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Yesterday was marked by a number of events that all prompted me to think of science, religion, superstition and atheism.

On the one hand, there was an interiew with David Attenbourough on Breakfast where he was talking about his forthcoming programme on Darwin and Evolution. He made an interesting point which I never really thought about before. 

Every religion has a creation myth – whether this is Australian aborigines, an African tribe, Hindu or Hebrews (with Christianity borrowing on the Hebrew myth of Adam and Eve). However prior to Darwin, there was no natural explanation to nature’s unique richness and diversity on our planet, so there was no alternative, non-supernatural view to uphold. In the grand scheme of mankind’s development, it’s a fairly new theory, and as many things new of course it is going to be opposed by some (or many) religious people, as it threatens the very essence of their perception. Read the rest of this entry »

Nationwise released their January market update on the 29th Jan 09.

This report shows that prices have fallen by 19% since they peaked in Oct 2007, including by 16.6% in the last 12 months alone. Although it seems to indicate the rate of decline is slowing down, we have not yet reached the bottom of the cycle because of where the house price to earnings ratio is.

House Price to earnings ratio: Probably the key interesting point in this report is the house price to earnings ratio. The long term average highlighted by Nationwide is 4, with some other sources putting it at 3.5 or maybe even lower. Either way, it is currently around the 5 mark. Read the rest of this entry »

When will this government at last start cutting its wasteful spending, the money it has been squandering for years, and money that – surely – it is now seeing it cannot afford to throw around any longer?

We are now finally hearing admissions about the mammoth scale of government debt UK’s accumulated over the recent years and especially in the aftermath of the financial sector fiasco, and that Britain will be saddled with this debt for 20 years or more. Debt that both us and the next generation will have to shoulder and pay for through higher taxes whilst the government is stuggling to balance its books and finds that its income is lower than its expenditure. None of these forecasts make pretty reading, but let’s face it, we were all aware something of this magnitude was about to start unfolding.

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The Labour Government is making a move to shift its focus onto fighting class discrimination in the UK.

What exactly does this mean? At the core of this new initiative, outlined in a new white paper, sits a noble aim, which is for “every individual to realise their potential, no matter what their background”. And that is a very good ideal to aspire to, don’t get me wrong. Equal opportunities matter at all ages, but especially for younger people still in education whose personalities and perceptions are still being shaped. People who are worse-off don’t always achieve (from the education or career point of view) as much as people from more affluent backgrounds, with notable exceptions of course, so the society as a whole is missing out if talent goes unnoticed or undeveloped.   Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for various opinions and predictions about the end of this recession, I came across the blog called Angry Bear, written by a number of US economists, some of them PhDs, which I found interesting hence I am going to quote heavily from it.

In this article, the author writes his prediction about the end of this recession in the US:

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If anyone had thought that credit crunch has faded in significance, had been replaced by a deepening – and now acknowledged – global recession, but that basically things were back to some sort of known territory where we’ve been before and know how to get out of it eventually, this morning we were reminded that this was not the case.

Clearly, we are very, very far from being out of the woods, with banks continuing to be on the brink of disaster and still struggling to quantify the extent of their losses.

The new £50bn plan: The new bailout plan, announced in the UK this morning, will allow the Bank of England to buy up to £50bn of risky assets directly from any company (not just financial institutions) that agrees to enter into a voluntary insurance scheme for its expected losses on specified toxic debts. In return, banks have to pay for this insurance – typically with cash, but possibly also their shares. The scheme aims to insure companies against 90% of their losses on specified debts which resulted from the collapse of the sub-prime market and the ensuing global meltdown.

Two bailouts, two stories: This scheme, of course, exists on top of the first bailout in October 2008 where several key financial firms received £37bn as a capital injection to top up their reserves. The second UK bailout, however, has very different features to the first one. Not only the recipients of “aid” are different, but the insurance scheme “twist” is a new one. It is closer, albeit not idential, to the earlier US’s bailout model of buying up bad assets from struggling firms. Read the rest of this entry »

It was surprisingly difficult finding information about when LHC will restart again. Many will remember how much publicity it attracted around its switch-on time in September 09 – very soon to be followed by a total shutdown after major malfunction. Since then it’s all gone fairly quiet on this front.

Apparently, the fault was with a faulty electrical connection, which led to a leak of super-cold helium. The resulting damage was estimated at £20 million, but with other costs taken into account the total repair bill could be about £30 million.

 The Telegraph reported a week ago that “53 of the magnets used to accelerate sub-atomic particles around the machine’s 17-mile underground tunnel have had to be brought to the surface for repair or cleaning”. Since the fault was found, the collider’s fail-safe protection systems have had to be designed to prevent a similar thing happening again. Unfortunately this sounds as if insufficient time had been allocated to building mechanisms to prevent such problems before the go-live date. How embarassing this must be to Cern’s designers with the multi-million dollar budgets at their disposal!

This is the most recent article on LHC I could find. I guess we’ll be hearing more on the progress of repairs later this spring.

Happy New Year to you, my reader.

I’ve not been blogging since before Xmas. To some extent, there is so much negativity around in news headlines that it’s all a bit of a blur. So I’ve been focussing on work – our little IT business – and planning 2009 hiking challenges around Britain, one of our great hobbies. This certainly does make one feel much more positive and I think it’s crucial at this time to have an aspiration which takes you away from the decidedly average economic outlook.

I am extremely happy to see that although companies are more careful with their money, the IT sector is still quite buoyant – so it is not all doom and gloom for us at the moment. My first web-based project should go live at the start of March and this is keeping me very busy. It’s also terribly exciting to know there will soon be a website out there that I project managed. Read the rest of this entry »


January 2009
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