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

Monday August 25 2014

So, what is “Xxxx”?:

image

I already chose this picture as worth showing here, before I spotted that Xxxx was present in both the words.

Taken by me, when out and about yesterday early evening.

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:

image

This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

Saturday August 16 2014

Before I start ruminating more convolutedly about my recent stay in France, there is just one more shot that I want to show you from that ASI boat trip.

It’s a photo I took of the guy who was driving the boat, and (I presume) the man who was in command of the boat:

image

I can find no mention anywhere here of the actual people who command and work on the boats, just lots of stuff about how great the boats are for partying on.  So I don’t know the name or rank of this man.  But, whoever and whatever he is, I love his look of calm but ever so slightly suspicious watchfulness, with his ever so slightly raised right eyebrow.  It’s the face of a man who knows that, mostly, his job is just a job, but that this is a job that just possibly might, were he seriously to neglect his duties, turn very nasty.

Besides which, you never quite know what those people back there partying might get up to, under the influence of all that drink that the other members of the crew are serving them.  A boat full of tipsy revellers, even more than a normal boat, needs a sober worker to guide it and to see that all is well, no matter how friendly the waters they are travelling on.

There’s something else about this picture that intrigues me.  When I was a kid, wearing short trousers was the essence of being a kid, and graduating to long trousers was the essence of ceasing to be only a kid and starting to grow up.  Yet now, more and more indisputably grownup men, doing their indisputably grownup work, wear shorts.  Anyone care to speculate about what this means, or about why it is happening?

Monday July 14 2014

Today, by some means or another that I forget (other than it was the internet) I learned that the new trains for Crossrail will supplied by Bombardier.  Oh yes, I learned it here.

And then, and again I forget how exactly, I learned about this bizarre vehicle, the Bombardier Embrio:

image

Oh yes, how I got to this was I googled for Bombardier pictures, and in among lots of airplanes and some trains, I saw this weird one wheeled thing, and investigated.

It looks like something Sylvester Stallone would ride in a movie.

It isn’t real.  It is only a “concept” vehicle, and concept vehicles never happen.  They just become part of the past history of the future, along with flying cars, robots to do your vacuuming and serve you tea, and elaborate space travel by the end of the last century.  Still, weird.

I think what made me dig this up was that I have a soft spot for Bombardier, having done a few days, over the past few years, of planespotting at London City Airport, my favourite airport in the world.  Lots of the planes that fly in and out of there are made by Bombardier.  The world’s famous planes are made by Boeing and Airbus.  But the quirky ones, the ones with propellers, the ones you don’t recognise, are made by companies like Bombardier.

I also like the way that railway carriages have changed during my lifetime.  They have got better and better, with their automatic doors and spacious interiors.

Friday June 27 2014

I am fond of saying that a consequence of how Big Thing architecture tends to be done these is that there is now a big call for highly specialised window cleaners.  (See, for instance, this piece, about One New Change.) Just hanging a shelf down from the top no longer does it, because now the walls are liable to slope every which way.

Now, you need mountaineers:

A social enterprise is looking for people with a head for heights who want to be The Shard’s window cleaners.

The unique opportunity was posted on jobs site Good People Connect, and pays up to £20,000 a year, depending on experience.

You need to have abseiled before for the role, working 6am to 2pm six days a week, and need to be unemployed and living in Southwark.

That’s from a short report by Robyn Vinter, of whom I was critical the other day.  Good to be able to be nicer this time around.

Thursday June 26 2014

From City A.M. today (again):

Chequeholders will soon be able to cash their payment almost instantly by taking a photo on their smartphone and sending it to the bank.

The government’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will allow banks to process cheques using “digital imaging” technology for the first time.

As well as removing the hassle of a visit to the bank, the new scheme is expected to allow cheques to be cleared in two days, instead of the current six.

Yet another surprising impact of digital photography.  Had I known about it when I gave that talk I did about this, I’d have given this a mention.

Tuesday June 24 2014

I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:

image imageimage image

... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can.  Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.

Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.

But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?

image

The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London.  Salesfuck.  Something along those lines.  Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers.  Salesfarce?  Failsforce?  Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection.  But insulting.  To Salesforce.  The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough.  Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.

In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian.  Capitalism, hurrah!  But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished.  At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of.  When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening.  No way will you get, e.g., refund.  Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.

So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism.  Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.

So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.

That’s quite profound, I think.  (This is why I like tangenting.  See below.)

Friday June 20 2014

One of my favourite computer functions is Screen Capture.  For years, I didn’t know how to do this.  How is “prt sc” screen capture?  I used to just photo the screen.  Then I got told, and more to the point, told at a time just before I found many uses for this procedure, and as a result, I actually got it fixed in my head.

So it is that I am able to capture fleeting moments like this one:

image

That was the passage of play that turned the game England’s way, today, on day one of the test match at Headingley.  Sri Lanka went from 228-5 and motoring to 229-9, in nine balls.  In among all this, Broad got a hat trick, but didn’t even realise and had to be told!  There was then a little last wicket stand and they got to over 250, but the big damage had been done.

Here is another interesting moment, which is the moment when they show me all the guys who worked on Adobe Photoshop, while I am loading Adobe Photoshop.

But, the trouble is, when I do a Screen Capture while that is happening, it doesn’t work.  What gets captured is the moment when Adobe Photoshop is finally loaded.  Until then, I guess my computer is too busy loading Photoshop to do a Screen Capture.  Either all that, or else I just wasn’t doing it right, as is entirely possible.

But instead of obsessing about what I might or might not be doing wrong, I instead simply photographed the moment, just like old times:

image

The reason I wanted to photo this was all the Indian names, in among the occasional regular American ones.  Interesting.  Where are they all based, I wonder?  I’m guessing somewhere in the USA, but what do I know?  Adobe seems to have a lot of places where they could be. And of course, if something like Adobe doesn’t know how to plug a global network of co-workers together, who does?  From where I sit, these Indian guys could be anywhere.  Even so, like I say, interesting.

A lot of the Americans I read on the Internet say that Obama is destroying America, and he seems to be doing as much as he can along these lines.  But there is a lot of ruin in a country, and a lot of ruin in American.  This screen shot suggests that at least parts of the good old American upward economic mobility ladder are working just fine.

Monday June 09 2014

This morning, did an SQotD about Uber.

Other Perry (Metzger) added this:

Uber does not always offer cheaper service. They operate on a market pricing mechanism to assure availability.

This means that, for example, on New Year’s Eve in NYC, you are assured you can get an Uber car even though normal taxis are essentially unavailable because of excess demand, but you will also discover the Uber car will be quite expensive. This is, of course, as it should be — the spike in price encourages as many Uber drivers as possible to work during a rush period. However, it is also decried by those who do not understand economics.

You could turn this around and say that Uber will be a sort of ongoing economics lesson for the citizenry.

Libertarians like me are always going on about how prices are a signalling mechanism.  Uber makes this extremely clear, I think.

Friday June 06 2014

Incoming from 6k, alerting me to a New Statesman piece by Ed Smith, about how, after a small digger has dug out a deep hole under a posh London house to make the house bigger, it makes more sense to leave the digger in the hole than go to the bother of extricating it.  Makes sense. What a great story.

So, many of the squares of the capital’s super-prime real estate, from Belgravia and Chelsea to Mayfair and Notting Hill, have been reconfigured house by house. Given that London’s strict planning rules restrict building upwards, digging downwards has been the solution for owners who want to expand their property’s square-footage.

So, enter the digger, and dig dig dig.  But then:

The difficulty is in getting the digger out again. To construct a no-expense-spared new basement, the digger has to go so deep into the London earth that it is unable to drive out again. What could be done?
Initially, the developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger, which was by now nestled almost out of sight at the bottom of a deep hole. Then they began to calculate the cost-benefit equation of this procedure. First, a crane would have to be hired; second, the entire street would need to be closed for a day while the crane was manoeuvred into place. Both of these stages were very expensive, not to mention unpopular among the distinguished local residents.

A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.

Today being a Friday, I was delighted to learn that there is a feline aspect to this, in the form of Ed Smith’s final speculations.  This man is clearly learning fast how to get noticed on the Internet!

In centuries to come, says Smith:

… they will surely decipher a correlation between London’s richest corners and the presence of these buried diggers. The atrium of the British Museum, around 5000AD, will feature a digger prominently as the central icon of elite, 21st-century living.

What will the explanatory caption say? “Situated immediately adjacent to the heated underground swimming pool and cinema at the back of the house, no superior London address was complete without one of these highly desirable icons, sometimes nicknamed ‘the Compact Cat’. This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture, a symbol of deep thanks to the most discussed, revered and pre-eminent god of the age, worshipped around the world: London Property.”

Ed Smith is a former first class (and occasional test) cricketer, and now occasional cricket commentator.  As well as a writer of books.  Writing this posting also got me ordering a copy of his latest.

Friday May 16 2014

I see cat faces on bags:

image image

On the left, in Trafalgar Square.  On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.

I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:

image image

On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist.  (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets.  Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows?  One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.

And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:

image imageimage image

Note the surveillance camera right in front of it.  Those things are also now everywhere.

This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.

Apparently the cat face is an art installation.  Scroll down here if you doubt me:

A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.

The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.

So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist.  Modern Art eat your heart out.

(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)

All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog.  This story is now everywhere.  The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that.  But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat.  Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.

Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.

Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.

Thursday May 08 2014

In 2013, on September 5th, 18th, 24th and 29th, I visited the area in and around London Gateway, the new container port they’re building on the north side of the Thames Estuary, first to see if I could photo the cranes, and then to photo them again, and again, and again.  And everything else amusing I saw on my wanderings.  (I would never have remembered these dates if my camera hadn’t.)

I showed a couple of photos here of one of those expeditions at the time, but that was only the tip of the photographic iceberg.

These were undoubtedly among my best photo-expeditions of 2013, right up there with visiting Beckton Sewage Works with Goddaughter One, a superb day which I see that I seem never to have mentioned here at all.

My problem is, when I sit down at my computer and try to pick out a few good snaps from one of these huge photo-perambulations, I just don’t know which to pick.  There are just so many nice ones. I end up picking none at all and write about something else entirely.

So, I now pick another one, from one of my four trips to London Gateway, to show you, which I just found when trawling through them all, again.  One.  Just the one.  It features me, but not looking good.  No, looking appalling, with my appallingly flabby chin all scrunched up as I look downwards at my twiddly camera screen, which is how I actually do look when wandering around doing this kind of thing.

But, showoffy though it is, I think it’s a rather effective photo:

image

See also the first five cranes, of the twenty four that will finally be at London Gateway.  That snap was snapped on September 24th. 

When all those twenty four cranes are up and running and the place really gets into its stride, I will definitely return to check them out, as will all the world and its digital cameras.  Mark my words.  When they open this thing for business, the media, mainstream and irregular, social and anti-social, will be flooded with it.  Flooded I tell you.

But just now, they are busy building it, and the last thing they want is people like me wandering around photoing it.  So, they keep quiet about it.  Seriously, I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a lot of PR persons whose entire job consists of persuading journalists not to mention this thing until it’s finished, but then to mention it big time.  Silence now will be rewarded with access later.

Saturday March 29 2014

Interesting.  I just looked at a particular classical CD on amazon.co.uk, and it told me I’d already ordered it, last October.  As it happens, I knew this.  I was just looking to see what had been happening to the price of the CD in question.  But I am impressed that they reminded me.

In general, Amazon has a clunky, even twentieth century feel to it.  Which for a clunky twentieth century guy is very reassuring.

The automatic delivery to my computer of audio files of CDs I have already ordered in plastic form is very cunning.  It all arrives on my computer automatically, and arranges itself on something called my Cloud Player.  It is now late at night, and although the speakers on my computer are nothing like as good as my real speakers on my real CD player, they are nearer and can thus be quieter.  I’m playing one of these audio files now, which is one I have ordered in plasticated form but which has not yet arrived.  This way, I can play it as soon as I pay for it, just as if I was living in the twenty first century!

And I’ve got to admit that there is something rather agreeable about not having to get out of my chair to hear music.

Sunday March 23 2014

1955: Here.

2014:

image

I think that’s my most recent selfie, taken at the beginning of this month.  I took it in Croydon Road, Beckenham, while on my way to visit friends.  Shop windows often include you in the pictures you take through them, even if you are not trying for that.

I of course have more recent pictures of others taking selfies of the more usual sort, where their own faces dominate the pictures, but with famous Big Things in the background.  So yes, let me try to dig out the latest of those.

Here we go:

image

Although, note that there are two different smartphones being used there.  That was taken from the southern end of Westminster Bridge, looking down to the riverside walkway.  They are presumably trying to include the Houses of Parliament in their backgrounds.

Friday March 07 2014

From towards the end of this by Stephen Green:

Apple is one of the biggest users of batteries on the planet. Every iPhone, every iPad, every MacBook runs on battery power. Apple devices also tend to get the best battery bang for the size, compared to the competition. This is a company which understands better than probably any other on the planet how to make devices which conserve power while still producing best-in-class performance. If Apple wants to continue to improve, they should absolutely pursue every kind of energy source Cook believes might produce future improvement for Apple’s devices and for its customers. Will there be blind alleys and dead ends? Sure.

The Apple Newton was a dead-end device, but creating that product also resulted in the super-low-power ARM chips which run damn near every decent mobile device on the planet.

Interesting.  I don’t know what an ARM chip is, but that sounds reasonable.  I’m guessing the Apple Newton was one of those ideas where a whole lot of new things all had to work at once, and only some of them, like those ARM chips, did.

I once bought an Apple keyboard, but apart from that I can’t remember buying any Apple stuff.  But, I am acutely aware of how much I have benefited from their activities, which caused everyone to do far better than they would have done otherwise.