It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Archive for February, 2012

Read the contract

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 29, 2012

It is obvious: one of the worms is wiggling

Remember the treaty that was not a treaty that Mr Cameron vetoed?  What was it all about?  It seemed pretty important then.  I remember that it said that every nation had to adhere to a strict set or rules on spending, made strict by the penalties which would plunge an offender into even deeper trouble.  There was other stuff that I don’t remember.  It was agreed a long time ago now and I thought it was a done deal and all in place – there seemed a deal of urgency about it.  It is not.

The ‘treaty’, and I have to use quotes as I don’t have a good word to describe it, was supposedly couched in sufficient words that all the nations’ parliaments could pass it into law without any nasty democratic stuff like a referendum.  But they did not get it past the attorney-general in Ireland.  There will have to be a referendum.  This involves the Irish people who twice had to asked twice before they got the ‘right’ answer on EU matters over recent years.  I suspect that despite all the weight that will be put behind a ‘YES’ vote that it will be a close run ‘NO’.

But it does not matter.  The ‘treaty’ only needs ratifying by 12 of the nations – the treaty writers have learnt some lessons.  I wonder how workable it is if some of the nations are using the rules but some of them are not?  We are going to find out soon.  Not only is Ireland lining up for a place on the other side, the likely winner of the French Presidency race has said he will be over there with them post-haste.  Not that there is much to be concerned with as the previous set of rules for running economies were ignored by nearly all the signatories.

So, Irish people, it does not matter whether you get the right answer to this question or not as with only 12 ratifications needed you are not.  Let’s see.


It is obvious: one of the worms is wiggling a couple of nails will sort it out


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You can’t touch me I’m a member of the…

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 27, 2012

It is obvious:  there is a lot to remember
When I was younger I was naive.  No!  When I was younger I was more naive than I am now.  That sits better.

When I was young I also played rugby and squash.  This is the main reason I have only got one fully functioning knee.  It was a different game then – both of them actually but I’m talking rugby here.  For example if you put the ball into a scrum not parallel with the center line it was a penalty.  If you took a penalty kick or conversion kick and any of the opposition moved the referee would turn to the kicker and ask him if he would like the luxury of another go.

So I watched only half the England Wales game on Saturday.  Wales were lucky.  By that I mean that, on the day, there was little between the teams…and the Welsh manager knew it.  I could go back to the Scotland and Italy games…England were lucky.  I only watched half the game as we were out walking.  We just managed to come across a pub with a tv just as the game was starting.  Complete coincidence.

I have always watched England compete at anything.  I have also watched Great Britain or the United Kingdom.  I have watched some bizarre events because I am English and I support England.  If there was an international paint drying competition then I would watch it were England competing.  I know ours would be the slowest but it was ever thus.

When I was younger if I happened by a tv and England were not playing but Scotland or Wales were then I supported them.  I have since learnt better.  Now with the rugby when I watch Wales vs Scotland I am willing both sides to lose.

So I hear with some interest that Scotland wants to break away from the union.  Jolly poor timing I would say.  As ever there is a furore over precisely what question can they ask in the proposed referendum.  Who cares?  We are in a union that the US also has and which Europe is trying to create.  What is more, it works.  But I don’t care.  Let Scotland break away.  Now that North Sea oil is in decline it is clear that England gets less from it than the money that is given to Scotland.  But that is how a union works and it is amusing to see a beneficiary whining when that is exactly what the EU is trying to become over the water with huge reluctance from the only possible givers.

What is more interesting is that the German economy was in a mess after re-union.  The efforts by the rest of Europe, whether they realised it or not, were what enabled Germany to recover to such robust strength.  Now Germany is not willing to help Europe.  Short memories or simply no understanding by the voters?

When Scotland (and Wales) devolved I was looking for the job adverts so that I could join the Scottish Repatriation force.  Perhaps with independence they will create the force?  There would be the problem of definition that the Nazis had.  They classed someone who was a quarter Jewish as pure enough.  Disgusting people Nazis.  Alas, I only realised recently that my children are an eight Scottish.  If they set the dividing line correctly I can keep my children and be rid of my wife!  They may even set up a compensation fund that I can claim from.  No need to go to a wife-swapping party when I next need a new washing machine.

It is obvious:  there is a lot to remember but there is a lot of goldfish in our much?

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Bright idea (98)

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 22, 2012

It is obvious: the sun will rise in the morning

Only 3 days commuting on Motorways and I have fallen into the pattern that I developed on my last long-term motorway commute.  In the morning, quite early, I dawdle in at 60 mph getting 50-plus-a-lot MPG.  In the evening it is an indicated 80 in the outside lane.  At least for a little of the time.  I have to move over as lot of people are going past me like I am standing still.

I see a lot of idiocy on the roads as we all do.  I see high-speed lane switching and tail-gating.  At low-speed in a city it mostly costs money.  On the motorway it costs lives.

I remember a ‘Peer of the Realm’ having a crash on the motorway and on inspection of his phone records they could deduce that he was on the motorway in the period before the accident on his phone.  They could not nail phone use as the cause of the accident but they did him for the crash and the phone use and threw the (phone)book at him.

A recent e-mail conversation of some friends about how much your phone/e-mail providers know about you suggests to me that they can do a lot better now.  Should you care to look, the phone company has plenty of information about where you are and when.  So should it see your phone is in Leicester at mid-day and Watford at 13:00 then by definition you have been speeding.  £60 fine in the post.  You have the option to finger someone else who was driving your phone around and they get the fine plus 3-points.  Lots of details and boundary cases, but a lot of loonies in fast cars will start to drive a bit slower.  Turning their phone off does not help.  A lot of expensive phones will be ‘lost’ – same as a fine.

We are on a lot of exponential curves and are just turning the corner on this one.

It is obvious: the sun will rise in the morning…and Greece will default

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I’ve got a job

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 20, 2012

It is obvious: I’ve got a pension

I started a permanent job today.  Not sure I can do it but I’ll try and make a difference.  I started with HR and I have to say that they were efficient and to the point.  I was not given any political correctness literature and the company statement was handed over in an embarrassed fashion.  It had a high cringe factor but was limited to one side of A4 that folded into a triangular column with not a deal of writing on it.

They allowed me to sign up with the health stuff – no questions asked.  Could also join the wife which I did.  I’ll see how much that ends up costing me.  They also insured me so I’ll have to keep that away from the wife as it will shorten my life expectancy.

Then they handed me the pension stuff.  Not really worth it at 62 I thought, but given that I am now under my wife’s budget control (makes Gordon Brown look like a miserly, stingy, scrimper) it is an opportunity to save money before it appears in my bank account.  I did a few calculations in the car on the way home.  I can as a maximum put 4% of salary into the pension and the company will put 7% in.  (I have not looked into who is managing the fund and that has a lot of bearing on things.)  So if I earn £100,000 a year (I don’t) then there will be £11,000 in the fund plus in some way the government will contribute 40%.  I think it is after the event and on my contribution so it adds £2,666 to the fund: £13,666.  At the end of the year I can retire and start my pension.  It is not a good idea at the moment as annuity rates are so low.  However I can take 25% as a lump sum – unless the rules change in the budget.  So I’ll get £3,400 back…very close to what I put in.  I’m assuming here that the fund grows enough to match inflation.  Then for £600 I will be able to buy an annuity of £10,000 and get about £500 a year in pension payments.  I think I have to do it.

Suppose that I started at the same company when I was 20 and stuck it for 40 years.  At today’s rates I might start on £20,000 and finish on £100,000 – I think that optimistic but you know me: I am forever optimistic.  So I can multiply that all up and I’m going to have a pension fund of £400,000.  Again I am assuming that the fund grows in line with inflation.  I get back most of the £100,000 that I put in and get a pension of £15,000 a year.  Not a deal and as time goes by quite a deal less in real terms.  After the last year at £100,000 salary I am dropped to about £22,000 if I add in the state pension.

I have two observations.  The first one is that I jolly well need to have saved a deal of that salary over the years in a bank or another pension scheme (give us money for 40 years and after that we’ll give you money…honest guv) or it is going to be a bit of a shock in that first year of retirement.  Second I wonder how pension funds are coping with final salary schemes.  If this company were operating one then it would have to be finding the order of £60,000 a year for me which would need an annuity fund of about £1,600,000.  Where is the £1.2m coming from?

It is obvious: I’ve got a pension –  a lot of other people think they have  as well.

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Anyone for a Panzer?

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 19, 2012

It is obvious: it’s not rocket science

For much of the last 20 years there have been 5 people in our house, and a cat who ran the show.  Both boys did a lot of sport and I was either running or in the gym many days a week.  Consequently our washing machine went on at least once a day and often twice.  During that time I never got extended warranty.  I really should have as our washing machines barely made it out of their guarantees.

Yesterday our machine gave up.  Something had gone wrong with the controls so it always did the long cycle and seemed to kidnap the clothes for a couple of hours.  It had made odd noises even after I cleared the pump of all the detritus that seems to gather there – 30p on this occasion.  Then suddenly it decided that it was happy to move water in and out but it was not going to turn the drum.  Also bits of red plastic were turning up in the drum.  Logic says it was stuff we put in but…

A while ago I got a man in to replace the brushes and he said we should get a decent length of service from it.  I was not ready to go through the cycle of getting someone in to look at it and perhaps still having to buy one.  There was time on a Saturday afternoon. to go and get a new one.  The local store seems to do good deals.  To the extent that I have bought lots of stuff and when (before or after) checking on the internet it has always been competitive I marched in intending to come out with one.

We wandered around their selection and saw prices from £260 to £1000.  There was no way I could really judge what was worthwhile.  The salesman decided to move in.  How many in the house?  Two.  How often will you use it?  I wash gym stuff most days, but they sewed me into my thermal underwear in back in October so once a day is a good average.  “Ah”, he said, “then you won’t want an English machine.  It will have to be German.”

I stood in shock for a few seconds while my wife stepped in and bought some recovery time with a few technical questions.  She asked about spin speeds.  He pointed out that for spinning speed was not what it was all about.  For some programmes a low spin speed was enforced as otherwise it would rip the clothes apart.  I never thought of that.

I recovered and walked over to a Siemens with a big advertised discount.  I am sceptical of these.  The price before discount is usually one they had in their Outer Mongolia store last month for 25 minutes or it is an end of line old technology they want to get rid of.  It was still a washing machine with a 5 year warranty for parts and labour.  He explained that they had different shaped holes in the drum as these were better for drainage and did less damage to the clothes.  He pointed at the sides which were not just a sheet of steel but were pressed with a wavy shape.  These vibrate less and transmit less sound – it is a quieter machine.  He went through the controls.  Here I am very sceptical.  I have already written about my microwave with an on and off button and little else which is all we use and costs £30 instead of the £200 machine that makes the Starship Enterprise’s controls look a little on the simple side.  This one had what I would call a moderate complexity.  We used two settings on the other machine and it had those so there was not a huge useless expense.  There was another setting that caught my eye.  It has one that will wash a 2Kg load in 15 minutes…my gym kit!

My wife is in charge of finance now (the source of another half-dozen blogs) so I sent her off to pay while I looked at the other machines armed with my new knowledge.  The ‘English machines’ had flat side panels and old style holes in the drums.  None of them had a super-short wash cycle.  I pulled them about on the stand and the English ones felt the flimsiest and lighter.

I’ve got a French car, a German dishwasher, an English laptop where the assembler has gone bust but all the bits are foreign, an asian phone, thermal underwear from China via the USA and read most of my books on a Kindle which is Asian again.


It is obvious: it’s not rocket science so why aren’t we doing it and where is our ‘recovery’ and the enemy, growth, going to come from?

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Powdered baby-milk anyone?

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 17, 2012

It is obvious: everyone can see what will happen

I am amazed that when my children were young and I was essentially out of communication for the week working long (and fun) hours away from home that we would often spend much of Saturday morning in Croydon.  We would needlessly spend money on stuff and then fight our way through some packed fast-food restaurant and eat unhealthy food.

I have not been there much in the last 20 years.  I have already moaned about the Council.  In its wisdom it sold the car parks to raise money to pay for the deficit in its budget one year.  I wonder what they intended to do the following year?  The Labour council did not get the chance to tell us.  The company that bought the car parks put the prices up and the Conservative council encouraged bigger rises.  This was intended to keep up or even improve revenues and cut the numbers of people getting to the centre by car.  What it did was to empty the car parks and reduce the people coming to Croydon to kill off many of the businesses in the centre.  A lot of disreputable people moved in and it became even less of a place to go to if you were not in a gang, or had a young family, or weren’t looking to pick up some drugs.

It is a dire place.  During daylight hours a lot of office workers are there so that sandwich shops are doing well and some services such as hairdressers for those workers are also doing well.  Many shops in the centre have gone and are not being replaced.

Today I heard that the iniquitous Nestle are moving their headquarters out of Croydon.  They are going to Gatwick.  The trains are 15 minutes longer from London and there are not so many.  It is closer to a motorway by 20 minutes and more.  Clearly an economic decision.  Not one based on an improvement of environment, but Croydon has sunk far enough that it makes little difference.

The hairdresser that my wife uses (she used to work in central Croydon) has already got rid of staff.  Few people believe that the building will be let by another company.

The few reasons we have to go into Croydon reduce by the day.  One is not a good sample.  Everyone I know does not go into Croydon any more.  There are a lot of expensive buildings in Croydon, not counting those burnt down in the riots.  Their value must be reducing.  It does not matter in the large as people are still shopping, drinking and eating.  They are just doing it in other places.

So do I care?  Alas, I do.  My council tax bill is affected by how much revenue the council can generate from the centre.  I’ll bet my pension fund owns some of those buildings along with its Greek bonds.

It is obvious: everyone can see what will happen – except those that make the decisions.

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Beware the Ides of March

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 16, 2012

It is obvious: the rumour is worse than the reality

I spent a little time surfing the internet this morning.  I was looking at the sides of the argument about 3-valued logic in SQL implementations and 2-valued logic in the relational model.  It is a little mind-boggling that you are trying to work to something that has a theoretical underpinning that differs for all implementations and the international standard.

I must have put in a multi-valued key word as I serendipitously came across a lot of rumour about Greece and its impending default.    Obviously this lured me away from my academic studies.  Most of the stuff I was reading had little provenance.  A couple had some claims to a basis in truth.  They had consensus: 23rd March.

That is interesting as Greece needs money before then to avoid a default…but everyone knows that.

There were a lot of conspiracy theories about a Greek bailout deal nearly being made on many occasions and then someone coming along and spoiling it with new and unreasonable demands.  There was the demand that Greece should guarantee to keep to the deal no matter who is in power in April.  This followed hard on the heals of demands for an extra £320mn of saving.  So it is that a deal has been a long time in coming…but that is what has happened for a long time so nobody really thought much of it.

I am not Greek and not in Greece.  Were I then I would get any money I had out of the country and into something that had the smell of safe-haven.  Probably Swiss Francs.  I would get all my Euros out of bank accounts and into hard coins and notes in a box in the garden.  I would make sure that none of those notes had the Greek designation on them.  I would make sure that there was plenty of long store food in the kitchen, etc., etc.  If I have thought of it at this late stage then you can be sure that the Greeks are way ahead of me.  All this abnormal movement of money must be creating havoc with the economy in general and the money ‘systems’ within Greece and throughout Europe.

I think the biggest problem could easily be the notes and coins in circulation and the demand of the population to get them from the banks before they are turned into Drachmas.

It is obvious: the rumour is worse than the reality but not all the time

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What a difference a day makes

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 15, 2012

It is obvious: the people in charge are not stupid

Einstein is attributed with saying something like: if you continually repeat the same experiment hoping for a different result you are daft.  I see two very public examples of this in the news nearly every day.

First up is QE by the BoE MPC.  (Today is National Acronym Day (NAD) shared with TLA (Three Letter Abbreviation) day.)  The reasons given for QE by the BoE are not 100% clear.  However it has been a success as money supply has grown, inflation has one up and GDP has increased by a fraction of a percentage point all because of QE.  Hold it right there.  Bear in mind that we are stuck with the parallel universe problem.  We cannot re-run the last few years to see what happened if there were no QE.  However the Bank of England has predicted GDP of over 2% when it is less than 1%.  How can they say that GDP is higher because of QE?  It assumes that they can accurately predict what it would be.  Indeed if they had said a year ago that they expected GDP growth to be 0 and it would be 0.7% because of QE then there might have been some credibility in their claim.

This then raises a question.  Did they get GDP so wrong because of incompetence or deliberately.  If it was incompetence then get rid of them fast.  If it was deceit then did they quote ludicrously high GDP numbers to keep confidence up and persuade us to spend more?  In that case they have entered the grounds of moral hazard and dubious ethics.  However they have a problem having made the numbers big on the way down, what do they do on the way up?  That gives even more reasons to sack them.

So to Einstein.  Whatever the effects of QE they are increasing it.  On a pro-rata basis increasing QE by a fifth will give a fraction of a fraction of a percentage point increase in GDP…just supposing that is what it does.  However there is no proof that any of the claims of the success of QE are actually caused by QE.  Indeed many of the problems of recent times could be attributed to QE – why not?  So something that has not been accurately measured is being continued in the hope that there will be a big jump in something good that can be attrbuted to QE.  Also think that every independent observer that I can lay my hands on, and a good number of those with different axes to grind, say that QE increases inflation.  It will be interesting to see what the BoE and MPC say about it over coming weeks.  Watch for an increase in inflation and the squirming that will accompany it.

The second idiocy is Greece.  The latest rescue deal is being delayed because Greece has not signed up to a sufficiently austere set of terms.  This is the same Greece that lied to get into the Euro and has so far failed to come good on promised actions 3 times already.  What makes them think that they will do what they promised a fourth time under much more difficult circumstances?

The leaders of the EU are now starting to admit what the last year has been about.  One of them said that the banks were stronger than a year ago and could withstand a Greek default…let them do it.  So the last year has just been a ruse to buy time to save the banks.  Again they are in an ‘ends justifies the means’ position of moral hazard.  What they have bought over the last year is a lot of misery in Greece and an extremist government way out to the left or right, or, more likely, anarchy and the return of the Colonels.

I delayed publishing this overnight, and it now seems that the fourth repeat of the experiment might not be tried.

It is obvious: the people in charge are not stupid, which still leaves corrupt in play.

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I deserve it

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 10, 2012

It is obvious: I know I am worth more

I find it difficult to take a position on money paid to the people who run big organisations.  This comes from my definition of rich: someone with more money than me.

If someone is paid a salary of £1m then he is going to pay more than £640,000 to HMRC.  There is much talk of progressive taxation and that looks like it to me.  I also have touched on the word ‘fair’ as applied to the taxes that one pays.  It seems to me that £640,000 is a fair amount to pay.  I have also made the point that I would rather someone who is running a business spend it in the economy than give it to a government of any stripe to spend on my behalf.

The company paying this person will also give HMRC a fair bit of money for the pleasure of employing him.  It is amusing to hear demands that the person is paid in shares or some other mechanism linked to the performance of the company.  For a start that immediately removes  NIC from the equations and reduces HMRC’s take.  Second it does not seem entirely fair, and I have just hit on a different use of the word to the one used earlier.  In 2008/2009 the price of most shares on the stock exchange halved in value.  All of it out of the control of the people running the companies.

I have also heard that a CEO should be paid according to the performance of the company.  This misses a huge point: compared to what?  If a company is moribund and likely to die in a couple of years and a CEO comes in and drives a winning strategy so that the performance bumps along the bottom for a number of years before showing strong growth, then the performance is poor but compared to dying it is very good.  So we need a parallel universe to see what happened to the company where the CEO did not take over so a good comparison can be made and an proper reward calculated.

That is not how anything in life works, particularly the rewards for effort.  There is no correlation between brains and money.  Too many other factors apply and have equal or greater effect.  Not least is the ability to negotiate.  You are worth exactly what you can negotiate and no more.

It is obvious: I know I am worth more and I am the only person who can do anything about it…like some people already have

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Bring on the instruments

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 9, 2012

It is obvious: you and I have no idea what will happen and what the effects will be

In a reverse of an earlier blog we are being shown the instruments of torture and told what will happen to us.  However these tales are gradually being exposed as simply wrong.  So much so that people are beginning to say: bring on the torture, it cannot possibly be as bad as you say it will be.

I posed the question and had a poor attempt at an answer of what does happen if a trigger event does occur.  Greece defaulting was one of my triggers.  A bank ‘doing a Lehmann’ was another.  However a lot of effort has been put in, not least by the ECB recently to make sure that no bank will fail or at least not fail so bad that they can’t be rescued…by you and me.  (Get your cheque book ready.)  Then the consequences of a default will be big but short.  There will be big losers while most of us will simply be losers.  Our living standards will be down a notch, but life will be little different other than for the short time while a new equilibrium is reached.

I hear the phrase: disorderly default.  It is applied to Greece.  However it is wrong.  A default has no qualifiers just the same as ‘unique’ or ‘pregnant’ cannot have.  Greece either pays its bills or it does not.  The later is a default.  Disorderly is merely describing the state of readiness of the entities that lent to Greece.

We are approaching a state where Greece’s lenders are ready for a default.  So, having bought a lot of time for preparation, and taken a lot of money off you and me, a default can now be allowed to happen.  So I am convinced the when-not-if scenario is reaching that moment of ‘now’.  It is not something to be frightened of.

Keep investing in yourself to stay in employment.  Exercise and eat well to minimise the time you are in the clutches of the NHS.  Live within your means and build some buffers.

For the rest sit back and enjoy the show, it will make good viewing.

It is obvious: you and I have no idea what will happen and what the effects will be – even the best guesses are exactly that.

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