Friday, 31 December 2010

My year in review

Living in Sudbury working in a sandwich factory, either sweeping floors or checking quality of deliveries and produce.
Stopped getting deeper in debt.
Bobby McGees, Would-Be-Goods, Tender Trap - The Buffalo Bar 
Xbox 360 died of red ring of death
Matthew Williams, Chris Taylor, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Almost got a job with Jaguar, well, went for an interview, performed pretty poorly really. The incident with my self-esteem a little, proving that I was made of better stuff than just factory floor sweeper, not but quite polished enough to get back into the manufacturing test engineering game.
Wonderful World of Cactapuss, Sangeeta, This Is Munich - Nottinghill Arts Club
Tracey Campbell, Rare Groove - Electrowerkz 
The Loves, The Mai 68's, King and The Olive Fields, Funsize Lions - Jamm
The School, Allo Darlin, Pagan Wanderer Lu - The Bush Hall
Quit working at the sandwich factory
Moved to a cold four bedroom semidetached house in Wembley Park
Chocolate Barry, Mr Wright - The Buffalo Bar
Keith Top of the Pops, Superman Revenge Squad, Fighting Cocks, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Moved to North Wembley, to a former old people's home, nearer to my attractive young ladyfriend
Started work at a road working depot in Enfield, hour long commute every morning, hour and a half commute every evening.
Vic Godard, The Hardy Boys - The Buffalo Bar 
Started learning to program in perl and Python again.
Stars of Aviation, Moustache of Insanity, The Werewandas, Tracey's Love - Jamm
Blasted Mechanism - Westbourne Studios
Transpersonals, Witness to the Beard, What's Your Vice - Camden Rock 
Wrote a really neat strategy game in perl, and then wrote a personal finance suite in perl too, and spent much of the month entering all my bank statements.
Camden Calling vs Heavy Load, The Priscillas, Malcolm Kaksois, Hughmans, The Camden Calling Collective - The Enterprise
Gronk and the Body Doubles - The Fox and Duck
Allo Darlin, The Smittens, Antarctica Takes It!! - The Luminaire
Last time I posted on the Anorak forum
Lucky Soul, The School, The Lodger - Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen
Went to Finland on holiday
Knitted a cluster puff hat in a day
Started music career again
Gave up on music career again
Moved to Walthamstow, fifteen minute commute to and from work every day, joy!
Celebrated two year anniversary with my attractive young ladyfriend
Winston Echo, Pete Green, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Acquired sofa and bed, and perhaps more importantly: acquired an original Xbox
Spoke to mother for first time this year
Snap Elect, The Plimptons, Dignan Porch, Butter - The George Tavern
The Soul Rebels Brass Band - The Royal Festival Hall
The Soul Rebels Brass Band - Oliver's Music Bar
Became 32 years of age, apparently this makes my jowls more noticeable and also increases my resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, however, was rather pleased that Facebook didn't change their privacy settings on my birthday, and thus allowed friends to send their greetings, self-esteem sky-rocketed, thanks guys.
Darren Hayman - Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre
Fuzzystar, Hexicon, Moustache of Insanity, The Crowbar - The Wilmington Arms
Andy From Pocketbooks, Chris T-T, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Video Game review - The Warriors - Xbox

I think my favourite video game this year is The Warriors on Xbox. Based on the 1979 movie this game was released in 2005 for the Playstation 2 and Xbox.

Its a running round hitting people game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, for 1-2 player game where the first 13 chapters sets out the backstory, and the last 8 or so chapters follow the plot of the movie, a gang in late 1970's New York has to fight their way back to Coney Island for some script-related reason.

Back in the Glasgow, flatmate Alan had it for the PS2, we'd play it together, getting each other's back, looking out for each on the mean streets of some other time, playing by some other rules.

Anyhoo, I think I'd moved out of that flat before we'd got through the first ten levels, and ever since, I've been itching to play it again. Alas, the Xbox was discontinued, the Xbox 360 too expensive and no guarantee that it was backwards compatible with older games anyway. Just in case, I bought myself the game off of Amazon, but with no way to play it, just hoping that one day the Xbox 360 would be backwards compatible enough or some other system could do a decent job of emulating.

I was a fool.

About two weekends back, I wandered into Cash Converters and picked up a second hand Xbox for £10, and a controller for £2.50. And within moments I'd been transported, via Glasgow 2005-2007 to Coney Island, the dark hot summer nights of 1978. I was Cleon, Snow, Ajax and Cochaise. Robbing shops, mugging civilians, marching through other gangs turf. Sometimes I'd just smash up cars for the hell of it.

I felt young again, running with my gang, knowing they'd get my back.

Some would complain that its too violent, and brutal, and lack any kind of morals, but its just a game. Besides its not all about kicking the crap out of people, some levels involve laying down city-wide burners (graffiti) or friendly games of 'king of the castle' with neighbouring gangs.

Anyhoo, I am somewhat addicted to this game.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NHS spend and effectiveness

The BBC have a story today about NHS cuts
Government spending plans will test the NHS and social services in England to the limit, according to a report by the Commons Health Select Committee.
A month or so ago there was a rather neat XKCD webcomic about how if craxy phenomenum worked the companies would be making loads of money out of it. One of the examples was that if homeopathy worked then healthcare costs would be reduced. I thought I'd have a look to see whether this was true, and using WolframAlpha I researched healthcare expenditure, life expectancy and to what degree the state funded homeopathy. Okay, that last bit was hard to find, but I did generate this neat graph showing state health expenditure per capita by life expectancy.
It effectively shows how much value for money the UK gets compared to other countries.
We can see that America get's well ripped off, spending more than twice as much than the UK, but with lower life expectancy. And Japan, well, they spend a wee bit less than the UK, but get a good three years on average more life than we do.
Anyhoo, I reckon that this graph show's we're getting crap value for money from the NHS. It doesn't say that NHS cuts will result is shorter life expectancy, just that other countries who spend the same amount are spending that money more effectively to prolong their citizen's lives.
Pleas from the NHS for that lives will be lost unless they get more money should be ignored.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Student protests and education funding

Yes, its shocking that the bastards bastards Police were so brutal, none of the protesting students could have expected the police to be so frightful.

Yes, its shocking that such a large and overwhelmingly peaceful protest could be overshadowed by the vandalism of a tiny minority.

Yes, its shocking that a university education that was free or cheap to previous generations will now have to paid for by the graduates once they start earning over £21,000.

Yes, Charlie 'Son of multi-millionaire David' Gilmour is an asshole for swinging on the cenotaph.

But why?

Well, its what the police have always done.

It would be nice if the protests could be carried out without any police violence. It would also be nice if protests could be carried out without any vandalism, smashing of private property and graffitiing of public property. It does happen occasionally. Nice ideal protests, like those anti-war marches, they failed in achieving their stated aims, but the protests were less violent than these graduate tax protests.

And there's something dodgy about anarchists demanding more state funding.

The number of students in the UK has pretty much doubled since I was at university a decade ago. In the sixties, 5% of the young went to university, now its 45%. Whatever was spent by the government on universities fifty years ago, to maintain the same cost per student would cost nine times as much.

As an aside, I wonder how much university education costs, not how much people have to pay, but how much it costs, before any excessive profits. Does it really cost prestigeous universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Hull so much more than the local polytechnic to educate? Or do they charge an excess amount cos they can, for the prestige. In the same way that houses in London cost so much more than in Motherwell, despite using the same number of bricks and the same labour to build.

I've been meaning to write this blogpost for weeks, I've been doing research.

Here, how much of GDP should the government spend on education?

Rightly or wrongly I take GDP as a proxy for my income. If the government spends 5% of GDP on defence, thats the same as them taxing me 5% and spending it on defence, the same as taxing everyone likewise. If the government raises corporation tax and lowers income tax, I reckon the corporations will pass on the cost to the consumer and that 5% will still come out of my pocket. They can tax 'the rich' more, but that money will still come out of my pocket.

Anyhoo, here's a graph showing defence spending in the UK over the past few hundred years is a constant around 4% of GDP, apart from when there's a war.

Out of all the money anyone in the UK has earned, about 4% has gone on tanks and planes or muskets and horses, depending on the technological era. We can suppose that that's about how much defence costs to maintain the UK and stop other countries from trying it on.

Now government funded education, that's more of a new thing and hasn't been a constant. As a percentage of GDP it has been increasing.

See how in the 19th century, it was a small fraction of a percentage, and now its about 4.5%. Down from a peak of 6.5% in 1980.

In 1980, there were around 800,000 students in the UK, today there are around 2,500,000 students, about three times as many. If spending per student was to stay the same as it did in the good old days of student grants and 'free' education, then the UK would be paying around 20% of GDP on education.

Sure, I'm playing fast and loose with the facts here, that graph is for all education spending, not just university education. And also, its just government spending, here look:-

In 1850, government spending was only 10% of GDP, the other 90%, other people spent on things of their own choosing, or stuck in banks where it was invested in things. People paid for their own education, or their kids or charitable scholarships or their own choosing. But in the last hundred years, the state as taken more of our money, around 40% and spent it however the prevailing government has decided. Individually we can't be trusted to spend that additional 30% on what we want, government knows better.

That's the welfare state. That's what it costs.

The welfare state is a great thing. Its better that there is a welfare state than if there wasn't one, I think we can all agree on that. However, some people think the welfare state is too big, too costly, to all encompassing, some people think it should be bigger and encompass more.

Personally as a small state libertarian, I'd prefer a smaller welfare state, and more freedom for individuals to keep hold of their own money and spend it how they see fit, like the legendary policy from The West Wing, making college fees tax-deductable.

Elsewhere on the internet, wiser men than I have highlighted the fact that education isn't free, and demanding free education.
What is the point of amassing public money to subsidise the madness of young people who (a) think that complex services even in theory can be 'free', and (b) then proceed to 'demand' them.
My own theory is that there are far too many students to be paid for from the public purse. There should be some degree of rationing, how about letting the best achieving 10% of students from any school have their university fees paid for by the government, regardless of institution and course, non-transferable so the rich kid can't palm off their good fortune on a poor kid. And the next best achieving 10% get a lowest subsidy.

And say the best achieving student doesn't want to go to university, or for some reason gets knocked back from all his choices of uni, then well, hard cheese.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tim Haynes, Ian Puddick and Guy Carpenter

There was a banner up on a footbridge in London this morning, it bore a web address and there resides a tale of conspiracy, police corruption and marketing.
It seems a chap called Ian Puddick, who is some kind of media/marketing person for a plumbing company discovered his wife was having an affair with a chap called Tim Haynes, the Head of Aviation Reinsurance for Guy Carpenter, they are a leading global reinsurance intermediary. He wasn't too happy about this so he told his wife to stop that, and get moved to a different division of the company. Tim told the wife to lie to her husband, so Ian starts phoning up other directors of the company, the whole thing snowballs and Tim finds himself getting arrested by anti-terror police and subject to various orders censoring the use of Tim Hayne's name.
I reckon the calling of them the anti-terror police is a bit of a red-herring, cos the serious crime squad were merged with the anti-terrorism unit by the last government, so any 'serious crime' is now handled by the anti-terror police. Calling himself a plumber is a bit of spin too.
Anyhoo, there's a bit of a civil liberties and police in the pocket of big corporations angle. It'll come out in court on 13th December.