The exciting world of Credit Default Swaps

I just listened to the This American Life episode Another Frightening Show About the Economy, a followup to their earlier show The Giant Pool of Money. The earlier show explained the mortgage crisis in terms anyone can understand. The new show explains how the problems of the mortgage industry have spread to the rest of the economy. In particular, it explains: What a Credit Default Swap is, and how it turned from something harmless into something disastrous; What the commercial paper market is; Why AIG nearly collapsed and needed to be bailed out, and how the bailout was carried out; How the rest of the financial system nearly collapsed; Why the original $700 billion bailout plan was terrible, and how the new one (the one made into law) is slightly better in that it at least allows the right thing to be done; That the total failure to regulate a risky credit default swap market, bigger than the entire global stock market, was a totally bipartisan fuckup.

In memoriam: Tower Records

Tower Records holds a special place in my heart. The store in Piccadilly Circus was one of the places I would try to visit every time I traveled to London. Back in the early 80s the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street was the place for obscure music, but by 1990 they had jacked up the prices and cleared out the unpopular stuff. Tower kept the prices reasonable and had an unrivaled selection of imports and obscurities.

PC repair work

Mark came over, bringing his Compaq PC which has been behaving oddly. A little exploration revealed that all kinds of vital files had been deleted from the hard drive—some DLLs needed for Windows domains, a few key bits of Internet Explorer, and the whole of Outlook Express, for example. After half an hour or so fiddling with the Network control panel, rebooting, then fiddling with it some more, I managed to get the machine to request an IP address and join the network.

Photo archiving project / QPS CDRW: the score so far

32 CDs burnt. No coasters. The old slides take a hellishly long time to fix up. Some of them have aged in inexplicable ways, like the one I scanned yesterday where the sky has turned purple but everything else is fine. There didn’t seem to be any obvious PhotoShop adjustment to make to the whole image to fix it, so I had to resort to airbrushing out the purple. Not much fun, given that there were trees on the horizon.

Burning inside: CD-R and archiving data

Some people may wonder why my web site was left unchanged for over a year. Well, I’m engaged in a lengthy project to digitize my entire photo collection, using a Nikon film scanner to produce 3000×2000 scans direct from the negatives. Some of the images are decades old, and often the film has deteriorated and needs careful restoration. Color film in the 70s really wasn’t very stable, and these negatives haven’t been particularly well cared for either.