Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My theory is proved

I don't claim originality when I assert that restaurants in prominent locations are uniformly awful. However, it's not often I get to experience such stunning confirmation of the corollary.

My colleague studied her guidebook between breaks in our training class and liked the sound of a restaurant in Christiania. I booked a table and we entered the address into the SatNav.

The soothing sounds of the TomTom took us to a very dark road with a dead-end. There were no obvious signs of life and certainly no signs of a restaurant. After some driving round for parking, we gave up so I called them and they tried to direct us in.

We eventually found Spiseloppen by walking along a dirt track behind a derelict building and walking up a grafitti-covered flight of stairs.

The chances of a lost tourist stumbling upon this place were zero. Accordingly, the food, service and drink were outstanding. It was not cheap - but was worth every kroner.

I had a smoked swordfish, crayfish, salmon-in-a-crepe, asparagus and caviar for starter and medium-rare reindeer for main and enjoyed every bite.

The young couple preparing a monstrous spliff on the stairs leading to the toilets completed the contrast between the restaurant and its surroundings.

If that were not excitement enough, I made two other discoveries today:

Firstly, WebSphere Process Server's support for direct connections to WebSphere MQ (or "MQSeries", as James insists on calling it) is actually rather good (see... I did learn something this week!)

Secondly, my hotel has the cleverest lift, ever. It has doors on three sides and two buttons for each floor. Depending on which button you press, a different door opens upon arrival at your level. However, and here's the clever bit, the lift will climb to a different altitude depending on which door is to open. For example, the left hand door's level is about half a metre lower than the middle door's level. 

A clever solution to the problem of providing step- and ramp-free access to every room in the hotel when it was plainly formed from knocking two separate buildings together.

(I have yet to discover what one must do to make the third door open on any given floor....)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Interesting Financial Fact of the Day

I was listening to one of Sun's excellent Mifid PodCasts on the plane to Copenhagen. (Wow... I never thought I'd compliment Sun!)

They were interviewing Andrew Allwright from Reuters.

The conversation turned to how Reuters plan to support Mifid's requirement for post-trade transparency. He described how, today, Reuters provide information on prices by using a concatenation of an equity's symbol (e.g. "VOD" for Vodafone) and the trading venue at which the trade was made (eg. "L" for London"). Hence: VOD.L.

He explained that, when trades from other venues (e.g. those internalised by large institutions or on other trading facilities) are published, he anticipates that Reuters will make those streams available by assigning new suffices to each of the venues.  (Implicit in the conversation was that they already do that for some of the existing exchanges)

He then made a very interesting point: Reuters also provide an aggregated feed, with the "X" suffix: So "VOD.X" carries information on trades from all venues that Reuters receive feeds from.

This interested me because, when I want to check the price of William Morrison stock, I use the MRW.L symbol in Yahoo Finance.  Perhaps this means I'm not seeing a full picture?

I just tried MRW.X on Yahoo, to see if I could get figures that included all other venues where Morrison shares trade. Yahoo didn't want to play ball.

Oh well.... maybe I should try again on November 1.

"Economy Flex"

I'd forgotten how miserable it is flying in Economy. I am writing this on a flight to Copenhagen to attend some product training. SAS have a curious three-class cabin on this route: "Business", "Economy Flex" and "Economy". Given that the plane only seats about seven people (I'm flying from London City Airport), this does seem excessive.

I think Economy Flex is for passengers who have paid top dollar for full economy and "regular" Economy is for those of us who travel on dirt-cheap non-changeable, non-refundable tickets.

Either way, it means I have to pay for my food and drink.

Not impressed.

Cow Maturity Model

It appears the Capability Maturity Model has been renamed...

(I'm not sure I get the red-polka-dots reference though...)

Not enough sockets!

Diamond Geezer makes a very good point: why are there never enough sockets where you need them?

We're currently designing a new kitchen and I've specified five double sockets in addition to the ones the built-in appliances need, plus an extra double socket in the breakfast-bar/island-unit so that I can plug my laptop in.

I hope that will be enough sockets.

I've even specified that a socket is to be put inside a cupboard so that I can put my wireless router in there without any cables showing (I'm having a phone point moved to a point immediately behind the cupboard)

The problem isn't isolated to homes, though. A common complaint from conference goers is that venues have insufficient power-points... and don't get me started on airports.

Until wireless power distribution is perfected (my idea of powerful lasers in the ceiling and photovoltaic cells on the tops of devices fell flat when a friend pointed out what might happen if you put your hand in the way...), I think the answer might be for office floors to be built entirely out of power sockets. Forget tiles or carpet. Just blanket the floor in sockets.

"Side-fumbling was effectively eliminated"

I do hope this isn't what I sound like when I'm pitching my products....

HT: Vinnie

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How to crash an in-flight entertainment system

I'm sure there are laws against this sort of thing. I'd have been too scared of the immigration police even to have tried this experiment.

Via Naquada

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Interesting People

Andy invited me along to drinks that James and Dennis had organised in Spitalfields this evening.

I was a little apprehensive about going along because my blogging has been a little light of late and I'm not closely involved in the cool stuff that is going on in parts of IBM at present.

However, knowing that Roo would be there, I figured the sheer embarrassment of IBMers (that's the collective noun, right?) present would be sufficient to give me cover.

I needn't have worried: I met several people I didn't already know, had some very interesting conversations... and the wine was stunningly good.

Now, I should admit that I usually restrict my attention to bottles in the £5 - £10 range when shopping but the atmosphere of Bedales (combined with the very reasonable corkage) encouraged me to try a £20 bottle I would not normally have considered.  Well worth trying.

So, thanks for inviting me along, Andy; I had a great time.

Private Sector vs Public Sector

My wallet was stolen when I was out on Friday.

It contained the following:

  • Barclaycard
  • American Express Credit Card
  • LloydsTSB Mastercard
  • Barclays Connect Card
  • Oyster Card (+ gold record card and photocard)
  • Driving Licence (photo card)
  • Book of first class stamps
  • £60 cash

I noticed the loss very quickly and called many of the card issuers on the way home. 

Once I arrived home, I cancelled my Oyster Card and filed a crime report (both online).

On Saturday morning, I called the DVLA to request a new driving licence. They were the only people to charge me. £19. (I was robbed twice!)

Interestingly, however, when I arrived home this evening, my new driving licence and my new Oyster card were waiting for me.

There is no sign, as yet, of my new credit or debit cards.

Poor show, private sector!

(Luckily, I deliberately don't carry all my cards around with me and so I have been surviving with my Intelligent Finance Debit Card; having only one card is curiously scary... what do I do if a machine swallows it?!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Silicone Sealant

I knew replacing the sealant around the bath in an attempt to freshen up the bathroom would be a bad idea....

I think I've more or less made good the damage I inflicted.

Not sure it looks any better than it did before I started though.

Profiting from those who apply rules blindly

A headline in my Telegraph news feed caught my attention this evening:

Two investors in Reed Elsevier have sold their shares as a protest that the publishing giant runs arms fairs

It appears that Reed's activities fall foul of the Joseph Rowntree Trust's "ethical" rules.

Naive implementations of index trackers are susceptible when the make-up of the fund changes: everybody knows the managers will be selling the stocks that have been dropped and will be buying the stocks that have entered the index.

I wonder if anybody routinely profits from anticipating the behaviour of funds, such as this Rowntree one, that are constrained in some other way? It probably wouldn't be too hard to keep tabs on companies assumed to be "ethical" or "green" or whatever and track any news stories about them for signs that their right to claim such a designation has been forfeited.  On the assumption that some holders of such companies may be forced to sell, there has to be an opportunity in there somewhere!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Careers, critsits and kitchens

I've had a rather hectic start to the new year.

Firstly, I've started a new role in IBM. I am now a Technical Sales Specialist for IBM WebSphere, with a focus on Financial Services companies in the UK.

I had been looking for an opportunity to reduce my international travel, build longer-term relationships with clients (my previous role saw me seeing lots of clients typically for short periods of time) and specialise in an industry area.  The FSS Tech Sales role looked like a good fit. So I've now made the jump from consultancy and am furiously trying to get my head around what it is I'm supposed to be doing and how to do it :-)

One of my short term objectives upon joining the new team was to get to know as many of them as possible (both my direct colleagues and my sales counterparts). I needn't have worried: within days of starting the role, I was asked to assist with a problem a client was having.

After an unbroken stretch of about ten days, consisting of three calls a day with the client and even more with IBMers in between the client ones, I think I succeeded in my aim of getting to know a lot of people... 

I'm still keeping an eye on the situation but, so far, things appear to be moving in the right direction.

And if that's not enough excuses for failing to update my blog, there has been the extra-curricular activity of getting a kitchen designed and scheduled. Between calls with plumbers, letters to building control, requests to the management company and legal discussions to confirm paying for some of it on credit card will mean Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act* will give us some protection if the kitchen provider screws us around, I'm surprised I've had time to sleep...

* It's a fantastic piece of legislation (when viewed in isolation and when you don't worry about the chilling effect it must have overall!): if the supplier breaches the contract, the credit card company shares liability for the full purchase price even if you only paid for part of it on the credit card. The economist in me worries that the scope of this law may well be why things cost so much in Britain - the law is almost like an insurance policy... and insurance costs money - but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth: I hope I will not need to rely on it but, when spending so much money on a new kitchen, knowing that this protection is there is comforting.