B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Weird Wednesday – Part One – First Human Head Transplant

The editor of this sucky blog1 has assigned Wednesday’s topic as Weird. Weird would include items such as you might encounter in Chuck Shepherd’s seminal News of the Weird, or on a late-night comedy show, or similar. The universe is a wild and wacky place, and not everything is beige, focus-tested, and lifeless.

Voivode of Pilsen
Voivode of Pilsen…

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I read about a doctor about to perform the first ever head transplant:

Three years ago, [Dr. Sergio] Canavero, now 51, had his own Dr. Strange moment when he announced he’d be able to do a human head transplant in a two-part procedure he dubs HEAVEN (head anastomosis venture) and Gemini (the subsequent spinal cord fusion). Valery Spiridonov, a 31-year-old Russian program manager in the software development field, soon emerged from the internet ether to volunteer his noggin. He suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a muscle-wasting disorder, and is desperate.

Canavero has a plan, delineated in a June 2013 paper in the peer-reviewed journal Surgical Neurology International and presented in 2015 as the keynote address of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons’s 39th annual conference. It’s a 36-hour, $20 million procedure involving at least 150 people, including doctors, nurses, technicians, psychologists and virtual reality engineers.

In a specially equipped hospital suite, two surgical teams will work simultaneously—one focused on Spiridonov and the other on the donor’s body, selected from a brain-dead patient and matched with the Russian for height, build and immunotype. Both patients—anesthetized and outfitted with breathing tubes—will have their heads locked using metal pins and clamps, and electrodes will be attached to their bodies to monitor brain and heart activity.

Next, Spiridonov’s head will be nearly frozen, ultimately reaching 12 to 15 degrees Celsius, which will make him temporarily brain-dead.Doctors will then drain his brain of blood and flush it with a standard surgery solution. A vascular surgeon will loop sleeve-like tubes made of Silastic (a silicone-plastic combination) around the carotid arteries and jugular veins; these tubes will be tightened to stop blood flow and later loosened to allow circulation when the head and new body are connected. Then the two teams, working in concert, will make deep incisions around each patient’s neck and use color-coded markings to note all the muscles in both Spiridonov’s head and that of the donor, to facilitate the reconnection.

Next comes the most critical step of all. Under an operating microscope, doctors will cleanly chop through both spinal cords—with a $200,000 diamond nanoblade, so thin that it is measured in angstroms, provided by the University of Texas.

Then the rush is on: Once sliced, Spiridonov’s head will have to be attached to the donor’s body and connected to the blood flow within an hour. (When the head is transferred, the main vessels will be clamped to prevent air from causing a blockage.) Surgeons will quickly sew the arteries and veins of Spiridonov’s head to those of his new body. The donor’s blood flow will then, in theory, re-warm Spiridonov’s head to normal temperatures within minutes.

If all that goes as planned, Canavero can then make good on his Dr. Strange inspiration with Gemini. The lengths of the transected spinal cord stumps will be adjusted so they’re even, and the myelinated axons, the spaghetti-like parts of nerve cells, will be fused using a special type of glue made of polyethylene glycol, an inorganic polymer that Canavero says is the procedure’s true magical elixir.

In this way, spinal cord function will be established by enabling the cytoplasm of adjacent cells to mix together.Then it’s time to make sure the spinal fusion is secure with a few loose sutures applied around the joined cord and threaded through the thin membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.  

To finish securing Spiridonov’s head, the previously exposed vertebral arteries of the donor and Spiridonov will also be linked to achieve proper blood flow. In addition, the dura, the tough outermost membrane covering the brain and spinal cord, will be sewn watertight with wires and clamps. Doctors will similarly reconnect the trachea, esophagus, vagi and phrenic nerves, along with all of the severed muscles, and plastic surgeons will sew the skin for optimal cosmetic results.

Throughout, doctors will ensure a suppressed immune system through medication, and after the transplant, doctors will regularly screen Spiridonov’s blood for anti-donor antibodies while he lies in a drug-induced coma for four weeks to allow his brain to recover. During that time, doctors will electrically stimulate the spinal cord to promote communication between neurons and improve Spiridonov’s motor and sensory functions.

(click here to continue reading Doctor Ready to Perform First Human Head Transplant.)

Tall statue aka Our Onion-headed Overlords
Our Onion-headed Overlords

Doubters and naysayers don’t believe the operation will be possible, or even attempted, but science is always about exploring the edges of human knowledge, with plenty of failures along the way.

I see a few possible outcomes to the surgery.

  1. The patient dies during surgery. Dr. Canavero will learn from the experience and try again later.
  2. The surgery seems successful, but the patient never wakes up from the induced coma. Again, something can be learned from the experience, and applied to future surgeries.
  3. The patient wakes up: but who is he? The brain and human consciousness are not totally understood. Will the patient be able to wiggle his fingers? Walk? Talk? Speak Russian? Write C++ code? Did you know that the stomach contains serotonin receptors (5HT receptors)? Maybe these brain-stomach connectors are more important to consciousness than we know and the patient will retain some fragments of the other person’s body? Memories? Emotions? Who knows? 

El Ray - Giant Olmec Head
El Ray – Giant Olmec Head

The surgery is scheduled for 2017, I assume we’ll hear about the successes or failure. Will there be a Frankenstein monster? Or just another step towards Ray Kurzweil’s 2020 goals for humanity?

Footnotes:
  1. me, though if you have some free time, I’d like to have your help, proofreading and what not []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 4th, 2016 at 9:05 am

Posted in science

Tagged with , ,

Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup

Quickly, one last entry into today’s tech file:

Bowers & Wilkins

Joe Atkins, chief executive officer of Bowers & Wilkins, has owned a majority stake in the half-century-old British speaker business for the last 30 years. On Tuesday, he plans to tell his 1,100 employees that he’s selling it to a tiny company that almost no one has heard of, run by a man he met just 30 days ago. Over the weekend, Atkins reached a sale agreement with Eva Automation, a 40-person Silicon Valley startup that hasn’t yet sold a single product or service. The company was started in 2014 by Gideon Yu, a former Facebook Inc. chief financial officer, ex-venture capitalist, and current co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Yu has said little about his startup. According to the company’s website, it is “making products that will change how people interact and think about the home.” About a quarter of its employees have worked at Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Bowers & Wilkins became a household name before speaker companies had to distinguish themselves through Spotify integrations and voice recognition capability. While Bowers & Wilkins does sell speakers designed to accommodate people used to listening to music through their smartphones, Atkins acknowledges that his company lacks the expertise needed to build software that communicates with cloud services. Any company that wants to sell speakers at a significant premium would need to integrate high-end hardware with sophisticated software. Yu plans to begin selling new products that incorporate Eva’s work by early to mid-2017.

(click here to continue reading Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup – Bloomberg.)

I have owned three different Bowers & Wilkins headphones: they all still have great sound. I hope these new owners don’t gut the company of what made it great and run it into the ground.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment

Speaking of privacy and technology, Wired Magazine’s Mark McClusky boasted to Ad Age that everything is going great with their ad blocker gambit.

Ad Blockers - Wired
Ad Blockers – Wired

In early February, Condé Nast’s Wired took a stand against the rise of ad-blocking technology, which was being used on more than 20% of visits to the magazine’s website. It gave ad-blocking Wired readers two options: whitelist Wired.com, allowing ads to be served as intended, or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of the site. “We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content,” Wired said in a note to readers at the time, “but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.”

Nearly three months in, Wired Head of Product and Business Development Mark McClusky pronounced himself pleased with the early returns.

“Overall, it’s going great,” he told Ad Age. “We’ve exceeded sort of our hopes and expectations in terms of the performance.” “The uptake in whitelisting has exceeded our expectation, the subscriptions have gone better than we projected, the abandon rate has been lower than we projected,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment | Media – AdAge.)

Here’s the thing: in general, I support magazines and news organizations desire to stay solvent, in fact going as far as to give subscription dollars to several of them1 including even for a long time, to Wired Magazine. But the print edition of Wired was somewhere around $12 a year – by their new model, they want to charge me $52 a year to read their content. 

OVER THE PAST several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. We have certainly seen a growth in those numbers here at WIRED, where we do all we can to write vital stories for an audience that’s passionate about the ongoing adventure of our rapidly changing world.

On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.

We know that there are many reasons for running an ad blocker, from simply wanting a faster, cleaner browsing experience to concerns about security and tracking software. We want to offer you a way to support us while also addressing those concerns.

Therefore, we have restricted access to articles on WIRED.com if you are using an ad blocker.

(click here to continue reading How WIRED Is Going to Handle Ad Blocking | WIRED.)

I happily use Ghostery, which is not strictly an ad blocker, but rather an enhanced cookie blocker. I just went to random Wired.com article, (http://www.wired.com/2016/05/adblock-plus-now-wants-pay-browse-internet/) and these are the trackers that Wired wants to serve me in lieu of my $52 payment:

  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe TagManager
  • Amazon Associates
  • ChartBeat
  • Disqus
  • Google Adsense
  • Google AdServices
  • Optimizely
  • Parse.ly
  • Pinterest
  • Polar Mobile
  • Rubicon
  • ScoreCard Research 
  • Yieldbot

plus one I keep turned on because I like fonts and appreciate web designers who use specific fonts: 

Typekit by Adobe

In other words, Wired wants me to agree to sell my data to these corporations in exchange for reading an article about Adblock Plus. I don’t know each of these entities, but I’m guessing most2 don’t only report to Wired – they sell the data they’ve accumulated to multiple parties. And they don’t give me any slice of the revenue.

Hmm, on balance, I’ll keep my $52, and I’ll stop clicking through to Wired articles. Sounds fair.

Footnotes:
  1. Tidbits.com, NYT, WSJ, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Harpers, etc. etc. []
  2. or all []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Moccus – Porcine God of the West Loop was uploaded to Flickr

Fulton Market

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/Gq5Cpb

I took Moccus – Porcine God of the West Loop on September 29, 2011 at 11:33AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 03, 2016 at 03:34PM

Written by eggplant

May 3rd, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Tech Tuesday – Part One – Selling Your Own Data

This sucky blog’s editor1 has assigned Tuesday’s topic as technology. Like all good topics, that’s a bit vague, there are lots of threads that can be collected here. 

Don't Worry - Keep Shopping
Don’t Worry – Keep Shopping…

We’ve discussed the weird state of consumer data many times, where companies such as Acxiom and thousands of others collect every scrap of information about us they possibly can, by whatever method, and then sell it to marketers. Our data, our habits, our propensities, but their profits. Seems like a bum deal, for consumers. 

So when I read the headline on this Fast Company article, I got interested. The headline and sub-head reads:

This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data
InfoScout’s apps sell their users’ shopping data to marketers—and give those users a cut.

but that is not quite truthful. Or at least, InfoScout isn’t selling shopping data in a manner I was hoping. No, they mean that if you willingly give InfoScout information about your shopping trips by photographing/scanning your receipts, they’ll drop a few pennies in your cup now and again. If you are lucky.

San Francisco-based InfoScout offers a set of smartphone apps that lets users snap pictures of shopping receipts in exchange for incentives like credit card-style reward points and sweepstakes entries. The company digitizes the receipts with a mix of optical character recognition and crowdsourced help from services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Then it bundles that purchase information into reports it offers to companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, letting them see how consumer preferences evolve over time and how discounts and promotions affect sales.

“Our ability to provide these insights back to the brands in near real time, literally within days, is something they’ve never had before,” claims CEO Jared Schrieber, who cofounded InfoScout in 2011.

Schrieber says that while brands can get some data from programs like supermarket reward card programs, those usually only track customer activity at one particular retail company.

“We’re not trying to change what people buy,” Schrieber says. “We’re just trying to observe it.”

The company says it has collected data on more than 100 million shopping trips and is processing about 300,000 receipts per day. Users can of course choose not to scan receipts that include purchases they find embarrassing, but Schrieber says many just upload every receipt, so the apps gather quite a bit of data about sensitive purchases, such as condoms and feminine hygiene products. Ultimately, what type of purchase information users feel is worth trading for a few cents or a sweepstakes entry is up to them.

Users can participate anonymously or receive additional rewards for linking the app to their Facebook profiles, answering demographic questions, or taking occasional surveys.

(click here to continue reading This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.)

We have no hours. We are always closed
We have no hours. We are always closed…

InfoScout is not even alone in using this model. I recently saw a presentation that included mention of Ibotta– a smartphone app where consumers photograph their receipt and theoretically get future coupons. Or rebates, whatever.

1. Download the App Download the Ibotta app, available on iOS and Android. The app is required to submit a receipt.

2. Unlock Rebates Before you go shopping, unlock cash rewards on great products by completing simple tasks.

3. Go Shopping Buy the products you’ve unlocked at any supported store.

4. Verify Your Purchases Scan your product barcodes, then submit a photo of your receipt.

(click here to continue reading How it Works – Ibotta.com.)

If you jump through the hoops in precisely the correct way, you may get a few pennies. According to some internet complainers, Ibotta mostly uses the small print to avoid paying out.

Complaints like:

I read about IBOTTA on Facebook and decided to try it out. Downloading the app was easy and the instructions were straight forward. Two days ago I wend grocery shopping and decided to use the app for rebates on bread, milk and eggs – all of which were on my shopping list and I was shopping at a listed store. When I returned home I scanned the items as requested by the app and took a picture of the receipt. All items were accepted. Today I received an email stating that my account had been deactivated because of fraud. From what I understand I am being deactivated for taking a picture of the same receipt. Well, duh..I bought the items at the same time, so they would be on the same receipt. No where in the instructions does it say that you have to have a separate receipt for each item purchased. Plus you are going to spend more time sorting out your groceries and paying for each item separately – not worth the money they say they will pay you.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

or like:

I downloaded the app and it isn’t terribly hard to figure out. Verified the items and got the approval for receipt. All fine. Now when it comes to actually getting paid, all that happens is a notice on the site saying “working on the site”. Seems everything works that makes them money but nothing works where they pay money.

I am guessing they are out of cash and so just stick this sign up to avoid the real issue.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

and many, many more. 

I suppose you’ll have to decide for yourself, is willingly giving corporations intimate shopping data about you and your family worth a few pennies? Your data is much more valuable to them – building smartphone apps and Point-of-Sale and coupon redemption infrastructure is not cheap. A corporation wouldn’t invest millions unless it was worth it to their bottom line.

Not This Store
Not This Store

I’m still waiting for one of the companies that Ghostery tracks to start offering me a real cut of the sale of my data, I’d whitelist their tracking cookie, and they would pay me a percentage every month. Ha! Zero is a percent…

Footnotes:
  1. me []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 9:11 am

Looking To The North was uploaded to Flickr

Chicago, late afternoon. You can see a slice of the toilet bowl added to Soldier Field.

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/GLuHfG

I took Looking To The North on September 10, 2011 at 12:49PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 02, 2016 at 07:27PM

Written by eggplant

May 2nd, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Music Monday – Part One – Radio Radio

This sucky blog has been a bit moribund recently due to my lack of engagement with the outside world. No strike that, just a long, long winter and my body has made the leap1 from young to not-so-young, and with it, nagging health issues of various kinds that I won’t bore you with. Anyway, to jump start me writing here again, I’ve assigned myself topics based on the day, starting with Music Monday.

Overstuffed CD shelf
An Overstuffed CD Shelf.

I may be one of the last citizens of America who still purchases music CDs on a regular basis. Streaming music is well and good, I don’t participate. I’d rather indulge my nascent horder tendencies, and have my own copies of things, especially since “used” CDs sound identical to “new” CDs 99% of the time. I also have wider, more varied tastes than the streaming algorithms encourage. I’ve only dabbled with Spotify and the Apple Music channels, but an hour of music via Spotify seems artificially constricted to my ear. You can change your musical directions by seeding new stations, but every “next track” is via a linear progression from the preceding song.

When I am the DJ of my own radio station, which truth be told, runs 20 hours a day2 whether or not I’m in the room(s), I queue up 500 or 1,000 songs at a time. If you are listening to Radio Seth3, you should expect to hear deep cuts from Funkadelic followed by Alt-Country maesters The Jayhawks followed by Brahms concertos followed by outtakes from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti followed by whatever. Or 50 songs about rain, or 24 hours worth of David Bowie or Prince or Merle Haggard. Or albums released in 1985. Or albums released last year. I liberally use randomizing AppleScripts from AppleScript guru Doug Adams to top up my playlists, I change direction on a whim, and of course alter playlists when I have an audience4

CD shelf in need of an alphabetization project
CD shelf in need of an alphabetization project…

There was a mythical era in commercial radio when DJs had the freedom to play what they wanted. By the time I was interested in music, this FM free-form radio era seemed to be on its last legs, so I don’t actually know if there were radio stations that played all sorts of music with only the taste of the DJ linking them together, or if that is another bullshit myth perpetuated by aging Baby Boomers. I don’t even care, in my mind, there was such a time, and I want to have my own radio station that plays all the hits as defined by my own idiosyncratic charts.

CDs in need of a re-org
CDs in need of a re-org…

One last thing, the age of the CD box set has encouraged record labels and musicians to open their vaults, reissues and repackaging are attempts to cash-in, but also mean that much music is available that I’ve never heard before. I’m not one of those who claim “music today doesn’t have the same soul”, I seek out new music from current artists just as much as I seek out classic albums from garage rockers of the mid-1960s or obscure Nigerian funk musicians from the 1970s. I try not to have preconceptions over what I’ll explore, but of course, there is plenty of new and old music I am not interested in. As someone on Reddit said: 

People think old music is better than new music because people have already stopped listening to the old music that sucks

(click here to continue reading People think old music is better than new music because people have already stopped listening to the old music that sucks : Showerthoughts.)

Footnotes:
  1. stumble?? fall?? []
  2. until my Mac sleeps and iTunes pauses until morning []
  3. I use the Airfoil app to stream to different sets of speakers around my office and house depending upon set and setting []
  4. Not everyone is cool with Conet Project weirdness, or never ending guitar solos []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 2nd, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Music,Narcipost

Tagged with ,

The Music Kept Playing was uploaded to Flickr

rooftop, West Loop somewhere (maybe the CTA HQ?)

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/Gu4TBL

I took The Music Kept Playing on August 16, 2012 at 10:36AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 26, 2016 at 04:53PM

Written by eggplant

April 26th, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Morgan Station at night was uploaded to Flickr

West Loop

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/GnjoVu

I took Morgan Station at night on June 03, 2012 at 04:15PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 23, 2016 at 12:13AM

Written by eggplant

April 22nd, 2016 at 11:32 pm

Imagine No Smoking No Trespassing was uploaded to Flickr

Fulton Market, West Loop

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/GhnQr7

I took Imagine No Smoking No Trespassing on August 10, 2014 at 05:15AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 16, 2016 at 01:10PM

Written by eggplant

April 16th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Lyrics – Temporary Like Achilles – Bob Dylan was uploaded to Flickr

At the LBJ Presidential Library for some reason (maybe a traveling exhibition, I don’t recall).

The lyrics are slightly different on Blonde on Blonde, but close

http://bobdylan.com/songs/temporary-achilles/

Temporary Like Achilles
WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
Standing on your window, honey
Yes, I’ve been here before
Feeling so harmless
I’m looking at your second door
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, why are you so hard?

Kneeling ’neath your ceiling
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while
I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child
How come you send someone out to have me barred?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, why are you so hard?

Like a poor fool in his prime
Yes, I know you can hear me walk
But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime
Or is it just solid rock?

Well, I rush into your hallway
Lean against your velvet door
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, but you’re so hard

Achilles is in your alleyway
He don’t want me here, he does brag
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, but you’re so hard
Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/FNUb1j

I took Lyrics – Temporary Like Achilles – Bob Dylan on July 20, 2014 at 09:27AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 12, 2016 at 11:50PM

Written by eggplant

April 12th, 2016 at 11:04 pm

El Ray – Giant Olmec Head was uploaded to Flickr

Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas, Austin

In November 2008, LLILAS celebrated the arrival of a special work of art on campus. The Universidad Veracruzana, one of Mexico’s most prominent universities, presented the institute with a colossal Olmec head, a replica of the iconic sculpture known as San Lorenzo Monument 1, or El Rey.

The original, now housed in the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa, Veracruz, is considered a signature piece of pre-Columbian Olmec culture and a world-class art object that represents New World civilization as emblematically as the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán or the ruins of Machu Picchu. One of seventeen colossal heads still in existence, San Lorenzo Monument 1 was found by noted archaeologist Matthew Stirling in the 1940s. His discoveries, and those of other archaeologists in Mexico during this time, unearthed for the world the culture of the Olmec, an ancient civilization that flourished in southern Mexico 1500-400 BCE and significantly influenced later cultures such as the Maya and Aztec.

The replica that now sits at the entry to LLILAS and the Benson Latin American Collection is made of solid stone and weighs 36,000 pounds. It was sculpted by Ignacio Pérez Solano, a Xalapa-based artist, who has spent his career exploring the history of the Gulf Coast and Mesoamerica. Pérez Solano meticulously reproduced San Lorenzo Monument 1 inch by inch, recreating the powerful lines and imposing features of the original work.

Pérez Solano began creating replicas of Olmec heads under the initiative of Miguel Alemán Velasco, who as governor of Veracruz from 1998 to 2004 endeavored to make Olmec culture better known beyond the borders of Mexico. Reproductions of other colossal heads can be found at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Field Museum in Chicago, among other locations. Miguel Alemán Velasco was present for the dedication ceremony at LLILAS on November 19, 2008, which also featured remarks by UT President William Powers and his counterpart, Raul Arias Lovillo of the Universidad Veracruzana. Fidel Herrera Beltrán, current Governor of Veracruz, also spoke, as did Olmec scholars from the U.S. and Mexico.
more
http://ift.tt/1WmBbw1

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/FfbPs2

I took El Ray – Giant Olmec Head on July 20, 2014 at 08:41AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 10, 2016 at 10:25PM

Written by eggplant

April 10th, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Invasion of the Home Snatchers

Life's short enough to remain optimistic
Life’s short enough to remain optimistic.

I rented The Big Short recently (via Netflix), so I’ve been researching some of what was written about the mortgage fraud, including this great article by Matt Taibi about how the banks churned out so many mortgages they didn’t have time to actually hold the deeds before re-selling:

If you’re foreclosing on somebody’s house, you are required by law to have a collection of paperwork showing the journey of that mortgage note from the moment of issuance to the present. You should see the originating lender (a firm like Countrywide) selling the loan to the next entity in the chain (perhaps Goldman Sachs) to the next (maybe JP Morgan), with the actual note being transferred each time. But in fact, almost no bank currently foreclosing on homeowners has a reliable record of who owns the loan; in some cases, they have even intentionally shredded the actual mortgage notes. That’s where the robo-signers come in. To create the appearance of paperwork where none exists, the banks drag in these pimply entry-level types — an infamous example is GMAC’s notorious robo-signer Jeffrey Stephan, who appears online looking like an age-advanced photo of Beavis or Butt-Head — and get them to sign thousands of documents a month attesting to the banks’ proper ownership of the mortgages.

This isn’t some rare goof-up by a low-level cubicle slave: Virtually every case of foreclosure in this country involves some form of screwed-up paperwork. “I would say it’s pretty close to 100 percent,” says Kowalski. An attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid tells me that out of the hundreds of cases she has handled, fewer than five involved no phony paperwork. “The fraud is the norm,” she says.

Kowalski’s current case before Judge Soud is a perfect example. The Jacksonville couple he represents are being sued for delinquent payments, but the case against them has already been dismissed once before. The first time around, the plaintiff, Bank of New York Mellon, wrote in Paragraph 8 that “plaintiff owns and holds the note” on the house belonging to the couple. But in Paragraph 3 of the same complaint, the bank reported that the note was “lost or destroyed,” while in Paragraph 4 it attests that “plaintiff cannot reasonably obtain possession of the promissory note because its whereabouts cannot be determined.”

The bank, in other words, tried to claim on paper, in court, that it both lost the note and had it, at the same time. Moreover, it claimed that it had included a copy of the note in the file, which it did — the only problem being that the note (a) was not properly endorsed, and (b) was payable not to Bank of New York but to someone else, a company called Novastar.

(click here to continue reading Invasion of the Home Snatchers | Rolling Stone.)

Protecting Bank of America
Protecting Bank of America

Still amazed that we as a nation did not storm Wall Street with pitchforks and throw a bunch of bankers on a boat headed right for Somalia or somewhere similar. And in fact, now that a few years have passed, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) are back, and the cycle of fraud continues.

The 2008 financial crisis gave a few credit products a bad reputation. Like collateralized debt obligations, known as CDOs. Or credit-default swaps. But now, a marriage of the two terms (using leverage, of course) is making a comeback — it’s just being called something else. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is joining other banks in peddling something they’re referring to as a “bespoke tranche opportunity.”

That’s essentially a CDO backed by single-name credit-default swaps, customized based on investors’ wishes. The pools of derivatives are cut into varying slices of risk that are sold to investors such as hedge funds. The derivatives are similar to a product that became popular during the last credit boom and exacerbated losses when markets seized up. Demand for this sort of exotica is returning now and there’s no real surprise why. Everyone is searching for yield after more than six years of near-zero interest rates from the Federal Reserve, not to mention stimulus efforts by central banks in Japan and Europe. The transactions offer the potential for higher returns than buying a typical corporate bond, especially if an investor focuses on first-loss slices or uses borrowed money, or both. Obviously, the downside may be much greater, too. Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs in New York, declined to comment.

(click here to continue reading Goldman Sachs Hawks CDOs Tainted by Credit Crisis Under New Name – Bloomberg.)

U Pick Parts
U Pick Parts

Sub-prime auto loans are the next big thing, but some bankers whine that The Big Short might be interfering with their con…

Auto loans made to risky borrowers and then bundled into bonds sold to investors have been making headlines for years, with some voicing concerns over an apparent resemblance between the so-called subprime auto market and the subprime housing market that sparked the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession.

Indeed, the parallels may not have been lost on investors either. In a note published on Wednesday, Morgan Stanley analysts led by Jeen Ng wonder whether last year’s debut of The Big Short—the film version of the Michael Lewis book published in 2010—has played a role in sparking fresh worries over the asset class.

(click here to continue reading Morgan Stanley: People Might Be Worried About Subprime Auto Bonds Because of the ‘Big Short’ Movie – Bloomberg.)

as Gawker writer Hannah Gold puts it:

The memo reads:

However, concerns about growing recessionary risks – and perhaps even the popularity of the recent movie The Big Short – have motivated investors to investigate any potential source of weakness. Consumer sectors that involve large initial outlays, such as housing and autos, provide a natural place to start. Combine that with recent headlines from Fitch suggesting that delinquencies in some sectors of the auto ABS market have reached 20- year highs, and you get a target sector for investors’ concerns.

Those concerns are not without merit, at least as far as delinquencies are concerned. It is interesting to highlight that as the housing market continues to heal from its post-crisis depths, mortgage delinquencies have been on a steady decline while auto delinquencies have been going in the opposite direction.

Or maybe potential investors are suspicious of auto loans because…they’re actual villains. Critics of the auto ABS have been pointing out parallels between the subprime auto market and the subprime housing market for years. Hopefully this story has a slightly less disastrous ending.

(click here to continue reading Morgan Stanley Analyst Fears the Movie The Big Short Has Discouraged Investors From Buying Risky Auto Loans.)

Great. Just in time for a wave of deregulation if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, or worse, Donald Trump, or even worse, Ted Cruz…

Written by Seth Anderson

April 10th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

In A Cold Sweat was uploaded to Flickr

West Loop somewhere, I think

embiggen by clicking
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I took In A Cold Sweat on May 03, 2014 at 07:41AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 09, 2016 at 08:03PM

Written by eggplant

April 9th, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Time Fades Away was uploaded to Flickr

West Loop

embiggen by clicking
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I took Time Fades Away on May 03, 2014 at 07:42AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 09, 2016 at 12:00PM

Written by eggplant

April 9th, 2016 at 1:22 pm