Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Waiting on a Friend


Rolling Stones: Waiting on a Friend

Agata had a meeting in town recently and so as a dutyiful friend and husband we drove down into town amidst the rain so she could be on time.


Not only is Agata a friend, she is of course Marcus' best friend, and since her meeting seemed to drag on and on I had plenty of time to ponder how nice it is to meet up with friends in general, ideally face to face.



Marcus's paranoid aside!

I want to start with the downsides.   Well,  Lausanne, one of Switzerland's largest towns, with a population of over 100,000 people now has 3 Starbucks outlets.


About 7 CHF for a Grande coffee, I had to wait somewhere. Everything is ultra expensive in Switzerland, and Starbucks is glad to play its part in this regard here too :-(




About 45 minutes later, car parking expired, still no Agata, I walked back in the rain and sat in the car.   Oh boy, a high turnover carpark with a succession of careless or is it carefree motorists close parking.

Do you know the feel of outrage when a new arrival stops, then throws open their door, not even checking or noticing whether it will hit your car.  It's at times like this that I am thankful we chose the Audi TT over the (wider) Nissan GT-R


Back to the Plot


After a long wait, Agata re-appeared, her meeting over and we could continue the rest of our day.


So,  in conclusion, as we get older, and then a lot older, the importance of keeping, nurturing and sustaining good friends becomes critically important.

In these digitally prolific days, at least talk over Skype, or Google Plus,  keep in touch with each others ups and downs, and try to meet face to face whenever possible.   You will feel better for it, just try.





Rolling Stones: Waiting on a Friend live


Monday, August 31, 2015

A Heated Cup

This is a positive review of the Promu TMF-C17 heated travel mug that we picked up from a Polish supermarket in Warsaw.



As a paranoid Android I have not been stupid enough to plug it into any computer, but we do plug it into a 12V cigarette lighter connection in the motor home or car.


Why is it brilliant!



So, in a motorhome you will typically have a gas burner hob on which you can boil water, say in a kettle to make a hot cup of tea, coffee or some other drink.

The trouble is that unless you have a Microwave, and that means an AC power connection, and that means parked at a campsite, well you cannot reheat the drink once in your cup.

[NB: there are some other solutions ranging from a Generator .. !!, to an inverter driving an electric cup heater .. longwinded, listed for completeness here but not in any way comparable in terms of price or usefulness]


BUT NOW.

Well it is possible.

First the mug is double skinned, vacuum, like a thermos. This means that hot drinks inside tend to stay warm, even allowing for the metal construction.

But as the drink cools the idea is that you plug the unit into a car cigarette lighter and it really not only keeps the drink warm but gets it piping hot again.

The only slight issue is that the electrical connection point is not waterproofed so be careful whilst washing the mug clean.

Other than that absolutely great, and drum roll ... about 15 Zloty meaning about 3 GBP all in.

Now that is a bargain.   Previously we had used the IKEA Hemlig mug, but this is so much better  (i.e. the USB charging)



Links

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sermon: Debt






Beyond Belief: Debt, the Religious Angle


Is Debt necessary?



The answer is YES, but it is somewhat of a slippery slope. At a trivial level debt is merely an enabler.  You want to buy a weeks shopping but you don't want to carry cash.   So via your credit card you effectively take out a short term IOU, loan, i.e. go into debt with them, only to pay it off at month end from your existing cash reserves.

In these trivial cases: you have the money, (right now)  to cover an expenditure but it's not convenient to hand over the money for goods.

Just down the road from this is the case where you really don't have the money right now, but instead of saving until you do have the money, you want or desire to take the goods now, & so using a loan, you incur  a short term debt which is then repaid with interest to the financier.

In the middle ground, perhaps you want to finance a car.  The same pattern but the repayment period is typically years and not months.

And at the end of the spectrum might be the debt incurred for a property.  Since this debt might be (say) for 30 years it would be unreasonable to save up first a) because then you'd only own at the end of your working life/life  b) since house prices rise much faster than wages, waiting would normally leave you in  a position where you'd actually never be able to afford anything.

But it is a slippery slope.  In Switzerland, it was typical for couples to take on a house loan that would actually be passed on to your children, in other words, it was a given that the loan debt would never be paid off in your lifetime.  Only stupidly low interest rates, now present in all parts of the Western world have (temporarily) changed this timeframe, to in most cases a lifetime.

So,  initially debt, borrowing money starts off as an enabler but can lead to something more worrying.



What does it say about Religion
If you are a believer in Religion X (say Christianity), then for consistency and to guard against hypocrisy you should understand your Religion's teachings on it and follow them. So please listen to this podcast

Why Listen to Beyond Belief

As a short plug and aside:

- It is free

- Available on demand
- Thought provoking
- An insight into Religions other than your own
- A forum where you can see Religions talking openly and in a non hostile fashion over one another

Religious Harmony

What initially delighted me to Beyond Belief is to discover a programme where people of different faiths would be interviewed together and have these different faiths be at least civil to each other.

That is somewhat remarkable.  And worth a listen purely on those grounds.   It also gets somewhat entertaining when different faiths pronounce their often totally contradictory teachings on a subject area, because, their peremptory viewpoint derived from an infallible holy book, cannot be wrong.



What did it teach me

I evaluated the Religious teachings on debt with varying degrees of hilarity.

Today there are complex financial systems that were never imagined thousands of years ago.  And even people living the most mundane lifestyles in first and developing countries can see clear reasons how debt can be usefully used.


So I judge all the religious doctrines against the theories that I have learnt throughout secular life and specialist financial learning and teaching.  It's that they might have some truth in them, but they are more or less flawed in today's world which differs so much from the pre industrial, pre scientific and pre technology based world in which the religious texts were written, (or some would claim, dictated from a God or messenger of a God).




Debt Categories


+ A bridge to allow you to enjoy products and services now, that might take too long to save up for.  A house is a good example.   Or to cope with an unexpected circumstance, for example a medical bill.


- An enabler to allow you to live a lifestyle of extras  (above subsistence) that you cannot afford but desire


+ An enabler to allow you lead a Subsistence lifestyle in the short term until those debts become large and unserviceable. You have taken on this debt because of an avoidable catastrophe in your family.  Example, natural disaster leaves you without a home or husband.


- An enabler to allow you to lead a Subsistence lifestyle, until your debts become unserviceable.   But you knowingly took on commitments, perhaps extra children, without any idea how you could support them.


In all but the first instance you will leave this world leaving others, e.g. friends, family, society, paying for bad decisions or circumstances.  In the case where you choose to live beyond your means, your selfishness means that you have net gained, and others will have to pay for your profligacy.




Links

Beyond Belief: Debt download (2015)
BBC: The Debt Business (2015)
BBC: A history of Debt (10 episodes 2015)
BBC: Peston and the house of Debt  (2014)
BBC: The meaning of Debt  (2011) 



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thanks to Rob and Hilary

 
This is a small photographic thanks to our dear Friends Rob and Hilary for taking the time out of their busy lives to visit us in Lausanne Switzerland recently.




Ah the beautiful lake and good friends a sound combination.




To everybody that has forgotton, yes Lausanne is a wine producing region of Switzerland.









Sleepy summer towns by the lake





The province of grapes and large CC motorcycles.

















It's a French translation thing you know.





Macus and Agata thoroughily enjoyed the catchup and we can't wait to have you visit again, because word on the street is that you may have some time spare soon.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Antec Mobile Products amp DBS Headphones




 This is a short and sweet recommendation for the antec mobile products (amp)  DBS headphones.

I currently use a mixture of wireless and wired headphones.

But in competitions that allow music, which is pretty much all Ultra Marathon events, I find that Bluetooth headphones don't work well:  they fall out too easily and don't last long enough.

So there is still a place for wired headphones


The DBS headphones have

- superb sound

- The cords are made from a braided non rubbery material

- They are not angled and sit straight in your ear

- They sit deep in your ear, so fit under a helmet without causing pressure on the ear for example

- Oh, and for me they remain firmly in whilst on a run, a marathon or an Ultra Marathon

- They were only about 20CHF from the local Digitec Store



Links
Antec DBS

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Seagate SeaTools for Windows





I use HD Tune Pro not only for Hard Disk benchmarking but to occaisionally check the SMART status of my hard disks.

On my old (well 2009) Development server I noticed via HD Tune that one of the Data Disks shows signs of imminent failure.

It's a 2.5" Seagate Hard Disk

I read thru the support and found that I had to run SeaTools for Windows and if that showed an error I can package up the disk and errors and send it off for warranty repair.







 You can download Seatools for Windows here











After lots of success I was delighted to get an error message. I was already to pack up the drive.

I could feel that new Seagate ST9100640NS coming back to me in the post

But then I found out some advanced options ....

Some hours later...











Now, no  fault can now be found and the previous failing test now passes on SeaTools, but HD Tune still shows a SMART error.   Hmm.

So I'm now using the disk as a backup repository disk and all seems well so far.

Learning Points

- I suppose it is fair that Seagate requires a failure from Seatools to allow warranty processing

- But this does not now explain the discontinuity between the HD Tune and SeaTools reports

- Of course the cost of a 1TB 2.5" Spinning hard disk for Enterprise is still not trivial to me  (about 200 CHF or 130 GBP) 

- So all in all I'm a bit disappointed with Seatools though its facilities are certainly comprehensive.