Consumption spreads faster today

An interesting graph at this location for the US (no original source given):


I’m not sure I agree fully with the talking title. If anything the radio penetrated households faster than the internet, and washing machines were probably adopted more quickly (World War 2 impact corrected for) than dishwashers. Still, interesting.

God save the queen

THE best thing about being monarch is the huge amount of money you get, the Queen has confirmed.

It is understood the Queen later telephoned the King Juan Carlos of Spain, said ’38 million’ and then hung up on him.

More here.

Except, it’s not only £38m, but more like £150m a year according to Republic (which is the source for the rest of this post).

They don’t work much for it either:

the Windsors are very good at working three days a week, five months of a year and making it look as though they work hard

And the “mere 67 pence per person per year” value-for-money justification that the £38m is often turned into is in fact explicitly stating that rent seeking by a special interest group is going on, the benefits of which are concentrated whilst the costs are spread widely with no rational economic incentive for an individual to spend time objecting.

To test whether something is ‘value-for-money’ we need to judge what we get for our money and whether we can get something better for less. The monarchy fails this test:

  • Of the top 20 tourist attractions in the UK only one royal residence makes it: Windsor Castle at 17 (beaten comfortably by Windsor Legoland, in at number 7). Buckingham palace is normally closed to tourists, and when it does open only a small portion is accessible. If the palace does marginally entice tourists to the UK, then if the Queen were removed and the entirety opened, all year round, there would be a much greater tourist effect.
  • London is a leading financial centre – do the big businesses in the City and Canary Wharf need the help of a little old lady in a big house in central London?

Further or alternatively, the Crown Estate is not and never has been the personal property of the Windsor family. In the 18th century the job of government was moving from the palace to parliament, so revenue from the Crown Estate was transferred to the Treasury. In order to ensure the King could continue to run his palace in the style to which he was accustomed the government of the day set up the Civil List, a payment to the palace by the government. There was no personal sacrifice or transfer of owned assets on the part of the monarch.

Over the moon

Here’s how the moon looks from earth:


And here’s how Jupiter would appear if it was the same distance away:



Nuclear power deaths

A recent paper from NASA seeks to analyse total global fatalities attributable to nuclear power.

They find that 1.8 million deaths have been AVOIDED over the lifetime of the nuclear power industry due to a reduction in air-pollution related diseases that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning.

A few more notes on nuclear power here.

Channel Tunnel

A link from a new blog I’ve started following revealed the following details about the Channel Tunnel’s construction:

  • Such was the volume of material which was drilled out of the tunnel that the UK has actually been expanded by 90 acres to accommodate the “waste”
  • On average the British workers managed to tunnel around 150 m a week whereas the French figure was lower at 110 m a week

Notes here on saving money on Eurostar tickets.

And an excerpt direct from the blog in question, Further or Alternatively, which made me smile:

…the apocryphal story of the indulgent jury or magistrate who, not wanting to ruin the life of a poor young defendant who has made a silly mistake, returns the verdict “Not guilty” – and then adds sternly “but don’t do it again”.

Half in, half out

More people live inside this area than live outside:

Half worlds population

You might also like this graphic of population density.

Business Travel Tips

For most periods in the last decade I’ve travelled internationally a couple (or more) times a week for business, often at times of the day that are ‘my hours’. There’s a tradeoff to be made in terms of planning to get to the airport/train station with less time to spare (and therefore increasing leisure time) at the expense of a higher probability of arriving too late if there is a delay on the way.

Let’s say that planning the transit to arrive 90 minutes before departure has a 99% success rate, and that reducing this to 60 minutes corresponds to a 95% chance of getting on the flight. I ran some numbers, and at a cost of an incremental 3hrs of waiting time for each missed departure, plus £200 fees, then at 2 trips per week you’re buying back 40 hours per year at £20 per hour. Wouldn’t you take a £800 wage cut (pre-tax) for 1 extra week of holiday per year? Of course, you need to train yourself to be not stressed at the possibility of missing your flight, and accept that you will miss a small number each year.

If you’re a frequent traveller and always make every flight, then consider that you might be getting to the airport too early.

In The Checklist Manifesto, the author discusses the use of checklists to bring about improvements in frequently performed activities. I have a list I use for packing for trips (hardly as important as a pilot’s take-off checklist!) but does mean I pack slightly quicker, don’t have to put much thought in, and don’t forget to take e.g., the iPhone charging cable because it’s plugged out of sight under the bed that weekend.

That said, if you are frequently travelling to the same client site then consider buying all of your usual toiletries, electric tooth brushes, razors, training shoes, cables, etc, twice, and keeping one set of all of these at the client site. That’s a lot less to pack and think about. More business travel tips ideas here.


Over 98% of expert games begin with 1 of 4 moves, out of a possible 20:


I used to play the Grob (1.g4) and did quite well with it. It’s a trade off, making a slightly less good first move to very quickly get into positions that your opponent has never been in before and needs to use up clock time to consider options from an unusually early stage of the game.

This is a tactic that Kasparov used against IBM’s Deep Blue, reaching a position after 3 moves that had only ever been seen once before at tournament level.

in any long game of chess it’s quite likely that a position is reached that no two players in the history of humanity have encountered before.

More in Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal and the Noise’.

Scarecrows for pikeys

A quick Google search seems to suggest that one reason to have staff greeting customers as they enter a shop is to deter shoplifters:

Have your employees greet each customer as they enter the store. A shoplifter is less likely to go through with his crime if they think someone might be able to identify them

Or, go for the scarecrow approach:


Welcome to Denton.

Football is not a matter of life and death

I attended a lecture this week on research between stress and heart attacks, where this chart (from a New England Journal of Medicine paper) was displayed, showing incidences of heart attacks in the German population over the period of the 2006 Football World Cup, along with the data for previous years for comparison: