Tuesday, 23 December 2014

"Self-disgust is self-obsession honey, and I do as I please"

Unlike my friend Monmarduman I have almost no interest whatsoever in who reads my blog. Just like all the other egocentric, self-obsessed and totally vain inhabitants of the "me generation" that inhabit the internet. Now that is out of the way I can write what I really think.

I write it for me. I have vague pretensions that I could be a writer if I could be bothered, or unprepared to use the excuse of a busy life for a reason as to why not. It is true that I have some wonderfully creative ideas that could transform themselves into brilliantly erudite and well-written literature. But they are unlikely to be anything other than passing flights of fancy in my very imaginative mind, as I lack the discipline or attention to make it happen.

Still, the construction of most of what I write is better than about 95% of what other people blog about. I'm the best writer of people that I actually know. I'm also one of the most arrogant, but I cloak that selfishness (most of the time) in a kind of faux self-deprecation, that makes people laugh as if I'm not serious about my talent. The truth is that just like the X-factor proves that most people shouldn't be allowed near a microphone, the internet and ubiquity of blogging, proves that most people should stick to what they do best.

I also don't care if you like it or not. You are reading it after all, it's your time. I waste enough time of my life reading pointless shit on the web to know how easy it is to get sucked into it. But it won't change your life, or your cycling ability. I make jokes, I spout opinions and I argue cogent points based on real facts (now and again). But it's hardly Julian Barnes.

I did say almost. What does excite my curiosity is that people all over the world are apparently reading this. Although as far as I can see no-one from North Korea as yet. The top countries for this year are below.

The UK and the States I understand. But the Ukraine? What could be of so much interest that has drawn over 2000 page views? I did this exercise a while back and China was nowhere, but now it ranks 7th on the list, most of them fairly recently. Get a life. Or meet me at Sweets and I'll explain why a Selle Italia saddle is a must-have accessory. I am not yet a threat to the stability of your government.

But I do hope to see Tibet liberated in my lifetime.

On the cycling front it's the time of year to review accomplishments, count the achievements and make plans and set targets for the next year. But just like those round-robin letters, no-one really is that interested, if you are go to my Strava page and have a look. The only people who are interested are the competitive ones among us who say they like to see what others are up to, but are really trying to beat you.

The round robin letters are funny though. It's a long-winded way of saying one or more of the following:

1. My job is so much better than yours
2. I travel to really interesting places that you don't
3. I live vicariously, through my talented kids mainly
4. I've entered an ironman, I'm so tough

On the other hand have finally managed to exorcise the faster Holy Bible from the recesses of my depressed brain. It was a glorious time and taught me so much but it's time to move on now. In any case I thought this contribution was more enlightening. And I heard it ringing out from a concert on the same day I passed by on my best day on the bike this year. Which is nice.

But just as there are only 20 stories, all the best ideas are stolen. Including this one, and I don't want to be in trouble with those Koreans. Not yet anyway.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

"You can prove anything with facts"

Quite a few of my friends have political opinions. Most of them are just that, but it doesn't stop them spouting them as if they were true. Including me. Although I tend to be fairly intuitive with my diatribes and insights, that doesn't stop me from being right.

You can see where I'm getting this style from, can't you?

But seriously. The lies wash them down and the promises rust. Most of us instinctively distrust politicians. Why? Because our sub-conscious brains register their shifty eyes, the turn of their heads or downcast and sidelong glances when they are telling us lies, mis-truths or omissions.

Rhetoric and spin my friends, a diet our screens and airwaves cram down our willing and oblivious throats, and we are all too happy to shrug and move on with cries of "they're all a bunch of charlatans, but what can you do?"

I was thinking about the deficit today. Not that exciting as a source of amusement, but what I was mostly thinking about was that our TV experts really understand very little. That's because they are reading most of it, and my subconscious recognises when someone is talking to me like I'm an idiot. But my conscious "I used to work on the front-line of middle class goes south in the early 90s recession south-east London banking personal debt crisis" brain also knows its stuff.

So I know a few things about money and its rules. Of which there are two:

1. Don't spend more than you earn or sooner or later you will run out of cash and be in the shit.

2. It's generally better to know how and when the shit is coming, that way you may be able to prevent it. Keep honest records. At least for yourself.

So here's a question for you. How much is total public sector revenue this year? Or how about this one. Is the total public debt as a percentage of public revenue, going up or down?

I bet you don't know. I didn't. And you can bet your bottom euro, the politicians are not going to waive the numbers in your face. In fact I bet half the MPs in the House of Commons don't even know. Bet they believe their own lies. Governments don't have much influence because world forces shape our economy. And those are driven by the influence of capitalism.

So I went and did some digging around and found a website that has done the heavy lifting, and it allows you to create your own datasets. If you have a mortgage, chances are that when you took it out its total value was somewhere between 3-4 times your annual income, but over time as your income increased and the debt came down, that percentage would decrease.

All figs in billions GBP200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017
Annual surplus (deficit)-35-30-33-97-157-139-117-101-128-83-77-57
Total Public debt420490530620760910110011851258135514391497
debt as % of annual income86%94%97%116%147%164%191%200%215%209%215%217%
debt as % GDP32%35%37%44%53%61%71%75%77%78%80%80%

Not so our public debt. It's been rising faster over the last eight years than at any time since the second world war. That's not a partisan comment. I don't think governments of any political colour have the courage to take bold decisions, so in thrall are they to vested interests. The figures in blue are estimates of the future, which generally turn out to be bollocks.

The site also tells you that most of the spending goes on welfare, health and education, which to all intents and purposes are either politically untouchable or very hard to shift without mass starvation or riots on the streets. And that's just the over 50s.

So in a nutshell, unless we can make some very tough choices on spending, or start to improve incomes and hence tax revenues, we're in that proverbial. We have never faced anything like this before.

So you will hear lots of rhetoric and spin, but most of it will be guff. Which is why they are actually happy for the conversation to be all about immigration or terrorism. It's more simplistic and easy to appeal to all your opinions. Although quite frankly, without a big influx of young people in the next few years, I'm not sure who is going to pay for all my healthcare.

An answer? From me? Seriously? Well I wouldn't start from here for a start.

Here it is then.