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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

The market is down because... [sound of shaking magic 8-ball]

Let me share with you a piece from Mon­ey Cen­tral, but I am not pick­ing on them, you can find the same crap on ev­ery news­pa­per or TV chan­nel's fi­nan­cial sec­tion:

The push to dump stocks came in re­sponse to news that ar­tillery fire was ex­changed overnight be­tween North Ko­rea and South Ko­re­a. Though ten­sion be­tween the two na­tions has been per­sis­ten­t, the lat­est episode marks a dra­mat­ic es­ca­la­tion of the tone be­tween them.

That de­vel­op­ment added to the dis­tress of mar­ket par­tic­i­pants, who have long held con­cern for the frag­ile state of fi­nances among coun­tries in the Eu­ro­pean Union pe­riph­ery. Even Ire­land re­mains a point of wor­ry as it has yet to com­plete­ly struc­ture a bailout pack­age and im­ple­ment aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures.

Dis­tress and un­cer­tain­ty moved many in­to the rel­a­tive safe­ty of the dol­lar, which was up 1.3% against com­pet­ing cur­ren­cies at the close of trade. The ad­vance marked its big­gest one-­day bounce in a month and put the cur­ren­cy at its best lev­el in al­most two month­s.

But my ti­tle is a lie, these guys are not look­ing at a mag­ic 8-bal­l. What they are look­ing at is the rest of the news­pa­per. Let me share the recipe:

  1. See if the mar­ket is up or down.

  2. Up? Then look at the news and check for good news.

    1. What? No im­­­por­­­tant god news? Awe­­­some! Then fig­ure out how some­thing that looks bad is ac­­­tu­al­­­ly good. That's a gold­en chance to be de­­­clared in­­­sight­­­ful.

    2. Good news? Bin­­­go, that's why the mar­ket is up.

  3. Down? Look at the news and check for bad news.

    1. Bad news? Ok, that's why.

    2. No big bad news? Great! Then some­thing that's good needs to be de­scribed as "caus­ing un­cer­­­tain­­­ty"

In the re­al world, the busi­ness an­a­lysts have on­ly the fog­gi­est no­tion of why the mar­kets move as they do. In fac­t, if they had a no­tion, the mar­ket wouldbe pre­dictable. If it were pre­dictable, then savvy in­vestors would beat the mar­ket.

And that does­n't hap­pen.



Imag­ine a book writ­ten com­plete­ly from the point of view of a mis­an­thrope. Now imag­ine said mis­an­thrope is prone to sopho­moric men­tal ram­blings. Add some en­dear­ing fea­tures such as be­liev­ing he is smarter than any­one else. Add a lot of oth­er var­ied mis­an­thropes as char­ac­ter­s. Now make them com­plete­ly uni­di­men­sion­al, so you can de­fine each of them in one line ("On­ni is nice and makes mu­sic"). Put those char­ac­ters in a brief, not very in­ter­est­ing jour­ney where not much hap­pens ex­cept that they are all de­struc­tive mo­ron­s.

Now, take those in­gre­di­ents and use them to write a book. That book is Ve­rac­i­ty by Mark La­vo­ra­to.

The Space Pioneers


It's pulp. It's very old. It's aimed at kid­s. It's part of the "Tom Cor­bet­t: Space Cade­t!" se­ries. So, it is kin­da fun, if you can look the oth­er way when­ev­er it gets re­al­ly sex­ist, or sil­ly, but I can't quite rec­om­mend it to any­one.

Smoking 40 cigarettes a day decreases risk of lightning strikes, say statistics!

This ti­tle came to mind when I saw in the news ref­er­ences to an ar­ti­cle in The Lancet about how in 2030 7 out of 10 deaths would be due to car­dio­vas­cu­lar, di­a­betes, can­cer, and chron­ic ob­struc­tive res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases.

The les­son most news­pa­pers get out of this is "whoa, we are a bunch of lazy, salt and fat eat­ing mo­rons and we are all gonna die".

Sure, we are all gonna die, and yes, more peo­ple will die of those chron­ic ill­ness­es in 2030. But that's most­ly be­cause we are not go­ing to die of many oth­er things that used to kill us ear­li­er.

So, eat more veg­gies, stop smok­ing and don't wor­ry too much.

Oh, and about cig­a­rettes and light­ning? I must con­fess I don't have the num­bers to prove it, but I would be very sur­prised if that was not the case. Af­ter al­l, smok­ing 40 cig­a­rettes a day should re­duce your life ex­pec­ta­tion, and the less you live, the less like­ly are you to be hit by light­ning. It's even a di­rect causal con­nec­tion!

We live in the future.


Neal Stephen­son wrote:

There is some­thing new: A globe about the size of a grape­fruit, a per­fect­ly de­tailed ren­di­tion of Plan­et Earth, hang­ing in space at ar­m's length in front of his eye­s. Hi­ro has heard about this but nev­er seen it. It is a piece of CIC soft­ware called, sim­ply, Earth. It is the us­er in­ter­face that CIC us­es to keep track of ev­ery bit of spa­tial in­for­ma­tion that it owns - all the map­s, weath­er data, ar­chi­tec­tural plan­s, and satel­lite sur­veil­lance stuff.

Hi­ro has been think­ing that in a few years, if he does re­al­ly well in the in­tel biz, maybe he will make enough mon­ey to sub­scribe to Earth and get this thing in his of­fice. Now it is sud­den­ly here, free of charge...

And of course, I have just that very thing in­stalled in my desk­top. Not all the men­tioned da­ta is hooked in­to it, but hey, it is free of charge.

Hein­lein wrote about pri­vate cit­i­zens and com­pa­nies go­ing in­to space. He thought it was not any gov­ern­men­t's job. And that is go­ing to hap­pen in my life­time. I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who went to space pay­ing for it with his own mon­ey.

Of course there are no fly­ing cars or rock­et back­packs (those were good ideas... not!)

What's the dif­fer­ence be­tween Gib­son's Idoru and Go­ril­laz, ex­cept that it's cheap­er to pay mu­si­cians than it is to build Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gences? Can you tell me what's the point in build­ing an AI, any­way? Aren't me­chan­i­cal turks cheap­er and bet­ter?

Asi­mov wrote about a foun­da­tion of schol­ars writ­ing an en­cy­clo­pe­dia to be con­stant­ly up­dat­ed, con­tain­ing the whole of hu­man­i­ty's knowl­edge (we got wikipedia in­stead. Good enough!)

Our phones are much nicer than Star Trek's com­mu­ni­ca­tors (for ex­am­ple, the loud­speak­er is op­tion­al)

It's as if most of the ideas of sci­fi got fil­tered through a pu­ri­fi­er and what made sense came out on the oth­er side. I like liv­ing in the fu­ture. I want to see the next one.

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