Friday, June 18, 2010


What a Mexico City sewer diver discovers at work:
…we find lots of cigarette butts. I’ve had blockages caused by pieces of carpets, pieces of cars, or even body parts. Removing these kinds of things from the sewage is part of our work. People who work nearby or are walking past think, “Look at that crazy guy, he’s getting into the sewage.” But yeah, of course—that’s just what we do.

A normal day for me… well, what can I tell you? I go into the office, and if there are no emergencies then we work on maintaining the equipment. This equipment has to be in one hundred percent perfect condition—it mustn’t fail. My other colleague and I have our gear ready at all times. We work during the night as well as during the day. It’s not as though day or night makes a difference for us, because we can’t see anything down there anyway.

One time we took out half of a Volkswagen. How did it end up there? We don’t know. One time we took out a fifteen metre roll of carpet that was obstructing a whole pipe. Really, anything you can think of, we can find it in the sewage. It’s a dump yard. That’s the problem.

USDA proposes new rules to help small cattle, pig and poultry farmers (by allowing them to sue meatpackers for anticompetitive practices). Might be very good—there have been some problems with small, organic, human ranchers and what-have-you with getting their product to market.

I think Joe Posnanski wrote the best column on U.S. ties Slovenia, 3-2.

To what extent are foreclosures influenced by race?

In Afghanistan, the enemy of our enemy may not be our friend (or, why sticking it out for all the mineralz may not be such a smart idea).

The alleged death of free checking.

A smart post on stock buybacks.

GQ reports the hell out of the Transocean blow.

The Brazilians are buying American companies. Relatedly, this Beyond Brics question asks what American brands will China scoop up next?

Is Spain next?:
the banking sectors of the "core" eurozone countries -- especially France and Germany -- are even more heavily exposed to Spain than to Greece. Second, there is substantial heterogeneity in exposure to the PIGS countries: British banks are particularly exposed to Ireland, Spanish banks to Portugal, etc. Similarly, beyond the eurozone, US bank exposure is substantially higher to Spain and Ireland than to Greece or Portugal, while Japanese banks are far less exposed to all of the PIGS countries than their US and European counterparts.

A good breakdown on the leadership mess in Iraq. The surge worked!

How technology is adopted in tough times.

South Korea has introduced currency controls, and several other countries are considering the same. I think this is a smart idea: there’s too much hot money and too much carry trading going on these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be a major problem in the medium-term.

Atul Gawande’s commencement speech at the Stanford School of Medicine:
You are Doctors of Medicine, Doctors of Philosophy, Masters of Science. It’s been certified. Each of you is now an expert. Congratulations. So why—in your heart of hearts—do you not quite feel that way?

The experience of a medical and scientific education is transformational. It is like moving to a new country. At first, you don’t know the language, let alone the customs and concepts. But then, almost imperceptibly, that changes. Half the words you now routinely use you did not know existed when you started: words like arterial-blood gas, nasogastric tube, microarray, logistic regression, NMDA receptor, velluvial matrix.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the velluvial matrix sounds like something you should know about, doesn’t it? And that’s the problem. I will let you in on a little secret. You never stop wondering if there is a velluvial matrix you should know about.

The truth is that the volume and complexity of the knowledge that we need to master has grown exponentially beyond our capacity as individuals. Worse, the fear is that the knowledge has grown beyond our capacity as a society. When we talk about the uncontrollable explosion in the costs of health care in America, for instance—about the reality that we in medicine are gradually bankrupting the country—we’re not talking about a problem rooted in economics. We’re talking about a problem rooted in scientific complexity.

Half a century ago, medicine was neither costly nor effective. Since then, however, science has combatted our ignorance. It has enumerated and identified, according to the international disease-classification system, more than 13,600 diagnoses—13,600 different ways our bodies can fail. And for each one we’ve discovered beneficial remedies—remedies that can reduce suffering, extend lives, and sometimes stop a disease altogether. But those remedies now include more than six thousand drugs and four thousand medical and surgical procedures. Our job in medicine is to make sure that all of this capability is deployed, town by town, in the right way at the right time, without harm or waste of resources, for every person alive. And we’re struggling. There is no industry in the world with 13,600 different service lines to deliver.

Apparently the swine flu is still breeding, biding its time…for the Final Apocalypse.

FCC moving towards internet regulation.

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