Currency

Personally I feel that Alex Salmond’s credibility would improve dramatically if he were to announce that an independent Scotland would introduce its own new currency, the poond sterling.

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Economics

On Wednesday we had the quarterly (or whatever) excitement about employment figures. It’s always interesting how different news outlets report this. BBC News (website) went with the positive ‘unemployment is down’, whereas BBC Radio 4 and The Guardian (more correctly, IMO) focussed on the more critical fact that wages were down in absolute figures even before accounting for inflation. On R4 they had some analysis about this but let Danny Alexander blame it on ‘low productivity’.

I very much wish that interviewers would ask: “why do you expect productivity to increase when the average person is seeing less money for their efforts?”. It is easier than ever to waste time at work thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, and anyone with half a brain should realise that working hard for no extra reward devalues their own labour.

I suppose the real answer to the wage conundrum is that wages are not solely, or even mainly, driven by productivity or profit, they are driven by a company’s ability to fill the roles they need to fill and retain staff in those roles. If a company is not feeling pressure in those areas, i.e. they are hiring fairly easily and have lowish employee turnover, then wages are going to stagnate. Unemployment is decreasing and if this continues then companies will find it harder to hire, at which point wages should start moving upwards. Until then, slack off as much as possible.

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overly competitive

Yesterday evening I was enjoying a nice run through a park when another runner’s path converged with mine. She was going VERY slightly slower than me, so I overtook her. Apparently she didn’t like this, because 3 seconds later she powered past me and then proceeded to slow down to my pace, so to avoid escalating the situation I remained about 2 metres behind her until she went a different way. Yes, you win. VERY MATURE.

Running is going ok. Since my last round of knee problems I have made some changes and thus far in the last 5 weeks I’ve been very almost entirely pain free (the one exception being a few twinges one day after going too hard the day before, which I kind of expected at the time, and to be honest I’m expecting more tomorrow but we’ll see). The changes are:

1. I’m finally committed to running slower. Most of my runs are now at about 8:30-40/mile and that for me is a comfortable pace that doesn’t put me much out of breath (compared to my 7:10/mile maintainable but totally out of breath pace). I’m even managing to avoid being pressured by overly competitive runners, mostly.

2. I’m doing squats, deadlifts and single-leg romanian deadlifts on a weekly schedule (twice a week) and more isolated hip exercises 5-6 times a week. The hip exercises are mostly glute bridges (3×15) and hip hikes (2×20), the latter of which seem really helpful in general leg stability, and which seem to be responsible for me actually feeling my glute med/min muscles when I run now. The other stuff is weighted with dumbbells and I am considering buying a barbell because squatting with dumbbells is not amazingly convenient. I have to say that doing weighted deep squats is a really amazing workout of pretty much every muscle below my waist and quite a lot of muscles above. It has taken me quite a bit of practice to get the mobility and control to perform a deep squat, but it’s definitely worth it.

3. I bought some shoes with mild support (Asics GT-3000). I don’t know if this helps…

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Frustration

Apparently, according to http://www.channel4.com/news/young-people-living-parents-home-heatmap-graphic, 40% of people aged 20-34 in my area live with their parents. This is crazy.

I’m one of them. It’s not that I couldn’t afford to move out – I could, but I would have no money and a landlord would have all my money, and something about that sounds economically unsound. But, yes, despite being 27, it bothers me that I don’t really feel like an actual adult, and expense means that I have no immediate plans to try to become one.

There is also a good analysis on Vice.com (yes, really): http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/heres-why-youre-broke-chris-goofellow-639?utm_source=vicefbuk, which can be summarised as:

1. The financial crisis was caused by people pretending they had money then finding out they didn’t
2. The financial crisis was ‘resolved’ by finding a new source of money – young people. There is a minor detail here that young people don’t have any money but we can get around that by pretending they do and pretending they will pay other people’s bills now with money they might have in future. If this seems confusing it helps to remember that 1. economists have so far displayed little understanding of their own subject, 2. politicians have so far displayed little understanding of reality, and 3. economics functions a lot like musical chairs, because people are greedy.

But young people won’t repay those debts because they are being hit from 3 directions at once:
1. Higher tuition fees saddle them with debt before they earn any money
2. Higher property prices/rents encourage yet more debt after graduation
3. Lower wages and higher living costs leave little realistic chance of paying off either debt

And this is worrying because:
1. Vince Cable seems to be the only person in government who understands this, and unless he forms the Vince Cable Party, he won’t be in government in 10 months’ time.
2. The people who will be hit hardest by this are currently too young to understand/care what’s going on.

In conclusion:
1. The economy is unsustainable
2. England hates young people
3. Scotland would be entirely justified in voting yes to independence.

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TV

Since I very sadly depleted all of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis’s episodes, I have been watching a mixture of Pushing Daisies and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Pushing Daisies is bizarre. In some ways it really grates on me but in other ways I like it. Overall it is watchable and you will enjoy much of it while at the same time it will slowly drive you insane. I wish it tried less hard to be quirky, I wish that the two main characters weren’t individually annoying and collectively even more annoying, and last but not least, I wish that the strong intelligent female characters weren’t completely undermined by spending 90% of their camera time with their chests exploding from their dresses.

The Next Generation: Ok, I’m a bit confused here because I remember TNG from when they used to show it on BBC2 after The Simpsons, and I seem to remember it being decent television, whereas I’m up to series 2 now and the ratio of good to bad episodes is pretty dubious. I guess that later series get better, but the first two are really not great. I suspect that it would have been cancelled early on were it not for the terrific acting from Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton and Brent Spiner (Picard, Geordi and Data) injecting a lot of life into the episodes and characters regardless of the dubious writing. For example I don’t think many actors could rescue the idea of their character negotiating with a talking oil slick.

My particular favourite WTF is the entire character of Troi. Ok, so I am an adult, I realise the entire point of Troi is to wear tight clothes and emphasise her ample bosom, but really ignoring that, her whole character is just a waste of space. She basically sits on the bridge and earns her place there by using her psychic mind reading powers to make such insightful observations as “I sense much aggression” after someone threatens violence, “I sense much jealousy” after a man gets snappy when someone else mentions a woman he stares at a lot, or “I sense that he is a charming rogue” after being presented with a charismatic and apparently friendly man who flies alone on a spaceship and dresses like Han Solo.

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Job adverts

On Hacker News there is a particular kind of post that reads “X is hiring” with a link to the company’s hiring page. There’s one company that has posted several times in the past few weeks. I wish that “X is hiring” posts were open for comments, because sometimes it seems like employers need feedback on their terrible job adverts, and this company is clearly confused why they are advertising on a forum frequented by some of the most talented programmers around but they still aren’t getting the response they want.

Here’s the ad: https://www.thread.com/jobs/software-engineer

I wouldn’t apply anyway because I have no desire to live in London, but anyway:

1. The salary is ‘competitive’. What does it compete with? Does it win? I’m guessing the answer is no, otherwise you’d just give a number.

2. “Unlimited vacation time”. Really, your employment contracts guarantee your employees unlimited holiday?

3. “beer together as a company on Fridays”. Mandatory fun is a turn off at the best of times, but here you’ve managed to make me feel uncomfortable about applying for a job as a software developer not because I might lack the skills or experience to do the job, but instead because… I don’t drink?

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Student loans

In case you missed it, the government recently tried to privatise student loan debt but Vince Cable torpedoed it. It seems rather ironic that one of the first things this government did was to increase tuition fees to the utterly ridiculous figure of £9000 per year, and now, towards the end of their term, they come out with the revelation that the money they are lending to allow people to pay for it isn’t getting paid back. Economic genius George Osbourne at work.

I see the following possibilities:

1. Conservatives are obsessed with privatising things to the point of it being some form of mental disorder.

2. The government has quite happily allowed overall profits to increase but for less and less of that money to end up in the pocket of the average worker, and has not considered how that might impact student loans which are paid back monthly as a small percentage of salary.

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