395 - Autumn Snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

395 - Autumn Snippets

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Autumn snippets runs from October onwards.

How could COP26 and COP15 occur in the same year? See below (far down)


The End is Nigher than it was:-

Liz Truss was appointed PM by the Queen on Tuesday 6th September. Two days later, on Thursday 8th, the Queen died. Ten days later, on the Monday (19th Sept 2022) was the very grand farewell. Charles is King; Liz is PM. 23rd September, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's statement sets the financial markets alight and the UK adrift. 14th October Kwarteng is fired and replaced by Jeremy Hunt. 20th October, Truss resigns. 25th October Rishi Sunak becomes PM. 17th November Autumn Statement from Hunt. Watch this space.

Found on Facebook, the suggestion that the Post Office, which used to be called the Royal Mail, is to be renamed the Charles the Third Post Office, which will of course have a logo that says C3PO. An expert in languages, decorum and diplomacy. Meanwhile, of course our own 2020s version of Star Wars looms.

Jonathan Pie gets very close to my own attitude.  If the link fails, search for Pie and 'Statement of Intent'. He's good in person, too, without noticeably using any of these videos. Indeed, for a summary of what's been going on in Britain, Pie does an extremely good job here too. 'Welcome to Britain. Everything is Terrible.'

Trickle-down economics says that if I see a beggar, I take a note out of my wallet and put it through the letter-box of the most expensive house I can find. 

See essay 395.1.


My NewYork namesake has been posting angrily (I think) in advance of the mid-term elections. Each point he has made has, I think, a greater extreme over here. He is strongly anti-Biden but seems to assume the why is entirely obvious. He raises trust in politicians as an issue but seems to have held trust in Trump. He targets inflation but discusses debt, blaming who is in power for both (He should look at the Truss fiasco for comparison). He has a moan about energy independence, saying that at the point of transfer (Trump to Biden) the US was energy independent, while recognising the need to transfer to renewables. He then, Day 4, moans about strategic energy resources without explaining and reasons that this is because thanks to Biden the world is a less safe place. Day 5 refers to the southern border, meaning illegal migration; I sympathise, but he has demands with no apparent understanding beyond Not Near Me. Day 6 is Green, where what he means is moving to EVs and the difficulties of the changeover. Dead right, that is the problem and it cannot be done overnight. So I think his complaint is the way the message is promulgated. perhasp we could send No10's communications department to somewhere they'd be of use? Day 7, Afghanistan and the disgrace of the departure. Day 8, abortion. To most of his posts I made a response from the Far Side (of the pond that is the Atlantic). I tried to not criticise but to observe the raised issue from a different perspective, including, where I could, our perceptions from over here of what occurs over there. I have hope of raising a discourse; we clearly disagree at many levels but we should (my opinion) be able to discuss how we reach such opposing results. Dave clearly is strongly republican, but I wonder if he is Trumpian to the extent that he dislikes someone like DiSantis, portrayed here already as the great GOP hope. Is that red for GOP, and are they the elephant? [√]


Still in the USA, The Atlantic posted a piece about the losses from what they call pink-collar jobs, the caring professions (childcare, nursing, teaching) and the significant loss post-pandemic.  Although the economy has recovered nearly every job that it lost earlier in the pandemic, the U.S. has nearly 100,000 fewer child-care workers, a loss of 12 percent. About 300,000 fewer nurses are on the job, down roughly 10 percent. And 570,000 fewer educators are working in public schools, a decline of 7 percent; schools across the country are reporting a record 40,000 vacancies. Workers remaining on the job feel miserable. More than half of teachers say they are contemplating quitting, as are nine in 10—nine in 10!—nurses.

I compare this with Britain. Of course, we don't count quite the same things nor in the same ways. In childcare, we are aware of some of the magnitude of what has been lost in child development and we already had a staffing crisis. We've lost 5% of the care providers, which is businesses, not people [c.f 12% in US] but this has been steadily declining, so (as ever) it matters where one sets the 100% mark. We lost 232 nurseries in the financial year 20/21, a 35% rise in losses and very noticeably more losses were in the already deprived areas. 20% of (childcare and early education) staff declare that they've been considering leaving the sector.

In nursing and general health care Britain is significantly hit by the Brexit idiocy, which caused many non-natives to return home. One report from Dec 2020 I found reports: Across all staff groups, the NHS had 83,591 FTE vacancies in June 2020. A quarter of all nursing vacancies are in mental health. By 2022 this has increased to 110,000 [link] not quite 40,000 nurses and just over 8000 doctors. And on top of this the treatment waiting list is now measured in millions and in years. The empty posts amounts to 10% of nurses and 6% of doctors. [c.f Dave's figure of 10% in nursing matches]. The growing private health sector (gov't undeclared policy, but a direct result of the evident failure within the NHS) doesn't declare figures and is generally ignored; this is where the well-off go to receive timely attention. The lack of nursing in mental health,  which we've only recently begun to recognise properly, is 17% below the expected figure. Authorities are acting to stem the drain but replacement is slow—a ten-year cycle—and so we can expect it all to get worse still before it gets better. Meanwhile, those staying in the health business have fewer reasons to stay.

In education, the headline figures are that 70% considered leaving in 21/22, and 44% of teachers in England plan to quit within five years [source, precisely].   in 20/21, 8% of teachers left the state sector, Among newly qualified teachers, the number who left within one year rose from 11.7 per cent in 2020, to 12.5 per cent last year. [link] Pre-pandemic, that figure was nearer 15% and retention of people who train to become teachers has long been around this level. the proportion who qualify and are not in teaching only two years later is also depressingly high. Vacancies in teaching are at a high (records only began in 2010/11), four times higher than the original count, at 1600 (of 450,000 is a paltry 0.35%; I suspect that if funding was available, more teaching posts would be on offer so that class size would go down). [36,262 staff – 8.1 per cent of all teachers – left the state-funded sector. Suggests to me that total state teaching is 448,000].A different report on teaching doesn't pain any better a picture. Secondary teachers work 50 hours a week (cf OECD mean of 41), primary 52. More than half of all teachers think their workload is unmanageable (which says, perhaps, that they feel there is work left undone?). It confirms the total number of teachers, 466,000 FTE in state schools England, which is a steady increase since 2000 but is still slower than the increase in pupil numbers. The mean number of 18 pupils per teacher is misleading because of the large number of special schools with very low staff:pupil ratios, more like 1:6. All of this suggest to me that UK teaching is in a slightly better place than US teaching, that it has a better status and reward (despite the complaint in Britain, it is worse still in the US). There is significant churn in British teaching staff (people moving in and out); typically some 7-10% of all teachers leave the profession in any year but the count of returnees escaped my searching. It seems to see that the much vaunted census could be significantly better. Minimum teacher pay is around the national median, which perhaps indicates public worth. Median teacher pay is £41800, secondary classroom teachers at £39900. Compare this (same source, worth a read) with the median FTE in the UK of £31460. Over in the US the average (I hope median)  public school teacher salary in the US during the 2021 school year was $65,090, [source]  and this is steadily rising. Median wage in the US is $54132. So comparing these as percentages of the national median, the UK secondary classroom teacher is paid 127% of the national median, while the typical state (public, they call it) US teacher is at 120%. If the US figure includes all teachers then the comparative figure for the UK (which probably means just England, given how we generate the figures) should be higher still, at 133%. We might then say that teachers are valued 13% more in Britain. We might also say that both countries don't value their teachers enough.


The missus just explained that, in Mandarin, Macron, macaron and macaroon are pronounced identically  (and, guessing from what she said, ma-ca-lonh or makalon). So I looked these words up, to discover, as you no doubt already knew, that a macaron and a macaroon are quite different and a common mistake made in patisseries worldwide. The almond/egg-white biscuit is the -oon and the thing more like a coconut pyramid is the -on. But the French president, who is also a local football stadium, is also the diacritical mark that we use in this household to indicate the first tone. Bolton Wanderers have very recently renamed the Macron stadium as belonging to their university (who knew? It’s a prominent sign on the M6 still).


I've posted several times about tree planting. 395.2 looks at the net effect of trees, deforestation vs planting. We're pathetic: we plant something like two and a half million hectares (Mha) but we cut down (and mostly burn) about three times that.

§395.2 - Net Trees


I have been claiming for some time that I think maths is an over-rated subject in education. Google (and read) 'algebra is a waste of time'. The point that I agree with is that maths out of context IS a waste of time, when the students could be persuaded to want to know. Can we argue that you only need algebra if you're going to pursue STEM subjects?

Examples that occurred just today with a group of people included:-

(i) a complete misunderstanding of life expectancy at retirement, with life expectancy. The context was to ask what the life expectancy of an NFL player is on retirement. But the answer was for the matter of life expectancy of an NFL player – which in my world, is how long they'll live mixed with how much longer they'll live from the age of retirement. It turns out that the answer, 59.6 years after only 3.5 years (mean, I think) playing career would imply death after retirement very much greater than the average American, while the message is supposed to be that playing the game shortens your life.

(ii) There is a hilarious (to me, anyway) video of a young woman being offered a pizza. She's perfectly happy with it cut into six slices (say), but when chopped into twelve is, she says, clearly far too much food. She says. 

On the first, one of twelve understood that there was a misunderstanding and only that person understood at the end of the session. On the second, the same person understood straightaway. But it seems that some of the group had seen the video and not seen what I saw as hilarious, only repetition. I did not discover if they agreed that 12 slices would be more food than six slices. It seems to me so obvious that the pizza hadn't changed size is the funny part. Apparently, I'm in a minority.

Recently, and weeks after writing the paragraphs above, the PM said, “Around 8 million adults in England have the numeracy skills of primary school children" (source). See 2011 Skills for Life: The survey found that approximately 24% (8 million) of those aged 16-65 in England in 2011 had numeracy skills equivalent to a child aged 7-9 —while 49% (17 million) had numeracy skills equivalent to a child aged 9-11. I say that both of these numbers represent a disaster, unless our kids are doing very much better than we think, and I wonder how many of the kids described never proceed further in 'maths' ability. I think they mean numeracy. The quote comes from a year-end speech in which the PM introduced (repeated) the notion that we ought to all continue with maths to 18. The same speech says we are one of the few European countries to not do so. Two issues immediately leap to mind; (i) what on earth does one attempt to teach to the bottom third that is actually functionally useful and (ii) what is to be lost from the recognised courses of study to make space?. In subsequent  thought, is there perhaps a level of maths considered adequate such that one might be excused, or must one toe the line to relevant birthday? I continue to be bothered that for many, the functionality of their maths might well be reduced to an inability to read or express precise language, and by implication, precision in any form. And, I suspect, to be able to express imprecision (e.g. rounding) with sufficient correctness. In my experience those with 'issues' with maths fall into distinct groups: those who have been 'put off' by others who find all numeracy and maths easy and so are fighting a sense of failure; and those whose inability to do anything with precision, perhaps 'because my mind doesn't work like that' means that they largely don't relate to anything requiring any level of exact answer.I continue to think that those rated academically as the bottom third of our population in terms of achievement should be far better served by state education so that functional skills for all rise, so that perhaps the 'failed' group reduces to more like 5-10%. Establishing what it is that we might mean by functional skills is another argument altogether. I continue to believe that what I saw among those who found maths difficult was that most of the content had no meaning, no real-world use (and that by implication those people needed 'maths' that did exactly that so as to engage at all) and that there is precious little understanding what it is that those of us with 'bad' maths need to function better in society. Almost immediately my reaction is to ask why pick on maths; why not pick on other necessary skills, such as communication (language), ability to think (in my view, largely awful), ability to process (analyse) information. Numeracy probably incudes some of these, but I think we need to admit that many of us are not adequately functioning in ways that would benefit society.


The Conversation, again. This time, on how bad austerity was. The chart says quite enough about excess deaths – the inequality between men and women is unexplained, but has to be significant. Inevitable, it seems, the greatest loss lay in the bottom decile; there were no bad winters and the only change that can be seen as relevant is the loss of provision of care as the state was deliberately shrunk. Which can be called the direct and indirect effects of austerity and government policy.  [...] More people in Britain died due to austerity in the five years before the pandemic, than died from COVID-19 in the first three years of the pandemic. The effects of austerity continued after the pandemic hit, but initially became harder to discern.  The finger is also pointed at excessive waiting times in A&E. The article suggests that our position is not so much like the 1970s as it is like the 1930s. That is scary.  

However, there are several places where what at first reads as an authoritative discourse falls under suspicion. How is the state pension £331 per week? It is currently £185.15 per week, £9628 a year, though those retiring before 2016 get £141.85, £7376 per year. [Paid 13 times a year, not twelve.] Then the use of the word austerity needs a little clarification, referring to a government policy. Several commentators accused the author of being selective in the choice of data to portray. I only observe that excess deaths are a difficult topic to study. I agree with the observation that excess deaths in unevenly distributed deciles deserves proper attention and a diversion of funds to alleviate this position. Really, we should be working to raise the health of the underprivileged and to do this far earlier in their lives, so that they are productive (and happy) for far longer.



I read an interesting argument that suggests that the war in the Ukraine is the consequence of expansion of NATO, causing Russia to feel threatened and therefore needing to act. 

Essay 385 relates.

§395.3 expands upon this.


We're being given advice on how to save energy. What is already lost is what, if anything, we're being given to mitigate the rising costs. I've seen nothing, nor do I expect anything other than my annual winter fuel payment of £200. As to the advice, I expect none to be new to us. Here's a sample of what I found being offered:

Air-dry laundry – we do when we can. Oddly, if it is sunny enough to dry clothes, we have surplus off the solar panels that we could dry stuff indoors too. A battery, £5-10k, is of dubious value.

Use less hot water. I don't see how. Showers are already short and baths are about one per house, not per year.

Make better use of heating. The house is often at 9º. A single room might be at 16º. The heating won't go on until November, and even then most radiators are set at 'off'.

Better insulation. Short of losing windows, I don't see more I can do. I've thought about shutters on the windows but that's more capital not recovered. Thicker curtains, perhaps. I think insulation to the windows of the smaller rooms and to use those rooms (not the large ones) is the best we can do.


Looking at how inflation is calculated I realise I'd misunderstood. We're told that the calculation is based on a 'basket of ordinary goods'. But that sends the wrong image: instead visualise a median family's accounts across two years or more and share that spending in much smaller units. So if the assumption is that you replace the car or the phone, it is likely that the proportion of car/phone is much larger than, say, that of milk. E.g. a pint of milk every second day might be £180 a year, but replacing the phone every second year might easily be £400. Or, to put that differently, you'd replace the phone every fourth year to make the two items even vaguely equivalent. So the woman-in-the-street is far more likely to notice 'inflation' in the weekly shop than she is at the electronics or car showrooms. Further, we can all put off the big purchase by another year, but you can't do that with food. 

In short, our perception of inflation is indeed based on the 'basket' idea because we connect basket with the weekly food shop. Yet the response to (the perception of) inflation is to spend less on those choice activities, such as eating in instead of eating out, and to delay those capital expenditures such as the car and the phone. It is altogether more extreme to do things like abandon subscriptions (Sky, roaming, gym, newspaper, etc) or curtail activities (cinema, eating out, going to the football). All of which slows down the economy, quite the opposite of the 'growth' we're told we need. Actually we're told we want it.

Excellent article in the Guardian this morning from Michael Jacobs, a prof at Sheffield U. As I read it I thought that this is what I'd hoped to hear from one of the party conferences (this last two weeks).

I'll explore this further, but Jacobs says the issue is wealth which I agree is rentier captialism (I get richer from investments by doing nothing). Hence we should look at how growth is distributed (and this, I suggest, is the issue of the last two weeks) and whether we have any measures of that. It seems to me that it is in the interests of us as a nation to not increase growth, but increase the distribution of growth. That sounds a lot like levelling up, too; it sounds like somethign that makes many more of us happier. So I want, in turn, government to focus on improving wellbeing not (just) GDP growth. As a consequence of Brexit, GDP growth is screwed, but that does not prevent us reinventing ourselves and working on actually being happier. Which in the technical terms used, is 'raisning our wellness' measure, already surprisingly vague buyt slowly improving (the measure, not the value of the measure).

[10]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/oct/10/liz-truss-dreams-growth-income-stall-gdp

[11]  https://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/Alvaredo-et-al_04-ES_517-518-519-ENWeb.pdf  on distributed national accounts. Fig 11, P51 especially. Public wealth is public assets less public debts, so moving public assets into private hands moves that public wealth to private wealth. That private wealth might well be held by ordinary individuals as part of their savings portfolio or pension fund. Net public wealth .. has become negative in ... the UK (P52). In the long run, steady-state wealth inequality depends on the inequality of savings rates across income and wealth groups, the inequality of labour incomes and rates of returns to wealth, and the progressivity of income and wealth taxes. (also P52)


Is the stock market a zero-sum game?

investopedia https://www.investopedia.com/terms/z/zero-sumgame.asp


Yes, in relation to a benchmark. Short-term investing is close to a zero-sum. Long-term trading is not a zero-sum, because the stock is actually worth more. Derivative markets are a zero-sum game. More money is printed, so the amount of money rises; this is not zero-sum; the economy expands, otherwise called growth. The stock market rises by about 0.05% every day (for the last 30 years, as a long run average); so if you allow for commission, it's pretty close to zero-sum. So after costs, the short-term stuff is for losers (my interpretation).

Stack exchange is likely to give technically accurate answers. [T]he main failure of the idea that investing is zero sum is the fact that a company does not participate in the transacting of its stock in the secondary market nor does it set the price.

  • XYZ Company has a new stock issue. 
  • Bob and other investors buy the shares from XYZ Company. The company receives the proceeds. 
  • Bob sells his shares in XYZ Company to Jenny. Bob receives the proceeds.
  • Jenny is not at a loss because she received the shares.

This is materially different from the trading of options contracts. Options contracts are the trading of risk, one side of the contract wins and one side of the contract loses.

A contrary view: For every buyer, there is a seller and the amount of money involved remains the same. Money just changes hands, regardless of what happens to the price of the stock. Here's a simple scenario:

There are 3 people (A, B, and C). Each one has $100 and A owns the stock. That’s $300 in existence. Let’s assume no slippage, dividends, or transaction costs.

B buys the stock from A for $60. Now B has the stock. A has $160, B has $40 and the stock, and C has $100. There’s still $300 in existence.

If B now sells the stock to C for $80 then A has $160, B has $120, and C has $20 and the stock. The stock appreciated $20 and yet there's still only $300 in existence.

Now suppose the company goes bankrupt and the stock is delisted. A still has $160, B still has $120, and C still has $20 but no stock. Again, no money vanished and $300 still exists.

When share price rises significantly, paper wealth is created (not money). When share price drops significantly, paper wealth is wiped out (not money).

It's not an easy concept to swallow but when you buy a stock, your money is effectively lost (someone else now has it). If share price appreciates and you sell, you get your money back and then some.

This ignores—as it says—that a share owner might receive a dividend and that there are likely to be costs in making transactions. You could argue that dividends are zero-sum because they money comes out of the business; I'd expect the business to view this as the cost of having the shares (the cost of the money invested), so it is redistribution and that money could have gone to other places.The stock market as a whole is not zero sum because wealth is created by the growth of companies and economies. But this is uneven and it has to be true that businesses often die out, which would render a share worthless. So a long-term investment portfolio is assuming that growth will occur and that the portfolio is wisely chosen (or lucky) and the hope is that the growth is greater than other long-term investments. Since anyone offering interest is looking to use the money then one way or another they too are investing elsewhere with profit in mind, so all that, say, a bank is doing is guaranteeing you some of what they make by being a little cleverer in what they do with the (large) sums of money they have to work with. 

All the assumptions that make trading a zero-sum game assume that the measure being used is monetary value.

Quora has many answers to this question. Many are well-written and, in general, they say 'not quite'.


Suppose we've moved to almost all of us having EVs? Suppose range is 250 for cars and 500 miles for trucks. How many supply sites do we need? If one site is intended to serve as much as a current service station, how much power does it need to have available, and, assuming energy is delivered more slowly than oils, how much bigger does it need to be? 

Early estimates say we're already behind the curve (and the US is worse than the UK) in provision of supply. The problem, quite rapidly, moves from those who move locally to those who move at distance, so perhaps we might restrict one part of the problem to studying heavy transport. So postulate that the Tesla Truck works well enough and that it (and its competitors) are set to replace the existing heavy transport, without moving the load to other mediums (rail, air, water).

Number of lorries in Britain; 131,000 over 41 tonnes, 105,000 between 8 and 18 tonnes. 16.2 billion vehicle kilometres. Source, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1006792/domestic-road-freight-statistics-2020.pdf

Assume a workable range of 500 miles, 800 km between charges (which currently implies that the advertised range is 1000km). Assume 300 working days, each 8 hours of driving long. we need  at least 20.25 million charging sessions, at least 67,500 per day. The current supply of service stations is deemed adequate; there are 2150 petrol stations in the UK, declining by perhaps 5% a year; not all of these can take lorries.  Suppose the business is distributed normally around the mean of 1000 lorry-suitable stations, so that each of these needs to cater for 67 visits, say between 50 and 100. A typical lorry battery requires a 420kWh size for a 250 mile range, so for a nominal 1000km needs a battery of about 1050kWh so let's say the lorry target is 1000kWh. The Tesla semi is expected to have half of this, which implies twice as many charging sessions.   A super-fast charger on the megawatt-hour battery works at 150kW (rapid) or 175kW (ultra-rapid), implying something like six hours charging per megawatt. That suggests that eight hours of driving includes some of these six hours and a reduced range implies more vehicles or more staggered hours. 

You can see why the future is seen to belong to robots doing the driving or the driving being done remotely, or in trains. Even with extremely fast charging, the working day for long-distance haulage is going to be broken into range-sized chunks with dedicated charging stations booked in advance or sufficiently numerous that queuing is not a problem. But, working from the Tesla truck's 500kWh for 250 miles (400km) then each 200 miles of likely range there is a 2-hour delay of ultra-rapid charge time. If the long-distance driver maintained 50mph, that's four hours on and two hours off. I say that this is too expensive and that different working models are required, such as driving between charge points and swapping vehicles, or swapping tractors or swapping battery units at speed. 


We had a holiday, in which we drove across England, France and Spain (a day each) to northern Portugal, holidayed for a while and drove back from the other end of the peninsular. We were struck by the extent of southern Portugal and south and central Spain that appeared to be near-desert (but maybe it's been that way a long time). Also struck by the vast solar farms in Spain and France – and by the green of the grasses growing under the panels, suggesting to us that perhaps a little more height on the panel would produce even more useful space. Blessed by smooth crossings in each direction, we were struck at the lack of welcome back to Blighty; though the customs man could hardly have been more pleasant, the most of two hours wait to see him sent a strong message, that the UK is basically shut and you're very welcome to leave.


I have just read my latest energy bill, for the second half of October. Why it is half a month rather than all of it, I've not yet understood. But in effect across half-term (we were out of the house) we've been charged nothing. Like most households, there is £66 monthly handout, called the HM Government Discount Energy Bills Support Scheme, added as a credit on the bill. But, in the depths of the detail, which in our case is virtually hidden on an attached file, there is a further £25 (it was a very small bill) of 'energy price guarantee'. Thus electricity price moves from 48.88 p/kWh down by 17p to 31.88 and the gas price moves from 14.05 to 9.83p/kWh ¹. Using the predictions of usage on the same bill across a whole year for us that would represent something like a reduction of  £1032.  ².  My annual credit of winter fuel allowance has jumped from £200 to £500 apparently; the £66 per month applies for six months and so probably is intended to be another £200. So the total reduction in energy bill for the year looks like it would be £1500, ³ where on the prices given I might expect the unsupported bill to have been £3400.     And all of that ignores the solar panels, where we're using 40% of what we generate and receiving (once in four years) £70 for the exported energy. That energy generated and used does not show here. At the current £0.4888 rate, we use a further £700 worth of electricity. ⁵  

In a sense we lose the remaining generated electricity, which, if we could only use it would reduce our gross bill by another £1000. A big enough battery would recover this, but when I work out just how big that would be, the finances don't work at all. Quite simply, we don't use enough at the time of year we have a surplus; the batteries I have looked at would smooth out a week and in a sense achieve time-shift across a day very well, but they cannot store (I can't afford to do it) across longer periods. I may need to write a maths page about this.

More: I think I'd accept a ten-year pay-back period. We use 40% of the 3.67 MWh/year we generate, so there is 2200kWh exported, for which we recover about £70. In the winter months when our consumption is highest and our generation least, we seem to be using 25 units a day and generating maybe one unit per day in December. In the low months, late October to early March, I wonder whether we use what we generate and export very little; this is difficult to discover. Suppose we do: then there are gains to be had between March and October, during which we use less and so export far more than we use, peaking in May to July at around 20 units generated per day and exporting most of this. Typical purchased units for this sunny period are four to nine units per day, so a 10kWh battery would result in very few purchased units.

Our energy bill for 2020 (allowances included) was close to £1500 and I budgeted in April 2022 for a leap to £2500. On the figures above the expected £3400 reduces to £1900. In that light I'm less unhappy about the dire return on the solar panels. I wonder quite who benefits from the exported electricity.

Assume a 10kWh battery is purchased. While consumption is less than that capacity there would be very little purchased energy and still some exported. When consumption exceeds capacity, energy will be purchased. Obvious. The standing charge is paid anyway, so the savings are only in purchased units. Further the recovery on exported units can be seen as trivial. So the significant saving is in the reduction of purchase in the darker half of the year. I discover we have no good record of what we actually used, though we have good figures for what we purchased and what we generated.  I shall assume that there is a steady load of 250-300 units every month plus a winter addition of five months at 200-250 units more each month. What one would really like would be to take the excess from the sunny five months and shift it to the wintry five months, but that isn't going to occur with batteries (very evident, don't need to prove this). What might be affordable is to capture and use the wintry generation, most of which would be caught by a 10kWh battery from late August to April every year. The excesses in May to July will still be exported, perhaps 500 units. So the gain would be in the region of 1700 units not purchased. The current charge per unit is, as above 31.88p per unit, implying a gain of perhaps £550. If electricity were charged at the un-subsidised rate of 48.88, this would be £830. So a £5000 battery installation is paid off (no interest allowances made) in ten years or six years.  Is this wise? I do not yet know. If the battery lasts ten years but not twenty, this is a poor purchase. The quote I have is for £7000 for a 10kWh battery, £5000 for a 5kWh battery. The guarantee is a ten year warranty and a minimum of 6000 cycles (heading for twenty years). On £7000 outlay this is payback in thirteen years, possibly as few as nine. Putting that another way, on an expected life of twenty years, perhaps as few as seven years of benefit.

One might assume that electricity will not become cheaper and that the price will, necessarily, steadily rise towards 50p per unit. One might also assume that gas will steadily rise in price. One might, just, wonder if the two will become unhitched together so that electricity becomes relatively less expensive; thus the 4:1 ratio might shift towards parity, as it must if we are to wean ourselves away from fossil fuel sources. In turn that means that one should be using steadily more electricity and that there is an assumption that electricity is generated from non-fossil, mostly renewable, resources. One might also guess that at a national level there must be battery equivalents storing energy.

Perhaps there is a better solution, based upon switching to whom one exports. Octopus guarantees 4.1 p per unit but possibly 15p per unit exported. At that higher rate we'd be paid £350 a year with no change of equipment and across twenty years we'd have parity with having bought a £7000 battery. There may be an even better combined solution with both a better rate and a battery, where one is paid for having the facility to hold some energy for later in the day.

I have written to Octopus, asking about this.

¹  (14.05-4.22=) 9.83p/kWh.

²   3526.8*0.17 + 10249*0.0422 = 559.56 + 432.50 = 1032.06

³   1032+200+300 = 1532

    elec+stdg charges+gas = 3526.8*0.4888+365*(0.412+0.27128)+ 10249*0.14051 = 1723.90+249.40+1440.09 = £3413.39. Usually this would be reduced by a pensioner's £200 winter fuel allowance. 

    40% of 3.67MWh = 1468kWh.   1468*£0.4888 = £717.55  Exported 60% of 3.67MWh @ 3p/kWh = £66.08.  Clearly we need to make more use of our own electricity, or be paid a far better rate for what we export. 'Lost' electricity if used by us would save a spend of 60% of 3.67MWh @ (48.88-3.0)p/kWh = £1010.28.


COP27 is on this month. Or perhaps just this week. I'd thought that the numbering referred to a year, so spent quite some time wondering what was significant about COP26 in '21, deciding that the agreements were given 5 years to come to fruition. Wrong, it's a simple numbering; this is th 27th such meeting. The issue being bigged up by the media to anyone who'll listen is that the 'west', the rich, must bail out the 'rest', the not-so well off. The argument, fundamentally, is that the riuch are the ones that did the most to get us into this mess and are still, for the most part, the biggest polluters. That ought to change rapidly as the 'west' sorts itself out. But what I've heard so far sound sto me like excuses. The UK (I'd rather write Britain) is rather nearer having fulfilled its promises than other states (need to check if anyone filled their promises of funding). There was supposed to be $100bn in a fund. At COP26 it was France and Japan who had filled their previous promises [11]. [12] has a decebt go at what was promised and what progress has been made. No doubt the pandemic will be the excuse, but in some ways it is a symptom of the very change we're suppposed to be fighting against. No doubt the Ukraine war will be citreed as an excuse, but I see it as a prompt to get onn with the disruptiopn required to change attitudes wholesale. No doubt the cost of living crisis wil be used as an excuse ("We haven't got any more money") but the same argument applies; we have to change radically and we must use the opportunity to make large-scale changes to how we run our lives and our countries.

How very depressing.

Some media have woken up to greenwashing and are beginning to call it out. But the modern techniques of calling the basically true news fake is far too successful and so too few will take away what needs to be done enough to believe any  politician who attempts to explain why the next decades are going to be uncomfortable change.

Just occasionally, I see someone write that the underlying issue is simple; there are too many people and we're doing nothing about curbing that part of the problem. No-one even wants to discuss this; no-one is willing to discuss this. We need some real leadership. I'd like to hear first from the Catholic Church, as I think this would be real leadership.

The World resources Institute, WRI, indicates two central issues, solidarity and accountability. By solidarity they mean we're all in this fault-ridden situation so the rich have to pay up, have to support adaptation, address loss and damage, honour their commitments and support transition to clean energy. I do hope this turns into sending people, not throwing money into corrupt political pockets. Though one could do both by subcontracting the actions. By accountability they mean very much the same thing (I think), turning pledges into progress, targets into achievements. They also want stronger national targets and demonstrable progress. It is a pity that Boris has been permitted to attend and King Charles has not.

Regarding the loss and damage issue, there is perceived to be a need for a fund, or a financing mechanism. Some of these already exist, so they could/should be strengthened. And, I think, relabelled so that they can be used for recovery from damage. When it comes to arguing about money, those who have the money will hold onto it – or, they will want something in return. If it were me, I'd be looking for physical help, for external contracts (rebuild this <infrastructure> with your rich-person's money. But I'd also be tempted to do a deal with a specific nation, tantamount to a sort of partnership, such as pairing off with one's old empire leader. Barbados and Britain, Goa and Portugal, St Lucia and France (or Spain). Pakistan; umm.. too difficult on so many fronts.

Very similar, in the sense that the rich are expected to fund the activity, is to scale up support for adaptation. This has two fronts, I think; the relatively easy one is to commit to what you'll do at home in terms of climate adaptation; the relatively difficult one is the fund for others to do similar things and so there is another fund probably called Adaptation Finance. I have no doubt this is having demands to be at the least doubled, plus assurances that it goes were it should. It is that last, getting the finance to where it needs to go, that bothers me most. I have no evidence that a majority of any fund reaches its intended destination. Indeed rather the reverse, I can find very easily evidence that the 100% somehow collected in Britain is hit by so many demands that very little actually arrives at the sharp end. This keeps me from contributing at all – or that is my excuse. Again, I'd want to see locally led adaptation, which in effect means that the funding nations send skilled bodies to ensure the money reaches those local sites.

A part of the adaptation activity will no doubt be to 'strengthen' emissions reduction targets. This is pointless unless there are ways of establishing how much is successfully done. That requires nations to collect data (and to do that honestly, which implies an international regulatory body since I don't think there's a lot of trust wafting around). How to show you've done what you said you'd do is a problem easily greenwashed, one way or another and politicians in general are very practised at .......

[11]  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02846-3

[12a]   https://www.wri.org/insights/cop26-climate-pledges-tracking-progress

[12b]  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/08/cop26-one-year-on-progress-un-cop27-climate-summit-egypt-breakdown  ...another good article, in the sense that it makes me want to read more, explore further.

[13] https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/climate-action/what-we-do/climate-action-note/state-of-climate.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiAmaibBhCAARIsAKUlaKRxE5M1wr_lh0mQ7xG4u83HDeV6EZdpzGgD3g4oCv8R-2oJmtatSrkaAptZEALw_wcB

[14]  https://www.wri.org/un-climate-change-conference-resource-hub/key-issues-cop27

[15] https://www.wri.org/insights/cop27-priorities


From a Guardian reader email (i.e. from the Editor, in my in-box), on the topic of how to cover Trump, if at all; the truth sandwich. Last third of November.

It's a topic our readers feel quite passionate about: Noa asked Guardian supporters in the US for their views on the right way to cover Trump and got hundreds of replies. Most of them supported a less-is-more approach and echoed the strategy preferred by David Smith, our Washington bureau chief: "I also like the ‘truth sandwich’: explain the reality, then quote Trump, then explain the reality again.”


A rather better than usual article in The Conversation discussed corruption – in football, but corruption all the same. Daniel Hough, of the University of Sussex, points to four critical components; it is deliberate, abusive, relies upon a trust of power, and includes private gain. Each of these can be contested, Hough explains, but they frame the situation.The element of premeditation (being deliberate)  may be ducked by somehow falling into a plot; that only means that one of more parties is duped by others exhibiting deliberation. However, what is corrupt in one society is not so in another. This is so easily mixed with the element of abuse of power. I can see that where power is recognised and the wielding of that power is trusted then there is, quite rapidly, less accountability — the persons at the top are trusted. So the abuse of that trust and hence the advantages wielded because of that power is in some senses, less likely to be found out. I have always thought of this as the political range of decision-making, that space in which the reasoning for decisions and actions is (in my head) automatically suspect. That is because so much is done privately, out of office and its hours, and in unrecorded situations. One never quite asks what is being traded, even as the wider public will assume that the trade has direct money consequences it is obvious to me that favours, services and reputational advantage might have indirect results that are far less obvious and far less easy to track, to identify or to call one out on. The element of abuse as a criterion for corruption may well be abuse of position but could too easily be indirect blackmail of the generic form. For very many, the line between what is and is not corrupt is very vague and to a large extent simply what we do that we call 'business'.Yet if we are clear that some things are corrupt we should be able to be clear what constitutes corruption. It may be that we have to catch corruption when it crosses other lines, such as fraud, abuse of position. If solutions exist then they lie in transparency.Taking FIFA as an example only, one might ask if it is FIFA that is corrupt or if it is the victim of corruption. I see that as potentially a rather fine distinction, but one where a clear line could be drawn, one side right and the other wrong.

One thing I really do not understand is how it is that the corruption charges that have been tracked down result in fines being paid to US authorities, not Swiss ones. Is that action not itself displaying a form of abuse of power?




COP15 is on biodiversity. COP 26 was on climate change. Simples, allegedly. The biodiversity series began in 1992 and has so far resulted in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena protocol and the Nagoya protocol. The climate series began in 1995 (Berlin); COP26 was in Glasgow and COP27 Egypt. Significant moments include the Paris Accord (signed and effective in 2016) that made a 1.5ºC a target to stay within (which we will fail to do). The 2013 meeting (Warsaw) introduced the nationally determined contributions, NDCs. The Kyoto Protocol (signed 1997, effective 2005) was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US has as yet not ratified the Kyoto protocol, but do read why that is. One notes that the Paris deal is called an Agreement or an Accord rather than a Protocol. Trump took the US out, Biden put it back (his first day in office). The two results from COP26 were the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreeing the Paris Rulebook). In my opinion, very little was achieved due to the levels of compromise, despite the vigorous efforts of a few, including Alok Sharma. Do read the HoC library entry. Perhaps the significant step was to identify coal and fossil fuel subsidies as things that ought to stop. At the very last the wording on this was significantly weakened; not good. What was kicked down the road was everything about money, particularly in the rich (and polluting) nations forking out funds for the poor(er) nations to repair the damage caused by climate change. As in 'let the polluter pay'. But to do that we need to be a lot more honest about who the polluter is and exactly who is going to pay. This suggests to me that Big Energy ought to be a multinational target, which might be given the problem to solve rather than leave it to, yet again, the less well off masses to fund. It has become clear that we all have to move off fossil fuels. What remains very much unclear is what we can do to cause that to occur.

COP 27 was in Egypt (Sharm-el-Sheik) in November 2022; COP15 is to be in Kunming (§15.1 October, much virtual) and Montreal (§15.2 December) 2022. Climate COP28, UAE, Nov/Dec 2023 ("First Global Stocktake")


https://www.cbd.int/cop/  The biodiversity series explained, with the protocols.




https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/what-were-the-outcomes-of-cop26/  worth reading

https://ukcop26.org/the-conference/cop26-outcomes/  an obvious alternative read from an obviously interested party.

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/cop26  "a concise overview" in 3 screen-fulls on my machine.


https://unfccc.int/cop27 describes (optimistically) what was decided. Time will tell whether this was justified. Or even acted upon.



The first link below caused me to wonder yet again about productivity, happiness and workload. On the subject of the four-day week;-
Of course, company bosses might think: “If my employees are working 20% less time, surely output will drop, too?” But several studies have shown that is not the case. In fact, countries doing the least hours of work are often the most productive on an hourly basis. These countries, such as Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, are also the happiest. All work less than 1,400 hours a year on average, compared with the US and UK average of about 1,800 hours.

Please contrast that with my mean across 30 years of teaching, of 2800-2850 hours per year. Average for the profession, apparently, over 2500.  Messages: teaching is for chumps; vocations are an excuse (you write what they are an excuse for); teaching is poorly paid.i productivity (a per hour unit) a good measure? Surely an employer would really like some optimum that keeps productivity as high as possible for the hours the business craves, which may well be quite variable. I can think of many who, if offered a four-day week, would go looking for supplementary work to raise their income – and I assume this applies to many who are struggling. 

The same article says that Iceland trialled reduced working hours between 2015 and 2019 in a scheme that included hospitals, schools and social service workers. I want to know how you reduce school to a four-day week. I can see that care systems, being 24/7 already, would need to expand their employee numbers or reduce levels of care at times of the week. For schools to reduce either there are more teachers or there is less classroom time. If the nation changes so that most have a three day weekend, that conflicts with the idea of the 4-day week as i have understood it, though I can see that as an option. If we all agree that the working week is Mon-Thur, then we must rethink those jobs that require 'weekend' working, which are probably versions of shift work already. If we think of hospitality and retail as having many of the same issues as care systems, then whatever the solutions are, they are common.


https://autonomy.work/portfolio/4dwschools/  (leads to) a sensible report on the topic.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936253/Teacher_well-being_report_110719F.pdf   page 6 for hours per week. Unclear how many weeks per year in creating this. if 40, then 2040-2280 hours per year; if 52, 2650-2950 fall into the 'normal' bracket.

Teachers are expected to work 1265 hours a year (of directed time) spread over 195 days. In practice this makes for 198-200 days a year when INSET is added, plus any extra-curricular trips (I'd have three weeks of this in a typical year). This means that a 40-week (5-day week) year is completely normal as assumption. To that you should add the admin load, the lesson preparation and the marking time. I say most of all of that should also fall into the same 40-weeks. Trying to make sense of the numbers bandied around, if the 51-57 hours per week (h/w) applied to a 40 week year, then that would give 39-44 h/w on a 52 week year, generally below the other numbers I found. The Teacher Workload Survey (2019, next one likely to be 2024) says 49.5-55.1 h/w but this is from a reference week, so there is an assumption that this refers to a 40-week year, and therefore implies 1980-2200 hours per year, which I see as near enough what an industrious office-worker would put in to remove the issues. I'm really unimpressed that the word 'average' is used without indicating which, but I assume they've used mean (and implied no modern grasp of maths at all). For the reference week, the middle half of  f/t staff worked 45-1-55 h/w. Chart found. Of the hours recorded, typically 10-20 were out-of-school hours, and typically this was around 25% of the total hours worked. So, if one worked a 4-day week, the fifth day (or its equivalent) would be used up in out-of-school work. One has to wonder at the statistic that says that actual teaching has fallen to less than half (42-47%) of the total working hours. I wondered immediately whether what I'd call games was inside this period. Perhaps, if I'm classed as a classroom teacher, only timetabled lessons count. What then, about CCF, which soaked up a half-day a week and often three weeks of the year (outside term, too)? 


My conclusion here is that the reference week was examined well but that this does not present an accurate picture of the working year, only of the chosen week. The last week of any term and the weeks immediately adjacent to term will be different (full for some and almost empty for others). How one might catch this information with precision is difficult and not within the scope of the managers at school, who all have other demands of greater importance and immediacy. Asking staff to be honest simply won't work; they'll game their responses based on their expectations of the likely conclusions to be drawn.


Football's world cup reaches the knockout stage: eliminated are Ecuador, Qatar, Iran, Wales, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Denmark, Costa Rica, Germany, Canada and Belgium. Two groups to finish, likely exits for Cameroon, Serbia, South Korea and Uruguay (who won the very first World Cup). Only Qatar and Canada scored no points. The pic is of the critical moment in the Japan-Germany game. That you can see green grass between the ball and the white paint is irrelevant, apparently; there is some ball not yet clear of the outside edge of the white line. For a while that evening, Spain was going to be eliminated, too. Japan not only won their match, the fans tidied up before they left; class, that.

Germany went the same way in 2018, losing two games I learn. Quiz answers here:  Germany are the only team which has stood on the podium (3rd place or better) every decade there was a tournament held—1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Germany is one of the most successful national teams at the FIFA World Cup, winning four titles, earning second-place and third-place finishes four times each and one fourth-place finish. If you consider 3rd place or better for a winning campaign, Germany's 12 victories in 20 tournaments add up to at least three more than any other nation. The team was present in 20 out of the 22 tournaments, the second most frequent, and only did not reach the quarterfinals three times, in 19382018, and 2022.  In 1938 they were knocked out by East Germany; 1950-90 called West Germany. Three of those finals were vs Argentina.

I looked at the odds on offer, many of which were out of date (e.g. Germany 12/1). Skybet (Ladbrokes) say Brazil 9/4, Argentina 9/2 France 5/1 Spain 6/1 (11/2) England 8/1, Portugal 12/1 (11/1), Netherlands 18/1, all others over 30/1. How about only one of the top two in the final? I said before the start Argentina vs Brazil, 2-1.


A friend of ours (me too) was stopped by a western reporter in the street somewhere like Shanghai and asked, in English, for comment on the movement restrictions connected to covid. Giving a false name she replied in (of course) fluent English. It was after she'd been recorded she started to worry at the wisdom of having said anything, very glad she'd thought (at the end) to give a name other than her own. Then, about a week later and after the unusual events of protests across China, the central government policy changed. Concern within our household focused on the possibilities—likelihood—of rapid infection across the country. There is a very low vaccination rate, partly because of the degree of restriction (what we might call lockdown). The information shared is surprisingly restricted, to western eyes. Conversation with the older members of the family over there gave the (weird, here) opinion that there are two risks, one of catching covid and one of being vaccinated. That is, the risks attached to having the vaccination, whatever they are, are seen as equal to the risks of catching covid. As one of the family said over the weekend, one can control only one of these, and therefore none of the family has had a vaccination.

So, looking at China from Britain, one begins to worry that there might well be a succession of waves of covid infection and significant deaths, particularly among the aged end of the population. More, that this might cause there to be new variants, since the unvaccinated are so very numerous (and, generally, in close proximity). While China hardly celebrates Christmas, Chinese New year is at the end of January (22nd this year, from tiger to rabbit) and this involves mass population movement.

I went looking for comment on this topic and found the linked articles below, the first of which focuses mostly on the economy, the second on ideas in line with what we'd already worried about at home.

I suppose the issue at national level is playing the perceived needs of the economy against the perceived needs of the population's health. I worry that the central committee has been persuaded that covid has dropped to a lower level of seriousness in the West (and therefore they too can move), when there is an essential difference, in levels of vaccination and therefore susceptibility. As the second article observes, an omicron outbreak in HongKong produced death rates similar to what we had here in the first half of 2020. The reported drive to vaccinate the elderly most certainly has not reached the extended family, not even as advance notification (which some would call propaganda). In a system where the supply of information is closely controlled—and are we so very different?—it is difficult to introduce different thinking, let alone have any discussion. 

While I worry about the health of the bits of the family I have never met, I also have cause to wonder about the extent of attitudes I myself have struck based on insufficient evidence. Particularly, I wonder about 'spun' information, such that I accept some partial truth and, along with that, the slanted almost-truth that constitutes an attitude.



Example, from a local meeting here in Blackpool. We have a few beggars and homeless in the town. We don't have many, because there are concerted efforts (council workers, volunteers and police) to get these people off the streets. The biggest identified problem (said the policewoman I was talking to) is that the public (and here she said she observed it to be the visiting public) hand money to people sitting or lying in the street. She also said that, when the team is engaging with a street person, they receive abuse from the passers-by. Yet the process of clearing the streets is done with care and attention; there are facilities and funds for housing these people, for treating their various issues (habits, afflictions, problems galore). There are also processes to keep the beggars off the streets, just as there are processes for providing shelter to the homeless. But there are what the police would call repeat offenders and these, all too often,  are making more than the police themselves. She identified one known beggar who refuses all assistance quite simply because begging is so lucrative. She described another who receives all the possible grants and support funds and then will add in excess of £100 a day by sitting in the street (and, as she said, it might easily be ten times that).The solution, as was described this week and a year ago, is to have a non-cash alternative. What would work, I have been told by several members of the team that deal with this sort of matter, is that no cash passes to the street person. Instead, there is a contactless payment to any of the charity organisations providing help. The council (plural people) have been discussing doing this as a (free) service, providing a single collection point that then passes the funds on. Many of the support services are already funded by the council (direct and partial); the spending on these matters by public services is significant, not only in the time of very busy staff. I add here that many of the street people have mental health issues and each time there is a case to deal with it will soak up several man-hours of police attention, partly because the other support services are (also) over-stretched. Thus the police find that there is a sort of overhead (think an extra half-shift) in tackling an individual case. There is a significant difference between begging (largely illegal) and being homeless. There are a few who actually wish to remain homeless and they present as a different issue – but at the same time, they soon become quite well-known to the police and care-workers. Some of the beggars are aggressive (an offence here) and consistently abusive to anyone trying to offer assistance (other than money). These are the ones soon to be served with what amounts to an ASBO, which would include being banned from certain geographical areas. One of the issues is that persons found on the street are identified as belonging at a previous address and are consequently returned to that address where under a different council. Think of being returned to Bolton or to Brighton from Blackpool. It is also known that some councils have done the opposite, removed problem persons from their 'home' area. I have no doubt that some fall between stools. I am aware that Blackpool is more effective in its performance in this regard (than other councils) and is treated as exemplar. I am impressed at the levels of care provided; a person on the street has to behave very badly to be treated as an offender rather than as having a problem to be treated. That is, they are treated as having a problem, not being a problem.

The identified problem as explained to me, is the Joe Public sees a street person as needing help (true) and hands over money (wrong action). Educating the public out of such behaviour is needed, but no-one knows how to do this. I think we need some investigative reporting. I also see that a part of the problem lies in the inability of some subjects to be discussed without sections of the public taking offence. There are, perhaps, parallels in the difference between an asylum-seeker and an illegal immigrant; one might be both and in need, but one might not truly be in need at all.


Wealth Issues. Wealth and advantage.

More than 60% of those born in the 1950s and 1960s were homeowners by age 30, but only 36% of those born in the 1980s were.

Suppose there was to be a wealth tax. Would you support it if you too were going to be hit by it? How do you begin to accept that you have been holding advantage? Do you (or do I for that matter) fail to recognise the advantages of birth? To what extent was it really your own effort that moved you from the have-nots to the haves? How might you (ever) recognise that you managed to switch from one to the other?

If a wealth tax were to raise 250 billion across five years, would that make a significant difference, assuming other taxes stayed the same?




https://www.wealthandpolicy.com/wp/WealthTaxFinalReport_ExecSummary.pdf(11 pages)

This concludes that an annual wealth tax is a non-starter in the UK and we should fix our existing taxes on wealth instead. However, a one-off wealth tax is a very different proposition.


https://www.wealthandpolicy.com/wp/WealthTaxFinalReport.pdf  (125 pages)


Thinking of levelling-up and related topics, it seems likely that the cost of living crisis (CoLitis?) will exaggerate differences. Those who have more than two children, those who have big(ger) mortgages, all those whose financial positions are changed by a change in interest rates (which, in my head, means they were greedy at the pointy of borrowing), etc etc, I am especially bothered about (or for) specially all those for whom a rise in food and energy costs (what we might call basics) nudges them from coping to not-quite and from not-quite to really-not; coping, that is.

We appear to be facing a drop in living standards, whatever that means. One suspects that it means that, for a fixed amount of spending, previous standards cannot be maintained. I am hugely disappointed that so few point at Brexit as the cause of a portion of our woes. Clearly the idiocies of the Truss@PM period bear some blame, a small degree of covid, a large amount of Ulraine (for which we blame Moscow, not Kyiv) and a significant amount to (very) bad decision making at parliament, where I'm thinking of PPE contracts and similar applications of cronyism (etc). The government, ever willing to point the finger elsewhere, is currently pointing at 'all those' for whom the sensible option was to retire from work, currently reported as being of the order of 600,000 people who might have been expected to return to work post-pandemic. I question whether such a number would have a dramatic effect; such people are spenders rather than earners; if they collect their pension pots that takes money out of investment and into circulation (more than otherwise, at least). Prediction of falling house prices is a so-what? to me, given that investments dropped like a puncture (and crypto like a blow-out). You don't much care about the value of your building assets unless (i) borrowing against that value or (ii) looking to change property. But, for the second, it is not the value that matters but the difference between what you have and what you'd like to have; the numbers themselves are largely irrelevant.

https://theconversation.com/three-charts-that-explain-why-falling-living-standards-could-deepen-the-uks-north-south-divide-196088?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2016%202022%20-%202493924995&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2016%202022%20-%202493924995+CID_222ed721ba2de1a7710158f8560eee87&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=Three%20charts%20that%20explain%20why%20falling%20living%20standards%20could%20deepen%20the%20UKs%20north-south%20divide  I query a lot of the apparent assumptions, as I query whether the graphs demonstrate the allied opinions. But there are quite a few links to related material and content worthy of scrutiny. I agree wholeheartedly with the concluding comment, that (the possibility of) levelling-up is made harder. But then I didn't believe that politicians would actually achieve anything with only words; it needs mammoth spending, something the Conservatives will not do. Willingly, certainly.

I realise that I level the same accusations (evidence not leading to conclusion except as a possibility) at most of the Conversation's articles. E.g. A survey conducted by UK Music found that 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is 15%. Furthermore, 17% of “music creators” were educated at fee-paying schools, compared with 7% across the population as a whole. The article is written in support of removing charitable status from independent schools: how would this improve provision of music?


State vs independent schools. Several artices on this topic. Start here, then look at the related pieces at the foot.


Nuclear fusion getting closer? Only a very little. Here


Calculus in economics? I don't think so. Here. For that matter, while I agree with the questioning over what a price is, they have ignored the assumption of repeatability, which is what applies when people quote price. Perhaps what is really wanted (by the authors) is a different word for a repeatable sale from a one-off sale.In this article the authors make much of a one-off sale of a notional bike in the shed. Offered at £100, a response (one) is of £90 and so they declare that the 'price' is between 90 and 100. But in many similar situations this negotiation has nothing to do with what the value of the product is; whatever offer is made, £100, the response will almost always be less. If the response is as close as £90, this sends the message that £100 might be about right, that a deal can be struck. If the response was £40 then there is a different message, even if £40 is the eventual sale. 

I've been there on houses, one in Beeny on the north coast of Cornwall. On offer at around £100k for reasons of defaulting mortgage, had a good look at how the coming winter was going to do damage to an empty site and valued the place at £55k. Went and explained this to the agent. Offer rejected; sale made (not to us) eight months later, for £55k. But then the valuation was the disagreement; the property might well have been £100k at the moment of valuation but was not going to be that value at the point of acquisition (at completion of the sale). In many senses, the seller was refusing to recognise the sale process.

As for how quantum mathematics or category theory apply to market modelling, I don't think I care. Mostly, because I disapprove and disagree with the whole notion of profiting from the manipulation of money markets. I find the whole trade more than a little immoral. It would be different if the participant's cared at all about the product(s) for what they are; I do not believe they care at all, beyond whether or not there is advantage (profit) to be had. This is rats fighting in a barrel; I want nothing of it. Do I participate at arm's length by having investments? I'm not at all sure, but my investments are (allegedly) in sustainable technologies, so (in theory at least) my funds are going to support businesses that my agent think will actually succeed. I see this as quite different from me betting on A growing for the next few hours, which I will sell as soon as the desired margin is exceeded. For images of volatility look at almost any cryptocurrency.


Striking groups: who is paid how much?

Reference. “We also need to give a pay rise to nurses on the lowest pay, which is why we gave them, I think 9.3%, £1,400 across the board” — Oliver Dowden MP 

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden claimed multiple times on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg last week that the lowest paid nurses had received a pay increase of 9%. But this isn’t correct. The £1,400 pay increase awarded to NHS staff in England is worth 9.3% for those in the lowest pay bands, such as porters and cleaners.  But newly qualified nurses saw their pay increase from £25,655 to £27,055 per year following the recent pay award. This represents a pay increase of around 5.5%, not 9.3%.  We contacted the Department for Health and Social Care, who pointed us to a factsheet which confirmed: “Newly qualified nurses have had a 5.5% increase and those on the lowest salaries, such as porters and cleaners, are seeing a pay rise of up to 9.3%.”  If Mr Dowden had been referring to NHS workers on the lowest salaries as a whole, he would have been correct.  As he specifically referred to nurses, we’ve contacted him to ask him to correct the record.

Fullfact (brilliant people) point out that the median rail worker is paid £44k. The ONS says £43,747 in 2021. The RMT says £31k, which may well be right (too) as ASLEF is the majority union for train drivers (different pay scale entirely). ONS says median salary excluding drivers of trains and trams is £36,800 but that includes part-time employees. Difficult issue then, how one explains a pay sector in a single figure. One really does want the distribution. Also, if one worries about, say those at the bottom, probably the cleaners, then these people are probably subcontracted at minimum wage and are very likely to be outside the union. For a single figure, maybe the hourly rate might be useful, but I think better would be more figures, so as to have a flavour of the employment package.

Train drivers: £62k, 39 hrs/week. Source. Under 5% are part-time workers. Maybe 6000 of the 23000 drivers work in ware-housing rather than land transport. That's markedly better than teaching. [Median teacher pay is £17.68 per hour, £34.5k/year which implies 1950 hours per year, with which I disagree hugely. It is likely that the annual salary is right since this is salaried work. I'd put the hourly rate at more like £15/hour.

Hospital staff.  NHS pay comes in Bands. For example band 2 pay is between £10.37 and £10.90 per hour (20.2-21.3 £k/year) and only in Band 5 might you pass the national median of £27k. I notice the assumption of 1950 hours per year. To know what the bands are, look here. I noticed that an experienced paramedic falls on band 6 (£35-40k) which equates to a teacher, but the paramedic pay scale (here) runs £22-41k. An ambulance driver (not also an EMT) is paid around £18-24k. An EMT is on £32,765 or £16.80 per hour; top of the scale is £63k. Compare similar jobs. Look at EMT jobs.

What I keep on coming back to is the bottom end of the pay scales. There is (seems to be to be) a reasonable case for setting minimum pay a good deal higher, maybe in the space £12-15 per hour. (National Living Wage is £10.42/hour  for 2023, up from £9.50. Minimum wage rates. I suspect that we need to give significantly more value to dirty, uncomfortable and unpleasant jobs, so that we either pay a good deal more or we accept that many more of us have to do some of that work. For example, if the lowly office worker (generally a clean job, paper-pushing) is paid the same or less than the cleaner, then that clean job will soon include the office cleaning. I'd argue that one should be keeping one's space clean already and that the 'cleaning' is to do the work that you cannot manage everyday. My classroom, for example; an end-of-term task would include putting all chairs on top of desks so that floor polishing could occur. Once a year the room would be cleared completely; once every three-five years this would include repainting/refurbishment. My job (and not that of the kids, in my world). Sorting out damaged chairs and desks also within my role. Supervision of this perhaps fell within the department (I was never aware, being ahead of the game in this respect). But then the cleaning staff were people I knew to talk to, so how their work fell out mattered to me; if one doesn't interact at all with the cleaners (et al) one can too easily simply ignore such work. But then I knew from an early age how important the cooks were at school, being always hungry. Not poor in any sense, just needing more food.

Think low-pay family: two adults on 2023 Nat. Living wage of £10.42 managing say 3000 hours between them suggests £31,260 a year gross, which might to be about enough to run a small family. At this level, every extra has value and 3500 hours makes £36,470. This is probably poverty, since the expected income for two adults and two children is £43,400. See. It also suggests to me that changing up, by improving education or skills, is high on the list of desirables. No doubt all such ambition is squashed by having children. Which, in my head, points to a need for a change in education. Whatever we do, there will be people at the bottom of the scale; we have to make these lives worthwhile. That suggests to me that we have put value in the wrong places. Maybe we need a deal more automation, but I have the feeling that we need to rethink attitudes to 'work I myself don't want to do'. I also think we need to rethink attitudes to 'work' that occurs but we put no value on; a lot of care falls into this space.

National living wage is targeted as ⅔ of the median of adults (over 20) in work. This is just above the poverty line; poverty is (in the UK) defined as 60% of the median income (after housing costs). Absolute poverty is 60% of median income. Statistics. Median income 2021 was £31400 after direct taxation (detail). Looking at averages hides a load of necessary detail: the median income for the poorest fifth (bottom quintile) was £14600, which is simply appalling. The top quintile had (a median of) £62700.


COP15, on biodiversity has produced some agreements. An agreement to protect 30% of Earth’s surface and halt the loss of the planet’s diverse forms of life by 2050 was this week signed by more than 190 countries in Montreal, Canada. But what this treaty will actually involve is still far from clear. I'm bothered by what this doesn't say: There's no actual commitment to doing anything very much.

Picking just one of the many targets simply because it included the word 'ocean', target 3 says Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrated into wider landscapes, seascapes and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories.

There is nothing about compliance; there is nothing about checking that promises are kept to, nor even that any of the promises will be kept or even having claims of activity validated. This si marking one's own homework writ large, among people (politicians) only famous for skills at not telling the truth. None of the CBD’s targets for tackling biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation were met over the last decade. {3rd link below]  Actions to cause compliance are inevitably slow, protracted and expensive; it would be so very much better to have activity that starts with the right (in line with the national agreements) attitude, The situation that is all too common is that the stratum of society that takes decisions is affected by commercial interests in complete conflict with international agreements; this is the underlying fault that we have to deal with. But to do that we need a wealth of honesty, integrity and such words (none of which quite hit the idea I wish to capture) that, of late, the whole political class has shown itself consistently to have a complete dearth. Therefore this is (yet another) disaster just waiting to be recognised for what it is.

https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/e6d3/cd1d/daf663719a03902a9b116c34/cop-15-l-25-en.pdf the Kunming-Montreal Agreement 2022. One suspects that 'Kunming' will get dropped from this label, since any agreement occurred only in Montreal.

https://theconversation.com/five-options-for-restoring-global-biodiversity-after-the-un-agreement-196835?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2021%202022%20-%202499525048&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2021%202022%20-%202499525048+CID_855af234b3df086d2354e1b93bb26b6e&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=protect%20and%20restore%20biodiversity suggests some actual actions.

https://theconversation.com/biodiversity-one-way-to-help-countries-stick-to-their-commitments-to-restore-nature-168000?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2021%202022%20-%202499525048&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2021%202022%20-%202499525048+CID_855af234b3df086d2354e1b93bb26b6e&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=keep%20their%20promises    how we might persuade nations to abide by the agreement.


The Kinburn Spit

You'd half-expect this to be a Glaswegian to uncouth behaviour, but instead the reference is to a long sandy peninsula at the mouth of the Dnipro river. These two maps should help you recognise the northern end of the Black Sea, close to Odesa (I've long thought of the river as being the Dneiper and the city as Odessa).

It seems obvious to me that this spit of land offers military opportunity to, in some sense, control access to the Dneiper/Dnipro estuary. I have no doubt there is a history of this. So to [101]: from the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th there was a fort, originally built by the Ottomans later held by Russia and dismantled at the end of the Crimean war (1853-6, if you needed to know). The strait between Ochakiv and the end of the spit is about 4km, so artillery on either side can prevent access from the estuary to the Sea, just as it can prevent east-bound traffic from Odesa.

There are several rivers here; the Dnipro is navigable for 2000km upstream (well beyond Kyiv), with Kherson the last city downstream. The river from Mykolaiv is the (southern) Buh (often Bug or Boug in the West), next to the left is the Berezan, to Kursove and then Odessa has three rivers, notably (I think) the Dneister. The Danube reaches the Black Sea a little further south. if you think the Don is thereabouts, you're right but its estuary is the NE end of the sea of Azov, the other side of the Crimea.


So possession of the Kinburn spit, short of artillery bombardment from elsewhere, imparts control of estuary traffic for the Dnipro. Significantly, much of the huge volume of wheat that comes out of Ukraine passes down the estuary or through Odesa. In 2020 Ukraine exported $4.61Bn of wheat (see), mostly to Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Lebanon. River freight in Ukraine in 2020 was 15.8 million tonnes (Mt), and 20.6Mt in 2021. For the Dnipro only, those figures are 11.2Mt 2020 and 14.4Mt in 2021. Ukrainian grain shipped overseas obviously passes down the Bosphorus and under Turkish control. The war (you have a better word?) dramatically reduced traffic of grain and Africa struggled with  the loss.

[101]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinburn_Spit looking up the expected history

https://odessa-journal.com/alexander-kovalenko-about-the-situation-on-the-kinburn-spit/ I found this after I'd written a fair bit.

This photo curls the wrong way, so I wonder if this is a southern tip rather than the western one.


The Guardian is the first news organisation to have won both an Oscar and a Bafta. Colette, written and directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker Anthony Giacchino, produced by Oculus Studios and Respawn Entertainment, and released by The Guardian, has won an Oscar for best short documentary. Colette triumphed at the 93rd Academy Awards, winning the ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’ category at a ceremony held in Los Angeles, California (Sunday 25 April). Colette is the first Guardian documentary to win an Oscar, building on the success of Black Sheep, which made the Oscar nominations list in 2019.  (link) I also found this award claimed as a first for the video game industry; later acquired and distributed by The Guardian, it’s the first time a video game industry project has won an Oscar. I am amused that the puff pieces relate the fame part, not the message of the film. 

The same comment applies to The Black Cop, which I watched when first shown on tv. The Guardian documentary The Black Cop has won the Bafta for best short film. Directed by Cherish Oteka and produced by Emma Cooper, The Black Cop is about Gamal “G” Turawa, a former Metropolitan police officer who explores his memories of homophobia, racial profiling and racial harassment in his early career. Baftas 2022. Official award.

I found it hard to test whether any other news organisation has won either a Bafta or an Oscar. Since there is a Bafta for best news coverage, that seems a non-competition. It seems to me that the Guardian could be challenged as to whether it actually won anything; while it is clear that it is associated with both productions. I wonder how many people and organisations claim to be part of one of these awards. But then I can claim to have (had a hand in having) built (various bits of) the A45. It is the elisions in brackets that produces the exaggeration. I'd like to think I've been careful to qualify each such enunciation. Or annunciation, since claiming something not too far from godhood.


The previous entry was from reading through the Guardian's review of 2022. I'm not going to rehash that; you lived through much as I did. As a review if covers the basics and is consistently good at pointing to more (of its own) content.


Has crypto collapsed? I wonder. article 1,  article 2, 3, 4 and so on. Graph to right is of total crypto value. Since the total value is around the one trilion dollar mark and having been up at three, one has to wonder if there are related effects in other things of reputed value. The 'expert' opinion is that the traditional financial system is relatively well shielded, but that assumes that the actions taken after the 2008 crash have not been subsequently weakened. Looking from the other side, “Crypto is not going away. And it has experienced crashes more severe than this crash.” [Kim Grauer, at cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis]. I think, myself that it is the success of those ducking their responsibilities (sufficient oversight and safeguards) and the lack of regulation (surely on its way) that have allowed what will no doubt be described as forms of fraud to succeed. Bandwagons, really. Whether crypto is here to stay (I think so, I hope so) is unknowable but the 2022 damage will take some time to recover from. The article I point at says to watch the stablecoin called tether. In theory, a stablecoin is backed by reserves so that, like some fiat currencies, the token (coin) can be exchanged for value. "I promise to pay the bearer", as it said on an old pound note. That requires one to trust the company / business saying such a thing. Such trust is dented sorely when a bank or a cryptocurrency goes under. NYT on tether. I looked up the price of tether, which looks horribly stable at a dollar for a dollar held - how is this an investment or a bet on the future performance? I've shown bitcoin (BTC) in blue, very similar to the 'all' chart in red(s). That suggests to me that (i) bitcoin is the big player and (ii) that the other crypto currencies fluctuate in value based on what happens to bitcoin; they all rise and fall together. Presumably it is those who move contrary to the market that the specialist looks out for. All I can tell is that the whole crypto market is very volatile. That is, all of it is volatile all of the time.


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