Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shooting Banksters In A Barrel

Daniel Davies (d-squared) tries to defend bankers against the accusation that they're responsible for the 2008 crash and continuing world economic crisis.

He doesn't do a particularly good job, but he elicits this great response from "Bloix" :

I’m sure I’m being naive in assuming that Daniel doesn’t already know this and is intentionally ignoring it, but here goes:

1) There was a bubble in housing prices. This means that people bought houses, not to live in, but because they believed that the house they bought would appreciate faster than any other asset they could invest in. The appeal of such appreciation was multiplied many-fold because houses are the easiest and most common investment for ordinary people that supplies large amounts of leverage. The ordinary buyer had no appreciation of the risks of leverage but well-understood its benefits. There was a lot of activity in buying up, flipping, and trading houses that had nothing to do with the need for shelter. This activity made a lot of money for a lot of people – real estate agents, mortgage brokers, inspectors, title insurers, and lenders.

2) Housing prices could not indefinitely go up faster than the rate of inflation because eventually there would not be enough buyers who had the income to qualify for the mortgages needed to on the higher home prices. Therefore, in the absence of “creative” financing, the run-up in housing prices would soon have stabilized and perhaps dropped a bit.

3) Mortgage brokers and lenders therefore created mortgage products that were designed to allow people to buy houses that they could not possibly pay for based on their income – balloon mortgages, teaser rates, interest only loans, even negative amortization.

4) If the mortgage lenders had had to hold the risk of these loans, they would never have made them. But they didn’t, because they could sell the loans to the banksters, who then packaged them in their creative products and sold them off as AAA-rated securities to insurers, pension funds, and the like. After the banksters took their large cut off the top, the money from these investors funded the loans to the ignorant buyers who were put into the creative mortgage products by the petty crooks who worked for the mortgage originators.

5) Without the market in mortgage-backed securities made by the banksters, there would have been no money to fund the creative mortgage products, and thus no possibility of a bubble anywhere near the size of the one that eventually burst. The whole point of the mortage-backed securities market was to keep the bubble inflated. Obviously it couldn’t go on for ever, but it was very, very profitable while it lasted.

6) The banksters either were world-class idiots or they were well-aware that the mortgage-backed securities they were selling to clueless institutional buyers were trash. As we know that they are not idiots, the only possible conclusion is that they were intentionally passing off trash.

People who peddle fake goods are usually considered to be crooks. But banksters who knowingly peddled enormously high-risk securities, while claiming that they were as safe as US treasuries, are walking around with billions of taxpayer dollars in their pockets. They own Congress and the administration. They write the tax code and dominate the Federal Reserve.

After smashing up our retirement accounts, destroying our pension funds, wiping out the savings of millions of people who bought into the rising market, and putting any number of us out of work, they sneer and pontificate and preen and strut their way across the major cities and TV screens and high-end resorts of all the world.

The only justification for the investment banking industry’s existence is that it does a better job of allocating investment capital for productive purposes than any other method of doing so. What we’ve just seen is that, far from allocating capital efficiently, the banksters allocated capital in a grotesquely wasteful manner for year and year, a manner that just happened to put huge amounts of that capital into their own individual pockets while leaving the institutions they worked for at risk of insolvency. And when that risk came to pass, the obscenely rich individuals suffered not at all, while the government bailed out the institutions.

So. Please. I don’t know anything about you personally, and I’m sure that you’re a wonderful fellow who loves dogs and is charming at parties. But the industry you are part of is a force for evil in the world. Everyone who is not dependent on that industry for a living knows it.

Code. Think. Make. Play.

I just iterated once more on my personal homepage.

I rather liked the large-tiles I used for my Goldsmiths Portfolio so I'm experimenting with folding them into my more general web presence. still isn't meant to be a blog. It's a one-shot overview of who am I am, balancing reasonably up-to-date projects with a couple of classics for context, and an extensive list of where else to find me online. Hope that makes sense to new visitors.

Air Swimmers

I must confess, I'm a total sucker for both the idea of these toys and their promotional video.

Basically bringing Festo-style technology to the masses. I believe that this could be an incredible platform for practical semi-autonomous robots. (Tele-presence, roving security cameras, inspection in dangerous environments etc.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Virtues of Government Spending Without Government

John Lanchaster :
Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OvniLounge Album on BandCamp

I decided to do a little experiment with BandCamp. Although most of my music is available for streaming / downloading free via SoundCloud, I've basically run out of space-time there. And BandCamp looks particularly good as a site for promoting and selling music. So I decided I'd make a couple of things available through them.

The first is the original OvniLounge album. This is a set of tracks from around 2006, loosely themed as "lounge music for flying-saucer people". It is lounge, as in background, listening music. I think there are some strong melodies there (to my usual plangent taste). But it's also fairly OVNI (UFO in Portuguese) - in other words, weird and uneasy. It's an extremely COLD album, which despite busy chattering percussion evokes the chill of interstellar space. The beats are "raw from the DAW", untreated FruityLoops of heavy thuds and nervous rattling. Not at all danceable to your average primate. It's kind of IDM, but probably doesn't sound much like your archetypal IDM either. If I have to give some kind of pointer I'd say it's a bit like LFO or some of the interludes in an early Black Dog album, though I'm clearly not worthy of such comparisons.

BandCamp don't host free downloads, so you have to buy, but I'm allowing you to set your own price, starting at $3. If you like it, by all means feel free to signal this by paying more :-)

Tonight I knocked up a quick YouTube video for the first track (cut and pasted out of other YouTube finds, of course).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Blogger

Finally, Google have upped their game with Blogger. Both design and functionality.

Did you notice in the last post on my exhibition that the pictures are now in a gallery when you click on them?

Big Society in Action

So, the UK government no longer feels it necessary to ensure people have enough food, and hands off responsibility to a charity.

This makes me VERY angry indeed. Someone posted that this is "collapse". But it's nothing of the sort. There is not sense whatsoever that the government can't ensure that there's enough food, distributed fairly enough, that no-one goes hungry. It can simply commit money to bulk buy enough food for the UK in the next year if it wanted to.

That it doesn't is a political decision.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pictures From The Exhibition

A couple of pictures from Machine Gardens at the Goldsmiths MFA end-of-year show.

Four Pieces

Green Cogs on a Black Background


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunlight on Translucent Machines

The sun started shining on some of my Perspex machines and I had to grab the camera. Beautiful.
(All machines will be in the exhibition this week, but sadly none of them will look like these photos under the fluorescent lights)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

RepRap Quality Improvements

Its official, RepRap has now surpassed the commercial Fused deposition modeling 3d printers in machine affordability, price for filiment, and NOW build quality.
According to the RepRap blog.

La Mer Revisited

Gisel is updating her site, and wanted to embed the soundtrack I did for the ballet "La Mer" in 2004. (A remix / transformation of the piece by Debussy)

It's already on SoundCloud but needed some retitling. So that seems like as good an excuse for a revisit as any :-)

Check out Gisel's stunning scenery.

  La Mer by Mentufacturer

Will Hutton on Successful Capitalism

Nice paragaph :

Successful capitalism is an incredibly difficult phenomenon to create and sustain. It depends on entrepreneurial flair, yes, but also on ideas, institutions and processes ranging from great universities to innovative financial organisations that do not always appear spontaneously by the operation of free markets. They sometimes have to be designed by public action. Great businesses and wealth flower in strong societies that equip their entrepreneurs to prosper. The framework which supports this costs money, and it is proper that the rich should contribute proportionally.

Friday, September 09, 2011

RIP Michael Hart

Sad. The Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg has died at the relatively young age of 64. Obituary here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

End of MA Show, September 15th

I'm coming to the end of my MA in Computational Studio Arts at Goldsmiths. 

It's been a lot of fun and I've had the chance to play with a whole stack of things I've wanted to get into for a while, including Physical Computing (Arduino + electronics, 3D printing and other desktop manufacturing technologies, motion tracking etc.)

For a while I was seriously thinking that I may go on to try a PhD in the same area, but I'm tending away from that now. (In which case I have to find something else to do with myself.)

In mean time, here's the joint end-of-year show, just down the road from Kings Cross station in London. Opening night is the 15th September.

Updating My Homepage

I'm updating my homepage

My homepage isn't a blog, but I want to put some kind of marker on it, to indicate what I'm up to at the moment. You can glean that from this blog too, of course, but often where I am is swamped by things I'm thinking about and ranting. will be a view of what I'm doing, stripped of day-to-day chatter. (Although with links to it all on the side.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Blogger UI


Thumbs up to the new Blogger UI. It's about time they revamped it, and I have to say, it's pretty good. Particular win is having analytics built in to the dashboard. OTOH, what sucks is that blank lines in HTML editor don't automatically become paragraph breaks in published text. WTF?

"All Your Pont" Revisited

I'm continuing to update my Goldsmiths portfolio. Added a page for the motion tracking / projection mapping game we did in Paris.

Here's a link to the full portfolio

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Flower Brush Revisited

Flower Brush revisited.

At the beginning of my MA course at Goldsmiths I wrote a little graphics program I'd been thinking about for years. It illustrated a simple principle : painting with multiple dumb agents. Later on, thinking more about patterns and reading about William Morris and wallpaper design I realised that simply by making the brushes "wrap-around" when they went off one side of the canvas I could make far more interesting repeating patterns.

Soon after I'd implemented the change, I found SpoonFlower, which does on-demand printing on fabrics and uploaded a couple of patterns. You can see (and buy) them here.

Anyway, it's nice to be able to go back and find a new twist on an old sketch. There's more promise in the original Flower Brush idea than I've really done justice to, even now. But this feels like a good step forward.
A follow up video showing a crank (turning rotary into reciprocating movement).

Once again, this comes out of my software and is cut on a laser-cutter.

Friday, September 02, 2011

So here's a video of my latest work-in-progress : a piece called "Machine Gardens" for my end of year art exhibition in September. But I also want to take this playful experimentation into "programs-becoming-things" further. I'll keep you all posted.