Sunday 28 April 2013

#15 Read read read

At the start of this year, when people were coming up with their resolutions, I decided there were three things I wanted to focus on: Running, relationships and reading. When it comes to running, I thought maybe I'd do a half marathon, my relationship goal was to have one and for the reading, I thought maybe reading a book a month would be a good target. By the way, you should never "think maybe" your resolutions, or any goal for that matter. Using strong, definitive language is much better.

My behavior over the past three weeks ties in with the whole wanting to read more deal. Now, reading isn't a completely efficient way of learning, in fact you can read an entire book and forget almost all of it, except for the high-level storyline. It can help to mix what you've read with some writing and what I've been doing lately is to write down short summaries of the main articles appearing in CityAM and what I'm going to do now is to list four days' worth from earlier this month.

UK household wealth rises due to growth in financial assets e.g. pensions
Portugal announces government spending cuts and is trying to extend its bailouts
There are now more people in the 40% income tax bracket
Vince Cable wants to stop HBOS' former directors from holding future directorships
The Insolvency Service is reading the FCA report on HBOS and may investigate further
Eleven EU states are backing the proposed transaction tax

Causes of the '80s big bang: Electronic trading, scrapping fixed commission and F.D.I.
Global music revenue is up for the first time since 1999
Portugal must implement its austerity measures to get its bailout extension
Cyprus is really struggling to pay pensions and civil servants in between bailouts
Japan continues to print money to fight deflation (prices fall, consumers wait, firms struggle)

HBOS CE gives up his knighthood. 
KPMG loses two US listed clients over insider dealing
Q1 2013 GDP is only just positive
The FCA is responsible for two thirds of the upcoming 15% rise in financial services regulation costs
Irish and Portuguese bailouts may be extended. Greece looks like it's deflating slightly
The insurer LV Mutual appears to be doing well and reports its highest ever profits

Bank of England calls for simpler financial services regulation
Bitcoin, the cyber currency for those losing faith in banks, is down 50% due to cyber attacks
Post Office is due to launch its own bank
Christine Lagarde, IMF MD, warns that large banks still need reform
Non-wage employment costs(tax, regulation) are low in the UK at 15% (33% France)

Sunday 21 April 2013

#14 Don't walk

I've never really understood the idea of a sponsored walk. A person might just as well get sponsored for sitting on their arse watching TV for five hours. They would have to watch something they hate of course, without their phone or laptop or anyone to talk to. Granted you have the whole "fresh air and exercise" argument but really if you're going to do that then the very least you can do is break into a light jog. You'll reach your destination quicker and you might even get some real exercise while you're at it.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Tsegaye Kebede, who can run 26 miles in about two hours. The inconsistency is deliberate. One should generally write out in full numbers below ten (at least). I thought about this for a while and just about managed to work out that the guy had managed to sustain a pace of about thirteen miles an hour... for two hours. That's incredible. It certainly puts your average person's 5k, 10k and half marathon times into perspective, which brings me on to my next point. 

The lazy bastard only ran half! You know who I'm talking about. Ooh look at me, I'm an Olympian, I'll use my celebrity status to blag a spot in one of the most over-subscribed races in the world and then I think I'll quit half way. You idiot. If everyone did that, there wouldn't even be a marathon. Now stop ruining it for the rest of us and go back to running short distances.

Monday 15 April 2013

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Sunday 7 April 2013

#12 Predictions

Every once in a while I take a look at the Wikipedia entry for fusion power, just to check that we really do have to wait until at least 2050 for this technology to develop. By this time, we will have already taken further steps towards solving the world's energy problems. Two tiny examples are the increased pedestrianisation of inner city areas and the further phases of Boris' bike scheme, which will be extended to other locations around the UK, with even more of those really annoying designated cycle lanes.

I think that some more immersive forms of entertainment will be developed during the next twenty to thirty years. 3D TV hasn't really taken off to the point where everyone sits around in their glasses but it's still being worked on in the background. Similarly, gamers will notice the arrival of virtual reality sets like the Oculus Rift and holograms will appear increasingly, at least in public. If none of these technologies really make it big, what we might see is more of a separation of the consumer base. It's a bit like when Nintendo Wii came out and some people that were thinking about getting a real games console decided instead to sit around developing their already over-developed wrist actions in front of some bright pretty colours, shortly followed by some other people that were thinking about getting some real exercise and some parents that were thinking about taking their families bowling in the real world.

I'm quite excited about the upcoming developments that will come from an increased focus on happiness. I'm not really basing this on anything but just for instance, I can't imagine that all of the shelves of all of the supermarkets will still be completely square in thirty years' time. What a boring way to shop. I'm not talking major changes here at all, I just mean that there will be more cornered walls and rounded edges, perhaps more use of natural light or environmentally-friendly lighting around products. Ok so I'm not that excited. The self-operated check-outs will naturally work way better than they do now. Angry bosses will also be a thing of the past. Business cultures will shift further towards an emphasis on making a company a nice place to work. 

Monday 1 April 2013

#11 Curry

Ok so there's a price war raging on Brick Lane right now. Maybe it's always been like that but twice in the past few months, different restaurants have offered starter, rice, naan, main and two beers for £10. The touts seemed pretty aggressive towards each other too and they'd approached us well before we'd  reached the street.

At first I wondered whether these guys were breaking even. Perhaps they were selling below cost at seven pm to avoid looking empty later in the night. The deal held out into the evening though and I suspect they still profited from it. After all, depending on location, you can pick up the same nosh from Just Eat at the same price including delivery, minus the beers. Split a supermarket multipack can of Carlsberg into two tiny glasses and you've just matched the Indians at their own game without leaving the house but then sometimes it's nice to go out to eat.

The Dhansak I had the following night at Spice Club (yeah ok, I know the first and second rules prohibit talking about it) back in Kent wasn't quite up to scratch, by which I mean too much tomato for me. That's just one dish though and the portions were better than those on Brick Lane, which in contrast may just have shoved a load of sugar into the mix. 

I'll say one last thing on curries: Why the bloody bastard bitch do these chaps feel the need to burn the bottom of the naan bread?