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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Films for planes review of "Money Monster"

Money Monster ☀️☀️☀️☀️

This is a good story with decent acting. I think George Clooney’s character is based on that guy Jim from CNBC. I never watched his show, but I remember seeing Jon Stewart make fun of it on The Daily Show a while back. In essence, the host of the “business” stockpicking show gets taken hostage by a guy who unwisely acted on one of his tips. I won’t tell you what happens, but it was done in a very plausible way. I didn’t find out until later that the director is Jodie Foster, but I think the direction was excellent.

If it hadn’t had an English villain, it would have got five stars. A great movie to watch while having dinner on a plane.

Rating System

In case you’d forgotten, I use a five sun rating system. It works like this:

  1. Movie gets one sun for interesting story with good acting

  2. Movie gets one sun for not having an English villain

  3. Movie gets one sun for not being too dark or having lots of special effects, so you can enjoy it properly on an airplane screen

  4. Movie gets one sun if I watched all the way to the end without falling asleep or turning over because I was bored

  5. Movie gets one sun if it doesn’t have Kate Winslet in it

So any movie I watch on a place gets at least one sun, and if they pull out all the stops they can get five.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Movie Review: 45 Years

45 Years ☀️☀️☀️☀️⛅️

This almost ticked all of the boxes! An interesting story, beautifully told, with superb acting by both of the lead actors but an especially superb performance from Charlotte Rampling. I would have given it the full five suns, but I really didn’t like the ending – there was too much unspoken – I would have liked a little more closure. But it’s overall a great, grown-up movie night-time plane ride. Highly recommended.

Rating System

In case you’d forgotten, I use a five sun rating system. It works like this:

  1. Movie gets one sun for interesting story with good acting

  2. Movie gets one sun for not having an English villain

  3. Movie gets one sun for not being too dark or having lots of special effects, so you can enjoy it properly on an airplane screen

  4. Movie gets one sun if I watched all the way to the end without falling asleep or turning over because I was bored

  5. Movie gets one sun if it doesn’t have Kate Winslet in it

So any movie I watch on a place gets at least one sun, and if they pull out all the stops they can get five.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Bandung Europa

In the early 1980s, while living in Bandung in Indonesia, I played for the Bandung Europa soccer team. The picture below was taken early in 1983, when the team were played 17,won 14, drawn 1 and lost 2. I made a note of the team names on the back of the photo and noted that we were getting an average attendance of 2,000 people at our games in what was I suppose the equivalent of the Conference South!

Europa

Yan - Jacques - Simon - Brian - Frank - Tom - Yours Truly - Freddie - Baban - Juan
Alberto - Dave - Momo - Ray (capt.) - Martin - Hans - Gustaman

I played on the left side of midfield in a 4-4-2 or, more usually, on the left wing in a 4-3-3. My main talent, given that I had no pace, was that I could cross quite accurately (generally in the direction of our centre forward, Frank the Tank). I did score occasionally, and one of my most treasured possessions is the only existing photograph (as far as I know) of me scoring a goal...

Gola!

As this was in the days long before Facebook, I don’t have many photographs or memorabilia. If by any miracle of Google, any of the people shown in the picture above ever stumble across this picture, I’d be delighted to add your reminiscences to this page!

I’ll add a couple of my favourite memories over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Movie Review: Equity

I’ve almost perfected my new rating system for movies on planes. It’s a five point scheme, and it works like this:

  1. Movie gets one sun for interesting story with good acting

  2. Movie gets one sun for not having an English villain

  3. Movie gets one sun for not being too dark or have lots of special effects, so you can enjoy it properly on an airplane screen

  4. Movie gets one sun if I watched all the way to the end without falling asleep or turning over because I was bored

  5. Movie gets one sun if it doesn’t have Kate Winslet in it

What do you think? I think this could make me bigger than Barry Norman, or whoever it is that does film reviews on the BBC nowadays.

So here we go with the first review under the new system.

Equity ☀️☀️☀️☀️

On my last flight I watched the rest of season two of Gomorrah, the Italian mafia drama series that I love. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it, except to say that it is a Shakespearian effort. The characters are wonderfully drawn and rounded, the acting is excellent and everyone is much better dressed than they are in English crime dramas. I never got into the Sopranos, so this was the first organised crime series that I’d seen for while.

Then I watched Equity, which was about disorganised crime (i.e., investment banking). In Dungeons & Dragons terminology, the mafia are lawful evil whereas investment bankers are chaotic evil. The mafia, like the Assassin’s Guild, have a code. Investment bankers don’t: they will stab anyone in the back for a couple of points. No-one trusts anyone, there is no loyalty up or down and anyone could betray anyone else as the drop of hat.

This made it a good movie, although it probably should have been called “Equity by Bloomberg” since they feature prominently through the film. It was different, because it was largely from a female perspective, which meant that it had a couple of subplots that I found more interesting than I might have otherwise. It had a nice dramatic arc of tragedy through betrayal. I thought that one of the lead characters was a little unreal and I found that slightly distracting, and I don’t see why two of the mean characters had to be English, but I watched all the way to end without nodding off even once. It’s about investment banking, by the way, and one of the companies that is a focus of the bankers’ efforts is privacy-enhancing social network (this doesn’t give anything away).

Summary: wouldn’t bother going to the cinema to see it and will almost certainly never watch it again on cable or computer, but it’ a good movie to watch while having your dinner on a plane.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Banking biometrics: hacking into your account is easier than you think

xxx

Matt Lewis, NCC research director, showed how to make a copy of his own fingerprint using wood glue, candle wax and a printed circuit board that allowed your correspondent to hack into his smartphone.

From Banking biometrics: hacking into your account is easier than you think

Indeed. But in order to exploit this vulnerability, an attacker needs your phone. When you look at the overall risk model, provided you’re not using you iPhone to launch nuclear missile or control a dam or something, then the mobile phone and biometric authenication combo looks far more secure than any alternative.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen

A millennium ago, in 1016, the people of England were going about their daily business of growing sheep and suchlike and probably didn’t realise that, these being days long before universal suffrage and representative democracy, they were about to become part of a Scandinavian empire and without a referendum. This happened when the Saxon King Edmund Ironside died.

Why? Well, the Saxons had already chosen Cnut as their king but London opted out and went with Ethered’s grandson Edmund Ironside. Then, as now, London was another country.

When Ironside died, London couldn’t hold out and Cnut the Great became the King of England. He was the Son of Sweyn Forkbeard a daughter of the King of Poland (bloody Polish kings coming over here and taking all of our monarch’s jobs). He was a grandson of Harald Bluetooth. He became the king of Denmark in 1018 and the King of Norway in 1028, forming the Anglo-Scandinavian North Sea Empire. This Empire, it has to be said, did not last very long but following Brexit, who knows!

Five hundred years ago in 1516, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was on the way to becoming biggest country in Europe. It eventually stretched from the Baltic down to the Black Sea and was powerful enough to invade Russia and occupy Moscow. I’m sure the inhabitants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (which, by the way, had a very interesting constitution that included porto-democracy) thought that it would last for ever and found it very difficult to imagine any other form of government or, indeed, sovereignty.

Two hundred years ago, in 1816 (remembered as “the year without a summer”), in the newly independent United States of America (which was having another go at forming a central bank) the last-ever Federalist Party candidate lost the election to previous Secretary of State Monroe (just as the last-ever Republican Party candidate Donald Trump will lose to previous Secretary of State Clinton). America instituted a series of tariffs against British goods, deciding that following the war of 1812 it no longer wanted to be in a free trade alliance with us. Now we have TTIP.

One hundred and fifty years ago in 1866, there was a Latin Monetary Union, or “Victorian Euro” as I think about it. It was created by France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland  but was later adopted by countries ranging from Peru and Venezuela to Serbia and Bulgaria. Another late joiner was Greece, in 1867. Greek economic problems meant that they began debasing their version of the currency and they were chucked out in 1908 and then let back in 1910. Ultimately the whole thing fell apart because countries printed paper money that wasn’t backed by a bimetallic reserve and it formally ended in 1927 (although the Swiss continued to mint coins to the LUM standards for size, weight and fineness until 1967). In 1866, people must have thought advantages of a single currency unarguable.

A century ago in 1916, the last Emperor or Russia, must have found it very difficult to imagine any other Russia than the feudal state he ruled. When Lenin (who once said that the best way to destroy the capitalist is to debauch the currency) led the October Revolution, overthrew the government and established a one-party state the average Russian must have been utterly astonished at the turn of events. Sometimes, things change really quickly. I’m not for one moment suggesting that Brexit is a revolution (far from it) but sometimes profound change can come along relatively quickly.

A generation from now, in 2056, who knows where we will be. It seems to me, though, that one plausible scenario is that set out in Gill Ringland’s report for Long Finance. She envisages a world dominated by cities rather than countries (which fits with my world view, the Jane Jacobs “Cities and the Wealth of Nations” perspective of economies as cities and their hinterlands). In such a world, where the mayor of London has more power than the Prime Minister and London’s trade deal in services with Beijing is more important than the UK’s trade in goods with China, we will probably remember the European Union much as we remember the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sterling as we remember the Latin Monetary Union. Neither the United Kingdom nor the Pound Sterling are laws of nature.

I know, I know, in the long run...

My point is that the referendum went Brexit. So we should live with it. I don’t like referendums. The idea of a “constitutional” referendum to decide a complex issue by a one-off simple majority, seems daft to me. Richard Dawkins had a point when he asked why we were being asked to vote on this at all, especially when we’re not allowed a referendum on anything else (e.g., capital punishment). And we’re going to have months, years of uncertainty before we get back on an even keel and will undoubtedly suffer economically through this period.

“If there are issues on which the populace at large should be trusted to vote, something as complicated and economically sophisticated as EU membership is definitely not one of them.“

From Richard Dawkins accuses David Cameron of 'playing Russian Roulette' with UK's future over EU referendum | People | News | The Independent

I know it sounds elitist, but I kind of agree with him. But we are where we are. I was marginally on the remain side, but I didn’t imagine that the EU would last terribly long in its current form or that Euro would survive. I thought in another decade or so we’d have a renegotiation following a euro collapse and new EU would emerge from those discussions with a core or business-class EU centred on France and Germany and an outer EU centred on us and our Scandinavian friends (hence my fantasies about the return of the North Sea Empire!).

Shit happens.

If Brexit does happen in its current form, which seems far from certain, we’ll be fine. We’ll end up in TTIP, we’ll have a trade deal with the single market, we’ll have a free trade zone with the Commonwealth and so on. The thick as pigshot Brexit racist arseholes who are out setting fire to the sheds of Polish taxpayers will be defeated and the dire warnings of the Remainers will fade.

The title, by the way, is another quote from Lenin.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The way forward for British politics

The most important political event of the year here in the UK, bearing in mind the degraded nature of our democracy and the nature of modern political debate, was the edition of the BBC's flagship public political discussion programme, Question Time, that featured both Nigel Farage and Russell Brand.

Russell Brand pre-prepared his best lines when appearing on Question Time and read them off cue cards, Nigel Farage has said as fallout from the pair's on-screen clash continued to rumble on.

[From Brand read his best Question Time lines off a cue card, Farage claims - Telegraph]

Brand is like Farage in so many ways. Neither of them seem terribly smart and they are both much less charismatic than they think. They both promote a populistic rehashing of genuine grievances and benefit from the real feeling of alienation abroad amongst the populace without proposing any rational or even plausible solutions.

Now, on this point, I cannot help but observe that what constitutes a sensible solution is hard to determine. I have noted before, as have others, that policies advanced by the Monster Raving Loony Party and dismissed out of hand by the establishment, and the media (and, indeed, the public) have a strange habit of becoming mainstream thinking once there’s been some water under the bridge, 

All-day pub opening hours, “passports for pets” to avoid them having to go through quarantine after returning from holidays abroad, lowering the voting age to 18, and the abolition of the 11+ exam because it’s “the wrong age to take an exam that affects you for the rest of your life” are all measures we have in place today.

[From What are the Monster Raving Loony Party’s election plans?]

The lesson of history comes through loud and clear. Policies that appear Loony at first will eventually be implemented by a future Labour government. But now, our politics have fallen to a state where endless coalitions mean that Loony policies will not get the attention that they deserve from future Parliaments.

The solution is obvious. Russell Brand should become the leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party and forge it into a powerful opposition force to provide an alternative to UKIP. This will transform the British political landscape back into a two-party system, the UKIPpers and the Loonies, where the parties stand for something different. He should do it soon, so there is plenty of time to get Russell’s plans for a socialist egalitarian paradise into the manifesto in plenty of time for the election.  It will sit nicely alongside existing manifesto commitments.

We will ban all forms of Greyhound racing. This will help stop the country going to the dogs.

[From 2010 GENERAL ELECTION MANIFESTO | The Official Monster Raving Loony Party]

There are plenty of other policies from earlier manifestoes that Russell could draw on to create a policy document to change the political landscape for a generation. Like Russell, I think we should focus on the economy, where the Loony proposals for a 99p coin (to save on change in shops) and a campaign to persuade European countries to leave the Euro and join the Pound will engage a public  that it is not too comfortable with numbers. I’m sure Russell can add to this list with little effort. Encouraging people not to vote is an excellently Loony manifesto commitment, as is the idea of the Occupy Movement giving “the people” hope (I’d wager that at least 51% of the people have never heard of the “Occupy Movement”).

I want to go back to time when the two main political parties had clear and different ideologies, an inspiring vision for Britain in the 21st century and leaders that television impressionists (e.g., Mike Yarwood) can work with. This is how to do it! Russell do not let the people down!

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