Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin by Francis Spufford. Surprisingly good book, composed of several long essays covering post-war British boffinry. Covers familiar territory but in intriguing detail: Black Arrow and the Prospero satellite; Concorde; Elite, the Wellcome Trust's rescue of the Human Genome Project from the intellectual monopolists; Racal/Vodafone's initial radio-mapping of cellphone cells; and the ill-fated Beagle 2.
It's written at a popular level and needs no special knowledge, but Spufford has an uncanny knack for conveying the romance of engineering in an entertaining way. But he's also good on the business side, explaining the financial wizardry behind keeping Concorde going for decades.
It's a slightly sad story despite his optimism, as the valiant boffins struggle against inadequate resources and official indifference, but nevertheless they seem to be down but not out.
Well worth reading if you're British and have any interest in engineering or technology.
Not coming soon after all
Was going to do a bit on what to do about the financial system after the credit crunch subsides. One theme was going to be the need not to overreact and go too far in restricting things. However, the *ankers are already filling the business pages and blogs with "wah wah wah we want more billions wah wah wah we want to pay dividends wah wah wah if you're not nicer to us we'll all fuck off to America wah wah wah the Americans just give out as many billions as we ask for with no strings attached wah wah wah". So it doesn't look like that will be a problem after all.
Word of the day: Xanthachroid.
Economics, Forget about small businesses. Tough economies mean older, chubbier Playboy models? Naked Capitalism: Innocent fraud?
Their once attractive valuations depend on the ability to anticipate future returns. The adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush is now old hat. A conservative accountant counts the bag at the end of the shoot and a less conservative one registers the numbers as the birds fall from the sky. But the modern accountant not only eats what he kills but also takes credit for the expected cull as soon as the hunters’ guns are primed.Seems like the intellectual monopoly disease again.
Mr Skilling believed, as do many traders and financiers, that people should receive credit for the full discounted expected present value of their ideas at the moment of inspiration. Newton, thou shouldst be living at this hour! But it is easier to reward people on the basis of what they believe they are worth than to recover bonuses from people whose ideas turn out not to have been as good as they thought.
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