Risk & Reward

Financial Planning
Just had a meeting with my “financial advisor”.

This is an area I have never really been involved in – not having been in a position to do so before. Nevertheless, I felt that what he was saying chimed with my take on the world. I liked the point that as a long term customer of a mutual building society, the starting point in any assessment of risk in investment is likely to be zero.

It was certainly interesting: Gilts. Bonds. Equities. Risk. Always that word. After endowment mortgages and similar hiccups in the past, the financial people appear at pains to tell you – Risk. (And Reward – you hope).

Main point of the appointment was to get my mortgage paid-off — in itself something of a momentous moment.

I’ve come away with plenty of food for thought about my future financial plan — as well as having my life sketched out for me as a kind of A4 cartoon.

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Stop me if I’ve had this moan before…

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An off peak day return from Willington to Nottingham (courtesy of Cross Country trains) is £9. Curiously, but perhaps graciously, an Anytime day return is also £9. This was not always the case as I well remember being surcharged (albeit only the nominal difference) for leaving Nottingham on the ‘wrong’ train in the past.

Here’s the kicker though: A day return from Willington to Ratcliffe on Trent (two stations beyond Nottingham – but requiring a change of train in said city to get there) is £7.60.

I understand the laws of Supply and Demand. However, whilst it might be stretching a point, I also understand the Theft Act. Like it or not, buying a cheaper ticket with no intention of travelling beyond Nottingham has to be a deception, albeit with no chance (?) of it ever being proved (or inclination of it being prosecuted?)

On the other hand, there is at least one CrossCountry conductor who goes out of their way to tell passengers of the cheap fare (“you don’t want to go there, go here instead”), handing the ticket over as a done deal.

I’m not sure what the point of saying all this is? Other than I suppose it’s more proof that it’s a funny old world.

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BBC News – Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia

Far be it from me to be a doom monger, but just for the sake of discussion…

Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link between the event in the Urals and 2012 DA14, an asteroid expected to race past the Earth on Friday at a distance of just 27,700km 17,200 miles – the closest ever predicted for an object of that size.Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queens University Belfast, said there was “almost definitely” no connection.”One reason is that 2012 DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, and this object hit in the northern hemisphere,” he told BBC News.”This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one.”

via BBC News – Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia.

Which is fine (though I’d be a tad happier without that “almost”!). The thought occurs to me however, what would the global official policy on managing public panic were the scientists’ calculation just a little awry? Er, do nothing and hope for the best??

Just sayin’.

The World’s Largest Micro Brewery?

It has always amused me to see Newcastle Brown Ale in the USA. Mainly because it is almost always billed as a Micro Brew. Not bad for a product produced as 100,000 Hectolitres annually. In some ways I think it typifies the US attitude to beer in that there seem to be two types: Domestic and Premium. Anything which isn’t brewed by Bud, Coors, Miller etc. is, almost by definition, exotic and small (and expensive).

So it was with equal amusement that I spotted these for the first time. Apparently they are exclusive to Tenko in the UK and thus far I’ve only seen them in their Alfreton ‘Extra’ store.

Newky Micro!

Nestling among the imported US brews (none of which could remotely be described as ‘micro’ either, but there you go), were this quartet of Newcastle “Limited Editions”. Of course I felt obliged to try one of each. Regrettably, I can’t say I was impressed. I generally love US beers (the ‘domestic’ brands excluded) and I also like that any given brewer usually manages to have a signature ‘taste’ permeate all its recipes. Indeed, Heineken USA (for it is they) have managed to to this here. Which is all-well-and-good except I happen not to like Newcastle Brown Ale. I know there are legions of fans of this beer who would call me a heathen (or something more steeped in Geordie vernacular) and I’m not saying they’re wrong – I just happen to disagree! For me, bottled brown ale represents all that went awry with British brewing in the twentieth century.

Huge credit to Heineken USA for their attempt to wring every dollar out of the brand, but keep trying. Also, credit to Tesco for stocking them. The range of US beers on sale in the UK has dwindled noticeably since the halcyon days of Safeway (i.e. before they all became Morrisons). It is good to note the beginnings of a resurgence. Even Goose Island is showing up on supermarket shelves again after several years of conspicuous absence.

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Twenty Thirteen

Happy New Year to my faithful subscribers (all three of you!) and anyone who happens to read this.

Of course this wouldn’t be a blog, especially not one of mine, if I didn’t use the opportunity to have a bit of a rant. Not only that, but it is one which has been at least thirteen years in gestation…

We started the Twenty First Century with the quite manageable “Two Thousand” (although we insisted in prefixing it with “The Year…”). The Noughties were a bit more wordy with “Two Thousand and Blink”, as indeed were the first two years of whatever silly name the media coin for this decade (The Depression?). Yet here were are in “Two Thousand and Thirteen” with a grand total of six syllables for the first time. Even if we drop the ‘and’, the remaining five syllables hardly trip off the tongue.

At what point will vocal brevity, linguistic efficiency, or simple human laziness drive us to our senses and return to the simple Twentieth Century convention (and each century before, for that matter) and universally use “Twenty Thirteen”?

Good old Seb Coe did his best, as it was obviously a branding diktat that the Olympics were to be Twenty-Twelve… inspiring the title of the hilarious television spoof in the process. I’d hoped that was the catalyst society needed to come to its senses.

Yet it is already plainly evident that Two Thousand and Thirteen will continue to permeate through our airwaves and face-to-face conversation. In a world dominated by the written word – social media rather than dead tree publishing these days – it is unlikely a consensus on how to express the year’s digits will prevail without influence from an organisation such as the BBC. Yet that august body fails to impose a consistent approach on the subject with presenters seemingly free to use their personal choice (if if they can no longer broadcast their personal Twitter names – but that’s a subject for another rant!).

After writing the above I conducted a straw poll with the next two people I saw: When asked “what year is it?”, after giving a strange look which only Marty McFly would recognise, one replied “Two Thousand And Thirteen” whereas the other was a “Twenty Thirteen” advocate. When asked why; “well, it’s shorter…”.

 

Once again, best wishes for Twenty Thirteen to everyone….

 

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A Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

Frosty Robin

 

May Santa (or whoever has his credit card) bring you everything you wish for.

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All I want for Christmas

… is a new Starbucks in Derby!

Derby's one and only Starbucks - on a good day

Email to Starbucks Customer Services – copied for the Blog in the spirit of venting/ranting

Hi,

I’m writing this from Derby’s one and only, solitary, unique, isolated, orphaned, stand-alone and — above all — over-capacity ‘real’ Starbucks.

Don’t get me wrong, Lara and her team do a great job, but they simply don’t have the tools (i.e. the right sized store) to cope with the demand for large periods of time. The recent refit has helped, but only a little. As I type, the queue is out the door and this is not peculiar to the Christmas period. How many potential customers see that and are immediately put off. It isn’t as though there aren’t enough Costa’s in close proximity for them to turn to instead.

Similarly, the ‘licensed’ Starbucks at Pride Park has reinvented itself in the last twelve months. It has gone from a potential gold mine spoiled by indifferent staff to a real treasure of a place – the staff (the same people!) are now welcoming and evidently proud of the brand. There is nothing to be critical of in respect of Pride Park – except the perennial issue of licensee branches not being able to accept Starbucks Card and its Rewards.

Returning to the issues with the Westfield Centre Starbucks. I realise that much of the problem is right there — Westfield. They are, I guess, for that reason that there is no BT Openzone free WiFi? This is something of a deal breaker for me, combined with being completely unable to get comfortable and work, sitting out in the mall as I am. I also get that, given the huge amount of footfall here, not making customers comfortable, and so having them settle for an extended period, is likely deliberate? This is an awful long way from “The Third Place” concept that Starbucks used to promote.

I have said it before, and I will continue to wish for it, but can we PLEASE have East Street back!? It is still vacant and itself will benefit from the significant upturn of pedestrian traffic there now the bus station has reopened. In its glory days (i.e. right up to the moment it suddenly closed) it was everything I would expect of a Starbucks, having sampled the brand around the world. It was the epitome of the Third Place.

Thank you.

 

Update 12DEC2012…

Well, I got a reply:-

Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

I apologise for your recent experiences with your local stores in the area. We recently announced our intent to create 5,000 new jobs in the UK over the next five years. To support our jobs creation plan, our intention is to build 200 new drive-thrus across the country over the next five years.

I appreciate your request for a Starbucks store in your area and have shared it with our Store Development Team for their consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and we look forward to welcoming you back to your local store soon.

Is it just me, or have they completely missed the point? I really wasn’t looking for an apology, but that is clearly the default position these days.

The original text of the email was in different fonts, confirming the obvious that the reply was simply two stock answers pasted into the message.

Oh well.

 

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Live Unboxing

Perfect timing! I pulled into the street, arriving home
from work, as the UPS van pulled up behind. Didn’t notice the brown
socks though!

Freshly delivered for unboxing More to follow when I’ve got changed…
Ten Minutes Later Right, I’m changed.

First layer.jpg

Next layer

Designed by Apple in California

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Getting there...

Closer... Wow!
That’s why it arrived so quickly… “Assembled in Ireland”. Is this
a first??

Made in Ireland
It’s out….

Front view

5mm thin side
Accessories…

Accessories The
Magic Trackpad and keyboard come with batteries already inserted.
Time to Power On

We have start up
And, after quite a few screens I won’t bore you with…

Thank You Except
this one… … Apple MacOS X has heard of Derby!!

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Just one more…

Start up complete.

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Police & Crime Commissioners

As we await the results of yesterday’s election (but at the same time learn that the turnout was a woeful, and predictable, <15%) a political irony occurs to me.

Imagine, if you will, that the post of Police& Crime Commissioner existed in 1984. In Derbyshire, with David Bookbinder at the height of his powers, it is probable that the incumbent would be the Labour party candidate. The same, as a matter of absolute certainty, could be said of South Yorkshire. That being the case, I don’t think it is too far-fetched to say that we would live in an entirely different world today.

Obviously we can’t predict what else may have happened in the interim, but the likelihood is that the power of the PCC would have outweighed the influence of central government in terms of how police were deployed to deal with NUM pickets. That would likely have been sufficient to affect the outcome of the miners’ dispute – at least in as much as it is often cited as the catalyst which led to the vastly reduced trade union power of today compared to the 1970s & 80s. Would this have also stymied the Thatcherite headlong drive toward unregulated capitalism that, ultimately, led to the banking crisis of 2008?

Either way, I think it is a lesson from history that in its rush to implement a flawed and dogmatic process, the current government have completely failed to see.

Poppy Fever

George and his Poppy

Every year when the clocks go back, two things happen. Firstly, Chappers will text me with some banal comment about how it’s getting dark early as he knows that winds me up – it has happened every year for the last 48 years to my certain knowledge, so why is it remarkable!? The other thing is, like a starting gun has been fired, every talking head on the television and every corporate representative sprouts a poppy.

Please don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the Royal British Legion. I maybe question their pre-eminence  in this age of Help For Heroes et al and, in an ideal world, there would be no need for such charities. Wars will always happen, it is inherent in human nature, but having sent the fittest and most physically productive tranche of the population off to fight for the country’s security and interest, then it is incumbent on the State to adequately care for those who are injured along the way. Instead we rely on the haphazard tactic of  well meaning veterans rattling collecting tins on street corners. Just a thought.

All of that is an aside, however to my current rant. Why is it, unlike absolutely any other charity appeal, no matter how worthy, that it is evidently compulsory for public figures to show that they have dropped a pound coin in a tin? I well recall Michael Foot’s donkey jacket at the Cenotaph, and recognise the bear trap which is lying in wait for a politician who steps out of line on this point. Yet is it really such a charged subject for, say, newsreaders and sit-on-a-couch-and-waffle-inanely television presenters (yes One Show, J’accuse) that they HAVE to wear one WITHOUT  FAIL from the last Sunday of October?

As I sit here typing this in Starbucks, the Nottingham trams are passing by, each with a large poppy in both driving cabs. What does that mean? Presumably that NET have made a sizeable donation to the Poppy appeal, which is entirely worthy but does it need to be shouted about? I hope this isn’t the only charitable donation which that company makes, but it is the only one which results in all its vehicles being adorned. Are they intended to serve as mobile war memorials? Again, a highly worthy aspiration but I somehow doubt that is the intended message.

By Remembrance Day (three weeks away when the poppies began to sprout) I may or may not have made a donation to the Royal British Legion. If I do, it will be on line and I will give my personal details allowing them to claim back tax on my (theoretical) donation as Gift Aid, thereby making it more valuable than coins in a tin. What I will not be doing, however, is shouting about it what I may (or may not) have done.

In short, the poppy seems to be no longer about honouring the memory of those who gave their life, or paid in other ways, in defence of this country. Now it is simply a shield to be worn to ward off criticism. I think that is shameful.

Lest We Forget

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