Thursday, October 31, 2013

Prime time Halloween

One of the scariest numbers is Belphegor's prime:


As you can see, it's a prime number with 666 in the middle and thirteen zeros either side. It's named after Belphegor, one of the seven princes of Hell.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Museum of London beckons...

This Roman sculpture (65 by 55cm) was recently found at a building site in Minories in the City and is said to be the best of its kind ever excavated in London. It was probably part of a mausoleum and dates to the first or second centuries AD. Anyway it's now on display for six months in the Museum of London which is another reason to go there as it's also exhibiting (until the end of April) the Cheapside Hoard, a stunning collection of late 16th and early 17th century jewels discovered in a cellar in Cheapside in 1912.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Not bad for a walk on the wild side.

Friday, October 25, 2013

George Carlin jokes of the day

The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.

How is it possible to have a civil war?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have an "s" in it?

Why is it called the tourist season of we can't shoot them?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

I've always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.

If the black box flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole damn plane made out of that s**t?

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse is you can't post "Thou shalt not steal", "Thou shalt not commit adultery" and "Thou shalt not lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

One out of every three Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your two best friends. If they're ok, then it must be you.

Kings in waiting

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A bundle of laughs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top man Bossi

In January 2012, Giovanni Bossi, bossi of the Venetian Banca IFIS, borrowed E2bn for 3 years at 1% from the ECB's LTRO scheme and used it to buy E2bn Italian government debt which was yielding over 6%. The 5% yield differential was worth E100m a year compared with Banca IFIS's market capitalisation of just over E200m in early 2012. The bank's market cap has since more than doubled to E530m and Boss Bossi's personal shareholding has increased by E8.2m. Complimenti!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Smith's law

Terry Smith, CEO of Tullett Prebon, has this advice concerning investment strategy:

"Having been involved in financial analysis for nearly four decades, I have increasingly formed the view that there are some words and phrases used by company managements, analysts and commentators which investors should be wary of. Apart from being an abuse of the English language, they represent a combination of woolly thinking and a desire to disguise or divert attention from a problem...

Smith’s Law: you should never use an expression if its opposite is so nonsensical that you would never say it. I have seen innumerable companies say they have a strategy of “select acquisitions”. Would anyone ever admit to a policy of indiscriminate acquisitions (although it seems that’s what many of them actually do)? The new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been struggling to get the markets to accept his “forward guidance” on interest rates. He might like to pause to think whether he would ever use backward guidance. If so, perhaps he would also be happy to “group together” (can you group apart?) and do some “forward planning” (what other sort is there?). Perhaps he would have more success if he just called it a prediction.
Be wary of management or commentators who engage in hyperbole. “Global” is a common example of hyperbole. Very few businesses are truly global. They may be international, but that is not the same. And when “global” is used in job titles it is almost always an example of status inflation. Whenever I am given the business card of a head of global sales I am tempted to ask how many globes he or she has sold. A newspaper this year ran a cycling event which it described in its advertising as “iconic”. The Tour de France is iconic, a ride around the Surrey Hills isn’t."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bad joke of the day

Marriage is like a deck of cards. At the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sign of the day

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sign of the day

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Flower of the day

My hibiscus is very happy and my father's coming out of hospital on Thursday.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Painting of the day

The Tickling Madonna by Masaccio c1420

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What a question!

It has been an eventful fortnight. My poor dear father had considerable pain in his leg so went to have it x-rayed in hospital. The x-ray was fine: no fracture, hurrah! They then thought he had a tumour but further investigation proved them incorrect. Now he's caught a hospital infection.
"If his heart stops, shall we resuscitate him?" the nurse asked.
"Yes of course!" I replied.
"It can be very dangerous at his age. We don't advise it," she said.
"Is this some kind of Monty Python sketch?"  I thought.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Humphrey Cobbold gave a fascinating talk last night about his time as CEO of Wiggle, the on-line biking shop. Turnover was £35m when he joined the company in 2009 and is now £140m. He drove its growth into overseas markets and launched its sponsorship of cycling events. The company was started from scratch in 1999 in a garage in Portsmouth by Mitch Dall and Harvey Jones. They were selling bikes but also anything else that could sell. Taking advantage of the total eclipse in the UK in 1999, they bought a pallet load of glasses which would protect people's eyes as they gazed at the disappearance of the sun. (Actually I remember it was a cloudy day and rather a disappointment.)  They bought each pair for £1.50, sold them on for £11.50 and exhausted their supplies very quickly. Encouraged by this rapid success, they ordered another pallet. The problem was that it arrived three days after the eclipse so they're stuck with them until 2023!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Cwm of the day

We greatly enjoyed the spectacular views in the sunny Brecon Beacons yesterday. We walked on Craig Cerrig-gleisiad whose dark north-facing cliffs form a stunning cwm and lead down to emerald green paths tracing the sides of a sparkling stream. We were looking for the rare alpine and arctic plants seeded in the glacier age but the only one we thought we saw was saxifrage.

Friday, October 04, 2013


I recommend Rush, a film directed by Ron Howard about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The amusing character portrayals (the playboy Hunt and the single-minded Lauda who wills himself out of hospital after a horrific accident to finish the Grand Prix season), the thrill of the racing and the glamorous settings are all enjoyable and Chris Hemsworth who plays Hunt is pdg.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Goodbye Gambia?

President Yahya Jammeh has said he's taking Gambia out of the Commonwealth because he doesn't want the country to be a member of a neo-colonial institution or one that represents an extension of colonialism. He was first elected President in 1996 so has taken 17 years to make this decision. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

It's a dog's life

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Lady Mayoress?

Congratulations to Fiona Woolf who will become the second female Lord Mayor of London in 800 years!