All posts by ntbadmin

Rich Eating

Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics
by P.J. O’Rourke (1994)

American political humorist takes a world tour, from the “good capitalism” of Wall Street to the “bad socialism” of Cuba, in search of an answer to the age-old question: “Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?”

It looks like someone has funded a world tour for the author. He visits Albania to point out their faults. Sweden, where he complains that things are just too good. Cuba to try the food. Russia, because he can and Tanzania for the wildlife.

Just like all Americans, he conflated Socialism with Communism and makes no distinction between the various types of Capitalism.

However he is an amusing writer with a good turn of phrase and a sharp eye to hypocrisy.

It’s just that he should have finished the book before the final chapter where he follows all the other Americans by moralizing to the rest of the world.



John Cowperthwaite, a young British colonial officer was sent to Hong Kong in 1945 to oversee the colony’s economic recovery. “Upon arrival, however,” said a Far Eastern Economic Review article about Cowperthwaite, “he found it recovering quite nicely without him.”

Cowperthwaite took the lesson to heart, he strictly limited bureaucratic interference in the economy. He wouldn’t even let bureaucrats keep figures on the rate of economic growth or the size of GDP.

The Cubans won’t let anyone get those figures, either. But Cowperthwaite forbade it for an opposite reason. He felt that these numbers were nobody’s business and would only be misused by policy fools.

Cowperthwaite has said of his role in Hong Kong’s astounding growth: “I did very little. All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it.”

He served as the colony’s financial secretary from 1961 to 1971.
In the debate over the 1961 budget, said:

In the long run the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.

Even Newsweek has been forced into admiration: “While Britain continued to build a welfare state, Cowperthwaite was saying ‘no’: no export subsidies, no tariffs, no personal taxes higher than 15 percent, red tape so thin a one-page form can launch a company.”

During Cowperthwaite’s “nothing doing” tenure, Hong Kong’s exports grew by an average of 13.8 percent a year, industrial wages doubled, and the number of households in extreme poverty shrank from more than half to 16 percent.

extracted from ‘Eat the Rich’ by P. J. O’Rourke



In 1922, Ibn Saud met a New Zealand mining engineer named Major Frank Holmes.

During World War I, Holmes had been to Gallipoli and then Ethiopia, where he first heard rumours of the oil seeps of the Persian Gulf region. He was convinced that much oil would be found throughout the region. After the war, Holmes helped to set up Eastern and General Syndicate Ltd in order to seek oil concessions in the region.

In 1923, the king signed a concession with Holmes allowing him to search for oil in eastern Saudi Arabia. Eastern and General Syndicate brought in a Swiss geologist to evaluate the land. This discouraged the major banks and oil companies from investing in Arabian oil ventures.

In 1925, Holmes signed a concession with the sheikh of Bahrain, allowing him to search for oil there. He then proceeded to the United States to find an oil company that might be interested in taking on the concession. He found help from Gulf Oil.

In 1927, Gulf Oil took control of the concessions that Holmes made years ago. But Gulf Oil was a partner in the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was jointly owned by Royal Dutch/Shell, Anglo-Persian, the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, and “the Near East Development Company, representing the interests of the American companies.

The partners had signed up to the “Red Line Agreement”, which meant that Gulf Oil was precluded from taking up the Bahrain concession without the consent of the other partners; and they declined. Despite a promising survey in Bahrain, Gulf Oil was forced to transfer its interest to another company, Standard Oil of California (SOCAL), which was not a bound by the Red Line Agreement.

Meanwhile Ibn Saud had dispatched American mining engineer Karl Twitchell to examine eastern Arabia. Twitchell found encouraging signs of oil, asphalt seeps in the vicinity of Qatif, but advised the king to await the outcome of the Bahrain No.1 well before inviting bids for a concession for Al-Ahsa.

To the American engineers working in Bahrain, standing on the Jebel Dukhan and gazing across a 32 km stretch of the Persian Gulf at the Arabian Peninsula in the clear light of early morning, the outline of the low Dhahran hills in the distance were an obvious oil prospect.

On 31 May 1932, the SOCAL subsidiary, the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) struck oil in Bahrain. The discovery brought fresh impetus to the search for oil on the Arabian peninsula.

Negotiations for an oil concession for al-Hasa province opened at Jeddah in March, 1933. Twitchell attended with lawyer Lloyd Hamilton on behalf of SOCAL. The Iraq Petroleum Company represented by Stephen Longrigg competed in the bidding, but SOCAL was granted the concession on 23 May 1933. Under the agreement, SOCAL was given “exploration rights to some 930,000 square km of land for 60 years”. Soon after the agreement, geologists arrived in al-Hasa and the search for oil was underway.

SOCAL set up a subsidiary company, the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC) to develop the oil concession. SOCAL also joined forces with the Texas Oil Company when together they formed CALTEX in 1936 to take advantage of the latter’s formidable marketing network in Africa and Asia.

When CASOC geologists surveyed the concession area, they identified a promising site and named it Dammam No. 7, after a nearby village. Over the next three years, the drillers were unsuccessful in making a commercial strike, but chief geologist Max Steineke persevered. He urged the team to drill deeper, even when Dammam No. 7 was plagued by cave-ins, stuck drill bits and other problems, before the drillers finally struck oil on 3 March 1938.


On this day in 1983 Compact discs and players are released for the first time in the United States and other markets. They had previously been available only in Japan.

38 Years later…



On this day in 1936 the Hoover Dam is completed.

Construction began in 1931 with a construction cost of $49 million (1931 budget). ($675 million in 2019 dollars)

Height 221.4m
Length 379m
Volume 2,480,000 cubic metres

Lake Mead (35.2 cubic kilometres) with a 435,000 square km catchment

13 × 130 MW
2 × 127 MW
1 × 68.5 MW
1 × 61.5 MW Francis-type
2 × 2.4 MW Pelton-type
Installed capacity 2,080 MW
Capacity factor 23%
Annual generation 4.2 TWh (15 PJ)

As of 2017 the Three Gorges Dam in China with it’s capacity of 22,500 MW is the largest power generating station in the world.
In 2015 it generated 87 TWh, for a capacity factor of:

Hoover Dam has a capacity factor of:



On this day in 1953 Francis Crick and James Watson discover the chemical structure of DNA-molecule (double-helix polymer).

On 28 February 1953 Crick interrupted patrons’ lunchtime at The Eagle pub in Cambridge to announce that he and Watson had “discovered the secret of life”.


In subsequent years, it has been recognized that Watson and his colleagues did not properly attribute colleague Rosalind Franklin for her contributions to the discovery of the double helix structure.



(Dane Maddock #9)
by David Wood (2017)

The discovery of a treasure in the Yucatan sets former Navy SEALs Dane Maddock and Bones Bonebrake on a search for the legendary Maya city of the dead, and into the path of deadly enemies. From ancient ruins to perilous jungles, Maddock and Bones must outwit the vicious Serpent Brotherhood, and find the fabled city before an old enemy unlocks its secrets and plunges the world into shadow. Can they survive the descent into Xibalba?

Yet again.. they can.

This is more adventure in the Indiana Jones style that a thriller or crime caper. However it does suffer from one too many plot threads. These detract from the story, and while giving background don’t add up to much in the end. Still, it’s another solid thriller as can be expected.



The Fold
(Threshold #2)
by Peter Clines (2015)

Far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists have invented a device they call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveller can move a long way with a single step.

The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. The scientists insist that traveling through the door is completely safe.

This starts as an interesting science fiction premise. Transportation, but what could go wrong ?

Most of the story slowly evolves, with an interesting premise and characters. Then, about 3/4 of the way through the ‘secret’ is revealed and it’s familiar. In fact it’s just the final part of the previous book (14) bolted onto the end.

This changes the tone and genre from interesting and light-hearted to tense, action horror. It’s an abrupt change and a very unsatisfactory ending.

I won’t bother with the third in the series, as it’s probably the same formula.

Winding Up

Winding Up at the Court Theatre

Just when things should be slowing down for retirees Baz and Gen, life is Winding Up. With grandkids to wrangle, a cruise to plan and Barry’s preoccupation with plotting his own funeral, the reality of the so-called ‘golden years’ is explored in this comedy from Roger Hall.

Starring Mark Hadlow, this is a story of a retired couple contemplating the end of life. It all fells like a series of connected sketches around relationships and meeting the grim reaper.

Once the characters and their situation is established, it soon becomes clear that the story could end in the death of one of them. However this would be a downer and very unsatisfactory ending to a comedy. There was a previous Local comedy that did this, which just made me mad at the cheap ending.

Fortunately Roger Hall is a better playwright and the story manages to cover all the issues of getting older, including facing death but without ending on a depressing note.



MItchell’s Back

Back is a British sitcom starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. After the death of his father, Stephen (Mitchell) is set to take over the family business, the John Barleycorn pub in Stroud, Gloucestershire. His plans are interrupted when Andrew, a former foster child briefly raised by Stephen’s parents, returns to his life eager to renew his relationship with the family.

David Mitchell seems to be specializing in middle aged neurotic British characters. And this is one of his best. You just want to slap him and get him to be more assertive. This is illustrated early in the series when a woman gives him a smile and dumps a sick dog on him. He also seems to have trouble getting back his ex-wife, who he obviously still loves.

Robert Webb is also great as Andrew, sporting a smile somewhere between self-satisfied and devious he manages to slide himself into the family and cause chaos.

The ending doesn’t entirely resolve Stephen’s problems. However there is a second series yet to hit Netflix.