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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Chris' LiveJournal:

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Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
8:50 am
My Father's improving health
He has use of a tripod base walking stick, this enables him to walk slowly. I recall him saying that he would walk again during my first visit to him on the stroke ward; Promise fulfilled. He needs someone to walk beside him on his left hand side in case he loses his balance. He manages small distances, from room to room, and in terms of development we are on an upward path. He was able to walk around the garden, admittedly taking a few moments to stop and rest.

He now longer goes into hospital for physiotherapy as he has developed past all the equipment they have. This is good as he has become very prone to car sickness, going above 40mph or going around roundabouts at 20mph+ make him feel ill. He has home visits from community based physios who work on the physical skills he needs around the house, reaching and stretching for items, walking up and down steps. Unfortunately the lower limb of his hand is non-responsive and shows no sign of improvement.
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
7:49 pm
Please insert the correct DVD-ROM
My current pc has come back from warranty repairs; The motherboard was at fault two times in a row. Each repair cycle took 7-10 days for the pc to be shipped off, fixed and then returned. I've been spending some time with the old pc and its games. I played a bit of Galactic Civilisations and I thought that I would see how Medieval Total War 2 ran on the new machine. It has a Solid State hard drives (SSDs) rather than a traditional hard drive and is one of the best upgrades I have made in a long while as everything runs faster and quieter. MTW2 will install but when I run it I get a message "Please insert the correct DVD-ROM" and it exits to the desktop.

After rooting around the internet it turns out that many games written in a world before SSDs look for IDE drivers while SSDs work on AHCI. The solution to this involves disabling the AHCI drivers, installing the IDE drivers and hoping this doesn't cause any new problems to appear. Games from just a few years ago, now transiting through data degradation. I had a similar experience looking for roleplaying links, when free hosting sites such as geocities die they cull the users of that time period. Fortunately there is the digital archaeology of the Wayback Machine which offers the users of the internet a chance to find long lost treasures, new adventures and new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries. To find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes. They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado, and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Speaking of Gold, it has taken a mighty tumble in the past few days. Some say that it might fall towards $1200 before finding long term support. Safe havens from financial chaos should not behave in such a volatile manner, they should be predictable and stable.

In 2010 the govt was convinced that it needed to embark on a policy of austerity. They said it was necessary, politically and economically. The previous govt had allowed a debt crisis to occur so a political signal had to be sent that the coalition took debt repayment seriously. The IMF, OECD and academics took turns to praise the govt's course of action. In 2009 Professors Rogoff and Reinhart published a book This Time is Different which set out the vital importance of resolving debts in a timely manner.

Since then the IMF has realised that Austerity is tough medicine when taken at home. This view was probably thought of as anecdotal when the IMF applied its slash and burn policies to Latin America and Africa but here in the 1st world, we just didn't realise it.

Now it seems that the data in the book by the esteemed Professors could have been miscalculated, stripping away the prestige of academic credibility the govt has hung onto. A coding error in excel, or maybe it was the wrong drivers on the system. Just re-install, reboot, sure it'll be fine. Your govt, now transiting through policy degradation.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
2:50 pm
What I am listening to
What I am listening to

Podcasts:
Analysis – Programme examining the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/analysis/rss.xml

Ken and Robin talk about stuff - Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff is the podcast of authors and game designers Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws. Stuff talked about includes hobby gaming, history, occultism, chrono-travel, food, cinema, narrative, art, politics, food, maps, Cthulhiana, and in fact any matter subject to jocular yet penetrating erudition. Their recurring seminar at Dragonmeet was a highlight of the show. Now they put on their show weekly for the world’s entertainment. Early shows did stray a bit toward self promotion and product puffing but they soon put that behind them.

http://www.kenandrobintalkaboutstuff.com/index.php/feed/

Both are weekly though Analysis is on hiatus until the Autumn.

Two free podcasts have tried charging for their content. For every 100 listeners who subscribed only 1 is prepared to pay. I listen to one but not the other.

Yog Radio was stopped at episode 50 and was replaced by The Silver Lodge, available to patrons of Yog-Sothoth.com. Their shows also include audio games of most Chaosium Cthulhu campaigns.

The HP Lovecraft Literary podcast changed format once they had reviewed all of the Lovecraft’s work. They now cover the wider world of weird fiction.

What I am watching

Community on DVD – One of the more interesting shows of recent years. If the Big Bang theory is a mainstream view of geek culture then Community is a show from that weird part of youtube. Is Community too meta or is it a reflection of emergent culture where the socially, politically or culturally awkward parts of society have found a place to evolve before their inevitable rise to global domination.

Stargate from Pick TV on freeview. One of the many genre shows filmed in Vancouver, it is the opposite of Battlestar Galactica in its story progression and character development. In the world of stargate there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome, no foe that cannot be beaten or talked round. While BSG is an American parable on the consequences of empire and the loss of life, liberty and happiness; Stargate is a Canadian fantasy where no one is truly bad and everything can be resolved with just a little understanding. Peace, prosperity and good govt, blandness as a civic virtue? Or just Liberal Fan service.

What I am seeing

Spain has a 27% unemployment rate and they recently downgraded their growth prospects from -0.5% to -1.5%. Some say that they should quit the Eurozone, default on their debts and restart growth by becoming a cheap destination for inward investment. Forget the foreign banks and bondholders, what we need is jobs for Spaniards and we need them now.

There is a problem with this plan and that is Spain’s reserve social security fund. In 2007 the fund was invested 50/50 with national debt/foreign debt. By 2011 it was 90% Spanish debt. In 2012 it had invested 97% of its funds in Spanish Govt debt. If Spain defaults it takes a massive hit on all the payments to pensioners, the poor and disabled.

There was rejoicing amongst economists, even amongst doomers like Nouriel Roubini, that the Philippines were upgraded by credit rating agencies to Investment grade status. Slowly but surely the world is growing and developing. Some people are becoming richer and absolute poverty is decreasing. Is that really that simple? Yes and no. A solid economy that is built on sound finances, yes; But one which is subject to price shocks from actions taken in another country, no.

The stimulus spending out of America (QE, Quantitative Easing) is reckoned to have pushed up prices around the world and in doing so driven up food prices which prompted the revolts of the Arab Spring. Here people felt the harsh effects of inflation, which destroyed the value of their savings.

Japan is determined to end its cycle of debt-deflation, it has had 20 years of poor to no growth and it has had enough. This is the cycle that Europe is entering. Therefore the Bank of Japan has a new round of QE that is an order of magnitude greater than before. The US spent $85bn a month, Japan will spend $200bn a month. Their target is to create growth and to achieve an inflation rate of 2% in an economy a 1/3 the size of the US. The possibility of unintended consequences and profound inflation for other countries around the world is high.

Actually understanding what is real or will be real into the future is becoming increasingly difficult as govts/banks/cultures are conducting increasing bold experiments in an effort to maintain living standards of the past. We are driving forward with lingering glances in the rear mirror. Anti-capitalists may not have to come up with a new narrative if capitalism dies under the weight of its own contradictions. Their dream of arriving at a pre-industrial post-feminist utopia will not occur due to someone inventing something which catapults society into a completely different direction.

Save or spend? Buy now or save for tomorrow? There's so many pros and cons. How can you decide? The good folks at econstories have this helpful video to help you make up your mind.

Saturday, November 24th, 2012
9:49 am
My Father's condition - an update
He went into hospital late August and returned home mid October through the process of early stroke discharge. Blue and yellow coloured ambulances are for while green and silver are for transport. He is in the dining room which has been converted into a bedroom, all the equipment he might need was supplied in good time for his arrival. A bed that can be electronically raised with a handset with up/down for the whole bed or just for certain parts of the bed, legs, head, etc. Electric hoists to allow him to move/transfer from bed to chairs, a commode and sundry waste bottles. His schedule of care is 4 visits a day which is on the high side. Two carers arrive each time, mostly the same people but with occasional changes of personnel. Each visit starts and finishes with paperwork where they note what they did and what they observed in a folder which remains on site. He has a morning visit to get him out of bed, wash, use the commode, change clothes and transfer from bed to chair. This usually runs from 10am-10.45. Then a lunchtime, teatime, 9pm visit to check for the same things. During the week he gets council staff and at the weekend it is a local private agency called Elite Assurance.

Add into this visits by Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists and there can be quite a few callers during a day. The therapists always call ahead to check if it is ok to come over and often bring students from local universities who are doing related courses. In order to give my Mother a break I go over to the house to be there a number of times a week to allow her to visit her friends and do shopping.

In terms of progress everyone is happy with the improvement in his leg and praise his bright spirits and positive attitude. I sense from the carers comments they are a lot of people with struggling with being awkward or curmudgeonly. He does not need the electric hoist which has been sent back. He used to require two people with a electric pulley to transfer him from place to place. Now his leg is strong enough that he can stand on it with someone else to support him. He has a cricket hoist which one person, even my OAP mother, can transfer him from chair to wheelchair. He now has full run of the ground floor, provided someone can move him around. His arm is making slow progress with some activity in the upper arm and little activity in the lower arm and hand. He can feel pressure on his fingers but they are swollen and puffy. He has a task of trying to keep his hand wrapped around a kitchen roll but the hand keeps sliding off. There is talk of cutting the number of calls as he becomes more mobile, possibly beginning with the lunchtime call.

He is now mobile enough to make regular trips to the hospital for longer physio appointments. The physio work at home usually lasts for 30 mins but at hospital they have more toys to play with.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
11:54 am
My Father's stroke
My Father had a stroke in late August and was rushed to Solihull Hospital. He was declared medically fit and able to discharged back home in early October. The stroke affected the left hand side of his body, paralysing his face and limbs. It took about 2-3 weeks for him to regain full control of the left of his face, he used to keep a constant supply of tissues to catch any dribbling. He has limited movement in his leg, he can move it slowly and carefully but he requires three people to help him walk. His upper arm muscles do show resistance but there is no movement in the fingers. His voice is a bit weak and the left leg muscle spasm in pain at times but I hope that will improve with time.

Right hand strokes tend to affect memory and speech. It can rob some people of their personality or reduce them to the mental age of a two year old. The experience of visiting my father (3-5pm most days or 7.30-8.30) was that I got to see him improve bit by bit as the weeks went past. He is on an upward trend of improving health and regaining mobility and ability to function. I got to witness the families who visit loved ones who didn't improve or who couldn't meaningfully communicate. Patients who lay in their beds with blank or perturbed looks, who would burble or mouth guttural sounds. Yet those families would continue to come in with photo albums, treasured mementoes, trying to revive a measure of self. Emotionally and physically draining.

The nurses and physiotherapists are in constant attendance, never more than a few feet away. Solihull has a physio gym just by the ward where the patients get daily treatment. The hospital does not have robocop/robot devices to aid the patients but they are in use around the world. Powered limbs help to restore the brain/limb connection if used on a regular basis. Some apparently come with mountings for Uzi 9mm's. Not all patients are fit to receive physio treatment. The hospital's job to make people medically fit so that they can be released back into the community. The nurses are skilled in warmth and compassion, creating an atmosphere that invites anyone to approach them with any questions. Allowing people to express themselves on their own terms and in their own voice. I experienced the opposite of this when I went to buy a mobile broadband dongle so my Father could use his Mac during visiting hours. I asked the store whether there was anyone who could install the dongle and get it running, guaranteeing the promise of internet access to a bedridden parent. A man stepped forward and proceeded to install it while dragging the story of his ill health from me. He was keen to express how sad he was for my Father's condition and equally keen to see me express a similar measure of emotion. The conversation wasn't about me or my Father but the salesman's need to express his emotions. It was the social reverse of the Stiff Upper Lip and equally as manipulative.

He was discharged through the early stroke discharge scheme back to home. The first 6 weeks of care are free and then you have to pay if your net worth is more than £23,500. Many of the elderly, infirm or unaware are sent on to Care Homes or Nursing homes. For my Father to be sent home to recover was seen as a victory by the ward staff. A Thank you to Nats for her comments on medical issues, Stuart for his advice on social care and to the staff for their care and devotion. A Thank you to everyone else for their thoughts and prayers.
Monday, September 24th, 2012
7:21 pm
The downstream consequences of bailing out the banks, Robots and Rioters.
The past week has seen commentators reflecting on the death of Northern Rock in Sept 2007 and Lehman Brothers in Sept 2008. The govt on behalf of the nation asked taxpayers to bail out everyone with money in the bank. The sums involved were astronomical but they would be paid back over time. In addition to this, interest rates were slashed to zero to stimulate the economy.

You, the taxpayer, spent money to help the savers keep their money in the bank. Had the banks gone bust, they would have lost a lot in savings, pension funds, devalued ISAs. Bank would have called in loans and businesses would have collapsed. Unemployment would have soared.
You, the saver, then had the return on that money cut to zero to help taxpayers. All new govt debt has interest that needs to be paid.

Read more...Collapse )

Banks were told that they must increase the level of capital they hold on their balance sheets to ward against bad debts. To stimulate the economy the Bank of England pumped lots of money into the banks to allow them to pay off their bad debts from the boom of past decade. It told them that they must be careful in their lending and they had to loan the money out to the rest of the economy. They had to lend it out the extra money while improving the level of capital they hold to avoid losses.

You must loan out the extra capital while keeping it to buffer against losses. If this sounds contradictory it is because it is. Many banks kept the trillions they were given by the Central Banks on their accounts at the Central Bank earning a small amount of interest.

Imagine a simple bank. It has £1 in equity (shares) and it borrows £9 to invest in money producing assets and to make loans. It is leveraged to 10 to 1 in a ratio of assets to equity. In the good times when it makes a 10% return on its assets that is 100% on equity, which means bonuses all round. In the bad times, a 10% loss means its equity is wiped out; The bank is insolvent. It can keep on trading until all its creditors (those who lent it the original £9) ask for their money back. If the truth about the bank were to become public knowledge other banks would not wish to do business with it. A bank run begins and everyone races to withdraw their funds. Fear becomes the primary motivation. Fear of contagion can drive good banks to become insolvent. A domino effect can take place and within time even the safest bank can become under threat. Those money producing assets could be other bank debts or more likely govt debt.

Govts fund banks and banks fund govts. The two are tied together. When a govt issues debt it relies on banks to buy that debt. It tells the banks that can hold those govt bonds on their balance sheets as risk free assets that do not count against the level of capital they must hold and are not supposed to lend out. The bank gets a new source of income from the govt debt and they get to borrow on cheap money terms to buy the debt. Everyone wins as long as the govt can always sell its debt. If it couldn't then all that risk free debt would turn into potential losses.

The banks used all this new capital for their latest and greatest inventions, High Frequency Trading and Algorithmic Trading. In Superman 3, a genius programmer finds there are sub fractions of interest of less than a penny in every bank account. He takes them all and builds a super computer that takes over America. That's kind of how it is for High Frequency Trading (HFT). The big banks are making millions and millions from taking sub fractions of trading all the market they can stuff into their machines. People are wondering whether HFT is leading to increased instability.

Banks and Hedge Funds use robot systems to trade news releases and breaking stories. They parse the text and instantly buy and sell to create new positions in the markets. These machines are turbo charged by govt bailouts and massive data centres, beyond the reach of the average man. Not just beyond the 1% but the 0.0001%.

In his report on Northern Rock, Newsnight reporter Paul Mason said the response of govt and regulators was a fiasco. The regulators completely failed to see the crash coming and seem to be part of the problem, not part of the cure. The public sector has failed in its own fashion.

These new ways of making money for the banks and the vast wall of money from the central banks have meant that the robots have been pushing prices up, down and are changing the very fabric of markets. Prices can shoot up and within a few months, govts fall and we have the Arab Spring. They can shoot down and we can bankrupt mining companies in Brazil and Australia.

The rioting over austerity and cuts is fed back into the robots who trade without a care or consideration. Rational, Logical, Emotionless. The ability of politicians to fashion a consensus and lead is one of the key failings of the past few years.

Debt remains the problem. We can inflate it away, which help the taxpayers but not the savers. We can erode it with deflation, which helps the savers, but not the taxpayers. We could even forgive the debts and start afresh. Perhaps that's too radical. It could hurt the saver and the taxpayer. Which resolution do you prefer, quick and painful or slow and lingering?
Sunday, August 19th, 2012
9:37 pm
A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money.
Guardian News & Media, Publisher of the Guardian paper, published their annual results this week. They lost £75million this year. This prompted the Economist to answer the perennial question, Can the Guardian Survive?. It has been an extraordinary year with phone hacking story as a standout but a few years of losses on this scale and the paper will be history. The Telegraph makes a profit, can the Guardian with its strong worldwide readership and brand recognition find a way to it cut its costs and increase revenue? Or will that be a cultural step too far.

Are Guardian readers going to pay for the paper to survive? I am a digital subscriber as I think the paper has an important role to play in uncovering and reporting stories. I am much less inclined to renew my subscription when I read some of the stories in their Comment is Free section. Like many other news sites it feels like they are trolling for page clicks, desperately seeking to push the ad rates. In the Observer we have the story about Posh Baiting which contains the line "Even if posh-bashing is technically a hate crime, no one cares much." Try reading the line again with jews, blacks or gays instead of posh. Why should I or anyone subscribe to a paper that publishes articles like this? Why does anyone want to support hatred against another part of society?

The Independent was bought by a Russian Oligarch, are there any billionaires willing to fund the Guardian?
Thursday, August 16th, 2012
8:25 am
Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff
Ken Hite and Robin D Laws are games designers. At a Dragonmeet seminar they mentioned they were planning a podcast, Ken and Robin talk about Stuff. It's arrived and is highly entertaining. Covering Games design, culture and anything that comes into their heads this promises to be a great show.
Friday, July 6th, 2012
8:56 pm
A brief look into the future
Starting at the centre of world affairs, America. Read moreCollapse )
Saturday, June 23rd, 2012
9:19 am
Natwest IT problems
There is a report on the Register about Natwest's banking problems. Read the comments, the site allows anonymous posting under the name of 'Anonymous Coward' and it seems that a few RBS/Natwest IT staff who have been outsourced are commenting. Apparently the Management at RBS/Natwest couldn't see this coming...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/06/22/rbs_natwest_outage_fourth_day/

Too much outsourcing is like juggling with hand grenades, one failure and you're gonna have a bad day.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
2:42 pm
UK Games Expo 2012
In the 80's the big summer games convention was Gamesfair and it took place on university campuses, Reading and Loughborough. In the 90's the big summer convention was Gencon and it took place in big cities like London. Outraged at being left out of the con circuit a group of Cornish gamers brought the UK rights to Gencon and moved it to the southwest. Unsurprisingly visitor numbers dropped; TSR's bankruptcy and other drama killed the con off.

A Bham games group thought they could do better and that the country could support a summer convention in the middle of the country. They succeeded beyond their expectations. UK Games Expo got over 2,500 people on Sat last year. The current venue is overcrowded so next year they will be moving to the NEC Metropole Hotel.

It's on this weekend, Fri-Sun with the trade hall open on Sat-Sun. A short taxi ride from New Street Station.
Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
11:29 am
When In Finance
For anyone who ever has deal with Finance, wrestled and raged at Excel there is the tumblr #WheninFinance, some captions NSFW. For those who are wondering whether they really do work 80-90 hours a week, yes they do. Who needs friends, family, sleep or even health when you have the promise of money?
Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
10:45 am
Master Investor 2012
An investment show run by t1ps for its members. It's a mixture of small companies doing shareholder relations and a main hall for guest speakers. The speaker lineup has been fairly static over the past few years but as they are an entertaining group I'm not complaining.

Some of them are Thatcherite free marketeers, but don't let that put you off, their value lies in what they have seen, won, lost and what they escaped from. This is the equivalent of adventurers swapping tall tales after a dungeon crawl.

"When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your head up against the bar room wall, looks you crooked in the eye, and asks you if you paid your dues; you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have you paid your dues, Jack? Yes sir, the cheque is in the mail." Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China.

What struck me was how many of the solutions or ideas they offered were for people with free capital. Fine if you are cash rich, limited otherwise. If you are worried about the Eurozone or endemic corruption in the BRIC countries you buy physical gold or convert some of your cash into US dollars, expecting other currencies to drop in value. Not much use for people who want to save a little bit every month. Their choice is to hold blue chip stocks like Aviva, Diageo, Unilever. Large multinationals who reliably produce dividends from their worldwide operations. A few years ago there would have been two other names on that list, LloydsTSB and BP. Both of whom have been subject to crisis and no dividend payouts. The cash rich can afford to risk capital where the citizen shareholder does not.

Fraud and broken dreams were also a key topic. If you look at the history of mining there are many stories of unsuspecting punters lured into promises of gold, diamonds and rare earths; A lot of these stories reference Vancouver. Most of them end badly. The share price races up and down on rumours of finds, discoveries and failures. The percentage gains are astounding if you bought at the bottom, buy now! This could be your last chance.

Hong Kong is one of the most developed and sophisticated Capital Markets in the world. Why then do Chinese companies bypass HK and list in London and New York? Is it because they want the international exposure and prestige of a foreign listing? Is it because they think that western investors are more savvy? Two of the speakers are accountants and auditors. By reviewing balance sheets and corporate cash flow they may take a view that a company is overvalued or fraudulent. There are a number of Chinese companies on London's AIM market that appear unusual. The story is that Chinese investors are sold an idea, invest their money on shares bought in a distant land and wave goodbye to their money. It's having such a good time on holiday that it doesn't want to return to the Middle Kingdom. North America is also a popular venue, Sino Forest, a notable example. We find out about these companies through short sellers, people who are brave enough to point out the problems and back their opinion with money.

Biopharma is the new Gold Rush, lots of companies promising much but who will deliver? They share a lot in common with mining stocks, prices shooting up and down as results of trials are published. There is a lot of money to be made, and sadly another incentive for scientific fraud. Some stable companies will emerge but for now this investment is not recommended for widows and orphans.
Friday, February 24th, 2012
8:33 pm
The Financial Crisis, part next
The 2nd Greek Bailout, the Duke Nukem Forever of the Financial world, has happened and like DNF, everyone hates it. Monetary Miserablism will continue until there is a change of script or director, Beatings will continue until morale improves, etc.

To recap the positions of the big players:
China went for a huge economic stimulus package, of which there are no problems to report. The party is in full control of the situation. To illustrate its confidence it asked Banks to rollover $1.7 Trillion of loans to Local Govts.
America went for economic stimulus. Again, no significant problems to report. Particularly with Mortgages, or Fraud, or lack of regulation. There was that thing in San Francisco, but who trusts Liberals anyway?.

" In the absence of state and federal research about how the nation's largest mortgage companies are forging mortgage documents and wrongfully foreclosing on borrowers, local officials are stepping up. Earlier this week, San Francisco assessor-recorder Phil Ting released a report concluding that 85 percent of nearly 400 audited foreclosures had serious problems or were outright illegal, providing a rare glimpse into the specifics of foreclosure fraud in America. "

Europe has gone for fiscal austerity, opting for pain today with the hope of Jam tomorrow. Paul Mason, a reporter for Newsnight, has been covering the Greek Crisis in depth, Struggling Greeks losing belief in the state. Greece is a country in crisis where no one believes in the centre ground of politics, where reason and reasonableness are hard to find. People are flocking to the extremes of politics in protest and anger. Without a centre ground then minorities can be picked off one by one. They were obviously to blame for the crisis.

Angela Merkel, the Irony Chancellor, who came to power in a post Communist Germany may witness it rise again in Greece.

The FT has sober and serious commentators, wait and see what the EU/ECB will do they would say. They have waited, they have reflected and their judgement is that it is hard to see how this bailout helps Greece. Maybe the private sector will step up and replace the state as a jobs provider, maybe not. It can be tough to start a new business in Greece.

David McWilliams on the view from Dublin, What Lies ahead for Europe?. LTSB's losses on its Irish loans are about 65%. I'm sure the figure in China will be much lower. Trust the Party, The Party is your friend.

What does this mean for you and I, what's the big picture?

Well if Europe is going to be locked into fiscal austerity, due to the latest Euro treaty and falling demand across the continent then that means lower growth for the UK, regardless of which party is in charge. It means ultra low interest rates are here for longer, to spur on growth. But that means savers, pensioners will continue to suffer with low incomes. The value of your pension in the future is being lowered as the return on the fixed income portion of it drops and drops. The FT's Alphaville had this piece of guidance, Bond market returns are about as attractive as following a plague of locusts across a field of corn.

If you want income from your equities, ensure that they come from overseas, preferably South America/Africa/Asia.
Friday, February 17th, 2012
9:05 pm
Free Videos
I have some VHS tapes that I am throwing out. On the off chance that someone might want one, please leave a comment.

The list, a mixture of films and TV seriesCollapse )
Saturday, January 28th, 2012
12:24 pm
Greece and other disasters
A few weeks back, journalists were told by credible sources that a deal on Greek debt was due to be signed at the weekend. This would be the model solution for any other European states. We're still waiting for that deal, it seems that the traditional Euro fudge approach to summit deals is not working. Unsurprisingly the tale is turning into a Greek drama with all sides storming off from talks before storming back. Will there be a deal? It's possible, here are few of the latest developments in the financial crisis.

The Troika (European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) is unhappy with Greek action on previous agreements. They may or may not give its next instalment of cash. If not, then Greece defaults.
Germany wants to take control of the Greek Budget, effectively taking over a large part of Greek Sovereignty. Presumably trying to stop Greece defaulting.

Edit: Greece has politely declined the offer of assistance in budgetary matters.

Zero Hedge has a flow chart on the next steps the Greek debt drama might take. PSI=Private Sector Involvement, If case of a default/credit event then Credit Default Swaps (an insurance contract) will be required to pay out. That could be very expensive and might reveal that some banks/insurance companies didn't cover their risks.
The ECB wants to be exempt from having to take any forced losses on bonds because they are a special snowflake.
France is determined to introduce a financial transactions tax. All of Europe has to come together and implement this tax which will fund any future emergencies. It will cover everything from high finance to saving for your pension. Everything will be taxed except French Govt Bonds.
China continues to "save face" about its economic performance.
Spain unemployment rate has hit 25%.
Portugal's borrowing costs become ever more unsustainable. It looks like it will need a 2nd bailout and possibly a 3rd, 4th until its debt is written down to a manageable level.
Debt writeoffs or default will look increasingly likely. Ireland's position is particularly difficult.

A short skit on Bank of America (NSFW).

Thursday, January 12th, 2012
4:00 pm
We neither know nor understand
As many people have noted, SOPA is a House bill that will cause more problems than it attempts to solve. A knee jerk overreaction, something must be done etc.

There are three bills before Congress around the issues of IP, Copyright and so on.
1) SOPA, HR3261, which has 31 co-sponsors out of 435 members of the House of Representatives
2) Protect IP (PIPA), S968 which has 40 co-sponsors out of 100 members of the Senate
3) Combating Military Counterfeits Act of 2011 S1228, which has 9 co-sponsors in the Senate.

All dealing with internet piracy and future Bradley Mannings; All bubbling over with unintended and unexpected consequences. I am reminded of an article in Slate about Net Neutrality. Mandated by law the FCC stops big corporations riding roughshod over the marketplace but history twists and the internet revolution happens elsewhere. I expect one or all of these bills to pass, I believe whatever protests the internet community can mount are a penny and a pound too late.

The entertainment industry is one of the few areas where America has a comparative advantage over the rest of the world, it is not surprising that they want to defend it. Those people who have responsibilities, the business owner, the bankers who lent billions to the owners, the employees with children to support want 'something done' or they fear for their future. Only a handful get input in the actions that do the deed and invariably in the field of politics it is a decisive show of force. Ergo SOPA, So ends the bloody business of the day.

Meanwhile those without responsibility or denying its value continue their struggle, ill aware that they will lose if the public at large follow their model. They criticise and complain but offer nothing positive. They offer the optimism of youth, the blindness of a child, unaware and unwilling, lacking wisdom. Neither side willing to compromise or see the opposing point of view.

Both sides should work together, but why do that when you can just blindly shout at each other, ignoring any notion of sense and courtesy. The kind shall be cruel and the rational will be irrational. Buy the books, quote the slogans, make an image macro and repeat, repeat, repeat. As the cultural revolution didn't say, if a lie is worth repeating, it is worth reposting in your favourite forum.

If the big media corps die because they have no visibility of earnings due to piracy then we will enter a world where those countries which allow them to flourish will become the new central hubs of global culture. I can't see the prideful Senators of America letting that happen without a fight.

Elsewhere in Washington, the corporate intelligence company Stratfor has been hacked and its clientèle, the rich and powerful, trolled and rolled. The military/security complex has been embarrassed. The CEO of Stratfor issued a response to this event. The FT's Alphaville column has a feature on it, We neither know nor understand.
Monday, January 2nd, 2012
9:16 pm
Slate's Negotiation Academy
Negotiation is a key life skill that we all need.

Slate has put together a series of 10 short podcasts on the noble art of persuasion. A witty and engaging series which has interviews with Wall Street deal makers and Police Negotiation specialists. Whether we are talking with friends or colleagues we are often engaging in Negotiation, seeking the best for ourselves and our community.

You could argue that Roleplaying is a series of continual negotiations. In life there are many choices and often we go round and round in circles looking for the best option, we are negotiating with ourselves. Make your life easier and listen in to the tips and tricks of negotiation.
Sunday, January 1st, 2012
10:48 am
2012 predictions
Livejournal will continue to degrade.
I can't use it on my phone, either through full or mobile logins.
The android app allows you to post only with no access to the friends page.
The number of DDOS's is increasing, mirroring the unrest in Russia.
The friends page only allows you to go back for two pages worth of entries. Difficult if you trying to find event details in the past.

In Oct 2011, Vic Gundotra of Google said they were relenting on pseudonyms. Were that to actually happen, I'm not holding my breath, I might consider using G+ as a blogging platform rather than LJ.

The Eurozone crisis will not get resolved, chaos will continue. The new story will be the problems in the core, the collapse of Hungary and its links to German and Austrian Banks.

The American culture war will continue to stink up the internet. PIPA and SOPA are overreactions to the previous overreactions by freetards. 2012 is an election year so something will be done to satisfy Congress's stakeholders. America will vote for a Centre Right politician, it doesn't really matter who it is. The 12th Amendment may or may not get talked about if extra candidates join the Republicans and Democrats.

Scotland's drive to Independence will give Labour more sleepless nights. Who can stop Alex Salmond? No one seems able to lay a glove on him. What was once unthinkable is moving inexorably closer to political reality. The prospect of no Labour MPs from Scotland in Westminster must be concentrating minds tremendously. The most effective opposition to the Tories in the UK is the SNP.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
10:44 am
LJ as a benchmark for Russian political stress
Another election, another time where LJ is slow to unusable. I wonder who the attackers would be? I see the protest vote in Russia went to the Communists. Just how bad does it have to get where you'd vote for Commie Mutant Traitors?
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