Monday, 16 September 2019

Shocked I tell you, shocked!

From The Daily Mail:

Bull-runner, 26, gets gored in the leg twice before being flipped into the air and dragged along the street in front of shocked onlookers

How do they work that out? It's like saying people were 'shocked' to see a man knocked unconscious at a boxing match, or a crash in a stock car race.

First day at university

The Lad moved into student halls of residence at the weekend. (Rather ironically, his uni is within half an hour of our home, but he dug his heels in and insisted he was moving out, whole 'nother story.)

Mrs W had offered to drive him and his stuff down there. I assumed that kids would want to appear cool and independent, and ask their parents to park discreetly round the corner so that they could rock up with a rucksack and a couple of heavy bags, so I was going to leave them to it, but Mrs W said I should at least offer to accompany them. So I did and to my surprise, The Lad accepted and The Lass tagged along as well for good measure.

It appears he called it correctly - the car park was full of shiny 4x4s and SUVs, most students had turned up with both parents and even younger siblings.

Trolleys were provided to get stuff from the car park to the halls, and many of them had managed to fill them to the brim. One lass had six large matching suitcases and a brand new flat screen TV on hers. And I don't mean shopping trolleys, I mean the big industrial 'roll cages' that supermarkets shelf stackers use, as depicted here.

Mrs W was channelling her inner Beverley Goldberg and brought some cleaning wipes and started wiping his shelves. I did my best to be Murray Goldberg, but funnily enough it was a bit of a wrench. Even bombing round in the Toyota MR2 for forty minutes couldn't cheer me up.

Friday, 13 September 2019

"Taxing Robots Is a Great Way to Make People Poor"

Excellent article by Noah Smith at Bloomberg, h/t the Resolution Foundation email round up.

No point in paraphrasing or summarising, the article is fairly short and to the point.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Project Fear, Part the Manieth?

This appeared in Facebook:


On the face of it, it seems logical. Our oil refineries are going to be clobbered on the petrol they export to the EU, at the same time as they are going to be undercut by tariff free foreign imports. This will lead to the closure of oil refineries, strike action, fuel shortages, riots, famine, pestilence and the usual End Of Life As We Know It.

However, no mention is made of the following:

All the crude oil we import is from outside the EU, although just under half is from Norway, which is quasi-EU. Just over half of this at least will become significantly cheaper. (That is assuming that the crude oil from Norway is already significantly cheaper than that from non-EU countries, which is not necessarily the case. Market economics suggest that the Norwegians would charge just slightly less than what we pay for oil from non-EU countries.) This would make it more economical to continue to refine our own fuel rather than to import it ready refined.

We import more petrol than we export and we export more than we consume domestically. (From Google: UK fuel consumption is 1.475 Bn litres a month, which translates to 1.062 M tonnes a month. UK fuel exports are 30 M tonnes a year). So it appears that 100% of those petrol exports that are going to become uncompetitive are actually imported, so the margin on the exported fuel cannot be great or the EU countries that currently import from us could simply buy direct from our suppliers and cut out the middleman.

I may be wrong about this, but this, and, by extension, the entire Yellowhammer report, looks like just another manifestation of Project Fear.

"Woman fighting for her life and dog killed after cows trample on them"

From The Mirror, via @ambushpredator:

Woman fighting for her life and dog killed after cows trample on then

They really ought to put warnings on tins of dog food, include this in a leaflet when you buy a puppy and every dog training manual and explain it again in the ad breaks during broadcasts of Crufts.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

"Houses are assets not goods: taking the theory to the UK data"

From Bank Underground:

In yesterday’s post* we argued that housing is an asset, whose value should be determined by the expected future value of rents, rather than a textbook demand and supply for physical dwellings. 

In this post we develop a simple asset-pricing model, and combine it with data for England and Wales. We find that the rise in real house prices since 2000 can be explained almost entirely by lower interest rates.

Increasing scarcity of housing, evidenced by real rental prices and their expected growth, has played a negligible role at the national level.


Includes lots of lovely charts, tables and calculations.

As I have said many a time, all you need to know is
(1) local average wages in each area of the country, which tell you what local rents will be, and
(2) prevailing interest rates. You multiply local rents by the inverse of interest rates (or divide local rents by interest rates, same thing) and that tells you what house prices will be in each area to within a tolerable margin of error.

There is no need to factor in 'scarcity' to the equation, being impossible to measure once you have done the two-stage calculation.

This also explains why there is a larger variation in very local house prices within larger cities/conurbations. This is because there will also be a larger variation in wages in larger cities. Office cleaners earn the same everywhere, but the higher paid jobs are in the larger cities/conurbations, so there will be a wider range of wages in larger cities/conurbations, hence a higher range of rents and a higher range of house prices.

* "Yesterday's post" is also well worth a read, that also boils it down to the two-step calculation. They also include a section headed "Higher property taxes needn’t mean higher rents…".

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

"The world's first floating nuclear reactor"

From The Daily Mail:

The world's first floating nuclear reactor dubbed 'Chernobyl on ice' has arrived at its permanent location in the Arctic after a perilous sea voyage of almost 3,000 miles.

The Russian-made power station is due to start providing power to the most northerly settlement in Asia by December.

Named the Akademik Lomonosov, the 472ft vessel carries two 35-megawatt nuclear reactors, and has been under construction since 2006.


The world's first?

Have they not heard of nuclear submarines or nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, all of which float? Admittedly, Russian nuclear submarines are better at catastrophically failing and then sinking than they are at floating, but I don't think that's what they meant.

"Protests as five-week Parliament suspension begins"

From the BBC:

Parliament has officially been suspended for five weeks, with MPs not due back until 14 October.

Amid unprecedented scenes in the Commons, some MPs protested against the suspension with signs saying "silenced" while shouting: "Shame on you..."


Zero sympathies from me.

Rumours - well-founded as it turns out - that Johnson would suspend Parliament if he couldn't get his own way started circulating three months ago, before he'd even won his party leadership contest and thus by default (or by tradition or by custom, but with no particular legal force) become Prime Minister.

MPs have therefore had plenty of time to organise a vote of no confidence. It appears that they were incapable of agreeing on who would be the replacement PM. By default, it would have to be a moderate Conservative MP who is a Remainer (of which there are plenty) or at least in favour of a soft-ish Brexit (of which there are also plenty).

The template for this is the Chamberlain-Churchill handover. Technically, the Norway Debate was not a vote of no confidence, but it is accepted as having had the same effect. A majority of MPs from all parties had more or less agreed beforehand that Churchill - who was a Conservative MP, just like Chamberlain - would replace Chamberlain as PM. The whole thing took three days start to finish.

Today's MPs have been fannying around for three months and achieved precisely nothing. Corbyn had the mad idea that he might be PM; Lucas thought there should be an all-woman government and heck knows what Swinson wanted. Not exactly serious grown-up debate, in other words.

Monday, 9 September 2019

"The Haywain" by John Constable

I had always assumed that the hay wagon in the famous painting was fording a shallow river that flows off between the trees in middle of the painting.

Mrs W and I visited National Trust, Flatford on Sunday, and took the obligatory 'gate crashing The Hay Wain' photo in front of the cottage, which still looks exactly the same.

Two things struck me:

1. That is not actually a river, it is a pond (or non-flowing side-arm of the actual river, or however you wish to describe it), which ends roughly where the trees in the middle of the painting are. Nobody would be daft enough to ford it, they'd just go round it, which would take about one minute. So the event he painted never happened.

UPDATE: Sobers' explains in the comments why the wagon is in the pond.

UPDATE: NT map:


2. While the cottage looks exactly as it did, the National Trust haven't bothered to install a hay wagon in the middle of the pond, which would enhance the overall visitor experience and make those photos all the more enjoyable. Especially if you could wade out and pose on it, like on the zebra crossing in Abbey Road.

Lest ye think this is some sort of sacrilege, there are precedents for this, i.e. statues commemorating something that never happened or somebody who never existed, which become visitor attractions in their own right, for example The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbour, Manneken Pis in Brussels or various Swords in the Stone dotted around anywhere with a vague connection to King Arthur. See also Waverley Station in Edinburgh.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Awkward conversations of our time...

From the BBC:

Sophie - not her real name - told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme she had been on a day out with her family 18 months ago when she had checked her phone to find missed calls and messages.

Her sister's partner had found videos of her on Pornhub - the world's largest porn website. One was in a top 10 chart and had had hundreds of thousands of views.


How does that work?

"Oh darling, I was browsing for porn and I stumbled across this one with your sister in it. It's really filthy, especially the ending where she [content removed]."