Sunday, 6 October 2013

Fear

My cat was hit by a car last week. I was at work and my wife called me to let me know. It was one of the scariest calls I've ever taken.

I rushed out and met them at the vet's. Luckily it seems like he's not too badly hurt. His ear is a bit mangled and a couple of teeth chipped, but the rest of it will all heal.

Today we let him out for the first time since it happened. It's scary sometimes, having pets...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Health care

I had an interesting discussion with my mum earlier today about the NHS.

For background, my mum had an aneurysm at Christmas and was admitted to hospital. She was stuck in there for a few weeks while they did scans and decided what to do, then once they'd decided on an operation there were more than a few delays but she eventually had her op and all went well.

We were discussing the changes coming up to the national lottery, and one of her reservations was around the "good causes" that lottery money is sent to. She suggested that it could instead be funnelled to the NHS. I had to disagree.

My mum was quite surprised to hear how much we all currently pay for the NHS (last time I did the maths it was around £2,000 per taxpayer per year -  a little over £150 per month).

My problem with the NHS is not that it's not a good thing, but that it's not efficient and has no need to be. This is one reason I'm all for the idea of competition within the NHS. I'd rather go further though.

The best system I've heard of is the Singaporean one. Everyone pays their NI equivalent into a special account.   If you need serious treatment (such as for cancer, etc) then the government pays, and most other medical costs are taken from your special account. If there's anything left in it when you reach retirement age, you can use the money to buy a pension. This way people who need something can get it, but it discourages frivolous uses of the health service (by making people aware of the cost) while driving efficiency (through competition - if a new clinic will charge less, people will use it).

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Sleepy Sunday

The dog, cat and I are having a snooze. The best way to spend a Sunday!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Doctor Who

I just found this thread on RPG.Net a couple of days ago and have very much enjoyed reading it. It's great to see how people perceive Doctor Who, and reading about someone watching it for the first time reminds me of when I first watched it.

My own take on it was that 9 was suffering some kind of PTSD - he could have done with another season or two to work through his issues, but I guess a regeneration works as well. 10 was ok - he was a little too human for me, and a bit too much of a hypocrite for me to get behind 100%.

All of my favourite episodes in the early seasons were Moffat ones. I've disliked just about all of the end-of-season finishes under RTD. Take season 1 for example - great setup, fantastic situation. Daleks poised to destroy mankind, and the only way the Doctor can stop it is by wiping out Earth. Great stuff! But then he doesn't go through with it, and instead Rose gets super-powers and saves the day. There's a line in there about how a time lord can't look into the heart of the Tardis as he'd get the powers of a god (kinda like Rose just did?). Then how the hell did they lose the time war?

When the Master stole the Tardis and left the Doctor and co marooned at the end of time, I thought it was so he could look into it's heart and become a God. But no, instead he wants to use it to build a really fragile Paradox Machine device, the breaking of which will undo all the stuff he's done. Great plan...

The other big thing that annoys me about RTDs endings is that there's no build up until the last minute. People have already talked about the Bad Wolf thing. It was meaningless - at best it gives a little cue that lets you place the episode within series 1 when re-watching. In Season 1, the first time we learn that the "Heart of the Tardis" is special is in Boom Town, the episode immediately before the season ending two-parter (and it solves all their problems by magic there as well).

This problem is endemic throughout the season-endings. The resolution is always something of a deus ex. Season 2, great situation with Daleks and Cybermen attacking. How do we solve it? Pull a lever... Season 3, a whole lot of people chanting your name give you magical powers? Really? And the whole fobwatch thing that indicates hidden time lords? Only introduced a couple of episodes before, and all because the Doctor didn't want to hurt the poor bad people, instead getting a bunch of innocents killed.

Season 4 gave us the Doctor-Donna fiasco. Never mind that dodging a regeneration shouldn't be as easy as having a spare body part around (and where are the limits? can I shunt regeneration energy into a finger? How about a toenail clipping?) The whole thing where Donna gets all the knowledge and power of the Doctor by touching this energy imbued hand is dodgy as anything (and not just that, but (a) she's apparently better than the Doctor at it and (b) she still only saves the day with essentially meaningless technobabble) but also creating a human clone of the Doctor? I never liked biology, but the repressed biologist inside me is crying out in agony. Still, anything for a happy ending, right? (A happy ending for Rose and the clone Doc, anyway. Kinda sucks for Donna).

I will confess I've not actually watched The End of Time - I fear my heart may give out given what I've heard.

Don't get me wrong - I love the situations and most of the season ending episodes, I've just always been disappointed by the resolution. New things are introduced (such as Heart of Tardis giving Godlike powers) which are then ignored forever-more.

I'd love to say that things got better under Moffat, and they kinda did. The first season under Moffat was genius, and I loved every minute. The next looked promising but then had a crappy ending - how exactly a wedding ceremony is meant to fix the universe I don't really know, and the resolution where River killed the robot seemed a little contrived - it would have been less of a stretch and a better nod to continuity within the series to have the 'Ganger Doc come back. The latest season hasn't really ended yet - but I'm not overly thrilled with the explanation for the Impossible Girl - seems a bit too similar to Rose getting God powers in the first RTD season and spreading messages through the time-stream. GI's motivation seemed a little OTT as well - screwing one person over at the cost of your life seems like too high a cost - better to send a minion to do it, surely?

Have to see what the 50th Anniversary special is like.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Journalists and numeracy

Just spotted this - it's a fairly minor thing, but bugs me.
"...a maximum "lifetime allowance" applies to pensions, limiting the total size of a fund to £1,500m for this tax year (ending April 2014) and down further to £1.25m in the next (2014-2015). "
Seems like a hell of a cut, from £1.5bn to £1.25m...

from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/10233522/Todays-children-will-need-2.4m-pension-pot.html

The whole article is a bit crap to be honest - £2.4m would buy you around (very approximate) £120k of pension, which seems like a hell of a lot more than most people live on while working, let alone in retirement. I suspect they're taking inflation into account, at which point they may be trying to draw attention to the fact that the allowance is decreasing rather than increasing, but they really need to say what assumptions they are making and what that means in today's money. It's just scaremongering

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Update

So, my last post was February, and now it's August more than a year later.  I guess it might be time for an update...

In some ways a lot has changed and in some ways it's the same.

The biggest change is that I have a new job.  I started in March last year, and am now part of the dreaded public sector.  The job is very different from my last role, and so far I am loving it.  It's a great challenge, but has commensurate renumeration.

I'm still happily married and have a beautiful wife who works in retail. She has recently started a new job, and the pay is slightly worse but the hours and travel are much better. I also have a lovely dog and cat at home.

I'm registered self employed but the income hasn't been more than a few hundred pounds a year so far. With the new job, I just don't have a lot of time or energy for building apps or the like.

I have basically stopped role playing (by which I mean games like dungeons and dragons, and not anything kinky) and as a consequence haven't seen most of my friends in a while. This was more due to a growing discontent with the gaming that we were doing than a falling out with them, and truth to tell I do miss the gaming and the social aspect.

I have been following a few projects and recently received the pdf of Torchbearer by the Burning Wheel crew. It looks great! I've also backed exalted 3e and will have to get my wife to play when I  get the pdf of that.

My wife got me a kindle so I have been devouring books on the way to and from work - if anyone can recommend some good fantasy or SF let me know.

I'll try to be somewhat active on here going forward...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Cutting the Pension Annual Allowance

As some of you may be aware, I work in pensions so I tend to keep half an eye out for pension-related news.  I saw this article earlier today.

It seems to be the usual scare tactics to sell newspapers.  Apparently the government is thinking of cutting the annual allowance.  No quotes from anyone in government of course, and nothing concrete, just a lot of speculation.

There are two good reasons why I don't think that this will happen:
  1. They only just cut the allowance from £225,000 to £50,000
  2. The people most affected would be higher rate taxpayers, and most of them usually vote conservative.  Hitting them in the pocket would be a great way to lose votes.
 This sort of story just puts people off pensions for no good reason

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Dropbox

Not sure if anyone even reads this, but if you do and you use Dropbox, I've put together a short guide on how to get over 8GB of free space at http://zelazny.co.uk/android/?p=78

If you don't use Dropbox, but have more than one computer, you really should check it out - it's very cool and easy to use :-)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Shock TUC report says Unions should get taxpayers money!

I saw that there's been a report from the TUC that says that Union Reps being paid by the employer is a good thing.  Shocking position for a report from the TUC to take, right?

(Report: http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/206/FacilityTimeSeparatingFactfromFiction.pdf)

It seems that part of their argument is based on survey data, and the rest is questionable:

They rely on data from a previous report that cited savings as follows:

i)Dismissal rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps – this resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £107m-£213m pa

Surely this is because the Unions make it hard to fire people.  So if someone is crap at their job, you can't replace them with someone good at the job.  Without looking at the relative productivity rates of unionised vs non-unionised workplaces this is meaningless, but I reckon that preventing you from firing people who are crap would lower productivity and thus constitute a cost, rather than a benefit - and the magnitude of that cost will be significantly greater than the benefit, as you'd not want to sack someone unless you could get a better person in and make more money after costs were taken into consideration, so the costs must be smaller than the benefit.

ii) Voluntary exit rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps, which again resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £72m-143m pa

People stayed longer (albeit because the benefits/pay were likely better) - this could be a valid benefit.

iii) Employment tribunal cases are lower in unionised workplaces with union reps resulting in savings to government of £22m-43m pa

See (i) - this is likely because tribunals were threatened in any number of cases, and the employer forced to back down.  If you sack less people, less people will complain.  I'd count this as a part of the cost of replacing crap people with good people, and would expect the benefit thus to far outweigh this cost.

iv) Workplace-related injuries were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £126m-371m pa

Really?  What were the additional costs of complying with increased health and safety requirements placed there by the Union rep?

v) Workplace-related illnesses were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £45m-207m pa

What about non-workplace related illnesses?  Is this just a case of the union rep saying "don't put it down as workplace related, or you could get in trouble"?

Taking points (i) and (iii) as negative (i.e. assuming that the productivity increase from replacing bad staff would be at least enough to cover the costs of replacing bad staff twice) and disregarding point (iv) as we have no idea of the actual costs involved in reaching this point gives a total saving from having union reps on the order of £40m (using average figures).

By the methodology in the report, 60% of this is public sector, so £24m.  Uprating to now gives £28.7m - call it £30m if you like.  So we get a benefit of £30m for an expenditure of £113m.  Sounds like a good deal to me... 

They question the £113m figure, suggesting that £80m is more reasonable - so we're getting back a massive 38% of what we spend.  That's the kind of deal our government should be fully in support of!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Is this right?

I regularly read JuliaM's blog at http://thylacosmilus.blogspot.com/ so I wasn't shocked to see the case in the paper today where 4 girls racially abused and beat up another girl, yet didn't get sent to jail, receiving only a suspended sentence

Then today I was reading the news sent round at work, and I saw that the first conviction had been made under the bribery act.  This chap took £500 to refrain from entering the details of a traffic summons in a court database.  He was sentenced to 6 years in jail (3 for the bribery and 6 for misconduct in public office, to run concurrently).

Now don't get me wrong - what he did was very wrong, but 6 years in jail?  That seems a little over the top.  Sacking him and giving a very honest reference would pretty much destroy his career prospects, and seems like it would nearly be punishment enough on it's own.  Throw in a big hefty fine and I'd say you're good.

The first case I mentioned?  Jail seems to be the least we could be expected to do...

How did we get so turned around?