Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scottish jokes of the day

"I think of myself as a monster first and Scottish second" (Banx, today's FT)

A survey of Glaswegians asked if Scotland should change its currency. Nine out of ten said, "Naw, we should keep the Giro." (Rhona Cameron)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Puerto Princesa Underground River

My man in Manila is very excited that the Puerto Princesa Underground River has been awarded the title "One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature". If you're going to the Philippines, the flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa takes 45 minutes. You then have to drive for two hours to Palawan, travel by boat for half an hour and then take a 40 minute smaller boat trip into the underground river. He assures me it's worth it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saving face

Has anybody tried Astalift face cream? It's produced by Fujifilm on the assurance that the same chemicals prevent film negatives from fading... May be better as a sun screen?

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Yesterday was the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul and also the Ordination and Consecration of the new Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, at St Paul's Cathedral. I darted through the tents of the demonstrators still encamped around St Paul's to make my way up the steps in time for the 11am service. The atmosphere outside was unwelcoming: about 30 tents, all zipped up apart from a soup kitchen, sporting various notices, "Please knock quietly", "Donations welcome, give generously!" etc. Inside, the Cathedral was packed with almost 2000 people. The Suffragan Bishop of Bradwell in the diocese of Chelmsford was also being consecrated that day and arrivals were instructed, "Chelmsford to the left, Winchester to the right". I hastened to the right and almost bumped into the Archbishop of Canterbury, resplendent in a pink robe. Cheered by his smile, I managed to find a seat half way down, behind a huge pillar, from where there would be no view of the Bishops although I could see the pulpit.
It was a marvellous service: wonderful hymns including Charles Wesley's "O for a thousand tongues to sing" and Matthew Bridges' "Crown him with many crowns". Rowan Williams has a beautifully mellifluous voice and the sermon by the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, was both amusing and instructive, his basic theme being, "Don't be seduced by the trappings of office but concentrate on being the mouth and hands of God."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kung Hei Fatt Choy!

Happy Year of the Black Water Dragon! Back next Thursday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Letter of the day

Sir,...I would like to quickly highlight the rational motivations behind this protest. As you are aware, the state of national electricity provision in Nigeria is dismal. The acronym Nepa PLC (as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria was formally known) is locally more often understood to mean "Never Expect Power Again, Please Light Candle."
A vast number of low-income households can afford only a 1kVA generator, which uses petrol, not diesel. This generator has the capacity to run maybe a fan, TV, radio and, perhaps most importantly, a lightbulb, particularly at night. For many of these families, the sudden increase in fuel costs means that this "luxury" is no longer affordable. The government is theefore literally leaving its poorest people in the dark.
This is why the protests must be understood in the context that they are, in some sense, a simple attempt to maintain sanity.
Kartik Kumar
Ikoyi Island

Today's FT

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Babylonian thought of the day

"The clamour of mankind oppresses me, by their tumult I am deprived of sleep."
This was said by the god Enlil in the Atra-Hasis epic written in the 18th century BC.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January daisy

Desperate for a quick garden fix before a party last summer, I bought a packet of fast growing seeds. "100 kinds of wild flowers will grow in six weeks" the packet promised. The day of the party arrived and only six had shown their pretty heads. (An early morning swoop on the garden centre, followed by much digging, watering and planting is not a good start to the day of a garden party...) Anyway, much to my amusement, an orange daisy suddenly appeared this weekend!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apple's egged

The launch of the iPhone 4S was so eagerly awaited in China that people queued overnight, shivering in -9 degrees Celsius, outside the Apple shop in Beijing which was opening early at 7am. At 7.15am the doors were still shut. "Open up!" the people shouted. An announcement was made by megaphone: "The iPhone 4S will not go on sale today!" with no further explanation. The furious crowd pelted the shop with eggs and it had to remain closed all day for safety reasons. Resellers had hired around 60 migrant workers to queue on their behalf for $19 and they were not paid for the 12 hour wait for nothing.
Meanwhile in Shanghai, people were told that the Apple shop would open at 7am but in fact they'd sold out of the 4S by 6am.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's a Tavern in the Town

Before Christmas, my husband and I were invited to a musical soiree in which every guest was obliged to give a musical rendition of some sort. It was, of course, my dear husband who had accepted this invitation and it was not an event which inspired me with optimism and confidence as, although I greatly enjoy music, my performances have been few, largely for the benefit of any potential listeners. "Our only hope," I said after much deliberation, "is to sing a couple of those silly Latin songs bequeathed by Professor John Crook." It took use a couple of weeks, causing us much mirth to learn "London's Burning" (Rome's burning) and "In Dublin's Fair City". On the day, we bottled out of the latter and the former, largely due to its brevity I suspect, was politely received at the soiree and eclipsed by magnificent operatic arias, piano playing and guitar strumming.
One of the Latin songs on JC's list was "There's a Tavern in the Town". We didn't know the tune but my husband found it on the internet last weekend: a most amusing rendition which had us howling with laughter. Anyway, at 4am this morning, my husband's laptop suddenly burst into song.

Fare thee well, for I must leave thee,
Do not let the parting grieve thee,
And remember that the best of friends must part, must part
Adieu, adieu, kind friends adieu, adieu, adieu,
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
I'll hang my harp on a weeping willow tree,
And may the world go well with thee

I wouldn't say that we howled with laughter but it did make us giggle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Letter of the day

Sir, With reference to David Cameron's "bazookanomics" approach to resolving the eurozone crisis: I have shot bazookas during military training. The targets were abandoned stationary tanks.
The weapon is not very accurate. In real action, if you miss, the weapon flash locates the shooter - accurately. The tank's weaponry will not miss. Hence the average life expectancy of a bazooka-shooter in the field is measured in minutes. It is the same in real-life economics.

Fred Simmons,

Today's FT

Monday, January 09, 2012

Proposal of the day

Robert Vickrey is Director of Romance at Royal Palms Resort in Arizona. He says "Many of our guests come here wanting to propose. We work to create the setting. We might use champagne, candles, rose petals and flamenco guitars to create one of our 'Via Capello' private dining experiences in our gardens or our old bell tower. I've released doves as couples renew their vows and set off fireworks as she says yes. As Director of Romance, I've never seen a proposal refused but it did happen when I was maitre d'. The guy had the kitchen create a dessert with 'Will you marry me?' written in chocolate. They'd only known each other a few weeks and her expression said it all; there was total silence."

Friday, January 06, 2012

Asian prices

Proof that bubbles burst: the price of 1982 Lafite Rothschild in China has halved. Locals have been switching from Bordeaux to Burgundy and the price of La Tache rose 40% last year and Romanee-Conti 17%. Meanwhile the price of tuna is soaring in Tokyo. In the first auction of the year at Tsukiji fish market, a bluefin tuna sold for a record $736,000 or $2737 per kg.
Another amusing snippet of news is that Warren Buffett has recorded a video of him playing the guitar and singing which will be broadcast on TV in China at Chinese New Year.
One of my colleagues was lamenting the lack of stability in markets. Another replied, "Stability is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Optical illusion of the day

This was devised by F.C.Muller-Lyer in 1889. Looking at the three lines, people do not believe they are of the same length and skew to the right when trying to gauge the mid-point of the third line.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What's in a name?

In the spring of 2010, I was offered shares in a new issue of a Chinese recycled paper company called Fook Woo. Unimpressed by its credentials, I declined, thereby missing a swift 26% profit from its first week of trading. Since then it has had a volatile run and is currently suspended, 40% below its issue price, as some of its employees have been charged with embezzlement and/or fraud. I admit that the company name did put me off and it now appears that there was truth in the name...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Let them eat cake

Our most honoured guest at New Year came bearing an arm load of cakes from Laduree, including this one called the Marie Antoinette. Merci beaucoup!
Happy New Year to all - looking forward to an Olympic 2012!