Dun Cow Inn

Dun Cow Inn

The news today was full of pub lunches. Well, one in particular. Tony Blair took George W. Bush to lunch at the Dun Cow Inn in Sedgefield, Blair’s home constituency.

As expected, a few protestors lined the route to the pub — but England’s countryside has a better class of demonstrator. When the Presidential motorcade drove past one man stood silently while his placard politely proclaimed:

“George Bush is not very nice.”

Enough said.

Update: Euan Semple describes another characteristically English response to George W. Bush’s visit in Oh I do love living in Britain!.

Strategy for insecure businessmen

Yet more news from the Economist:

[BSkyB’s independent shareholders] were angry that Tony Ball, the departing boss, will get £10m ($17m) for agreeing not to work for competitors.

So that’s yet more evidence that “…the aim of business strategy is to move an enterprise away from perfect competition and in the direction of monopoly”.

Never believe anyone who tells you that all they want is “a level playing field”. It’s not true. They want it to tilt their way, and in some cases they are willing to pay handsomely to achieve it.

Marriage A-la-Mode

The Marriage Contract by William Hogarth

The Marriage Contract by William Hogarth

The Eonomist’s New York Briefing arrived in my inbox this morning and it contained the following statistic:

New York has more single people than any other state, with most of them living in the city, according to a report released in October by the US Census Bureau. The city’s five boroughs boast some 2.4m people who have never walked down the aisle. And the New York metropolitan area ranks fifth in the country for its number of young singles with degrees.

That explains the article Love For Sale by Rebecca Mead in last week’s New Yorker magazine, which reviewed the book Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School by Rachel Greenwald.

I suppose it’s one way of putting your education to practical use; and who knows, perhaps this approach will breathe new life into the flagging business book sector.

Copy chaos

Last week Halley Suitt wrote about the decreasing need to backup her computer, now that many of her most frequent tasks are carried out online. By using Yahoo for her email and Blogger for her weblog, she no longer has many important documents on her own computer. As she explained, even producing paper copies is convenient and easy:

I’m in the habit too of looking for my most recent CV or copy of a story as an attachment to email that I may have sent someone and even the act of attaching and sending, is in a way, a form of back-up. Again, if I’m out and need to get a CV to someone, I can go into Kinko’s, use their computer, go to my Yahoo email, check my sent documents, get the attachment that was my most recent CV and print it.

On Thursday came news that Halley’s approach is causing serious problems for larger businesses: BBC News | Technology | Document deluge threatens firms.

Documents can be copied so easily that most workers spend lots of time finding the latest version of contract or proposal they are collaborating on…

“E-mail has become a kind of document repository by proxy,” said Mr Pearson [who commissioned the research], “a lot of people are spending a lot of time looking for the latest version of a document.”

Next week iSociety is publishing the results of its research on the use of technology by British companies (see iSociety seminar: getting by, not getting on), and it doesn’t sound good:

…the reports [sic] major conclusion [is] that many UK organisations suffer from a ‘low-tech equilibrium’, and could do more to make the most out of the technology they have. Unskilled staff, uninterested management and disconnected IT people characterise too many UK workplaces.

That last statement certainly corroborates my experience. The staff uses IT, but can’t change it; management doesn’t use IT and doesn’t understand how it can help; and the IT department eats, sleeps and breathes IT, but isn’t in the real world.

Cannibalism died out

Anyone descended from missionaries will be interested in this story from the BBC: Eaten missionary’s family head for Fiji.

The residents of a Fiji village are preparing to apologise to the family of a Christian missionary who was eaten by tribes people 136 years ago…

The inhabitants of Navatusila on the island of Viti Levu believe their village has been suffering bad luck ever since the cannibalism incident, and hope saying sorry will help their fortunes.

I love the last sentence which suggests “Cannibalism died out”. Did the last man alive eat himself or die of natural causes?

Nice work if you can get it

Just another example of how absolutely crazy my former employer really is: Rags to Rothkos.

Here’s the introduction:

According to the influential Art Review magazine, Gil Perez is the 50th most influential figure in the art world. Not bad for a doorman, he tells Stuart Jeffries.

If the doorman is on six figures, what’s the receptionist making?

Can you imagine what this news will do to the morale of the rest of the staff, many of whom are well educated and highly skilled, but not nearly so well paid?

Toronto votes

I had no idea that an election was imminent in Toronto until I read about it in this weekend’s Financial Times of all places: Election is a turning point for Toronto.

Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Having not lived in Toronto for 11 years, I found the following excerpt interesting:

Canada’s largest and richest urban centre goes to the polls on Monday to elect a mayor amid a pervasive sense of decline. Once lauded across North America as a beacon of intelligent urban development, US academics and civic leaders would come and gaze in wonder at “the city that works”.

But rising crime, traffic gridlock and growing homelessness have quashed that sense of easy superiority.

“In the past decade or so there has been a slow wearing down of the infrastructure. The level of dynamism on the cultural and economic front is also not what it was,” says Nelson Wiseman, a politics professor at the University of Toronto.

Somehow I had a feeling that Toronto had declined culturally. I’m not sure why I would get that feeling, given that I’ve only been back three times in the last decade. I guess it’s just the lack of good news: a weakened TSO, the usual chronic disarray at the CBC, and still no new opera house on the scene. Whatever happened to progress?

Curiosity killed the king

Several media commentators have suggested that the official denial of certain unreported rumours by the Prince of Wales this week has backfired. I agree. I am not very interested in the lives of the Royal family, but the fact that something was being purposefully withheld from me was more than sufficient to peak my curiosity and motivate me to investigate.

I knew that the rumour would be available on the Internet at some point, so that’s where I started to look. I failed to find anything helpful at first, but reading between the lines of two stories published today has now convinced me that I know the gist of the scandal.

Royal rumour stories leak in Europe in The Guardian and
Prince Charles Denies a Rumor, but Won’t Say What It’s About in The New York Times, and you too will figure it out.

Hindsight makes solving this mystery seem easy. Just ask yourself why someone named Michael Fawcett would successfully request an injunction preventing The Mail on Sunday from publishing details of a sex scandal involving the Prince of Wales. I’m pleased to report that I wasn’t sufficiently intrigued, nor sufficiently cynical, to make the connection prior to this week’s disingenuous challenge set by the heir to the throne.

Oh well, back to reality now.

Money for nothing

Jessica Lynch, the US soldier who was captured and dramatically rescued in Iraq, is in the news again thanks to her recent engagement (this time it’s a marital, not military, engagement): BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Former Iraq PoW Lynch ‘to marry’.

The most amazing aspect of her story is that someone is willing to pay her a million dollars to tell a story that she doesn’t remember:

Private Lynch, who is still recuperating from wounds sustained during her ordeal and who reportedly has no memory of the incident, recently signed a $1m book deal to publish an account of her capture.

At least it’ll be a quick read.