Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Business

Thursday August 16 2018

The Devil’s Dice is a debut work of crime fiction, written by my niece (which I mention to make clear that I am biased in her favour) Roz Watkins, and published earlier this year.  I enjoyed it a lot when I read it, but I did complain about the cover design:

This earlier posting reinforced that point with a photo of a big display of books in Waterstone’s Piccadilly, from which you can only tell that The Devil’s Dice is The Devil’s Dice when you crop out that one title from that bigger picture and blow it up, thus:

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This illegibility effect is also all too evident in this photo, taken by Roz’s brother.

All of which means that this (this being the relevant Amazon link) is good news:

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That’s the cover of the paperback version of The Devil’s Dice, which which will be available in January of next year.  Okay, it’s not a huge change, but putting the same orange lettering on a black background instead of a near white background is much more likely to get the attention of the fading-eyesight community, of which I am a member, and which is surely a quite large chunk of the public for crime fiction.  This is also the kind of thing that just might sway a decision about whether to put a book in a bookshop window display.

I bet I wasn’t the only one grumbling about that earlier hardback cover, and it would appear that the grumbling has had exactly the desired effect.

I know little about book publishing, but I’m guessing that paperbacks are where the volume sales are, driven by those early glowing reviews (The Devil’s Dice got lots of glowing reviews) penned by the readers of the hardback version.  And from that volume comes the magic of a serious word-of-mouth wave.  Most readers are probably willing to wait a little in order not to have to devote scarce bookshelf space to great big chunks of cardboard, and for the sake of having something a bit easier to carry around.

And, if you really insist of your books being ultra portable, or if your eyesight is even worse than mine and you need seriously to enlarge the text, The Devil’s Dice is also now available in Kindle format, for just £1.99.  I am biased (see above), but for what it’s worth I agree with all those glowing reviewers, and recommend The Devil’s Dice in all formats, even the hardback with its dodgy cover.

Saturday August 11 2018

I can’t remember how Twitter caused me to arrive at this, but it did:

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Bananas that are either not ripe enough or too ripe are a constant irritation to me.  This - bananas sold in sets of bananas of different stages of ripeness - looks like a rather good answer.

A commenter immediately joins in and makes this into an argument about plastic in the oceans, the latest Green obsession that replaced the fading fear of climate catastrophe, except that the recent heatwave has now got them back going bananas about how the climate has now changed.  Like there have never been heatwaves before.  The climate presumably is changing, because it always does, but that’s no reason for humans to stop selling stuff to each other.  Or for them to stop thinking of clever and helpful stuff combinations.

Tuesday August 07 2018

Nice Twitter exchange about how Ryanair provides a leg-up for young airline pilots.

Tom Chivers:

Saw the pilot of the Ryanair flight I’m on and honestly if I worked in a bar I would have IDed him

My friend and followee Michael Jennings replies:

Ryanair is a good place for a young pilot. They fly lots of hours and get promoted to captain fast. Then, with this on their CV, they go somewhere else where the working conditions are nicer.

Tom Chivers:

I remember reading that other airlines love Ryanair for exactly that reason. Steady supply of good trained pilots who are grateful not to work for Ryanair any more.

So, Ryanair is, from the employment, first-rung-on-the-ladder point of view, … well, see above.

I still miss Transport Blog.

Friday July 13 2018

Today is Friday, which used to be my day for cat stories but is now also the day here for creatures of other sorts.  But for old times sake, I just got google to tell me some cat news, having had a busy day and not having any recently encountered creature stories of my own to muse upon.

And without doubt, the most intriguing yarns google told me about were these ones, published by cryptoslate.com:

How Two Guys Made $100k Trading Digital Cats on Ethereum, Merit of Digital Collectibles

CryptoKitties Keeps With Ethereum and Goes Open-Source

Millions of Dollars Worth of Cats are Still Infesting the Ethereum Network

The last paragraph of the last of these three stories goes thus:

While CryptoKitties may sound laughable to some, the exuberant on-boarding of Ethereum is sending positive signals around the network.  And in fact, CryptoKitties now accounts for around 4% of all Ethereum transactions; it’s the second most used application on the network. CryptoKitties definitely proves there is definitely market for rare, fungible, digital assets that are traded and exchanged on the blockchain.

Definitely.

Wednesday July 11 2018

I was asleep when England got their first goal.  My urban locality erupted with honking and shouting.  I looked at my bedside clock, and it was just after 7pm, when the game was due to begin.  Sure enough, when I cranked up the telly: CRO 0-1 ENG.  (You don’t need any links.  You surely know what I’m talking about.)

I recall this phenomenon happening before, this time right at the end of a game of this kind.  It was 0-0 at the very end of extra time, and about to be a shoot-out.  Against Belgium, I think it was.  And then someone called Platt, I think it was, scored a goal for England, when I was in my toilet.  The noises that I heard from my neighbours could only mean an England goal.  So it was with Trippier’s early goal this evening.

I am and remain a preemptive pessimist about England’s chances in this tournament, because this will soften the blow when the blow does fall, as fall it surely must.  An early goal, such as England have just scored, is often a mistake, because it gets the opposition stirred up.  It makes them forget any nerves they feel and really play, because they have to really play.  The early goal-scorers on the other hand, are tempted to defend too much and let the other fellows into then game.  And then when the other fellows equalise, they are the ones with the momentum.  Sure enough, as half time nears, England are getting sloppy and Croatia now have a chance.  Well, it’s now half time, but I still back Croatia to win this.

Now, they’re saying that England had lots of chances and should be further ahead.  Indeed.  So when Croatia do equalise, England will be very depressed, and will lose.

Roy Keane, a fellow pre-emptive pessimist by the sound of it: “England got a bit sloppy.”

Oh, the torture of hope.

And the further torture of feeling like a idiot, for taking such events far, far more seriously than anyone should.

In particular, I feel the difference between someone like me, who refuses to get his hopes up, and “real” fans, who do get their hopes up.  I “contribute” nothing to the success of any team I support, as in: like to see winning but don’t get hysterical about.  Yet in truth, the hysterics contribute very little more than I do.  Just the occasional encouraging bellow.  But if England never do get eliminated from this World Cup (I shun the w word) I feel that I will not have deserved it, but that the hysterics and the bellowers will have deserved it.  If you suffer, you deserve to succeed.  If you shun suffering, you do not.  Even if the suffering accomplishes nothing.

LATER:

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A cleverly chosen name, wouldn’t you say?

For “first” at the start of this, read: early.  And only.

Thursday June 28 2018

On that day recently when England ruthlessly crushed Tunisia, 2-1, with a late goal in extra time, I was checking out the Big Things of the City.

In particular, I wanted to see how the Scalpel was looking, close up.  Here are a selection of the photos I took of it:

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I especially relish those wiindow-shaped gaps in the soon-to-be-pristine surface.

Wednesday June 27 2018

Whenever, in London, I bump into Chinese couples doing a wedding photo session, I join in and photo away myself, taking care to include the official photoers in my photos.

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That clutch of photos was photoed in September 2014 on Westminster Bridge, and is one of the nicer Chinese wedding photo sessions I recall joining in on, largely because of the splendour of that red dress.  (And yes, she herself looks pretty good too.) Usually, the bride wears white.

Just like the official photoers, I lined up a landmark behind the happy couple in one of my photos.  And note how another of my photos is just her, without him.  That seems to happen quite a lot.

Until now, it never occurred to me to research this delightful Chinese custom, but today, I did.  And I quickly found my way to this BBC report, published in October 2014, which explains that actually, these photos don’t get taken just after the wedding, but before it:

It’s a Chinese custom for couples to have their wedding photos taken before they are married, rather than on the day of the nuptials. “We wanted to take some sweet moments to share with the guests,” says Yixuan. On the wedding day, the photos will be shown to the guests on cards, via big screens and perhaps on video.

In China, pre-wedding photography is a huge - and lucrative – industry. ...

Usually I hesitate to feature the faces of strangers at this blog.  But my rule is, if you are making a spectacle of yourself, you are fair game.  And these photoers often make a huge performance out of getting the exact shots they want.

I think I have mentioned here before that I believe someone should do a ballet based on the contortions that digital photoers twist themselves into.  It would make sense to include a Chinese wedding couple in such a ballet.

Sunday June 10 2018

Indeed:

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Taken by me in, I’m pretty sure, Earlham Street, which is one of the spokes that converges on Seven Dials.

The mirror is presumably there for people to see how potential purchases look on them.  But my first thought when I saw the mirror was: Is that for encouraging people to take selfies?  And I was happy to oblige.

Sunday May 20 2018

Next Friday, my good friend Adriana Lukas will be giving a talk at my home entitled Personal Recollections of Life Under Communism.  While concocting some biographical information for my email list members, I took a closer look than I have before at her Twitter feed.

Way back in 2015, Adriana retweeted this remarkable image:

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It looks like some ancient oil painting, rather than the latest-thing highest-of-high-tech imagery, which of course is what it is.

GE Healthcare’s 3D-printing software works seamlessly with GE Advantage Workstation systems already working inside hospitals around the world. After a scan, the anatomy is rendered as a 3D image using GE’s Volume Viewer software, a 3D-imaging platform that combines data from sources like CT but also MRI and X-ray. The software then converts the image file generated by the Volume Viewer and within seconds translates it into a file format that can be interpreted by a 3D printer.

“In the past, it would take several days to get the images back” from an outside 3D software processor, Cury says. “The advantage of the new software is it’s in the same workstation where the technologists already do work on 3D images. The steps are a lot quicker and easier.”

More than 100 hospitals around the world have already ordered GE’s 3D organ printing software, which can be used for any type of organ as well as models of bones and muscles. GE says that as more hospitals use the software, it will be easier and quicker for doctors like Cury to share files with each other and have 3D models to use for planning and education prior to procedures.

The most impressive 3D printing stories often feature hopelessly old-school businesses, like GE.  This is because 3D printing is the ultimate non-disruptive technology.  It attaches itself to existing businesses and makes them better.  If you know only about 3D printing, and are not willing to cooperate with a regular business, forget about it.

All those stupid 3D printers that they tried to sell in Currys PC World a few years back were just ridiculous junk for making further even more ridiculous junk.

Sunday May 13 2018

One of the things about travel in foreign parts is that you regularly see things which you just do not understand.

And for me, when I was in Paris on May 5th, this photo, hastily snatched while crossing a road, definitely falls into the I Do Not Understand This category:

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The buildings reflected in the window behind me introduce a note of sanity into an otherwise incomprehensible scene.  Why the upside down chickens?  And what has this to do with fortieth birthdays?

Shop windows are an endless source of photo-amusement for me.  I can enjoy it for ever, but without paying a thing or taking up any of my scarce home-space!

Busy day today, so that will have to do.

Saturday May 12 2018

I believe that many of the best photoers have a touch of the perve about them, and quite a few other photoers also.  At the very least, photoers sometimes have to be okay with people thinking they’re perves, which I suppose is part of what being a perve is.

So, for instance, in order to take these photos, I had to be using a camera in a public toilet:

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After we had done passport and baggage checking in for our Eurostar journey from the Gare du Nord back to London, nature had summoned me to the gents.  After I had answered my summons, I washed my hands, and then dried them in the hand dryer that you see above.  I had to leave to get my camera, and then go back there to photo the hand dryer.  Happily, nobody saw me at it.

The solidity and cleanability of the device inspired confidence.  I could see everything, so it would also need to look clean, which increased confidence that it almost certainly was clean.  Best of all, the heat was concentrated in a sort of horizontal sheet, if you get my meaning.  And you could move your hands up and down to where you needed to, to get rid of the last of the moisture.  It felt like it needed less power to do the same job, better.  And that of course is what its makers claim.

Those makers being Dyson, known to me until now only for their vacuum cleaners, and this is, as my photos had already told me, the Dyson Airblade dB hand dryer.

Capitalism just keeps on getting better, tiny step by tiny step, that being why this fact seldom hits the headlines.

Thursday April 26 2018

I like this, which I photoed this afternoon in my local laundrette:

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I like the photo it makes, and I like the thing itself.  What I think I like about the thing itself is that it suggests to me that someone is putting an effort into this laundrette, like they care about it and intend for it to stick around.  In recent years, this places has seemed temporary, uncared for, intended for closure.  The above sign with socks suggests to me that the laundrette won’t be closing any time very soon.  Which I am very glad about.

Thursday April 12 2018

At the time of the Scottish Independence referendum, I discovered in myself a great fondness for the Union Jack.  Not for its political symbolism.  I see the break-up of the UK as pretty much, in the longer run, inevitable, and probably desirable.  We’d be rid of Scotland’s stupid politics, and they have to live with all the consequences of their stupid politics and would shape up.  Win win.  No, I just like the Union Jack as a design.

One of the many things I like about the Union Jack is how you can change the colours, yet still keep it clearly recognisable, as an altered Union Jack, but still a Union Jack.I don’t know any other flag design that works so well that way.

So, for instance, this afternoon, on my way from meeting up with a friend, I was in Wilton Road (I think it was) and I encountered this Union Jack variation:

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Website.

Wednesday April 04 2018

Yes, a few days ago now, I had a haircut.  I like to get value for money, and get rid of lots of hair whenever it gets cut.  Here’s the before and after of it:

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Both of those photos are examples of Multiple Selfies, where, one way or another, you get two or more selfies instead of just the one.  The one on the right, if my camera screen and my camera and my mirror and your screen were all perfect (which they are far from), would have been an Infinitely Multiple Selfie, but in reality it only makes it to being what the one on the left is: a Double Selfie.

Note how in each case I artfully disguise the state of my chin(s?).  On the right by holding my head high and stretching it.  On the right with the careful (but alas not quite perfect) placing of the camera.  Sometimes, when selfie-ing I try to look my best.  Often, I just don’t bother.

I know what you’re thinking.  Selfies aren’t cool.  But look at it this way. The human face is interesting, but you can’t just photo Other People and shove their faces up on the WWW, WWWithout their permission.  It’s not polite.  It could make trouble for them, if they are strangers who didn’t want it known that they were in London, or if they are friends of mine and don’t want it know that they are friends of mine.  Which leaves my face as the only face it is convenient for me regularly to photo and then stick up here, with my oWWWn full permission.  I had to crop the Double Selfie on the left to cut out another bloke.  I did this because of internet etiquette, not raging egocentrism.  Besides which, if selfies are raging egocentrism, this is my blog and I’ll do whatever I want with it.

So anyway, back to the haircut.  I have been going to the local haircutting shop, Adriano’s, at the corner of Horseferry Road and Horseferry Road (it does a right angle kink), pretty much ever since I moved into my home in about 1990.  Every time I go there, I say: very short please, shorter than you usually do.  And the old bloke there (Adriano?), who has a full head of hair, starts snipping away, very carefully, and goes on for as long as he considers seemly.  The result looks great, but not as short as I want.  Once, I very nearly got what I wanted, when another bloke with shorter hair cut my hair shorter.

This time was different.  It was another bloke, with no hair on his head at all.  He is not completely bald, but he had that look where he was pretending he wasn’t partly bald by saying, I’m deliberately bald.  On purpose.  Without such deliberation, I would have hair all over my head!  It fools nobody because his hair immediately starts to grow again, and his actual baldness is quickly evident.

Anyway, I felt optimistic about this guy.  Make it almost as short as your hair, I said, but not quite.  Said he: OK.  Maybe, finally, I’d get the haircut I wanted.  I did.  Instead of the agonising, disapproving and prolonged snipping I was used to, Mr Baldie got an electric shearing device and just sheared it off, as if my head was a sheep.  It took less than a minute. The next three minutes was just tidying up, and it was all done.

Next time, if Mr Baldie does it again, I will take photos during as well as before and after, because these would have been outstanding.

I rather think that in the left hand one, above, before, a weird effect is that my hair is shorter on my right side than on the left.  This is because, being right-handed, I pull out more hair from the right side than the left side, when washing it in the bath.  (I wash it in the bath.)

Tuesday March 27 2018

I don’t quite know why I am so very fond of tourist crap shops.  I think it’s basically because of how very weird they are.  Also, perhaps, the notion that no-one else in my circle of friends and acquaintances gives them a second look, so I do, just to be different.  My friends and acquaintances certainly certainly wouldn’t consider the crap in tourist shops to be worthy of photo-immortality, and those are just the things that I think often make the best photos.

Consider this photo, taken recently in Piccadilly: 

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What is particularly weird about that is how very unlike the actual Queen Elizabeth II those Queen Elizabeth IIs contrive to look.

And those Sherlock Holmeses are hardly any better.  In fact, they are probably worse.  Sherlock Holmes didn’t look like anything at all, because he was made up, by a writer of fiction.  But he surely doesn’t, in anyone’s mind, look like those Sherlock Holmeses.  They look like Sherlock Holmes as re-enacted in a school play, by a rather bad boy actor who couldn’t do make-up properly, and who therefore sought assistance from someone else who couldn’t do make-up properly.

It’s as if the people selling these things, and the people buying them, are all people to whom us white people all look alike.