Thursday, 28 June 2007

(Oh my God) The Spice Girls are back!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present:

and… Actually, still quite attractive.

And let’s not forget the sixth Spice – Money, money, money or Dosh Spice.

To top it off, the Spice Girls chose that other embarrassing relic of the 1990’s to announce the tour – The Millennium (O2) Dome.

Are the 10-13 year olds of 1996 really nostalgic for the past? I would hope that they would now be too embarrassed! Or, is the band relying on the celebrity pulling power of Victoria Beckham to pull the crowds in?

Fashion-wise, the band has moved on from platform shoes they could fall off of to tops they could fall out of. I guess that constitutes an improvement of sorts.

EU referendum campaign

As usual the leaders of the EU have shown their lack of respect for democracy and the European electorate by bringing the failed constitution back in a form that they say only needs to be ratified by national parliaments - unless you are lucky enough to live in Ireland or Denmark where constitutional changes have to go to referendum.

There's an excellent piece by Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph that eloquently dissects the way that Brussels operates, why the British government doesn't want a referendum and why it is essential that this pseudo-constitution be put to the vote. The "escalator clause" allowing Brussels to extend its jurisdiction without further treaties is a huge concern as is the French amendment removing the commitment to free competition. The huge irony being that the free market is the only thing that the British people ever signed up for.

There is a petition for a referendum here.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Booms were made to go bust

I thought this was a good article on Yahoo Finance. Judging by the response, which is pretty overwhelmingly negative, it's very much a contrarian position but I think the point that the global boom in assets is driven by a credit bubble is pretty inescapable. The question of course is if and when it will burst - or whether it will gradually deflate. We've seen some glimpses of what could happen , back in February, if it does burst - rapid currency fluctuations, crashing stock and commodities markets and general financial mayhem. And it should be noted that gold went down too, as holders sold it off to cover their losses in less liquid areas.

The other side of the equation in this story, the huge current account surpluses of China and petro-countries, also appeared in the news today. The FT reports that the German government is considering setting up an agency to vet acquisitions by state-controlled foreign funds along the lines of the US Committee on Foreign Investment. In my opinion, it is a very sound idea. These acquisitions need to be vetted in all Western countries to ensure that the interests of the acquirers are aligned with consumers and national policy. In particular, I would highlight energy policy and the acquisition of supply companies by energy exporting countries - an area where there is a clear conflict of interest.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Au Revoir Thierry Henry...

Well the news that most Arsenal fans have been expecting has come - Thierry Henry has signed for Barcelona. He leaves the Premiership as a genuine legend of English football with an unsurpassed legacy of great goals. His pace, flair and partnerships with the likes of Bergkamp and Pires took Arsenal to heights that we may never see at the club again. But the time had come and £16m doesn't look too bad a deal for a striker about to reach 30, though I was hoping we'd get Eto'o in a swap. The only real silver lining seems to be that the deal was not supposed to be announced until next week as Arsenal arrange the signing of a replacement. But I'm never too hopeful in these matters as it seems to have been a while since we really bought well and have failed to replace the likes of Vierra and Pires in the last couple of seasons. Pires to my mind was the critical loss and the lack of goals from midfield has really hurt us. It's all very well pointing to the kids coming through but as someone once said - You don't win anything with kids.

The rationale behind Henry's departure is apparently David Dein's leaving. And the current stalemate on the board threatens the departure of Arsene Wenger and that really would be a disaster for the club. An exodus of our talented young foreigners would then be likely just as they start to approach their prime. Kroenke's intervention in the club has bought nothing but trouble and threatens to undermine the club just as comes through its period of financial difficulties caused by the move to the Emirates. I heartily wish he would piss off and leave our club alone. Unfortunately these greedy, bloated egos don't give a stuff about the fans - we're just the cash cows to be milked!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Fancy owning a football club?

Check out this site - My Football Club - which is seeking to buy an English football club and run it as an Industrial and Providential Society.

They are seeking 50,000 'owners' paying £35 each. On successfully buying the club, the owners will get an online vote on:

  • team selection and formation
  • tactics/style of play
  • substitutions
  • buying players
  • allocating club funds
This could be a real test of the theory of 'The Wisdom of Crowds'.

I want to buy Barnet but I'm not sure if they are for sale.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

UK plc - For Sale? Petition the PM

One of my big bugbears in the last few years has been the large number of UK companies that have gone under the hammer often to companies from countries that do not reciprocate in the openness of their markets. The first one to really annoy me in that way was when Rowntree was bought out by Nestle in 1988. It was pretty much impossible to buy Swiss companies like Nestle, so I failed to see why we should have allowed them to buy up our assets. In 1988, this kind of transaction was a rarity but in the last few years big names like Abbey National, BAA, BOC, BPB and Pilkington have all gone to foreign owners. Not to mention many of our top football clubs!

It wouldn't matter that much if we produced big companies on a treadmill, as seems to happen with the US, but we don't.

Why does it matter?

Britain used to be the Workshop of the World but since the 1980's our manufacturing base has been dramatically reduced. In general, this hasn't been a bad thing as employment has moved to areas where Britain enjoys a comparative advantage and where we can add greater value and so earn higher wages. But these are precisely the kind of jobs that get lost when company headquarters get moved - management roles, technical roles in areas like accountancy, company law etc.

I also think that there is an issue about having a diversity of firms in an economy. I don't think becoming completely reliant on Financial services is a healthy thing. One day the City will go into recession as it did in 1990.

Anyway, there's a petition on the Prime Minister's website about this - not mine and I don't think it's particularly well worded but I think it's something that should be pushed up the political agenda. If you do too then visit the link below and sign it. You need to be a British citizen.

SaveUKplc petition.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Andrew Gormley - Hayward Gallery

Today we went to the Hayward Gallery to see the new Andrew Gormley exhibition Blind Light. I was a bit nervous as this is the first time we've taken the baby out to any public events. As it was he behaved well and there were loads of other babies and children there too. The gallery is fairly child friendly too, with lifts and ramps to get in and around. Even at seven months old, the baby enjoyed the 'white' room (see below). I was more concerned with not running over other children with the buggy, as you really can't see more than a foot or so in front of your face and less if you wear glasses because of condensation.

For me, the best part was 'Event Horizon'. These are 31 casts of the artist spread across rooftops and walkways covering 1.5 sq km of Central London. It was good fun trying to spot them all and it makes you actually observe the buildings in the area and notice their details rather than just scanning them as we normally do.

Admission is £8 for adults and is limited to a certain number of entrants per hour. The whole exhibition will probably take around an hour to view. It's definitely a good Sunday afternoon trip for the family.

As a side note, we dropped into the Royal Festival Hall to see the renovations, which seem to be on-going. The quality of the restaurants has definitely improved with well known chains like, Wagamamas, Strada and Giraffe opening by the river.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

London Hack Day

It's a two day event this weekend and according to the BBC website:

"Web developers are gathering in London for the first BBC/Yahoo hackday.

The free-form event aims to show web developers how to get more out of the data feeds and interfaces the two organisations make available.

Those attending will be encouraged to play around with the technology to see what kind of innovative applications they can produce over the weekend.

On-hand will be developers from the BBC and Yahoo to provide advice about how best to use the technology."

Check out the story at the BBC website.

New web browser war?

There's an article in the latest Red Herring about the release of Apple's web browser Safari 3 for Windows.

In theory 3 times quicker than IE and 1.6 times quicker than FireFox. Personally, I prefer Firefox for all the available Add-ons. The Web Developer Add-on by Chris Pederick has been an invaluable help learning and debugging Javascript! And if you're interested, Firefox is available for download by clicking on the Firefox button on the right hand side of this page (about half way down).

Friday, 15 June 2007

Books I'm reading - Anonymous Lawyer

I'm currently reading Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman. It's the blog of a fictional hiring partner working for a large US law firm. I could tell you how funny it is and how I'm now not getting enough sleep at night because I can't put it down or you could go to the online blog and see for yourself.

Anonymous Lawyer Blog

While I'm on the subject of humorous sites, check out Mil Millington's 'Things my Girlfriend and I have argued about'. It has been around a while but is well worth a look if you have a slightly warped sense of humour.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Football takeovers - who pays?

There was an excellent article in The Daily Telegraph sports section at the weekend by Jim White. He questions the growing belief that since Manchester United have won the title this year that the takeover of the club has not lived up to horror show predicted by the anti-Glazer brigade.

On the plus side he notes:
- Winning the title
- Signing Owen Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson this summer
- New contract for Ronaldo

But on the downside he points out that the renewal letters for Man U season tickets have just started hitting the doormats and they include:
- a 14% increase in the upfront cost of the ticket
- a requirement to buy tickets for every cup home game (potentially costing a lot of money)

And he then asks, where is all this money going? It is going to pay down the debt mountain he concludes and so use the fans money to buy the club for them.

As an Arsenal fan, I think that Jim's final point that this same threat hangs over the head of all the clubs facing takeover from foreigners is most apt and that the only investment they will make is the initial one - from then on it'll be the fans.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

From the Top of the Dial

I have moved all my posts relating to environmental and clean tech issues to:

and all new posts o those topics will be made on that blog.


Monday, 4 June 2007

London 2012

The 2012 Olympic logo or Lisa Simpson giving a blowjob?

Friday, 1 June 2007

Sell in May and Go Away? Review

Well, looks like I was wrong along with the old adage. The Chinese indices do look very precarious at the moment with a couple of large falls this week.

However, The Economist reports that the Chinese government is setting up a $300 bln fund for investment purposes and given their concerns over what a stockmarket collapse might do for social stability in China, one wonders whether they might step in and prop up the market.

Rumours abound that they are out to buy natural resources companies globally, to satisfy their ever-increasing demands for industrial materials and energy, which should prop the sector up.

On that point, the Chinese bought out Rover, Britain's last mass market car maker last year, stripped out the factory, moved all the production lines to China and resumed production there. All that's now left here is an assembly plant employing 130 people - see this BBC article. One wonders if that might become a model for Chinese 'investment' in the West.

The Yen's on a knife edge at the moment too, right back at its previous lows in February, but may become irrelevant if the global liquidity spigot moves to China, Russia and the petroleum states and their governments' investment billions.