La Tournette

The reason I didn’t post anything today was because I hiked up La Tournette, a 2,351m mountain which is the highest in the area around Annecy. It took me 3 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top from the village of Montmin, and another 2 hours and 30 minutes to get back down. According to the guidebook, it represents an altitude gain of 1,024m and it felt like it. Two hours in and I was on a grassy slope looking up at this towering wall of rock and I felt like turning back. If I’d known what was to come I would have, but if you live in Annecy and you tell people you go hiking then you pretty much have to go up La Tournette. Also, I didn’t want to be looking at it in future thinking “yeah, I almost got up there but wrapped my tits in”, so I kept going. I’m reasonably fit thanks to going to the gym and skiing, but I wasn’t hiking fit: the last serious hike I did was up Le Parmelan 3 years ago. By the time I got back to the car I could barely stand up. It didn’t help matters than an hour from the end half the sole came off my walking boot, and I did the rest with it flapping about underneath. They were very good boots, made by the Italian company Zamberlan, but in fairness I bought them in 1997 and have battered them since, so I probably shouldn’t ring them up and complain.

Anyway, here’s me at the top.

I’ve posted some other pictures here.

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Jet Dough

From The Times, August 2nd:

The Duke of Sussex has given a barefoot address about the need to save the environment at the star-studded Google Camp being held on Sicily, it has been reported.

The duke is said to have given an impassioned lecture at the three-day event hosted by the internet giant and which has a climate change theme, according to the Page Six gossip column of the New York Post.

Harry reportedly covered much of the same ground that he did in his interview with British Vogue’s September issue, which was guest-edited by his wife.

The duke told the magazine the couple would not have more than two children, and spoke about “terrifying” effects of climate change.

From the BBC, August 19th:

Sir Elton John has defended the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s use of private jets

The royal couple have faced criticism after newspapers claimed they took four private jet journeys in 11 days, including to Sir Elton’s home in Nice.

From Elton John himself:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“[An indulgence is] a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and all of the saints”

In other words, you can reduce the time spent in purgatory for your earthly sins by coughing up some cash for the church:

Trading in indulgences was big business before the Reformation. Buying indulgences was expensive and thus reserved for the rich, who had the money to buy them or to go on a pilgrimage to Rome or Santiago del Compostela.

Environmentalism really is a new religion, isn’t it?

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Unprincipled Agent Problem

This is causing somewhat of a stir but it’s mostly meaningless guff:

Nearly 200 chief executives, including the leaders of Apple, Pepsi and Walmart, tried on Monday to redefine the role of business in society — and how companies are perceived by an increasingly skeptical public.

Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.

This is nothing new. The idea that there is any major western corporation which thinks shareholder value is not maximised by showing a degree of consideration towards employees, the environment, and suppliers is laughable. From the statement above, one would think modern corporations are operating like a mining company in 1890s West Virginia, paying workers in scrip exchangeable only at the company store and if one gets killed they send the widow a ham.

They might have a point about the treatment of suppliers, but I suspect it’s not the one they’re making. When people think of the poor treatment of suppliers by large corporations they conjure up images of grubby children in Bangladeshi sweatshops, sleep-deprived Chinese launching themselves from windows, and Africans hacking at a piece of concrete-like soil with a hoe designed in Roman times. Executives will fall over themselves to stamp this out because to the degree it happens and is under their control it’s an easy promise to make. Similarly, I would be quick to make a promise not to double-park my Ferraris. What they’ll be less keen on rectifying is the utterly unethical practice of allowing suppliers to go bankrupt because they’ve simply not bothered paying invoices that are months overdue.

“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” the group, a lobbying organization that represents many of America’s largest companies, said in a statement. “We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

Again, this is nothing new. The realisation that companies operate best in a stable, functioning society took place at least a hundred years ago, which is why a lot of early industrialists engaged in philanthropy.

The shift comes at a moment of increasing distress in corporate America, as big companies face mounting global discontent over income inequality, harmful products and poor working conditions.

I’d believe this if the source of discontent were impoverished labourers with callouses on their hands instead of pudgy middle class westerners who wouldn’t know a rake from a wheelbarrow. To the extent a shift has occurred, it is that much of the left no longer see corporations as a problem but as a power to be harnessed in order to bring about their desired political goals, bypassing the political process that has thwarted their ambitions for so long.

What these CEOs are doing is signalling to the American left that they are open to doing their bidding provided they get left alone financially: we’ll sign up to Pride Month and let our HR department fire anyone who posts wrongthink on social media, just don’t look too closely at our lobbying efforts regarding NAFTA and our tax exemptions. As I’ve said before, we might even have reached the point where the senior executives of major corporations actually believe their job is to act as moral guardians of the nation, rather than just pay lip service to the latest woke fad in order to placate the SJW hordes and hoodwink the dim. In that case, what we might be seeing is an attempt to justify progressive CEOs virtue-signalling at the expense of the shareholders. For example:

The CEO of Gillette said he does not regret his company’s controversial marketing campaign inspired by the #MeToo movement, despite losing some loyal customers over it.

Gary Coombe called the loss of revenue from those customers a “price worth paying” in a Monday interview with Marketing Week. Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Gillette, announced Tuesday they had taken over $5 billion in losses for the quarter, after Gillette had an $8 billion noncash writedown after its market share for razors fell over the last three years.

In other words it’s a principal-agent problem, which is nothing new either.

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Failure Spots

In April last year I wrote this:

The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.

And:

I  may have said this before, but the reason nobody minds draconian laws and policing in Singapore is because it works: the city is clean, safe, and orderly. What Britain (and a lot of other places) has managed is to have all the drawbacks of an overbearing state but none of the advantages. What appalls people so much about the latest case of people who’ve lived peacefully in the UK for decades being deported is not simply the injustice, which is bad enough. It’s that at the same time we cannot deport lunatic hate preachers from the Middle East with a hook in place of a right hand because it’s against their human rights. Oh, and we need to pay for his four wives and eighteen children, too. I exaggerate, but not by much. If the state is not going to do any good, they at least ought not to do harm.

When you live in the developing world you learn not to expect much from the state institutions. After all, they are often hopelessly corrupt and the people working in them unmotivated, untrained, and poorly paid. But a feature of the decline of western civilisation is government institutions (and companies: see my posts on Boeing, for example) losing their core competence while remaining ruthlessly effective when it comes to irrelevant nonsense. Here’s a great example:

As the name suggests, Public Health England is the government body charged with overseeing public health in England and Wales. As Chris Snowdon has documented, they have been instrumental in lobbying for legislation as to how much sugar, salt, and fat should be in every item of food, how large restaurant portions should be, and how supermarkets should arrange their shelves. Yet they’ve presided over a situation where people’s distrust of vaccines and government authorities has led to an increase in measles outbreaks. As Snowdon says, you had one job.

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Standards Slipping and Sliding

I’ve written before about the inability of modern actors to enunciate their words when speaking quickly, or even slowly, especially in comparison to greats such as Humphrey Bogart. Yesterday someone posted this Two Ronnies sketch on Twitter:

It’s nothing short of incredible that these two remembered their lines, let alone delivered them clearly without getting tongue-tied while acting at the same time. Now I’m sure it took many takes and the footage is spliced but still, it’s hard to imagine a contemporary actor or comedian managing just twenty seconds of this.

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Penny Farthing*

Staying on the topic of deranged women in the modern dating scene:

I’m forever grateful that every boyfriend I had at Oxford dumped me. If any of them had asked me to marry them, I probably would have said yes and it would have ruined my life. In an alternate universe somewhere, there are divorce papers with my name on them.

And the fox didn’t want the grapes anyway: they were too sour.

Instead, my first foray into online dating in 2002 changed my relationships, career and world-view. I was 42.

I was completely honest about everything, including my age. To my surprise, I received an avalanche of responses from younger men. I realised I was every young guy’s fantasy – an attractive, high-flying woman, who wasn’t interested in children, marriage, or even a relationship.

Every woman I’ve talked to about online dating has told me they are surprised by the number of young men who wouldn’t mind getting ’round an older woman. This is so common that a lot of women state in their profiles that they’re not interested in younger men. Very few are flattered by this, as they realise all these lads are after is a quick and possibly interesting shag. Little did they know that if they thought such attention was a good thing they could have landed a Telegraph piece.

So began a sexual odyssey with young men aged 19 to 30-odd that would change the course of my life.

I can’t think of anything sadder than having the course of your life determined by meaningless sex with a string of people miles outside your peer group. Even ageing rock stars can claim their womanising is a fringe benefit rather than central to who they are.

I quickly discovered how differently millennial and, to a lesser extent, Gen X men view sex and relationships to us baby boomers.

I discovered this by reading articles and talking to people, but who am I to dispute your research methods?

I want us all to celebrate the messy, awkward, funny, wonderful sex we have in real life, to promote consent, good sexual values and behaviour.

This is like Peter Sutcliffe launching a Safer Streets campaign.

I am my own research lab – I date a lot of younger men simultaneously, though I have an extremely selective three-step process, which men I meet on dating sites need to pass before a date. First, sending me some more pictures beyond those on their profile; secondly, emailing until I can tell we have chemistry; then, speaking on the phone to check the same. They need to be a very nice person.

This is extremely selective in the sense that old oilfield hands only shag locals when on holiday in Thailand.

When we get to the point of intimacy, I am open with them about what I want.

To be fair, they’ve probably figured that out already having found your name and number circulating on a WhatsApp group somewhere.

I’ll happily debunk the myths they’ve learnt from porn about what “good” sex looks like.

Or a good set of teeth.

I know it might change the atmosphere between us, but I think: “I have to do this for every other woman he’s going to sleep with.”

She’s talking as though women in their twenties are completely inexperienced and therefore young men need her expert guidance in order to satisfy them properly. Which leads me to think she doesn’t understand the modern generation as well as she claims.

Even though I date casually, my relationships can often last, off and on, two, five or even 15 years.

That’s a booty call, not a relationship.

Interestingly, though they may go on to date women their own age, when those relationships end, many of them later come back.

For an hour, anyway. The irony is that Millennials stand accused of only being interested in meaningless sex while shunning stable relationships. This woman thinks she’s helping by having meaningless sex with Millennials in the absence of a stable relationship.

(Via a Twitter follower)

*An ancient bike.

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59 Flake

Years ago when I was a young, single man beginning my career in the oil industry, I was introduced to a rather attractive woman a few years younger than me who was sort of on holiday. In the circumstances of our meeting we were the only two people in our twenties while everyone else was over fifty, so naturally we got on quite well. That evening the two of us went to a nightclub, and for some reason I brought a Canadian soldier along too. We got horrendously drunk which culminated with the girl lying unconscious on my bathroom floor while I explained to the disappointed soldier that she’s getting the spare bed and he has a choice of the sofa or the other half of my pit.

The next morning she woke up with a major hangover and went home. That afternoon she called me and said she wanted to go out again, and in the evening we did. We got on very well and, as I may have already mentioned, she was rather good looking. To cut a long story short we ended up back at mine, sans Canadian soldier. From that point on this girl gave every impression she’d fallen for me and wanted a relationship. She said I was awesome, and she’d never met someone like me before, and when she left to visit London the next day she said she needed to come back ASAP and I ought to get myself over to the US pronto. Over the next couple of weeks we exchanged emails, messages, and talked on the phone. Every indication was that she had found someone she wanted a relationship with. This put her on much the same page as me. By chance I found myself on a business trip in London while she was still there and we met up. It was brilliant. She was delighted to see me, we ran all over town, and had as much fun as two twentysomethings can have when they’re falling in love. The next day she was going back to the US, and she said she’d be back out to where I was living soon. I kissed her goodbye in her hotel lobby, sure I’d see her again.

For the first week she was back in the US, we spoke every day. And then suddenly she didn’t pick up her phone, and she started taking longer to answer messages. I knew something was wrong and then, just like that, she lost interest. We exchanged a few emails and broke up, leaving me more than a little disappointed. I wrote it off to the pitfalls of a holiday romance – which it was for her – but it wasn’t the practicalities of a long-distance relationship which had put her off.

I was connected with her on Facebook and I watched over the next couple of years as she’d move to a new town, get together with a young man who’d gush all over her, then suddenly quit and move elsewhere. There was a musician in London who went from posting artsy photos of them kissing against a wall to increasingly desperate messages about where she’s gone and what the hell just happened. She turned up for a while dressed like a Mormon in the family pictures of a new boyfriend, before they were all taken down.

I caught up with her six years after our first meeting via the same people who’d introduced us. I was heavily involved with someone else by then, so there was no question of retracing my steps. We got along fine and didn’t bring up the past, but she did talk a lot about her amazing boyfriend who, from what I remember, was a DJ with a severe drug addiction and mental problems. A few years later she passed through town again, and we arranged to meet up. By then she was with another boyfriend, and I waited for her to confirm the meeting time until it got so late I went to bed. She later apologised to say she got “caught up in a vibe” (by now she was over thirty) but I suspect her boyfriend objected to her meeting me.

Because we have mutual friends I still know what she’s up to. She seems to be doing well but she’s still single, and she’d be in her late thirties by now. What this experience taught me is that there are women out there who say they want a relationship but don’t. For whatever reason, this girl – despite being pretty, smart, fun, and from a good family – didn’t want to commit to a relationship. Which is fair enough, but she said she did. I was there when she assured me she was ready for a relationship, and using flattery and much talk of a future together she convinced my skeptical side that she was serious. And then I watched her do the same to a succession of other men. She’d put in considerable work to enter a relationship with a man, and at the moment he’s fully committed dump him citing trivial reasons and move on. It seemed like an exhausting way to live, constantly seeking attention and the thrill of a new relationship but never taking it further.

What I never forgot was how I just knew, immediately, that the relationship was going cold. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but the subtle changes in the tone of her voice, the length and vocabulary of her text messages, and the delays in responding sounded a warning. No matter what else I told myself, I knew something was wrong and the relationship would end.

I mention this now because I found myself in a similar situation recently. I happened to meet someone who was adamant she wanted a serious relationship and pulled out all the stops over the course of a month to convince me I was the one it should be with. No sooner had I agreed when I noticed an odd delay in our correspondence from her side and a reply which should have been a touch longer. I knew what was coming. Twenty-four hours later she’d called it off for unspecified reasons and refused to talk to me any more. When pushed, she resorted to insults and blocking. Now there were red flags fluttering high in the breeze from the very first moment in this particular case, and I wasn’t daft enough to go in with my eyes closed: I just decided it might be worth a shot and I didn’t have much to lose. But the most telling of these was that over the course of about two years she had been on dates (of one kind or another) with 58 different men. I was the 59th. She was pretty, clever, and not an obvious nut (at least initially), but that statistic alone speaks volumes. This is not a case of her needing to meet the right man, but addressing the issues keeping her single.

Clearly there are women out there (and probably men too) who say they want a relationship and go to considerable lengths to find a partner, but for whatever reason can’t make the commitment and bail at the first opportunity. So here’s my question. Do they realise they spend half their time lying to people, or have they convinced themselves they’re genuinely interested in meeting someone? I get the impression it’s the latter. It’s an odd world, isn’t it?

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Fossil Fool

A couple of days ago I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Bernie Sanders. The thing with Sanders is he’s actually pretty good at identifying genuine problems. In 2016, what he was saying about blue collar America wasn’t much different from Trump’s message, which is partly why so many of the Bernie Bros couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. However, Sanders’ solutions to the problems he identifies are terrible, consisting of top-down authoritarianism presiding over a command-and-control economy, much like what he saw in the Soviet Union on his honeymoon. Take for example his proposals for tackling climate change around the hour mark of the podcast:

Sanders has bought wholesale into the nonsense that we have 12 years left to save the planet, but his solutions are even more daft. His proposal is to “tell the fossil fuel industry that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet”. He then goes on to say “you cannot keep producing a product which is destroying the planet.” Rogan asks him whether this means he will tell the fossil fuel companies to stop selling their products, and Sanders replies that yes, “this is the bottom line”.

It’s hard to know where to begin with such stupidity. The only major oil and gas companies the US government would have some degree of control over should it issue such an order are ExxonMobil and Chevron. While most international oil companies work overtime not to fall foul of the US government in ordinary circumstances, faced with what amounts to closure orders from a President Sanders they’d cease all cooperation immediately. Sanders talks about the need to work with Russia and others but it’s hard to imagine Gazprom and Rosneft shutting down production because a septuagenarian multi-millionaire from Vermont deems it necessary. Although if Theresa May were still British Prime Minister you could well imagine her closing down BP in order to seal her “legacy”.

But the impossibility of implementing the policy isn’t even the most stupid part. Sanders speaks as though the fossil fuel companies sell products with no utility, as if they don’t underpin the entire way of modern life. He seems to think they’re luxury products we can do without if only the right leadership is shown. I see this with a lot of people: they think cars should be electric, and electricity generated by solar, wind, and hydro power and therefore we don’t need fossil fuels any more. What staggers me is the ignorance among the general public about what fossil fuel products are actually used for. Even making the ludicrous assumption we could switch our cars to electric and generate all electricity from renewables, how do we power planes, ships, and tractors without fossil fuels? Even my erstwhile environmental engineer friend didn’t seem to understand that a demand for fossil fuels will likely remain until the very end of human existence. She didn’t seem to consider the economics of her preferred policies at all, let alone the effects at the margins (i.e on the poor), which puts her in good company with Bernie Sanders and most of the public who subscribe to swivel-eyed environmentalism. One minute Sanders is bemoaning the difficulties low-paid workers face in America, the next he’s saying we should make basic energy products as expensive as diamonds.

As I’ve said before, I have a theory that when a certain number of generations have taken the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for granted, the society starts to self-destruct. A critical mass of people simply lose connection with the foundations which prop up their society, start meddling with them, and eventually call for their destruction. I’ve tried to think of a similar instance from history, and the closest I can find is China’s decision in the 15th century to destroy their ships in an effort to isolate themselves from the perils of free trade. And even that doesn’t come close to ordering a halt on fossil fuel production. What’s that saying that whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad? We’re here, folks.

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Favour

I have a favour to ask. A friend from my MBA course – who happens to be pretty, blonde, and Austrian – is doing a survey for her dissertation and is struggling for respondents. I posted it on Twitter and several people said the questions are poorly designed and contradictory, but that’s by-the-by: she’s a friend and I’m helping her out.

So if anyone is bored and has some time, would they mind completing the survey here? Thanks.

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