It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Archive for March, 2015

How I made my first million

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 28, 2015

It is obvious: they’ve stopped making land

Mark Twain gave that as a good reason to invest in land.  A bit of a simplification.  If you bought beach front properties in many places on the east coast of the USA in the 1920s you would still be ‘under-water’.  Not such a bad phrase as many islands in the pacific were once habitable but are now…under water.  So it is for much of Bangladesh and might soon be for large parts of Central London.  Getting it right pays handsomely…as it does with any investment.

I am heavily invested in land as I have two houses.  Not so long ago I bought land off neighbours to add to my garden.  These might yet turn out to be rotten investments as I have not realised the gains.  Not realised the gains from lumps of dirt into ones and zeroes in a bank’s computer.  Perhaps you might understand my caution.  For the moment I would rather sit in my conservatory drinking wine looking at the garden than look at paper copies of the ones and zeroes sent me by the bank.

I have said several times that my family has gone from zero to a total value of over £1m.  Of a late my wife has been the biggest contributor but as my savings removed her debts when we married I have no concerns there!  Of that £1m I will get my hands on little of it though perhaps a bit more of it with the new pension rules.

So 34 years to our first million.  What now?  Time to start on the next one.  Why not?

I am taking profits from shares.  Cash is no bloody good.  Inflation and money-grabbing governments can soon have it.  However for the moment being agile might outweigh the disadvantages of poor returns.  At 0% inflation with poor returns from just about any investment cash does not fall behind at much of a rate.  A few moments ago £3000+ popped through the door from share sales.  I’ll go and waste £5 of that with a coffee on the way to the bank on Monday.

I’m moving some of my index trackers into cash for a short while.  I just want to see what the stock market does over the next 3 months.  Will the market go up 50% and I miss out in a big way?  No chance.  Might it plunge?  A chance.  It is close to May for the saying: sell in May.  Also taking more profits from shares that I actually hold.

It is all small stuff.  Not going to sell a house and going to leave pensions where they are.  That is most of my (our!) wealth.  The small stuff is what really counts though.  The big stuff keeps us alive and we don’t notice.  The small stuff buys the Ferrari and the class-A drugs.

I have sat staring at a huge opportunity for some while now.  Why have I not done anything about it?  It is for the same reason that I only have £1m now!  The opportunity is oil.  Important to note that I think it has the potential for a drop yet.  The price of Brent Crude has fluctuated over the last few days.  That is an amusement in itself.  It is a ‘benchmark’ price but there is b***er all of it left.  Going to need a new benchmark soon.

That is one side of the story.  Invest in oil…they’ve stopped making it.  Not only did they stop making it some long while ago, we have used most of what they did make.  Plenty of sources are in decline a good example being the Brent oilfield.  Shale oil is expensive to extract and there is not much of it.  Plenty of source owners are known to be lying about how much they have.

It took only a small drop in oil demand and the price halved.  Suppose there is a small drop in production.  Saw it last week.  There was not a drop but just fears about the Straits of Hormuz being blocked for oil tankers.  We got 10% on the price of oil in short order.

The oil doom-mongers have predicted oil prices over $200 a barrel with a steady trek upwards.  Reduced oil production will drive to other energy sources not from market forces but simply because there is no choice.  That does not mean oil will get cheaper.  Yet we have just had a drop in price of 50%.  You can view that another way:  there is little between where we are now and a doubling of oil prices.

So I am moving to cash and dripping money into oil (pun intended).  I’ll have some of that at $50 a barrel and still have cash around for $20 a barrel if it gets there.  £2m here we come.

It is obvious: they’ve stopped making land and Sinclair C5s.


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Hippo birdie

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 26, 2015

It is obvious: it’s like reading a dictionary

The previous blog entry was the 700th I have made over five and a half years.

My biggest hope is that I get all my agitations out of my system on the blog and I’m not just an old repetitive windbag when I do meet with other people.

Trouble is that I am too busy writing blogs to get out much and when I do I don’t have a great deal to talk about.

It is obvious: it’s like reading a dictionary – don’t think much of the story but I do explain myself well as I go along

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Failure at every level

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 26, 2015

It is obvious: the end is a new beginning

I remember, though obviously not that well, the tortuous trail of hoops that had to be jumped through to get parliament televised.  There was a year or more of trials.  Many odd rules were introduced.  All now gone for simple full coverage.  I do remember ‘doughnutting’.  Much of the time the House of Commons has barely double figures in it while MPs make speeches to a single bored junior minister on the front bench.  Without the speaker to talk to things might just grind to a halt.  (How very British that the ‘Listener’ is called the ‘Speaker’.)  As cameras focussed on a speaker all the MPs on that side of the house would move to sit in a circle round the speaking MP giving an impression of a packed house.  Things have now settled to what seems to me to be decent coverage of events.

More time than I should I surf tv channels and end up with the 24hr news as the only thing watchable.  On days such as ‘Eclipse’ day and, alas, ‘aircrash’ week I cannot even pause there on my journey through the channels.  So I watch the parliament channel.  The debates in the Commons are often very interesting.  My only thought is that the impassioned speeches have no effect whatsoever on the final votes.  Democracy in action…I don’t think so.

It is interesting to see that it is indeed a club where long-standing members know each other well.  They are often friends across the divide of the house.  There is the story of a new MP talking to an older one about the enemy across the dispatch box.  The reply was that the opposition was across the dispatch box while the enemy was behind him.  There are many barely detected undercurrents that show up and a little research shows deep waters.  Common knowledge but I discovered today that Hames and Swinson are man and wife.

But there are still interesting ‘gems’ that occur.  Yesterday a Labour MP stood up and said that there was one food bank in his constituency on the day of the last election and there were 50 now.  From the context he blamed 49 of them on the coalition government.  His comment went unchallenged.  What have I missed?

A new food bank in the first week, first month or even first year after the election is difficult to attribute to coalition policies.  Economic measures usually take two or three years to have any effect.  Did 80 open in the first three years and reduce to 50 as coalition economic measures started to have effect?  Did none open over the first three years of the coalition and then 49 open in the last year or so.  How many were in progress at the time of the election.  We were certainly missing information.  Was the increase a straight line over the 5 years?  Why didn’t someone challenge that statement?

Not only do the media miss it but so do the MPs.

No matter they are gone on Sunday night like Cinderella.  Then we have 6 weeks without representation.  The ministers stay in place and government continues.  There will be no new laws and thank goodness for that.  But if you have a problem then you cannot go and see your MP.  You do not have one.  I wonder if the result is the same as when you do have one.

I am more and more enamoured of the idea of a ‘none of the shower above’ box at the bottom of the ballot paper.  An opportunity to express an involvement in the democratic process without choosing from a set of unacceptable alternatives.  Perhaps we could assign a seat for, say, every 60,000 ‘none of the above’ votes.  That seat could be deemed to vote against every government ‘position’ or new law.  The equivalent of Frank Herbert’s BuSab.

It is obvious: the end is a new beginning – alas


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What did you do during the reset?

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 23, 2015

It is obvious: I’m out of my mind

As we near the reset I am motivated to review my thoughts.  Near the reset?

Our election is not far off.  It will not surprise with the result: two large parties with SNP next and assorted dribs and drabs.  I have consigned the Liberals to dribs.  The Conservatives made a mistake grabbing power last time and the Liberals made a bigger one.  But it does not matter.  There will be negotiations and the numbers will dictate.  It really comes to if the Conservatives can get close to Labour plus SNP.  Alex Salmond is a smart operator.  Why did he switch from the Scottish parliament to the UK (or is it GB) parliament.  If I don’t go with him I go with the bookies.  If Conservatives and Liberals hang on it will be a grim day for GB.  If Labour and SNP get power…it will be a grim day for GB.

Then there is Greece.  The government can’t leave the Euro.  They have to maneuver the EU into kicking them out.  Tricky stuff.  Timing of the essence.  This is not some clever board game.  It is 11m Greek people.  I think they should be out and then they have to suffer some more but there is light in the tunnel and it is not a train thundering down on them.  But it is people, not a game.

So a reset looms.  I don’t think that we will see the destruction of our state and civilisation over a many years.  I think it will be quick.  There will be losers…and bigger losers.

You will be able to have enough food in the house to last it out and probably not need it anyway.  You need a generator and fuel and some preparation.  But you are only going to be bridging 8 hour power cuts.  Go out for a walk when one happens or visit friends who have not been cut.  You can download lots of entertainment and store it on your PC.  You really need something to keep your central heating electrics going and power your broadband modem/router.  If your gas supply to your cooker stops then it is not going to be a quick reset – one to watch.

What about money?  You mean the ones and zeroes in the computers at your bank?  They are vulnerable to say the least.  They aren’t money either.  Otherwise I think that £10 pound notes and coins will have great value and usefulness.  There will be a period where the notes and coins will work well but they will lose their usefulness quite quickly.  You will have time to make good use of them if you have any.

You have invested in yourself haven’t you.  You will be in good physical shape (though perhaps not so good as you drink through your stock of wine).  You will have skills in demand whatever the state of things after the reset.

What have I done?  I’ve started to take profits on shares.  I’m considering my timing on US shares for a high Dow and high dollar.  I’m finding out where all my ones and zeroes are so that I can perhaps move them into other things that might keep value.  Not bought a generator yet, but I know where I can get one locally if I walk in and put £10 notes on the counter.  I always do have some cash to hand and have upped that a little.  I’m in the gym dropping my weight though perhaps I should be in the burger bar putting some weight on.  Bit stuck on the useful skills though.

Things always take a lot longer to happen than you can possibly estimate but the odds have moved enough for me to take a few more steps.  As Harold said at Hastings: look out for the arrows lads.

It is obvious: I’m out of my mind but I won’t be out of food.


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Eclipse that

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 20, 2015

It is obvious: you can distract most of the people all the time

I am trying revert to owning my possessions and not the reverse.  A long, slow and painful journey.  Even getting rid of something long-held precious and feeling no bad effects does not help.

My wife and I sat down with a box of photographs and started throwing them away.  There were a lot of scenery and buildings where we could not even not even name the country they were in let alone exactly what they were.  They went.  It included several shots of the Eiffel Tower.  If there is anything that I can get superb pictures of by the dozen on the internet then this is it.  Why did we take the pictures?
We found lots of pictures of family and friends in front of scenery.  There were plenty of duplicates.  They went.  We kept the rest of them.  We found a lot of pictures of complete strangers in places we did not recognise.  They went.

We will soon be at the point were we will scan what is left and bin all but a small number.  I have some bits of paper with family pictures on that go back over 120 years.  I think I will keep those for someone else to throw away.

I spent yesterday avoiding televisions and newspapers.  They were full of experts describing what the budget meant to me.  The challenge I have for a chancellor is to produce a budget where anyone affected by a measure can understand it.

Complexity in a budget is for a number of reasons:
1.  To raise taxes without anyone noticing.
2.  To enable the politicians to deny that any given interpretation of it is wrong.
3.  To try to beat Dr. Laffer.

Keeping it simple is…simple but not easy.

Today I kept away from the tv.  I avoided eclipse mania.  I can’t look at an eclipse as it will blind me.  I can only look at an image or something very dim through dark glasses.  Like the Eiffel Tower, if there is something well photographed and put on the internet then this is it.  I may not see the real-time progression but I was certainly there when it happened…if under a heavy blanket of cloud.

Did you know that there is an eclipse of the sun taking place all the time?  It is just that the effect does not take place on the earth so much.  But it does take place a lot more than you might think.  There are eclipses of one sort or another taking place regularly.  Many of them take place over the ocean (we are mostly water on the surface don’t forget).  It is just that there are not that many people round to see them.

Must be a slow news day over at the 24-hour news companies.

It is obvious: you can distract most of the people all the time with not very much at all


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I told you so

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 18, 2015

It is obvious: run for the hills

I see politicians fighting over budget cuts.  The public seems to believe that because someone cuts expenditure they are to blame.  Not to worry though as there has been precious little cutting at least overall.

We need cuts in spending because we have overspent and need to pay some money back.  We will not as a nation be able to change jobs get a big pay rise and pay for our previous profligacy out of it – increased earnings and higher tax receipts.

Labour got it completely wrong.  Remember plan B and the millions out of work.  They did not count on George’s fancy footwork to create the illusion of growth and prosperity in the economy.  The Conservatives got it wrong as they have not got the tax receipts to cut the deficit.  I cannot even remember what the Liberals said.  Is this a measure of their irrelevance to UK politics?

We pay for an NHS in interest payments each year.  Unless we cut the debt then out interest payments will rise and we will be paying for 7 NHS (and not the two that we pay for now)…but still only get one.

What is on offer for the next 5 years?  Conservatives have heavy cuts to try to end the deficit.  That simply won’t work.  Liberals have austerity-light where the cuts act over many more years.  That is too little, too late.  Labour is most fun.  Some cuts but they will borrow lots of money to build things which is OK as it is infrastructure and does not count.  Let me point out that the lenders will count every penny of interest.

Therefore what is on offer is either not going to work or does not tackle the problem.  We are going to put our future into the hands of the people who leant us money.  Think Greece.  Think Cyprus.  Think Spain.  Think Zimbabwe.  Think Argentina.

It is obvious: run for the hills.  Now.


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Quack, quack

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 17, 2015

It is obvious: our politicians know what they are doing

Last week Mr Milliband promised to cut student fees by £3,000.  I suspect that the universities viewed that with horror.

Martin Lewis pointed it out to me that student loans are a tax.  You have a tax-free allowance and if you earn over that then you pay 9% of what you earn.  Just like PAYE.

There is the argument that a university education enables you to earn more so you should pay more for that privilege.  If the numbers that I hear are to be believed then that is not the case.  Most student loans will not be paid off.  So where is the extra income the students are earning?!

My view is that higher rates of tax are making high earners pay more.  Why not just educate and let the high earners pay the tax.  No civil servants needed here.

While I’m at it why has the Labour party not stopped NIC which is a tax aimed specifically at low earning people?  Has nobody worked out the stupidity of NIC and tax credits?  You could remove both and replace it with something very simple.

So Labour are promising to cut student fees from £9,000 that few pay to £6,000 that few pay.  Where is the sense in that?  Why not cut them to £0 that few pay?

Labour will then tax somewhere else to meet the shortfall.  To that I say that the tax was introduced to make those who ‘benefited’ pay and now they are going back to general taxation to pay for it.  Except that it will go into the central fund and universities will have to find a way to extract it from the government.  Bet they are looking forward to that.

This is stupidity built on stupidity.

Next up is the SNP…and Mr Milliband.  The Labour leader will not form a coalition with the SNP.  They will form a working relationship with them though…and he forgot to say that.  Quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck,…  Also nobody in the media thought to question him on that particular nuance.

The SNP will go for an alliance.  Why?  Nicola Sturgeon said that they would do all that it took to prevent the Conservatives gaining power.  Can’t stop her doing for that and I would be with her were there a better option.  I am uneasy that someone who considers herself to live in a separate country from the UK can stop the party that most people in England are likely to vote for from being able to decide on policy that affects England.

It is only unease as otherwise I would be into all sorts of double standards and hypocrisy.  I wonder that Mr Milliband has thought it through.  Labour is not the biggest party in parliament but allies with the SNP and gets power.  The SNP supports him and quickly devolves Scotland away from the union…then leaves Labour on its own.  He also has a few years to manage the economy which looks to be in a good state but is not.  So if he grabs power just as the Conservatives did he has the opportunity to make Labour unelectable for a very long time.  In safe hands.

The bookies are odds on for no overall majority and Conservatives the biggest party at the next election.  Some care is needed as they have UKIP at only 50/1 for the biggest party!  Interesting times.

It is obvious: our politicians know what they are doing and it isn’t what the people who voted for them want


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Beep. Beep.

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 10, 2015

It is obvious: I can drive

Driving to work today – OK it is my wife’s work – I saw a car on the other side of the road stop at a Zebra crossing to be overtaken by the car behind.

Why are we even considering the dangers of AI controlled cars?  At least once a day and often more I see gross stupidity exhibited by drivers.  With increasing frequency I see gross stupidity exhibited by myself.  At least older people tend to have low-speed car-crunching and not people modifying accidents.  AI controlled cars will just not do these stupid things.  They will obey speed limits exactly.  They will not run red lights.  They will not overtake on zebra crossings.  They will keep a safe separation for the speed.

Suppose an AI car does cause an accident.  There will be no he-said/I-said arguments.  It will all be on video.  Who pays for an AI accident?  That is easy.  A state insurer will extract money from all AI controlled cars much as the current car tax does.  Just tack a few extra quid on to the road tax.  It will (by software) investigate accidents and pay out money.

Here is a good one.  If an AI car parks illegally it can report to the local police and a fine assigned to the owner.   Same for speed limits when the driver takes over.

Watch for road furniture appearing that AI cars and their sensors can easily spot.  They will all be passive and many will be underground.  This will be when AI cars are about to be accepted in society.

But what is to stop a person running one now?  Hybrids where the person is nominally in control but the car makes a lot of the decisions.  Plausible deniability does it.

I think I prefer AI controlled cars to 17-25 year-old controlled cars…and a lot of idiots older to know better.  The biggest complainers about AI cars will be the very people I don’t want to meet driving a car.

It is obvious: I can drive at the moment.  Can you?


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Scary movie

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 3, 2015

It is obvious: I can tell the future

I used to make a set of predictions at the beginning of each year.  I found plenty of good reasons to stop.

I feel that I ought to make a prediction about the election.  It will at least generate a small amount of interest in the process for me.

A friend of mine pointed me at bookmakers for accurate predictions of the future.  I think that for an election they are at their best.  Bookies just balance their books.  So betting odd for an election are not created from  a carefully chosen population.  It is a population of people who have thought about it and come to a sufficiently strong view that they are prepared to put some money on it.  Perhaps a poor representative sample but a larger one than a poll and I think a much more knowledgeable one.

At one bookie they have odds on for no overall majority.  I think few in this country would disagree.  (Though you can get odds on both Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage being the next leader of the Conservatives.)  It is odds on for the Conservatives to have the largest party and odds on for Ed Milliband to be the next PM – which is a tacit acknowledgement that if Conservatives do not form the next government then Cameron is toast.

Hold on a moment.   Ed Milliband to be PM.  It might be the dream ticket with Ed Balls as Chancellor of the Exchequer!

The Conservatives should have passed at the last election.  At least Milliband and Balls will make Labour unelectable for a generation or two.

I feel quite unwell reading that.  To my theme, can I go against the market?  John Major did it.  Can Cameron?  I think not.  If you add up the right and left-wing parties there is just not enough on the right.  SNP will take Labour seats but will vote with Labour for the right bribes.  UKIP will take a few seats but there are enough Labour racists to even out the votes UKIP takes from both main parties.  Greens are left-wing and will take few seats.  Liberals will be smaller than SNP and not big enough to form a coalition with Conservatives to get 5 more years of pseudo-power.  Welsh Nationalists are small but on the left.  Northern Ireland MPs are a closed book to me, but few enough to swing things on their own.

I have two results in mind: Labour and Milliband in charge from May.  They will form a coalition with three other parties and there will be other parties that will support them on most things though not in the coalition.  The trigger event will occur early in their parliament (within a year) and it will not go the full term.  Perhaps 18 months will be it.

The other is possible result is that it is a properly hung parliament with nobody able to coalesce into a majority.  That will mean another election called immediately (and in the EU they always have votes until the right result is achieved so we are at least becoming more European) or a minority government that will do what it can for a few months.

I feel quite depressed about Milliband running things.  I was depressed enough at the prospect of 5 more years of the Conservatives!  So perhaps a few months of minority government is the best result I can hope for!

On that basis I predict that a minority government of the Conservatives will be formed which will last just a few months.  Labour will be able to choose the timing of the next election with a confidence vote when they want.

As a Conservative supporter of many years (but no longer) the Conservatives really should pass this time…but they won’t.

It is obvious: I can tell the future to anybody who will listen


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60 days

Posted by chrisrick13 on March 3, 2015

It is obvious: I count

I don’t know if I will survive the election campaign.  Stupid statements and impossible promises.  It pains me that politicians can make their stupid statements and enough of the population believe them to make it worthwhile.

200,000 houses a year so that first-time buyers under 40 can afford them.  Thankyou Me Cameron.  I was late to the party but most of my friends had owned a house for 20 years by the time they were 40.  How times have changed.  One more piece of evidence that we have passed the debt of our pampered lives on to our children.

28,000,000 households in this country.  That means 28m houses, flats, barn conversions, four-walls-with-a-roof in this country.  Not exact but good enough for me.

I read that our population was going on up to 70m over the next 20 years.  Another 10m people and another 5 million households.  So 250,000 new houses needed each year.  Oh dear.

If 1% of houses fall down each year that is 280,000 out of the stock of houses.  A bit high you might say but I see plenty of houses knocked down and two built in its place.  So these new houses are not all net new houses.  Oh dear.

With the target of 2% growth in this country we are going to have to double our population over the next 35 years or increase it by 50% over the next 20.  That is 1m new houses or 700,000 a year.  Oh dear.

How many new houses (not net-new-houses) did we build last year?  138,000.  Oh dear.

Who challenged the PM on this announcement?  Nobody.  Oh dear.

It is obvious: I count numbers all the time


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