Friday, September 26, 2003

Non warning

In fact I didn't go to Cambridge today. I felt a little below par this morning and I stayed home and read a little of Paul Theroux's The Pillars of Hercules, his book about travelling around the Mediterranean. My father recommended this book to me, as Theroux had said many of the same things about Marseilles as I did when I went there. Actually the list of things Theroux did and saw in that city resembles what I did so closely it is almost uncanny, which is interesting given that this was some distance from the normal set of tourist (or even backpacker) things to do. More on this book soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


I am going to Cambridge tomorrow to catch up with a couple of friends of mine. Blogging will be intermittent, but there will likely still be some.

Also, Instapundit mentions there has been an very big earthquake in Japan. 8.0 on the Richter scale is very rare, but the area that the quake hit is a long way from areas of mass habitation. There are only five million people on the island of Hokkaido, and most of these are in the south-west, either in or near Sapparo. The rest of the island is very sparsely populated. The earthquake has hit just off the south-east, and I cannot imagine the death toll from the quake will be high, unless the Tsunamis do some serious damage.

I have a piece on waiting for Neal Stephenson's new novel Quicksilver at Samizdata.

This dog was extremely useful to NASA, enabling them to communicate successfully with Galileo after the failure of the high-gain antenna. However, now that the Galileo mission is complete, he has no further use.

(Link via Josh Chafetz).

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

This is really cool

It seems that Peter Jackson has cast (or is about to cast) the wonderful Naomi Watts in the part of Ann Darrow in his remake of King Kong. This is a perfect piece of casting and I can't wait to see the film. I rate Watts in Mulholland Drive and Reese Witherspoon in Election (which I watched again the other day and which was even better than I remembered it to be) to be the actresses most deserving of oscars but who weren't even nominated in recent years.

Update: There is a good little profile of Naomi Watts in the SMH.
Say hi if you feel like it

In response to Scott Wickstein doing the same, I have set up MSN messenger on my PC. If you type in my standard e-mail address ( and I am online, then feel free to send me a message. Just because it says I am online doesn't necessarily mean I am nearby. Since I have had an always on internet connection, I have been leaving the computer on for longer periods of time, including some times when I am not in front of it. In particular, I if it says I am online between 0100 and 0900 GMT, that probably means I have fallen asleep with the computer on.

I have a tiny piece on the invention of the smart couch over at Samizdata.
More reasons why it is good that the west won the cold war

If it had not happened, there would not be stores selling a large range of Hello Kitty merchandise in East Berlin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Male inadequacy

Today I agreed to meet a female friend for dinner. As I was approaching central London, she called me and said that she was tired and suggested that rather than our going to a restaurant, would I mind stopping off at a supermarket and getting some cheeses and baguettes and stuff, plus some wine, and we could then eat in at her flat.

No problem whatsoever. I stopped at Sainsbury's. The cheeses were yummy looking, and I couldn't really decide, so I got four different kinds (one Italian, one Danish, and two French, in case you are wondering). Of course, having got to my friend's flat, it became immediately obvious that I had bought far too much cheese. No actual problem. My friend assured me this was just fine, and thanked me for doing the shopping. She and I sat down, ate and drank, and generally had a pleasant time, and the additional cheese was put in the fridge for consumption on some later date. Cheese keeps for a few weeks. No problem.

Somehow though, I feel bad about this. I couldn't estimate an appropriate amount of cheese. Four pieces was clearly too much, and I should have realised this when in the supermarket. I somehow feel the additional cheese will be wasted. (It won't. My friend loves good cheese and will undoubtedly eat it or serve it to someone else. Certainly I would have no problem polishing off four pieces of cheese in a couple of weeks).

Yet, I failed as a shopper. I didn't get it exactly right. No doubt if I were married or had a girlfriend, I would be going through this sort of angst all the time.

Or perhaps I too need to get out more.
Hey guys, lighten up

Last week, Andrew Sullivan got stuck into Democrat presidential candidate Wesley Clark. One of Clark's greatest offenses appeared to be that he is a Rhodes Scholar, and "almost to a man and woman, they are mega-losers, curriculum-vitae fetishists, with huge ambition and no concept of what to do with it."

This was a stupid generalisation. Andrew Sullivan is prone to making stupid generalisations from time to time, and this is one reason why he is not as good a blogger as, say, Eugene Volokh.

Unsurprisingly, the Rhodes scholar bloggers at Oxblog were not especially amused by this, and both Josh Chavetz and David Adesnik (both guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy) have both posted lengthy defences of Rhodes scholars. I understand their doing this (if I were a Rhodes scholar it would likely bother me too) but it really isn't worth it. It's obvious to all of us that Sullivan's remark was deeply stupid, and lengthy self-justifications like this just make you sound a little self-important.

Best, I think, to link to Sullivan's comment with a comment "What an idiotic remark", and then get back to blogging about whatever else you were planning on blogging about. And if you do need to post a lengthy defence of Rhodes Scholars, best to do this on Oxblog, rather than using your guest stint on the Volokh Conspiracy. The number of people who actually care about any of this is probably less than you think. It's fun to post to a different forum than usual, and one with a very large audience at that, but when you do so it is best to be less introspective in what you blog about.

Monday, September 22, 2003

News in clusterbombing

The intriguingly named Little Man, What Now? (which appears to be a new blog from a reader of mine - hi Dean) points to this great map showing the distribution and density of both Starbucks and McDonald's around the world. The McDonald's map is almost entirely predictable, and is a pretty accurate map of the wealth and population density of the world (with the major exception being that India has too few McDonald's restaurants either due to the Hindu prohibition on the eating of beef or the difficulty of doing business there).

However, the Starbucks map is less predictable. (It also has one error that I can see. Starbucks do have shops in New Zealand - in fact that was the first place I ever drank Starbucks coffee in 1999). There are two interesting issues. The first is their priority of expansion in Asia over expansions in other parts of the (non-US) world. It doesn't surprise me that they have expanded in Asia (and it really doesn't surprise me that they have a huge number of stores in Japan) as the young middle class consumer base that they target is undergoing a huge expansion there, but the relative lack of speed they have expanded in Europe does surprise me. (They are in the process of expanding from a niche operation to full speed ahead in Europe, however, and have just introduced their initial niche operation in Latin America). It may be that they did not have the capital to expand in both places at once, or it may be that demographic issues make Europe a less attractive target. (Europe has on average older consumers, who are less what Starbucks target, than does Asia. Europe also has smaller cities, which perhaps makes clusterbombing a less effective strategy). On the other hand, judging by the growth in the number of Starbucks clones, potential demand in Germany seems enormous. The same is true for the Nordic countries, I would think, plus parts of central Europe. As for Latin Europe, perhaps less so because the coffee that is there already is better than it was in the north.

The other thing that is perhaps peculiar about the Starbucks distribution is the relatively large number of stores in the Arab Middle East. There is far less wealth there than in Europe, but there are lots of stores. On the other hand, the demographics are better (from Starbucks' point of view - probably not for the best interests of the world in general). Or are they marketing to expatriates and tourists in Dubai? (However, they are not marketing to tourists in Oman and Saudi Arabia, clearly). I don't know.

I will be in Sydney for the first half of November, and perhaps a longer period. If anyone would like to meet up for a beer, organise a blogger bash, or similar in this period, please let me know.

I have a tiny piece on the end of the Galileo space probe at Samizdata.

Sunday, September 21, 2003


I have a piece on the completion of the Adelaide-Darwin railway at Transport Blog and a discussion on the proposed format for the 2007 World Cup (and other cricket issues) at ubersportingpundit.
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One of the great questions of our time has finally been answered.

(link via slashdot).
This is a public service announcement

Scott Wickstein's The Eye of the Beholder has moved to a new address, and I think it may now just be called "Scott Wickstein". Update your links.

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