Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Connection Between CDS and Swine Flu

Before you roll your eyes in desperation and think "this guy will pin everything on credit derivatives", hold on and read a bit more than the post's title.

Remember the post on correlation (gamma, γ) and how the simplistic way in which it was used by Wall Street financial engineers to calculate predicted loan "mortality" rates created the huge trouble in the securitization business (CDO, CLO, CPDO, SIV, etc.) - it being the proximate cause of the current global financial crisis? Well, the entire mathematical theory was lifted, warts and all, from epidemiology, i.e. the study of how communicative diseases (mostly viral in nature) spread.

Funny how the world works, eh?

Them's Not Grapes

Anyhow, I must also observe that we in financial markets seem to not be taking the swine flu situation seriously enough. The World Health Organization just went to Level 5 (out of 6) on its pandemic alert scale and we are just whistling past the graveyard, if you allow me the rather macabre simile.

Mexico is now officially shutting down its economy, telling everyone to stay home for five days. Infection is spreading fast to other countries, NYC is quickly becoming the US flu epicenter and.. what? We are acting as the villagers who think the wolf won't decimate the flock because previous avian flu and SARS alarms proved to be false. Three's the charmer, maybe?

I do not claim any knowledge of medical science; in fact, for those not familiar with Wall Street and London's City denizens, I should point out that we are rather pathetic when it comes to knowledge beyond our blinking screens. We simply encapsulate our existence in a self-created and self-perpetuated virtual existence of charts, graphs and numerical tables, thinking they tell all.

We do vacation in exotic (i.e. poor) locales - but always cocoon within the walls of five star resorts, sampling the local cuisine and whatever "culture" the resort manager allows to filter through during thematic "nights". The only sights of reality we get come as flickering images outside windows of speeding, air-conditioned taxis to and from airports. Oh yes, by and large we are a rather boorish lot. There are exceptions, but there are very few, trust me.

So, I am getting increasingly worried that the financial world, in its lack of real world understanding, is dismissing swine flu too easily and too lightly.

I fervently hope to be proven wrong very quickly.


  1. The meat industry and religious groups say it's "Mexican flu".
    So it is "reality" only when the rich (er, highly indebted) are at some risk is it. For the poor dying of disease is day to day reality. For finance reality is just another parameter they can manipulate and make money of.
    It's the same story again, concern arises after the fact. We just don't take initiative and postpone and postpone. This flu isn't it but count on it, over 6 billion cramped on top of each other like we are, the killer pandemic will come.

  2. I kind of agree with Mitch a little bit on this one.
    But I think that maybe we should get out our history books, dust them off a little bit, and look at what happened during the last MAJOR pandemic, i.e. the Great Plague in the 14th century.(Mea culpa, we SHOULD be counting the Aids pandemic in Africa.)
    Except that I don't really see what we can do to PREVENT pandemics.
    The little beastie germs are on their own evolutionary path, right alongside of us. And WE could be seen as an extremely PROFITABLE host these days (lol for the economists here...) for an opportunistic beastie, given HOW MANY OF US THERE ARE THESE DAYS.
    And Hell, you really SHOULD read Roszak. What you are talking about is what I call the Procrustean problem.
    Heavily borrowing from another intellectual (scientific of course...) domain and blithely transposing, while conveniently chopping off any and all observations that do not jive with the borrowed theory.
    This is what I call intellectual laziness.
    But then, we have become rather good at intellectual laziness...


  3. but always cocoon within the walls of five star resorts,
    Booze keep the buggers away:

    In Brazil a colleague of mine washed his salad in disinfectant fluids, only drank bottled water, only ate at the hotel, brushed teeth with bottled e.t.c. whine, worry, complain.

    HE got the amoeba infection!!!

    I did not in spite of eating stuff from street vendors, drinking from the tap as well as chugging a bottle of red wine every day ....

    Hahahaha, Evil, Incarnate: bugs die from eating my flesh;-)!

  4. The Earl of ObviousApril 30, 2009 at 3:49 PM

    I will try to photoshop a credit derivative in the sixth floor window of the Dallas book depository.

  5. As I have not enough time on my hands right now to even start writing about philosophy, economics n stuff, I'll only point out one thing about Levels 5 & 6: DON'T take any kind of vaccine, probably wouldn't help you anyway, but might make you rue the moment you took it.
    Let's hope everything goes well, though.

  6. Good Morning,

    It's 9:00 a.m. on the East Coast USA, the emergency room is waking up to coffee, France is at piano lessons (another secret rendez-vous?) and stock futures are up again! Hell, I totally agree the market seems to be whistling in the dark. I would not be long stocks now but like you I hope I am wrong.

    This was a great post by the way. All of economics has a distinct resemblance to epidemiology trying to model the effects of repeated discreet actions on large populations. An interesting discussion would be which is more successful at forecasting but alas I could discuss the "illness of economists" with more insight than the "economy of illness" to paraphrase Engels on philosophy.

    For what its worth I see the market falling big time later in the day.

    Have a good day.


  7. Glad that last post thread is over...

    Hell, this flu is an absolute tragedy. The confirmed deaths we are now seeing are truly heartbreaking. So please do not misunderstand me, but influenza probably kills between 36,000-67,000 Americans/year (I say probably because no one really knows- the data is an absolute mess- and anyone who make too many policy decisions relying on "computer screen" data is making a major mistake imo).

    Anyway, reliable Influenza data for Mexico is even harder to get). Assuming the >100 million people in Mexico are similar to Americans (imo a bad assumption), Mexico probably has 12-25,000 deaths/year annually during its flu season.

    This bug is a tragedy but a little perspective is helpful. (Imo) everyone needs to get back to work and trust the public health authorities a little more (I realize that trust thing may be very hard for some).

    We are not helping those who are less fortunate by holing up- I am sure other readers can agree with me on this.


  8. Dear Thai,

    It's precisely the WHO actions and statements that worry me.. I don't think they were ever as concerned as this.

  9. Manipulation does as manipulation is, it ramps up its efforts during perceived crisis points.

    It will eventually fail when a mega-event overwhelms it. Now this one may turn out be one, we shall see.

    Joe M.

  10. "I don't think they were ever as concerned as this"

    This is most definitely not true... But there is a big difference between what we tell the public and what we say privately as no one wants to start a panic.

    Trust me, health providers have been really scared before. I see none of it in this one.

    (Imo) This is a classic example of the Hawthorne effect.

    At least just my 2 cents

  11. Geez, Joe, you give us and our intelligence too much credit in talking about manipulation !
    Panic is a chicken running around with its head cut off. It looks like we're in for a bout of LOTS and LOTS of chickens running around with their heads cut off.
    SS, watch out or I may fall in love with you over the Internet, you're doing a pretty good wooing job...
    I heartily recommend Cornelius Castoriadis for your cosmopolitan philosophical mind, if you haven't already heard of him. 5 languages, literary criticism, social and political philosophy, and good insights into psychoanalysis to boot.
    Now, THAT'S what I call an educated, and cultivated person.
    ON TOPIC, (for a change...) there is a piece on Salon about the history of the last swine flu epidemic in the U.S. and the way our democracy works and doesn't work with respect to pandemics, for those interested.
    Actually, we have been collectively into EPIDEMIOLOGY for quite some time. The germ/infection "metaphor" is intimately associated with paranoïa : the idea of being CONTAMINATED by something, I mean.
    This metaphor goes all the way through Mein Kampf...
    DON'T GET ME WRONG, when I say paranoïa, I am not referring to any psychological/psychiatric diagnostic.
    All that needs to be revamped, I think...

  12. we need to kill of all the old farts over 75 sitting around all day watching Fox
    news and voting Republican, this could do the trick

  13. The other thing you have to realize is the the use of language and how people respond to it.

    Pandemic means global and I think the case in Spain made them go to level 5 if I am not mistaken as it indicated local spread within Spain.

    It is the mortality/morbidity of a disease that really scares health workers (not that I like 1 in 100 odds myself, which is akin to seroconversion rates for HIV needle sticks- I have had 3 over the course of my career and so far no conversions).

    Now if this thing starts showing different morbidity/mortality stats, that is when you will start seeing serious fear in the medical profession.

    And there is the obvious concern re:how it will behave when it mixes with another flu strain this fall.

    I truly hope we never need reminding but I guess it is possible we MAY get a nasty wake up reminder in the importance of teamwork and how important it is that EVERYONE do their job and what an illusion "good leadership" can be when the little guy doesn't do his/her job.

    For the record, understand that I am NOT against good leadership at all- Oh contraire! I just think everything we do matters and that we can never get away from personal responsibility towards each other.

    PS- I have found this blog has been a pretty good aggregator to follow updates newsRegards

  14. From Wikipedia about the Copula function. In other words the models state that the levi will hold.

    "Copulas are used in the pricing of collateralized debt obligations [4] (CDOs). Dependence modelling with copula functions is widely used in applications of financial risk assessment and actuarial analysis. Recently they have been successfully applied to the database formulation for the reliability analysis of highway bridges and to various multivariate simulation studies in civil, mechanical and offshore engineering."

  15. God will make sure wall-street gets wiped out if congress does not.

    As a medical doctor I reserve my constitutional right not to treat anyone that works in the financial industry as it goes against my moral beliefs.

  16. @Debra,

    What a nice thought Deb I'm truly flattered. I'd call you mon chou but there's a small question of meaning I left unanswered,so I'll abjure. I would like to meet you though, perhaps next time I come to Paris. In the meantime:

    When France sleeps soundly, the birds sing!
    (unknown source, circa)


  17. Ever smelled a toliet in Mexican?

    The swine in Mexico live in much cleaner suroundings then humans, please do not blame the swine.

    If Mexicans could simply organize long enough to fix the plumbing we would not be in this mess.

    Mexicans do not install P-joints in there home which cause sewage and sewage gases to backup into the homes.

    A P-joint costs $5 but they would rather live in a cess pool, go figure.

    Please do not blame the swine, it is Mexican Flu, have no doubt.

    $30 million people living together in the Mexico City sewage dump and you wonder why it has taken so long?

  18. oh and don't called me racist because Mexico is not a race you retard.

  19. We just got our first case of swine flu in my sons' middle school today! (actually a family member).

    Apparently a child's parent is a world banker and just tested positive.

    ... Yo, think about the fascinating interconnectedness of our world and the risk "elitists" have take onto themselves with globalization vs. (say) the people of Bethlehem PA, etc... (or wherever you are).

    Then remember the link I sent.

    Anyway, just an observation


  20. Actually, SS, I have NEVER heard any French people MY AGE or even older use "mon chou".
    And not my kids either.
    I think this must be an American myth, "mon chou".
    Maybe it dates back to Balzac ? Who knows ?
    Lots of things like "ma grenouille", "ma biche", ma "cocotte" (but that's rather insulting..." "ma petite dame" (that's condescending...)
    My husband (WHO BY THE WAY IS NOT THAT CUTE ALGERIAN SCIENCE PO GUY...) says that "mon chou" is a little ironic.
    French 101 is finished for the day.

  21. My Dear, Dear Thai,
    I never accused doctors of being elitist and certianly not frontline practitioners - three needlesticks, scary - (I didn't hit a nerve, did I?). If the elites of globalization do end up being more exposed to easily transmited pathogens, I assure you it will not be in the line of duty to anyone/thing but their own bottom line.

    If there ever were a quarentine you can bet your bottom dollar Cheney would have his multiple-exit deferment in hand, signed, stamped and laminated as he breezed through the checkpoint on his way to his undisclosed location.

    And of course, without the led doing all the heavy lifting no amount of brilliant leadership would be worth doodly squat but w/o shared sacrifice the led will not put their shoulders to the wheel while bratty boy pouts on his pedestal.

    BTW I couldn't recall what you were referring to in the previous thread about everyone behaving better and elitism so I chose to remain mum on the topic.

    What's a science po?

  22. @Debra,

    Your post yesterday was appreciated. Things had gotten tense and an unforeseen burst of outrageous feminism made me smile. BTW, I have a neighbor from Marseille who pityingly told me that "Sacre Bleu!" was only heard in old pirate cartoons.


    Sorry to hear the swine flu hit so close to home. Kids have better survival rates, which offers some mercy. Were the needlepricks due to drug addicts acting violently? It seems American EDs can be scarier than some war zone hospitals.


    Has any had true non-H1N1 influenza? I had always assumed the colds I had as a young adult were flus. Then I got true influenza in my mid-thirties. Its shockingly miserable. Feel perfectly justified in yelling at your coworkers to go the @%#$ home if they're sick.

  23. I had a childhood friend whose mother referred to her as mon chou. Her mother was Cajun, French Canadian roots. Perhaps this colloquialism has fallen out of favor. Old folks still remember calling things "groovy" but we don't hear it often except maybe in a period piece, lol.

    We humans, no matter how intelligent, have an inherent panic factor. Yes, bad, terrible things have happened historically and will continue to happen, but the cumulative human imaginings dwarf the real events by several orders of magnitude I bet. An educated, mature mind can try to counter this but the less evolved parts of our brains, perhaps protectively, try to take over.

    We even cringe, when we watch a movie and some confident, rational, tough guy proceeds to get his head sliced off because he didn't head our sense of danger.

    Perhaps Thai remembers how irrational fears affected the way people reacted to HIV+ individuals in the past.

    All this is not to say that pandemics don't require thoughtful responses, only that the cummulative public response is always an overshoot.

  24. "Mexico is now officially shutting down its economy"

    You mean they going to stop drug trafficing until the flu scare goes away?

  25. @Yo- Of course you hit a never!

    re: everyone behaving better.

    Perhaps the following "elitist" story (so I am not accused of picking on the little guy) will illustrate my point.

    Please understand I will keep details sparse for obvious reasons...

    A friend of mine's father was the head of a major public institution for over 25 years. He literally built it from the ground up to become one of the most prestigious of its kind anywhere in the world.

    Anyway, a few years ago, the governor of the state appointed a new head to the board of directors.

    This head wanted the institution physically moved to a new location for various reasons and my friend's father was opposed to this move.

    The head of the board asked him to be a "team player" but my friend's father refused and a power struggle ultimately ensued which my friend's father ultimately lost when the head of the board fired him after he made statements to the press.

    My friend's father sued the state on a freedom of speech action (again, this was a state institution so everything about this was ultimately paid for by the taxpayers).

    AND my friend's father ultimately won a several million dollars judgment from the state... To be absolutely clear, my friends father was NEVER in the suit for the money, it was all about reputation vindication (he had plenty of money already).

    Now you tell me, who, in the end, was the biggest loser?

    For while I completely sympathize with my friend's father, and I do think he was right in not wanting the institution to move, as I look at it, the taxpayers of the state were really the biggest losers.

    And it was all because these guys couldn't get along and someone could not submit their ego to a bad call.

    Like friction is costly in terms of energy, so too is "behaving badly" costly socially. And we all seem to fail to remember this for reasons that escape me.

    And for a less elitist example, I have another story.

    Before the department of homeland security was even formed, the government budgeted a substantial amount of money to defend itself from claims of racism/sexism/...ism in hiring/firing/promotion.

    Again, this was before the department was even formed and a single employee had been hired.

    I know this because a friend of mine was asked to run the division (though he turned it down).

    As I look at it, in the end, it is all about how we want to spend our money as a society.

    I don't want people fired for bad calls and I certainly don't want people to be overlooked in hiring/promotion decisions because of racism/sexism, etc...

    ... AND I also think people don't see the ways in which they would have much more money to spend on things they really wanted IF they didn't spend it in other ways.

    AND I do understand there are always trade offs.

    @Dink- I don't remember the specifics anymore. The last case was about 5 years ago.

    The typical needle stick usually happens when you are moving quickly and let your guard down for a brief moment. I have had MANY a violent patient, and some were HIV+, but none from which I sustained a needle stick.

    Anon- I remember well AND I am ashamed to say that a few of my colleagues behaved very badly.


  26. i live in nyc, please dont say that, now i dont want to go outside...

  27. Dink,I can relate, when I was about 40 I got such a nasty fever that my whole body ached so bad I could feel every injury I had suffered in HS almost 25 years prior but the worst fever I've lived through was Hepatitis A.I was so weakened that I couldn't lift myself off the mattress and to explain my disability my mind started to hallucinate that I was tied down a la Gulliver. Then I started to see 1" Lilliptians scurrying all over my pillow and crawling inside my head through my ear as I drifted in and out of consciousness. The funny thing was that this didn't alarm me and seemed to me quite a natural development in the state I was in.
    Thai,My humble apologies but you've lost me. How does your friend's father relate to me ribbing you about attending Phillips. BTW I agree with you that taxpayers shouldn't be stuck with punitive damages, those should be the responsibility of the offending party. Compensatory damages have to be treated somewhat differently depending on the particulars of the case, I don't have an easy answer.
    As for people behaving better, I simply can't remember what you're referring to. You said that I had previously pointed something out, I don't know what that something was or in what context I said what you said I said. That's all there was to that remark, no negative connotations implied or intended. I certianly don't diminish the value of the work you do or the anguish of waiting for the final test result (9mo post stick?) to come back negative.
    Now, as for your highly appreciated nerves, which one did I affectionately stimulate.

  28. Um, Debra, you are leaving out the great Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 which killed far more people than WW1. Then again, an estimated 20 to 100 million deaths may not strike you as MAJOR.

    The question about the present "pandemic" is why is information about it seemingly, no pun intended,
    all over the map? Some say it's quite serious, others not. Some say there are many cases cropping up, others not. Some say it is a hybrid virus, others not. There does not seem to be any consensus about any important aspect of this flu, other than it has spread to quite a few nations.

  29. Edwardo, I have no claims whatsoever to being an all knowing person on this blog. If I omitted the Spanish flu epidemic, it's because I didn't know anything about it.
    But, I still think that the Great Plague in the 1400's makes these individual deaths, although certainly tragic, pale by comparison. Because entire villages were wiped out. I remember a Pasolini film that dealt with this subject. I think he had a pretty good feeling for the almost total disintegration of society that the Great Plague brought about.
    We are a long ways from the disintegration of society DUE TO swine flu, at any rate.
    There is much more flap about it because there is the Internet, and news travels really fast these days...ALL news...
    Ha, I didn't realize that "elitist" and "aristocratic" were about the same thing.
    Elitist is a no-no word in American society.
    It provokes Pavlovian drooling at the mouth.
    Period. And that is what it is meant to do, in my book.
    Of course, you know me. I would like to TOTALLY GET RID OF BUYING AND SELLING.
    But, then, I am a real radical...

  30. Deb and Edwardo, you are both right- one of those absolute numbers vs. % of population arguments.

    My vote personally is on Smallpox, devastated American Indian populations.

    @Edwardo- I think now you see why people spend so much more money in your area on health care and how bubbles are created... "hypochondriacs" can be costly to society, especially when they get into authority roles (control the pocketbook). Your area is full of them... And by the way, they all make more money if you listen to them. ;-)

    This flu is no different than regular flu. (now IF it mutates, that is a totally different story. Spanish flu was also H1N1)

  31. Debra wrote:

    "Of course, you know me. I would like to TOTALLY GET RID OF BUYING AND SELLING.

    But, then, I am a real radical..."

    No offense, but getting rid of markets-the forum for buying and selling- is a radically bad idea.

  32. @ France

    Obviously France slept poorly last night which may be a good thing as birds singing loudly every night might drive one batty. One hopes she sleeps better in the future.

    As for chou (cabbage to the unFrench) one hopes that it hasn't escaped your hearing because you are unattractive? It was used by french speaking Belgians in the 1970s, I know smug regards all around Paris but if its ironic than it has to be French.

    Actually I surmise that rather than ironic cabbage though not tasting very good was something precious in the olden days. It with carrots were the only vegetables that survived the winter(potatoes too but I'll call that a starch) before refrigeration, this in underground dug outs for that purpose. Vital but unpleasant kind of like many relationships. Of course we could call our dear ones sauerkraut which I might adopt if france does not get back to her old self.

    Note that a Lacanian would use phallic references is not all that surprising as Lacan wished to reinstate Freud's theories of female envy. Also Bataille was one of Lacan's surrealist confreres in groups they both frequented.

    Nothing to say on the flu so I'll wish you all a good day.


  33. The flu kills 35,000 people worldwide yearly.

    Common sense is not very common.

  34. For Yoyomo, Sciences Po is the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, of which the most prestigious branch (in their eyes at least...) is to be found in Paris.
    Hmm... SS are you in for a bout of African Queen sparring ? Did you actually SEEM to suggest that I might be unattractive ? You are fortunate that I am a rather magnanimous woman who has no doubt about her capacity to attract the other sex...(for the time being, that is). One of the ones, by the way, that Freud, calling them the "victims" of primitive passions, also reluctantly agreed that they seemed to fascinate the other sex. (But then Freud was very wary of women.) And, to put an end to the smug remarks that the male sex sometimes makes about penis envy, it is certainly true that if women obtained more social recognition and value for such roles as take place INSIDE the "home" (what home ?), then no one would be talking about penis envy.
    Who wants to be a man, these days ?

    My self publicity is over.

    Off topic :
    Today France woke up to the glorious May 1 holiday. May 1 is Labor Day, which the United States created in memory of its crushed and killed union workers, dead in the battle to limit employers' abuse and enslavement (this issue is much more complicated than I am making it sound, I know...)
    There is a holiday atmosphere in just one day : people are out playing "boules" in the streets, people you know would not be doing that any other day in the week.
    People are taking their time on the market, stopping to chat ; the market regular vendors buy coffees for each other. Things are lazy.
    On May 1, you can wake up and make lazy love, turning the alarm clock to face the wall.
    On May 1, France (not just me, you guys, almost everyone here...) celebrates a day subtracted from the grind of buying and selling, the cheap business of making money.
    It is Shabbat, for those of you who know what I'm talking about...
    And the birds are singing (not raucously...), the swallows/martins have come back from Africa (this week), the flowers are bursting with vitality.
    Life in France can be really really good.
    And the food and wine ?
    YOU guess...
    P.S. By the way, SS, I do NOT live in Paris. You would have to draw and quarter me before I would live in Paris...

  35. Yoyomo,

    You make fever-induced hallucinations sound kind of fun. Maybe I won't get that Hep A vaccine I've been considering...

  36. Dink, might I suggest you just take the vaccine and head to Burning man this September? (a rather hallucinogenic experience even when you remain chemical free)

    Regards ;-)

  37. I think we need to shoot all illegal Mexicans and burn thier bodies since this is now correctly called the Mexican flu.

  38. Yes, I'm staying away from ALL restaurants because there is at least 10 illegal Mexicans working in the back!

    Should not these business owners be arrested?

  39. See Mexico Flu is not racist because Mexico is not a race.

    It is cess pool where pigs and peoples bath in the same water.

    If we had called it nigger flu, that would be racist.

    Or say we call it the Jew Flu or the Paki Flu, both racist.

    Mexican Flu is not racist but an appropriate description of why the Mexican border should be locked down with a shoot to kill policy.

  40. Dink,
    I don't know if it was worth the misery at the time but it is one of my most humorous memories and it still makes me laugh whenever I remember it.

    BTW, do you think that anon post Thai is on some kind of virulent hallucinagenic he cooked up in his basement? We all have our pet peeves but really, he sounds like he needs help controlling the demons trapped in his skull.

  41. "he needs help controlling the demons trapped in his skull."


    Sounds like someone I committed to a state facility against their will this past Tuesday.

  42. Thai,

    Burning Man (in my surely idealized perception) is so damn cool. I recalled some footage on the news about Cupcake Cars at Burning Man so I went looking for them under the Mobile Art section of your link. I wound up looking at all 1086 images of the various contraptions. I have a RV; it could be turned into a gypsy caravan or flying saucer....

    Really, a large group of smart/weird people playing Halloween for a week just sounds like a good time. There are theme-cruises, but you'd be limited in how much "art" you could bring (plus my in-laws have yet to convince me that cruises aren't eco-terrorism).

    All this anti-Mexico talk is exhausting. Plus, no one has the guts to talk about the real menace: the left-handed. I've NEVER trusted those people....


  43. It is WAY cool. There are some seriously creative people that attend who make some crazy machines.

    If you have ever seen the kid's game "Dance Dance Revolution" for Nintendo, some pyromaniac created its equivalent he titled "Dance Dance Immolation" where you basically play the game on a Mad Max metal platform in a fireproof suit and get blasted with a flame thrower when you miss your beat/step.

    It really gets quite hot when you dance as poorly as I.

    Although you do spend weeks getting the dust out of every orifice of your body/everything you bring.

    Indeed before going I never knew mother nature was capable of making "dust" so fine- it is really cool walking in barefoot.

    Everyone should go once.

  44. Thai, Yoyo, the only serious inconvenience I can see to Burning Man (outside the fact that the ticket price is rather steep for someone who is into getting and giving freebies these days...) is the fact that it seems to be in NEVADA during the summer ? Have I got that wrong ?
    You gotta be crazy to be in Nevada in the summer.
    And those ticket prices bother me...


    (Inhale. Exhale. Please disregard the above. The jealous and rabid inner child took over in a moment of weakness. Reason override in progress...)

    @ Thai,

    So you've been to Burning Man? How very lovely for you. I have often wished to attend, but have yet to convince friends that we won't be killed by hippies. Perhaps you could elaborate on your non-orifice-related experiences at the festival?

    WA or OR should have such a festival. Less heat and dust, closer to civilation, and Pacific Northwest summer daylight lasts past 9pm. Hmmmm.

  46. Oh, it's plenty safe from a mugging standpoint.

    As for mostly hippies... While it clearly has that feel, it also clearly draws from a wide spectrum. There were a lot of Saabs with Cal, Stanford, Chico stickers if you get my drift. Kind of reminds me of Grateful Dead concerts back in college.

    And people literally come from all over the world- I saw one couple from England get married while there. And they were accompanied by a large party (all from the Brighton area).

    In fact, if it helps convey the feel of the place, an area of the playa (the desert) is flagged off to act as a kind of local airport for the Burning Man camp (locally referred to as Black Rock City).

    I was so dumbfounded at how many private aircraft I saw in a kind of makeshift airport on the desert floor (which included many many small private jets) I went over and stopped counting at 50+ aircraft (there were clearly many more to be counted).

    I don't actually know what the main safety issues are, but from what I saw, I would guess heat exhaustion, dehydration, the occasional burn from all the pyrotechnics (which are elaborate to say the least) and the over intoxicated, drugged up denizen who unintentionally injures himself climbing a tower better done sober (and this seems present at almost any rock concert today).

  47. " went over and stopped counting at 50+ aircraft (there were clearly many more to be counted)."

    Wow, that is perception changing data. It is obviously a much bigger gathering than I had realized. And if the college crowd means professors instead of fratboys, thats a definite plus. People can get as naked and drugged-up as they want (IMHO) so long as there is no violence.

    "It never got weird enough for me"
    - Hunter S. Thompson