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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Archives for: March 2011


Spring is like a reset button. A swing of the windshield wiper. Yet another chance to see with clear eyes what life on this planet is all about.

If I can, I try to greet it at some cool spot where its colorful entourage wouldn't feel awkward walking down the aisle. You don't entrust your first date to a restaurant randomly chosen from yellow pages, do you? This year, a friend of mine invited me for an improvised photo shoot to a tiny little town of Occoquan, barely outside the greater DC area, and that turned out to be just the kind of festive venue I was seeking. It had it all - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Perfectly ready for the commencement of the new cycle of life.

The town itself is nestled on the banks of an eponymous river, barely visible from a bridge as you zip alongside the route 123, and hence quite easy to miss. With its minuscule size of roughly 3x4 blocs, it looks like a tiny kink on an otherwise smooth fabric of the local spacetime. You take an unassuming exit from the highway, the kind that could easily lead to another dimension or a smugglers' warehouse, and all of a sudden - there it is - as if some giant temporarily took it out of its pocket as it was picnicking on the river banks and just left it there. A place temporarily dismissed from mind.

The Main Street is the spine of this town, skirted with a row of recently built condos that stand in fragile dignity next to an old tavern and houses from a seemingly different geological era. Theirs is an awkward pose, kind of like when you are at a family reunion and your dad forces you to stand next to an absent minded and permanently semidrunk uncle who likes to wear noodle soup on his beard.

Flowing tongues of the river stalk the back side of the complex, while the front side issues several short side streets biting into the opposing hill with a rag tag bunch of architectural teeth. The blocks are further partitioned by a system of brick cobbled pathways surrounded with peculiar restaurants and odd shops selling anything from religious artifacts to porcelain trinkets. One of them had a tiny little gravel path winding in front of it and for some reason I imagined Johnny Depp taking a stroll on it, pushing his way through a cagelike construction and pondering the meaning of objects strewn in its vicinity. A strange mixture of Oz, Wonderland and a clean junkyard.

We took a table outside of a Belgian cafe for a short stop. The nearby trees were adorned with lampoons, chairs of wrought iron rested solidly on the floor and if you could tell a rooster from a hen on a hand painted door sign, you would be welcome to experience comfort of an old fashioned Gaelic lavatory. We ordered two cups of coffee and some waffles that arrived with such towering mound of whipped cream that I felt tempted to inquire about the degree of an avalanche alert today. Belgians, unaccustomed to high mountains, have apparently very little fear of uncontrollably sliding masses.

If there is a geographic pictionary of Virginia, the word "quaint" should be accompanied by a photograph of Occoquan. With plenty of blooming forsythias around and a name that sounds like a password into the secret chamber of a ceremonial shrine, it is a well suited place for the Rite of Spring.


Interest Rate Haiku II.

Over the past two years, as the economy wended its way out of the deep ditch, I kept following Michael Shedlock's financial blog Global Economic Analysis. Here is a summary of some of my mini-observations that I left in its comment section under the screen name interest_rate_haiku.


2009 feb 22 (on record bonuses for wall street)

do you hear that sound?
even with the farm ablaze
pigs are at their troughs

2009 mar 21 (on calls for going deeper into debt)

Enter Sir Falstaff
(wiping grease off his fat lips):
I want to eat more!

2009 apr 4 (on blame for the rising unemployment)

remove L from blush
unemployee of the month
smirking from his ranch

2009 apr 18 (on unrealistic revenue expectations)

financial pipe dreams
made in fiscal blindia
got harry potter?

2009 nov 3 (on the state of pension funds)

bottom may be in
at the pool of McPension
but water is gone

2009 dec 19 (on record snow storm)

the fed solution:
just calm down everybody
we will print more snow!

2010 jan 17 (on escalation of war in afganistan)

emperor's new change
now weaved in afghanistan
tailored on wall street

2010 mar 13 (on low approval ratings for congress)

bank of politics
now proudly introducing:
subprime honesty

2010 may 8 (on flash crash and trading algorithms)

dear wizards of oz
and high frequency traitors
i bid you farewell

2010 jun 5 (on G-20 discussing bailouts)

G-20 dress code:
pantyhose over the head
(do I see a run?)

2010 jul 25 (on Larry Summers)

if only he knew
how deadly summers can be
for a butterman

2010 aug 15 (on poor track record of leading indicators)

now, can we all read
misleading indictators
their miranda rights?

2010 sep 19 (on small businesses and corporations)

when big agra wins
who'll pollinate the orchard?
silence of the bees

2010 sep 25 (on pressing needs of the financial sector)

call me dracula
no coughing on my coffin
i got pressing needs

2010 nov 21 (on Irish taxpayers enslaved by foreign banks)

Bearded Leprechaun
(more sham than rock) waved his wand:
The Land of Lepers

2010 dec 10 (on rising bond prices)

why do things fall down?
stern agent of gravity
name is bond, james bond

The Eye of a Tiger

Internet has changed the world at least as profoundly as the industrial revolution did more than a century ago. Exchanging ideas, images, files and videostreams with anyone anywhere in real time has tremendous consequences for our lives, both personal and professional.

Applications evolve at breakneck speed and the gadgetry which the World Wide Web entangles in its optical network evolves with it. Long gone are the days when a video camera was a gargantuan contraption that needed a tripod to support its own weight. The cams are so minuscule now that you can mount them on a helmet of a downhill skier, or a dashboard of a police car, and be part of the action as it happens.

I am not sure where the technology will be in 5 years, but it should be far enough to support an idea I wanted to see implemented for quite some time now - a live TigerCam. And I am talking the wild beast, not some slacker napping 24/7 on the floor of the big cat pavilion in the San Diego Zoo.

It should not be terribly hard. I think the technology is already there, and as long as we can trust the stats from the Indian government, the tigers are there as well. Just a dart of a tranquilizer, a little veterinarian operation mounting a tiny camera in some inconspicuous place, say on the lobe of the tiger's ear like an earring, or between its eyes like a "third eye" jewel, then an equally inconspicuous energy source and off to the jungle it goes again, broadcasting its every move. Literally.

And we'll just pour ourselves a glass of mango juice, turn on our PCs or Macs and peer into the world through the tiger's eyes.

We'll see it wake up in its lair, sneak its slender body through the underbrush of mangrove forests, and race across the grasslands in pursuit of its prey. We will sense when it tactically crouches, or when it boldly leaps across a shallow creek. We will be guessing which direction it'll turn its head as it reacts to the noises picked up by a microphone. We will be one with the tiger.

I bet you 2 Bengal Rupees, that the TigerCam would go viral just minutes after it was launched. So come on engineers and zoologists of the Ganghes basin - watching the Times Square webcam is getting old by the minute.


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