Monthly Archives: February 2008

The power of power- Warren Buffett throws $800bn lifeline to bond insurers

If you haven’t been watching the slow, ugly waltz to recession, the role of the bond insurers in the housing mess in the US has been crucial. Bored with insuirng boring (but so important) municipal bonds, the insurers decided to lend their good name too the high risk securitized mortgages which were the basic log on the bonfire of the housing fever.

They insurers now face lots of uncertainty ad because the rating they give to ANY bond becomes the rating for EVERY bond, their former gold standard (but boring, of course). Idiots. Boring can be good in all things financial). The ripple effect of not covering their claims and loosing their rating will be wide, profound, and in some schoolyard way, unfair. Why should my little borough face a credit crunch because the Martini swilling money classes in NY were “bored” by municipal bonds?

Anyway, enter Warren Buffet, superman of the financial age.

Warren Buffett throws $800bn lifeline to bond insurers – Times Online
Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest man, has offered to help out three of the biggest bond insurers by reinsuring the $800 billion £408 billion of local government securities they underwrite.

Mr Buffett told CNBC television in the US that his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, had approached MBIA, Ambac and FGIC and offered to take on their municipal bond liabilities by providing a second level of insurance.

One of the aphorisms that Castells throws around that rolls around in my read is that in the information age what matters is not “the flow of power but the power of flows.” Maybe, as the hobbling of mighty banks and investment houses to the power of credit ratings and cash flows away. But, doesn’t Buffet’s potential to single-handedly right the global financial system offer a different new vision of power- the power of the super-duper rich to make singular impacts in the gargantuan global financial economy?

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Filed under Banking, Network Society, Political Economy

Writing as seeing

Reading “The Generative Properties of Richness” by Karl Weick (h/t to Ted), he brought up this great quotation from  the recollections of a former student of Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-born zoologist and geologist.

After forcing his students to spend hours staring at a fish and asking them to explain what they really saw (and muttering “No, that is not right” in a guttural Swiss accent, I suppose) one of these poor/lucky students starts to draw the fish.  Agassiz clucks:

‘That is right, a pencil is one of the best eyes.’

I love it.  I know that I don’t really own, or get, an idea until I commit finger to keyboard, pen to paper.

What is often frustrating though is that to do such writing, such seeing, means I need to  take the time to write a lot more.  For example, I always  wanted to take copious reading notes on anything I read.  But  the pressures to finish, to make progress, to show results means I don’t.  and then you end up with the ridiculous situation where you have “forgotten” you read an article untill you discover two copies with notes.

At least it is affirming when they underlining is 90% the same.  yeah consistency of consciousness!

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Filed under Scholars, writing

Computer thoughts

So, I get to request a new machine this summer.  This is the first time I am at the front of the line (due to my employment status).  As I have become more of a power user due to necessity of work, I am much more sensitive to the kind of machine I use.

BU will probably get a Latitude D83o 0r D630 according to my inside source.  Looking over the sites, I noticed that there seem to be some concerns about the screen width on the 630.  The 830 may not have an optical drive?

But there are other concerns.

– Is a tablet a good technology for me?  I need to really use it before I can decide and that may be tricky.  (Also, does BU min specs include smae level of graphics for a tablet?)

– Is a mac and then use parallel software (or whatever that is called) to run network analysis software.  I think network stuff is the only PC specific software I need.  Do any network researchers use macs?  Can I ask socnet?

– Do I need extra video graphics for Second Life or future video editing (for students, for qualitative data).  I think I will move more into students doing video or multimedia work.

– Do I need a second Monitor for my office to show things to students and/or for more screen real estate for writing or for larger network mapping.

– What is the best desk configuration for me?  Does that include a docking station? Since I actually don’t type properly, I prefer to have screen and hands nearby so I can glance back and forth easier.  Also, For a tall guy, I find I like to sit high up and right on top of my machine.  Probably terrible, ergonometry.  (word?)

– It looks like I can request software above and beyond standard package.  Oh really…  Should I ask for different network software so I can see what is best for me and for students?   That might include NetMiner, UCINET/Pajek, and InFlowWhat else is out there? Like this high end software: http://www.tomsawyer.com/home/index.php

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Filed under Computer add ins, Networks, Research, Social Networks

Catching up

Just kvetching.  Snow caused two and a half days of lost work over the last week.  But it was fun to be with kids.  On Saturday, after being cooped all day Friday due to awful slushy weather (no good for sledding), the lil’ ones went outside to wait for me and I came out and saw them pulling each other down a muddy, slushy slope laughing their heads off.  The kids are all right.

Then, yesterday, my work computer broke.  That is like the fifth HD and third machine in two years.  Ridiculous.   I have been a VAP at BU [Visiting assistant Prof] which is part of reason I get hand-me-downs.  We’ll see about data recovery.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Super duper duper Tuesday is   tomorrow, and that is just distracting.

Especially since I found this video inspiring:

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Filed under Computer add ins, life, Politics, Power, Activism

Mobile Social Networking Platforms are popping up like mushrooms « FusionSearcher

Mobile Social Networking Platforms are popping up like mushrooms « FusionSearcher

Something to read later.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Bucknell’s Next Green Steps

I did my presentation yesterday about innovation as it may relate to solutions to global warming.  I’ll get slide share slides up soon.    I annotated my slides in word with links and references.  I wonder how I can get that up and out on line.  Is there any file storage with wordpress?  A link through my own webpage?  Can slide share take a word file and post it?

Here is some news from our Prez, Brian Mitchell, about next steps.  I love the paths, the access to river, and the car and bike borrowing.  At Thursday night’s closing event, I was pleased to make the following announcements:

1.      On behalf of the University, I am signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This commitment, which has been made by more than 475 college presidents across the country, represents the University’s pledge to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, enhance environmental stewardship efforts, and foster the concepts of sustainability and environmental ethics in our curriculum.

2.      To this end, the University is creating a Campus Greening Council that will bring together students, faculty, and staff from across the campus. The Council will evaluate the impact of University policies and practices on the natural environment and the ecology of the campus, including such matters as energy use, air and water emissions, and water resource and waste management. The Council will also conduct periodic environmental audits of the campus. The Bucknell University Environmental Center and its new sustainability coordinator have already completed the first phase of an emissions audit.

3.      Bucknell will take the following steps to protect the natural environment and reduce the University’s ecologic footprint:

·        Consider U.S. Green Building LEED certification for new campus construction costing more than $500,000, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees and consistent with the University’s campus master plan.

·        Purchase Energy Star products that meet the strict efficiency guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

·        Purchase additional alternative fuel vehicles for the campus fleet.

·        Ask the Campus Greening Council to develop programs in which students, staff, and faculty can “borrow” cars and bicycles from the University to reduce the need for personal vehicles on campus.

·        The Campus Master Plan will include strategies for “greening” the campus, establishing hiking and biking trails that link the University with the larger community, and recapturing access to the Susquehanna River.

These initiatives reflect Bucknell’s historic commitment to protecting the natural environment, educating students about related issues, and using our campus as a place where we can not only learn about, but also implement sustainable environmental practices. The University has been proud for more than 35 years to be a leader in this area. These latest steps carry forward the outstanding example set by those who have come before us.

To learn more about these and other planned initiatives, please read the news release posted at http://www.bucknell.edu/x40046.xml.

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Filed under activism, climate change, higher education, Information and Communication Technology, innovation