Saturday, 30 May 2009

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

Isn't it ironic?

I started getting outrageous calls from EDF Energy (my electricity provider) last week saying I was seriously over due on my bills and if I didn't pay within 5 days they would take me to court. When I got home there was indeed a bill dated 28th April saying I had to make my payment before May 12th. How am I supposed to meet this deadline if I receive the letter 2 weeks too late? Inside was also a leaflet outlining the huge benefits of paying by direct debit - the day I trust utility companies to take money out of my account automatically is the day I start wearing Burberry baseball caps. Backwards. With a matching Chihuahua.

The Government expenses scandal has reached fever pitch and we are on the brink of seeing the 13th casualty (I still like it when something reaches the number 13) - and I, the good apathetic citizen that I am, am getting bored. It was funny to see them squirm at first but it's just unbelievable what they've been getting away with. The Labour MP who claimed expenses for a house with no remaining mortgage, then the Liberal MP who claimed for a house for his daughter, then the Conservative MP who claimed for a house for his ducks! Look to your left to see what £1645 will get for your feathered friends these days. All this while they are trying to make Bank CEOs take less pay.

There is a man in Texas called T. Boone Pickens. One of the big wildcatters of yore, Pickens made a small fortune in the oil industry taking him onto Forbes' Rich List but is now campaigning for renewables of all things - investing his own wealth into wind farms across Texas which has seen the US recently overtake nuclear Germany as the highest renewables generator in the world. But this is still peanuts if you consider the US uses 25% of the World's daily oil production for 4% of the World's population. I am no environmentalist - my green credentials stop at separating out wine bottles and newspapers from my household garbage. I don't understand Boone Pickens - maybe he is trying to make up for his past carbon footprint or maybe he is laughing at us all - but I can't argue with Pickens' Plan. So what if he makes money out of it too? It's a whole lot better than financing the likes of Paris Hilton.

Monday, 25 May 2009


This is what I would rather be doing today - can you imagine the satisfaction of having it all come together?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Blue skies

When you're waiting for the kettle to boil, mail to arrive or other inspiration to strike - do you ever wonder what other people are doing at that exact moment? If I am having a really lazy day - you know the kind, when you're still in your pyjamas after lunch - I can normally shame myself into getting dressed and out the door by thinking of how I am wasting a day compared to the likes of Warren Buffett, Tiger Woods or Anna Wintour.

The Formula 1 Grand prix this weekend is being held in Monaco. Whilst it's not my favourite track of the F1 calendar, there's still something special about Monaco with its F1 history, the annual drivers dinner hosted by the King and the decadent buildings all round the track. I also love that it is a street course so everyone drives on it for the remaining 51 weeks of the year. There's something pleasing in thinking that they are the same roads that Maxmillian de Winter drove in Rebecca - I inted one day to drive round them myself - hopefully in a Bugatti Veron!

Watching it on TV, all you can see in the background are these fabulous yachts docked in the harbour full of people wearing Ray Ban Clubmasters sipping champagne.

How come our Saturday mornings are so different?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thou shalt not covet...

So pretty....

Summer wedding season is fast approaching and the powers of facebook mean that one dress will not suffice for 3 weddings on consecutive weekends!

Obivously I am busy studying, but on my well deserved breaks I was looking at dresses and I love this pale pink one from the Miss Dior perfume advert. The dress is beautiful in itself but I'm also sold on the Miss Dior lifestyle as she flits through the cobbled streets in her dress enjoying all things Parisian. The full length gown you can see a snippet of is completely stunning too. For those interested, the ad was directed by Sofia Coppola and the song is a Brigitte Bardot classic - moi je joue. So happy!

I know you can't wear white to weddings but are there any other rules? I've heard no black and no red too - is this true? So many rules...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

This is no ordinary promotion...

I guess this joke will be lost on all non-British TV watching folk but it's the tagline for Marks & Spencers, one of the UK's biggest retailers. 125 years ago, a Jewish man in Manchester set up a penny stall to sell household bits and bobs. From this, M&S grew to become the darling of the British high street providing good quality basics in clothes, homeware and food. They even dabbled in the US when they bought Brooks Brothers, but they've since let that one go. Their international dreams cost them their domestic focus and they lost share in their customers' wallets to the likes of Tesco, Topshop etc.

But now, M&S are on a charm offensive headed up by Sir Stuart Rose - who has quite the illustrious history himself. He's not been very popular, but he always wears an M&S suit when he does public and shareholder appearances - I know that's pretty trivial but you would be surprised by how many CEOs preach about the quality of their products but don't choose to invest in the lifestyle they're trying to sell (a bit like Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally choosing private jets!). Do what you want on your own time, but don't think that you're better than your consumers and they will keep coming to your store if you look down on your own products!

Now, TV adverts show Twiggy and Erin O'Connor prancing about in meadows wearing and eating M&S. To top it off, they are celebrating their 125th birthday by going back to their Penny Bazaar roots and offering a selection of 20 items for the princely sum of 1p (about 1.5c). I think this is a great marketing idea and ties in well to the current frugal lifestyle we are all trying to adopt. But take a look at these comments to a newspaper article - there's just no pleasing some people. As for me, I'm off to do my Christmas shopping for the next 20 years!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Slick thinking

Although there's nothing like a good fiction novel, I've been reading a fair chunk of non-fiction of late - mostly biographies of people who inspire me but also the history of large corporations. Have you ever wondered how Exxon started life? A man in Ohio called Rockefeller sowed the seeds for what is now the largest public company in the world. Over a hundred years of history seeped with family feuds, public humiliation, Government intervention, forced break up... could almost be the storyline for the next Dallas series.

It's particularly interesting within the context of OPEC and the controlled regime with which we produce oil and gas globally now. Although having said this, we like to think there are regulations in place to protect us but really the balance of power is shifting to the emerging markets who still have reserves of oil to drill. In the US, imports of oil are now more than double what is produced nationally.

Which brings me on to Peak Oil - probably most famously associated with Hubbert's theory that predicts the point at which any given oil field hits peak production after which, it goes into decline. People have tried to apply this on a global level to see when World oil fields will go into terminal decline with varying predictions from the pessimist "it's already happened" to the optimist "won't be til after I'm dead". Answers on a postcard please!

The price of oil spiked at $160/barrel last year which had people stocking up at petrol stations and saw our electricity bills and transport costs go through the roof. And yet we pay $3 for a litre of bottled water which is equivalent to $475/barrel. I don't even pretend to understand the complexity behind setting oil prices (one would like to think it is just a by product of a free market) but it's scary to think there are people out there who do this for a living and can have such a big impact on our daily lives.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Make it a Blue day!


Although my dear football team have finished third in the league, today is a momentous day in my life as I have FINALLY made it to the top of the list! The credit crunch obviously serves a purpose as enough people have gone bankrupt for me to get a season ticket - I've only been on the waiting list since 2002. I have been saving to buy my dream Miu Miu handbag but I figure it is already almost out of fashion and I can't really turn down this ticket - who knows when I'll be offered it next. I'm going to keep it forever and create a legacy. My future children will fight to be the one to inherit it...

In a haze of blue glory, I'm going to dedicate this post to all things sporty in my life. I'm an avid golfer (yes, don't worry, I already know it spoils a good walk) but it started as the only way I could spend 4 straight hours with my dad without threatening to disown each other, and for some reason, the game comes very easy to me. To balance out the cardiovascular side of life, I shall be running the London half marathon this October - I'm glad to have found marathoner81 as I'm now relying on her to shame me into training through her own rigorous regime!

I also love watching Formula One races - it's just something about the speed, the cars, the slight smell of petrol you can smell through the TV screen... It's been tarnished of late by several 'scandals' involving fraud, dishonesty and general confusion . Even worse, a few teams including Ferrari are threatening to pull out on the back of spending restrictions - it's all turned into a political off-track nightmare. It doesn't help that ungrateful drivers are comparing it to being in prison. What a complete idiot thing to say - he earns more than I know how to count up to, he drives a car worth more than my life insurance, he's dating a pussycat doll, he's giving his family the life they always wanted and he's living his dream of being a Champion driver. The boy needs to learn some perspective on life. My loyalties remain firmly with the great eyebrow-ed one...

Anyhow, here's hoping for a great season for Chelsea next year!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

More Vino?

On Friday, a few colleagues and I were invited down to the International Wine fair (held in the same location that my exams will be in a few weeks!) for 'business' and we carefully selected a 4pm slot so as to have some time afterwards to enjoy the rest of the fair. There were wine producers galore from all over the world, and we were more than happy to sample their wares.

As a big supporter of European trade, I hit the old world stalls with a vengeance and found a small Spanish producer of Ribera del Duero - Rioja's lesser known sibling - which I absolutely love. Even better, the guy on the stall was gorgeous - deeply tanned with dark hair and these amazing long eyelashes that were tinted blonde at the tips (no doubt from all those hours spent under the sun tending the vineyards...). In his broken English with a beautiful thick Spanish accent, he was telling me the history of the 'terroir' in Valladolid but he could have been saying anything to be honest because all I was thinking was... how short is too short? Granted my sense of perspective may not have been 100% at the time, but I'm pretty sure eye-contact involved no head tilting.

He's offered to take me out next week but I'm not sure I want to date a guy who affects my choice of shoes. On the plus side, and this is a big plus, I will probably never be short of wine!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Someone say Cupcakes?

Is this not the cutest picture? Who can say no to a cupcake, let alone one that is covered in frosting and being lusted after by Bambi?

Thanks to Otin for sending me his deer cupcake award - rules (since when have awards come with rules? Although I guess the silent rule to any award is maintain the status quo, be it for Nadal to continue beating Federer or for the beauty queen to continue facilitating world peace...) are to respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention, and add one additional question.

1).What is your current obsession? Broadening my horizons - I think I am having a recession-driven epiphany.
2).Where are you right now? A strangely sunny London
3).Coffee or tea? Coffeeeee!!
4).What's one of your favorite movies? Roman Holiday
5).What's one thing you're looking forward to? June 8th (day after my exams) and the start of the summer - rock on!
6).Who was your childhood crush? The enduring crush is Jensen Ackles (he's now looking mighty hot in Supernatural) but with age has come a desire for substance. I like high achievers now.
7).What is your current favorite Song? The man who can't be moved by the Script. Trends find me slow...
8).What would you like to get rid of? Self-doubt. I am woman - hear me roar!
9).What in life are you waiting on? An early retirement with an intelligent man (who will also happen to be a mediterannean millionaire) in a Tuscan villa surrounded by cypress trees. We will drink wine from our land and I would blog every day - haha
10). Why did you start your blog? It was one of many tactics to delay revising! It's strangely captivating though - I can see how people get addicted.
11).If money was not an issue, what is one thing you would purchase for yourself? A Formula One team.
12).If you could live in a foreign country, which one would you choose? Italy - I want la dolce vita!
13).What is one trait about yourself that you wish you could change? Probably a little too probing for the morning after the night before...
14). Tipple of choice? I love cold and dry white wine. I like my cocktails fruity although on a first date I would probably go for a martini to be less girly and my best holiday ever was drenched in limoncello!

And now, for the nicest part of all. You don't have to do the questions, but your blogs are deer to me!
Otin - I offer you the option of answering the new questions and I love Otins Chat
Cris - In the bleak days when I was a blogging newbie, you gave me much joy by leaving me comments. You know what they say, you never forget your first.. haha
Hit 40 - I think you already receive every award going - but here's another just because teachers shape our futures.
Madeline - I don't know where you've gone, but I really enjoy your snapshots.
Marathoner81 - Like Hit40 on the awards front but keep up the training - I want us both to finish come October!

Friday Funny

Can I pretend it's still Friday somewhere in the world?

I was reminded of this because someone was having frozen pizza for dinner last night.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Bad Vs Evil

Welcome to the House of Shame.

The war between the bankers and the politicians continues, and as biased as I may be, the bankers seem to be winning by default. The government have shot themselves in the foot once again this week as their frivolous past manipulation of allowable expenses has been brought into the scathing eyes of the general public. Hot on the heels of their intention to raise taxes to 50% next April, we find that our taxes have been used to pay for politicans' late night pay-TV, home improvements (someone even had a new wet-room installation paid for!) and fine dining experiences. Even our Great Leader has been paying his brother £3k per year to clean his house.

Words that spring to mind are rocks and glass houses. Pretty poor form to be advocating national belt-tightening and quantatative easing when the Government are using our taxes to pay for their second, third, fourth homes. Some politicians are exploiting some pretty dubious loopholes to try and justify the £15k kitchen they've had put in, but it all sounds a bit Enron-esque which I'm fairly sure they all deemed morally corrupt at the time...

I've got nothing against rewarding people who are doing a good job but I don't think any one in politics is deserving of that accolade just now.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

It's as easy as A - B - C

I have finely honed revision skills that involve leaving everything til the last minute whilst accumulating a growing level of stress (inversely proportional to the number of days left) and then working through the night on d-day whilst my pencil races against the dawn - it takes a week after the exam period to rebuild my sanity!

It all started in high school when exams used to stretch over 3 weeks. It was a time I used to look forward to because for those 3 weeks of the year, we were allowed to come to school in our own clothes. It was supposed to help us feel comfortable, but going to an all girls school, this was an open invitation for us to wake up an hour earlier to match our belts to our pencil case, straighten our hair and showcase our newest jeans. One time I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived, something had to give. There's still an urban legend at the school now of a crazy, one-eyed, hunch backed girl who suffered a mental breakdown and came to school in uniform on own-clothes-day. *shudder*...

It all switched at university as the only time I was told what to wear was during exam time. I kid you not, I had to wear a black skirt, white shirt and a black ribbon round my neck whilst the boys had a wear a full black suit and a white bow tie. Can you imagine anything more stressful on the morning of your exam than trying to tie a bow-tie? We also had to carry our graduation hat to every exam - even though we're not allowed to put them on until graduation day. This proved quite useful as it turned into my pencil case - as an engineer I had rulers, calculators, protractors, compasses and as a hypochondriac I had 10 super sharp pencils, just in case... If we weren't dressed properly, we were turned away from exam schools! Those sleepless nights ironing shirts to be granted exam entry - best days of my life...

Now I'm sitting for a professional qualification that is supposed to make me a better financial analyst and give me three more letters after my name. As a US corporation, they charge us $1000 for the pleasure of sitting a 6 hour exam on a Saturday (my company is paying, for those of you thinking I really am a crazy, one-eyed hunch-back) and you have to pass 3 levels to get the qualification. So whether I pass or fail, I will still be taking another exam next June! The same crazy long exam is sat across the world on the same weekend and in London alone, there are 40,000 people who turn up at this huge warehouse where all you can see are rows of desks stretching back to infinity. As zero hour approaches, the shutters start to roll down and desparate candidates roll under the gap (very Indiana Jones) and I begin to frantically re-sharpen all my pencils. Only a month to go - wish me luck!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Is it too soon...?

Got an email from the exam regulators this week saying they are taking into account the recent flu epidemic and they are working hard to ensure there will be no disruptions on exam day (a 6 hour exam on a Saturday that takes place simultaneously all over the world - I'm sure there's an arbitrage opportunity there somewhere with the time differences but I haven't quite figured it out yet...)

Monday, 4 May 2009

Cow Economics

Something funny just because it's Monday. I tried to google an original source for these jokes but all I got were many many many variations. Think I need to relocate to France or Italy. Have fun adding your own
You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbour.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away…

You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies. You then employ someone else to do the work and you graball future profits to fund your indolent lifestyle.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows. You break for lunch. Life is good

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

You have two cows. You re-eng ineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. A beautiful woman walks past. You decide to have lunch. Life is good

You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows. You worship them.

You have two cows. Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy….

You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers and a barbeque to celebrate and ponder why none of the cows have pouches for their young

You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Let it be me

This week involved interviewing interns. Those who have made it through the rigorous screening process, which every year sees my colleagues hanging about after work one day with a few bottles of wine as we sift through the many CVs. My team is young, with the majority of us being under 30, so it’s not that long since we ourselves were the interviewee. Life is tough – there are slim margins between applicants on the academic side as they all seem to be excelling at top notch universities – so more often than not, it comes down to that special chance that one word somewhere on the CV makes a connection with the interviewer – be it a shared interest or the same home town. At the end of the day, they are all plenty smart but you want them to fit in with the existing team but also to bring something new.

At university, I was much like any other student, with that subtle arrogance from the belief that I was en route to something big. The place was full of high achievers who spent their free time perfecting their tennis serve, protesting for human rights or running for university president – all things I believed I could achieve too if I chose to. Then comes graduation, which for many is the final curtain on their childhood, and we are released to once again, become the smallest fish in a very large pond. My self belief is eroded away with every unsuccessful job application and I’m left with regrets. I had a unique four year window of opportunity where I was free to chase after any dream but was too lazy to take advantage of it.

And now it gives me great pleasure to meet these hopeful interns, who are trying to plan their summer vacation to include experiences that will help them on their road forward. Their new suits, straight postures and eager eyes takes me back to a happy time – although with every passing year, the edges become a little more frayed with thoughts of what could have been.