Archive for February, 2014

I Yuan U 2 Yuan Me

February 28, 2014

February 28th may perhaps be considered the last day of meteorological winter, but every American knows in her bones it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.  Just in case you needed reminding, the National Weather Service has cast these two pearls of timeless wisdom before the porcine herd:

  • There is no shortage of cold dense air in Canada.
  • There are few forecast elements that have a shorter shelf life in our area than [a forecast of] snowfall accumulation.


Yes, March will be coming in like a lion.  The lamb will have to wait her turn.  When feng shui soothsayers promised us that the Year of the Horse would be characterized by the elements of Wood above Fire, they must have had in mind the roaring furnaces that just barely manage to keep our houses habitable during this frigid winter.  Curious that they didn’t say so … Instead, they forecast extremely hot weather (and less rainfall) in the Year of the Horse —which we’ll probably see beginning in late May to June.  We have another meteorological adage in this part of the country:  if you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. Well, we’ve been waiting a while longer than we’d like.


In slightly warmer climates, it’s carnival time.  Revelers are rowing on the Grand Canal in Venezia and parading down the avenues and thoroughfares of New Orleans.  In Rio, les miserables are being evicted from their favela shacks to prettify the scenery for Brazil’s World Cup.  A few days from now, they’ll shimmy and shake through the Sambadrome, fueled by an ocean of rum and cocaine.  In Northern Europe, the carnival parades and festivities will probably be slightly more sober, somewhat quieter, and perhaps a bit less colorful.  A good pre-Lenten time will be had by almost all.


Further to the East –despite the winter chill– things are getting quite a bit hotter … for currency speculators.

China’s economy is still under pressure from heavy capital inflows both under the current account and the capital account.  Higher interest rate levels and better economic fundamentals continue to attract fund inflows.  [ In response, ] the People’s Bank of China has set about actively weakening its currency since mid-last week by using a mix of weak daily fixings for interbank lending rates and asking its agent banks to buy dollars.  The rate for the seven-day bond repurchase contract fell as low as 1.6 percent on February 21, its lowest since late 2010.  Weakening of the yuan over the past 10 days has exposed risks created by the rapid growth of offshore derivative products, with holders seen potentially facing billions of dollars of losses if the currency keeps falling.   Buyers of these leveraged bets — an estimated $100 billion this year alone — have largely been Chinese companies with large dollar receivables, who saw derivatives as a way to earn some extra income while the yuan rose against the US dollar.

There’s a lesson there somewhere.  Reflect deeply.  Madame Defarge would probably tell you to stick to your knitting.


B My Valentine

February 14, 2014

During our most recent snowstorm, I stashed my car in the municipal parking deck to keep it out of the path of rampaging snowplows.  Thirty-six hours later, I returned to retrieve it, and found that someone had carefully printed the word FUCK in uppercase block letters on the salt-rimed rear window.   Should I take this personally, or dismiss it as a opportunistic, juvenile(?) act of random spite and rebellious frustration?

The former interpretation presupposes that the anonymous scribe recognized my car (not at all impossible) and had a message to convey (definitely conceivable).  Luckily, the spirit behind this message wasn’t too intensely hostile: it was just written on the window, not scratched into the paint.  But what if the messenger’s spirit wasn’t necessarily hostile at all? Even the sloppiest grammarian can interpret FUCK as either a noun or a verb: as a noun, it might convey the sense of <tone=scorn>”You miserable, despicable FUCK!“</tone>  And as a verb, the range of meaning could be considerably wider.


At its simplest, FUCK[!] could serve as peremptory imperative, exhorting the message recipient to get down to bidness, get busy, etc.   Or it could, in abbreviated form, stand in for slightly more specific phrases such as “I want to FUCK you” or “I want you to FUCK me.”  A Valentine’s Day message stripped of all pretense, cultural baggage and Hallmark holiday marketing.  Cut to the chase, with Cupid nowhere in the picture.

Of course, the ‘none of the above’ option is equally likely … or perhaps even more so.   In addition to its general function as an auxiliary intensifier when used as adjective/adverb, FUCK! also does triple duty as an exclamatory interjection denoting surprise, wonderment, frustration, exasperation, anxiety, weariness, etc., etc.   What that would mean on my car window, I’m not too sure.   I’m not sure that I care, either.   Instead, I’m going to generously interpret this cryptic message as an inarticulate effort to say ‘I Love You,’ from someone too abashed to say so.  Hey, I love you too, but that doesn’t (necessarily) mean that I’m going to fuck you. At least not until I see the roses. Or the flash of excitement and delight in your eyes.


Hold Your Horses

February 12, 2014

Whoa, Nelly!  Whoa!  Whoa!  The ‘Gold-in-Sands’ triple-sha negative qi wasn’t due until June!   However it appears that, in the spirit of the ever-restless racehorse, some (cyber)jockeys just couldn’t wait for the Grand Duke to take action when the stars eventually align.

Las Vegas Sands Corp

Hackers breached the websites of all Las Vegas Sands Corp. websites Tuesday morning, and the home pages of some of the world’s largest casinos remained down through the day.  The company’s corporate site was also hacked, as were websites for Sands casinos in Bethlehem, Pa., Singapore, and the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.  [The hacked] websites showed anyone visiting the Las Vegas Sands casino Web pages a scrolling list of personal information that included employee Social Security numbers, emails and job titles.

When employees realized it, panic set in for some of them. “It’s freaking me out,” said Joshua Cesanek, a cage cashier at the Bethlehem casino.  “I can monitor my bank account and credit cards, but how do I monitor my Social Security number?  Am I going to have to worry about this for years?”

So much for all that hard work and team-building effort expended by the LVSC HR department.  On Monday, the Venetian and Palazzo were named as the Number One top workplace in Las Vegas among Clark County’s largest employers.  On Tuesday, all that self-congratulatory management-speak has a kinda hollow ring to it:

“Team-member satisfaction is what drives a passion to serve and do even more to take care of customers,” said John Caparella, president of The Venetian and The Palazzo, and Sands Expo and Convention Center.  “It’s important because team members need to know what’s going on and their voices heard,” Caparella added.  “You have to understand what’s important and what’s responsible.”

I feel completely secure with my employment here,” one employee said.  “I love meeting new people from all over the world and my position allows me to do that.  I have met great people here.”

Now, let’s be clear: this totally sucks for the line worker in Vegas, Bethlehem, Singapore and Macau whose nominal identity and financial security may have been jeopardized by this breach.   And let’s be even more clear: two weeks ago Lunghu (merely?) made an offhand feng shui prediction and was in no sense providing targeting guidance to a person or persons unknown.  It’s not Lunghu’s fault that certain technically-adept residents of the state of Maryland decided to provide an object lesson to a recalcitrant pupil.   But with this example in mind, perhaps Disney Corporation had better straighten up and fly right.   Whatever that means.



February 5, 2014

In the United States, the opiate industry has a long history as parasitic freerider on luxury brand names.  Retail heroin entrepreneurs attempt to distinguish their streetcorner blends from those of the competition by adopting memorable names and logos that can be relied upon to stick in the eroded minds of anxious addicts.  Therefore, selling the Coleridge dream of a stately pleasure dome has been updated to adopt the aura of such brands as Lexus, Gucci, Rolex, etc.  The combination of Hollywood glamour and grit have also proven to be reliable hooks for a fickle consumer:  a few years ago, three movie-themed brands –Titanic, Transformers and Terminator– were all on the market at once (long after their theater runs had ended).  Alliteration is not what you’d expect from a drug packaging operation, but there it was.


However, heroin users aren’t merely traditionalists seeking solace in the familiar. They’re also novelty-seekers … which is why they’re using heroin.  Retailers know that, and regularly respond with ‘new’ brands that capitalize on popular culture trends.  When Microsoft and Sony introduce new video gaming consoles, ‘Playstation’ and ‘Xbox’ appear on glassine bags soon thereafter.

So:  how long before we start seeing heroin /fentanyl bags with the logo “Best Actor”?  What’s the product-cycle turnaround time in the heroin mills of Upper Manhattan and Bergen County?