Dirty Money #5 – The Maple Syrup Heist

In Canada, maple syrup is worth more than oil. When $20 million of syrup goes missing, the trail leads back to an epic battle between cartels and the little guy.

Less of a scale than previous episodes, this is more about the robbery than anything else.

The issue of a cartel controlling production and distribution is similar to those of Fonterra in NZ.

ST:D 15

Star Trek Discovery 1.15 Will You Take My Hand

It should have been called ‘A War without Consequences’.

It all felt very flat, with people doing illogical things.

When the crew goes to Kronos, they act very un-disciplined:

Tilly promptly eats the local food and takes drugs. They split up and gamble. Georgiou has an orgy with aliens. Everything is acted like it’s a sunday afternoon picnic.

Then, just as Georgiou presents a solution to remove the Klingons permanently , some sort of warped morality enters and  Burnham hands a bomb to someone who has a history of deception.

How do they think this will unify the Klingon’s. All it will take is one person to call her bluff, and everything is back to war.

They we get it all wrapped up with a bow and as if there wasn’t enough voice-over, we get more moralizing by Burnham.

Just hopeless and badly written.

But, it was cool when Captain Pike turns up.

BTW – Tilly’s hair is amazing, it goes from curly to straight between scenes (!)



Dirty Money  #4 – Cartel Bank

For decades, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels. Senator Elizabeth Warren, dogged journalists and prosecutors try to hold the bankers to account.

Not as interesting as the other episodes. This has fewer revelations. It just seems obvious that as the drug trade between the USA and Mexico has continues, there must be big banks involved that looked the other way.

The amazing thing was that at the end, after paying over a billion dollars of fines, the bank still continues and nobody has been prosecuted.


Drug Money

Dirty Money #3 – Drug Short

investor Bill Ackman

If you were running a Pharmaceutical company and wanted to increase revenues, would you..

  • Invest in Research & Development to develop new drugs. OR
  •  Buy up other drug companies and jack up drug prices as much a the market will take.

This documentary is about money, so the answer is obvious. Valeant Pharmaceuticals dropped R&D from and industry standard of around 15-20% to 3%. The CEO regarded R&D and a waste of money. It makes you wonder what he thought his company was for.

The strange thing about this documentary is the amount of time devoted to the short sellers. These are the people that worked out that Valeant was not sustainable and would crash. Eventually stock price gamblers lost billions and CEOs changed.


Dirty Money #2 – Payday

This starts with the image of a guy having his cars towed away. He is upset, the government has intruded on his life and ruined it. He is bitter and angry.

What emerges from the documentary is the story of Scott Tucker, a racing car driver and business owner.

His business was payday lending and he made millions off small loans with undisclosed charges, inflated interest rates and incomprehensible rules.

It ends with him facing charges from the FTC and FBI, and ending in jail time.

The documentary avoids moralizing narration, the story is told by by the actors. From Scott and the prosecutors everyone gets their say and point of view across.



An Unkindness of Ghosts
by Rivers Solomon (2017)

Read for the Sword and Laser March 2018 pick.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

There are a number of reasons this does not work.

  1. The prose is stilted and ‘off’. It lacks the flow of an experienced author.
  2. It starts with a surgical procedure. I don’t read this genre.
  3. After 40 pages there is no plot I can identify.
  4. There are no interesting or engaging characters.

So it’s another miss for the S&L team 🙁


Hard Nox

Dirty Money #1 – Hard Nox

This is a documentary about Volkswagon and how it became the world’s biggest seller of diesel cars…. by faking emission readings.

Alex Gibney reveals shocking new details and exposes the unholy alliance between governments and automakers that allowed the automaker to put tens of thousands of lives at risk – all for the sake of a $500 part.

The best part of this documentary was the level of detail it got into regarding the levels of emissions. A fascinating look at how a large corporation becomes corrupted by the actions of a few.



The Hardware Log

A brief history of my computer experience.

First up:

The Commodore Pet. It used audio tape to store programs. I used one in the Christchurch Polytechnic circa 1982. It used a form of Basic for programming.


Next is the TRS-80. This was used in the Chemical Engineering Dept at the University of Canterbury. The one I used had dual floppy disks. Again, programming was in Basic.


Then at the Dept of Statistics, the original  IBM-PC. Mainly used for spreadsheets.

Then, around 1989 I got my first computer, an Atari ST. This was followed by an STe. Over the years I added hardware; hard-disk, printer etc.

The Atari era ended in the mid 1990’s and my home computer became the PC, but with…..


Dead Cert

Dead Cert
by Dick Francis (1962)

As jockey Alan York looked at the back of Bill Davidson astride the great horse Admiral, one thing was different. Before his rival reached the last hurdle, he was dead. Alan knew racing was dangerous; he also knew Bill’s death was no accident. It was the kind of knowledge that could get a man killed.

The first of his novels. Told in first person and efficient prose this style of thriller writing never goes out of style.

I would have first read this in the 1970’s and it remains an engaging read.


ST:D 1.14

Star Trek Discovery 1.14 – The War Without, The War Within

The Discovery is boarded by Cornwell and Sarek, who explain that the Klingon houses remain divided, and fight between themselves to see which can destroy more Federation assets. The only safe refuge for Starfleet beyond Earth is now Starbase 1, and they warp there with Cornwell assuming command.

This feels like a ramp up to an ending (one episode to go). Everything seems designed to get Michelle Yeoh back as Philippa Georgiou (she is good ) even if logic gets left behind.

Can’t wait to see where this ends up.