:::renaissance chambara:::

Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.

Friday, December 24, 2004

 

Season's greetings from renaissance chambara

Season's greetings from renaissance chambara

Have a happy and peaceful holiday season and start to the new year


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Christmas speech by President Mary McAleese

Thanks to the Irish Emmigrant for the Christmas message from President Mary McAleese in both Gaelic and English.
__________________________________________________________
Beannachtai na Nollag on Uachtaran Maire Mhic Ghiolla Iosa

Guim Nollaig mhor mhaith agus athbhliain faoi mhaise ar gach duine.

Agus me ag tosu amach ar threimhse ur mar Uachtaran is mor an phibhleid dom beannachtai na Nollag agus na bliana nua a ghui ar theaghlach na nGael agus ar chairde na hEireann sa bhaile agus thar saile.

Bliain ar leith i saol na hEireann a bhi ann anuraidh, nuair a bhi se d'onoir againn failte a fhearadh roimh deich ballstat ura in Aontas meadaithe na hEorpa. Anois ta cuig stat is fiche againn ag taisteal le cheile ar bhealach na siochana agus an ratha. Le blianta beaga anuas ta cur amach nios mo ag muintir na hEireann ar shiochain agus ar rath na mar a bhi riamh roimhe seo. Naisiun faoi mhaise agus faoi bhlath ata againn, idir eacnamaiocht agus chultur; naisiun og ata ag forbairt go trean, il-chulturtha agus lan dochais. Is e an bhunchloch a bhfuil ar sochai chasmhar togtha air na na grupai pobail deonacha ata fuinniuil agus briomhar ar fud na tire. Is daoine muid a bhfuil an comhbha agus an tuiscint doibh siud ar an ghannchuid go smior ionainn.

Ag an am seo den bhliain, agus cuid mhor againn ag baint tairbhe as an rath agus an raidhse, cuimhnimid orthu siud a bhfuil an lamh chuidithe de dhith orthu le dul i ngleic leis an saol mar is ceart, agus tugaimid an cuidiu agus an cairdeas sin doibh.

Ta muid go mor faoi chomaoin acu siud ata ag obair ar son na siochana ar an oilean seo, agus a bhfuil moran bainte amach acu cheana fein. Siochain agus dea-thoil ata i dteachtaireacht na Nollag le dha mhile bliain. Is e mo ghui go ndeanfar beart de reir an bhriathair sin, go hairithe ag an staid chruogach seo de Phroiseas na Siochana. Go raibh se d'achmhainn againn teacht ar an mhuinin agus ar an chreideamh ata riachtanach chun an cneasu agus an athmhuintearas a thabhairt i gcrich.

Guim dea-chroi ar gach aon duine agaibh agus gra le tabhairt agus le glacadh. Oraibhse ata thios ag am seo na Nollag guim sos on bhroid, misneach agus tacaiocht cairde. Ta me cinnte go mbeidh Santa Claus fial flaithiuil lenar gcuid daoine oga, agus go mbeidh siad sin fial flaithiuil lena cheile chomh maith. Nach e sin croilar na Feile seo, go simpli - a bheith go maith da cheile agus an mor-chroi a chur in ait na feinspeise. Bhi clu agus cail riamh ar mhuintir na hEireann as croi na feile. Coinnimid an traidisiun sin beo um Nollaig, agus cuirimid siochain bhuan agus dea-thoil i reim - lochrann geal dochais i lar an leatroim.

Maire Mhic Ghiolla Iosa
Uachtaran na hEireann
________________________________________________
Christmas Greetings from President Mary McAleese

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.

As I begin a new term of office, it is my special privilege to extend heartfelt Christmas and New Year greetings to the great Irish family at home and abroad and to all Ireland's friends.

The past year was an exceptional one in Ireland when history placed us at the centre of the enlargement of the European Union, as hosts of that wonderful Day of Welcomes for the ten new member states. Now the citizens of the twenty-five partner states set out on a shared journey to a peaceful and prosperous future. And we in Ireland know more about peace and prosperity today than at any time in our past. This is a successful and achieving nation with a thriving economy and a vibrant culture. It is a growing nation, young, multicultural, a place of opportunity and real hope. The backbone of our strong civic society is and has always been a unique tradition of robust, energetic, caring communities built and sustained by voluntary effort. We are a people whose innate decency has inspired us always to look out for one another and to work to make sure no-one is left out or left behind.

This Christmas as many of us enjoy the benefits of our remarkable progress let us renew our commitment to one another and especially to those who are still struggling and for whom a helping hand could make the difference between enduring life and enjoying life in all its fullness. We owe a lot to those who continue to build peace on this island and whose efforts have transformed hearts and minds. The central message of Christmas has for two thousand years been a message of peace and goodwill to all humankind and so it is my fervent prayer that reflecting deeply on that message at this crucial time in the Peace Process, we may find the trust and the faith to complete this journey of healing and reconciliation.

I wish for each one of you a season of hospitality and of love both given and received. For those carrying burdens that threaten to overwhelm the joy of this season I hope that with courage and the support of friends you will find a space to let happiness in. I have no doubt that Santa Claus will be good to our marvellous children and that they in turn will be good to each other. And isn't that the simple essence of this great Feast, the exhortation to be good to one another, to fill the world with generosity instead of greed. The Irish have a legendary capacity for generosity - may each of us wherever we are honour that tradition this Christmastide and make it a time of lasting peace and goodwill, a beacon of hope in a very unequal world.

Mary McAleese
President of Ireland

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

 
Feeding a customer a line - the use of numbers to deceive in technology marketing

When you buy a PC there is often a list of numbers, with clock speed (number of cycles per second of the processor) displayed prominently. Many people followed this slavishly, when what really matters is real world performance. Because different chips work in different ways you could have the same performance out of a different chip running at half the speed of the latest Intel chip. The numbers are often meaningless, but provide salespeople and the amateur hour 'expert' of the neighbourhood with a reassuring pattter.

As technology has become more pervasive so has the spread of 'technical' specifications in product marketing. The New York Times has a great article about a man going out ot purchase a new television set here which shows the uselessness of 'speeds and feeds'. Note: the article cites the example of the Pentium 4 as specmanship, but chip speed had been used in error for years to claim a performance advantage of PCs over Macs.

As marketers, while technology companies stick to speeds and feeds they are forcing themselves into a commodity business. Does Proctor & Gamble publish washes whiter figures? No, despite some cleaner messages in their ads and marketing material it is emotional values, such as if you use Persil - you're a good Mum.

If you want to buy electronic goods I thought that the following advice would be good:
  • Write down what you need and stick to it
  • Do your home work, you don't have to subscribe to Which? now. Have a look at customer reviews on Amazon, epinions etc
  • When you find a product name and model number, search for it on Google groups to read feedback
  • Accept that as soon as you purchase your product a newer and better model will come out
  • Don't be too afraid of own brands, most consumer electtronics are made for well known brands by anonymous companies in Asia with the key components made by only a few suppliers. This has been going on for years.

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Putting the faith back into the mailman and a Japanese retail gem

The other day I had to go to the Royal Mail sorting office around the corner from my house to pick up a package. I showed my credit card as proof of signature and identity. I then went about my business, later that day before meeting some friends for a spot of networking. I realised my wallet was missing, having watched all the consumer watchdog programmes I immediately realised that some organised crime syndicate could be siphoning my coffers and running up my credit card bill. I immediately cancelled my cards, but thankfully no activity had taken place. I was more worried about getting my wallet back, as it was a limited edition black leather sports wallet by Stussy, which also had considerable sentimental value.

I retraced my steps but to no avail. I gott back home to find a package posted through my door: my wallet with all the cash and the now void cards. We see so much criticism of the Royal Mail, if you read some of the quality tabloids you would think it was staffed by the Cosa Nostra. I thought that I would write this positive story up for a change, nice one Bow sorting office!


Being a media-type I frequent Brewer Street in Soho a fair bit, I recently found a bit of a retail gem there. Arigato is a Japanese grocery store at 48-50 Brewer Street which has a fantastic selection of sushi, Miso soup pastes and sauces; all with too-cool-for-school packaging design. Here is a map.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

 

Pirate Christmas party part four

Pirate Christmas party part four

Picture courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

Ged Carroll and Kate Bonner desperately try and ignore the high-speed
rhinestone tassles of the belly dancer whizzing past the back of their
heads, in the vain hope that she will not ask them up to dance as the
circulation below their knees had disappeared. You have no idea how
interesting a chick pea casserole can become.


 

Pirate Christmas party part three

Pirate Christmas party part three

Managing director David Pincott, ignores the actions of the Christ
action figure and tries to banish his flu with the hookah.


 

Pirate Christmas party part two

Pirate Christmas party part two

Picture courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

Not content with the miracle of converting the previously heathen Alex
Crawshaw to the true way, the Christ action figure surprised veteran
pirate Kate Bonner by combating the evil habit of hookah smoking in a
battle royale that Godzilla would have been proud of. All allegations
that Ed Parkin had laced the smoking coal with Moroccan black is
strongly denied.


 

Pirate Christmas party part one

Pirate Christmas party part one

Pictures courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

After a hard day in the office, Pirate descended on Souk the Moroccan
restaurant in Litchfield Street for their Christmas party. This picture
features Alex Crawshaw after he got a Christ action figure in his life.
The contents of the pipe did NOT contribute to his new-found religious
zeal. A flu-ridden proprietor looks on in awe at the apparent change.


 

When The Last Sword Is Drawn

When The Last Sword Is Drawn

I was too hasty in drawing up my top ten of 2004, for I had not seen this film yet. When The Last Sword Is Drawn is a classic chambara (samurai sword-play) movie. It tells the complex story of a samurai, who unable to support his family on his meagre income as a school teacher and fencing master, turns his back on his clan and leaves to find work in Kyoto. Once in Kyoto he becomes embroiled in the battle between the declining Takagawa Shogunate and the Imperial Royal Family during the 19th century. Whilst the film does contain a lot of violence, it is used as a backdrop to the humanity of the main character and battles he faces between providing for his family and doing the honorable thing.

The plot is told through the recollections of others and finishes with the samurai's youngest daughter getting ready to leave Japan with her husband and set up a doctor's surgery in Manchuria (China).

Well worth a watch, the film is currently on limited release at the cinema, I saw it at the Odeon on Wardour Street.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

 
How to win pitches and influence people

Pete Gill of The Survey Shop sent through part four of their research into the market for PR agency services in the UK called Winners metrics and how to win more pitches.

Interesting take-outs include:

The five important elements to ensure that an agency is long listed for consideration were:
  • Reputation
  • Relevant previous experience
  • Getting to meet or know someone on the clientside
  • Being local
  • Having an understanding of the clients particular requirements
Getting shortlisted boiled down to:
  • Having impressive and well presented credentials
  • Relevant sector experience
  • Expertise
  • Proven track record
  • Being local
  • Contrary to popular wisdom in agency, when an incumbent is asked to repitch, the clients think that they have a fighting chance of retaining the business
  • Almost 80 per cent of winning agencies had at least one pre-pitch meeting with the client
  • A winning pitch team almost always had between two and four people in it, though this would not be full account team
  • Over 70 per cent of winning teams wheeled in the managing director or CEO to the pitch
  • Over 60 per cent of winning teams did not improve on the clients brief to them

Winning pitches had the following common elements:
  • Confidence in their ideas
  • Conveying that winning the account was of personal importance to them
  • Conveying the impression that their would be an efficient team to work with
  • Strategic thinking
  • Quality of the ideas presented
  • Developing a rapport
  • Responding to questions
  • Filling the detail on how they would acheive success
  • Asking questions
  • Previous sector expertise
The most important attributes to get across are confidence, commitment and efficiency. The traditional PR preconceptions of them being nice people or fun to do business with did not have a marked part of their responses, or maybe marketers just would not admit that wanting to be seen as professionals.

Money talks kind of: winning agencies fees were average for the shortlist rather than the cheapest.

I am looking forward to the next two parts of the research Client Perceptions, ROI, Evaluation and Achieving Satisfaction: Inhouse, Outsourced or Both?






Monday, December 20, 2004

 
Beyond EyeToy

EyeToy is Sony Computer Entertainment's highly successfully camera based gaming. A web cam-type device hooks into your PlayStaton and the software in compatible games monitors your movements in front of the camera and responds to them. Gaming has been opened up to the rest of us with so-so eye-joystick coordination.

Wild Devine have taken the concept of user interaction one step further, using biofeedback sensors on the fingers to control their game Journey to Wild Devine. So if you can meditate, you can play. If you can't, practice with the game will help you learn hw to meditate. Sounds very new age and would have been a big hit in the chillout rooms at raves in the early 1990s, but I think Wild Devine has the potential to take off. There is a Quicktime advert here that explains it all.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

 
Phantom of the opera

I was fortunate to get a free ticket to see the Phantom of the opera at the Odeon Leicester Square. It is not the usual kind of film that I would go to see, which made the whole process that much more interesting. The film itself was visually stunning, beautifully shot with rich sets, costumes and visual trickery. The plot was held together by the flashbacks of a decrepid hero to his youth, rather than telling the story straight; and wasn't any better for it. It was refreshing to see soap starlet Jennifer Ellison with her clothes on for a change.

Webber's score doesn't weather the years that well, parts of it sounding like listening to Queen as their most pompous whilst tripping your box off on some bad acid. I managed to to catch the old MGM standard Seven Brides for Seven Brothers whilst on the treadmill at the gym, which proved to be a useful comparison during that dead slot in TV scheduling.

With Phantom almost all the dialogue was song, the old MGM musicals kept the music interspersed with dialogue, but not our Andrew. When I left the cinema they were filming audience testamonials of the film, so expect a big marketing push and the film lingering at the multiplex for quite some time.


Overall it was a worthwhile experience, more so if you could turn the sound down, but if I had only 20GBP and had to chose between Phantom and the Layer Cake on DVD, the Phantom is going down.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

 

Chatterbox

Chatterbox

Picture courtesy of Motorola

The San Jose Mercury has an interesting article on the 'new' addition of mobile chat for young people facilitated by the Motorola A630 phone pictured. This provides a mini keyboard and phone all in one. Despite initial appearances the phone does not have anyway near as much
features as a Treo or Symbian smartphone such as calendar or data organisation.

The information about the price plan is also interesting, by using even a cheap but well designed phone, the cellular service provider can increase the revenue spend of the customer by an extra 240USD per year. In Europe, young mobile users have adopted these technologies already without being 'spoon fed' with a QWERTY keyboard, partily due to the longer term popularity of SMS.

T-Mobile charges 4.99USD a month for unlimited access to e-mail and WAP browsing. There's a separate plan for short text messages and IM: 2.99USD a month for 20 messages, or 6.99USD a month for 100 messages, with each IM sent and received counting as one message. There's also an option for unlimited e-mail, WAP and text/IM messaging at 20USD a month. Any of these plans come on top of whatever voice plan you select.


Friday, December 17, 2004

 
Top Ten Films of 2k4

In homage to my friend Jonny's blog here's my top ten films of 2004 in no particular order:
You may think that there were better films in 2004, but I didn’t see them so they can’t be.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

 
Richard Dimbleby Lecture

The annual Richard Dimbleby lecture is one my favourite BBC institutions. James Dyson, this years speaker took a leaf from Will Hutton's The State We're In, lamenting the distruction of the ecology that supported the manufacturing industry in the UK - such as sub contractors in metal working and coatings that helped him invent the Ballbarrow in the 1970s. Dyson touched on his departure from the board of the Design Museum.

Dyson points out that many of the UK's peers like the US and Germany still have a manufacturing capability that is much greater than the UK.

He debunks a number of commonly held preconceptions:
  • Engineering is in the past - wrong technology is the future, for economic processes and making good the mistakes of the past
  • The 18th & 19th century were the golden age of manufacturing - what about Sony, Apple, microchips and the car?
  • Britain once led the industrial world and know how to make things better - tell that to the US, the Swiss and the Germans
  • Britain is a nation of inventors more creative than anywhere else - so why are James Dyson, Jonathan Ives and Trevor Bayliss news? Because they are the exception rather than the norm
Interesting statistics
  • Only three of the top ten British companies are service companies
  • The only service company in the worlds ten largest firms is Walmart
  • One in seven UK jobs are still in manufacturing and they account for two thirds of UK exports
The transcript of Dyson's speech can be found here (Adobe Acrobat or Apple Preview required).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

 
Digital Downtime

My friend Ian who is an evangelist for all things mobile has posted some comments on the impact that more connectivity has on extending working hours. I agree with Ian about the enslavement of employees by Blackberry. I would also add that the speed of response could also affect the quality of the response as some people feel compelled to respond as fast they recieve messages.

One of my business acquaintances compared his new Blackberry to having a crack habit, Blackberrys are even more socially disruptive than a mobile phone, as they respond to both calls and emails. To use a workaholic cliche, it is even easier to bring the laptop to the beach when it slips easily into your pocket.

When I use my Nokia smartphone, I have my emails download but do not have reply set up, thus I can satisfy my own curiousity, but still save train journeys for the valuable commodity of thinking time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

The Layer Cake

This is the hard bitten crime novel of 90's underworld London that the movie was based on. However the book is worth reading because the plot is similar but different to the film. I won't go into too much depth because that would spoil it for you, but suffice to say its a great read. The book doesn't have the slick quality of the film, primarily because it has more depth. From the thought that has gone into it, one may wonder as to how J.J. Connolly got his knowledge. Having worked and lived in clubland during the late 1980s and early 1990s the type of characters Connolly describes brought me right back to my early and mid twenties. Get out and buy a paperback copy, you can pick it up cheap at Fopps the music and DVDs retailer or Amazon.

The Layer Cake


Monday, December 13, 2004

 
Marketing New Years Resolutions

Jack Morton's 360 degree newsletter had an interesting article here. A summary of the must do items for marketers in 2005 is listed below:
  • Marketers will look at and do campaigns that cut out the media middle man in their relationships with consumers
  • Marketers and agencies will have a more positive problem solving mindset - problems are opportunities
  • Marketers will focus on results and ignore the fluff
  • Marketers will experiment and innovate, having obtained management buy-in to go 'off the farm'
From a PR perspective it means that media relations is likely to be less important, but campaigns and stunts that hit key influencers are of increased value. PR agencies that have expertise in 'underground marketing' techniques and client trust are likely to suceed.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

 
The Corporation

I watched The Corporation in the Odeon on Wardour Street. The film is a good primer covering extreme neo conservative beliefs represented by Canada's Fraser Institute and those of the anti-globalisation movements. The usual suspects appear from Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky to Michael Moore.

It started with a use of graphics and footage that would not have been out of place in an MTV film, with fast edits and paradoxical overlay of audio and video components to increase impact, but it was when it used specific case studies that it managed to hammer its message through from allegations of IBM's intrinsic involvement with Hitler's final solution, clothing sweatships, to drug and chemical scandals.

The most discomforting aspect I found was the section with commentary by child psychiatry expert Susan E. Linn to the advertising and media buyers use of 'pester power' as an agent of persuasion was quite chilling; particularly as it accuses marketers of exploiting developmental vulnerabilities in young children. This hit home hard probably because a few hours earlier I was playing host to one of my best friends and her two pre-school infants. It did not help that the advertising industry was defended by Lucy Hughes a vice president at media buyers Initiative Media. There was not an adequate right of response, recognised by the comments from the audiences as they left. The most telling behaviour of the audience is that they broke into applause as the end credits ran on screen.

Synopsis of Nag Factor research

MarketResearch C'mon, Mom! Kids Nag Parents to Chuck E. Cheese's

It's one thing to know the effect of kids' nagging. Or that the parents they nag respond in four different buying styles. The key to savvy marketing, however, is knowing how to leverage that information, gleaned from the second wave of The Nag Factor study conducted by Western Initiative Media.

Since the first wave of the study, which Selling to Kids told you about last year, the research company has looked at how nagging kids affect purchases of apparel, quick-service restaurants and place-based entertainment.

The study "reinforced our intuition that kids are critical to the whole purchasing process," says Dick Huston, EVP at Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza and a Western client. For example, the study found that 41 percent of the parents who took their kids to an entertainment facility - like Chuck E. Cheese's - did so only because their kids asked. That confirmed the company's strategy to direct all of its broadcast ads to kids. "One of our cardinal rules is to have kids in our commercials, casting older kids that the audience will want to emulate," Huston says.

The ads attract 8-year-olds with fun and empowerment themes, demonstrating how kids can master games and rides and win prizes. "They can pick games and sometimes do better at them than their parents," says Huston. The ads aim at the restaurants' younger target - kids ages 3 to 8 - by featuring the Chuck E. Cheese mouse character.

Pushovers or not

The study found that the way kids' nagging translates into purchasing decisions depends in part on the type of parents they have:

* Indulgers are impulsive buyers who can't say "no" to their kids' requests. One-third of all parents are indulgers. They are the second most affluent category and are very busy.

* Bare Necessities resist their kids' nagging and advertising. They're the oldest, richest and most conservative group. Another onethird of parents fall into this category. They interact the least with their kids and expect to make all purchase decisions.

* Conflicted are single and/or divorced parents. Trying to be moderate, but guilt-driven, they often cave.

* Kids' Pals like to play as much as their kids do. They're easy to advertise to - just show parents playing with kids. They're the smallest and least affluent parental group.

Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants probably appeal more to Kids' Pals than other parents who are most likely to want to play games with their children, but Huston says the parental types research hasn't changed his marketing style because he targets kids, not parents.

How to reach each type

Brainstorming on the spot, however, Huston says that "if a marketer were underperforming with kids of Bare Necessities parents, it seems to me you would go in on the value end, focus on any educational aspects, and stress values and benefits."

Huston's own TV campaign contains benefits capable of cracking the tough Bare Necessities group because it focuses on "what did you do to deserve" a visit to Chuck E. Cheese's. In one ad, a boy is promised a visit if he cleans his room. The animated mouse character shows up to help him do it quickly.

In another ad, a kid has to practice piano, "something kids really don't like," Huston says, but the mouse arrives to turn the kid into a rock-and-roll piano player. In still another, the character helps a kid walk the dog to earn the treat. The idea of rewards for positive behavior is reinforced with an in-store frequency program.

Nag style counts too

It's smart to show the benefits of a product even if you're talking only to kids, because Western's research also found that that if kids nag with a sense of urgency or persuasion rather than with whiny persistence, they're more likely to get what they want. So a benefit-rich commercial gives kids the material they need to make their case.

One size doesn't fit all

The study also indicates "how you talk to parents through kids," says Cheryl Idell, chief strategic officer for Western. The four styles of parents show it's difficult to find one message that reaches everybody. It may not take different ads to reach all types, but it may take different copy points.

Indulgers, for example, would respond best to kids' arguments that a product is something the kid really needs because their parents have so little time, she says.

Busy Indulgers are less likely to go to time-consuming theme parks, but a QSR (quick service restaurant), the second most naggedfor purchase after toys, may be a perfect balance because it's convenient, fast and saves time on preparing a meal.

Among QSRs, 66% of surveyed kids had eaten at a McDonald's - named most frequently - in the 30 days preceding the study. Of those, a full 56% of kids went because they asked to go.

Says Huston: "I don't want to go so far as to have kids nag - it's an extreme word - but I do want them to ask for it. We know these are treat occasions and that there are a million choices."

Kids are asking for it. He says sales for the first quarter of 1999 were up 24% over the year ago period for the Dallas-based chain of 330 restaurants. Reported 1998 revenues were $379 million. (Cheryl Idell, Lucy Hughes, Western Initiative Media, 310/854-4880; Dick Huston, Chuck E. Cheese's, 972/258-5506)

COPYRIGHT 1999 Phillips Publishing International, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

Saturday, December 11, 2004

 
Why Apple is not worth 100USD a share
Recently analysts at Piper Jaffray raised their expections on the earnings of Apple shares to 100USD from the 61 that they traded at the time. Now I am a fan of Apple equipment and have had an iPod for two years and a Mac of one sort or another for 15 years, but the iPod bubble just doesn't seem to stack up on its own. Business Week has a very balanced and articulate article about the dangers and the pitfalls from drinking the Piper Jaffray kool-aid about the iPod dividend.

Rivals are stalking its consumer-electronics star, and history shows its strategy still has old weaknesses. But catching Jobs & Co. won't be easy Apple Computer's (AAPL ) trendy, minimalist stores are jam-packed this holiday season as iPods seem to be on everyone's wish list. But shoppers aren't the only ones buying. Wall Street analysts' price targets for Apple's stock are soaring as high as $77 to $100. As of Dec. 6, the stock was trading at around $64. This is the same Apple that opened the year at $21.28. And it's all because of one cool little music player.

While Apple is cruising along, other computer outfits are frantically trying to crack the consumer-electronics nut. Dell (
DELL ), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) and, yes, even Gateway (GTW ) are all pushing new products to take advantage of the much-hyped information technology and consumer-electronic convergence. The idea is that one day soon, Internet capability from the study at home will merge with all the movies, music, pictures, and entertainment elsewhere in the house, resulting in one big, shared digital database. And everyone wants to be right in the middle of it.
  • TRULY INTEGRATED. In the must-have department, Apple's iPod is the only clear winner in this computer-to-electronics migration. Sure, Dell and HP have bested Apple at a game it dominated before, the PC market. But the iPod's success might have them thinking: "What's Apple's secret sauce, and can we steal the recipe?"Analysts agree a mix of ingredients has clicked for Apple. Some of those might spice things up for Dell or HP, but most are pretty unique to Apple -- at least for now. For starters, Apple's music products are truly integrated -- the outfit makes the hardware and the iTunes service and software. Other hardware makers are relying on Microsoft (MSFT ) and other third parties for software and service, so they can't control the whole customer experience.
  • VALUABLE INNOVATION. That's one advantage that the Dells and HPs of the world aren't likely to be able to match. "It's hard for a bunch of partners to put together something as smooth as that," says Roger Kay, technology analyst at IDC, a market research firm in Framingham, Mass.Also, the folks at One Infinite Loop were innovative. They looked at the sleepy market for digital music players, where existing players could hold a CD or two of songs at most, and made a device that could hold at least 1,000 tunes. While the music industry and the rest of tech were bickering over copyright issues, Apple took digital music mainstream.The outfit is big enough to effectively market a consumer product, but small enough that one product can really shift the needle on sales, making gutsy, innovative moves worthwhile, analysts say. Dell, on the other hand, typically waits for a market to be proven, then comes in with the cheap, skillful execution. "They don't want to develop the market," says Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis at the research concern NPD Group. "They want to wait until the volumes are there, then come after you."
  • PAST MISTAKES. Apple's intrinsic cool factor can't be underestimated either. Being cool isn't exactly something you can plan, but Apple has backed it up with its unique designs, marketing savvy, and cult figure Steve Jobs as CEO. And it has put almost all of that muscle behind the iPod and the iTunes music service, downplaying its languishing computer business -- a tact that most analysts agree has paid off. Apple can also afford to advertise and build lush stores because as a seller of premium products, it isn't in a price war.Sound familiar? It should. Apple had all this going for it in the heyday of its PC business. Then it lost the bulk of that market to systems based on Microsoft's Windows software. Today, Apple has just 2% share of a business it once dominated.Jobs & Co.'s reluctance to partner, create a more affordable PC, and generally be more Dell-like -- a pattern the outfit seems to be repeating in the digital music business -- are the reasons most industry folks say it lost to Windows. So don't declare Apple the winner quite yet in digital music. The other guys have plenty of time to catch up on quality and undercut Apple on price. After all, it has happened before.
  • COPYING SUCCESS. Competitors already are stealing some plays from the Apple playbook. Most have to do with branding. For a long time, Apple's ads have done something that those by Intel (INTC ), Microsoft, Dell, and HP haven't, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group in San Jose: They show customers having fun with the product. "It's a basic marketing skill, and it drives me nuts that the others don't get it," he says. HP is starting to. It's reselling Apple's iPod rather than competing head on, co-opting even the ubiquitous commercials of black silhouettes dancing with white players. In the most recent quarter, HP announced it had already rocketed to No. 2 among digital music players as a result.Beyond that, HP has been trying to boost the cool quotient of its cameras and photo-printing products with a series of stylish commercials featuring young attractive hipsters and rock music. That's important, since people view their cameras as something more personal than your average computer peripheral, Baker says."HP is the one [company] that seems to get if you want to be successful, copying Apple isn't a bad way to go," notes Enderle. If it works, expect HP to start similarly branding its other consumer products, such as a new home theater that's generating buzz among analysts.
  • FAMILIAR MOVES. Dell is often regarded as the least Apple-like. While it regularly advertises its PCs and servers, its new line of consumer devices has enjoyed little marketing. And unlike Apple, which built a chain of splashy stores to display its wares, Dell is committed to kiosks and direct sales online that have made it the computer industry's king of cost efficiency.That said, Dell has pulled one very Apple-ish move. According to Enderle, it now outspends Apple in product placement in movies and on TV, even reversing its icon on the front of its laptop so that it's displayed right side up when the device is open.While Dell and HP are undoubtedly powerhouses, Gateway can't be counted out. Several months ago, it pulled out of some consumer-electronics lines like digital cameras. But it still sells flat-panel TVs and in late October started pushing a new digital music player, a product that has been getting good reviews. It actually has something Apple doesn't yet -- a mini-player with a color screen. And Gateway, with its highly recognizable cow-patterned boxes, still has a strong, recognizable brand.
  • PIECEMEAL TACTICS. If any of the three companies mimicked Apple's strategy beyond marketing, it would be a departure from the fundamental ways they do business -- and from what has made them successful in PCs. Most likely, they'll partner and connect digital music technology in a piecemeal fashion.That may not be such a bad thing. Don't forget, Jobs & Co.'s way hasn't always won out. Apple skeptics are likely whispering to each other, "Just wait."

Friday, December 10, 2004

 
The Road to Jericho

Granada are shooting a 1950's period drama around the corner from my house. The have a number of spotlights suspended on cranes making Tredegar Square look like Prenton Park on match night. The programme is called Jericho.

 
Most Wanted

Here's a list of some of my most wanted records, if you have any on original 12" vinyl lets talk:

Tim Curry - Paradise Garage
Funk Masters - Love Money
NYC Peech Boys - Come On, Come On
MFSB - Love is the message
Larry Levan - Real love
Man Friday - Winners
Clash - Magnificent Dance
Manuel Gottsching - E2E4
Inner Life - Ain't no mountain high enough
D Train - Keep on
Lace - Can't play around
Diana Ross - Once in the morning
Chantal Curtis - Get another lover
Chocolate - It's that East Street beat
Powerline - Journey
First Choice - Dr Love
Inner Life - Make it last forever
South Shore Commission - Free man
Level 3 - Central line
Blackbyrds - Rock Creek park
Pleasure - Take a chance
Patti Labelle - The spirits in me
Blackwell - Boogie down and mess around
NYC Peech Boys - Life is something special
Phreak - Weekend
Class Action - Weekend
Harold Melvin - Don't leave me this way
Thelma Houston - I'm here again
Extra - Haven't been funked enough
Liquid Liquid - Cavern
Atmosfear - Dancing in outter space
Affinity - Don't go away
Nu Shooz - I can't wait
Art of Noise - Moments in love
Eddie Grant - Living on the frontline
Nile Rogers - Stay out of the light
Tom Tom Club - Genius of love
Tamiko Jones - Can't live without your love
Level 42 - Starchild
Chaka Khan - Tear it up
Chaka Khan - I'm every woman
TC Curtis - You should have known better
Michelle Wallace - Happy days
First Choice - Double cross
ESG - Moody
Visual - The music got me
Gwen Guthrie - Padlock
Martin Acuse - Disco circus
Dee Dee Bridgewater - Bad for me
Two tons of fun - I got feeling
Dinosaur L - Go bang
Sylvester - I need you
Sylvester - Over and Over
Cultural Vibe - Ma Foom Bey
Serious Intention - You don't know
Phylis Nelson - I like you
Tammy Lucas - Hey boy
Jungle Wonz - Time marches on
Ten City - Devotion
Ce Ce Rogers - Someday
Dhar Braxton - Jump back
Liz Torres - Can't get enough
Touch - Without you
JM Silk - I can't turn around
Carl Bean - I was born this way
Santana - Jingo
Karen Young - Hot shot
War - City country city
Eddie Kendricks - Girl you need a change of heart
Salsoul Orchestra - Oooh, I love it
Val Young - If you should ever be lonely
Donald Byrd - Love has come around
Hamilton Bohannon - Let's start the dance
Imagination - Change
Chaka Khan - I know you, I like you
Salsoul Orchestra - You're just the right size
Phyllis Hyman - You know how to love me
Labelle - What can I do for you
Yello - Bostich
Pink Floyd - The big gig in the sky
Blaze - Whatcha gonna do
Blackbyrds - Walking in rhythm
MFSB - Love is the message
Atlantic Starr - Circles
Montana Sextet - Heavy vibes
Hugh Masekela - Don't got lose it baby
Powerline - Double journey
Donald Byrd - Love has come around
TW Funkmasters - Love money
Inner Life - Caught up (in a one night love affair)
Inner Life - Moment in my life
Taana Gardner - Work that body
Ava Cherry - You never loved me
Billy Frasier - Billy Who
Sparque - Let's go dancing
Logg - You've got that something
Roy Ayres - Running away
Dinosaur L - Go bang
Quartz - Beyond the clouds
Eddy Grant - Time warp
Love Deluxe - Here comes that sound
Dr Armando's 2nd Ave Rhumba VV Band - Deputy of love
Machine - There but for the grace of god
Harry Thurman - Underwater
Conversation - Let's do it
Loleatta Holloway - Seconds
Ecstacy, Passion and Pain - Touch and go
Stephanie Mills - Put your own body in it
Sergio Mendez - I'll tell you
Made in USA - Melodies
Teena Marie - Behind the groove
Slave - Just a touch of love
Prince - Sexy dancer
Imagination - Buring up
Sylvester - Sell my soul
Tony Cook - On the floor
Patti LaBelle - Music is my way of life
Cheryl Lynn - You saved my day
Tantra - Mother Africa
Diana Ross - The boss
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - Bad Luck
GQ - Disco nights
TZ - Got the hots for you
Kat Mandu - The Break
Alphonse Mouzon - Everybody get down
Bruce Johnson - Pipeline
Mikki - Dance lover
David Joseph - You can't hide
Persia - Inch by inch
The Strikers - Inch by inch
Touche - Just like a doorknob
The Jammers - Be mine tonight
Skatt Brothers - Walk the night
Ashford and Simpson - It seems to hang on
Trussel - I love it
Paul Simpson Connecton - Use me, lose me
Musique - Push push in the bush
Unlimited Touch - In the middle
Fonda Rae - Over like a fat rat
Tasha Thomas - Hot buttered boogie
Debbie Jacobs - Don't you want my love
Gayle Adams - Your love is a lifesaver
Weeks and Company - Rock your world
Two Man Sound - Que Tal America
First Choice - Love Thang
Yello Bostich
Dee Dee Sharp Gamble - Breaking and entering
Mary Wells - Gigolo
Lipps Inc - Funky town
Clark Sisters - You brought the sunshine
Diana Ross - Love Hangover
The Originals - Down to love town
Candido - Thousand finger man
Skipworth and Turner - Thinking about your love
Positive Funk - We go the funk
Change - Paradise
Gino Soccio - Dancer
THP Orchestra - Too hot for love
Atlantic Starr - Circles
Klein & MBO - Dirty talk
Gwen Guthrie - Should have been you
South Shore Commission - Free man
Sinnamon - Thanks to you
D-Train - You're the one for me
The Peech Boys - Don't make me wait
Z Factor - Fantasy
World Premiere - Share the night
Jump St. Man - B-cause
Ragtyme - I can't stay away
T-Coy - Carino
Julian Jonah - Jealousy & Lies

Thursday, December 09, 2004

 
Memories of Audrey

Bob Cringely wrote an interesting article about the need for internet appliances such as 3Com's Audrey to provide internet access for the slow adopters and laggards. internet appliance were orginally muted as an idea by Larry Ellison of Oracle as part of his network computing vision.

They failed because of the topsy turvy economics that have driven PC growth, though one could argue that the iMac incorporate the spirit if not the technical specification of an internet appliance. Bob's discussion reminded me of the small time I worked on 3Com.

I got put on the Palm pan European PR account when the company had been spun out from 3Com and Audrey was on the horizon, my predecessor worked on Palm as part of the 3Com portfolio. Part of the reasons discussed internally for this was that Audrey had the potential to eat Palm's lunch. Indeed Palm went on to buy Be Systems, who provided the software and expertise behind Sony's eVilla internet appliance. Now PalmOne has different things to worry about, like how to stop Microsoft's kamikaze antics in the handheld and mobile space. It is interesting that PalmSource has had to go and purchase a mobile Linux company due to client demand.

 
Shoot the creative

CNet's News.com have been doing a special report on the resurgence of Japanese companies as innovators in consumer electronics and technology. One of the sections was called 'Images from a neon culture'. Obviously, the picture editor hadn't been briefed properly, with the notable exception of a camera shop in downtown Tokyo, grey was was the norm. Get with the programme!



Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 
From Popbitch

In addition to providing the latest celebrity gossip, the UK media industry's favourite email newsletter also has tips for the seasoned traveller.

Rough guide to hookers: Singapore's four floors of whores

Singapore, the squeaky clean city of South East Asia, has 'The Four Floors of Whores', on
Orchard Road (equivalent of Oxford St.) These whore houses are covered up as bars and clubs
but everyone knows what they are. They range from Country Jamboree (with a Western theme) to the higher-class Top 10 on the fourth floor.

After it shuts at 3am the area outside is known as the Wall of Shame - for girls who haven't
yet pulled. Mainly the trannies.


 
Life, liberty and the pursuit of progress

Following on from my own recent post on Literature and Chemistry, I saw this interesting op-ed (opinion piece) in the New York Times on Sunday. You can read at the New York Times Online here.

Fly Me to the Moon
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

f all the irresponsible aspects of the 2005 budget bill that the Republican-led Congress just passed, nothing could be more irresponsible than the fact that funding for the National Science Foundation was cut by nearly 2 percent, or $105 million.

Think about this. We are facing a mounting crisis in science and engineering education. The generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who were spurred to get advanced degrees by the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik and the challenge by President John Kennedy to put a man on the moon is slowly retiring.

But because of the steady erosion of science, math and engineering education in U.S. high schools, our cold war generation of American scientists is not being fully replenished. We traditionally filled the gap with Indian, Chinese and other immigrant brainpower. But post-9/11, many of these foreign engineers are not coming here anymore, and, because the world is now flat and wired, many others can stay home and innovate without having to emigrate.

If we don't do something soon and dramatic to reverse this "erosion," Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told me, we are not going to have the scientific foundation to sustain our high standard of living in 15 or 20 years.

Instead of doubling the N.S.F. budget - to support more science education and research at every level - this Congress decided to cut it! Could anything be more idiotic?

If President Bush is looking for a legacy, I have just the one for him - a national science project that would be our generation's moon shot: a crash science initiative for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision. Ah, you say, nice idea, Friedman, but what does it have to do with your subject - foreign policy?

Everything! You give me an America that is energy-independent and I will give you sharply reduced oil revenues for the worst governments in the world. I will give you political reform from Moscow to Riyadh to Tehran. Yes, deprive these regimes of the huge oil windfalls on which they depend and you will force them to reform by having to tap their people instead of oil wells. These regimes won't change when we tell them they should. They will change only when they tell themselves they must.

When did the Soviet Union collapse? When did reform take off in Iran? When did the Oslo peace process begin? When did economic reform become a hot topic in the Arab world? In the late 1980's and early 1990's. And what was also happening then? Oil prices were collapsing.

In November 1985, oil was $30 a barrel, recalled the noted oil economist Philip Verleger. By July of 1986, oil had fallen to $10 a barrel, and it did not climb back to $20 until April 1989. "Everyone thinks Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviets," said Mr. Verleger. "That is wrong. It was the collapse of their oil rents." It's no accident that the 1990's was the decade of falling oil prices and falling walls.

If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, he would dry up revenue for terrorism; force Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to take the path of reform - which they will never do with $45-a-barrel oil - strengthen the dollar; and improve his own standing in Europe, by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute to the war on terrorism and America's future by becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. "This is not just a win-win," said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. "This is a win-win-win-win-win."

Or, Mr. Bush can ignore this challenge and spend the next four years in an utterly futile effort to persuade Russia to be restrained, Saudi Arabia to be moderate, Iran to be cautious and Europe to be nice.

Sure, it would require some sacrifice. But remember J.F.K.'s words when he summoned us to go to the moon on Sept. 12, 1962: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

Summoning all our energies and skills to produce a 21st-century fuel is George W. Bush's opportunity to be both Nixon to China and J.F.K. to the moon - in one move.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

 

MickeyTosh - The Strand, London, UK

My contribution in glorious technicolour courtesy of Flickr.com to get the picture up here.

 
Mickeytosh
Mickeytosh is an art project based on photographs taken of the public featuring the Mickeytosh logo, an amalgam of Disney and the Apple logo.
You can see my contribution here, taken from my employers old offices above The Strand.

 
Pixar's last Disney film
Apple has posted a teaser trailer for next years Pixar movie Cars (Quicktime required). This will be the last Pixar film made under the Disney distribution deal. Disney will soldier on with the Toy Story franchise themselves.

 
RIAA, piracy, Gnutella - whatever dude

Some of the technology and digital press have picked up on a report that shows musicians not having the same missionary zeal as the recording industry to stamp out file sharing. You can read the original report here.

A number of artists like rap rebel Chuck D have come out in favour of the technology saying that the business needs to change rather than trying to hold back the technological tide, the survey shows that most of the artists surveyed are neutral to positive in the opinions on file sharing. I guess it means the RIAA will be able to bring out Metallica and er some other dudes to act as industry mouthpieces on their behalf.

Monday, December 06, 2004

 
Dow-n but not out

I felt for an ex-colleague Chris Huntley who is now the financial press contact for Dow Chemical Co. Dow picked up some negative karma through picking up Union Carbide. A hoaxer pretending to be from Dow was shown to apologise for the Bhopal accident, a potentially huge liability with an adverse implications for shareholders.

Back in the day when I got my first taste of PR, I worked during the summer holidays at the Point of Ayr gas terminal run by BHP, Chris headed up the communications team there. It was facility that demonstrated a number of innovations bringing down the cost of running 'marginal' oil and gas fields. We hosted visitors from Russia that BHP wanted to befriend, local residents unhappy on us being neighbours with their mobile homes, school parties and influencers in the community like Probus groups.

Both of us had moved on and lost contact, though the internet is a great thing for keeping an eye on the progress of others.



 
New Ambient Advertising

I am not too sure if this should count as a case of good corporate citizenship or a exploitative new low in the world of marketing and advertising. According to a newspaper report Ben & Jerry's the hippie founded ice-cream brand owned by Unilever has struck up an arrangement with nuns who help the homeless, drug addicted and prostitutes in Amsterdam. Amongst this help will be warm clothing WITH Ben & Jerry branding.

The nuns have done very well since they have managed to secure help for people who would be a deeply unpopular sell to most corporate sponsors. Children and animal charities have a better appeal to a wider demographic, so B&J could have done a deal with a donkey sanctuary instead.

You can read the piece in the Louisville Channel here

Kudos to Robert Loch of the Mr Greens Forum on SoFlow.com

I would hope that the fact that heroin addicts often consume ice-cream as an easy to eat, easy to hold down food substitute had nothing to do with Ben & Jerry's decision.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

 
Santa's Bag

Battery supremos Duracell have conducted a Europe-wide survey on the most popular toys this Christmas. Full details can be found here.

The report is available as a PDF, the most interesting part of the report is the survey insights section which highlighted some cultural trends amongst children and the differences across Europe. I have summarised these below

  • Actions is the strongest draw for boys with radio controlled cars and race tracks
  • Fashion and beauty is the big draw for girls - the Smoby Star Party CD which allowed girls to become a singer a la Pop Idol or Fame Academy was a winner in this category
UK:USA
  • The UK was considered to have consumption patterns closer to the US than Europe
  • More toys were bought and more money spent in the UK than other European countries

Northern versus Southern Europe
  • Northern children prefer being outdoors taking part in sport
  • Southern children prefer to play indoors with computer games and watching television
  • Southern children receive a higher amount of pocket money than Northern children, but Northern children start receiving pocket money at a younger age
  • Northern children discover new toys through multiple channels: word of mouth, television, magazines, print advertisements, retail displays and catalogues
  • Southern children primarily discover new toys through television
  • Southern parents put a greater emphasis on educational value when purchasing toys




 
Literature and Chemistry

First of all I was distressed to read in the Emmigrant.ie BookView Ireland newsletter that the works of Dan Brown dominated four of the top five best selling paperback fiction list:

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown - Corgi
2. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown - Corgi
3. Digital Fortress, Dan Brown - Corgi
4. Deception Point, Dan Brown - Corgi
5. PS, I Love You, Cecelia Ahern ­ HarperCollins

The Da Vinci Code was a good novel in a Doc Savage pulp fiction kind of way, Angels and Demons was a much poorer effort. My fellow countrymen have prided themselves for hundreds of years for being a nation of scholars, it seems no longer to be the case. If you are going to read pulp fiction, read the original stuff for free by downloading it from Blackmask.

From BBC's current affairs flagship programme on November, 30. Scientists may be able to save the world - but who will save our scientists?

If Exeter University proceeds with its plans to close its chemistry department, it would be the fourth university chemistry department to close in just over a year. It has caused prominent scientists to call for the government, industry and universities to do more to safeguard the departments and do more to build expertise in science.

Our science editor Susan Watts will be asking what we are doing wrong, and why we appear to be losing out to Asian countries and their booming science sectors.

Maybe my own personal experiences here will shed some light on things. The universities are only reaping the bitter harvest of seeds sown 20 - 30 years ago.

When my Dad first came to the UK, there was chemical plants and industry that ran up the bank of the west bank Mersey from Birkenhead docks to Runcorn. I grew up with the inspection lights like a cloud of fireflies, burning flares and silver pipe cathedrals as much a part of my childhood as Hanna Barbera cartoons.

By the time I got a job in the chemical industry in the late 1980s the industry was in an advanced state of decline. As Thatcher's Britain mutated from a manufacturing economy to a services economy the ecosystem of 'strategic' industries was unwound through irresistable economic forces. I got out following a redundancy, cashed in my pension plans to date and went to university whilst there was still a grant of 1,000 GBP or so to study marketing.

My old chemistry teacher said that the wealth of a manufacturing country can be measured by the amount of sulphuric and hydrochloric acid it consumes, yet four years ago the UK government had to step in to stop the last chlorine plant in the UK closing down at Rock Savage in Runcorn.

I've back to all the sites I had worked at in the chemical industry over five years in the late 80's and early 90's:
  • Freeman Chemicals in Deeside Industrial Park - on the site is a new building for BASF
  • Briggs Oil Eastham Refinery - the site has gone smaller and is now owned by Nynas AB
  • Spectrum Adhesive Coaters in Croft Industrial Estate - there is a grassy knoll were 100 people once worked
  • Corning Optical Fibres in Deeside Industrial Park - the area is covered in scrub grass from the surrounding marshy land and fenced off with a chain link fence. No trace remains of the five storey high clean rooms or any of the other buildings
They were all old dirty jobs, I remember:
  • Showering for an hour in the evening to try and get the sulphurous smell out of my skin when I worked around high sulphur Venezuelan crude oil products
  • Coughing my guts up when the feathering at the edge of my mask didn't work when handling maliec anhydride dust
  • Seeing a bottle full of nitrogen gas under pressure take off like a torpedo across a main road when it fell out of a lorry crane sling hit the floor and fractured
  • Watching a smoke stack burst into flames completely out of control sending an anvil of black smoke into the air
But without the ecosystem there it is a lot harder to develop the industries of tomorrow in biotechnology, advanced materials and pharmaceuticals. This isn't a problem that is unique to the chemical sector, look at engineering, electronics etc.

Why do chemistry as a career?

If it was too important, why does it pay so badly, graduate industrial chemists traditionally have been paid much less than other professionals such as accountants. The work can be pretty nasty. I was not well paid when I worked in the sector, but with overtime I could take home more than someone I worked alongside who had a doctorate in chemistry. Not surprising when I was asked would I like to pay for myself to study for Royal Society of Chemistry qualifications I said no (ok and the whole dance music scene was too much of a draw)! The kids know the score, they are voting with their feet and who can blame them.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

 
Heavy Rotation

Some classy joints from Flying and some value vinyl from HMV

XL Recordings have repressed some records from the golden age of the label before they lost the plot with Badly Drawn Boy
  • Numatic - hard times (XL) ragga breakbeat classic, much classier than the 'outta space' Prodigy stuff
  • Dance Conspiracy - dub war(XL) haunting sax line and five mixes that are so all over the place style wise it is handy to keep in the box "nobody move, nobody move, nobody move, nobody get hurt"
Back so some of the tosh that XL sell now, Orb wannabes Lemon Jelly have a sweet 10 inch ep with Stay with me being very playable, unfortunately the cutting engineer bunched the grooves way too close leaving a great big blank bit in the middle. It means that record doesn't sound as good as it could and is more likely to skip or jump when being queued up on the turntable.
  • Afro Medusa - Pasilada (Jellybean Soul) house grooves, spanish vocal quality cut.
  • De la Soul - Magic Number remix ep (Tommy Boy) reissue worth having for the Chad Jackson remix of Eye Know that can be coaxed into a house set
  • Patrice Rushden - Send me forget-me nots (Electra) uber sweet pressing just crying to be bought, familar to many because it was sampled in George Michael's Fast Love
Flying had a cracking 12" by JPod on Brique Rouge Get Back, block party rap over an acid house joint

Also on the loose are a couple of cheeky re-edits labeled SJNL 3 & 4

Friday, December 03, 2004

 
Not Milk Tray

Godiva have come out with some bling-bling chocolates designed by a pastry chef appropriately named the G collection, lets face it you'd need to be an OG running the ladies, getting love from the neighbourhood and shifting serious amounts of blow to afford them. The prices are that eye wateringly expensive. Expect to see them in a Snoop Dogg video soon. Kudos to Trendwatching for the heads up.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

 
PR pay packets

According to the Blue Skies winter salary survey of the UK PR industry:

"Since the last Blue Skies survey, the PR consultancy sector in London & the South East continues to demonstrate a robust recovery in recruitment activity levels compared to this period last year. We can report an overall increase in vacancy volumes during the last twelve months.

As we indicated in the last survey, the volume of vacancies, generally, has continued to increase and candidates are proving constantly difficult to source, especially those with skills in the technology and healthcare sectors. Despite this, clients continue to be demanding with not much flexibility in terms of experience. Candidates must have the ‘relevant’ media contacts in order to secure even a first meeting. This can prove to be frustrating for those candidates who are willing and eager to look at the challenge of new sectors.

It may be that consultancies also need to be more accepting of those looking to move from in-house as they may be the answer to appointing that sector knowledge required, despite not having the agency experience. There have been a few success stories that we have been involved with that we can share, should anyone need inspiration.

Our survey sees a slight rise in junior level salaries. This is backed by a survey carried out by Bournemouth Media School researching the careers paths of the IPR ‘approved’ PR courses in the UK. It reports that approximately 84% of PR graduates found work in PR within 6 months of graduating.

The 2004 figures show more students found work in consultancies than in-house, even though salaries can often be comparably higher on the client-side. It is also interesting to learn that a staggering 82% of the PR graduates were female.

Senior level recruitment has continued to be stable. A much needed boost for people at this level who were hitherto confronted with a genuine lack of career opportunity. This level, however, still shows signs of seeing many PR professionals moving to in-house positions as there still appears to be a slight ageism issue in many sectors.

Many of the out-of-town agencies are still benefiting from candidates, more at the senior level, who are seeking to achieve a better work-life balance. It also appears that these companies tend to be a little more flexible on salaries or ‘softer benefits’, such as flexible working hours.

These ‘soft benefits’ are also becoming of more interest to inner-London agencies too. Where companies are unable to ‘compete’ for candidates on salary alone, these are often worth highlighting as a means of keeping the best account handlers as well as attracting new talent.

Our advice to agencies in this position is to consider offering improved soft ‘added value extras’ for prospective employees. We never cease to be amazed at the difference a degree of imagination makes for the candidate. These types of benefits might range from duvet days, sabbaticals, client swaps, through to complimentary mobile phones, training budgets and gym memberships. All of these tend to be cheaper than simply paying out higher salaries. Granted, these benefits can’t happen overnight but we’d urge all Agency Heads to consider the potential value of these."
By the numbers: title / average / maximum
Junior Account Executive (Grad) /£15k / £19k
Account Executive / £18k /£21k
Senior Account Executive / £20k / £25k
Account Manager /£26k /£32k
Senior Account Manager /£32k /£35k
Account Director £45k /£60k
Associate Board /£50k /£60k
Board Director /£60+k /£80+k
Managing Director / £90k / £140k


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 
3G surprise

I got rid of my 3G brick from Hutchison 3G UK in August when my contract ran out and am now back on a normal phone. One of my friends Andrew was asked by Orange to try one of their 3G handsets, a Sony Ericsson device. Whilst being no slim jim, it is svelte compared to last years 3G phones. Unfortunately much of the story around his 3G experience was similar to my own.
  • Both he and his girlfriend thought that they would use the video phone, but that hasn't been the case, many of the features are useful to a salesman at Dixons but get little real world use
  • He is told by friends that they can never get hold of him and always has voice mail waiting for him
  • The battery life less than 24 hours, more like 18 if he leaves Bluetooth on by accident. In comparision I get four days real world usage from the two Nokias that I use. One of which is an old phone the other a 6600 smartphone with the Bluetooth always left on

Despite analysts being quoted in the press about the UK having a 3G Christmas; word on the street is that most of the carriers promotions won't be launched in time, so traction will pick up in January at the earliest.

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