Thursday, November 30, 2006

New British Airways tail-fin design

Guido reveals all.

"Signal Systems Failure"

I'm sure there must be an industry for producing new excuses for poor service.

The Central Line was messed up last week because of a fun problem:

"the loading of new computer software containing London Underground's revised timetabling information caused a total breakdown of the systems at the start of service"

Rather than describe this as a "signalling problem" or "signal failure" (the usual excuses when signalling is implicated in train delays), London Underground used the phrase: "Signalling Systems Failure".

As I'm sure you will agree, this sounds far more serious and special than a routine signalling "problem".

So special, in fact, that like a highly contagious virus, the concept has spread far and wide.  It started to afflict the Circle and District line earlier this week (I heard delays on those lines attributed to it on my way home from work on Monday).  The excuse has now evolved further and has infected those who explain delays on our main lines.

According to the BBC,

"Thousands of rail passengers were stranded in London because of a signalling problem.

Services from St Pancras to the East Midlands were cancelled on Wednesday evening because of a systems failure in the Luton area."

They've tried to be clever and have separated the phrase "systems failure" from the word "signal" but we know what game they're playing...

Quite astonishing.   I'm quite sure we'll see statistics in a few months showing how routine "signalling problems" showed a sharp decline in the autumn, with a footnote in the report commenting on how some extraordinary "systems failures" occurred but shouldn't be counted as they were so special.

Watch this space...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What would you do?

Via Tim Worstall, Jackie Danicki is seeking help identifying somebody she claims assaulted her last week.

As I read her post, I couldn't help wondering what I would have done had I been on the same carriage as her.

I would like to think I'd have intervened to help. However, I suspect I'd have hesitated.  I'd be interested to know what my readers would have done had they been in that carriage....

Money for old phones

Chris will be so proud of me.

I'm blogging about recycling and the environment and stuff.

You see.... if you dig out all the old mobile phones in your cupboards and drawers and go to this website, they'll send you a jiffy-bag. You stick your phones in the bag, send the bag to them and then they give you free money.

That's the kind of recycling I can put up with :-)


I live less than 0.7miles from my local telephone exchange. I pay my ISP for an "ADSL Max" service. This service promises "up to" 8Mbps connectivity. I understand that "up to" does not mean "at least" and it does not mean "close to" and it does not mean "around". But, surely, it doesn't mean "1.5Mbps on a good day and 300Kbps on a bad day?"

I'm currently on hold to my ISP.... I wonder what they will say.....

[Update 2006-11-28 10:12. After 15 minutes on hold, my ISP took one look at my line configuration and the stats I quoted at them and agreed there was a big problem. Either my filter is bad, there's something extraordinarily noisy in the flat (from an electrical point of view) or there's horrific contention at the exchange. They've raised a ticket with BT to investigate further. Progress, of a sort]

Small Changes, Big Pain

I commented last week that the forthcoming changes to Daylight Savings Time in the US is likely to cause big pain for lots of people.

It turns out that one of the biggest problems around (the updating of the multiple JVMs that everybody has) isn't as bad as I feared.

This article on IBM developerWorks introduces a new tool that can search a machine for IBM JVMs and offer to update them.


(Note: the version currently published is a version for early adopters. The best advice is probably to apply patches to existing applications and supported JVMs and then run this tool later on in order to catch any JVMs that were misssed)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blackfriars Knitting Woman

Do any of my readers walk through the underpass beneath Blackfriars station during the week?

Quite often I see a fairly old woman who sells The Big Issue. She always stands in the same place, has a large collection of soft toys sitting on the ground next to her and always has a knitting project on the go.

She works longer hours than I do (she is there when I go to work and still there, still knitting, when I go home) and she is by far the most meticulous Big Issue retailer I've ever seen.

To my shame, I have never spoken to her (I will). In the meantime, does anybody know her or know her story?

Don't turn out the lights

It appears that some organisation called "Global Action Plan" are conspiring to ruin my view and it's just not on.

At night, the view of the towers at Canary Wharf from the flat is beautiful. It just wouldn't be the same if they turned off the lights.  Carbon emissions be darned!! :-)

Code Injection

When I first head about "Code Injection" I had one of those 'Doh!' moments... why didn't *I* think of that? It's so simple and yet potentially so dangerous.

This site explains that code injection isn't restricted to SQL and UNIX scripts, etc... there's a whole other world of pain waiting to be discovered. Be careful out there....

[EDIT: 2006-11-22 Minor change to make content reflect wikipedia description]
[EDIT: 2006-11-22 Simon - if you read this, I just looked at the teamroom... I really did blog this before I saw your link!... I'm not trying to pull a "Bruce"]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale and Jazz

A very lazy day today.... loads of us headed over to the Princess of Wales in Chalk Farm for lunch and jazz before heading down to the Odeon in Camden to watch the new Bond movie.

I was pleasantly surprised by it.  It was slightly long and I thought they could have done a better job of reinforcing the end-to-end narrative (it felt more like a collection of smaller stories) but these are minor points. It was by far the best Bond film I've seen in ages.

Free Money!

For the last few years I've been very good at being one of those annoying people in shops who gives exact change or who hands over £10.19 when purchasing something for £2.19 (it never fails to confuse the cashiers). This means that low-value coins (1p, 2p, 5p) don't build up in my pocket.

However, I've only started doing this recently and I have a big back of coins from years ago.

Yesterday, I solved this problem. I remembered seeing a machine in a supermarket some months ago that promised to convert loose change into "real" money (for a fee) and decided to make us of it. A quick google search turned up a company called Coinstar ( and it turned out that my nearest machine was at the Whitechapel Sainsbury's.

I hopped over there (on the tube.... walking from Limehouse to Whitechapel is far too scary a proposition; I'm a wimp).

The market stalls by Whitechapel station were interesting: some good value fruit and veg stalls and lots of people forcefully trying to sell DVDs of the movie "Borat". Given that it is still showing in the cinema, I have to assume these copies were somewhat less than 100% legal.

Regardless, I made my way to Sainsbury's and located the machine.  It was like being a child at the fair again.... so much fun!  I poured my bag of coins onto the mesh container and then used my hands to feed it into the narrow slot.  The sound of clanking and clinking coins filled the store and attracted the attention of pretty much every shopper in the fresh flowers and fruit and veg section.

After further clunking, a voucher popped out and, after the fee, I had turned my dead bag of coins into just over ten pounds. Result!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman is dead

I came late to the Milton Friedman party. A friend recommended I read "Free To Choose" earlier this year and it changed the way I think about a whole array of issues.

I first heard him speak only a few months ago - on one of Russ Roberts' EconTalk PodCasts. It was clear then that he was very frail.

CNN has a piece and Andrew and Tim have also written something.

The Guardian can usually be relied on to produce a mean-spirited take on things and Richard Adams obliges.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Project Definition Workshops

I've been in Warwick today to attend the first portion of a PDW we're running for a client.  I wish I could have stayed longer; the project is fascinating and I enjoy working with their people. It's always good to work with smart, technically astute people who also have a grip on the business side of things.

Health Tip

When intending to catch a train, don't delay leaving a client meeting too late or you'll have to run most of the way. Running from IBM Warwick to Warwick Parkway Station with a heavy laptop bag and a winter coat is not recommeded.

I feel dizzy and the train wasn't on time anyway :-(

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The cost of "small" changes

I just received an email to remind me that the United States government made some changes to when Daylight Saving Time begins next year (Link to Californian State page but the principle is the same)

The stated reason is to reduce energy consumption.

However, I wonder if those implementing this change have any idea what a massive cost has been imposed on the world economy?

Just look at a list of the affected IBM software products.

Or the adjustments required by users of Microsoft products.

Or Sun...

The same search for Oracle (changes to dst 2007 yields nothing official-looking.  Boy are their customers in for a shock!

And that's just some major software vendors (and Sun... ho ho). We can add in the impact on the countless independent software vendors and businesses around the world with home-grown software. 

Add in the costs of missed meetings, VCRs recording the wrong shows and the effects on cell-phones and car radios and more and you quickly see quite how much work is involved in dealing with this change.

It's good to see that organisations are getting on top of this (well, some of them are...) But I think the true cost will prove to be far higher than anyone would have predicted when passing this change to the law.

[Usual disclaimer: I'm speaking for myself and not my employer. My opinions are my own. I have no idea whether my employer regards this change to DST positively or negatively]

Monday, November 13, 2006

State of the internet...

... and of investment banking regulation.

A colleague on their internal IBM blog linked to a Morgan Stanley report on Web 2.0. It caught my attention because it has Mary Meeker's name on the front of it. My readers may remember her from the first internet bubble...

Anyhow, the slide deck is as interesting as reports of this nature usually are (that is: not particularly) but what caught my eye was the final four pages.

In ultra-small print, there are more disclaimers, disclosures and regulatorily-inspired data points than in the main body of the document itself. I knew the fallout of the bust had resulted in big impacts but it's only when you see a report like this that you realise quite how many resources are now spent on compliance. Scary stuff.

IBM to buy a bank?

It would appear from the Associated Press that IBM are teaming up with Citigroup to buy a bank!

Quite clearly, I have no inside knowledge of this deal but, if true, it sounds like it could be a great idea. Guangdong Development Bank, it is reported, is financially weak and I it may be the case that its IT systems would benefit from work. Assuming this is so, IBM and a large bank could, together, engineer quite a transformation.

This will be one to watch.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ticket Touts as a positive influence on society

I asked for arguments against ticket touting on this post and received some good responses - including arguments I hadn't heard before.

Firstly, let's dismiss one absurd argument:

The argument that motivated me to talk about this topic was a truly malign comment I heard on XFM last week. The DJ was referring to the fact that tickets for their "Winter Wonderland" event had sold out and were available on eBay at "inflated" prices. Because some of the ticket price goes to charity, the DJ claimed that these touts were "stealing" money from the charity.

That statement, clearly, is a vicious lie: it matters not one jot who buys the ticket; the donation is paid from the initial ticket price and would be made whether the purchaser was a "tout" or a "fan" (whatever those terms mean).

However, there are some better arguments.

Jon writes:

"if touts didn't bulk-buy tickets in the first place, they wouldn't sell out so quickly in the first place and normal human beings could buy tickets for reasonable prices instead. I.E., the market for touts is created by the touts."

This is really an argument that we shouldn't allocate on price but should allocate based on people's willingness to queue in line for a ticket.  In cases where more people want tickets than there are tickets available, it's the same as saying that those who can't get in the queue at the right time or jump through some other hoop will have to do without.

In other words, it's an argument that says that they way you demonstrate your desire for a ticket is by being willing to give up lots of time or incur inconvenience rather than by the more usual method of paying more for it. I'm not sure the lesson of history is that scarcity, queues and rationing is a desirable goal.

trp (Is that you, Tim?) makes several arguments.

His first is that touts don't pay tax or otherwise act as good businessmen. I think that argument can be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant. If somebody fails to pay tax or breaks the law, they're being naughty regardless of the line of business they're in.  If, on the other hand, they are forced to run their businesses because of the questionable legitimacy of their enterprises then we're getting into a dangerously circular argument.

trp's next good point is one about consumer protection: you pay market price to a tout but any rights you have (e.g. to a refund if the concert is cancelled) are restricted to face value.

It's a good point but I think there are two good counter-arguments

Firstly, this is an argument for promoters to start pricing more realistically (i.e. by underpricing and hence incenting the activities of touts, they are exposing their ultimate customers to uncertainty and risk)

Secondly, as a purchaser, you know this is the case when you purchase the ticket and so should take it into account when considering how much to pay. (i.e. the small but non-zero risk of losing the difference between market- and face- value should influence how much you're willing to spend)

trp then goes on to make another good point.

To understand it, you must first endure one of my pro-touts arguments.  My claim is that touts provide a valuable service to promoters by buying tickets early and in bulk. The latter service lowers transaction costs and the former lowers the risk for promoters (the risk of selling huge swathes of tickets has been transferred from the promoter to the touts).

trp's point is that this transfer of risk results in the problem that information is lost: the promoter doesn't know how many tickets have been sold to people genuinely intending to come (and hence intending to spend money on drinks and merchandise).

I think this problem is easy to dismiss: the market price for tickets could very easily be used to infer how many tickets have ultimately been sold.

Finally, trp closes the loop and raises the "problem" of social engineering. Often, promoters want to exercise control over who attends their event: perhaps they only want "home" supporters in one stand and "away" supporters in another. Alternatively, perhaps the BBC wants to ensure only "poor" people attend a screening of a new show.

In the first case, I agree that public safety may be a valid reason in some cases for restricting the secondary market. However, I think the problems are overplayed and are actually a smokescreen for those who want to benefit from preventing tickets selling for their true value.

The second case has no merit whatsoever (in my very humble opinion). Polly has the best rebuttal to it.

She says:

"Sometimes a benevolent impressario, such as the BBC, puts on a show with a limited audience and it hopes to give the most deserving in society the opportunity to benefit. It feels resentful when the most deserving in society decide that they prefer money to the well-intentioned show, and sell the tickets to those who are less deserving, but value the show more. In a sense the impressario feels that it still owns the tickets, though they have been given away freely."

In other words, if you claim to know better than somebody else what is good for them then you deserve what you get. Paternalism is a nasty little habit and I resent any attempt to tell "the poor" or any other group of society what they can or cannot do with their life or their assets.


At its heart, the overall "touting" issue is this: promoters often deliberately underprice tickets for their events.

Their reasons are multiple:

  • They may not know the demand in advance and don't want unsold tickets on their hands
  • They may want to sell the tickets at a price the "fans" can afford
  • They may want to attract certain kinds of attendees (e.g. students) to create the right atmostphere
  • They may want to subsidise the ticket price to leave attendees with enough cash to spend on other items inside the vanue

The first is a good reason for touts (they allow the true value to be discovered at minimal risk to the promoter)

The second is an unrealistic intention: if somebody is selling something for less than it is truly worth, there is an irresistable pressure for somebody to step in and capture the difference between the true- and face- value for themselves.

The third point (desire to attract "students" or whatever) is also a good one... some bands would be aghast if their audience turned out to be hundreds of middle-aged couples rather than skinny indie kids with bad hair. However, there are other ways to ensure a majority of attendees are of a certain type: ensure facilities or other ancillary aspects of the experience are relatively less attractive to those you don't want to come

Finally, the fourth point could be resolved by including "drinks vouchers" or something of that sort with a more-expensively priced ticket.


So, there we have it. trp has given me pause for thought and it took me longer than I expected to rebut Jon's point (not sure I've done it justice yet) but I still think I'm on the right side of the argument :-p

Price Discrimination in action

Tim Harford finds it hard to talk about anything other than price discrimination and I'm beginning to understand why.

The basic idea is that, as a vendor, you want to maximise the amount of money you make. If you charge a lot for something, those able to afford to buy the item will pay for it but those who can't will not.  If you lower your price to attract the more price sensitive shoppers, you inadvertently give a discount to people who would have willingly paid more.

What is one to do?!

Tesco and other retailers do it through such tricks as dressing up similar products in different ways (price sensitive customers get low prices by buying unattractively labelled "value" lines and less sensitive customers willingly hand over gobs of cash for similar products in nicer boxes with "finest" written on them).

Another of Harford's examples is Starbucks: they'll sell you a cheap "short" latte if you ask for it specifically (but they don't advertise it so that only the truly price sensitive - those willing to ask "do you have anything cheaper?" - benefit) and will willingly put syrrupy liquids in your cappuccino if you ask them to - for a high price.

I realised twice this weekend that also does something similar (I'm probably late to this party...)

I will be spending New Year with some friends at a cottage we've hired in Ludlow. I tried to book my train tickets last night. The first price you see is the easy, no hassle one:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

£51  for a standard class return

£117 for a first class return

But wait.....!  Let's click on the "2 singles could be cheaper" link and see what happens...

If you're willing to sacrifice a little flexibility, look what happens: 

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

That's right.... not only are two singles cheaper for standard class (£42 vs £51), it's also cheaper to go first class  (£48).

So I'll be travelling to Ludlow in First Class for less than the less price-sensitive would pay for a standard class ticket.


Of course, for every good article, balance must be restored

John Naughton's incisive piece in today's Observer requires, of course, an imbecilic piece to balance it out.

Thankfully, Will Hutton (as usual) delivers.

Will makes an impassioned defence of the BBC (saying that it is right that we should be forced to pay ever increasing sums for it). As Tim Worstall points out, Will's argument can be distilled down to: "The poor should be hit with a regressive tax so that I, a wealthy upper middle class type, can get the TV I like."


Newspaper journalists as pets

There's a good piece in the Observer today about the failure of newspaper editors (and others in the media industry) to realise that the reason young people don't buy many newspapers is not the fault of the young people.

"Now look round the average British newsroom. How many hacks have a Flickr account or a MySpace profile? How many sub-editors have ever uploaded a video to YouTube? How many editors have used BitTorrent? (How many know what BitTorrent is?)

And while some of our teenagers' interests coincide with ours, many do not. Here, for example, are the top blog tags on Technorati last night: Bush, careers, college, comedy, Congress, death, Democrats, elections, Flickr, gay, Halloween, Iraq, Microsoft, money, Republicans, Saddam, Ted Haggard, vote, war, breaking-news, tagshare, YouTube. Some you'll recognise. But you won't see much about many of these in the papers.

These are the future, my friends. They're here and living among us. They're not very interested in us, and I'm not sure I blame them. The best we can hope for is that one day they may keep us as pets."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lord Mayor's Show

I popped along to the Lord Mayor's Show today (or, rather, I emerged from Bank station and found myself trapped in a crowd).

I most enjoyed seeing a DeLorean in "Back To The Future" styling drive past.  I'm not really sure what that has to do with the event but things don't always have to make sense :-)

DLR update

It is getting tedious now.

I was delayed on a Bank-bound train yesterday because a train in front was experiencing difficulties in the tunnel.

I repeat my previous questions: what on earth is going on?

How many people work for the UK's probation service

I was only giving Thursday's "Question Time" partial attention this week so I may have misheard something.

But I could swear I heard one of the panellists claim that 20,000 people work for the UK's probation service and they collectively oversee 14,000 "clients."  Her numbers were not challenged by the host or any of the other panellists.

Are those figures really true? Is there really more than one member of staff for each ex-prisoner "supervised"?  In the light of the recent revelations concerning the shocking lack of supervision, what on earth are they all doing with their time?

Why do we regard ticket "touts" as evil?

It appears to be generally accepted that ticket "touts" - those who buy tickets for events at face value and sell them on at market value - are somehow malign.

Ignoring events where tight control over who purchases a ticket is important (the Register has an example of where this may be important... not that I'm convinced), can anybody make a credible argument for why those who trade tickets to events are any more evil than those who trade fruit and vegetables or those who trade shares or those who trade anything else?

I think I have a pretty robust argument for why ticket "touting" is a good thing that should be encouraged but I'd be interested in hearing the "anti-" arguments first....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Taking WebSphere Process Servers into production

Via David Currie, I learn that Charlie Redlin has started a series of articles on how to take WPS into production.

On this subject, when Charlie talks, you should listen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Is it wrong to post links to flash animations?

If so, I am a bad person.

If not, then take a look at this cool clock. I think I stumbled across it in the b3ta newsletter (so a hat-tip to them, if so).

Either way, it's my screensaver now. That's a big deal. I don't normally do screensavers.

The Economist Business Travel Index

I subscribe to the Economist, keep the current copy in my laptop bag and read it when travelling for work. I find it serves as a useful proxy for how much of my life I spend travelling on business.

Normally, I find that my "Economist Stress" is a weekly occurrence... I get to Thursday evening and I haven't finished it. This is a good sign: it means I haven't spent too much time travelling.

This week, thanks to multiple trips to Bedfont and Hursley, I completed reading it this morning. No wonder I'm tired!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Feeling Gloomier

We went to London club night "Feeling Gloomy" in May and went again on yesterday evening.

It was another excellent night - where else would you hear Pulp's "Babies", Tammy Wynette's "Stand by your man", Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and more Smiths songs than you could shake a stick at within thirty minutes of your arrival?

Attempting to walk home from Islington to Wapping was probably not a smart idea.... defeat was admitted and a cab hailed somewhere around Bishopsgate...

The Emperor and the Tiger

After all the furore surrounding my local council's Bonfire Night celebrations, I decided I had to go and see for myself.

In its wisdom, Tower Hamlets council decided that a bonfire and a few fireworks would not suffice and so they commissioned a light, sound and pyrotechnic extravaganza at Victoria Park.

We invited a few friends over for drinks and pizza and then walked to the park along the Thames and the Regent's Canal. The walk was beautiful - fireworks lighting up the river and the canal - and the event itself was worth the walk.

Great use of light, some larger-than-life-size animals (clearly modelled on the Sultan's Elephant) and a fantastic firework display.

I wasn't bothered that they chose to base the evening on a theme other than Guy Fawkes; it was simply an interesting vehicle around which to hang the lights, sounds and fireworks.

So, Tower Hamlets Council, you know I can't approve of your frittering away my money in such a cavalier fashion but, given that you did, I'm glad you spent it this way rather than on yet another dull bonfire and firework party. 

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I am economically literate!


via the ASI's Blog Review 37, we find The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis' Economic Literacy Test.

I scored 13 out of 13. Phew!

SOA Tips 'n' Tricks

Chris and Andrew have launched a new blog, SOA Tips 'n' Tricks. It is dedicated to discussion of - and advice on - how to get the best out of the products in IBM's SOA portfolio.

It's looking good already.

Great idea, guys...

I must take issue with the name, however. As English is a living language, we should respect de facto punctuation rules. As Guns N' Roses taught us all those years ago, the correct name for the blog should be Tips N' Tricks.  Tut.

So, lose the initial apostrophe and capitalise the 'n', guys. Forget what you were taught at school and feel the ROCK!

Crossing a busy railway concourse

I described how to avoid crashing into strangers without slowing down several months ago. Although I have yet to receive any international prizes for contributions to conurbial efficiency, I think it is just a matter of time.

However, my technique involves a large amount of lurching and corner turning. Could, I wondered, there be a solution to the problem that does not involve such gymnastics?

I was given reason to consider this problem when I was at London Waterloo earlier this week.

The problem at Waterloo is that the underlying assumption in my earlier solution does not hold. In my previous solution, the assumption was that you are fighting against a crowd that is walking in a uniform direction (directly at you, in fact)

At Waterloo, by contrast, people act as if they are acting out a random walk (indeed, I'm fairly sure that most of them are there solely to get in the way of others). People are milling around by the departure boards, people are walking to and from the stairs to the underground, people are walking to and from the platforms and between the platforms and the ticket machines and the shops. Other people are carrying precariously balanced cups of coffee as they massage their ticket out of their wallets to avoid stopping as they approach a ticket inspector.   And while all this chaos is unfolding, the incessant beep, beep, beep of electric buggies and clank of rubbish carts is pervasive.

What, readers, is one to do?

The solution, counter-intuitively, may be to disregard the advice of my earlier result and, instead, resolve never, ever, to change direction. Instead, modulate your speed. That is: as you see the other station users inconsiderately embark on paths that will cross yours, make no attempt to divert. Instead, slow down (or speed up) in order to ensure your paths do not cross.

I have tried it (once) and it almost worked.

Therefore, I'm pretty sure I'm on to a winner here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mine your own business

I was in Westminster last night to view an IEA-organised screening of a new documentary on the "dark side of the environmentalist movement", called "Mine your own business".

It has been described (as Tim Worstall points out) as "using a style reminiscent of Michael Moore, whose film Fahrenheit 9/11 lampooned the Bush administration"

The Telegraph reported that the film-maker, Mr McAleer, "lured environmentalists into making statements that were false or patently ridiculous."

I think that's a little unfair. These people were not tricked; they were jaw-droppingly, outrageously dismissive of the desires, hopes and needs of those they were claiming to speak for and were unashamedly brazen in doing so: they really did believe that they knew best, that they knew better than the locals. In other words, they were acting as imperialists of the worst kind.

I thought the documentary would have benefitted from slightly tighter editing (a few minutes could have been cut out), some of the subtitling needed proof-reading and I think the film-makers made a mistake making their biases so clear so early in the film.

But none of this detracts from the valuable purpose this film served: regardless of which side of any developmental argument one stands on, it was important to see a rebuttal (however flawed) of the core arguments rolled out whenever a major project (such as a mine) is proposed.  I suggest supporters of WWF or other environmental charities watch this film: it may challenge some of your beliefs but, even if it doesn't, you will at least be equipped with better ideas on how your leaders should present themselves in public :-)

Richard's Economic Beliefs Questionnaire

I've long wondered why it is possible for people to hold utterly opposite views on matters that are resolvable by examination of evidence.

A classic example is whether top-down, centralised, redistributive economies are better than decentralised, competitive free-market economies.

Without having to provide examples of "pure" examples of either, there are enough examples along the continuum to tell us which works best.

And then it dawned on me... perhaps the anti-free-marketeers are actually arguing about another point.

So here's my thought experiment.

Imagine two possible countries (not based on real ones; please don't debate whether such places exist!):

  • Country one: everybody earns £2,000 per year - total equality
  • Country two: the poorest earn £10,000 per year and there is a range of incomes up to mind-bogglingly large salaries - great inequality but even the poorest are better off than those in country one.

Which would you rather live in?

My suspicion is that free-marketeers would vote for country two because everybody is richer than in country one and that those opposed to economic liberalism would vote for country one because of the gross inequality in country two.

Have I characterised this correctly?

The Tragedy of the once-great DLR continues

The Docklands Light Railway taught me a useful lesson today: just because you think things can't get any worse, it doesn't mean they won't.

The warning signs were there this morning. I had meetings in Bedfont today so passed through Bank on my way to Waterloo (and on to Feltham). The DLR's Eastbound platform was utterly packed - far more so than normal. I chuckled to myself at all those poor people whose journey to work takes them with the flow rather than my journey which, more often than not, takes me against the flow and so makes for a more pleasant experience. Ha!

I shouldn't have been so smug. I left Bedfont earlier than normal this evening as my meetings were over and I could do the rest of my work from home. This meant I was passing through Bank at rush hour.

I walked right into Serco's latest masterpiece: somebody in their head office has discovered combinatorics.

I have previously blogged about recent DLR failures due to train failure, points failure and signal failure.

Well, they're moving onto combinations of excuses now. This evening's calamity was the result of: "signal failure caused by a previous train failure".


How to deal with an annoying colleague...

Courtesy of, a warning about what can happen if you push your colleague just a little bit too far...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

SOA Facts

Courtesy of Andy, a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the basic tenets of Service Oriented Architectures......

(I think this is an example of what people sometimes call "humour"... but I'm not sure...)

Whatever next? Think Tank conferences in Second Life

Via the Stockholm Network, I learn of a forthcoming public policy institute seminar in Second Life.

"Eudoxa, a think tank dedicated to describing the effects of emerging technologies and their societal impact is therefore organizing a seminar on public policy issues. Director Waldemar Ingdahl will discuss how virtual worlds impact on economics, on entertainment and politics and how they open up for a host of new opportunities for interaction. How can public policy groups and activists use virtual world? Can virtual worlds improve local democracy? The seminar will be held on Uvvy Island in the virtual world Second Life (please read more on its webpage at on Friday November 3rd at 19h00 Central European Time (13h00 EST, 10h00 PST)"

London Underground Geographic Maps

Redmonk's James Governor points to this fantastic collection of maps of the London Underground that would have Harry Beck turning in his grave....

[Update 2006-11-01 15:09 My colleague, Cameron, also recommends this book:]