Friday, May 14, 2010

Off to China

I'm off to Shanghai for a couple of weeks. Hope to be able to blog from there but please bear with me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Youth of today

My friend was suggesting to his daughter that she should apply to St Andrew's University. This was her reaction: "Daddy, I can't possibly go there! I've read the prospectus three times and it doesn't have a nightclub!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Over-excitement of the day

Would you pay $28.6m for this Jasper Johns' painting? It was sold by Michael Crichton's estate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Goodbye Gordon

Farewell then
Gordon Brown.

You promised
The end of
Boom and bust.

The banks fell,
The pound sank.
(You'd sold
The gold.)

Only the LibDems
Dared to shed
Your head.

Was slain.
(With apologies to EJ Thribb)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poem of the day

(Cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times)

Here's a boat that cannot float.
Here's a queue that cannot vote.
Here's a line you cannot quote.
Here's a deal you cannot note ...
and here's a sacrificial goat,
here's a cut, here's a throat,
here's a drawbridge, here's a moat ...
What's your hurry? Here's your coat.

Carol Ann Duffy

Friday, May 07, 2010

Winchester: Conservative gain!

Many congratulations to Steve Brine MP who achieved a 9.1% swing in Winchester! (KL - you owe me a bottle of champagne.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Quotation of the day

"I wanted to vote for David Cameron but his name wasn't on the ballot paper."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Memoires de l'argent perdu

In his book, Trapped in a Spiral: Memoirs of a Trader, Jerome Kerviel claims that Societe Generale urged him to leave Paris on the eve of the bank's announcement of his E50bn rogue trading scandal. He says they offered to pay his train fare as they wanted to portray him as a guilty fugitive. He also says the bank's medical team called him regularly during the five days between the discovery and the announcement of the trades to check he wasn't suicidal. He admits that he falsified documents and exceeded his trading limits but alleges that his superiors, who nicknamed him "the cash machine", were aware of this and that many other traders did the same. His trial begins in June.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bletchley Park

I spent an interesting day at Bletchley Park, which is well worth a visit to learn not only about its pivotal role in the Second World War but also about cryptography and early computing. There is a memorial to the Poles as they were extremely helpful to the Allies.

In 1929, a German Enigma machine was being posted from Berlin to Warsaw and a couple of Germans went to the post office in Warsaw to collect it on a Friday afternoon. The Polish postmen didn't like the arrogant attitude of the Germans asking for this parcel and declared that they were too late, the parcel people had already left for the weekend and they'd have to come back on Monday. They then contacted the police. The parcel was opened and the curious machine revealed. The intelligence service was called in. Photographs were taken, engineers looked at its workings, its secrets were uncovered. The parcel was then resealed and the Germans collected it the following Monday, unaware of the interception.

The Poles were able to build copies of Enigma for themselves and then two brilliant men, M.Rejewski and H.Zygalski made machines which could decrypt the Enigma codes relatively quickly. These machines (Bombas) were up and running in 1938.

When it became clear that Poland was going to be invaded, the Poles contacted the British and French intelligence agencies and representatives from both countries went to Poland. They were told about the Bomba and each given a machine to take to safety. It is estimated that this action gave the Allies an intelligence advantage of six months.