Monthly Archives: October 2008

The sights of home

This, which I took while out walking, is not near my home, but is still the kind of leafy sight that greets me in the mornings (minus the shell).

Damp leaves are piling up on the front lawn and I even see the occasional flicker of frost on parked cars and shaded patches of grass. It isn’t raining, but the air holds no warmth.

Winter is back, and I’m feeling the cold more than ever before. This from a man who hails from a country the Romans once dismissed as “icy Hibernia”, and where the people were driven to savagery by the constant cold.

I wonder how much Abu Dhabi changed my physiology: I acclimatised quite well, in fact better than I had expected, thanks in part to arriving in December and so being around as the temperature climbed. But although I grew to handle 42C and even higher, I feel the chill in the mornings here. Even when the temperature is about 13C – good for this time of year – it nips a touch too much; this is a new experience for me.

I’ve found myself buying and, more importantly, wearing jumpers and the like, which I wouldn’t normally do until the dead of December. As I walked to work the other day I realised my hands were turning purple from the cold – and it wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Can one re-acclimatise to one’s native environment? Is it psychological? Did I feel all this before but am only now, with the benefit of experiencing a different climate, able to appreciate and define it?

As I write this it is 36C in Abu Dhabi and 7C in Cork. Before my departure I would never have thought that 36C would be lovely weather.

Doom, gloom and surprising optimism

The shedding of thousands of jobs by the likes of American Express, Electronic Arts and Motorola is symptomatic of something much more worrying, according to Douglas A McIntyre.

If a recession is measured by the rapidity and breadth of job loss across huge parts of the economy, the current downturn will be unusually vicious. Even highly profitable firms are resorting to firings relatively early in what is almost certain to be  an extremely difficult cycle which could last for several quarters.

It’s regular practice for a company in a downturn to start laying off staff; this would happen if profits had fallen slightly, so you can imagine how much more drastic it could be in a recession.

What the layoff news is showing now, in what is probably the second quarter of a recession which could last for six or seven, is that large corporations believe that their revenues will get much worse and that the chance for improvement is further into the future than most companies believe that they can reasonably gaze.

With each job that is lost at a company that is doing relatively well, the probable depth of the downturn gets worse. Many of the cuts being announced now are based more on confusion and fear than on reason.

Fear indeed: Electronic Arts has revenues of $5bn and is still cutting employee numbers by 6% (admittedly I’ve since realised it made a loss of about $300m)

Meanwhile, those at the upper echelons of soccer see nothing but success in the future.

Manchester United chief executive David Gill is not convinced the credit crunch will have the catastrophic effect many pundits fear… with a new Premier League TV deal about to be negotiated, Gill feels the enduring popularity of the nation’s number one sport can take the edge off whatever impact is eventually felt.

In fairness to Gill, he does recognise that the recession will have some sort of an impact (just look at West Ham, whose owner was a banking magnate in Iceland – we all know how that turned out). However, he is confident that the Manchester United brand will pull through.

I understand where he’s coming from but I think he could be more cautious. He may be trying to promote the brand, and that’s fine, but the collapse of ITV Digital shows that signing a contract to spend hundreds of millions – and billions in the case of the Premiership – to broadcast soccer does not necessarily mean that the money will come through. Like all good businesses, Man Utd are looking to other revenue streams, such as deals in Saudi and Switzerland. But only a few clubs are this fortunate. The soccer television bubble could be the next to burst.

Hallowe'en links and more

Hallowe’en pumpking carving with robotics (Slashdot, pic via there as well)

Looking for a Hallowe’en scare? Try the latest video games (Reuters)

Ten horror hoaxes that spooked the masses (The Daily Telegraph)

DIY Hallowe’en projects (Lifehacker)

Researchers build “haunted” room (BoingBoing)

And now time for some music.

The Misfits – Scream


Lordi – Hard rock Hallelujah


Cradle of Filth – No Time to Cry


And a horror of a different kind: Jan Terri – Losing You


The beautiful game and the worst team in the world

East Timor have picked up their first point in international soccer with a 2-2 draw against Cambodia, six years after the side first took to the field.

“It was the first game we didn’t lose — we’re all very proud,” said long-serving, long-suffering coach Pedro Almeida, a motorcycle mechanic in the country’s sleepy capital Dili.

“We are not happy with our world ranking [bottom of the FIFA rankings] and we are hoping our players will continue to improve,” he told Reuters.

I love these little odd stories. You tend to forget about the smattering of tiny teams in Asia, and it’s nice that East Timor has something (albeit something very small) to celebrate.

An unusual turn of events

I managed to keep my nose out of the company book sale today. Not much of an achievement, I hear you snort, but when you’re as compulsive about acquiring books as I am, it’s something. My head overruled my heart here: I have too many books and not enough time to read them. A small something, to be sure, but certainly out of character for me.

This can't be real…

can it?

In a series of tests, the businesswoman, named only as KH, was unable to pick out the tones of a whole series of well-known people including posh actress Joanna Lumley, David Beckham and ex-PM Margaret Thatcher. However, the only voice she could identify was the Scottish burr of actor Sir Sean Connery, star of James Bond hits including Dr No.