Archive for November, 2008

Do you hate the Scots and the Welsh?

Whereas I used to like people from Scotland and Wales in general and treated them the same as I did we English, I have to admit I am slowly beginning to dislike them, nay – in fact – loathe them.

This is sad because the problem is in no way their fault. As usual it is the fault of the Westminster politicians.

I have always been a strong Unionist and flown the flag of Great Britain but I am slowly coming around to wanting a split-up of the Union, and to see Westminster become a 100% English parliament. As for Gordon Brown, even the Scots don’t like him as they keep voting in the SNP at most of their bye-elections!

Take a look at what Fred has to say in this English Political Broadcast as it may open your eyes to what has happened to this great country.

The English Democrats, of which I am not a member, seems quite active – but take a look yourself and come to your own conclusion.

Ampers.

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Are Swedish cars really so unimaginative?

This is the opinion of so many media critics and Volvo drivers, in particular, are singled out for the worst insults.

But I would be proud to own and drive a Swedish car. The idea of a top speed of 254 miles an hour admittedly doesn’t thrill or interest me in any way. However, the acceleration of this particular Swedish car does interest me. Driving isn’t about driving at the top speed, it is about getting away fast at traffic lights and keeping out of the “bunch” and getting quickly out of trouble. The standing start up to sixty miles an hour is listed as 2.9 seconds and that is fast enough for anybody.

The 0-30 mph speed will be approximately a second so you can get away quickly and still be legal in the centre of London – as quick as a wink. The car’s engine is powered by a mix of eco-friendly ethanol and petrol so it produces far less emissions than its supercar rivals.

Koenigsegg CCGT

Mind you, it may be some time before I actually purchase one. Not with a price-tag of £1,500,000. Unless one of my readers would like to buy me one for Christmas! (And another, a little better off, volunteers to pay for the insurance?)

Ampers

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Interesting sites in Google.

I have mentioned some of these in a previous blog but I have now got them all together. Also there is one very good bonus, you use the same user name and password on each site. This means that if you think your password has been compromised, changing it once will change it on all websites.

Google Reader. I use Google Reader to read the morning newspapers, I also have the latest additions to a lot of sites about Linux and a lot of political information. Every morning when I look in, I see a one liner for every addition that these sites have added. I can, for instance, run my eye down the newspapers and in two minutes or less I know everything that is happening in the world. This is usually all I need to know. If I wanted to know more about a particular item, I click on it, and it opens a paragraph about it. If I want to know more I click on the link and go directly to the full article – I rarely do that as I don’t really need to know such detail unless it affects my family or my business.

Google Trends. I use Google Trends to look to see which item is generating the most news on the Internet. I just type the names, separated by a comma and it shows me. Type in “Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera” and in the first graph it will show you that users of Google are more interested in Firefox, followed by Opera and finally by Internet Explorer. The second graph shows the amount of news from media websites on each item.

Google Finance: I use Google Finance to keep track of my shares. I have just looked up my shares and 60% of them are worth more than when I purchased them a year ago, and I am only losing on 40% of them which is better than many people I know! Google Trends show some stock-markets in real time instead of the 20 minute penalty most have to accept without payment. They intend to cover all shares instantly, eventually.

Google Analytics. I use Google Analytics on my websites to track visitors to my websites. I used to pay for this but now Google offer the service free and give me far more information. For instance, I can see that my blog is read all over the world, even in Japan and Indonesia!

Google Docs. I use Google Docs when I am producing a report with others so we can all work on the report together, and spreadsheets. I can also use the presentation manager to build up a presentation and if I am in someone’s office, just go into the application on my client’s browser and pull it up and run it for them.

Google Mail. I have been using Gmail for years now and when abroad I find it so very useful to have every email I have ever written immediately available anywhere in the world. The alternative if I needed an address I know was sent to me three years ago, would be to keep my PC on burning electricity whilst away, so I could log on from abroad – and if I were a Windows user, I’d be hoping it hadn’t crashed.

Google Calendar. I use Google Calendar because of its versatility. Although when working, my wife and I sit in the same room, we allow each other access to our Google Calendars. If I click on her tag, her appointments are immediately superimposed on my calendar in a different colour (of my choice) I also have a weather calendar superimposed which shows me today’s weather and the next four days. I write for different magazines and one of them has a production calendar available so I can immediately see last dates for articles. My wife uses Outlook and Windows, and I use Evolution and Linux but we can both incorporate our Google Calendars in these program’s calendar pages.

Google Talk. I use Google Talk and it is much better behaved than Skype. However, I still have to use Skype as so many more of my contacts are on that.

Google Maps. I am certainly an avid user of Google Maps and I have an add-in with my Firefox browser which allows me to highlight an address on the web, right click on “show in Google Maps” and see an instant map of where it is.

The most useful thing about these web based applications is that you have all your information at your fingertips, no matter where you are. At work, at home, in a client’s office, in a friend’s or relation’s home, in an Internet café in London, Paris, Texas, Australia or even Timbuktu (an oasis in the Sahara Desert). This is not so important if you don’t mind keeping your computer on 24/7 whilst away from your home or office, or you have complete faith that Microsoft Windows won’t crash! If you do… no, I won’t go there… a good blogger doesn’t insult his readers!

There are more Google applications but the above are the ones that I, use most often..

In addition to these web based programs, there are some other superb free programs from Google. I use Picasa v3.0 for my digital photographs. This program allows me to organise all my photographs on my computer and to edit them. Crop them and use special effects with them. I used to use Adobe’s Lightroom when I used Windows but Picasa is nearly there, and I would think, by version 4 it will be at the same level. But Picasa is free and Lightroom is nearly £200.

And I spend hours on YouTube all sorts of short videos. Political, musical, amusing, wild life, and so many more types. My Panasonic Vierra TV allows me to plug in my notebook and watch my YouTube videos on the large screen.

Ampers

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Credit card debt

– or “I want it now”!

I use my credit card more than most. In fact I clock up so much that, at the end of each year, my wife and I manage a three day weekend in Paris when the money I earn on spending on the card (a penny in the pound) is paid. The commission pays for EuroStar rail tickets and the hotel bed and breakfast charges.

But, my friends ask, how much do you pay each year in interest. The simple answer is “nothing” as we pay off all our cards by direct debit each month. I have a pathological hatred on paying interest in any form. However,” interest on savings” interests me greatly and I really hate all the people causing all the debt as it means my earnings on my savings are deteriorating as the Bank of England reduces interest rates. In fact we pay all regular bills by direct debit in case we are on holiday when bills fall due.

I didn’t always have savings because a decade or so ago I had credit card debts and bank loans and the interest before I left the house each month was enormous. But somehow I managed to remove all the debts and started saving the interest I used to pay. One thing that helped was that I wasn’t afraid to tell my friends: “I’ll pass – money is a little short at the moment”. After all I could live without that money in the past, so why not save it in the present, for the future.

The wise readers here will use any rebates from the government to pay off their debts rather than going out spending the money. Don’t worry about the economy, there will be millions of people, stupid enough to say “To hell with it, let’s have a great Christmas!”

Those of you who read yesterday’s blog and have completed the “crash course” which Chris Mortenson has produced will know that now is the time to take stock of everything and start to reduce debt everywhere you can. Although I don’t agree with all his summing up at the end, in essence he is right, and up to the end of chapter 18. Chapter 19 is pretty straight forward but in Chapter 20 I am not 100% convinced (I “believe” but not completely). However, he has spent four years in research on this matter, he received his PhD as a scientist and has had extensive experience in the financial world. From this we can deduce that his reporting of facts will have been strictly researched.

Ampers.

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A course on 21st Century finance

Chris Martenson PhD has taken four years off to produce a twenty lesson crash course on the ills of the western world based on its financial ails, its growing population and ever diminishing resources. He has managed to tie all this together to show our overall position. It is very educational and I have to confess, just a little frightening. The link to the crash course is at the bottom but first of all, Chris Martenson’s credentials…

Executive summary: Father of three young children; author; obsessive financial observer; trained as a scientist; experienced in business and finance.

He is not an economist. Chris was trained as a scientist, having completed both a PhD and a post-doctoral program at Duke University, where he specialized in neurotoxicology. His job was to gather data, develop hypotheses, and continually seek to accept or reject any hypotheses based on the evidence at hand. He believes in letting the data tell the story.

Chris started teaching at the college level as he enjoys the challenge of explaining difficult or complicated subjects to people with limited or no background in those subjects.

Because of college politics where an “effective teacher” was pretty much near the bottom of the list of characteristics that factor into tenure review, he switched gears, obtained an MBA from Cornell (in Finance), and spent the next ten years working his way through positions in both corporate finance and strategic consulting.

The most important thing for you to know is the impact that the information that he has now placed on this site had on him.

Before: He was a 40-year-old professional who has worked his way up to Vice President of a large, international Fortune 300 company and lived in a waterfront, 5 bathroom house in Mystic, CT, which is mostly paid off. His three young children were either in or about to enter public school, and his portfolio of investments was being managed by a broker at a large institution. He did not really know any neighbours, and many of his local connections were superficial at best.

After: Now a 45-year-old who has willingly terminated his former high-paying, high-status position because it seemed like an unnecessary diversion from the real tasks at hand. His children are now home-schooled, and the big house in Mystic was sold in July of 2003 in preference for a 1.5 bathroom rental in rural western Massachusetts. In 2002, he discovered that his broker was unable to navigate a bear market, and he’s been managing the family’s investments ever since. Since that time, their portfolio has gained 166%, which works out to a compounded yearly gain of 27.8% for five years running (whereas the broker, by keeping him in the usual assortment of stocks, would have scored a 38% return, or 8.39%/yr). He is a keen gardener preserving food, and brews their own beer & wine, and raises chickens. He has carefully examined each support system (food, energy, security, etc.), and for each of them he’s figured out either a means of being more self-sufficient or a way to do without. But, most importantly, he now knows that the most important descriptor of wealth is not dollar holdings, but the depth and richness of their local community.

He is helped by his wife and four others who are volunteers and who believe in everything he is trying to do.

You can visit the site and take the course as often as you need to get it right, and there is never any charge. You can donate but only if you physically click on the donate button. It is entirely optional. I am not rich, but will give a small contribution as I believe in what he is trying to do.

The biggest weapon those who would keep us down is the fact that we are ignorant of the bigger picture. By understanding the larger picture we are half way to enlightenment and, as such, reduce the powers of the politicians and others to keep us downtrodden.

So, go now and start the course…

Ampers

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Socialism explained


Before you try to pigeon-hole me, I am not a supporter of any political party. There isn’t one which supports a Libertarian so I tend to vote for the best person standing in my constituency – whatever party they belong to.

Ampers.

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Tax give-away on Monday

I shall be tuning in to the Statement on Monday afternoon but suspect the news will not be good and that the Chancellor will make some daft decisions, based on his boss’s criteria.

For example, it will probably be tied up in red tape so that it can be channelled to the poorest. Personally I have no problem with that, other than for the red tape!

But it will not do what the government want. It is obvious (to me) that the people most in debt are the poorest in society, many of whom have incurred large credit card debts and, those lucky enough to own their own homes, high mortgage debts. These people are extremely worried and will want to cut down their debt, and more importantly, their interest charges. They will, on the whole, use the rebate to pay off some of their debts. So people won’t go out and “spend for England”. Rather they will sit at home and “save for their families”.

As I said, I have no problem with that. But, if I were the Prime Minister and desperately needed to stimulate the economy, I would give the rebate to the better off who would be more likely to “spend for England”.

There is also talk about lowering the VAT rate for a token period. This will not stimulate the economy enough, unless the decision is made to really reduce the VAT down to 5%. 10% may stimulate a little but I really cannot imagine a reduction of more than 2.5% or at the most 5%. The government just doesn’t have enough imagination.

The main underlying problem is that nobody is addressing the root cause of our monetary problems. Everything is based on Keynesian Economics. This just doesn’t work and there will be heartbreak for decades to come if we continue along this dangerous path.

I am a firm believer of Hayek Economics which is a stalwart of the Austrian School of Economics. This school, since WW2, has been based in the United States of America. They don’t believe in printing money, or increasing the National Debt at every little opportunity. To switch over to Haydek now would admittedly cause hardships, but would put our country on the right path so that we would all benefit in the longer term.

What school do you belong to? If you have no credit card debt, or indeed any other debt other than a mortgage which, when taken out, was for an amount with repayments no higher than you could easily repay, you might probably follow Hayek. However, if you are ladened down with debt, or haven’t yet realised the king is naked, you could well favour the Keynesian school.

Ampers.

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