Ebola

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa#Timeline_of_the_outbreak

The infection rate for the Ebola outbreak is exponential, with infected numbers doubling approximately every two weeks, and is now in the order of thousands. This is terrifying.

We seem to have largely ignored this as an African problem so far, which could be a big mistake. That it is continuing to grow exponentially is very worrying because exponential functions get very big very fast. Although 4000 people seems like a drop in the ocean right now, and it is, by the time the numbers get worrying in an absolute sense it will be far far far too late to do anything about it because it will be growing far too rapidly. It’s not the number of infections that is the worry, it’s the rate at which it is infecting new people. If we can’t slow it down when there are 4000 carriers, we sure as heck aren’t going to be able to slow it down when there are 8000, 16000, 32000 …

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Independence Day

Scottish independence: I’m English and I think you should vote yes, because I think the UK is a stupid pseudo American country that screws over most of its inhabitants, and you have a genuine chance to break away from the root causes of that (i.e. Westminster) and fix it.

I think it’s ridiculous that we have a minimum wage which is so low that it requires benefits to top it up to a living wage, thereby meaning that the state subsidises greedy employers.
I think it’s ridiculous that at the last general election the only thing we really agreed on was “none of these, please”, and at the next election, in less than a year’s time from now, we basically get exactly the same choice again, except we’ve replaced Gordon Brown with someone even less electable (which, frankly, is a huge achievement). It doesn’t matter who we vote for – we will get a public schoolboy Oxbridge graduate.
I think it’s ridiculous we charge students £9000 per year for university. And it’s even more ridiculous that they pay for it by taking out a loan from the state which they won’t actually ever pay back. The state is footing the bill for this in the stupidest way possible.
I think it’s ridiculous that we have a housing crisis which fuels our growing economy with imaginary money, and everyone is apparently content to let it run away with itself and eventually crash horribly because 33% of MPs are landlords and are raking in (real) money from it!
I think it’s ridiculous that in a time when employment and wages have struggled, we’ve mostly responded to this not by stimulating sustainable long term growth or by reassessing the distribution of income, but instead by attacking benefit claimants.

A yes vote is risky, but a no vote is hardly safe. The UK in general is not on a promising course right now.

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bake off :(

I never thought I would see the day that I would be incensed by a baking scandal.

From twitter:

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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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