PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS/JOHN VIZCAINO
In Numbers: Out of tune
Years for which ivories could be tinkled and then purchased at the piano department of upscale London department store Harrods. The Knightsbridge store has shut the department after sales dropped.
Number of acoustic pianos sold annually in Britain, about 800 of them grand pianos. The sales are down from 14,000 in the late 1960s. “Pianos don’t do as well as handbags,” a Harrods employee told the Times.
Number of small-scale piano factories and workshops in Camden Town in the early 20th century, employing 6,000 people.
Image of the week: Coming up roses
The roses are red, though there’s no sign of any violets, at Elite Flowers in Facatativa not too far from Bogotá in Colombia, where workers are preparing roses for export ahead of the flower-fest that is Valentine’s Day. It’s a frantic period for the year-round Colombian trade in roses, which employs mostly female workers. As the US sources around two-thirds of its roses from the country, one bad crop can leave Colombian growers feeling very prickly indeed.
The Lexicon: #Promnishambles
Long before the Dáil sank into a counter-productive shouting match about how long TDs would have to discuss emergency legislation to liquidate Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, Twitter had settled on two hashtags for the occasion. The first, in anticipation of the elusive promissory note deal, was #promnight. The second had more of a British than an American influence. RTÉ political correspondent David McCullagh offered up “omnishambles”, the word coined by the writers of political satire The Thick Of It to describe an almighty mess of amateurishness. After entering into House of Commons debating vocabulary, it wound up as the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2012. In response, Web Awards and Social Media Awards organiser Damien Mulley suggested “#promnishambles” – the pun easily being the best thing about a depressing evening.
Getting to know: John Malone
The first thing anyone needs to know about the 71-year-old founder of UPC – owner Liberty Global – is that former US vice-president Al Gore once called him “Darth Vader” in reference to the cable baron’s allegedly cutthroat approach to business dealings.
The second is that he’s a billionaire – number 199 on the last Forbes list, to be precise – and, as of September 2012, has personal wealth of $5.6 billion by the publisher’s calculation. He’s also the largest individual landowner in the US, with his name on almost 2.2 million acres in Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.
Malone is in the news this week because Liberty has acquired British pay-TV provider Virgin Media, a $23.3 billion deal that places Mr Vader squarely against Rupert Murdoch.
The List: What workers want
“Nearly half of workers from Northern Ireland haven’t heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in over a year, it emerged yesterday,” stated a press release from office stationery suppliers Avery Rewards. It’s all very sad. The plaintive nugget came from Avery’s survey of 2,000 workers in Britain and Northern Ireland, which also identified the little things that workers do appreciate. Here’s the top five:
1 Complimenting their work: “Why what beautifully constructed sentences you put together.”
2 A Christmas bonus: But bonuses at other times of the year – times when you don’t have to spend it on other people – are also good, right?
3 More flexibility with hours: Ah, a double-edged sword.
4 More honesty from people: Planet Business is 100 per cent sure that more honesty in the workplace is a bad idea.
5 Being made a cup of tea once in a while: Beating more understanding of work-family balance into sixth place, it’s the “surprise” cup of tea or “does anyone want anything in the canteen? No, great” as it works in The Irish Times newsroom.