Monday, October 20, 2014

Thought viruses determine potash's price

Robert Shiller says that the stock market is driven by mass hysteria and not by the play of demography, industrial production, agricultural yields, availability of raw materials, demand, etc. as in classical economic texts.
"Fundamentally, stock markets are driven by popular narratives, which don’t need basis in solid fact. True or not, such stories may be described as “thought viruses.” When they are pernicious, they are analogous to the Ebola virus: They spread by contagion."

So potash fertilizer price has nothing to do with supply, demand, transport costs, etc. It has to do with the strange occult doings at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft which are spawning a collective consciousness. May be the phase of the Moon too affects the market (pic).  Shiller is a Nobel Prize economist.

N.B.: Do I smell the Frankfurt School in Shiller's  argument? But he is apparently of Lithuanian descent.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Next Six Months

My third daughter is marrying in six months and they are trying to organize the ceremony, buy an apartment and settle in a steady job.  A standard middle class ceremony - nothing excessive - costs 30,000 US$ and it is normally covered by the cheques the people bring. The flower arrangement alone costs 1000 US$. Recently prices have risen and the price per person is 80 to 100 US$ and we are not certain that my daughters friends (all just starting to work) can afford such a present.

Regarding a place to live, apartments in Israel are very expensive, about 30 years of average salary. There are mortgages available but a life is not enought to pay them off. They have signed up on a program for young couples that may be more affordable. The parents will have to contribute, how much each is a delicate issue. Both are middle class Ashkenazi families with younger children to marry off.

About steady jobs, my daughter with the degree from the Technion, is discovering that job security is an illusion in Israel 2014. She has completed her first project (a Nike shop for an European client) and is on stand-by for the next one. She is clever and ambitious... and worried. After six years in the Technion - the hard times are just starting.

Comparing my own experience 32 yars ago, it is notable how much more difficult is life for this generation. Our ceremony was held on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and cost nothing. I had a small apartment and we bought a new large one after a year. We both had permanent, steady jobs (with "kviut", meaning permanent staff that cannot be sacked  - the figure known in China as the "iron rice bowl". Israel was socialist in those times.) This generation has serious problems to get established, in Italy the 30% of young adults live with their parents. The young of today have lots of fancy phones and apps, but they are unable to settle down and have children.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Poyke Culture

Saturday and nice autumn day. We drove North on Road 4. The agricultural villages in the Sharon area have discovered the weekend people driving around purposelessly and have recycled chicken coops into antique furniture shops and Indian schmattes sales. One dairy farm moonlights on weekends as children's playground, with electric cars to drive and apples to feed the ruminating monsters. Many camp in the field and make small fires to cook in poykes (pic). The poyke, according the Soviet Encyclopedia is an old  Russian invention. Others say it is South African. I say whatever, today is Israeli and no Zionist family can be without one. It will be my next big purchase. I'm already studying how to cook in a poyke (one Israeli camping site here says that the pot is ready when the carrot is ready, but that goes against my culinary experience that rice and meat cook faster). BTW, we brought back from the expedition a different kind of pot (for 2 y.o. Techillah). That is how close one gets to a poyke.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Protalix At Last

Protalix BioTherapeutics Inc. (PLX) is heading for the biggest rally on speculation its technology could be used to produce a drug to fight Ebola.Shares of the Carmiel, Israel-based company surged 16 percent this week in New York, the biggest jump since October 2011. T

Dr. Yoseph Shaaltiel, who heads research and development at the company, said in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 television last month that Protalix had the technology to extract medication from tobacco plants, from which the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp is drawn. Shares jumped as much as 22 percent in Tel Aviv on Sept. 7 before paring gains.

The pic shows plastic bags filled with carrot juice where protein producing cells are cultivated. I assumed that the idea had no future and sold my shares. Mistake.

Lesson: Dont Try to Be a "VIVO" in America

To be a "vivo" ("smartie") in Argentina is to commit a semi-criminal act and escape punishment in a smooth, elegant way. The best part of the "viveza" is when you tell the boys in the bar how you fooled the "otarios". For a decade, Argentina tried to ignore its defaulted bonds, giving a break for successive Finance Ministers to entertain the guys in official lunches.

Well, no more. Judge Griesa from New York has turned that funny story into a nightmare and a concrete danger to the country's economy. More than that, Paul Singer, the vulture, started uncovering the "money route" of the funds stolen from the Argentine state to Seychelles and back to pay daughter Florencia Kirchner's rent in the Fifth Ave. Today, the new (less than a week) Minister of Finance announced in an informal meeting with the press that he was looking for some "elegant" way to pay off the vultures. With interests.

I have been following this issue for years. I feel like celebrating its happy conclusion with an "asado" (pic)  in Buenos Aires.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Water Drawing Festivity

The things I dont know are infinite, so I have to keep learning. I reached my honored ancestor status having gone through life without understanding what this שמחת בית השואבה ritual was about. Beit HaShoeva in modern Hebrew means something like Pumping Station. And that torch-juggling priests circus act - what was it? Maybe if I had spent my life studying the Talmud, it would be clear to me. But I didnt and it was a Protestant web page that explained it to me in five minutes. Obviously, it is an ancient agricultural - rain making ritual - the Chief Priest pours water on the altar, inducing rainfall by homoeopathic or sympathetic magic. The ceremony is timed at the beginning of the rainy season in the Eastern Mediterranean. But who cares about the original meaning of the festival, let us be happy that the hot summer has ended and public employees get a ten days long paid holiday. Enjoy and Be Happy!

How the Yambuku (1976) Ebola epidemy was stopped

How? Most of the health workers in Yambuku died and the hospital that was spreading the disease was closed. No more ebola.  Quote:

The epidemic curve resembled a common source infection and the peak occurred after 24-28 days had passed. The people in the community had already associated the mission hospital with the epidemic and had stopped coming to the outpatient department. Several patients with EbHF left the hospital for their villages in the second fortnight of September. The hospital staff, themselves severely affected by the epidemic, closed the hospital at the end of the month. So ended the epidemy. 
I am worried about the fruit bats. We have large fig trees in the street, full of fruit bats. No kidding. We dont chase them nor eat them, and I stopped my habit of picking up the half consumed sweet figs they drop. I am thinking of giving up my other source of free calories - the children returning from school who throw away the unconsumed sandwiches prepared by their mothers. Some of the sandwiches, lovingly wrapped in plastic, are quite eatable with chicken breast schnitzels. Jewish mothers are crazy, they pack prayers and poems with the sandwich.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mandatory Quarantine

Hundreds of persons have been ordered to avoid all contact with anybody for 21 days - in a format called mandatory quarantine. I didnt know this thing even existed. As in antique Rome, in case of emnergency they designated a Dictator with full powers for one year to take the measures required to save the Republic. In a few days, America will be under the dictatorship of CDC. I hope the old leprosaries are still functional and able to receive large masses of suspected ebola carriers. Maybe North Korea with its strict isolation is not so crazy as painted by Western media .Pic.: A leper in Medieval Europe.

Dancing All The Night

How can one sleep during the Simchat Torah celebration? Every night there is music and people awake walking in the streets of this godless schtettl. The best (the worse?) will be the Simchat Beit Hashoeva night - the Drawing of the Water Celebration. And this Kever Benjamin village is nothing compared to Jerusalem (the clip shows the Toldot Aharon yeshiva last year). My little daughter is in the capital, taking a pause in her Israel Trail Hike.

As for me, no dancing but working on the Sarona project while hearing Delta Blues. Those American Africans must be the most unhappy people in the world ("Momma, You Treat Me Wrong", "She took my money...". The second most unhappy are the Argentines, with their lacrimous tangos: "Percanta que me amuraste, dejandome en la miseria...", "Adios muchachos, barra querida, me voy para siempre..."). We Jews are the happiest of all, we are under orders of God to be happy in our celebrations: "Ve samachta..".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ebola (II): This time it seems real

October 14 2014 and the number of reported cases has reached 10 000. The graph left is from Geert Barentsen's blog and shows that Ebola cases doubling time is accelerating. Last WHO data says that now 70% of the infected die. It seems that the question if the virus can survive in the air is moot, its reproduction rate is similar to influenza. The crisis seems real.