danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I have a wifi stereo and a Spotify account connected to it.

I often amuse myself by baffling my son with appropriate (or inappropriate) sound effects. Over the Christmas holiday the Captain and I were playing with his model railway. I queued up about an hour’s worth of train related sound effects on the stereo to create some atmosphere.

An email today from Spotify tells me that they would like to recommend three artists I might like.

Sound FX

Sound Effects Library

Sound Effect Kings.

I’ll definitely check them out.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

I would never actually want to own a pub. At least I’d never want to the be the owner / manager of a pub.  It strikes me as a job with long hours, which requires compulsory sociability and which isn’t particularly financially rewarding. Also, you don’t get to sit and enjoy the beer. I’m much more likely to set up a rum distillery in Grenada than a pub but in keeping with my general life philosophy, often discussed with MLW(1) and widgetfox (2) that all of life can be usefully considered in terms of a top ten list here are the top ten of names I would give my pub if I owned one.

  1. The Fighting Thomas Cochraine (in honour of my favourite Georgian naval captain, radical politician and the larger than fiction model for Lucky Jack Aubrey)
  2. The Monkey Puzzle
  3. The Preferential Vote
  4. The Righteously Bare Arms (this pub would feature a weekly burlesque evening)
  5. The Gravitas Out
  6. The Twenty-First Amendment (clearly an over 21 only venue)
  7. The Spanker (if the pub were near a yachting club)
  8. The Gastro-Pub at the End of the Street
  9. The Truth in Comedy
  10. The John Cartwright

(1) my list of top sandwiches (3) was included in MLW’s speech at our wedding.

(2) I actually have a top ten of widgetfoxes.

(3) pastrami, gherkin, tomato, with whole-grain mustard on a savoury bagel.

danieldwilliam: (Default)

I have earwormed myself with Nina Simone’s Young Gifted and Black.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

danieldwilliam: (Default)

I was taking the Captain to Space Academy this morning.  Walking up Middle Meadow Walk I saw a chap wearing casual business dress and flip flops.

In Edinburgh, in March.

The sound of his flipflops shluping along the street was quite evocative, but not, for me, in a good way.

danieldwilliam: (Default)
As I was logging in to LJ this morning an advert was placed in front of me offering to find out if my husband was cheating.

The next time someone gets paranoid about the panopticon of corporate data gathering and processeing I might mention this to them.
danieldwilliam: (Default)

What would I do if I came into a significant amount of money? I was asked this a wee while ago and these are my sort of serious musings.

The answer really depends on how much money I came into.

£1 million. 

A million isn’t enough to retire on. Not quite. More accurately, it is not enough for MLW and I to retire on and still have the same level of material comfort in perpetuity.

A million invested in treasury bonds at 3.5% would yield £35k.  Split between MLW and I with some judicious tax management we’d probably not pay any income tax and pocket the whole £35k.  £35k is a nice income but between two of us it’s not exactly living in the lap of luxury. There would still be the mortgage to pay.

Also, with inflation running at 5% we’d really need to tuck away some of the income and re-invest it to maintain the value of our investment over the coming years.

We could invest in a more risky balanced portfolio and perhaps make 5%. We’d pay a little tax, still tuck away a little against inflation and probably have about £40k a year to live on between the two of us.  It’s getting there but there’s a risk that we could lose a big chunk of the capital and have to go back to work after some years of idling.

I could, of course top up my income by writing, *ahem* literature for discerning adults.

 Three options remain.

 We could invest the capital and not touch the income and retire in about ten years.

 One of us could give up work.

We could keep working, buy a big house on Gray Street, invite my mum to live in the granny flat and have several more Captains.

Personally, I’d probably vote for door number 3.

£10 Million

Now this is retiring in affluent luxury.  Post tax and inflation income about £300-400k. That’s proper house in the city, house in the country, flat in Barcelona terratory.

So, taking Door Number 3 as a given (That’s safe, you’ve won that and it’s yours to keep what ever happens) what would I do with myself with such a handsome living and plenty of time.

I’d go travelling. I’m very aware that apart from living in Australia I’ve not seen too much of the world. So I might pack up the Captain and the rest of his Crew, MLW and the au pair and take a turn around the world.

I would certainly spend some time in Australia reconnecting with my family out there.

I’d help my sister out financially over the long term as she’s not well.

Then once I’d returned I’d need to find something to do. 

Options would include .

Doing a PhD in something really intersting. Probably to do with low carbon economies.

Offering my services as a person of some small intellect to one of two politcal parties, one of two constitutional reform societies and / or a handful of environmental charities with the added advantage that I could buy in some admin help of my own.

£100 Million.

 See above for Door Number 3 (with the possibility of having two crews and two au pairs).

 I think with £100 Million one could just about buy an election. Not the next one or the one after. The election I would buy would be a Referendum on adopting the Single Transferable  Vote. This assumes that by the time I come into this fortune the Scottish Independence referendum had been and been lost.

 If I came into it tomorrow I’d set up a think tank to critically evaluate the case for independence from a broadly supportive point of view i.e. assuming that the whole thing is a not a grade A cluster fuck from start to finish how does an independent Scotland feed and clothe itself.  Naturally I would be CEO of this august body and I would hire a really good executive assistant to make sure I turned up and a really good coach to make sure I worked well.

 £1,000 Million

 See £100 Million but I’d buy the STV election early.  I’d buy a couple of newspapers and rent a load of bloggers and get cracking on installing democracy in the UK.

 I would also bank roll substantial educational initiatives in Scotland. I’d try and fund each of the 11 universities in Scotland up to the standard of the Russell Group and I’d pick Aberdeen and Edinburgh to begin with and try and lift them up to Oxbridge standards.

 As an alternative I might create a large number of generous bursaries so Scottish students could pick the domestic courses and institutions that suited them and therefore only those Scottish universities that supported a good student experience would get hold of my cash.

 I’d want the focus to be on science and engineering and business and economics. It’s not that I don’t think the Arts and Humanities are worth studying. I think Scotland has a business creation problem and improving the number of economically investable spin-offs from universities in Scotland along with the business tool-kit of Scots I think would give us a long term and self re-enforcing boost.

 I’d be tempted to create a charitable trust to send working class teenagers to Eton so large that 51% of Etonians were working class. Then I’d promise / threaten to do the same to all the other public schools in the UK. Just for laughs.

danieldwilliam: (Default)
Gosh it was windy last night.

On the way to an appointment in Morningside I was called to by a gentleman. He was standing in a doorway, shouted out to me and beckoned me over. Between the wind howling in my ears, my hat and his thick accent and mumbling, drunken delivery it took him five goes to tell me that a piece of roofing slate had just fallen off the roof we were standing under. So rather than passing on I was

Thank you sir.

Your incompetence as a communicator exposed both of us to the danger of falling roof material for several minutes longer than was necessary.

I salute you.
danieldwilliam: (Default)

I am trying to untangle the latest Bank of England inflation report. Apart from the fact that they don’t know and therefore don’t want to say and are therefore deliberately obscure it is written in another language, the language of statistics. I think I need to acquire a working knowledge of this language, enough to order a ham sandwich, a beer and solid opinion on inflation in 2014.

 As Harry Flashman used to say the best way to learn a new language is in bed.

 Therefore, I am on the look out for a hot statistician.

 Failing that a few articles on how to read the Bank of England inflation reports.

danieldwilliam: (Default)

On my way to work I encountered one of the most charming men I’ve ever encountered.


Two men, one our American hero and one a native to this city were walking their daughters to school across the Meadows. The threatening rain arrived and the American opened his umbrella and gathered the three children, his daughter and the two belonging to the other man beneath it. Two of the children had put themselves under the umbrella and he gathered the third one in and made sure all of them were in the dry.


The three children were very impressed that he had such a useful thing as an umbrella and told him so and then turned on the unfortunate, damp and lonely citizen of Edinburgh castigating him for his lack of foresight, care and umbrella. The American then started explain how many times he, himself, had lost his umbrella, how he often found them a hinderance and a liabilty and how often stong Edinburgh winds destroyed them. By the end of his explaination of his own troubles with umbrellas the children were convinced that the native was not so feckless after all but perhaps had hidden and secret wisdom in the ways of umbrellas.


It was one of the most carefully done and charming turning away of the wrath of children I have ever seen.
danieldwilliam: (Default)

I am reminded that one of my fondest fantasies was shattered by a bit of spreadsheeting I did a few months ago. 


More detail will, eventually, be available elsewhere but I did a basic net present value analysis of terraforming Mars and discovered that at no point was terraforming Mars NPV positive, even if you lived there. 


In fact, especially if you lived there.


In essence, terraforming Mars is an all or nothing exercise. The alternative is living under a dome and expanding it gradually, as you need the extra space. 

At no point until it is substantially complete does terraforming confer any economic benefit. The number of people who can live on the Martian surface when terraforming is 90% complete is still nil. Anyone who immigrates to Mars has to live in a Dome until the project is complete. These Domes need to be self-sufficient and self-contained biomes. A bit like Centre Parcs but on Mars.  

Terraforming will take a long time. Conservative estimates are several hundred years with other estimates looking at thousands or tens of thousands of years. 

The alternative is living in a Dome, permanently. Given a choice between expanding your Dome (and gaining more living and working space) and putting effort into terraforming a rational polity would choose to expand their Dome. Eventually, you extend your Dome to cover the whole planet. I think this probably takes about 250 years. The key thing is that at each point you are better off expanding the Dome that you live in rather than putting any effort into terraforming because you are better off immediately and have little prospect of benefiting from the completed terraforming project. 

Furthermore, as you essentially have to build a self-sustaining habitat to any volume of people to Mars in the first place and can’t land said habitat on the surface with ease you would be best off (if you chose to leave Earth) just building a self-sustaining habitat and enjoying living at 1G instead of some fraction of 1G. 

From the point of view of a push from Earth to export surplus populations, given that you have to build a self-sustaining habitat to move people in large numbers you might as well build the a self-sustaing habitat in orbit and just leave the thing in floating near Earth. 

To summarise, in order to terraform Mars you have to have access to technology that means that not only do you not need to terraform Mars but, economically, it would be unwise to try. 

This saddened me, but will filter through in to some economically literate science fiction.


danieldwilliam: (Default)

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