Sunday, February 28, 2016


This weekend Anya and Silvio visited us. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip they arrived on Friday night after travelling up from Cambridge. Unfortunately Kath was working and unable to switch shifts. They both arrived late so we got a take out curry from Ayo Gurkali.

They bought us an amazing gift of two Tassen bowls with faces, I already enjoyed eating my cereal out of them.

Saturday Kath was still working, I took Anya and Silvio on a tour of Manchester. We took the train to Piccadilly then walked into town. Starting on Dale Street at the Nexus At cafe before waling round the triangle then to the Cathedral. From there Kind street via St Annes Square  to the Town hall. Lunching in the Waterhouse before heading to Chinatown to see the Arch then on to the Museum of Science and Industry. We went to view the exhibition on Cravings. I found it quite interesting, it reinforced some of the things I saw on Trust me I am a Doctor. Basically gut microbes have a huge effect of digestion, and ultimately on health. One really interesting gadget was a digital device which was able to stimulate different tastes an flavours by using electrodes on applied to the tongue. Imagine this together with one of the virtual reality systems you could really be immersed in a virtual world, I hope this wont result in the Matrix scenario!

It was really nice to have Silvo and Anya over, it has been to long since we last met at Pauls stag do in Berlin. Hopefully it won't be so long until the next time we meet up.

Today I had the Oulton Park half marathon. Six laps of the race track got a little monotonous by lap 6 I was glad to finish, even if my time was a little of my best pace set in Glasgow. This time though my training is more about distance than pace so unsurprising that the speed was lower. I really liked the medal though, in the shape of a chequered flag.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Missed the boat

Saturday evening Kath and I hosted a gathering with Matt, Christelle and Nina. Bruce would have come but was working setting up a huge disk array.

Kath spent the day cooking various Tex Mex dishes, inspired by a recent trip to Chiquito. For starters She made tostadas, with toppings of pulled pork, sweet potato with feta, and Choritzo. There was a side of home made guacamole and sweetcorn salad. For the main we had chilli with potato wedges. I spent the day cleaning the house and doing some DIY. Amazing how the little jobs build up.

Nina arrived first, Connie spending the night at grandparents. She seemed in a good mood we had a chat about Phil's big news while eating doritos and waiting for Matt. As a FU to Jeremy Hunt and the Suns outrageous Moet medic article we started the evening with two bottles of Champaign. A little extravagant but a celebration of Kaths job.

It was a nice relaxed evening, everybody seemed to enjoy Kaths food, I was very impressed with what she pulled off.

Sunday morning I felt a little hung over which wasn't a great help for my marathon training. I managed to get to 17 miles but then I had to stop. I made it home a little later than planned as we were hosting my parents for Mexican leftovers. They seemed to enjoy the chilli, and it was nice to make a meal for them for a change.

Last night we went to see the Revenant. Personally I didn't enjoy it, while the cinematography and acting were good there were far too many contemplative moments, it was overall way too long and I still don't understand how if the Indian Rea were such amazing trackers they were unable to find either Glass or Powaqa. I have however been enjoying the Meerkat movies offers with Kath, Overall the fact that its both Tuesday and Wednesday makes it an even better offer than Orange Wednesday (even if there is a small charge to book).

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The big short

Kath and I used Meerkat movies to got and see the big short. A film about the reasons behind the huge financial crash of 2008, and the few voices who predicted it. I though that it is a great film which manages to turn the boring financial subjects into an understandable and interesting backdrop for a film.

In short banks got rich selling bundles of loans off as Collateralized debt obligations, these bundles of loans were sold as containing good mortgages with low default rates. Unfortunately over time the banks got greedy and found ways to bundle increasingly bad loans, until they included loans for NINJAs (Not in a Job Applicants). The ratings agencies kept putting A grade on and the deals went on and on until in 2008 the liabilities started to get called in and the whole system collapsed. 

It brought me back to 2005 when I worked for a broker business in the UK. The government was bringing in the Consumer Credit Act 2006. Among other things made it included requirement for loan documentation to show the total amount that was repayable. I vividly remember one moment during the user acceptance phase, in which we showed the updated documents to some of the end users.

I went to the leader of one of the sales teams, and she asked if the figures were correct. I said of course, the calculation is simple for a fixed rate loan. You multiple the payments by the period and deduct the original borrowing, giving the total amount payable in interest. She then said, she didn't believe it, the amount looked too high. So I asked her to grab a calculator, multiply the payment by the 300 month term and deduct the original borrowing. She was very surprised by the result, bear in mind they specialised in consolidation loans which were in 2006 expensive (between 7 - 12% interest). She did sell them all day long so I was surprised how little grasp of the costs she had. What really surprised me though was as I walked away she said "Well the lenders never expect them to pay it back anyway". At the time I thought what a weird thing to say, but now in the context that these loans would probably have ended up in CDO's the market for this being bigger than the profit on the loan in fact the bank didn't care too much! An insane system no wonder it failed.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


I've just finished Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western Power by Nial Ferguson. He makes some compelling arguments for the success of the Western world over the the rest. He terms the six killer apps
  • Competition
  • Science
  • Medicine
  • The Rule of Law
  • Consumption
  • Work Ethic
I broadly agree with his thesis and there is some interesting historical fact backing up the arguments. I found the bit about the protestant work ethic a bit of a stretch, but overall a really good read. It made me wonder if we really are seeding our own destruction by allowing the erosion of the rule of law and failing to instil a good level of education on the masses.

I got an example yesterday when my colleague and I were talking about a sugar free drink, I related a piece from BBC TV's Trust me I'm a doctor, in which they showed that saccharine an artificial sweetener can cause (in some people) a rise in blood sugar. At which point another colleague piped in "yeah because the Nazis experimented on the Jews with aspartame". I know what your thinking, saccharine is a different sweetener than aspartame! I'm not sure where on earth she got this one from. the NAZI's did indeed experiment on the Jews in terrible human trials. Not however with aspartame, given it wasn't actually synthesised until 1964, nearly 20 years after the second world war ended.

I put together a timeline;
  • 1879 Saccharin discovered
  • 1st September, 1939 Start of World War 2 establishment of Jewish Ghettos
  • 17th July 1941 Hitler gives Himmler responsibility to eliminate “any perceived threat to German Rule
  • October 1941 OPERATION REINHARD sees upto 2 million Jews killed across Europe
  • Spring 1942 establishment of Auschwitz-Birkenau as  a mass killing facility, in which 1 million Jews were murdered mostly using poison gas Zyklon B
  • 1st August 1944 Warsaw uprising, the aftermath of which led to the Germans raising the entire city of Warsaw. Up to 200,000 people were executed. There included soldiers, Jews and Polish civilians who harboured Jews
  • 9th May 1945 Victory in Europe
  • 2nd September, 1945 End of World War 2 following atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 25th June 1950 Start of Korean War
  • 27th July 1953 Division of Korea
  • December 1965, while James Schlatter was re-crystalling aspartame from ethanol, the mixture spilled onto the outside of the flask. Some of the powder got onto his fingers. Later, when he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper, he noticed a very strong sweet taste.