It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Archive for August, 2012

It’s all joined up

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 28, 2012

It is obvious: it is not only justice that is blind

A silver lamppost has stood outside my house for the last 60 years at least.  It is iron and has leaves and other design cast into the base.  A robust post about 15 ft tall with a cross-piece for ladders and an elegant, curved thin beam supporting the light in a decorated shade.  It has stood there and done a job for the 25 years I have been there.  Twice I have rung up because it was not on at night.

I should have written all that in the past tense as a month ago a gang of workers descended on the road.  They dug a lot of trenches and installed much taller black lampposts.  There is a kind of elegance about their straight lines but that elegance does not match the road.  There is no cross-piece on them.  For maintenance a man with a ladder will not do it.  One of those hydraulic articulated lift trucks is needed to get a man up there.

These lights are more efficient needing less maintenance and using much less electricity.  They also have ‘technology’ in them that will help to improve maintenance.

I wonder how many watts of electricity they will save over their life time?  I know it will not approach a fraction of the power needed to create the steel in the posts.  I know that the energy and effort to deliver the new, take away the old, dig the trenches, re-tarmac the trenches far exceeds the energy-saving of the new lamps.

In fact they are such good energy savers that they decided to leave the one outside my house on all the time.  Then no doubt to make up for it they decided to turn it off all the time.  I went to the council website to report the problem.  I had a long trawl of the site and could not find where to report it.  I complained and they sent me a link.  When I went to it I discovered that it does not support Firefox.  Eventually I got to street lighting.  Lamp number 009 is recorded as being outside no 14…I am no 10.

The light now works properly and is recorded outside my house.  It only has to last another 25 years fault free and it will have made the same efficiency levels as the one that has gone.

At a time of ‘austerity’ why is something that is clearly not broken being fixed?

It is obvious: it is not only justice that is blind, the people running my council are up there.  Deaf and dumb as well.

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What are all these elephants doing here?

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 25, 2012

It is obvious: I don’t care

Sitting in my world I am concerned about preserving ‘wealth’, trying to get a job and losing weight.  I am amazed at what the people in charge are doing running countries in general.  They base everything on the quest for growth and it just cannot happen.  Whatever they do will fail.  Will their meddling make things worse?  I think not materially.  At least I can compensate for the things they do sufficient that their actions will make little difference to me.

So I’ve got the mahout’s stick out and sent the herd packing.  Trouble is there are a lot of elephants still wandering around the room.

The Arctic ice is on the point of breaking all records for the amount melting this summer.  So things are a bit hotter.  Who cares?  A few more dead Polar Bears…nasty pieces of work so I don’t care.  Is that the end of it?  Alas it is not.  This year the usual course of the jet stream has been disrupted.  This has resulted in rain and heat at inconvenient times not only for us but for crops.  If you descend from the atmosphere into the North Atlantic ocean you bump into the Gulf Stream.  Except if a lot of ice melts in the Arctic and reduces the salinity of the water then the Gulf Stream won’t be there.  Who cares?  Just a few less palm trees in Cornwall making it less attractive as a beach resort for the Chinese Politburo when we sell it to China to pay off our debts.  Except that it not what happens.  If the Gulf Stream stops, the climate of the UK moves to match that of Siberia.  This takes only a few months.  Watch for the Arctic Elevators.  There used to be 12 or so massive sinks of Arctic water moving down and fuelling the Gulf Stream.  A couple of years ago it was down to 3.  I wonder how many there are now.

It might be time to buy shares in a thermal underwear company.

It is obvious: I don’t care what happens as long as I am ready for it

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How stupid am I?

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 23, 2012

It is obvious: the Chinese are inscrutable

I am watching the process of changing the Chinese leadership.  It happens every 10 years.  In the Democratic Peoples Republic of China the people are not involved in this process.  Why should they be?  It is a democracy after all and we all know that does not involve the general population in running the country.

China is a country with unsustainable growth levels.  Its crunch will come a deal sooner than those in the West.  Indeed, as bad as things are, the negative growth means that we in the West are being forced into working out how to live in a low growth world.  China will have that adjustment forced on her quite soon.  The leadership have adopted a model that keeps the masses happy with lots of growth.  So expect the dissent in the country, already large, to explode soon into significant internal strife.

My hope is that they will not turn to external acquisition to placate the population.  I think they will though.  Conflict with Russia is probably not going to happen but I would not like to be living in Japan.  Maybe Japan does not matter as it has no resources and is already heavily populated.  Maybe Indonesia and that area are good places not to live.  Maybe even Australia is a good place not to be.

So why does anyone think that China is going to contribute any part of a solution to the world’s economic problems?  It is obvious that it will be heavily contributing on the problem side of things.  Do the Chinese have some magical ability to guide their country better than all the attempts elsewhere in the world?  The answer is ‘no’.  The new leaders are being chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with running the country in a responsible manner.  They will do the best for themselves and maintaining a system that preserves them and their families.  Turning to two of Tony Benn’s 5 questions, they are not accountable to anyone and they cannot be removed.

Watch China carefully and in particular look for the signs of internal revolt, covered up, as much as possible, by the handful of men about to take over running the country.

It is obvious: the Chinese are inscrutable but only in the ‘how’ not the ‘what’

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Do not be surprised

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 21, 2012

It is obvious: democracy works well

My wife managed to get a parking fine on the red route through our community within 24 hours of it moving into operation.  Last week she managed a £20 fine for travelling first class with a second class ticket.  She had been standing in a corridor and was offered a seat by someone without realising that she was in first class.  She told me from Australia after I had spent  4 hours chasing fraud on my account with the bank.  I was not in good humour as the bank would not talk to me about the transactions on my account as it was not on my card.  They were happy to suspend her card in Oz…leaving her stranded.  How tempted was I?  I am happy about the security but there was, from my perspective, fraud on my account and they would not talk to me about it.  Bear in mind that my wife has a certificate of education an MEd and is a smidgin away from a degree in Psychology.  Despite my protestations to the contrary she has proved consistently over many years that she is not stupid.

I had a similar problem with Student Loans.  I am making the payments on both my sons’ accounts but they would not talk to me about those accounts.  I pointed out that not only were they not going to have their queries to my sons answered but if they annoyed me enough I would stop paying.  They were adamant.

I remember talking on the phone about another problem with my (our) current account and they said that they had to talk to Mrs Rick.  I have been both my sons on the phone before so I was sure I could pull off a passable Mrs Rick.  “Oh she’s just come in” I said and switched to a high pitched voice.  The guy at the other end said “I’m sorry Dr Rick but we really do have to talk to your wife”.

One of the agents asked me my zodiac sign.  Of course I knew it.  Zodiac stuff is a load of tosh…but I still know it.  It is a smart move to know the zodiac sign of the person you are impersonating.

But I digress.  Today I have had the tv on for various reasons and surfed the news when I passed by on a very busy day.  The lead story was talking about people not insuring their cars.  The police are catching a lot of cars without insurance and crushing them.  I always have valid insurance.  I have a lot to lose.  Should I run someone over then they will take my house let alone crush my car.  The average person without insurance has no assets and does not intend getting a job.  There is no incentive to get insurance.  If the car is crushed it has no MOT and is worth very little.  That person will never be persuaded to get insurance, a legal car, or even a proper driving licence.  They will be in another car by the end of the week no matter what measures are employed against them.  I suppose that at least they take illegal cars out of the system.

The only reason that the police are not pulling in the 1m illegal cars at a rate of knots is that they do have to catch crooks as well.  Also there is no money in it for the police from this activity.  Maybe if income could be generated from these cars they would do more of it.

What staggered me is that when a survey was done it found that one third of people interviewed did not know how the insurance regulations for cars worked.

It is not 100%, but unless you have given an insurance company money and have a bit of paper from them with your name on it, the registration number of the car you are drivng and a date greater than today’s you are not insured to drive that car.  This is not about a motivation to be insured it is about undersanding something that is at least straightforward and really is simple.

What are the chances of this third of the population understanding: the difference between debt and deficit, exponential growth, and how they plan to live when they are 65 and can no longer get a job or are not well enough to do a job.

It is obvious: democracy works well enough to easily fool enough of them so that you can do what you damn well please

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Good Idea number -46.2

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 21, 2012

It is obvious: I think

Get that record player fixed: for GDP growth to continue exponentially and double in less than 30 years needs our population to double…ish.  That means as many new houses as now exist have to be built.  It is more as we have to replace those that have fallen down.  Or been burnt down in the riots.

Yesterday a think tank came up with the idea of selling council houses that were worth more than the average for the area.  This is on the basis that the money could be spent building a lot more average or below average (cost only I hope) houses to put more people in.  I wonder if I should add ‘hard working’?  Maybe I should add ‘idle unemployed layabouts’.  That last one is tricky as it describes me.

It does not matter who goes in the houses.  It is an increase in housing.  The idea is laudable.  It is also laughable.  I wonder if the only purpose of think-tanks is to push out ideas to see what the public thinks and the government runs with the ones that are popular.  This is also laudable from one perspective but I trust general popular opinion only marginally less than MPs to run the country.

Supposing that the scheme is adopted.  They estimate that £10bn of sales can occur every year.  Who is it that has this £10bn?  It certainly isn’t me.  Were I interested in getting a loan to buy one I would find it mighty difficult to get that loan.  It is a balanced transaction though.  Someone has invested the £10bn and someone is paying rent on the new houses.  The only problem is that I think it will be me that is paying that rent.  Were that amount to be spent I only have to find £200 to fund…this year.  Next year if it were to continue I would have to find £400 and so on.  Get your cheque book ready I’ll be round.

Suppose that the £10bn were forthcoming and the sales took place there would be another 70,000 houses built every year.  Actually paying off the loans outstanding on those properties means the number can be halved to 35,000.  If we take into account inefficiencies in the process and the cost of running it then 30,000 looks optimistic.  Don’t forget that to double the population and double the GDP over 30 years we need somewhere like 1m new houses every year.  I wonder where they might go?  I have some good ideas on that one.  At least the problems mean that I have a smaller cheque to write.

I have come to another Rick Law.  In Monty Python fashion I think I need to number them:

Rick’s Laws of…everything:

1.  Take any economic prediction by the government or BoE and half (or double) it in a pessimistic direction.

2.  Any government initiative has an effect that is inversely proportional to the publicity surrounding it.

The new second law is an obvious one and I have no doubt that Sir Humphrey probably said it before me.  Do you remember Gordon Brown taking £5bn a year out of the pension industry when Labour came to power?  Not a lot of people do.

It is obvious: I think but I can’t make any money at it

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Can I have this dance

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 18, 2012

It is obvious: god grinds slowly

I have chosen not to write much recently.  Events are still moving apace and some probably need comment.  The BoE stirred me:  such is their incompetence.

I read recently of the irrational optimism of the human race.  News comes along and we believe the best of it.  Such is the way that we can be manipulated – we want to believe.

Yesterday read an expert saying that we need 250,000 houses built each year to keep place with population growth in the UK.  We need that growth to keep the system going.  To keep GDP on its upward trend, to keep the banks solvent, to keep borrowing so that debt servicing can continue, but not debt repayment.  Don’t forget that on trend we will be doubled in less than 30 years.  So I am a little puzzled that 28m houses can be doubled in 30 years at 250,000 new ones a year.  Provided none fall down that is an extra 7m.  I was on the verge of putting ‘expert’ in quotes but I think he was working to a lower growth figure.  So I will leave him as expert.  He reported that we are producing 93,000 new houses a year.  This does meet replacement needs but does not meet growth needs.

Therefore simply from the need of sufficient housing the growth that a lot of people want for this economy cannot happen.  Oh dear.

Every time I look from any direction I see little chance for much growth at all in the UK.  No growth is not a bad thing of itself.  However the banks need it to survive and we as a nation need to pay off our debts, not that we would.  Were there growth then we would merely borrow more on the basis that people would lend it to us as we can service the loans.  Those lenders can easily see the end point but would be prepared to play timing in that they would get out before any collapse leaving a bigger fool holding the debt.

So with no growth now and little chance of any for the future the government is dancing with us.  They are reducing our standard of living and inflating away the value of our savings.  Why are they doing this?  Because there is nothing else they can do.  Meanwhile they are finding ways to say that things are not worse than they were a while ago.  Alas, they are and things will get worse.  They have to and it is a good thing.  We need to adjust to a low/no growth economy.  A good life still to be had for all, but a different one.

What of the reset?  It is coming.  Us optimists want to believe that the EU will sort out the economies of Europe.  It won’t.  They are only delaying the reset.  It is a shame we did not allow it to happen sooner.  I should be thankful though as it gives stuff to write about.

It is obvious: god grinds slowly but incredibly fine

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Portuguese (1)

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 14, 2012

It is obvious: I can do anything

For the start of my investigation into whether I could learn Portuguese I looked at Tim Ferris.  He has done research on language acquisition.

He has 6 sentences that he gets translated to understand what the basic structure is:

The apple is red.
It is John’s apple.
I give John the apple.
We give him the apple.
He gives it to John.
She gives it to him.

Courtesy of Google:

A maçã é vermelho.
É maçã John.
Dou João maçã.
Nós damos-lhe a maçã.
Ele dá a John.
Ela dá a ele.

This immediately shows me a few things that I can think about.  It also tells me that there are some similarities to English in the structure.  I can also see words that look like they come from a common root in the two languages.

I am also warned that Portuguese is tough to pronounce.

I mentioned the sheet of common words and how, with the right numbers now, 95 words does about half the usage and 250 is about 60%.  This is quite amazing really.  60% of our communication each day is managed with variations on combinations of just 250 words.

Here are the first 95 with translations courtesy of Google together with the 100 most common spoken words and the low level of overlap is quite surprising:

written spoken
a um a, an um, um
and e after depois
he ele  again   novamente
I Eu  all   todos
in em  almost   quase
is é  also   também
it ele  always   sempre
of de  and   e
that que  because   porque
the o  before   antes
to para  big   grande
was foi  but   mas
 (I) can   (I) pode
all todos  (I) come   (I) vêm
as como  either/or   ou / ou
at em  (I) find   (I) encontrar
be ser  first   primeiro
but mas  for   para
are são  friend   amigo
for para  from   de
had teve  (I) go   (I) vá
have ter  good   bom
him ele  goodbye   adeus
his sua  happy   feliz
not não  (I) have   (I) têm
on em  he   ele
one um  hello   Olá
said dito  here   aqui
so assim  how   como
they eles  I   Eu
we nós  (I) am   (I) am
with com  if   se
you você  in   em
 (I) know   (I) sabe
about sobre  last   passado
on em  (I) like   (I) como
back de volta  little   pouco
been sido  (I) love   (I) amo
before antes  (I) make   (I) fazer
big grande  many   muitos
by por  one   um
call chamar  more   mais
come vir  most   a maioria
can lata  much   muito
come vir  my   meu
could poderia  new   novo
did fez  no   não
do fazer  not   não
down para baixo  now   agora
first primeiro  of   de
from de  often   freqüentemente
get obter  on   em
go ir  one   um
has tem  only   apenas
her sua  or   ou
here aqui  other   outro
if se  our   nosso
into em  out   fora
just somente  over   sobre
like como  people   pessoas
little pouco  place   lugar
look olhar  please   por favor
made feito  same   mesmo
make fazer  (I) see   (I) ver
me me  she   ela
more mais  so   assim
much muito  some   alguns
must obrigação  sometimes   às vezes
my meu  still   ainda
no não  such   tal
new novo  (I) tell   (I) dizer
now agora  thank you   obrigado
off fora  that   que
only apenas  the   o
or ou  their   seu
our nosso  them   eles
other outro  then   depois
out fora  there is   tem
over sobre  they   eles
right direito  thing   coisa
see ver  (I) think   (I) pensar
she ela  this   este
some alguns  time   tempo
their seu  to   para
them eles  under   em
then depois  up   acima
there  us   nos
this este  (I) use   (I) utilização
two dois  very   muito
when quando  we   nós
up acima  what   o que
want querer  when   quando
well bem  where   onde
went fui  which   que
were foram  who   que
what o que  why   por que
where onde  with   com
which que  yes   sim
who que  you   você
will vontade  your   sua
your sua
old velho


Beware the reader as the translations are context dependent most of the time and Google has a ‘click for alternate translations’.  It does give a feel for what is going on though.

Perhaps I should add other words : init, you-know, dunno, well.  But I really ought not to go there.

It is obvious: I can do anything, will this be one of those things that takes forever?

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Good idea 4,592

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 10, 2012

It is obvious: everyone needs targets

I learnt French at school.  I reckon an hour a week for 5 years would easily cover it.  That is 180 hours.  I can get by in French. I can’t have a conversation.  I think that not much more effort would see me able to move up to a decent level.  Were I forced to live in France for a few months then I know I would achieve conversational French.

My wife teaches language and she showed me a sheet with the 20,000 most commonly used words in the English language with each one printed with the size in proportion to its use.  60% of that space was taken up by 195 words.  This is by no means the whole story.  I have seen another similar sheet aimed at learning a language.  Tim Ferris of 4-hour Working Week fame speaks a lot of languages.  He has a scheme based on some grammatical constructs that enables him to pick up a language in a very short time.  (I suspect he has some talent there as well.)

Assim, aprender uma língua deve ser fácil em um ano. Apenas uma hora por dia ao invés de assistir tv e ter fins de semana fora. O que você poderia fazer em 4 anos? Invista em você mesmo que eu digo. Assim, em 4 anos, eu poderia estar em uma posição para trabalhar como ajudante nas Olimpíadas no Rio. Um pouco quixotesca, mas uma meta, no entanto. Existe algum outro motivo? O Brasil é um BRIC. Eu não vou aprender qualquer uma das outras 3 línguas como eles são muito estranho para mim. Talvez eles poderiam usar um especialista em banco de dados bi-lingual? Talvez passar minhas horas de lazer nas praias perto de Lisboa ou Porto pode funcionar bem.

I’ll keep you posted on how I do…if at all.

It is obvious: everyone needs targets it does not matter how crazy they are





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Posted by chrisrick13 on August 9, 2012

It is obvious: you have to have targets

I hold a bunch of world records.  So does my wife.  Probably the best one is out of my house and up to the lights, to the bottom of the high street and then on to the swimming pool, turn left a long drag to the railway bridge, then back up to the house.

My son played in goal for a football team for many years.  One year the top scorer was the left back with 4 own goals.  It is seldom they lost by less than 10 goals.  I long wondered about the point of it all.  Not that they were, but for there to be a best team in the world there has to be a worst.  The success of the good teams is built on the efforts of the not so good teams.  It took my son several years to find the right sport before he represented GB…and it wasn’t at football.

I am really Olympic’d out.  I’ve been to 3 sessions and spent a day in Victoria park.  I’ve watched lots on the tv.  I have enjoyed watching all the laps of the long races and a lot of other stuff that it is normally always edited out.  Watching the last 30 rounds of the clay pigeon shooting was absorbing.  But I have arrived at the end.

GB has performed better than it should.  It used to be that good results were obtained by the best drugs regime.  Now it is the best training and organisation.  Somehow this is acceptable.  Really we should all get a number medals in proportion to the relative size of our populations.  Any deviation from the standard distribution means not better people but better training, better drugs, better equipment or maybe soon…better gene doping.  It might be the best motivation that really does it in which case getting out of a refugee camp or a waterless desert ought to be more effective than anything that can be offered to someone from GB.  Perhaps we should throw them all to the lions first and then let the survivors compete.

Every day (nearly) I go to the gym.  I pound out 5000 metres on the rower and some variable distance on the cross trainer.  I want to be thinner, probably so I can live longer but mainly so I don’t have to change my wardrobe.  But what gets me out there is the thought that today if all goes well it could be a record time.  My best time for 1000m is about 3:40.  I watched an out of training Pinsent do it on tv a while back about a minute faster than me.  So I’m not ever going to beat anything other than my previous best time and soon enough I’ll not be able to do that.  But I have something to chase every day.

It is obvious: you have to have targets all your life and it matters little what they are

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England to win 1966 World Cup, Allies to win WW II

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 9, 2012

It is obvious: the King is dead

I have kept away from economics for a while.  But some things just have to be  mentioned.  Shaun Richards went into print first but it is one of my themes.

Yesterday the BoE changed its growth forecast from 0.7% three months ago to zero.  Mervyn King once again spoke of unexpected factors.  It would have been good if someone had asked what it was that happened over the last three months that was so unexpected.  How does this qualify as a forecast?  In this area 0.7% is massive.  It represents a change of 25% of the long-term average.  I thought forecasting took into account the probabilities of unexpected events…not that there were any.  I know an octopus can do better than that.

This is also the area where Rick’s law breaks down as half of zero is still zero.  At least the BoE is now close to my forecast…which was made a year ago and does remain unchanged.

King even tried to cash in on some Olympic’s euphoria.  There are those talking about the boost that we will receive from the Olympics.  The £10bn to build is spent and has boosted already.  There is little to come afterwards.  We should expect the Olympic hangover.  I think the money was better spent than on a train to nowhere – OK, Birmingham – but not as well as broadband everywhere for less.

It is obvious: the King is dead, well, soon anyway

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