Thanks to my ICIS colleague Paul Ray for this classic passenger complaint letter which is circulating the world in email and now enshrined in an article in the UK's Daily Telegraph.
January 2009 Archives
It starts at the airport with the comforting cappuccino and the plateful of dinky little mini-croissants and pains au chocolat, because after all it was such an early start and there wasn't time for breakfast at home. Then there are the long hours of forced meals and zero exercise on board the plane. Then the extra meal on arrival when your body is screaming out that it is bed-time but everyone around you is on local time and raring to go.
Then the one-hour breakfast meetings at the all-you-can-eat hotel buffets with their waffles and pancakes and eggs cooked to order, mounds of fruit and perpetually refreshed coffees.
Then there's food in the office - bagels and cream cheese in ICIS New York, durian pastries in ICIS Singapore. Gradually the pounds then kilos pile on. The belts are loosened by one notch. The pencil skirt is consigned to the bottom of the suitcase.
"Conference weight gain," we call it, hoping that it will melt away like the snows of yesteryear when we are back to our relatively disciplined and active lifestyles.
There's always the next trip to order the "Healthy Option" lo-cal breakfast, decline the after-work beers and take the recommended jogging path through the deafening and steamy high-rise canyons.
A battle is raging in the august columns of the Times today about the benefits of those little pencil-sized plastic bags of milk which are served with coffee on trains, planes and in cafeterias, versus those of the tiny plastic pots of milk which were previously ubiquitous.
Columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris finds it hard to decide between the two of them, pointing out quite accurately that they are both devilishly hard to open.
It's an easy choice for the Blog, once we read the manufacturer's claim that the sticks of milk contain 50% less plastic than the little pots - as if this is a good thing!
The designer of this new motorhome-citycar-combo hopes that "the sleek curves will appeal to women buyers." It's appealing to me already, but I'm not sure how good those swathes of shiny white glass-reinforced plastics (GRP) will look when they have been parked under the lime trees outside chez Blog. Designed for these economy-minded times, the Colim vehicle is more fuel efficient than a traditional motorhome, and allows tourists to cruise around the towns they visit, according to this article in the Metro.
Click here to read about the new car BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free).
A dubious video showing a worker at a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal setting fire to the goggles on his head in a life-threatening prank was recorded and posted on YouTube, according to this article spotted by our friends at ICIS Heren.
Investigations are under way to discover whether the video, which purported to be recorded at South Hook LNG in Pembrokeshire,
The video, which was posted in December, disappeared suddenly as it was being investigated by Western Telegraph earlier this week.
Gary Koebbe has joined Kolmar Americas, Inc as a trader for olefins and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), the company announced on Tuesday.
The appointment was effective from 1 January 2009.
Koebbe was previously president of Trammochem in Connecticut, US.
Julia Meehan reports on her recession-busting approach to DIY carpet cleaning ...
An ivory carpet for a kids' bedroom is probably not the best colour - it's now covered in stains and, quite frankly, it no longer looks anything like it did in the designer magazine which inspired it.
Since I can't afford a new carpet I decided to rent a carpet cleaner called a Rugdoctor.
But when I inquired about the cost, I learned something about supply and demand in a recession. For some strange reason, the price of hiring the unit seems to have doubled: could it be that across the country, demand for these machines and the chemical solvents they use has rocketed, and therefore the prices too?
Obviously DIY carpet cleaning is the new vogue in times of financial hardship. So, in my quest to save even more of the few pennies in my purse, I advertised on our company's intranet to see if any colleagues would like to share the hire cost. Well, the response has been phenomenal.
Only yesterday, while trying to talk to the polymers world, every second call I received was about my advert for the Rugdoctor hire. The calls came from far and wide, and from all walks of carpet cleaners. Despite our different needs, what we all had in common was a dirty carpet and the lack of funds to purchase a new one.
In total, I must have taken more than 15 calls from people inquiring about the share of the hire cost. At £37.50 ($51.68, €29.79) for 48 hours, it would have worked out at about £2.50 each, but owing to time and logistical issues, four people in the hire chain would prove enough. So my girls will have a carpet as good as new for approximately £9, rather than a new one costing about £500.
Linda has just sent me this great website for the Dutch retailer of plastic goods, HEMA.
It's ostensibly selling plastics and other goods, but just click on it and wait. Best with sound on.
I thought three was enough for Blog postings on Lego, but now I've come across a website "Geekologie", which features not just this Star Wars Diorama - a snip at $400 for 3,800 pieces - but also Stephen Hawking in Lego form, Lego sushi, a Lego rap album cover and many, many more. Enough to make you feel quite queasy.
Traders Trammochem confirmed on Thursday that Patrick Cox had quit to pursue other options. The split was amicable and everyone wished each other well. Cox had been trading aromatics at the petrochemical trading house's European office in Altendorf, Switzerland.
The Blog hears that he will be joining a Geneva-based energy trading company, although this is naturally unconfirmed by any of the aforementioned parties.
Chemical trader Chemium has expanded its European operation with the addition of Aruanan Mastenbroek to its
"Mr. Dirk van der Burg will also be operating in conjunction with Aruanan out of Belgium, and Mr. Miguel Ferreres will remain operating out of its office in Madrid, Spain," the announcement said.
Mastenbroek had formerly launched his own benzene brokerage, TnS in October, and prior to that had been with traders Oxyde and BMS.
The Blog was sure that the proposed Macau Pavilion at the
This photo gallery in the Guardian has 11 photos of the Lego inauguration, complete with some sly little captions.
My favourites are the Lego Aretha Franklin, and picture 6, "George Bush Sr, Barbara Bush, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton show no emotion during Lego Obama's swearing-in ceremony," with their blank Lego faces.
It's worrying but I find I am drawn inexorably to the works of motoring correspondent Jeremy Clarkson. His pieces on Top Gear on the Fiesta doing a beach landing with the Royal Marines which was shown on
And today while craftily reading his review of the new Volvo XC90 D5 SE R-Design, I see that he has views on Monte Carlo, traditional home of the annual EPCA conference, which chime with those of many in the petrochemical industry:
"As we know, Monte Carlo is a fairly horrible place full of prostitutes, wedding cake architecture and greasy little men who've learnt their English from baddies in James Bond films and who meet in bars at night to sell one another machineguns. It rains more than you might think, too.
And yet it is perceived to be a glamorous place simply because of the cars that prowl round
The cars are what makes
The Blog had to laugh on hearing the news out today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers that total December sales for the Hummer in the
Deep underground at the bottom of a potash mine in the north of
A kilometre below the earth's surface, down dim and dusty corridors, the scientists are engaged in "Zeppelin 3", an international collaboration to find what the dark matter of our galaxy is made from.
Contrasting the potash mine with the glamour of the more famous CERN quest for dark matter, at one point the reporter says: "I must say this place looks more like a builder's yard than a scientific experiment. It's got buckets of open stuff ... it's not a science lab as I'd imagine it." (Click here to see photos on Flickr.)
Edward Cox, deputy editor of ICIS Heren's European Spot Gas Market, said British household bills were unlikely to rise as a result of the "within day" and "day ahead" rises...."I think there's a nervousness in the market but most traders are still confident it [the stand-off] will be resolved in the next few days," said Mr Cox.
Ed Cox enjoys some Russian hospitality at a Gazprom press conference ...
Last week I was exposed to the mighty force of the Russian- or should I say Gazprom - marketing machine in my quest to keep on top of the latest episode in the dispute with Ukraine over gas supplies.
Well they say gas is the sexy side of the industry, and without wanting to do down my beloved chemicals background I can see why, following my trip to the Russian news agency's London branch on Tuesday.
Offices in Kensington don't you know- where one bed flats start at £700,000. Just down from the Maserati and Ferrari showrooms and near some exclusive looking gated residences, I slipped into a little room with a live link up to Moscow.
Sitting perilously close to a microphone that could have informed a fair chunk of the Russian and global media about my cold bug, I scribbled down the latest news, or lack of it. How much the Russians must care about their appearance abroad was shown by our permission to ask two questions against Moscow's one. We numbered around seven people compared with Moscow's 50, or maybe more.
Forget all the ins and outs of the dispute, all the accusations, all the anti-Russian press that it's created over here, Gazprom's marketing machine is quite a beast. Gone are the hours of chasing after English translations of some hidden Cyrillic press release- these days there is a website with up-to-the-minute sound bites summing up the latest failure to reach an agreement. They have the most courteous PR Company in London too. And don't forget they want to use Rolls Royce to build a pipeline to Germany so they're employing us too!
While we're at it, the UK doesn't rely on Russia for gas, contrary to certain media reports. Remember when the gas price in the UK briefly dipped to zero last year? That coincided with a flurry of Norwegian imports- funny how the press didn't latch on to that in the same way.
All that said, this whole Gazprom operation still seems a little too clean cut for my liking.
clad in skintight spandex costumes are running amok in the streets of US cities,
according to this article in the Times.
The World Superhero Registry lists more
than 200 of them, who patrol the urban streets dressed up in outfits of spandex
(the generic term, invented by DuPont in 1959, of which the most well-known
brand is Invista's Lycra, and of which a key ingredient is MEG - mono-ethylene glycol.)
A cursory visit to the Lycra website has convinced the Blog that this is by far the sauciest chemicals company website in the normally staid petrochemicals space. Not wanting to kick a company when it's down, but if you look beyond the raunchy pictures, there is also some excruciating brand poetry:
"If black is sexy, there's nothing sexier than my bra. My after-hours secret. Nothing comfier. Nothing blacker.
My swimsuit. It moves and stretches. It speeds and glides, in lakes, in oceans, or the local pool.
Clothes that help me unwind. No matter what position I'm in. Or trying to get in."
And that's before you get into the "Hosiery and Socks" section.
Elbowing aside the photos of firm bodies clad in "Intimate Apparel", the Blog's own favourite Lycra photo has to be this one of the K9 Topcoat Lycra Bodysuit.
While news of Gazprom ruthlessly cutting off gas supplies to the Ukraine is in the headlines everywhere, my friend Liz, who is involved in local good works, tells me over holiday drinks that the mighty Russian company has its UK base in our sleepy hollow London suburb on the riverside at Hampton Wick, and that it is a regular sponsor of local good works.
I've spent the last eight days away from computer screens, but there's been no way of avoiding the big breaking chemical news stories which have featured prominently in the newspaper business pages.
The biggest news was the collapse of the K-Dow joint venture, covered in detail on ICIS news from the first announcement on 29 December.
Then there was a curious piece on Akzo's takeover of German chlorine producer LII being held up by a "polo-playing aristocrat" who claimed to own the firm.
And then on New Year's Eve the news that LyondellBasell was considering seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy.