Why its time to get off the property ladder

I’ve been a house owner since I was 27. I’m currently on my 3rd house, but I have decided I will be selling up and renting.

The reason is easy. Its not good value. For you who are currently falling off your seat, let me explain.

We are being told that buying a house is in investment in your future, and you’ll get your money back as house prices keep going up. They are not making more dirt, so buying land is a no lose decision and other cliches drive this idea.

So, I bought my first house for £20k in 1997. It rocketed in value to £34k in about 3 yrs, and I bought a different house for £50k. I sold that for £75k a couple of years later and bought the 3rd for £80k. Today its worth £120k, so I’ve made money, according to the gross figures.  Where is the problem?

So in 20 years, I’ve made £100k say the innumerate. Not really. The house that was worth £34k in 2000, is worth £45k today. The house that is now worth £120k has a £60k mortgage outstanding on it. So in cash, I have £60k and no home. But I have paid well over £80k in mortgage payments over the last 20 years.

So having paid the full value of the house in mortgage payments, I still only own half of it. Granted, I have had somewhere to live over that time, but its hardly the investment it could be.

What am I doing instead?

My answer is to realise we are moving towards a subscription lifestyle. Nobody cares how wealthy you are, just that you have a monthly income to pay for your lifestyle. Having a huge house, but not being to afford the electric is not something I want. Therefore, I am putting my money into a pension de-lux. Whether this works, I can’t answer, but it should be better than my current option.

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How do you think?

We all think to some extent, but do we do it the same? I work in IT where we have a range of people who are all meant to be intelligent.  When we discuss ideas, it can get quite heated which usually happens when people get the wrong end of the stick.

What happens is someone highlights an issue, and talks about it. The networking guys will see the problem from the perspective of how things connect together. The software developers see it as a process with an input, a few dependencies and an output. The architects see it as a concept, and quickly drawn as a diagram. The point is, they rarely check that each point cross references with the thoughts everyone else is seeing.

This happens in politics too, but its easier to highlight something practical. So lets imagine that we want to build a new gadget. As the end user, the vision is of the end result. How it looks, how to make it do what its meant to do. We think about how it feels to own. How it makes life better. As the manufacturer, the thought revolves around the costs, the process of making it, what else it could be, and the rules around selling it. The designer thinks about how many end users are going to agree on how well the gadget does its job. The designer is also thinking about how the manufacturer will be viewed by others for producing the gadget. The engineer thinks about how the gadget works and how well it does it. All these things are compromises.

As humans we think by focusing on the parts we best understand. it could be minute detail, it could be the big picture of the benefits to society. While all these things are equally important, some are more important in the context of a particular question being asked. The benefits to society isn’t something the engineers can visualise as the connection isn’t a direct, measurable target. The use of generic parts helps the manufacturer and the engineer, the end user isn’t aware of what this means, but scares the designer as it makes it easier to copy by the competition.

So, can you move your viewpoint to that of someone else? That is the sign of intelligence. Actually, being able to argue two different viewpoints, and understand how they contradict each other is the definition of intelligence.

This is not something that can be learnt quickly, and needs long reflection to truly understand. Once you can do it, you’ve entered the world of open mindedness, and your life is doubt forever more!

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Wage Slave – its not a smart soundbite, its actually true

‘Wage Slave’, ‘Rat Race’ and thousands of other smug little terms for being an employee owe far more to what they are implying than most people are willing to admit.

When we think of historic slaves, we think of the hollywood image of a bunch of innocent natives of Africa being hunted by vicious slave traders, loaded on a ship well beyond its capacity and sailed to the new world. Here they are sold to old, fat, white men to work on plantations, until eventually they were freed by some kindly right thinking soldiers. It happened a long time ago, and doesn’t happen any more, unless you are a refugee from some hot place, wanting to move to the first world. But I digress.

The reality of slavery is that its been a big part of life for millennia. Generally, its when people were sold by third parties mostly for their labour. They would be contracted to work for some fixed amount of time and the slave owners would be responsible for feeding and housing the slaves and their families. While we are aware of the industrialised trade from Africa to the new world, we are less familiar with the Muslim slave traders of the middle ages and possibly more relevant, the Roman slave trade which lasted for hundreds of years.

Slaves during Roman times were a status given to the service sector that made the Roman empire work. Most people were slaves until they proved themselves, when they would be given the status of a nobleman. There are many tales of slaves who become great soldiers and eventually became free. The point is that wages were still given to slaves, but they were not allowed to run away!

If we were to transpose that concept on to today’s world, the only difference 2000 years has made is we now sell ourselves into servitude, and are encouraged to do so. Today’s slave traders are called recruitment consultants. They sell the best people for the job and get their percentage. What we have forgotten is that to be free you need to be rich enough to be able to decide how you spend your time. If you don’t want to do anything, you should be able to do so without cost. Not many people can actually do that.

This has always been the rule for slaves. They have always been under the control of other people. Society learnt early on to teach people that being a slave was about not earning money as a smokescreen to hide the issue of not having control of your time. This is the most difficult point for most people to understand. Its your time that has value, not the tokens that you are given for giving up that time.

If you really want to be free, you need money to pay the bills, but you need to be able to afford to do whatever you desire to do. This is why the true free people in this world either have nothing or have a family that support their desires. Great examples are musicians and artists children of rich parents.

The one people who are slaves are those of us who work 9 to 5. We get paid, but only to prevent us even thinking about the concept of servitude. The money we get is not enough to be able to afford to move out of servitude. The system we have ensures we can choose where we are slaves, but, like Hotel California, we cannot leave!

 

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Theory of the age of civilisation

I wanted to put some ideas into print, so this post is just a few ideas that I want to build into something useful, eventually.

We know that humans first started wearing clothes 180,000 years ago.  We also know that we learnt to write 5000 years ago. Everything that has happened since, has been confirmed by written evidence. Besides writing, we also use stone buildings and artefacts as evidence.

The question is, what about developments which can’t be proven via scripts or stones?  What happened between wearing clothes and the start of civilisation? When did we actually start living in the same place all year around?

Lots of my ideas are based on the idea that the reason we don’t have much of this evidence, is that its in plain sight. Using the British isles as an example, the Romans counted 22 cities on the Island when they turned up. The Romans built their cities in these places. So Deva became a Roman city, but what was it called before then?

Staying with the British Isles, there is evidence that the North Sea was created by a huge Tsunami from a Norwegian flood. Before this, it was possible to walk most of the way from Wales to Ireland, with only a river separating both land masses.

Why is this important?  Because one of the Mabinogion stories, the Welsh myths, has a story where Bendigeidfran walks to Ireland. Could this story be based on fact? If this was a reported fact, that would mean the story was at least 8,000 years old. It would also mean other parts of the Mabinogion was also true, such as the social rules and statuses.

The bigger picture is that the British Isles doesn’t really have much history pre 10,000 years and so we need to look at other parts of the world for evidence of civilisation. This is where I get stuck, because I don’t have the evidence, although there is the novelty of North America. Here is a place that has no written history pre around 1000 years ago, although we know the Greeks were aware of it 2000 years ago.

We also know there are mounds in America which date back 10,000 years ago, so the chances are there will be evidence of other pre historical human developments, if we know what to look for. It won’t be stones, it won’t be words, and its unlikely to be cultural, so what else is there?

This question will help me fall asleep for the next few years!

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Powershell – changing parameters at the file name

Powershell is for scripting, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with sloppy coding.  You should never write more than you need to and you need to be able to reuse as much as possible. This means you write small little modules that do a few things, rather than one huge script that only works for one task.

A great example is something like today’s task. I needed to change some permissions in a folder. The problem was, to expand on the task, I would need to feed in the rest of the folders I needed to work on, but this would not allow me to run things in parallel.

Ideally, I needed to have a task schedule where the same script worked on 3 different folders at once. The only way to do that is to trigger the Task Scheduler 3 times. But using that process, I would need 3 different scripts – which breaks the first rule, never write more than you need.

The answer is quite easy – feed the name of the new folder into the script at launch.  So, at the top line of the script, add:

param(
[string]$unique
)

This will create a variable you can place where you need it in the real code.

write-host "This is the magic " $unique

The way you add the details is like this:

./MyScript.ps1 "Beans"

This is very flexible now, and I can create 3 task scheduled processes that all triggered the same time, but deal with 3 unique folders, using the same code.
How easy was that?

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How to view a government petition breakdown using Powershell

In the UK we have a petition system where anyone can set up a petition and if it reaches 100K names, the subject gets debated in Parliament. Its an idea that gets misused by various lobby groups and there are often news stories where some political idea gets forced into debate by a group who can’t accept the status quo.

Anyway, enough politics, the interesting part is getting to the numbers.  Take the last big petition – all about Brexit. Each petition has a JSON page where all those lovely numbers are easy to see – but while JSON is easier to read than XML, its no Infographic!

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131215.json

So how are we going to read this? Powershell!

Its only two lines, but its very good.

$datapetition = Invoke-WebRequest -uri “https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131215.json” | ConvertFrom-Json
$datapetition.data.attributes.signatures_by_constituency

The first line reads the data, and after the pipe, the variable becomes a Powershell object. The second line grabs the attribute we need. All you need to do is to read it.

$datapetition.data.attributes – this is where the magic is!

Unlike other site that will spoon feed you, I am not adding any more – just experiment and see all the data show up!

 

 

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Proof of the past is under your feet

People like to travel. It has always been true, and is the reason we no longer live in Africa as a species. The easiest way from one place to another is via a path. If enough people use that path and it becomes a road. Eventually, the people will spend their own time and effort to make their road easier to use.  It gets straighter and flatter and more damage resistant over time. This is the life of a road.

So when did we first start using roads?  In the UK, we were always taught it was all due to the Romans.  They brought the roads and built them nice and straight from one town to another. As these roads wore out, we rebuilt them and made them better. A great example is the A5 from London to Holyhead in Anglesey.  A real Roman road that still exists and is full of traffic every day. The problem is that Roman road isn’t actually Roman.

There is a story that the road was built by King Belinus, who was a King of the Britons around 400 BC. His brother, Brennus was said to have sacked Rome with the Gauls in 390 BC. However, this was practically 2500 years ago, so any evidence has gone through a number of hands so reliability is hard to gauge.

This map is a good example of how Roman roads looked

Click on the picture to visit site for more details

Notice how those black lines follow the same paths as modern roads. The A5 is obvious, but so is the A1 and the A4.  You can almost see the A49.

Hopefully this is a good introduction into a subject that interests me a great deal.

If the Romans came to Britain and found a bunch of roads ready for them, how far back do we need to look into history before there were no roads?  Secondly, who did build the first British roads?

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Welcome 2017

This is the first post of my new blog. I’ve hosted blogs before.  I like to share ideas but have never given the publishing element enough effort.  That changes this time.

I have two ideas that keep my attention.

One is how old is civilisation in the west?  When did we really start to live how we do today?  Where is the evidence of how we used to live? How much of what we think we know about the past is true?  How can we prove the past without physical evidence or written documents?

My other idea is cutting edge technology. Just how will the future pan out and what is the cutting edge?  I love concepts like virtual services, robots, big data and other technologies that people talk about, but not many people actually do.

I aim to post on both these ideas under the banner of Old and New.

I hope you enjoy my ideas and look forward to reading your comments

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