Big brother is listening to you
Readers of this blog have sympathised in the past with my frustrations of dealing with Barclays Bank, Winchester via its outsourced telephonists somewhere in India. Today's FT reports that 80% of the staff in outsourcing companies in India is below the age of 25 and that office romance is rife, with 58% of a survey's respondents confessing to it. One company, Wipro, even has an internal prospective matrimonial website. No wonder so many of these telephonists are distracted!
My favourite journalist at the FT, Gillian Tett, makes an interesting observation: yesterday's cost of insurance against default on UK gilts was 0.95%, compared with 0.5% for insurance against Cadbury defaulting. British American Tobacco, Compass, Unilever, Centrica and Pearson are also all deemed less likely to go bust than the UK Government.
Polyphemus, the one-eyed Sicilian giant was in love with the mermaid Galatea, expressing his emotions in this song:
The turnover on the mainland Chinese stockmarkets yesterday was US$30bn, more than that of Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Taiwan and Korea combined.
One of my friends was invited to play in the fathers against sons cricket match at his son's prep school last year. He hadn't played cricket for years so had some practice in the nets the day before with one of the other fathers in the team and hit some cracking shots and bowled well and as a result he felt confident before the game the following day. The boys batted first and the form was that each father should bowl one over against his own son. He was duly called to bowl and then had a slight panic attack: he hadn't thought about pacing his bowling for a ten year old batsman. The result was that the first few balls went straight over the wicket, the next few crashed into the ground at his own feet and his first over ran to 14 balls, much to his embarrassment. He was called for a second over which was going much better until, horror of horrors, he clean bowled the headmaster's son. He has not been invited to play in this year's match, despite his second son being one of the boys' 11.
"You are old, father William," the young man said,
I shall miss Clement Freud on Just a Minute. Radio 4 replayed one of his witticisms this morning:
Pictorial association is a good way to improve one's memory. For example, if you wanted to remember all the plays by Shakespeare beginning with T (not including those starting with the word "The") you could imagine a boat on Twelfth Night in a Tempest with Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus and Troilus and Cressida sitting opposite Two Gentlemen of Verona, with the shrieking of the Taming of the Shrew in the background. I have been trying to master this recently but was mortified yesterday on my return from the supermarket when I realised that I'd forgotten my handbag and had left it in the trolley in the car park. I drove back from Winchester to Romsey and, crestfallen, approached the Welcome Desk at Waitrose. Joy of joy, somebody had handed it in, contents intact!
Here are three poems written by the Japanese poetess Ono no Komachi who lived around 825-900 AD.
Congratulations to John Yates on his appointment as Head of Anti-Terrorism Operations in the UK police force. I have never met the man but am encouraged by my MEP, Dan Hannan's, assessment of him. According to Dan, in March 2007 when asked what stage the cash-for-peerages investigation had reached, Yates is reported to have replied "Act V, Scene One". Hannan wrote, "What a telling answer. Shakespeare's fifth acts tend to open with the protagonists nervously awaiting their fate. Often, they are preparing for battle: Act V, Scene One finds Octavius and Antony encamped at Philippi (Julius Caesar); Octavius preparing to attack his former ally at Alexandria (Antony and Cleopatra); and the royal army at Shrewsbury (Henry IV Part One). Act V, Scene One presents the panicky Romans arguing over whom to send as an envoy to Coriolanus, who is on his way to raze the city...He's plainly an uncommonly clever man, this John Yates. Not the kind of copper you'd want to be on the wrong side of."
The qin is a Chinese musical instrument, described in the West as a seven string zither. Each one has a name often taken from stories, for example this one:
Yesterday I was reminded of the myth about Erisichthon, described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. Erisichthon had no respect for the gods and decided to chop down an oak tree in a grove which was sacred to Ceres. Each blow from his axe produced blood from the tree and eventually a voice cried out, "I who dwell in this tree am a nymph beloved of Ceres, and dying by your hands, forewarn you that punishment awaits you."
Mentioning to a friend that some elegant shoes I had bought last year could only be worn for two hours before causing severe agony, she said she knew the solution: "Put on the shoes and stand in a bucket of water until the leather is thoroughly soaked. Then continue to wear them until they have dried out and they will mould themselves onto your feet and be perfectly comfortable." Does anybody know if this really works?
The US Treasury's plan to sell off toxic, I mean "legacy", assets at mouth-wateringly attractive levels of gearing is now being hijacked by US banks. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase are all mustard keen to participate in the auctions. This is hilarious as the whole point of the exercise was to help banks sell, not buy, rancid securities and loans, and now these same banks want to use taxpayers money to take on more poison and more leverage. It just goes to show that one bank's poison becomes another bank's meat if the terms are sufficiently juicy but it's also worth remembering the Chinese cautionary tale about drinking poisonous liquid to quench one's thirst.
Call me old-fashioned but I thought it was disrespectful of Michelle Obama not to curtsey to the Queen. The First Lady was meeting the Queen at and accepting hospitality from Buckingham Palace and therefore she should adhere to the customs of our country, not her country.
I met a Taiwanese company yesterday which is at the forefront of coloured e-paper. They have been working with Japanese supermarkets to enable them to display their prices electronically so that at the end of the day when they give discounts on fresh food, they can change the prices on the computer rather than doing it all by hand. They are also working with a Taiwanese newspaper to go completely electronic. A regular reader of the newspaper will subscribe to an e-reader and will thus get updated news through the day. No more wasted newspaper.