Creative design ideas: Harrods gets a face-lift; Jodrell Bank sends another message into space

July 24, 2017
A designer looks at the historic Harrods  building, and conceives a great design idea. It reminded me of an unfulfilled dream of mine after gazing at the main telescope disc at Jodrell Bank
The image from Twitter jumped out at me. The grand old Harrods building in Oxford Street had acquired a giant pair of cool sun-glasses. I’ll spare you technical stuff about creativity and design. (Well, OK, for those interested, here’s one article on the subject.)
Not Banksie this time
I wondered whether Banksie had been at work with another of his pieces of urban art.  No, it was from a business  trialling vending machines for sun glasses, currently operating in and around Los Angeles.  The mini-display inside Harrods does not yet have a vending machine for shades, and you will have to visit California for that experience.
Hubble trouble and beyond
There are  connections between the technology of high precision lenses of prescription glasses and lenses for optical instruments. Remember the near-disaster story of the Hubble telescope trouble, [or to give it its fancy name its spherical aberration? ]
The Harrods specs reminded me of a great piece of astronomical engineering, the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. It remains up there with Manchester University’s contributions in nuclear physics, computing, and Graphene science. I  drive past the giant assembly regularly, and am reminded of it by the front-cover image of a text-book on R&D management which I have since mislaid.
The unfulfilled dream
My crazy unfulfilled dream for some years is based on the idea that the Jodrell Bank disc would make an ideal surface on to which images could be projected. Why not make it the University’s largest publicity display, viewable from passing aircraft, satellites, or even deeper space sites.
I think I’ll have a word with some of the boffins to be found appreciating the excellent hostelries of Holmes Chapel and surrounding townships.

Book Titles: The long and the short of it

July 17, 2017

IMG_0373[1]Ever wondered why some book titles are very short, and others are very long? Here’s an explanation.

Every month I scan a long list of book titles that I have compiled for further study. Recently, I noticed the remarkable variety in the lengths of titles. In general, books purporting to be for minority audiences tend to be very long, books for popular consumption were on the short side.

For an example of the longer variety, here’s a twenty-six-word mega-title.

Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, Richard Reeves, Brookings Institution Press, 2017.

In earlier times, the lengthy book title was commonplace for tales where the author felt compelled to spell out their redemptive message or cautionary tale in some detail. This practice was well and truly inverted by Jane Austin’s one-word titles Persuasion, and Emma. These made her three-word titles Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice appear, well, wordy.

The longest book title in English

The Guinness Book of Records (where else) accepts the claim of a Dr S. Subramonian for producing the longest title in English.

The book, is about Daniel Radcliffe, best known for his starring role in the Harry Potter movies.

According to Atkins Bookshelf

The longest title begins with

Daniel Radcliffe the story of the not so ordinary boy chosen from thousands of hopefuls” and after about 1,000 words ends with “whom let many more laurels be blessed with to his ever royal crown of fame.

Atkins Bookshelf provides the entire title, on the link I have provided.

The book itself is a mere 123 pages long. Like other Guinness Book of Records entries, this one is a blatant bid for a claim for fame.

Not so with the book of the play:

The persecution and assassination of Jean Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Chareton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.

In word length, this just just creeps ahead of Dream Hoarders etc etc.  Its title was insufficient to deter playgoers and literary commentators.

Why such long titles?

Presumably the trend to long titles has something to do with selection algorithms, that recent electronic illustration of Darwinian theory.  Such a title permits large number of keywords which increase the chances of a book reaching the attention of its niche audience.

My modest proposal

Shortly after this week’s post was published, The Economist accepted a briefer version, shown below.


Leadership and The Third Imposter Syndrome

July 13, 2017


The magnificent draw by the Lions’ in New Zealand earlier this month, is followed by widespread outbreaks of The Third Imposter Syndrome

The spectacular rugby series in New Zealand ended in a hard-fought 15-15 draw. The result was in doubt to the last minute. The teams had each won one of the othr two games for the series.


A feeling of flatness followed

Most commentators have shown the signs of being in the first stage of mourning, expressing a feeling of flatness and being unable to experience emotions. One sports psychologist suggested that biologically we are hard-wired to compete and strive for victory, and equally fight to avoid defeat. (Flight or flight drives). We are not able to deal with the experience an unresolved conflict or draw. I’m not sure of this, but it is an entertaining idea. It also brings to mind Kipling’s ‘Two Imposters‘ of Triumph and Disaster.


Minutes after the game, Lions’ captain Sam Warburton spoke articulately about it, adding that he felt ready for extra time. That was a natural first response. It might be added, in context, the draw was secured by Warburton, after some special pleading with the referee to reverse a penalty as the final whistle approached.

The third imposter

Dealing with grief is natural, and only later are there other reactions as feelings of numbness and denial diminish. If this first reaction persists, we will fail to celebrate the magnificent rear-guard action fought by the Lions last weekend.

We have not overcome those two impostors triumph and disaster, but been become gripped by that third imposter, frustrated ambition.

Have we forgotten the way we celebrate other great sporting ‘draws’ in Cricket test matches against Australia, and last-minute victories denied stronger opposition in football? And even more spectacularly, how we continue to cherish acts of spectacular courage such as The Great Escape and Dunkirk?

Chewbakka Jones and the Temple of Doom

July 7, 2017

Chewbakka Jones?

I was browsing yesterday for a book on horses in the Simply Books No 1 emporium. As I did so, my eye was caught by an instruction manual entitled How Not to Write a Novel.

Horse book nicely installed in its gift-wrapped box, I add How Not to Write a Novel to my purchase. It was a sound investment. And, as they say in many a blurb, I read it long into the evening, as the battles of tennis supremacy at Wimbledon pass me unheeded across the room. I tick off various crimes against publication I commit on a regular basis.

Mind reeling from what I had learned, I cross out a load of post-modern film-flam from my uncompleted novel. My previously unnamed narrator gets a memorable name, and  faces more heroic challenges.

The title? One comes to mind. But I fear for legal challenges at a later date. Still, I can at least make it the topic of this week’s blog post …

“Chewbakka Jones and the Temple of Doom”

Sports psychologist Chewbakka Jones is attempting to rescue his academic career by identifying the ingredients of sporting success. His most promising pupil is Tim, a would-be chess-boxing champion.

 His research, which takes place in a sleepy community centre, is disrupted by an invasion of bats, and disturbing ghostly manifestations. The setbacks are connected to a feud between a wealthy businessman and the Dalai Lama, leader of a secret society operating at the Hall.

When Tim and the Dalai Lama are kidnapped, Chewbakka is reluctantly dragged into a perilous rescue attempt.