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Andrew McP

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  1. I haven't spent much time there over the past five years, but I spent the first 20 years of my life there, and my mother only moved away five years ago. I'd say you definitely need a car and a taste for cagoules and walking boots to get the most of that area. You can get off the London train at Stockport, and the Buxton train runs from there (via a lot of small stops) into the town right near the Palace Hotel shown in the YouTube clip above. But once you're there it won't take long to cover the best bits. Maybe a day. Maybe less, especially if it's raining.... which it does a *lot*. :-) So as already suggested, weather can make or break a holiday in that area. As a place to base yourself it's not bad though. Heading off towards Bakewell/Matlock will satisfy anyone who likes a bit of fresh air and scenic towns/villages, and if it's peeing down & you have good shoes, a trip down one of the mines at Castleton is an unusual change of scenery. Speedwell's interesting if it still has the boat ride. Not one for the claustrophic, or maybe tall Americans though. Miners were a bit shorter in those days. :-) The Bamford/Hope/Hathersage area is nice (as mentioned above, a lot of towns in that area are very "traditional"), and of course Chatsworth House is one of the best stately homes in the UK. If you find that kind of thing interesting you can easily spend a whole day there. A drive in the Macclesfield direction can give spectacular views over the Cheshire plain (and the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank), especially if the weather's a bit dramatic, but not if the cloud comes down, in which case all you'll see is the end of your nose. Um... thinks. There's a nice drive (or a crippling bike ride!) over Long Hill around Errwood reservoir and up towards the Cat & Fiddle inn on the Macclesfield road. But that's better early in the year when the rhododendrons are out. And there's nice view from the Solomon's Temple folly which overlooks the town after a fairly steep, muddy walk up from Poole's Cavern (another place to visit on a wet day). But I think I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel now. It's a lovely area at many times of year, but it's also a bleak, cold, and gloomy area on a bad day, especially in the depths of autumn. But then you've lived in the UK, and that's true of just about everywhere. So you already know the risks. :-) I really ought to be able to point you at decent places to eat and pubs to visit, but those kind of things have never really featured in my life very much. I'm more of a mug of tea and beans on toast kind of person. But hopefully some of this is useful anyway. All I know is It's made me homesick... I was only up in Macclesfield last week, and getting on the train south again always makes me feel like I'm heading the wrong way.
  2. Andrew McP

    Paul Krugman: "Incentives" and other writings

    Well, the world rarely listens to anything I say (though my neighbour's dog seems to pay attention), but in my accidental role as Defender of the Indefensible I am only talking about the monumentally disastrous situation right now. Given a time machine I'd go back to about 1987 and slap massive restrictions on the expansion of all debt. Growth would have been slow, but it would have been real rather than borrowed from the future. However we're not there, we're here surfing an unstoppable tsunami of tomorrow's taxes. Getting off without committing economic suicide doesn't seem to be a realistic option right now, no matter how much we might want to. It's not -- as I've said -- a situation I like at all, and I think Keynes would be horrified at what's being done in his name.
  3. Andrew McP

    Paul Krugman: "Incentives" and other writings

    Exactly. I was listening to something about Lithuania this week (if I remember correctly) and the drastic austerity they'd introduced there, leading to -- now -- strong growth. Of course it's "easy" to have growth if you've slashed public sector salaries back to 30% of pre-existing rates, but it still felt to me like they'd done the right thing by confronting their issues head on. Though I imagine that as a small nation without any too-big-to-fail institutions they had no real choice! The advantage their leaders had is a relatively recent, much poorer past, which makes people more resilient and accepting of harsh truths. That kind of thing's not going to happen in the "soft" West without a catastrophic failure to give our leaders an excuse. So I always try to ask myself what I would do if I had the role of advising governments. And that always ends up as a battle between head and... well, head. My head says truth is the only long term solution, but my head also says that's not going to work. So buying time with fake money seems like the only sane path even though saying that drives me insane. The only silver lining is that the longer this Western collapse takes (while we revert to global mean wage and productivity), the better the chance a game changing evolution in science and energy might rescue us. If I have faith in anything any more it's the fact that if you have enough cheap energy you can solve just about any man-made crisis**. The politicians' job is just to keep us stable enough for long enough to get there, and that's why I end up siding with folk like Krugman... either the real or virtual one. :-) Where I do tend to differ though is in how that new money should be allocated. Funneling it directly into infrastructure and R&D rather than bonuses, yachts, and bogus balance sheets would -- to me at least -- make more sense. But there again, how much real influence do central banks and politicians have over the system which keeps them in a job? Sometimes I wonder if global societies have reached a similar stage to manufacturing. If we're not there already, we'll soon reach a stage where nobody knows how to make anything any more, and you require a complex and unfathomable chain (to the individual) of processes to make even the essentials. I worry that global politics and economics are the same. Nobody can understand the whole picture any more, because it really is too diverse and complicated. Mmm... for someone who claims not to have anything useful to say I seem to be saying a lot. I should probably have been a politician rather than a prole. But I blame it on those Reith lectures I listened to again this week. They've put me in a strange mood. **I suppose that has powerful parallels with the Keynesian mindset, only using a real rather than imaginary currency.
  4. Andrew McP

    Paul Krugman: "Incentives" and other writings

    The problem for me in this debate is that I am instinctively left of centre in most things (far enough left to qualify as a communist in the USA or an old school liberal in the UK), yet I have no appetite for the modern version of Keynesian economics, because it smacks too much of one rule for us and another for them. It's ok for governments to live on pretend money forever, but it's not ok for the little folk they're trying to help. However what makes me have sympathy with the Keynesians is the idea that the modern world is simply too fragile (economically and psychologically) to do anything else but print until the 0 key wears out on central bank computers. Yet at the same time it sticks in my craw that the bankers get a %age of this action, and I fail to see how this will lead to anything but eventual anarchy in the West. I am apaled by this situation and the conflicts it creates in me, and it's one reason I no longer follow finance and investment as closely as I used to. I no longer trust anyone or anything to get us out of this (whether they're real or imaginary) but I do think quantitative easing is the best, and perhaps only way to ease us down gently from a sudden collapse to a slow one. The destination is the same whatever route we take IMO.
  5. Andrew McP

    Paul Krugman: "Incentives" and other writings

    Fascinating thread, and a good excuse to de-lurk. But as someone who has found that the more I read, the less I understand what happened to the working class world I grew up in, and still inhabit (where you're supposed to prosper by spending less than you earn) I find I have nothing useful to say. Nothing new there then. ;-) However I will say that I thought Mr Krugman put up a spirited defence against the hectoring from some of the CNBC panel yesterday. The only problem with that interview is that it didn't last much, much longer. Mr Krugman is someone I instinctively don't want to agree with on some issues, but find myself being persuaded by. Though not half as much as I've been persuaded by Niall Ferguson's recent Reith lectures, http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/reith which I found compelling, and worthy of listening to more than once. It continues to be a fascinating -- and somewhat disturbing -- time in global economic history, whatever our beliefs and differences.
  6. I thought this was one of the best financial podcasts I've ever listened to. Although there's an "he would say that, wouldn't he" element to Tustain's analysis, it does seem very, very credible. And very, very credible isn't something I'm used to thinking these days, when conventional wisdom has been stood on its head by the flood of liquidity and its distorting effects. Andrew McP
  7. I can't shed any significant light on this topic or your detailed posts Dr B, but as someone who has "accidentally" worked for Asda for longer than I ever hoped or expected (at a very basic level) I may be able to smear an extra photon or two of anecdotal light onto the "front line" situation. It'll make a change from just lurking quietly as my continuing puzzlement over the entire financial universe continues to deepen, despite your best efforts. :-) Our store, which turns over about 1.3M a week, had a very disappointing Xmas. Good solid food sales, as you'd expect, but no real evidence of the traditional Xmas blow-out, or people "upgrading" their purchases in the usual way. Seasonal stock was managed pretty well by the company, but we had a lot left and it hung around for ages, because there was no appetite (or margin?) to cut prices hard to clear. And 2011 has, so far, been the slowest start to a year anyone can remember. Overtime usually disappears for a few weeks in January as the seasonal tide of shoppers goes out, and budget overspends from December are absorbed. But this time the overtime ban has stayed and shows no sign of coming back. They've also put all the seasonally hired colleagues on hold rather than using them to cover holidays or illness. Although seasonal colleagues are always treated very badly (and have awful contracts which means they're never fired, just not given work). The overall situation is *very* unusual. Unique in my experience. The wage budget had already been clamped down pretty hard midway through last year. I'm very much your ideal wage slave; self motivated, never take breaks because I treat it as going to the gym, flexible, and good support for all the managers I've ever had (which is a lot!) But I no longer get my extra half hour paid (the lunch break I still, stupidly, work through) and the clocking system only works in full quarter hours now. So whereas before our managers could look at swipe details and sort through those he could trust to have actually done something useful if they went over by five or ten minutes, now we're all treated like the low-life who always manage to be ready to swipe out five minutes before the end of the shift. So what was left of motivated morale -- which is always in short supply in this business -- has gone. It's not that those extra bits and pieces of cash were vital (to me anyway, even though I've had an ~8% pay cut overall) but it was nice to be trusted and appreciated by my immediate managers. However our senior store management are very much under pressure to save every single penny they can. So it's ok to be a p*ss taker, as long as you don't appear as an anomaly on the wage reports. While entirely understandable from a business POV, it's rarely a good idea to demotivate the minority who traditionally went the extra mile for you. But then in recessionary times businesses can usually afford to be brutal, and Wal*Mart have always considered UK workers to be over-paid (and we are by their US standards). One thing that's very interesting about this business cycle is that retail is not a business full of old, wise heads. You wear out too quickly in a 24/7, high pressure business, so most managers in our store are under 40... often much younger. Our store manager is almost half my age, has led a charmed life during his short, post-university career, and he has the look of a haunted man about him. His fast track to retail stardom may well have been derailed, because he and the business are poorly balanced -- IMO anyway -- to withstand tough times. Asda did very well for a long time because it diversified into money earners like electrical goods and especially clothing very early. But now everyone has the same business model, and even the posh end of the retail sector do a budget range. So the only "unique" feature we have is probably the buying power (ie ruthlessness) of the Wal*Mart buyers. But recent (4 weekly) promotional offer cycles have been very disappointing, which implies that suppliers have been pushed as hard as they can be pushed. There are few really good deals, lots of bullsh*t style promotions on things which are clearly dreamed up by marketing spin doctors grasping at straws. It all has a desperate feel to it from down on the shop floor, especially when you realise just how many pack sizes are shrinking at the moment to protect price points which are increasingly vital. It is almost criminally dishonest IMO, but then the whole world seems increasingly dishonest. If Ben Bernanke can produce gazillions out of thin air to keep the Emperor's new cloths intact, then who am I to complain about a few % going AWOL from my shopping basket? Anyway, I am rambling. And I must emphasise that I am little more than a long term observer of the business, and my "insight" may not reflect true reality. If I had *true* insight I would have done what I thought I should three years ago and put all my slowly accumulated house deposit money into oil or gold or silver or... or pretty much anything except cash! Ah, $35 a barrel... I remember it well. :-) Instead I sat back like a nervous schoolgirl and watched inflation nibble my savings and earnings. And I still manage to ignore the useful advice I see here and prefer to chew my fingernails than act. If it wasn't so pathetic it'd be sad. :-) Thanks for your (and everyone else's) continuing efforts to help educate us Dr.B. I remain living proof that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. I appreciate being shown the way to the water supply though... especailly the 2008 one containing shiny stuff which I did at least manage to get a sip of. :-) Andrew McP PS While I'm typing, I hope nobody in NZ is too badly affected by the quake.
  8. Andrew McP


    Undeniable facts: 1) The human population has more than doubled within my lifetime, and more and more of those people want (and deserve) a high-energy lifestyle. 2) All the main, practical forms of energy supply right now are hydrocarbon based. 3) Never in human history has so much CO2 been deliberately returned to the atmosphere in such a short time, and the pace is accelerating. Add up all the thousands of power stations around the world, all the exhaust pipes in the world, all the jet engines in the world, all the human fires, do some averaging, and you have the Mother of All "human volcanos" spewing out CO2 etc. 24 hours a day. And we know CO2 is a greenhouse gas. 4) There are *vast* reserves of methyl hydrate etc. at the bottom of the oceans and in the frozen tundra waiting to be released by mild warming of the planet. When that stage is reached -- and we cannot know when that will be, yet -- the climate is likely to change very quickly indeed, as it seems certain to have done in the past, triggering mass extinctions. We are totally unprepared for such an event. 5) Whichever side of this debate you are on we should all be focusing on new, alternative forms of energy production before Peak Energy hits hard. Because whatever happens in the future if we have access to enough cheap, easy energy we can hope to smooth out any problems life throws at us. Resource depletion, climate change, whatever... with enough easy energy we can find solutions. And -- misguided or not -- I believe many of the policies being formed now will help that difficult change in energy production and use. 6) I would rather go down in history as a fretting fool than a blinkered bigot. 7) This ongoing debate depresses me almost as much as the prospect of walking into the future unprepared. The word 'science' seems in danger of becoming as abused as the word 'liberal'. And I despair. Andrew McP
  9. Andrew McP


    This is going hideously OT but after following that very versatile link, and having a chuckle at the Audi ad in 'Northern accents', I settled down to watch this week's episode of 'FlashForward', recorded from UK Channel 5. In one of the ad breaks was a trailer for the Ross Noble series running on C5 as well. Either I've got a bad case of hypersensitive Frisbyphobia or that's him as well. He's everywhere! There's no escape. He even speaks to me on my mp3 player!* <fx:runs off cackling> Andrew McP *Oh, hang on, I think that's because I download the podcasts. That might explain it.
  10. Andrew McP

    Natural Gas - An interesting long term play?

    Tired of trying to understand what oil was doing, I put 3k into NGAS a few months ago when gas was at a 'historic low'. I now have about 2k. C'est la vie :-) The devil on my shoulder says match that 2k with my 2k strategic reserve and wait for winter. The cherub on my other shoulder stuck his head in the gas oven a few weeks ago, so doesn't have anything useful to add. ;-) Andrew McP
  11. Andrew McP


    Yes, at a pretty hefty discount as well. I'm not really looking for more silver to add to my paperweight collection, but it's still tempting on a day when more good news has apparently been wrung out of the US. Someone bought a washing machine apparently. Andrew McP
  12. Andrew McP


    Thanks for the pointer towards Patriot Hour. As the title suggests, we're not exactly talking liberal left wing. But those guys have the most infectious laughter I've heard in a while. It makes it worth the time spent editing out the ads first. Ultimately a lot of these things tread over the same ground from similar angles, and I sometimes worry about brainwashing myself. But so far I've managed to resist building a bunker and lining it with Krugerrands... though possibly only because I have nowhere to dig a bunker and only enough money to line it with Kit-Kat wrappers. Andrew McP
  13. Andrew McP


    It's always interesting to find new voices to try out, but... er... I'm afraid after 20 minutes of this week's broadcast my paranoidconspiratometer was screaming so loudly I couldn't listen to the rest. Besides, if there is a global conspiracy to make us less fertile then I think I probably agree with it. :-) I'll have to listen to a few more before writing him off completely though. Andrew McP
  14. Andrew McP


    If not up there among the links already, this guy can be interesting... http://www.thedisciplinedinvestor.com/blog...egory/podcasts/ You just have to endure the 'gotomyPC' ads at the start of every 'cast. And I'll second the Radio4 recommendations, especially Material World (if you can get used to the puns :-). I listen to R4 an awful lot. My favourite podcast is probably... http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/fooc/ ...because it often throws up unexpected gems of reportage. I think it was in one of last week's episodes that I discovered the Tamil Tigers' defeat is probably entirely due to the Chinese expanding their sphere of influence. They're building a port on the south coast and have supplied the Sri Lankan government with unlimited armaments. Andrew McP
  15. Andrew McP


    I couldn't get excited over such a small offer on a coin I didn't know existed until this morning. :-) I know gold's gold, but I'd rather pay a bit more and have something more recognisable if I ever need to sell them for cash locally. Andrew McP