All posts by John B

Technical BP question, or ‘lazy crowdsourcing’

So, on BP, let’s assume that it gets so busted by compo claims that its entire US business gets liquidated and sold to Exxon (as seems to be the current, insane narrative: “we’ll pretend BP are evil rather than the same as everyone else, so we don’t have to stop the drilling and the oil greed…”. I don’t think it’s an anti-British thing, by the way – I’m sure that if Exxon had been the unlucky chaps, they’d’ve got the whole take-one-for-the-team treatment.)

At that point, the American liabilities are ringfenced, and BP can continue to do as it does in the North Sea, Asia and Africa, bringing quantities of money that are undeniably copious, albeit less large than its shareholders pre-spill might have hoped.

At that point, British and Chinese BP shareholders are perfectly safe in their holding of the company. But what happens to American shareholders? Is there a mechanism by which the US government could appropriate US-held BP shares, and is it an ‘unprecedented, practically war’ thing or a ‘yeah, we do this’ thing if so?

…which brings the technical question: is there any divergence between movements in BP shares on the LSE, and BP shares on the NYSE? That would be an interesting indicator, if so…

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-07-04

  • Martin Amis & Shed #swapwordinfilmwithshed #swapwordinfilmwithmartinamis #
  • The Unbearable Shed of Martin Amis #swapwordinfilmwithshed #swapwordinfilmwithmartinamis #
  • RT @anattendantlord Bring Me The Shed of Martin Amis #swapwordinfilmwithshed #swapwordinfilmwithmartinamis #
  • "Tottenham Hotspurtable"? – – #typosthatsoundfilthy #
  • "equivalent of defecating on the steps of the Vatican" – no, defecating on steps of Vatican would be a *good thing*: #
  • Ooops, I did just kill SPSS #toomanydatas #
  • Shorter Oborne: 'buy tinned food, shotguns; move to mountains. PS I AM NOT MAD": (via @mrpower) #
  • The ironically named James Cleverly: #transportfail #
  • Eep, I've finished #ebz – they'd better add some new content soon… #
  • $8.99 is GBP5.20. That's 97p a bottle… #
  • Martin Amis #rappersbetterthansouljaboy #
  • Martin Amis, Thongs & Perfect Snogging #swapawordinafilmformartinamis #eww #
  • This fits pretty well with my existing stereotypes about neighbours who make noise complaints: #
  • Throw Martin Amis From The Train #swapawordinafilmforMartinAmis #yesIknowIneedtostopnow #
  • Anyone know how to find out who first used a particular hashtag & when? #
  • 100 elderly Japanese men in sailor suits #sightsfrommylunchbreak #
  • A teenage marching band from Mississippi #sightsfrommylunchbreak #
  • A busload of Chinese people in bright green anoraks #sightsfrommylunchbreak #
  • A gridlock of confused out-of-towner coach drivers, carrying signs in various non-Latin-script languages #sightsfrommylunchbreak #
  • Several elderly moustachioed clipboard-wielding Sydneysiders, trying to bring order to the chaos #sightsfrommylunchbreak #
  • Lady on Castlereagh St says she was sent by Jehovah to talk to the sinners. #
  • I know He works in mysterious ways, but I'd've considered sending someone soberer and more continent. Nice Jewish boy maybe? #
  • Can't see how someone can say socialism's a worthless ideology that's never done any good, and yet still claim to be centre-left @jachartuk #
  • Great piece from Peter Singer on cheating in football: – why were Neuer's actions any different from a drug cheat's? #
  • SPSS really is made of FAIL. More crashes than Air France… #
  • The New Yorker's profile of David Mitchell was briefly perplexing: #
  • Blimey, I'm in the Grauniad: – eggs and euromyths, obviously… #
  • If the awful song from the AAMI advert doesn't leave my brain shortly, I may be forced to remove it through the means of amateur surgery… #
  • I don't get the point of free public wifi in urban areas given 3G, but Railcorp apparently disagrees: (via @squeakaz) #
  • Public wifi was a fudge by USA-ans to get round their woeful 3G rollout. It's of no use in countries with functional 3G (ie anywhere else) #
  • AU's 25 daftest ad complaints: – I've long believed that ppl who complain to ASB/ASA shld automatically be certified… #
  • Copyright theft doesn't exist: the word is 'infringement'. Theft requires intention to deprive; copying doesn't deprive anyone of anything. #
  • After a brief absence, #ebz #
  • "You can tell by the way I use my walk…", etc, only gender-reversed: (via @bengoldacre) #
  • Shorter Alan Kohler: "Westminster system? Wossat? Also, the govt should be banned from doing things I don't like": #
  • Haha, this is made entirely of truth: <- The Freelancer Lunch Game. #
  • Sheer genius – Diageo pays off its pension fund deficit in whisky: – someone tell the government! #
  • RT @PlugInShowbiz: Dear Confused Teen Girls: someone who sparkles and won't have sex with you isn't a vampire; it's a gay guy. #
  • #ebz off to Brisbane, but first… #
  • The 400 bus takes a remarkably long time to not go very far. It is, however, free, which makes it better than cab/train to airport… #
  • Perplexed Ryanair's in the news again with the same bullshit, illegal nonsense it PR'ed last year. Lazy journalists are lazy. #
  • As usual, Nick Cohen talks ignorant crap: #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

Crooked Timber, an exception to general comment-thread-y rules of thumb

The rule of thumb is that on any blog where posts regularly attract more than about 50 comments, none of said comments will be worth reading due to the preponderance of idiot trolls, clueless newbies, and the generally hard-of-thinking.

At Crooked Timber, this is not the case. Viz:

Newbie CT commenter:

I wouldn’t much care to live in a world where you can’t eat animal (including marine) flesh

Regular CT commenter:

Shocking. The men of the naval infantry may be rough, tough, sometimes even brutal; but it goes too far to class them amongst the animals. Unless you mean to place all humans in that category, of course, which would be biologically correct. In that case, though, your typical marine is a poor choice for the table. Lots of meat there, yes, but it will be tough and stringy; made palatable, if at all, only through long slow braising.

Update – we have a new winner:

A system where the England coach gets to release three lions per game would increase the current entertainment value of England games, if not their match-win chances. (As players from other lands would be taught, you don’t need to faster than the lion, you only need to be faster than Terry, Heskey, etc…)

Eggscerable reporting, or ‘no, the EU won’t ban eggs by the dozen’

The latest insane euromyth, as faithfully invented by the Daily Mail, is that the EU is planning to ban the sale of eggs by the dozen or half-dozen. As usual, the Littlejohn Rule applies here: if the story sounds like something you “really couldn’t make up” (thanks, Mr Dale), then somebody doubtless has made it up.

The main thrust of the Daily Mail’s story is that under proposed EU legislation, it will be illegal to print “six eggs” on a box of six eggs. Instead, the quantity of eggage will have to be listed solely in kilogrammes. This is simply – and really really obviously – false, and if you believe it then you’re doubtless someone who’s checked whether the word ‘gullible’ is really in the dictionary.

Here’s the actual legislation, proposed by the European Parliament. The quote that the press have misunderstood (or, more likely, lied about) is:

1. The net quantity of a food shall be expressed, using litres, centilitres, millilitres, kilograms or grams, as appropriate:
(a) in units of liquid in the case of liquids within the meaning of Council Directive 85/339/EEC of 27 June 1985 on containers of liquids for human consumption ;
(b) in units of mass in the case of other products.

In other words, all food that is sold in the EU will need to list either its volume (for liquids) or its mass (for solids) in metric units on the pack. Note the absence of anything banning the use of other indicators on the pack, such as “number of eggs”, “mass in pounds”, “number of moles of hydrogen atoms in the packet”, etc. Anyone who wishes to do so can advertise any or all of the above, as long as the metric unit of volume or mass is clearly marked. See: a pint of milk.

So the more outlandish claim, that the legislation would ban the sale of eggs in packs labelled as ‘six’ or ’12’, is obvious, total nonsense.

The only thing substantiating the piece at all is the Mail’s quote from an unnamed source at the UK’s Food Standards Agency, “Retailers would not be allowed to put ‘Six eggs’ on the front of the box.“. Whether the Mail has grossly misquoted the FSA spokesman, or whether the FSA spokesman is an idiot, is not clear. Either way, the quote is wrong.

A more sensible criticism of the proposed rule comes from The Devil’s Knife – that the change would cost food packagers money for very little benefit, wasting everyone’s time and resources:

Well, I would imagine that selling a 500g box of eggs that does not, in fact, contain 500g of produce is illegal under Trading Standards. So now the egg producers are going to have to weigh each and every box, and stamp the exact weight on each box. Not only will they have to buy the stamping equipment (because you can bet your bottom dollar that just writing the weight on is not legal: they even have to stamp each individual egg now, for fuck’s sake) but it is also labour-intensive.

Well, this would be true, except that eggs are already graded by weight – e.g. a ‘large’ egg weighs 63-73g – which requires them to be weighed. And under EU labelling rules, positive errors are allowed on packaging, as are negative errors of 3% (for a package that weighs 300-500g, like six large eggs).

So if the new rules do come in, an egg producer who wished to comply with them at zero cost could just add ‘weight 385g’ to all their boxes of large eggs, and otherwise carry on as before.

Meanwhile, an egg producer who wanted to emphasise the fact that their large eggs were super-large could put the actual weight if they chose, based on the grading by weight that they would have done anyway. Obviously, this would require more complicated software for labelling; whether the producer views it as worthwhile or not depends on whether they reckon it’ll help them make money. Like, erm, most commercial decisions…

Update: John Harrison of has helpfully clarified the (current and not planned to change) rules for small producers in comments:

It’s currently perfectly legal to engage in farm gate sales (or front door sales for backgarden chicken keepers) so long as you do not grade the eggs and provide a use-by date.

This means the box sold at the door of six eggs will be various sizes, which is actually quite useful when cooking. Some things a small egg is perfect for and you can hardly use ‘half a large egg’. The useby date is generally just a matter of adding 30 days to the laid date.

Home producers do not need to stamp the eggs etc. It’s when you supply shops etc that the weight of regulation comes in.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-06-27

  • Snaptu is much uglier than Nokia Communities, but has the massive advantage that, erm, it works. #nokiafail #
  • Blimey. The Penrith result doesn't look good for the whole 'avoiding PM Abbott' thing. *prepares to be deported as undesirable alien* #
  • Half-relatedly, only realised today that Tony's originally a Pom. Sorry about that, guys. #
  • Even by XKCD standards, today's is exceptionally good: #
  • Wow, the US version of Inbetweeners will surely be terrible… #
  • Make Your Own Cuts! – #
  • RT @MrKimHambley WORLD CUP BREAKING NEWS England have been appointed a new coach.. it arrives Thursday to bring them home (via @lesanto) #
  • Brilliant. LGW's new owners are going to drop 'London' and adopt a new logo that looks like a low-rent hotel: #
  • Tomorrow is my first day at work, so #ebz and bed is definitely a better call than footy. We'll see. #
  • In general, this is good advice for Yoofs – but I'm sceptical of 9.iv #
  • Rep Ed Markey in "is prick" shock – 'worst internal estimate' != 'what you tell the press': #
  • Fucking hell. Outrageous fail. Pls can FIFA sack all refs, and hire some blind lunatics to randomly scatter cards about like confetti? #
  • Srsly, does anyone think that the World Cup would be worse, rather than better, if the refs were told to halve the number of cards awarded? #
  • Fuck, I get annoyed by people who think that Gary McKinnon did any harm (as opposed to 'breaking the law', which he certainly did do). #
  • He exposed that US military IT security was run by assclowns, and briefly interrupted some of said assclowns' timewasting. That is all. #
  • It's disappointing to see @libcon republishing shitty pro-US propaganda on the McKinnon case: #
  • I get irate when people slate airports for being big malls with runways. YES, OF COURSE THEY ARE. This makes a 5-hour connection bearable. #
  • 3rd world airports (except the newish Indian PFI ones) on the other hand, are not big malls with runways. This makes them utterly shit. #
  • Best thing ever: – well, if you like MUDs. #
  • After last big Gulf of Mex oil spill, all rapidly went back to normal apart from a few angry hippies: (via @thabet1979) #
  • Sad about Frank Sidebottom – his recent public statements seemed to imply he wasn't about to cark it. But he has :-( #
  • First day of real work in six months. To my surprise, am still alive. #
  • Tickets booked to Melbourne and Brisbane – next up, Isle of Man and Manchester. Carbon footprinty woo. #
  • RT @unslugged: #budget update: Tax on Burberry increased to 85%, tweed reduced to 2%. #
  • Bedtime. #ebz #
  • Cocaine mixed with PCP and LSD #linesthatgetmemad #
  • Shame; I preferred it when he was floating -> RT @MrDavidOcelot Just trying out Gravity #
  • My football predictions so far have been disastrous, but tipping ENG 2 – SVN 1 (I've got my winnings from ALG game on SVN win or draw, tho') #
  • Christ. My friend's dad has just been remanded in prison for arson, after setting fire to the local courthouse. Fail, indeed. #
  • I'm running out of appendages to cross. C'mon England, don't fuck it up. #
  • Thank fuck for that. #
  • End of USA-ALG game is kinda sad – would've been aces to see ALG holding on, and sending off the captain was academic-but-unfair. #
  • W00t – my ISP has just doubled my quota gratis. Thanks, iiNet! #
  • Dispelling footy adrenaline with a spot of #ebz. Next, BED. #
  • NL, UK, Australia have best health systems; US worst. People who aren't mouth-breathing right-wing nutters unsurprised: #
  • So the next Federal election will be between two Poms for PM, then? Maybe I'll stand next time round… #
  • "Australians are disturbed when they see boats come to our shore unannounced" – senior citizens who live north of the Brisbane Line, maybe? #
  • Haha, this is aces: #socialmediaexperts #
  • Overheard bloke "…is 6 times the speed of sound". American girl: "wow, that's almost the speed of light!" *fetches cluebat* #
  • Quick #ebz before going out… #
  • #ebz We can't get enough gas down here, see. So you know what we burn for heat? … sinners. #
  • Bemused by opposition to English tests for immigrants. We should let in everyone who speaks English – but nobody who can't be bothered to. #
  • Dear the next person to post a Times link without warning that clicking it is useless: you're a cunt. #
  • #Worldcup prediction: #eng 1-0 #ger #
  • When the ref gets death threats from England fans, he'll fucking deserve them. #
  • Craig Foster: "before you call for video ref, how about a 2nd ref who can see?" <- yes, or you could not allow blind people to be refs. #
  • To 'could've been 3-0 types' – yes, *if James hadn't saved a goal and Lampard scored one*. But they did. Ref fail is different from ENG fail #
  • FAIL. Oh well. Go #ENG. More realistically, go #MEX so I don't have to support Germany in the next game… #
  • I think we can all agree, a well-deserved 4-2 victory to Germany. #
  • Also, that was a sodding good game, one of the best in the tournament so far. Unlike the #bra-#por dullfest. #
  • Go #mex. #asif #itdbenicethoughwouldntit #
  • #ger played very well; #eng played far better than #usa or #gha. But for utter #alg fail, we'd be in last eight. And then out, I'll grant. #
  • RT @timjana: Let's challenge the Germans in Cricket then! #

Powered by Twitter Tools.