Something to get of distracted from swine flu

April 30, 2009 at 12:11 am (Anything, Humor) (, , , )

Hey there bloggers. Turn right, left, up, down and everything out there is swine flu, where did it came from, where is it now, where will it be, bla bla bla. Then you will see spam that says “hot chic on influenza sucks good, click here”, videos on youtube that go “fat kid on influenza falls of bike, hilarious!”.

Get your head elsewhere! Try replaying a game, learn to play omaha or other card game, start your own blog, practice an opera play. I am not saying you must forget about the main issues right now, just be aware of it, take your precautions and continue on.

I left you a little vid to get your mind of those issues and remember why human stupidity can sometimes be quite laughable.

Enjoy!

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Of Pigs, Mexicans and Wars

April 29, 2009 at 11:35 pm (1)

It’s hard to get past the torrent of information surrounding the influenza (H1N1) outbreak. The amount of questions answered pales in comparison to those new ones that emerge. The fact is until more information becomes available, we can’t really predict the outcome. I’ll try my best to clear up some issues about the 1918 epidemic, the virus itself, and the recent outbreak. However, I’m not an expert on the subject.

Why has this particular strain got everyone so worried?

H1N1 was the virus responsible for the Spanish Flu of 1918, the deadliest epidemic in human history. Estimates are inaccurate but place the death toll at 50 to 100 million. That’s more than both world wars put together. But that’s not what all the brouhaha is about. The fact that this particular strain of influenza targets healthy human beings, as opposed to the young and the elderly, is what’s really terrifying.

Why are only healthy people dying?

That’s the thing about H1N1, the healthier you are, the more likely you’ll die. Seriously. Here’s the why of the paradox: when the body detects a pathogenic invader, cytokines will signal macrophages to travel to the site of the infection in order to fight it. In addition, cytokines activate those cells stimulating them to produce more cytokines. However, when fighting H1N1 the reaction looses all semblance of control and cytokines are mass produced waaaay beyond sustainability.

What results is a painful death, not from influenza, but from the overreaction of a healthy and vigorous immune system to a highly pathogenic invader. The better your immune system is, the likelier you are to produce these fatal “cytokine storms”. The symptoms are very high fevers, severe muscle aches and nausea. Oh, and death of course.

Is there a cure?

For Influenza? No, it’s basically a cold, albeit a strong one, so you’ll have to ride it out yourself. The cytokine storms can be prevented if you are issued antiviral at the first sign of infection. This can’t be stressed enough, if you let the virus reproduce enough in your body, your own immune system will overreact and eat you alive. Painfully. Better to be safe than sorry right now: even if you have a cold go see the doctor for an antiviral. 48-72 hours into the illness and it’s too late to do anything other than call funeral services.

Is this different than 1918?

Yes! During 1918 the world was in a pitiful state. They were just finishing WW1 and sanitation systems were all bust. Every productive force had gone over to the war effort, or been destroyed in the process. Hospitals and running water were a luxury, not a right. During the 1918 outbreak, people not only died from cytokine storms. Even if they survived them they were left quite weak, and, when coupled with poor sanitation services, they were prone to bacterial infection. Survivors wound up getting killed diseases that they would have finished off with simple antibiotics. But of course, antibiotics were few and far in between, especially when the cases started to compound.

Furthermore, the chaos of the war let the disease spread far and wide before any serious consideration was taken of it. Soldiers were dying every day in the trenches not only from bullets, but from simple illnesses. People did not spot the Spanish Flu until it was too late. Historians attribute a sizable amount of responsibility for the defeat of the Central Powers to the Spanish Flu, since it started in Austria.

Why is it called the Spanish Flu then?

While the other countries were embroiled in the war, Spain remained neutral. This meant that their newspapers reported news of the flu, given that the war was not a priority for them. Simply put, Spain was where the flu got the most media coverage, since the other countries´ news outlets tended to count the dead as “war casualties”.

How bad did it get in 1918?

As I said before, between 50 and 100 million people died. But this is not the whole extent of it. It would mean that between 5-10% of the world population at the time ceased to be. Given that H1N1 has a death rate of about 15%, the number of infected reached more than 1000 million, half the world population at the time. As a side note, this means that if it gets really bad today, no preventive measures will avail you: you will get infected.

But to put it bluntly, this little bugger killed more people than the black plague. This little bugger killed more people than both World Wars put together. Yes, it’s that bad.

Are we prepared today to deal with it?

H1N1 is the most feared virus nowadays. More than HIV. For that same reason, most containment protocols and epidemic war games are based on a fictional outbreak of the virus. Yes, it’s dangerous, but it’s also been present in our leader’s minds. People may say the measures being taken today are exaggerated. No they aren’t the virus is that bad.

Nowadays, we’ve got the WHO doing worldwide monitoring; we’ve got highly advanced medicine they didn’t have in 1918. And more importantly, we have advanced transportation. In 1918, a surplus of antibiotics in Anchorage did the world no good. Nowadays, a surplus of antibiotics in Anchorage can be flown overnight to anywhere in the world. Despite the higher concentrations of people and ease of travel, I consider we are better prepared than in 1918.

Won’t there be a vaccine?

Eventually. When it comes to the flu, we’ve always been playing catch-up. It evolves and then scientists have to task themselves with finding a particular vaccine to that particular strain. Previous vaccines don’t work because the immune system won’t recognize the newly-mutated virus. Worse, with H1N1 it’ll deal with it with cytokine storms and kill you. So yes, one day this particular strain will be isolated, dumbed down, and put into vaccines. But that’ll most likely be after this outbreak.

Is there still the possibility everything goes to shit?

There always is. So long as people commit simple mistakes such as handshaking and kissing for the next few days, the virus will spread. The problem is that it may achieve a critical mass so that healthcare systems around the world begin to collapse. Timely preparations and good habits will keep it at bay long enough to be dealt with. If you’re snuggling with your girlfriend you’re part of the problem.

Can I get the swine flu from eating pork?

No. Go ahead and gorge yourself until you rupture, but wash your hands first.

Finally, why are only Mexicans dying?

Mexican ineptitude. The WHO warning was out a few weeks ago, the Mexican government paid no heed to it until a private company blew the whistle. In civilized countries, they’ve been screening for H1N1 quite exhaustively and providing appropriate antiviral despite being in its early stages. But that’s the weak sissies, true macho men cover the well after the child has drowned.

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Ok, wtf with the swine flu

April 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm (Anything, Essays)

Well then, there’s a high alert on this issue right now. But are you really informed about it? More important, is your information reliable? I think I don’t need to explain why having the correct information is critical.

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Lets start with this, what is a zoonosis?

A zoonosis is a disease transmitted from insects and animals to the human, as is the case of fastidiousness.

What is influenza?

Influenza is a severa disease that results from the infection of influenza virus, which in this case is the virus which normally affects pigs.

Is there a vaccine available?

It is not likely possible to find a useful vaccine at this early point.

Is the stational influenza vaccine useful against this disease?

No, but it can lower the effects of other types of influenza.

Are the anti-viral drugs useful against this disease?

They prevent the reproduction and evolution of the virus, thus reducing the time of hopitalization. These drugs should be taken during the first 48 hours after the first symptoms.

At last, what should we do?

Rest at home, drink 50% liquids than before, avoid the use of aspirine, double your personal higiene.

sneeze

If you have to go out, use something to cover your mouth and nose. If you sneeze, cover your mouth using the inner part of you elbow.

The virus is not in the air, but it can be in the small drops of saliva that people sneezes. These drops can travel no more than 1 meter to 1 and half meter (3 -5 feet) from the person who sneezes. Be carefull in rooms with air conditioning since the same air currents created from the air conditioning can carry particles farther. Be sure to clean surfaces often since the virus can remain there for hours until it dries up.

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100% ours for the taking…

April 24, 2009 at 11:23 am (1)

I found this video as an ad campaign to convince aussies to invade kiwis..thought it was very creative and funny. The second ad uses new zealand’s own tourism campaign with the phrase “100% pure new zealand”.

Enjoy

What do you think? should the rest of the world follow in these steps?

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Classic friday bloopers

April 24, 2009 at 9:07 am (Humor)

Ok, as I said before today is friday and I say this really funny video which deserved to be posted. Laugh a little and Enjoy!

Watch out for the girl on the scooter haha, nice. And be sure to use a belt when you harvest apples up on a ladder! 😉

Have a nice day!

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Bat-pwned

April 24, 2009 at 8:53 am (Humor) (, , , , , )

It’s friday finally, and its a day to relax, have some fun, beer (or orange juice, yes I’m looking at you Danbertus) and enjoy some funny videos. A couple of days ago I found this on you tube. Batman pwned. Wouldn’t it be fun to actually beat a superhero who is playing as a superhero in any game.

Enough talk, play the video. Enjoy!

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A few terms explained

April 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm (Economics)

Vexed by all the technical finance terms right now in the news? At a loss when trying to understand how markets work? Can’t tell a stock from a bond to save your life? Try as we might, the world of finance is hard to understand. It’s not a natural system or a human system based on natural laws, so for that reason there are sometimes things that appear counterintuitive or simply don’t make sense. Read on if you wish to understand a little better the terms that are now thrown loosely on the news.

So, first things first, what is high finance?

Finance is divided into two main sections: corporate finance and high finance. Corporate finance focuses on a company’s internal handling of money. Where’s it getting it from, where to unload excess reserves of cash, how to make its handling more efficient; the works. People who work In this area are usually determining optimum inventory purchases and figuring out that the company can make an extra .01% return on investment if its sweatshop workers don’t get bathroom breaks. At all. It’s, all in all, a dull and tedious affair that has little more redeeming qualities than accounting.

High finance, on the other hand, is the sexy side of the profession we see glorified in movies like Wall Street. In essence, it’s the handling of financial assets such as stocks, bonds and derivatives. People in this area dedicate themselves to speculation and chasing after easy money in the markets. The most visible of these being the stock market.

What kinds of markets are there?

Besides the glamorous stock market, which, incidentally, is the smallest one of these, there are several other more important kinds. There’s the derivatives market, which has recently been getting a lot of bad rep because of their involvement in the current financial mess we’re in. The bond market, in which the debt of companies and countries is bought and sold like so many chickens at a bazaar, and the Forex market, where currencies are exchanged between banks, corporations and private investors.

Each of these varies in size, influence and impact on the real world. For example, the derivatives market, several times larger than the bond market, does not make governments tremble as the bond market does. More on that later. Involvement in these markets entails higher risk than playing in stocks, thus, you have to know what you´re doing if you decide to trade here.

How can Bond markets be so powerful? I thought they were boring and for old geezers

Simple. Bond markets are where the debt of countries and companies is traded. Bond markets are boring they same way plumbing is boring. Both are supremely important in their respective niches. A house with faulty plumbing is a real headache. So is an economy with a faulty bond market.

How? Well, imagine you’re asking for a loan to the bank. If you’re a responsible, forward thinking person, the bank won’t hesitate to hand you the money and you’ll probably get a better interest rate. But if you’ve spent the better part of your life smoking pot and other illegal shrubbery, then the bank will be loathe to loan to you. If they do, you’ll get a very high interest rate, to denote your high risk of default. Your supply of cash will be limited. The same things happen to corporations and countries, if they´re good, they can get a constant supply of cash from loans and continue to operate smoothly or finance large expansions. If they’re risky, they’ll be saddled with large interest rates and won´t have as much money available to finance their operations.

In this way, bond markets affect the workings of companies in the real economy. When the market freezes, like right now, even good companies cannot get loans at agreeable rates and are forced to perform unanticipated cutbacks.

What the hell is the Forex market? I’ve never heard of it!

In the Forex market banks, corporations and private investors exchange different types of national currency. Forex means “Foreign Exchange”, and that’s precisely what goes on. It´s purpose is not entirely speculative. Volkswagen may need to convert the reales they earned from selling in Brazil to Euros to pay their German employees. IBM may be looking to expand into Israel and must convert their initial dollars into shekels.

Forex markets are also powerful when it comes to politics. A run on a specific currency may cause that currency to crash and the impoverishment of its issuing nation. Such runs are common among third world countries, and can happen when their conditions deteriorate and investors scramble to pull their money out. Examples include the Mexican peso crash of 1994 and the Argentinean crisis of 2001.

Are the derivatives markets all bad? What do they really consist of?

The answer is still up for debate on that question. Derivatives are assets whose value depends on an underlying financial asset; at least, that’s the official definition. Derivatives essentially are bets that can be bough or sold.

Imagine we’re watching a Germany-Brazil soccer match. I make a one way bet with a friend over $100 that Germany will win. 40 minutes into the game the score is 4-1 with the Krauts at an advantage, but I suddenly have to go. I turn around and sell my bet to you at $60, after all the Germans are winning but there’s still about 50 minutes left to the game. If the Germans win, my friend pays you and you pocket $40 dollars profit. If Brazil turns around and wins, well, the bet was one-way, so you lost those 60 dollars you paid me for the right to own the bet. There’s a derivative for you. The underlying asset was the German team.

It’s the same concept in finance only that with more carefully planned out risks, rewards and probabilities. Derivatives are useful for companies when hedging against unfavorable exchange rate swings, for example, but they’re not limited to that. Employee stock options are derivatives too. They come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re also the ideal instrument for speculating, given they are, essentially, bets.

You mentioned hedging, what is that?

Hedging is simply the practice of protecting yourself against certain risks, in financial terms. For example, if you bought Euros because you thought they would rise, but were unwilling to take a loss, you could hedge by buying a derivative on Euros. This derivative would be an option that gives you the right, but not the obligation, to sell those Euros at a certain price.

On an unrelated note, what are Credit Default Swaps?

A Credit Default Swap (CDS) is a type of derivative that fundamentally means buying insurance on a loan. That is, if I loan you money, and want to make sure I´ll get my money back, I´ll go with AIG and buy a CDS on that loan. That means that if you fail to pay, AIG will give me my money, so I really don´t have to worry.

The problem right now with CDSs is that they were taken out on very funny loans, with the banks believing that the CDDs completely nullified the risk of giving deadbeats the possibility of buying up McMansions. Of course those loans were going to default and the CDSs were going to have to be paid. Think of a company that sold fire insurance to the Japanese for their paper houses in 1940, just before WW2 and the wave of American firebombing that swept Japan. The current crop of CDSs shows about just about the same business sense as our hypothetical Japanese insurer.

And then of course, there´s the bigger problem of naked Credit Default Swaps.

What’s a naked Credit Default Swap? Financial Porn?

I imagine that a naked CDS is as exiting to the financial guys as porn, but no, it doesn’t have sexual denotations. A naked CDS is loan protection without having to own the actual loan. Let’s go back to the houses and the fire. Normal people buy fire insurance for their own houses. Insurance compensates them in the tragic case their own house burns down and their family dies in a fiery hell. Screaming.

But enough with the sadism, what if an insurance company started selling fire insurance on other people’s houses? And for more than their market value? I could buy insurance that promises me $10 million if my neighbor’s house burns up. Of course I would stock up on gasoline cans and matches! Selling such schemes would be criminal in real life and yet, in the financial world they are known as Naked Credit Default Swaps.

What is a default, mind you?

It is when a borrower suddenly stops paying their debt. They don’t necessarily deny they owe anything; they simply can’t make the scheduled payment.

I’m interested in finding out more about this topic; can you recommend any good additional sources?

The Ascent of Money is a pretty good and intelligent book on the esoteric world of finance. PBS recently turned it into a full blown documentary. Barring that, there’s always www.investopedia.com, a finance encyclopedia.

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Comment vs. Comment

April 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm (Humor) (, )

Damn it this is so funny. Have you ever been in the middle of those discussions through comments on any website? If you’ve been, then you most probably be familiarized with what this vid talks about. And for all of you who haven’t been involved in this kind of confrontations, believe me, its like the video, WORD BY WORD. Hahaha enjoy :D!

By the way visit Collegue Humor at http://www.collegehumor.com/it is really worth it.

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The Susan Boyle phenomena

April 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm (Anything, Music) (, , , )

Once again, a hiden talent went was uncovered on the show Britain’s got talent. The scotish 47 unemployed woman, Susan Boyle has become the singer of the world after singing I dremed of a dream from the film The Miserables, with over 100 million times watched on you tube, beating Barack Obama’s ceremony watched by 18,5 million.

susanboyle3

The woman is a volunteer singer for a church in Blackburn, near Edimburgh. Lives alone with her cat Peebles and confessed during her performance that she has never been kissed (in the lips I guess). Anyway, after her appearance on the casting of Britain’s got talent show, she’s got lots of work offers.

There is a particular work offer for her to make a porn movie in which she looses her virginity. More details of this particular work offer;

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article2385706.ece

And here, the video of the show when she made her performance. Enjoy, her singing is nice actually.

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Worst death ever

April 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm (Humor) (, , )

OK, let me make you a question: you are taking a drive on your jeep peacefully along the read. So you find yourself being confronted by a skillfull and dangerous skater who is trying to take you down with a shotgun while guarding himself behind a sex doll. Your reaction is:

a) “oh my God, i’m gonna die” and try to kill the thug,

b) “hey, a new doll model, gotta get mine” and suprinsingly kill the thug,

c) ask him for his autograph for being such a skillfull thug/hired killer and then kill the thug with a pen, or

d) hit him with the rear part of your jeep and shot both, the thug the doll with a rocket launcher while on mid air.

All 4 options seem out of these world don’t they? Well actually one of them happened. Let me show you. And enjoy 😀

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