Friday, October 30, 2009

Sport of the day

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crackpot parable

A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak all the way back to your house."The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Husband of the Year Award

Monday, October 26, 2009

Robot races

The front page of The Times of Oman always has an article saying that greetings from Sultan Qaboos have been sent to various rulers of other countries. It very often announces new legislation as well. I was amused when I was there to read that the Sultan had authorised racing camels to be ridden by robots. Camel racing is big business in the desert. Woe to the driver who accidentally hits a camel: he may be billed for hundreds of thousands of dollars if he's disabled a prize racing camel! In the past, young Bedouin boys used to race the camels but in recent years this has caused an outcry from Arab child protection agencies and so robotic riders are on the up. They are controlled by computer from the sidelines. I'm not sure if boys race robots or if each race has to be completely robotic or completely manned.

Friday, October 23, 2009

UK economy

In spite of this morning's hype that the UK's recession may have ended, the third quarter GDP figure remained in the red: -0.4%. It's not all doom and gloom on the south coast, however. John Lewis opened its branch in Poole yestersday and the first day sales were double the company's target with LED TVs flying off the shelves.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy hens

The flawed analogy of yesterday comes from Harriet Harman in her evidence to the Commons Treasury select committee inquiry into Sex(ism) in the City: "At the moment, if you buy an egg in a supermarket, you can tell whether a chicken has been happy in its life but you can't actually be able to know whether or not the employees in that company are being treated equally and fairly."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cash & carry?

As the Qataris are liquidating part of their stake in Barclays this morning to realise a gain of $1bn, the market is speculating that they'll use the proceeds to increase their stake in Sainsbury. Too bad the government has no gains on its bank stakes yet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The wild boar hunt

As Italians are salivating over their pasta with wild boar ragu I am remembering Pliny's letter about his productive boar hunt: "You will laugh (and you are quite welcome) when I tell you that your old acquaintance is turned sportsman, and has taken three noble boars. “What!” you exclaim, “Pliny!”—Even he. However, I indulged at the same time my beloved inactivity; and, whilst I sat at my nets, you would have found me, not with boar spear or javelin, but pencil and tablet, by my side. I mused and wrote, being determined to return, if with all my hands empty, at least with my memorandums full. Believe me, this way of studying is not to be despised: it is wonderful how the mind is stirred and quickened into activity by brisk bodily exercise. There is something, too, in the solemnity of the venerable woods with which one is surrounded, together with that profound silence which is observed on these occasions, that forcibly disposes the mind to meditation. So for the future, let me advise you, whenever you hunt, to take your tablets along with you, as well as your basket and bottle, for be assured you will find Minerva no less fond of traversing the hills than Diana. Farewell."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fabulous objects of the week

On the left, the Patiala necklace, made by Cartier, on display at the Maharaja exhibition at the V&A and on the right a Roman glass vase which a very fortunate owner brought in to Bonham's.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Equus October

October 15, the Ides of October, was the date of the October Horse (Equus October) sacrifice. The Campus Martius was the site of a two-horse chariot race where the right-hand horse of the victorious pair was sacrificed with a spear on an altar to Mars. It was then decapitated and the head decorated with cakes before the residents of the Via Sacra and those of Suburra fought over the possession of it. It was nailed to the wall of the Regia if the Via Sacra people won. If the Suburranites won, it was displayed on the Turris Mamilia. The horse's tail, still dripping blood, was rushed to the Regia where the blood was scattered onto the sacred hearth and the Vestal Virgins kept some for use at the Parilia festival on April 21. By the late Roman Republic, this rite was regarded as a cleansing of the army at the end of the campaign season, but it may have had an agricultural origin, with the horse representing a corn spirit. Originally, they sacrificed a farm horse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More cash please

I went to quite an amusing presentation by a Taiwanese company yesterday. The Investor Relations representative's English was certainly better than my Mandarin but I felt sorry for him as he did his best to articulate his corporate line, ending every sentence with "Yeah" to try to add credibility to his words. It was the Q&A which really threw him. "Why did you have a GDR issue in June when you didn't need the money?" he was asked. "Well," he replied, "it's too early to say what demand will be in 2010 but, yeah, we may have a GDR issue in January." The share price fell today.

Monday, October 12, 2009


The pear harvest continues. Pear crumble, pear tarte tatin, poached pears in Marsala and the latest pear offering: Eve's Pudding with pears. Set the oven at 180, peel, core & slice 4 pears and place in a greased overproof dish. Scatter 3oz of brown sugar and some grated lemon peel over them. Cream 3oz buttter with 3oz caster sugar. Gradually add 1 beaten egg. Fold in 5oz self-raising flour with a little milk if too dry. Spoon the mixture over the pears and bake for 45 minutes. Eve's Pudding is traditionally made with apples. Maybe this version should be called Noah's Pudding?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize

What a weird world we live in!

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Procrustes was a son of Poseidon, a smith and a bandit. He lived on a pass on Mount Korydallos which was part of the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis where he used to lure travellers to their deaths by offering them rest on an iron bed. Once his offer had been accepted, he would make the bed fit the traveller, either by amputating his legs or stretching him out sufficiently to fit. Theseus put an end to Procrustes' michief by giving him a dose of his own treatment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Go before you go

A novel approach to reducing aviation CO2 emissions from All Nippon Airways in Japan…. The airline is appointing ‘loo monitors’ (yes, really) to ask its passengers to use the loo before boarding – the idea being that this will lead to lighter passengers and so a reduction in carbon emissions. Sniggering aside, ANA believes the measure could lead to a 5-tonne reduction in carbon emissions over the course of a month. October is a trial month for the scheme – and the airline says it will continue with it if it is successful and well-received by passengers. Never one to pass up an opportunity to shave off a bit more cost, Ryanair is looking at doing something along these lines – only a bit more drastic; they are considering removing 2 of the loos on board and replacing them with one coin-operated one to incentivise passengers to ‘go’ in the terminal before building.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The 1089 trick

Write down any 3 digit number in which the first and last digits differ by more than one.
For example 851.
Reverse the number.
Subtract the smaller number from the larger number.
Reverse the answer.
Add the last two amounts together.

The answer is always 1089. Magic!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bad joke of the week

Two men are lost in the Sahara desert. They're desperate for water, but just as they think they're about to die, they chance upon a village where market day is in full swing. They go to the first stall they see and ask if they can buy some water.
"No," replies the Bedouin stall owner, "I only sell fruit. Try the next stall."
So off they go to the next stall and again they ask for water.
"Sorry," says the merchant, "But I only sell custard."
"Custard?" one of the men says to the other, "What kind of place is this?"
By now desperate, they go to the next stall, only to be told, "Sorry, but I only sell jelly."
Hearing this, one of the men turns to the other and says, "This is a trifle bazaar."

Friday, October 02, 2009


He Who Must Be Cherished had kept our honeymoon destination a secret, just saying that it would be hot and to take many beach clothes. I obeyed instructions but took a few woollen cardigans just in case the evenings were cool. In fact, the temperature was 30 degrees at midnight.
Sultan Qaboos has ruled Oman well. He's invested the revenue from oil in infrastructure. The roads are excellent. Citizens pay no tax and at the age of 21 each person is given a plot of land on which they can build a house.
The moon, funnily enough, was a key element of the honeymoon as we arrived during Ramadan and the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid festival was marked by the new moon. This appeared in most Muslim countries on Saturday 19 September but was a day late in Oman, much to the consternation of all. Omani families enjoy a lamb extravaganza over Eid: they eat boiled lamb on the first day, lamb casserole the next and lamb which has been slow-roasted for 24 hours underground on the third day.
We had some great expeditions into the desert, to see the forts around Nizwa and to watch the dolphins jumping in the Gulf.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An unofficial photograph

My lovely godchildren were bridesmaids and page boy, the service in Winchester Cathedral was marvellous and it was a glorious day. Thank you for all your good wishes.