Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Cambrian Sleeper service?

A fun filled family holiday near Fort William has been had. On our trips to Morrisons which is next to the railway station you see the Caledonian Sleeper train parked for the day, getting washed and prepared.

It leaves Fort Bill at 7.50pm and get into London 12 hours later at 7.47am, just right for a days work in London. Lets assume you sleep for 9 hours of that time and sleep is never wasted time in my book.

The first Aberystwyth train leaves at 5.15am and gets to London at 10.15am which mean if you need into London for a full days work then you need to leave at 7.30pm the previous day and pay for overnight accommodation in London which in my experience is 2x or 3x the cost of the sleeper. 

So would it be possible for an effective sleeper service to be provided to Wales, even if the train sat in Shrewsbury for 6 hours before being split into 3, 1 north, 1 south and 1 to mid Wales. I fear not for the following reasons

  1. There is no reason for the Welsh government members to fund a service they don't use. After all, who wants to travel to London, the world of business is centered on Cardiff.
  2. Every so often Arriva would forget about the service and 2 days later someone would notice they had left a set of sleeper coaches in a siding full of people.
  3. We are too tied to cars and hotels to seek other options.
  4. The 1st time you use the service, you don't sleep much. Learning to sleep on a train takes a little perseverance.
So the Welsh Government will continue to support a service which has at best marginal utility to promote economic development and those north of the boarder will continue to have a very useful service.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smacking your child for fun

Have a subset of Welsh Assembly Government (or are they just the Welsh Government now?) have had what the Shameless philosopher Frank Gallagher  calls a collective stroke? I read this on plans to ban child smacking in Wales only and the implications depressed me somewhat.

As a medium to discipline a child, we make a very conscious choice to not use any physical punishment. I have found myself smacking the small people for a laugh on numerous occasions, exclusively to make them laugh, much in the way they get tickled. Does it do them any harm, I guess we won't know for years, but if either them gets exposed in 2031 on a Channel 4 documentary of the underworld of S & M, I will conclude that recreational smacking does harm your child's long term development and admit my error. Granddad, who is in his 80's, has many times given them a comical spanking, since he lives in Scotland and I don't see evidence that the Scottish Parliament is in such an advanced state of confusion, he will probably be OK.

I believe that parents should have the choice on how they discipline their children. Crossing the line into abuse should be an obvious line, perhaps these representatives in Cardiff can't see that line or have so little respect for the judgement of the people they represent that they are sure they know best. Managerial-ism gone mad.

Have these 4 A.M.'s failed to notice that Wales as an entity is a economic basket case, there as serious social, educational and crime problems which should rest very heavily on the mind of each of our collective representatives and occupy their working lives.

I can see a situation if these clowns get their way where I will be giving my kids a good slapping, they will be laughing away and I will get reported for smacking my children, complete with video evidence. Without the context of them having a good laugh, you see the potential for out of line 3rd party interpretations. Worse I don't trust some of the organisations involved and the way they will interpret a new law.

Lets hope sense prevails by an other route.

So should I continue to smack my children ?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Black Swan : Nassim Nicholas Teleb

The Black Swan is well worth a read, but if he had cut the number of pages by 1/3 it would have been a far better book. The journey is a bit random, there is too much fluff, but then the story is a complex one which is quite subtle in many respects.

So a very quick summary of the main points I got from reading it were

  • Proposing the use of a Gaussian distribution for assessing risk for real world events is ballocks.
  • The events that you need to worry about are the ones you don't worry about
  • Don't forget the positive black swans
  • Few experts have any better insight into what disaster/wonderful opportunity may arise next and when it might appear
  • Those who get predicting the future right are lucky
  • Don't worry, it won't help much
There is a lot of distance travelled in the book, many stories told which add insight, but could have benefited from being a shorter book.

New pension crisis ?

As a pension fund trustee, the regulator says I should continue to educate myself in the subject and I take this quite seriously. So last week I went to 2 events, the 1st on risk by AllanbridgeEpic advisors at the Stock Exchange (one seminar room is like the next, could have been anywhere) and the 2nd from Fund Manager Natixis at a hotel next Embankment. I have respect for both outfits in their different areas, they are run by humans (not true of all such events) and they will deal with you on a long term relationship development basis, rather than what can they sell to you today.

At both events I was the only male who was not warning a dark suit and was one of the very few who was under 50. I raise this issue with Karen, the C.E. of AllenbridgeEpic who for different reasons was not warning a dark suit and we agreed that moving forward 15 years there is a risk that the pensions industry will be very short of experienced trustee's. There will be no shortage of people to sell their services as professional trustees, but that is not the point. Trustees from the membership and the company are highly valuable, something missing from the trend of D.C. schemes moving to Group Pension Plans with insurance companies which are great for the company, but much worse for the member.

Can't predict the future, but I can see a serious lack of knowledge trustees and scheme managers in 15 years time to deal with what will be very taxing issues.