‘adopt a kiosk’, and so far 350 boxes have been handed over to parish councils.

Phone boxes have been turned into art installations, a shower and even a public toilet.”

More Moving to the Cloud

I have just discovered DropBox. It is impressive, yet another reason and incentive to move to the ‘cloud’.
Undoubtable this is the way things are moving, everything will be online, with only ‘backups’ on your local computer for offline working. Interesting.

Gorge Like a Pro to Maximize Your Holiday Feast – Thanksgiving – Lifehacker

Gorge Like a Pro to Maximize Your Holiday Feast – Thanksgiving – Lifehacker: “Meals leading up to the buffet have been debated for ages. My recommendations are a large dinner the night before consisting mostly of light breads and vegetables to expand the stomach. It is also advantageous to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water. This also varies greatly on what time of day your buffet meal is going to be. For a breakfast buffet your larger meal should be the lunch prior with a small dinner. The morning of I would suggest a very small meal containing some sugar in order to get your metabolism up and running. Eat nothing more throughout the day. Liquids are advised, preferably water, as almost a mandatory health concern due to the high sodium content you are about to consume.”

Leaside SUV Thefts Linked To Organized Crime – CityNews

Leaside SUV Thefts Linked To Organized Crime – CityNews: “A rash of SUV thefts in Leaside is linked to organized crime, police say.

Six Toyota Highlanders were stolen from driveways in the neighbourhood near Bayview and Eglinton somewhere between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Investigators believe the thieves are now capable of breaking into the vehicles by cracking the keyless entry codes, possibly using laptop computers.

“Toyota is confident in the integrity of our vehicle security system. We have a robust system, the integrity of which has never been compromised,” the automaker said in a statement.

Police are urging people to exercise caution when deciding where to park their vehicles.

“If you have a garage, use it, as well as if you have an alarm system, or a locking device for your steering wheel,’ Toronto Police PC Tony Vella advised. ‘The one thing you can do is create barriers.””

Create a Cat Haven from Ikea Shelves – Pets – Lifehacker

Create a Cat Haven from Ikea Shelves – Pets – Lifehacker: “The climbing trees at pet stores are ridiculously expensive and take up tons of floor space. Help your kitty jump to a royal view, Super-Mario-style, without cluttering your floor or wasting money.

ModernCat showcased a pretty nifty climbing wall designed by one of the blog’s readers. The kitty roost is made from a combination of Ikea products: shelving brackets, small shelves, and wool carpet swaths. With some smart shopping, though, you could buy similar materials just about anywhere. By using the wall itself as the primary support for the cat’s climbing space, you avoid the big footprint of a commercial climbing tree. Inexpensive construction aside, the best part about using the wall for support is you can create a roost as high as your ceilings allow. I know a certain cat at my house that would be thrilled to have a 15 foot tall perch in my office, well above children’s poking fingers. For more pictures and links to the various parts, take a peek at the link below. If you have your own creative pet related project, we’d love to hear about it!”

Fraud in a Downturn — PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada

Fraud in a Downturn — PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada: “As the economy declines, both in Canada and globally, new threats emerge. The recent collapse of certain investment schemes illustrates how allegations of fraud, previously undetected, emerge from the shadows. Possibly the only positive aspect of the credit crunch is that, as providers of finance retrench and seek return of loan finance or investment capital, fraudulent borrowing or fraudulent investment management is revealed, thereby capping the losses that have occurred.

When economic survival is threatened (either for the organization or for the individual) the line separating acceptable and unacceptable behaviour can, for some, become blurred. In addition, criminal organizations that profit from fraud view the current economic conditions as an opportunity, not a threat.

This paper considers whether fraud and integrity threats are changing during this period of economic decline and, if so, how. Looking forward, we consider the issue that boards of directors and audit committees need to be aware of in 2009: the frauds that may emerge and the likely regulatory response. Finally, we describe the strategies enlightened organizations are implementing to manage short term risks and to enhance stakeholder value in the longer term.”

‘Cosmic rays’ may have caused Qantas jet’s plunge

‘Cosmic rays’ may have caused Qantas jet’s plunge: “Cosmic rays are being considered by air safety investigators as a possible cause of a Qantas plane plunging twice in quick succession on its way from Singapore to Perth in October last year.

Air safety investigators this morning brought down their second interim report [PDF] into the flight QF72 incident, which left one flight attendant and 11 passengers with serious injuries, finding that an equipment glitch with one of three data collectors was a likely cause.

But the reason for the problems with the air data inertial reference unit, which gathers data from outside the plane and feeds it into the cockpit, remains unclear.

One explanation being considered for the October 7 incident is that cosmic or solar rays interfered with the system, noting that a single particle can cause problems with integrated circuits such as the one used in the data equipment.

‘There is a constrant stream of high-energy galactic and solar radiation interacting with the Earth’s upper atmosphere,’ the report noted. ‘This interaction creates a cascade of secondary particles. Some of the secondary particles, in particular neutrons, can affect aircraft avionics systems.'”

Plant root looks like a boy

Amazing picture, is this for real?

in reference to:

“Baffled scientists are trying to get to the root of this astonishing plant dug out of the ground by a Chinese farmer. The two foot tall root weighs in at a massive 12 lbs and bears an amazing resemblance to a boy in even the smallest detail. The root comes from the Chinese knotweed plant, used by local healers as a natural laxative. Farmer Zheng Dexun, 63, of Datianba, in southern China, said: “I was shocked that it was so large and is so clearly like a boy. “It’s bigger than my grandson. Scientists are looking at it now and will tell me how it came to be like this.””
Ananova – Getting to the root of the matter (view on Google Sidewiki)

Latest from Roubini

this is a scary article. Interest rates at near zero, and we are getting some strange effects that will effect us all….

in reference to:

“Mother of all Carry Trades Faces an Inevitable Bust

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Nouriel Roubini
|
Nov 1, 2009

From the FT:
 
Since March there has
been a massive rally in all sorts of risky assets – equities, oil,
energy and commodity prices – a narrowing of high-yield and high-grade
credit spreads, and an even bigger rally in emerging market asset
classes (their stocks, bonds and currencies). At the same time, the
dollar has weakened sharply, while government bond yields have gently
increased but stayed low and stable.
 
This recovery in risky
assets is in part driven by better economic fundamentals. We avoided a
near depression and financial sector meltdown with a massive monetary,
fiscal stimulus and bank bail-outs. Whether the recovery is V-shaped,
as consensus believes, or U-shaped and anaemic as I have argued, asset
prices should be moving gradually higher.
But while the US and global economy have begun a modest
recovery, asset prices have gone through the roof since March in a
major and synchronised rally. While asset prices were falling sharply
in 2008, when the dollar was rallying, they have recovered sharply
since March while the dollar is tanking. Risky asset prices have risen
too much, too soon and too fast compared with macroeconomic
fundamentals.
So what is behind this massive
rally? Certainly it has been helped by a wave of liquidity from
near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing. But a more important
factor fuelling this asset bubble is the weakness of the US dollar,
driven by the mother of all carry trades. The US dollar has become the
major funding currency of carry trades as the Fed has kept interest
rates on hold and is expected to do so for a long time. Investors who
are shorting the US dollar to buy on a highly leveraged basis
higher-yielding assets and other global assets are not just borrowing
at zero interest rates in dollar terms; they are borrowing at very
negative interest rates – as low as negative 10 or 20 per cent
annualised – as the fall in the US dollar leads to massive capital
gains on short dollar positions.
Let us sum up: traders are
borrowing at negative 20 per cent rates to invest on a highly leveraged
basis on a mass of risky global assets that are rising in price due to
excess liquidity and a massive carry trade. Every investor who plays
this risky game looks like a genius – even if they are just riding a
huge bubble financed by a large negative cost of borrowing – as the
total returns have been in the 50-70 per cent range since March.
People’s
sense of the value at risk (VAR) of their aggregate portfolios ought,
instead, to have been increasing due to a rising correlation of the
risks between different asset classes, all of which are driven by this
common monetary policy and the carry trade. In effect, it has become
one big common trade – you short the dollar to buy any global risky assets.
Yet, at the same time, the perceived riskiness of individual
asset classes is declining as volatility is diminished due to the Fed’s
policy of buying everything in sight – witness its proposed $1,800bn
(£1,000bn, €1,200bn) purchase of Treasuries, mortgage- backed
securities (bonds guaranteed by a government-sponsored enterprise such
as Fannie Mae) and agency debt. By effectively reducing the volatility
of individual asset classes, making them behave the same way, there is
now little diversification across markets – the VAR again looks low.
So
the combined effect of the Fed policy of a zero Fed funds rate,
quantitative easing and massive purchase of long-term debt instruments
is seemingly making the world safe – for now – for the mother of all
carry trades and mother of all highly leveraged global asset bubbles.
While
this policy feeds the global asset bubble it is also feeding a new US
asset bubble. Easy money, quantitative easing, credit easing and
massive inflows of capital into the US via an accumulation of forex
reserves by foreign central banks makes US fiscal deficits easier to
fund and feeds the US equity and credit bubble. Finally, a weak dollar
is good for US equities as it may lead to higher growth and makes the
foreign currency profits of US corporations abroad greater in dollar
terms.
The
reckless US policy that is feeding these carry trades is forcing other
countries to follow its easy monetary policy. Near-zero policy rates
and quantitative easing were already in place in the UK, eurozone,
Japan, Sweden and other advanced economies, but the dollar weakness is
making this global monetary easing worse. Central banks in Asia and
Latin America are worried about dollar weakness and are aggressively
intervening to stop excessive currency appreciation. This is keeping
short-term rates lower than is desirable. Central banks may also be
forced to lower interest rates through domestic open market operations.
Some central banks, concerned about the hot money driving up their
currencies, as in Brazil, are imposing controls on capital inflows.
Either way, the carry trade bubble will get worse: if there is no forex
intervention and foreign currencies appreciate, the negative borrowing
cost of the carry trade becomes more negative. If intervention or open
market operations control currency appreciation, the ensuing domestic
monetary easing feeds an asset bubble in these economies. So the
perfectly correlated bubble across all global asset classes gets bigger
by the day.
But one day this bubble will burst, leading to the
biggest co-ordinated asset bust ever: if factors lead the dollar to
reverse and suddenly appreciate – as was seen in previous reversals,
such as the yen-funded carry trade – the leveraged carry trade will
have to be suddenly closed as investors cover their dollar shorts. A
stampede will occur as closing long leveraged risky asset positions
across all asset classes funded by dollar shorts triggers a
co-ordinated collapse of all those risky assets – equities,
commodities, emerging market asset classes and credit instruments.
Why will these carry trades unravel? First, the dollar cannot
fall to zero and at some point it will stabilise; when that happens the
cost of borrowing in dollars will suddenly become zero, rather than
highly negative, and the riskiness of a reversal of dollar movements
would induce many to cover their shorts. Second, the Fed cannot
suppress volatility forever – its $1,800bn purchase plan will be over
by next spring. Third, if US growth surprises on the upside in the
third and fourth quarters, markets may start to expect a Fed tightening
to come sooner, not later. Fourth, there could be a flight from risk
prompted by fear of a double dip recession or geopolitical risks, such
as a military confrontation between the US/Israel and Iran. As in 2008,
when such a rise in risk aversion was associated with a sharp
appreciation of the dollar, as investors sought the safety of US
Treasuries, this renewed risk aversion would trigger a dollar rally at
a time when huge short dollar positions will have to be closed.
This
unraveling may not occur for a while, as easy money and excessive
global liquidity can push asset prices higher for a while. But the
longer and bigger the carry trades and the larger the asset bubble, the
bigger will be the ensuing asset bubble crash. The Fed and other
policymakers seem unaware of the monster bubble they are creating. The
longer they remain blind, the harder the markets will fall.”
RGE – Mother of all Carry Trades Faces an Inevitable Bust (view on Google Sidewiki)