Posts from February 2011


Sunday 27th February 2011

Here’s the last song from King of Limbs, the new Radiohead album.

Truly excellent stuff.

“It’s like I’m falling out of bed from a long and vivid dream,
Finally I’m free of all the weight I’ve been carrying.”

Posted In: MusicStuff Tagged: | No Comments

Taxing my Patience

Saturday 26th February 2011

If you’re lucky, you won’t have heard of UK Uncut. If you haven’t, they’re an activist group who basically want businesses to volunteer to pay more tax than they legally need to, and who also dislike banks (for reasons which aren’t entirely clear to me).

So. In the last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland have announced that they lose £1.13bn in 2010. They’ve also announced that in the same year, they’ve paid £950m in bonuses to their staff.

UK Uncut don’t like this. I can’t for the life of me work out why; they don’t like banks, and this one just lost over a billion pounds. They want businesses to pay lots of tax; this one just paid out £950m in bonuses. Bonuses on which there will be an associated tax bill. So RBS will end up paying more tax than if they didn’t pay their employees. Excellent!

Okay, if I’m being slightly less facetious, bonuses with a loss might not make sense if you only take a superficial look at the headline figures. They lost £150bn, then paid bonuses of £950m; what gives? Well, it’s a large company, made of lots of different components. Some of those made money. The people who made money for the bank are then entitled to their bonus. This is not a tricky concept.

UK Uncut protest by staging sit-ins in banks. This is really, mind-numbingly stupid. I used to work for RBS Retail, so I know that the RBS staff being inconvenienced by UK Uncut are not the greedy bankers that they want to target. They’re people who aren’t paid a great deal in the scheme of things, trying to do what can be a pretty stressful job. On a Saturday. They don’t need a bunch of ignorant halfwits coming in to make their lives more difficult, and it doesn’t actually achieve anything.

I don’t mean to stick up for RBS in particular, or banking in general. The things they did prior to 2008 were fucking stupid, and it’s an absolute failure that they are such crucial businesses that the state was unwilling to let them fail. The real – bloody scary – issue here, that people like UK Uncut fail to address, is that very little has been done so far to stop banks from abusing this position again. Governments are too scared to have tighter regulation, because they don’t want to drive banks away from the country and lose the massive tax revenue they bring. Focussing on pay or taxes is a mere distraction, to focus attention on really trivial things instead of the real systemic issues.

If they don’t like certain banks, fine. Don’t use them. If they want businesses to pay more tax, fine. Campaign outside HMRC to get the tax laws changed. But misconceived, ill thought-out, stupid protests like this are just a waste of time.

Posted In: PoliticsRant Tagged: | 9 Comments


Sunday 6th February 2011

In the last week, the 2011 F1 season got under way, with the start of pre-season testing. The best bit of this is that we get to see all the new cars, and so get to have a look at what clever new bits and pieces they’ve got.

The new McLaren was unveiled on Friday, and it’s pretty interesting. I wrote last year about my admiration for their design, and this year I had pretty much the same reaction.

Some background: F1 cars have various aerodynamic appendages which work to push them to the ground, which gives them such immense grip. One of these parts is the rear diffuser, which sits at the bottom of the car at the rear, and increases the velocity of air moving under the car so as to reduce the pressure and create downforce (they used to run full-length venturi tunnels under the car, and one team even went so far as to use a fan to suck air from under the car). In the last two years, the teams have used a loophole in the regulations to make their diffusers bigger, to give the car more downforce and so more grip. This loophole has now been closed, so more grip needs to come from the rear wing to make up the difference.

To aid this, McLaren have shaped the sides of the car to maximise the clean flow of air to the wing. The result looks pretty weird (the “L” shape sidepods; compare that with last year’s car, which had more conventional air inlets in the sides), but it’s absolutely logical. It’s a relatively small detail, and one that the other teams didn’t spot, but it’s a brilliant idea and a beautiful piece of engineering.

No idea whether it’ll work in practice though, as the car hasn’t been tested! Either way, it’s a very nice idea.

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsport Tagged: | No Comments