Tuesday, 29 November 2011

1930's sketches at Upton House, near Banbury UK

A Servant's Day Off

This is the time of year for amusements and distractions. As part of Upton House, near Banbury's seasonal attractions the leading local theatre group the Banbury Cross Players will present three 1930's sketches on the 10th and 18th of December 2011.

FLYER Upton House

The sketches will be presented to visitors who wander by in the Long Gallery, The kitchen and the Squash Court of the house. Each will be presented three times a day between 12 noon and 4 pm. The sketches are:

Early Birds by Roland Pertwee, set in the gallery of a provincial theatre, first performed at the Savoy Theatre, London on May 30th 1916

As It Goes Along by Philip Slade, set in a suite of a large hotel, written in 1937

Wireless Cookery by Philip Slade, set in a parlour kitchen, written in 1937

All three sketches will set the scene for your enjoyment of a visit to Upton House, one of the most beautiful in North Oxfordshire.
More information about Upton House and Gardens is on their web site beta.nationaltrust.org.uk/upton-house.

James and the Giant Peach - theatre production

Grasshopper meets his friends

James and the Giant Peach

Throngs of happy children descended on the stage at the Mill Arts Centre, Banbury last week at the end of each performance of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, adapted by David Wood.

IMG 1460

Invited by Grasshopper to take part in a triumphal march around New York's Central Park, the children came dressed up as one of the insects, Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybird, Earthworm or Spider. The best dressed were presented with prizes by Grasshopper and everyone went back to their seat with a selection of sweets from James.

Oxfordshire schools had been invited to tell children about the performances and many responded. Both matinee performances were sold out but, more importantly, Banbury Cross Players were delighted to have bought live theatre to 300+ children in the county.

Back to tech things - use of iPhone and iCloud

Using one calendar among all family members

We have a complicated computer usage in our house. I have a Macbook, my wife has a MacBook, I have an iPhone and so does she. I also have an iPad. My son is about to get an iPhone, but he has a PC.

The problem is iCloud and synchronising. We have separate and different Apple IDs just as we have different MobileMe email addresses. This on the face of it means that her computer syncs (email, contacts and calendar, apps, books, etc) with her iPhone and mine syncs with my iPhone and iPad.

But what we need is to have one common family calendar, leaving separate mail accounts. So that anyone putting an entry in the family calendar could give notice to any one else. We will also have our son soon as a new iPhone user and we have to see how he will fit in - he has yet another Apple iD/MobileMe email address.

How to solve the problem?

How to get your own synchronised mail & contacts etc, but someone else's calendar? As a pre-requisite set up a calendar on what we will call the "master" machine, in my case my MacBook, and give it a new unique name.

Then this is how you do it on the second iPhone:

1 Go to Settings > iCloud > Account and enter your own Apple ID and password for your iCloud account, that will get things synchronising. (If you are coming from Mobile Me then go to iCloud.com and upgrade first)

2 But turn on syncing for everything except calendars.

3 Next go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account, and add the iCloud account of the person who will keep the "master" calendar.

4 Finally, go back to Settings > iCloud > Accounts and now select the "master" persons account name, then turn on Calendars and chose in the calendar app the unique calendar name you set up above on the "master" machine.

The calendar will sync to the "master" account, while your mail and contacts etc will sync to your personal one.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Help, please... the euro is failing, we need to save it

Am I a lone voice of the people?

The euro

We want the euro to continue to exist, we like it very much. So politicians stop fussing, take control of our money, sort out the banks (let them go banckrupt, protecting our money) or have the ECB finance them as the USA Fed does. Couple this to a 27 member agreement to use the euro, and for everyone to have binding fiscal policies to protect its future. Just get on with it. We can't have growth and jobs unless people have the money to buy goods, and they dont.

More money to spend

The question is why? More money has to be put in people's pockets, through higher wages, lower debts and smaller household running costs. UK wages are a pittance and businesses have to recognise that paying lower wages gets you monkeys, to grow you need geniouses and these cost.

And invest

Why does industry not invest? Last April to government announced a £2.5bn find, of which only £8m has been taken up? There are two simple reasons, consumers are not buying becaseu they have no money, and industry is incompetent to make the things people want, people in any part of the world. The first reason is true for UK and parts of Europe, the second is true universally. Managers and Entrepreneurs have to get off their backsides, have courage and leap into business. I am not interested in working out the details, and being shouted down by financiers self protecting! Let's agree the principles and, whatever the cost, do it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

What happens naturally - bankruptcy

The farce is over

At last I have seen the first press commentary about the banking/euro crisis (they are really the same thing). You see, what happened was:

- Countries borrowed too much and spent ridiculously more than they could ever pay back. Sovereign value has a limit, a big one but a limit.

- and on the contrary, banks loaned more than they could expect to get back, ignoring prudence and over leveraging themselves, effectively devaluing the money they are in business to prosper.


Both sides are equally guilty of causing this crisis, and both side have to solve it. So far banks are pretending they are blameless, just lending countries what they need provided the return is right. The problem of this is a return of 7% or more cannot be repaid after a certain time when the total outstanding debt is 120% or so of GDP.

On the other side, countries went on a spending, or ridiculous social support, binge. They borrowed to prop up social systems that were poorly thought out and too expensive. They made bad investments in national industries that could never give a return. In other words they paid us all to not have to work.


And now the moment has come: why not bankruptcy? OK so both sides lose but that is the correct and natural way of finance, not the 'kicking the can down the roda' sticking plaserts we have seen for months. Let's just get on with it and see if we could possibly manage it smoothly. Get the real value back in our money, get the banks to stop derivative gambling, stop people over-extending themselves with mortgages they can't afford and seems of credit cards in their wallets.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Stop making things complicated

It s about time we all, and with great emphasis the bankers, stopped making the euro crisis complicated.

* There are big debts, both you and me, and back and forth between countries. We must acknowledge our personal as well as government debts. We have to pay off the first, our taxes and government spending cuts have to pay off the second. Double whammy, but we got ourselves here...

* There is a banking system out of democratic control and doing what they like, in the aid of none of us. We do not have laws which sensibly govern the city of london, and all the other world centres of finance. This needs to be fixed globally. A big challenge but until we do it there will always be someone who makes a fast buck.

* There is the euro to save, all the people want it, it is a forgone democratic choice. We need stable, valuable money. Not money whose value and predictability is at the whim of a very small group of financiers. The EU is now based on a common currency, break one you break the other. Moreover it is time to consolidate the EU and have all 27 members use the euro.

* We have wealth. In our countries and in our people. Much bigger than simple debts can say. Just look at our level of social cohesion, our stable and democratic governance, our value and beliefs, our patrimony, our technology… we are an advanced society. This has immense value and must not be put at risk by a bad money system

So what to do?

The fundamental problem lies at the door of banks. They loaned too much to people who cannot pay, they constructed excessively complicated "instruments" and "products" to gamble with other people's money (yours and mine). They confused returns and risk and played games with these.

The banks have to be changed to be simple, guardians of our money, and careful investors in stable things that can give us all decent returns. Banks must learn to live within the extent of their loans, for example house values are a risk for the lender as well as the borrower: the market goes down, the equity goes down, the repayments go down… and vice versa.

European governments have to take strong and relentless control of banking, even up to the point of nationalising the lot. They have to redefine the real purpose of money, to trade and invest in society's development.

Next, we all have to stop deluding ourselves, stop or governments spending on projects which have political, but not economic value (take PFI as a stupid example of government mis-management). But also, very importantly, we have personally to pay our debts. It is not enough to want to buy a house or a home we have also to realise that this is a debt that has to be paid. And add that to other loans, on credit cards etc, we must understand that we can be over-extended and at risk of not being able to pay back. We must learn the lesson to live within our means.

Put simply

Give money a real purpose (gold standard anyone?). Pay debts (or write them off ?).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Government subsidies for building houses are wrong.

What a stupid policy! Financing by government aimed at stimulating the housing building business. Thus creating more and more sub-prime mortgages. The policy will simply mean more money in the pockets of builders, more people over-extended with debt and banks excused the risks of lending.

What needs to happen is quite different.

Lower prices for houses and land.

Simply house prices have to come down. Houses cost £40,000-£70,000 to build, and they could cost even less with factory made, mass production pre-fabricated designs. But the land to build them on costs up to twice as much. So it is land prices that have to come down. Councils that own land and want houses built on it, have to realise that they cannot sell it for ridiculous prices. If they want to house people they have to give away the land to do so.

Bank risk

Add this to banks having a new policy, strategy, call it what you will. A bank loans £100,000 to buy a home. The home equity falls in a slump to £80,000. The home owner is now in negative equity and has taken 100% of the risk in buying the house. The bank still demands the full repayment of £100,000! This has to stop, the risk has to shared, so that the amount to pay back goes down if the market falls (and up of course if it rises…) and the bank has to dynamically re-value the loan and take some risk.

I have to laugh at Samsung's product offering

There are a couple of photos which illustrate Apple's whole philosophy about products: build it right and the best you can.

Compare this to the myriad models of junk from Samsung, a lot of them trying to mimic Apple…

IMG 1325

Samsing's offering

IMG 1324

Apple satisfies customer needs and wants with a well designed product, Samsung seems not to have any idea about what to offer and just let's its nerds go ahead and make multiple mistakes.

I know that if I was a retailer then whose product lineup I would chose, easy to sell, easy to support, good for my reputation.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A few Financial numbers and scenarios

Thanks to the internet - especially zerohedge.com - for these diagrams.

First a comparative size chart of some of the big numbers, to get us just into the right frame of mind.

Screen Shot 2011 11 14 at 11 24 13

Next a lovely chart showing the position of various economies in terms of public debt.

IMG 1320

Now what will governments do? They have strangely different motivations from you or I, surely not why we elected them to solve the crisis?

IMG 1321

And finally a set of scenarios for the resolution of the euro crisis. I favour the top one of these, fiscal union, but including all 27 EU members. That should fix the problem! I believe we have to take back the meaning of money from the wild gambling financiers - who are still continuing to play there games throughout the crisis, god knows why.

IMG 1322

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Please take the EU forward

I am a dedicated "EU-file". Not only the EU as a political and organisational institution but also the need for a common currency, just like open boarders.

I believe that ALL the members of the EU should use the same currency, and have open boarders. UK included. It is wrong for us to be part of the EU but compete against it with our own currency which we can manipulate to gain unfair competitive advantage.

There are two key problems our leaders have to solve:


Strengthening the democratic management of the EU. We have passed the time when it is enough to have a technocratic management, with weak political oversight by government leaders. We need true, strong parliamentary governance and institutions, an EU civil service if you like.

One way to do this which I have advocated is to merge local politicians and parliaments with the EU parliament in Strasburg. With the SAME MPs sitting in both. Or at least a large percentage of Westminster MPs having a dedicated responsibility to sit in the EU parliament. To merge elections, when you vote for an MP you vote for his local and his EU policies.


We have to have a common money. Let's first define the simple purpose of money. It is to enable the exchange of goods, as a replacement of bartering, it is for us to be paid for endeavours, and it is for our choice to invest in productive ventures to provide better goods and services.

And, while we are at it, let's define what money is NOT for: it is not for creating an entirely fictitious "financial industry" with "financial products" that enable people to take huge wagers using money they do not own.


What seems quite simple to me, seems to be an insurmountable problems for today's leaders. Perhaps they should step back, listen and find a way to get these two goals in place.

In the mean time let's stop all this bullshit about bond prices and deficits. Put a ceiling on the yield that can be paid, and let countries and banks live with the consequences of being able or not to raise the money they think they want to spend or earn. The cycle of government profligacy and market extortion has to be broken.