Monday, January 26, 2009

Off sick

No blog this week as I'm going to have a minor operation. The hospital told me "only" 1 in 30,000 people die from it and that nobody's died recently. I'm hoping that doesn't mean that 29,999 people have survived it in the very recent past.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Somebody was asking me what is a zeugma. It's the Greek word for "yoke" and is used in rhetoric to link two or more parts of speech with another part of speech ie one subject with two or more verbs or one verb with two or more objects or two or more subjects with one verb etc. A couple of examples are:
"Mr Pickwick took his hat and his leave."
"When at Nightmare Abbey, he would condole with Mr. Glowry, drink Madeira with Scythrop, crack jokes with Mr. Hilary, hand Mrs. Hilary to the piano, take charge of her fan and gloves, and turn over her music with surprising dexterity, quote Revelations with Mr. Toobad, and lament the good old times of feudal darkness with the Transcendental Mr. Flosky."
The latter quotation is from Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey which is supposed to be an excellent satire of the romantic novel. Have you read it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Green shoots of protectionism?

It is interesting that Tim Geithner, Obama's Boy Wonder, whom we are hoping will resolve the US economic crisis, says today, "President Obama...believes that China is manipulating its currency." China's currency, the remnimbi, is not free floating but has a "managed float" so to say that it is manipulated is stating the obvious. It sounds like a broadside from the US to China and a warning of protectionism to come. It is all the more interesting as Geithner still hasn't been officially sworn in as Republicans are complaining about his falty tax record. The other group moaning about protectionism are the Roquefort cheesemakers as the Bush administration tripled their import duty into the US to 300% versus 100% on other EU food products in retaliation for Europe's ban on US hormone-treated beef. The cheesemakers have sent Obama a case of Roquefort as an inaugural gift to persuade him to lower the duty. On va voir.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

American letter of the day

Dear Mother and Dad:
It has now been three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing this and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. YOU ARE NOT TO READ ANY FURTHER UNLESS YOU ARE SITTING DOWN. OKAY!
Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed now. I only get those sick headaches once a day.
Fortunately the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the fire department and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital and since I had nowhere to live, because of the burned out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It's really a basement room, but it's kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to be married. We haven't set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.
Yes Mother and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the love, devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our pre-marital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am taking daily.
Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you that there was no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or a skull fracture. I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged. I do not have syphilis and there is no man in my life. However, I am getting a D in history and an F in science and I wanted you to see those marks in the proper perspective.
Your Loving Daughter

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

GB is bankrupting GB

The run on sterling today is another nail in the coffin of the British economy. The huge amount of potential losses being guaranteed by the Government, the dithering approach of taking a 70% stake in RBS rather than simply going the whole hog and nationalising it outright, the strategy of offloading some toxic assets onto the Bank of England whilst not counting them as Government debt, are being met with scepticism in the form of a sell off of the pound. This creates further problems. The Government is planning to sell vast numbers of gilts to fund the banking crisis but it is unclear who will buy them unless the interest rate is sufficiently attractive to outweigh the depreciating currency and they don't want to raise rates at this time when credit is so tight.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Irish joke of the day

What's the difference between Ireland and Iceland?

One letter and about 6 months.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poem of the day

--I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Shelley "Ozymandias"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


King Lear is talking about sermons and soda water as the modus vivendi in January and my colleague was talking about Jainism this morning. Jainism has five principles:

Non-violence (Ahimsa) - to cause no harm to living beings.
Truth (Satya) - to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
Non-stealing (Asteya) - to not take anything that is not willingly given.
Celibacy (Brahmacarya) - to not indulge in sensual pleasures.
Non-possession (Aparigraha) - to detach from people, places, and material things.

There is some debate as to whether Jainism is related to Hinduism. Jainists maintain they are separate religions, Jainism being an ascetic way of life and Hinduism more centred around organised religion and ritual. Jains say they persuaded Hindus to relinquish their practice of sacrificing animals. In 2005 the Supreme Court of India ruled that Jains were a sub-sect of Hinduism but this was overturned in 2006 when it ruled that "Jainism indisputably is not part of
Hindu religion", seemingly to prevent them from claiming benefits granted to religious minority groups under constitutional law. However, it is unclear why Jains who practise non-possession would be interested in claiming such benefits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may diet

As the market rally fizzles out, the glistening frost is washed away by drizzle and there is only a sorrowful piece of forgotten faded holly over a picture to remind me of Christmas, I am trying to recall my good cheer. One good memory was my New Year bomb, bombe to be precise, which was a meringue cake filled and coated with chestnut ice cream and then dusted with grated chocolate, courtesy of Nigella. Meringue doesn't freeze so the whole thing could be made in advance and brought out with a flourish on the day. One of my New Year guests was a superb chef turned soldier and the first pudding of 2009 was Grand Marnier souffles at 1.15am on 1 January. I do hope he can replicate that in Afghanistan. Off to the gym at lunchtime, ho hum.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Will he or won't he?

I missed Marr on GB (and on DC) but I would bet that the PM's fingernails are bitten to the quick as he dithers over whether to call an election in March. Unemployment is 6.5% and rising, he has had an amazing rebound in popularity and he would be a fool to wait until 2010 when his star will have fallen again. I wonder which thought is more galling for him: that DC could be PM or that TB could be EU president? The double whammy would be the grand finale for the fingernails.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Snowed under but not in

Happy New Year! After my whirlwind tour Down Under I'm deluged by much work so this blog shall not resume until Monday 12 January, by which time I hope the bull market won't be over.