Ducks, Dance, Network Theory, Pricing Models, Insulation, Two bog seats Prescott

A tedious week at work. I reflected on the way the English language has been debased by commercialism when I read the words “Loyalty payment” and “Highly competitive exclusive offer”.

The ducks are still on the pond. The two males can be seen most days and mid week the female waddled out of her hut

2 ducks

2 ducks

and the two males sped after her. A tremendous fight ensued and at first we were unsure what was occurring. It became obvious that one male was earnestly pursuing the female while the other male tried strenuously to fend him off. After a while the female achieved some distance and the two males finished their fight with one chasing the other away. The hierarchy restored the female was left alone and the two males returned to being good buddies. A Pakistani colleague commented: “Just like the America, once their authority is established they want to be your friend”.

I watched an interesting documentary on Network Theory on Tuesday evening. Six degrees of separation and all that.

This year I ensured that I would see some of The Brighton Festival by drawing up a plan and booking in advance. Mostly this has been theatre but I was asked by some friends if I wanted to see some dance and I thought: what the hell, I’ll give it a go.

So on Wednesday evening I saw Aphasiadisiac at The Dome. This was not what I had expected and was inspiring. There was not much that most people would call dancing about it. The performance was created by a guy named Ted Stoffer and performed by a Belgian dance company named Les ballets C de la B.

I know very little about dance so I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it. I was impressed by the ability of the performers to use their bodies to communicate. I was amazed at their ability to create a mood or a feeling by the choreography. They played the music themselves using a trumpet, a saxophone, drums and an accordion. The music itself was very good and at one particular point the performers all came together and sat and stood in a very tight group of five directly in front of us while they played. I found the proximity disarming and became self conscious. It felt strange to go from being a passive observer to somehow being observed and almost part of the performance.

Other parts were good in different ways. The awkwardness of a couple sitting together was portrayed perfectly through body language and facial expressions. A girl played an instrument and looked around while two of the men ran around as though desperate to remain in the spotlight of her gaze. Extraordinary stuff which opened my eyes to the world of dance. The Youtube vid below is of a different performance.

On Friday British Gas turned up to survey my loft prior to getting it insulated. B&Q are currently doing some very good deals to insulate your loft with parts and labour included for £198.

I began cogitating on how it is not really in the economic interests of the gas company to insulate my loft. It is in their interest to encourage me to consume as much gas as possible while it is in my interest to consume as little as possible while ensuring I am conformably warm.

I read somewhere that companies are much better at cutting their costs than individuals are. This makes sense. Companies makes plans and prepare budgets to control costs whereas most individuals are not so rational.

But panning back a bit and considering climate change and The UK’s dire economic condition it is in the Global Interest and National Interest that I consume as little gas as possible.

So surely we have the pricing model wrong. The model is currently configured so that the agent which is most efficient at controlling consumption (The gas company) actually benefits from excess consumption.

I recall a similar conversation on the subject of taxation. Our politicians tell us we should be saving energy and cutting CO2 emissions yet the greatest part of our taxation is placed on work. Taxation has two effects, firstly and obviously, it raises money to be spent by the government but secondly it deters the activity which is taxed. This has been known for centuries from windows to tobacco.

So the effect of our taxation system is to deter work. Surely we want people to work so why not lift all income tax and place it on petrol? If it were done intelligently I could still afford to drive my 2 litre car 90 miles a day to work. It would just make it painfully clear how much money, and therefore petrol, I am wasting.

It seems to me that there are three entities who can control costs: The seller, the buyer and the government. With conventional pricing models the economic motivation are for the seller to increase sales and the buyer to reduce sales. The government is the third entity and currently pays for services which are deemed communal such as waste disposal.

And waste disposal too has a dodgy pricing model. It is currently in the interest of retailers to bulk our their products with wasteful packaging as this helps to sell more product and the waste disposal costs are bourn by the tax payer. There have been attempts to makes consumers pay for the amount of waste that they produce but the problem with this is that consumers can cheat by fly tipping. Far better to charge the costs of waste disposal as a tax to be paid by retailers.

I have thought for a while that the main deficiency with socialism is the lack of a feedback mechanism. Command economies continue to manufacturer products which consumers do not want and fail to manufacture products which they do want because the production is not influenced by the consumer. Capitalism gets around this problem but the current capitalist model encourages and rewards over production.

I read an article in The Economist a while back about the British aviation engine manufacturer Rolls Royce. This was deemed a successful company because of the innovative pricing structure it had adopted. Rolls Royce does not make it’s profits from the sale of engines and can make a loss on engine sales. Instead it charges it’s customer (the airlines) for engine air time. Each engine is fitted with various computer systems which relay telemetry back to a control centre in Rugby. Engineers can then detected potential problems early and perform preventative maintenance when an aircraft next lands.

This is an excellent idea. Rolls Royce can become a successful engine maker, gain market share and earn greater profits. But at the same time the manufacture of engines is not the driving force. In fact it would be in Rolls Royce’s interest to keep engines airworthy for as long as possible and therefore restrict engine manufacture.

I suggest that we could do with this sort of thinking when designing pricing models for all sorts of goods and services. We still use capitalism but design the system in such as way that production is not the driving force for profits.

On Saturday afternoon I visited The Old Municipal Market to see an artwork by Anish Kapoor entitled The Dismemberment of Jeanne D’Arc

The Dismemberment of Jeanne D'Arc
The Dismemberment of Jeanne D’Arc

Yeh Anish, nice name!

The big blobby bits are the bits I’d seen clips of but I found the big red elipsical hole in the ground most effective. It appeared that Mr. Kapoor had opened up the ground to reveal that beneath the first few inches of dirt the living flesh of the planet Earth had been exposed. The Earth is alive!

On Saturday night I saw another small theatre production named Bane at The Three and Ten in Brighton. This was described as a “One-man comedic film noir parody.” Part thriller, art comedy the single actor played a plethora of characters and pulled it off brilliantly.

No round up of last week can be complete without mentioning the MP expenses scandal currently bubbling away in British politics. Last week The Daily Telegraph revealed that John Prescott had claimed for repair of a broken toilet seat twice. – You couldn’t make it up.

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