Thursday Oct 05, 2006

Jennifer Government

NationStates by Max BarryOn the flight home, for once, I left the movies alone and finished Jennifer Government by Max Barry. This was recommended to me by my elder son. Barry states that he "....pretended to sell high end computer systems for Hewlett Packard while secretly writing his first novel". As it says on the backcover, in this book, set in the near future, the world is run by giant American companies, the UK & Australia are part of the USA. Everyone is so happy, tax-free and rich that they'll change their name to that of their company. A VP of Marketing decides to kill his customers to stimulate demand, and Jennifer Government after failing to stop him, vows to bring him to trial. This is a very funny book.

Barry wrote and published the online nations simulation game http://www.nationstates.net/ as part of his marketing campaign of the book, where he continues to be very funny, even in the FAQ.

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Tuesday Jun 27, 2006

Knowledge & Wealth

I picked up a free copy of the FT (Financial Times) yesterday. Its not normally a paper I read, but tucked in the middle was a book review of "Knowledge & the Wealth of Nations", by David Warsh, the editor of Economic Principals.

The book examines the development of economic theory in the light of the central contradiction in Adam Smith's insights, that specialisation creates increasing returns of scale, but the increasing returns mitigate against the required competitive processes. Without competition, the value of the economies of scale accrue to the monopolist not the consuming market. Warsh also reveiws more recent contributions to economic growth theory in the light of the role of knowledge and technology change to the economic innovation process. The reveiw talks about both IT and pharmaceuticals so it should be relevant to us. I think I need to read this.

The book's site has a review section (here...) where the FT's review is reproduced.

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Tuesday May 23, 2006

Watching the English

On my way down from Edinburgh, I finished "Watching the English" by Kate Fox.

This was recommended to me by Geoff Arnold. The book is bloody funny and so true. Its written by one of Britain's leading social antropologists, using her science to observe the English. She has the grace to start her book with a discourse on the "Participant Observer" paradox and manages to be funny about this as well.

The book covers manners, class, the pub, queuing, language and dress, together with some other issues that I can't remember, but always returns to our humour.

She has a long section on queues and queue jumping. She doesn't categorise this by which supermarket you use, which is a class thing; I've alway found the queues in Somerfield friendly and co-operative and even occasionally been allowed to overtake someone when only buying a couple of things. (I always use cash at these times to speed up myself and my benefactor), but this never happens in Sainsburys. She also accurately identified the huge amount of status invested in a man's (and I mean a man) car, however I'm really unclear that a Mercedes, even a relatively cheap one, has less status than an Audi. When did that happen?

Interestly, I fail to score highly on some aspects of my "englishness", I'm told its because of my families immigrant background, and I usually describe myself as British.

This book should be read by anyone that knows the english and needs a good laugh or by those who are mystified by the way we behave.

"Watching the English", Kate Fox, Hodder & Stoughton , ISBN 0340818867

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