Sunday, 2 August 2015

Review: Inside Out

It's rare that I see a film and come out thinking that I haven't just seen a movie, but a film that might just be a classic. I see a lot of very entertaining films, I see films that later turn out to be classics, but I rarely see films that not just blow me away at how good they are, but which I'm sure aren't just a passing fad.

If you don't know the plot, it's about all the stuff going on inside a young girl's head. This has been done many times in cinema. For example: the scene with the little men inside the brain of a man trying to have sex in Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.

The big difference here is that (and my knowledge of psychology and neuroscience isn't too detailed) the stuff going on in the film seems grounded in a lot of good science. This means it's not trite, but makes the story outside and inside the head feel right.

Film of the year so far, thoroughly recommended.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

New personal best time for the Schwarzwald to London run

We set off from Karlsruhe this morning at 7 am European time, went via Aachen/Belgium and arrived home at 6.30 British time = twelve and a half hours.

If you knock off an hour for waiting in the queues in Calais, an hour and a half for the ferry crossing and half an hour for a detour to the supermarket for milk etc on the way home, I make that an average speed of about 60 mph.

Friday, 31 July 2015

"Cornish cow gets head stuck in a tree"

Spotted by Thomas Hall in The Plymouth Herald:

The young bullock was found tightly wedged by a visitor at National Trust property Trelissick House.

Staff at the property in Truro, Cornwall, were quickly alerted and it took two hours of removing branches and chiselling away at the tree for the bullock to finally be freed...

"We don't know why he put his head in there, but another cow has been back to the same spot so there must be some nutrient in there that they like. The second cow also got stuck but was freed easily as we had already widened the hole the first time around."

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

"Southeastern train derailed by cows on line in Kent"

Spotted by James Higham in The Telegraph:

A Kent railway line has been closed after a train derailed when it hit cows that had strayed onto the track.

Southeastern said two carriages came off the rails when the Ashford-to-Canterbury service struck the livestock between the villages of Wye and Chilham on Sunday night. Around 70 passengers had to be evacuated by the emergency services and led to safety after the incident, at about 9.30pm.

Buses will replace trains between Ashford International and Ramsgate, via Canterbury West, all day on Monday - with the possibility that disruption might continue longer...

Southeastern said no staff or passengers were harmed, adding that the only casualties were "the poor cows"
.

Ah... but did the "poor cows" really "stray onto the track" or was it a suicide mission?

Friday, 24 July 2015

"Harmful meddling among middle-class over-50s reaching dangerous levels"

From The Guardian:

Medical doctors and university researchers over 50 - who are healthy and highly educated - are more likely to engage in harmful meddling than their less privileged peers, says research.

A study of more than 9,000 self-appointed experts has concluded that prodnosing by the over-50s is a “middle class” phenomenon which thrives on the rush of bossing people about for no reason - a bit like your annoying elder sister when you were a kid - which should be targeted with explicit age-specific restrictions on bullshit output.

Age UK’s chief economist, Professor Jose Iparraguirre, author of the research, published in online journal BMJ Open, writes:

“Our findings suggest that harmful meddling in later life is more prevalent among public sector employees who are chronically overpaid and can't be bothered actually doing their jobs properly. And that's making the generous assumption that there is any point to their jobs in the first place.

"Constantly interfering in other people's lives and passing judgement on them may then lead to health and social problems for the less fortunate. Consequently, and based on our results, we recommend the explicit incorporation of bullshit limits to enable others to live out their lives in a gentle alcoholic haze.”



The disappearing homes conundrum.

From City AM, in amongst the usual Home-Owner-Ist drivel we would expect:

For the economy, [restricting relief for BTL mortgage interest] would be a disaster. Between 1986 and 2012, 57 per cent of all new dwellings created were private homes to rent, the majority of which were by individual landlords providing vital houses for those requiring accommodation, especially those needing to move for work or study. These homes were not “taken” from those who wished to buy.

Yes they very much were so taken.

The home builders land bankers have a certain profit maximising level of output (currently 150,000 or so new homes per year) and that is how many they will allow to be built. And they will sell those to whoever bids the highest price.

If BTL landlords were squeezed out of the equation somehow, then prices would probably fall, but as the land bankers are monopolists, it is quite possible that they would release more land in response. (Others observed that when oil prices fell, output increased in response, because petro-states have to get a certain amount of income from oil.)

The demand for these homes is from the people who will live in them, they are the ones paying for them, landlords merely step in as middlemen and gamble on creaming off a few per cent difference between rents received and interest paid.

So to suggest that landlords increase the supply of housing is nonsense, and they don't even increase demand. What he is saying is like saying "without the supermarkets, farmers would have nobody to sell their food to". If people didn't need to buy food to eat, then supermarkets wouldn't bother buying it either.

And, dear Mr Ward, if you think that BTL landlords should be treated like proper businesses for tax purposes, why aren't you calling for VAT on rents and Class 4 NIC on net profits? Just like proper businesses?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Stop moaning and give us all your money, you peasants.

From yesterday's City AM:

By Paul Stanworth, managing director of Legal & General Capital, founded in 2013 to help actively invest Legal & General's Group balance sheet.

Renting may be becoming the norm for large swathes of the UK’s population, certainly the under-40s, but a fundamental mindset change still needs to take place away from ingrained assumptions owning a home is preferable to renting it.

For many the idea of lifelong renting is something to strive away from at all costs. But renting should be seen as a positive lifestyle choice rather than a social or economic curse. I believe that the change in attitude will come as the range and standard of rental options available evolve.

Where it was previously a smaller segment of the market serviced by private landlords with sub-scale operations, the significant increase in demand coupled with public sector austerity has meant there is now a need for long term investors to fill the gap.

The good news is that the upswing in renting is coinciding with the development of a professional Build to Rent sector, with institutions looking to provide a new class of large scale, purpose-built rental stock. The strategic case for the sector is compelling. You need only to look at international examples, such as the US multi-family sector, or Dutch or German models, to see that where good quality large volume options exist there has been an overwhelming shift in attitudes towards renting.

Enhancing economic productivity through greater geographical flexibility, as well as providing affordability for those that are unable or choose not to join the owner occupation sector, this is about delivering higher quality, customised space, together with a more professional and flexible standard of tenant service that truly satisfies elective renters needs. It's also about accommodating all age groups and demographics, from retirees and families to time poor young professionals.

I believe there's a real opportunity to deliver well-designed homes in accessible, well-connected urban locations across the UK of a sufficient scale that they can be cost efficient and rental levels can be set at affordable levels.

In other words: this is essentially an opportunity to redefine what renting means in this county. A 24-hour concierge, onsite car-sharing clubs, state-of-the-art cycle facilities, gyms and integrated click-and-collect services are all potential features that we might expect to see carefully incorporated from the earliest design stages.

For us this is about using long term institutional money to support the future looking needs of the UK and working with forward thinking local authorities and best in-class partners to deliver this vision.

God Save the Queen....

... the fascist regime.



From Wizzed.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Only one-in-three? That's a bit worrying.

From The Daily Mail:

More than one in three homes will be owned outright within a decade, as baby boomers pay off their mortgages, a new report reveals. By 2025, 10.6million families will be living mortgage free, up from 8.4million today, most of them in their sixties and seventies.

But millions of younger people will never get on the property ladder as analysis shows there will be more people will be forced to rent privately than paying off a mortgage within a decade.


I'm a bit baffled why people who bought more than 15 years ago haven't paid off their mortgages yet; (I bought in 1998 and it took me ten years, so I am already one of the lucky one-in-three.)

The graph also highlights just how unequal land ownership (as extrapolated from home-ownership figures) will be if their 2025 forecasts are correct:

* 16% of households (social tenants) will be paying enough rent to cover running costs, but little or nothing for the land. They are in a break-even.

* 24% of households will be private tenants who own no land and have to pay full market rent for the privilege of living.

* 24% of households will be mortgage payers; about half of these will own no 'land' i.e. the outstanding mortgage will exceed the value of the land under their house (as distinct from the house on it).

* 34% will own their homes outright.

Those 24% private renters will be renting from 4% of households and presumably these 4% households also own their own homes, so on average, they own about seven homes each. For sure, there is some borrowing secured against this, let's call it four units of land each.

So there we have it:

* The bottom 52% own no land.
* 12% own some land (but less than one unit)
* 34% own one unit of land.
* The top 4% own four units each.

So the time honoured KLN "Land Value Tax would be regressive" is complete and utter horseshit. Imposing LVT in itself would level the land monopoly playing field; and it can't be rocket science to use the proceeds to replace the most regressive/economically damaging taxes. A more equal society with "hard working people" keeping more of their earned income. What's not to like?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Solving one problem by causing another.

From Accountancy Live:

In his speech delivering the Budget, George Osborne said that the bank levy was introduced to raise revenue and increase the stability of balance sheets.

"And it’s worked – but now it risks doing harm unless we change it. So I will, over the next 6 years, gradually reduce the bank levy rate – and after that make sure it no longer applies to worldwide balance sheets. But to maintain a fair contribution from the banks, I will introduce a new 8% surcharge on bank profits from the 1st January next year," said Osborne.

The changes to the banking levy will bring in £1,6bn by 2020/21 and will affect UK banks, banking groups and building societies, foreign banking groups operating in the UK through permanent establishments or subsidiaries and UK banks and banking sub-groups in non-banking groups.


Ho hum.

Applying the bank levy/bank asset tax to worldwide assets of banks with a UK head office was a terrible idea from the start, so they are phasing it out. Good.

But why then take the retrograde step of making up the shortfall by taxing UK bank profits at 28% (i.e. normal corporation tax plus 8%)? All that will happen is that profits will be shuffled abroad again or reclassified as non-bank income taxed at 20%.

Far better to just leave corporation tax at 20%; restrict the bank levy to UK assets; and increase the rate significantly to soak up the 'rental' element of bank profits.