Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not Interesting Times

Donna Summer: Works Hard for the Money

In recent years January is a financially depressing time.  In our home of Switzerland the tax years runs Jan 1st to December 31st.  So banks are obliged to send you Balance statments so that you can fill in your Tax Return.

And with the bank statement comes the Interest Statement.

The Big Picture
For multiple short term expediency and benefits, many governments have made vast sums of money available to Commercial Banks. 

Unfortunately it all started with the US and the UK but now even our home of Switzerland has been flooding the Banks with money.  So awash with cheap almost zero Interest Government financing Banks don't really need my money and their corresponding lack of Interest paid to me hits hard on those yearly Bank statements.

In Switzerland
For Retail i.e. the likes of me and you, 0.5% Interest is almost only a dream in Switzerland today.

To make you understand how pathetic this is, consider the Chevrolet Corvette C7, with 660 BHP.  Available in Switzerland for about 120,000 CHF

So if I was to deposit this cash in a bank each year the bank would pay me 600 CHF interest!  (About 600 USD or 400 GBP).  Correspondingly retail banks will borrow at less than 0.5% meaning they can finance a top of the line Corvette for under 1K USD per year.

Yep, quite insane

Not Saving
And with this almost zero return on your savings, most people are simply are not bothering.   Not saving in Switzerland, Wider Europe or America.  Period.

Because you know:  The State will take [good] care of you in your Retirement: I'm sure that's what my UK government told me after working and paying taxes for many decades.

Cyndi Lauper: Money Changes

Monday, January 16, 2017

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas: Do Not Go Gentle

In recent weeks Marcus and Agata have been extremely busy leaving our Blog coverage to a bare minimum.   Despite our advancing years,  we have big plans for 2017.

And indeed planning is in fact the key.   We are fresh back from about 1 month of Intergalactic travelling, only made possible by Agata's supreme attempts to plan, coordinate and organise everything.

Now in the ideal world this level of precision would not be necessary, and a laissez faire attitude to travelling and living would be preferable.   But sadly, that sort of freedom comes with a Budget and a lifestyle that we've resigned will not ever be within our means.   So sensible planning, nay, precision planning have all come together for multiple adventures and reports to be detailed in the coming weeks

Now back home with our practically infinitely fast Internet connection we have synchronised tens of GB of Cloud Data

We recall during our travels that there were several days when we had absolutely 0 Internet.  And that is a very rare thing indeed.  It was not pleasant! [For example, no Internet, no Google Maps and no Navigation :-( ]

We attended a large and famous trade conference,  this is now off the bucket list.

For economy we have brought home everything we can.  What you also see here (in the bag) are the daily vitamins we purchased, we are not wasting them!

Multiple Marathons were completed, because our rule of thumb is : always be prepared to run a marathon, any day, each day.

There is a mountain of washing to be done, what is shown is but a small proportion.   Travelling with daily exercise really increases the complexity of your washing solution.

Multiple new acquisitions have to be evaluated and tested.  And if worthwhile full reports to come here

So many objects to file back in their proper place.  We are now the owners of more DC Power Banks than we can possibly imagine.

Our first test living in the USA went rather well.   Comprehensive reports to follow.

And now, it is definitely time to retire,  that 20 hours of travelling back to Switzerland is catching up on us.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Don't Watch Inferno

Kermode: Inferno

Marcus and Agata have been deeply anticipating the screen version of Dan Brown's Inferno

It deals with one persons attempt to pose a solution to the exponential and unchecked Global population growth, possibly the last thing that a technologically developed world needs IOHO.

When we watched Mark Kermode's review of the film we were devastated because

- We respect and normally agree with Mark

- Mark basically said the film was rubbish 

We went ahead and watched the film anyway.

In a nutshell:

They only changed the whole plot including the sympathies and motives of major characters.  But particularly the ending and climax is altered and therefore the meaning of the whole novel.  Director Ron Howard: This is a disgrace.

Without plot spoiling we can say:

- This is a novel by Dan Brown that tackles the subject of population growth

- The book and film talks about the 'One minute to Midnight' moment, stating that we are at such a point

- The plot centres around the Harvard Professor Robert Langdon who awakes with concussion and memory loss.

- He tries to unravel the plot of Zobrist, the billionaire who proposes a radical solution to curtail Population Loss without the need for any loss of any single life

- Unlike Kermode,  we have read the book, & we did not find the rushing about of Langdon and Sienna troublsome at all , quite natural in fact

But we are gutted beyond belief that the whole point of the book and plot is totally changed in the film,



Both articles contain the entire plot so read as far as you want to.

Tom Hanks plays a credible Langdon, but the whole meaning of the book, which IOHO is to make you think about unconstrained Population Growth is completely and utterly lost in this films adaptation.

As a consequence we award the film a -1 out 10, please under no circumstances watch this film.

Instead we could recommend the undoctored Audible Book


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Near Future: We need people, just not so many

It is Marcus' contention that in the near Future, and by that I mean before January 1st 2030, technology will have advanced to such a level that currently Advanced Industrial Societies will have moved to societies where most people, say >80% are not required to produce goods or services.

And further that Local Machines not Outsourcing to lower cost economies will be the means of production.  [ I also make the claim that currently outsourced Partner countries of today will be totally and utterly screwed]

I will try to justify these claims and thoughts in later writing, for now I want to consider what rules future Artificially Intelligent machines or Robots might follow.

Pessimistic Caveats

  • This applies to Advanced Societies only, currently people top Heavy Developing countries will be excluded
  • This makes the assumption that we have not Blown ourselves up by then
  • The assumption is that the World has not been overtaken by any backward, intolerant, totalitarian Religion which neither understands, contributes to, nor sees the need for Scientific Research, Development or Application.

This line of thought came about whilst I happened to be reading the 22 page draft of

from the European Parliament  Committee on Legal Affairs

I can only summarise was Isaac taught me as a child:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

Alan Parsons: I Robot

Topical Links
Intel Driverless Cars
Guardian: Protecting Society

Friday, January 13, 2017

Activity Tracking becomes a commodity

In January 2017 Activity Trackers are now "2 a Penny".   Priced as low as 20USD (20 CHF, 15 GBP)  nobody can now seriously protest that but for the price they might experiment with this technology

Here are two articles on some options



Remind me Again
Oh yes, Activity trackers I would describe as a typically wrist based bracelet that via motion sensors, and optionally much more (GPS et al) records the number of walk or other (running, jogging) steps you make in a day.

You can set your own static or dynamic fitness daily step goals and share this information with your friends in a mildly competitive but hopefully encouraging way.

So in 2017?

- Decide on whether you need a separate Fitness tracker or wear a single High Function Sports watch that includes Fitness tracking.

- If you also wear an expensive Analog Watch you might need to have a separate Fitness tracker

- Personally I think if you are any sort of athlete and not already committed to a sentimental or flashy wrist watch you should just go for a high function GPS sports watch  ( ie. no separate fitness tracker)

- Basic Fitness step tracking is now a given.  People are now looking for more including 24 hour rate monitoring

- If you are not very sporty and a bit fashionista you'll be looking at products that look fantastic but don't do so much

- Battery life and recharge time are important.  The High function devices with brighter displays, expect to recharge every day  (say whilst having a shower after the daily exercise)

- Ability of getting your data into and out of this device and ecosystem may be important.  So far, all manufactures operate more or less closed Ecosystems with usually no import ability and limited export ability

- Overall the ecosystem that your friends are in may be a deciding factor

- Most serious athletes, fitness gurus or sports-people are critical of the Apple Watch for Sports Tracking.  Please don't accept my criticism,  do your own research on YouTube.  Example 

Too Busy to Read the Above Articles!?

Marcus's biased view is

- Garmin provides the best overall ecosystem.  So choose a product that fits in with that.

- For High function watch then it is currently the Garmin Forerunner 735, or Fenix 5  (available April 2017)

- For Dedicated Band it is the Garmin Vivosmart HR

Whatever you choose: Please exercise daily, recording it and sharing just makes it more fun.

DC Rainmaker Fenix 5

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Taking Offence

Sade: Live Together

Sometimes I just want to give up on this offence laden world.


While Amazon offers a variety of patriotic doormats—there are mats featuring the Union Jackthe American flag and the Canadian flag—outrage in India stems from the country’s Flag Code, which the doormat violates in a few ways. The Indian flag cannot be trampled on, printed on any cloth material apart from that used for the flag itself, or allowed to touch the floor.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

America: We Have a Problem

Marcus and Agata have just finished attending an important conference.  A detailed report is to follow.  But now:  PopQuiz

Just when you may have thought a certain event on January 20th was all we had to worry about in the Westernised world.

I may have a longer term solution.  In the land of the free and the home of the brave evolution may be lending a hand

(Photographs are literally off-cuts from the cutting floor)

And lo, and it shall come to pass, that in the coming decades,  the divine force, some call it Natural Selection, shall visit this once strong nation.

Most of the work has indeed already been completed.

Balancing Calories in vs Calories out: An important life skill,  lost to almost a whole nation.

Moby: Natural Blues

See Also

Super Size Me

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What does Altaba do?

In case you have not heard Yahoo is renaming itself to Altaba. I know, nobody can quite believe it.  I mean in the future will yahoo advocates / fanboys be trundling over to 

www.altaba.com ??

From First Principles
I asked in 2016 and earlier what an earth does Yahoo do?

2016: What does Yahoo do?

2012: What do Yahoo do?

To me in a pre Google World, Yahoo almost had a place.  But in the era of free email, Google Search, and freely available News and Media, I [still] cannot think of a single thing that I would rather use Yahoo for  (read the 2016 moan)

What happened in 2017?

Well in late 2016 Yahoo let it be known it had experienced severe hacks that, should it be possible, would further devalue the Yahoo brand.  Do read:

The year of Yahoo's undoing 2016

ISP Warns customers after Yahoo hack

Yahoo warns 1 billion accounts breached

Yahoo sets 2016 record for hacking

A rename might try and promote a new less tarnised brand?
I checked Yahoo for a comment

Yep, not a whiff of a comment or statement about the Yahoo rename, on Yahoo's own website.   How embarrassing:  even their own news site is behind on news about themselves.  Now that takes some doing!

In a Nutshell

In 2017 I still have no clue what would persuade any new user to surf to Yahoo or use them for in fact anything

I suppose if you are an established Yahoo email user you might say you are trying to maintain continuity with your email  (er but what happens in the future, will you have a .altaba.com email address instead?)

Marissa has just stepped down, no doubt with a good financial exit package.  I think the picture on Tweaktown  with her smiling cheek to cheek was possibly stock footage but probably sums up her actual feelings  /so long, and thanks for all the fi$h/

So if you are currently with Yahoo and actually using them for something useful and productive, then please, tell me what it is.  And what do you think of the new name Altaba.  (really rolls off the tounge right?)

Janet Jackson: What have you done for me Lately?

Monday, January 09, 2017

New Procedures for American Tourists visiting the United Kingdom

Dear Theresa  [May],

As a British Citizen I want to inform you of the wonderful welcome I received in the United States of America.  And all this before /The Donald/ takes over.  

Perhaps in the spirit of reciprocity you can arrange something similar for our American cousins wishing to do business with or just visiting England ...

01  Before they even travel make sure Americans have to complete a form.  Lets call it PESTER.   This is basically to put visitors on the backfoot, ask them to justify their visit, on and of course charge them money

Make the website is very buggy and able to crash in the middle of data entry and reject payment that you thought was valid, oh yes, and sometimes be too busy to logon to check your Pester status which you need to get a printout of before travel.

02 On arrival make to a UK airport sure Americans get no special treatment and are put in a really long queue, sorry I mean line.

03 Make sure to call the visitors Aliens, it helps lets them know in a not so subtle fashion how welcome they really are

04 Corral our 'guests' into an Electronic validation system asking them a series of non-sensical questions, like: Are you a terrorist?  Maybe we can ask additional questions like:  Are you a Redneck,  that sort of thing.

05 Make sure to fingerprint your guests.  Yes Americas with their sense of entitlement are really going to love it.  

Remind 'our guests' that the normal standard for fingerprinting is if the police believe on reasonable grounds that you have committed an indictable offence, for example, shoplifting or assault.

06 Make them wait in a long line for a meeting with a Immigration officer who will ask them to prove their address in the country.  I mean if they had wanted to choose a hotel when they arrive in a City, clearly they are upto no good.  Send them back home

07 Optionally fingerprint them again

08 After they have got their bags make sure to corral all 'guests' into a long isle and request from them paperwork they previously completed stating that they are not bringing in meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, seeds, soil and products made from animal or plant materials.

09 Now free make sure the signs are totally confusing so as to make all but the most dedicated take an expensive taxi to leave the Airport.

If you can implement all of these measures now before  /The Donald/ gets to power you will be well prepared for the increasing and probably random extra restrictions that he will no doubt announce on Twitter.  Then you can match those too, point for point.

Thanks Theresa, you know this makes sense

Yours sincerely,

The British Public

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Credit: Only where Credit is Due

New Seekers: Beg Steal or Borrow

In the last month or so Marcus and Agata have been in contact with some high rollers.  Or so we thought. By that I mean the couple or (usually) guy with the big house, the fancy car and all the trappings that say:

Yes, I'm a successful person.

But in several cases on digging a little deeper the words like Mortgage and Car Lease Plan were divulged.

It used to be that a Mortgage was a way for you to afford to own your own house over a period of some decades, because otherwise you'd be renting till almost retirement before your savings were adequate.

I'd like to propose a more honest way.

It is that you save up for things that you actually want to own, and by exception only take out loans or Mortgages for items that take a lifetime to pay for.

We are living in dangerous times where because of Government orchestrated almost zero interest rates not just for savers but also for borrowers lifestyles that you cannot rightly afford can be achieved via leveraged borrowing.

The cop out excuse for the many is that:  "But they [the banks] let me borrow it, who was I to say no?"  Often coupled with a sense of entitlement "But I deserve this level of living and luxury".

Here in the UK
Without Mortgage UK people are in debt to over 12K GBP per person. Astonishing


In 2017 it really is time for people to start living within their means, and to increase their means honestly if they want to afford more.

Talking House: Burning Down the House

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Oxford Union

Shami Chakrabarti at the Oxford Union

The Oxford Union is not a very well known or publicised web enabled debating arena.

But I think it deserves more advertising hence this article

This is the Youtube Channel


 See Also

James Blunt

Tim Harford

Please subscribe and watch and learn.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Zuk turns back to Religion?


I was deeply saddened to hear of Zuk's slide back into Religion.

The question I and maybe millions of Secular people are asking is.  Are you turning back to Judaism, or maybe Buddhism?

My sincere advice would be.  If you have to leave the Secular highground back down to religion, then make it one with easy exit terms.

I hear that Islam, the so called 'Religion of Peace' has this punishment when it comes to apostates:


According to Abdul Rashied Omar, the majority of modern Muslim scholars continue to hold the traditional view that the death penalty for apostasy is required by the two primary sources of Sharia - the Quran and the Hadiths.[13]

Please read the full Wikipedia article which also shows some attempts to 'wriggle' out of the clear statements made in the Quran and Hadiths.

7 more things about Religion

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Single Lens Reflex RIP

(shot on iphone 6)

Subtitle:  Analog and Digital SLR Cameras bite the dust

This week Marcus and Agata have each spent over 30 hours travelling to a Global Electronics conference.   We need to take our computers but also Photography and Video recording devices.

So do we take the SLR?

At the time of purchase our Sony A7-II was absolutely the smallest and lightest Full Frame SLR camera, especially when mated to a non zoom portrait lens. I talked about it here

But after thinking long and hard we chickened out
We have arrived to our venue carrying 2 Computers and 3 Smartphones and a 200,000 mAh power brick.  The DSLR is banished to the home.  And why?

- Relative to a Smartphone, which we will be carrying anyway, the minute Sony A7 is still bulky
- Needs a separate battery charger and spare batteries
- Quite a fragile form factor compared to a flat Smartphone.  We felt on our 36 hour journey it was just safer to leave the relatively bulky Sony at home
- Smartphones are sooo easy to cary
- Awkward to get Photos off the Sony, has to be done via micro SD card transfer or the Sony Program but that requires a known SSID, which we won't have whilst travelling.
- OK the photos are better, but not that much better.

- If you recall we made a test at the Geneva Motorshow 2016


- Smartphone has a wider angle to capture the wider scene

So we admit defeat.   Smartphone will be used for Photos and Videos.   Wait to see the results :-)


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

No Snow in Switzerland

Just a few days ago, after Christmas day Agata and Marcus stood out on the balcony in Lausanne and marvelled at the 11 degrees Centigrade temperature on the Balcony.

How did we know it was 11 degrees plus?

First our weather station which uses a radio link reported the 11 degrees plus temperature.

Our Tempo Bluetooth thermometer also said over 11 degrees

Worrying for Switzerland?
Luckily it is in fact a myth that Switzerland relies heavily on Ski resorts.  In fact you should know that most resorts are open the whole year round and delight in charging the same cable car fees in the summer for Mountain Bikers, Walkers and anybody who wants to use the lifts.

And the money derived from Mountain snow sports is puny compared to monies received via Chemicals, Engineering, and  Wine.

So I can honestly say "we" that is Marcus and Agata are quite enjoying the lack of snow.  How so?

- Lower Heating Bills
- Much easier and safer Winter driving conditions
- Any dry day over 5 degrees is a day that we can cycle!
- Any dry day over 1 degrees, or a heavily snow laden day  (not likely) is a day we can run on
- We live at 700 metres above sea level. Raise the water level, we are ready

We just can't lose!  So Global Warming,  do your worst, we and most other residents living in Switzerland are not as heartbroken as you might think.

More Information

Driest December since 1864

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

You Have 30 days

Subtitle:  BBC iPlayer Radio clock is ticking

Radio 4


There was a day when the BBC iPlayer for Radio allowed you to only go back 7 days of broadcast material.  But this was relaxed some time ago to an orgasmic 30 days.

Rewinding the Clock

As a BBC Radio 4 addict Marcus has in times past to modify his social behaviour, because in the old days you could only listen to Broadcast material live.  The progression to listen anytime has been

01 Listen Live Only

Several decades ago most people had no recording equipment.  You could only listen live.

02 Tape Record it

This changed for the many with the advent of the Philips cassette allowing analog tape recording at a trivial price.  You could therefore record Radio 4, or any other (obviously less profound) channel as it was broadcast.

03 Early Digital

Get your computer to record the Radio Stream. 
Marcus had an early DAB receiver in 1990 with a computer interface.  So you could DAB receiver to wav file.  At that time MP3 had not been invented.  The files were enormous even at low sampling and digitisation rates.  But you still had to be there to start the recording.

04 Podcasts

Selected BBC programmes are available as a Podcast Feed.  For example: The Archers

05 BBC iPlayer

In 2007 the BBC iPlayer made listening to the Radio via the Internet almost trivial! And they included a 
7 day rewind facility meaning at Christmas and New Year you could do all the social stuff and then very quickly on say January 1st rewind the week and get back all the special Christmas broadcasts etc.

06 BBC iPlayer in 2017

The BBC website now allows you to go back 30 days.  I know, total luxury.  You can go on holiday, on say December 20th and so long as you are back home Jan 19th, come back and listen / download all the special Christmas and New Years BBC Radio 4 specials

Here are some examples ...

Dead Ringers Series 17



Pick of the Year


Infinite Monkey Cage


2016 words in 4 minutes


Merriest Moments


Hear The Year


This has SO MANY links to investigate.  Hours of pleasure.

David Sedaris: Death Knows


Radio1 New Years Eve Mix


Radio 1 Ibiza Rewind


Well indeed Marcus is currently doing some Marathon training so whilst I have skip listened to many of the above, I  want to download them for longer term listening pleasure.  My 30 day countdown has indeed began. How about you?

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Angst of Discarding

Subtitle: Perfectly Good ....

Both Marcus and Agata have had a fine upbringing in the meaning of economy.

And so there are not many things more painful in the waste department as to when we discard something, really anything that still works perfectly Particularly if in another time and place it would be very useful

Marcus Laments

The time was December 29th and Marcus was grimly sorting thru his excess clothes inventory.

Since I don't work in an office anymore I ask myself the question:  How many Suits, Business Shirts, Silk Ties do I need to keep for a just in case situation?  For:

- A funeral

- A Posh Party
- You visit an Old Person

You know the kind of thing.

What you see above is part of the agonising sifting process.  Perfectly good silk ties.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, they were my favourite, though travelling to New York to buy some ties:  that sort of behaviour is now consigned to a past life.

A Friends House

I am sure some of us know the subtle ways that we can defer the Discard Process.   And I don't simply mean denial.  Denial is whereby you think:

I'll just keep it until there is no more room for it, then I'll just throw everything away.   In this scenario you become a hoarder and your house becomes simply full of crap.

The best subtle way we know is to stage clothes in a Backup House or at a Friends house.  So that when you visit you can have the right clothes to hand.  But over time you realise even this can reach a limit.

But Finally

Anyway, the job is now done.   Clothes are stacked in a disorderly fashion in the Sports room, and en-queued for delivery to the charity shop or Recycling centre.

Farewell fine business clothing.  It really tears at my heart strings to see you go.

John Hiatt: Perfectly Good (Guitar)