This document contains only my personal opinions and calls of judgement, and where any comment is made as to the quality of anybody's work, the comment is an opinion, in my judgement.
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These notes are my about miscellaneous (non-computing) topics, often brief informal reviews of products or shops or places ranging from canned food to pubs.
A pretty annoying problem with living in humid cold places is that when heating is necessary, or when drying clothes indoor, a lot of condensation can happen on windows, resulting in quick formation of moulds on window sills. Also in general high humidity is sometimes uncomfortable.
There aren't many way to solve the issue completely other than moving to a drier climate, but using some kind of home dehumidifier can improve the situation. Some people use chemical dehumidifiers, but I have been recommended use of an electrical one, in particular an EBAC 2400.
It seems to work pretty well, preventing condensation on windows and also seems to improve air quality, points also made in a fairly enthusiastic user review.
The only defect I found is that it is somewhat noisy, but that may be because the unit I have is old and may need lubrication.
A relevant aspect is the cost of running it, and it seems to draw around 180W. It is about the same as a computer, and does not seem overly high. It may still be perhaps be best left to run overnight in areas where electricity is cheaper during the night.
Because fiberglass kitchen tops and sinks are porous, they easily become stained, for example by rust stains, and these stains can be difficult to remove.
After some searching I found Bar Keepers Friend which is a powder for stain removal. It is quite effective and removed those stains. It seems based more than on a sequestrant action like that of a detergent on a slightly abrasive powder, plus oxalic acid to attack rust, so after a while it does rub away the surface, so it needs gradual application.
While it works, because of the necessary mildness of the abrasive action it takes a lot of rubbing to achieve best results, so don't espect immediate results.
I haven't used a similar product called Bon Ami which is recommended for cases where a milder action is sufficient.
This is a book that summarizes both the life and the works of John Maynard Keynes in an elegant and readable way. The first two chapters are about the life, and next two about his first major work Treatise on money and his next one The general theory of employment, interest and money.
It is written by an historian, yet the discussions about political economy theory and policy are well informed and plausible, and the author clearly delights in showing how contemporary propaganda about political economy recycles old and fallacious politically motivated arguments that Keynes had fought 80 years ago.
The main aspects of the evolution of the approach by Keynes
to political economy are well illustrated in chapters 3
In the long run we are all dead
Animal spirits, that is
from a view that the political economy is driven by bartering,
under the veil of money, to one where it is driven by
enterprise, which is fundamentally influenced by monetary
conditions. In other words that the markets for saving
and investment are disconnected.
This involves the point which is not emphasized enough and
yet is perhaps the most crucial in the thinking by Keynes is
that he loudly and repeatedly repudiated the absurd notion
that the interest rate is the price of money that brings into
equilibrium the demand of investment and
the supply of saving.
One of the most crucial point by Keynes is that the interest rate is the price of liquidity rather than money, and that the demand for investment and the supply of savings are mediated by the market for liquidity, and this mediation can be strong or weak.
It is this point that gives rise to the repeated claim by
Keynes that he wrote a
general theory, that is one
applicable to all economic conditions, not just depressions,
and one of all three of
employment, interest and
The other major omission is that the book does not emphasize
the difference between
ex-post levels of consumption and investment;
a distinction that is captured by the term of
effective is there by contrast to
notional, wher notional demand is the
ex-ante desire to spend, and effective demand is the ex-post
actual amount spent. It is the difference between the notional
and effective quantities that can give rise to deflationary or
inflationary spirals, as Keynes illustrates.
The book however very usefully emphasizes most of the other key aspects of the approach by Keynes, which mostly descend from the discovery that interest rates are the price of liquidity and that the difference between notional and effective quantities, in particular as to spending levels, mattert:
I learned from the book to appreciate much more the difference between Keynes and American Keynesianism that Keynes emphasized the impact of spending on investment on the poltical economy, while American Keynesians tended to emphasize the impact of spending, and his preference for fiscal over monetary policy, where his recommendation was a passive steady monetary policy of low interest rates and relatively easy money, even if he thought that high interest rates would help more in restraining inflations.
It is overall a very useful book, to understanding both the background and the evolution of Keynes both as a political economis and as a man. As to the latter his private life evolved as radically as his political economy, from fashionable, popular homosexual promiscuity to unpopular and traditional monogamous heterosexuality.
Tesco have been selling two
unlocked cheap mobile phones, the
on sale for £10.00 and the
on sale for £15.
Both are low-cost no-frills devices, and they are both decent, but the Nokia is very much better, and indeed it costs 50% more, even if that is only 5 pounds.
The main difference is that the GT-E1080 has not so good audio quality, and the Nokia 100 has fairly good audio quality.
The Nokia 100 also has a builtin FM radio, and comes with included wired earphones and microphone for hands-free usage. It also has a LED to use as a torch while the GT-E1080 can only blank the screen so it emits white light to use as an illumination device.
The biggest defect of both devices is that they have a
colourful user interface, that is garish, and even
offputting, and on the GT-E1080 one cannot even disable the
screen wallpaper, which is usually distracting.
Both phones have long battery life, and work well and seem quite robust (the Nokia 100 more so).
A good friend who is a physicist working on related topics has given me Critical mass by Phil Ball.
The book is about a similar subject to
The tipping point
that is abrupt changes in aggregates made of many small,
similar and globally independent parts. The subject is
which is also about abrupt transitions, but the latter is
about the shape of the transition, not how it is caused.
The sudden transitions in Critical mass are caused by local interactions among the elements of an aggregate having global effects when some threshold is reached, usually when a certain percentage of the elements.
The book is quite interesting and shows that the concept can be widely adapted to situations quite far from its origins in physics, because there are many aggregates composed of similar small elements which interact locally.
It seems a decent introduction to interesting concepts like
emergent behavior and
transitions that happen in many aggregates.
The top of my kitchen counter is made of so-so plastic and even a granite counter-top should not be used directly as a cutting and preparation board. I have used plastic and wood boards and they are cheap or traditional, but they scratch easily and can soak a bit. I have tried glass ones, but I have decided that they are quite ugly, an stone ones are very heavy and also expensive.
After some trials I have switched to glazed ceramic tiles, for example 25×40cm glossy white tiles that I found for £1.79 each in single quantity at Homebase.
I have two concerns with them, and one is that they are not explicitly rated as safe with food. Of course nearly identical looking ceramics are used to make dishes, so it is not ceramic per se that I am worried, but that wall tiles be made with heavy metals in the glazing for example. But I have decided not to be too worried as the glazing is extremely hard and there is very little chance that whatever is in the glazing or ceramic will leach into food.
The second concern is that precisely because the glazing and ceramic are so hard they might damage knives used for cutting on the tile; indeed if plastic or wood board get quickly scratched is because they are softer than knives. Overall I don't worry about dulling knives, and if I were using glass or stone boards they would have part of the issue. Also the smooth and unscratched glezed surface means that washing the tiles is extremely easy.
I tend to microwave the food I eat cooked, in part out of laziness, including being able to cook food in their dish and thus dispensing with wasahing up pans; but also because I can cook food in a microwave without oil or fat or sauces to keep the food from drying up under heat or to add flavour.
In effect microwaving is somewhat similar to boiling or steaming, even if but drier in the result (no immersion). As a result microwaved food is a bit bland in texture and flavour, at least compared to fried or baked food.
I have found that this is actually welcome in the case of naturally flavourful food, and that in particular many pork based foods can be microwaved and come out fairly well without any need for flavourings, as pork meat has a distinctive flavour of its own, and it is often cured or salted or spiced. Also pork meat tends to be fatty and during microwave cooking that fat melts and helps cook the meant too, so it is ends up not being entirely similar to boiling or steaming.
Even microwaved sausages are suitable for example, while cutlets sometimes come out a bit too dry, and I have tried gammon and it seems particularly suitable, in both rasher, steak or bulk form. The resulting flavour is even sometimes a bit too strong, and the texture is not as crispy as frying or baking or grilling, but it is not soggy either; another difference is that the result is rather uniformly cooked, without a gradient from outside to inside. Overall I like it enough.
It is convenient too, and probably rather healthier than frying. Perhaps not healthier than grilling or baking, as less of the fat and salt in the meat gets sweated out during microwaving.
I have mentioned previously the afternoon gammon dish at Wetherspoon's pubs, and I have also had the similar fish and chips (and peas) afternoon dish. That also seems pretty good value for the same reasons.
Just been for an afternoon break at a Wetherspoon's pub and they have a special offer between 2pm and 5pm on weekdays of gammon with eggs and chips and a mug of tea for £3.49 which is quite satisying and excellent value. There is a more substantial standard gammon meal but the afternoon one seems more substantial for a late quick work lunch break.
The InShanghai chinese-style buffet restaurant in Durham has a £5.99 deal for lunch, and myself and some friends occasionally go where during lunch break and it is quite good. If one goes early in particular, as the buffet food is fresh out of the kitchen. The selection of dishes is unusually ample for a buffet place, and there are several non-fried options, which usually keep feeling good for longer.
It is not common to see, but it is a nice alternative to use
croissant as the wrapper for
a sandwich instead of bread. It is particularly suitable for
salty cured meat like
even tasty cheeses, but also for
Parma or similar cured hams are salty yet subtly flavoured tender chewy meat and they can be eaten to best effect in some apparently little know ways:
The general idea is to complement the ham with something of milder flavour, and possibly with a different texture, like breadsticks.
Parma ham should be sliced really thin, something that is sometimes forgotten outside its original country.
The better and proper way of making garlic bread is:
Diced garlic and butter, and toasting the bread after spreading them onto it, are quite a different thing.
It has come to my attention that proper way to eat tinned anchovies fillets is not widely known, and it is:
This packaging is essential for best appreciating the flavour and texture of the fillets, as they are usually very salty and chewy. The crispness of toasted bread provides a favourable background to the chewy texture, and its blandness and the coolness of the slivers of butter soften the saltiness of the meat.
As recommended by a friend I have tried Tesco
Mackerel In Teriyaki Sauce
and they are interesting. The
works well with the mackerel both as to taste and flavour,
and help make a quick toast or sandwich. The sauce flavour
dominates that of the fish meat, but the latter is not
I have become partial to the 500g cartons of passata for example
Sieved Tomatoes Passata 500G
cartons both because
general is useful (it can added as a sauce to just about
anything and the specific product is fairly cheap and decent.
It has added salt and is a bit less dense than the co-operative food shop, which also seems good. I slightly prefer the Tesco one because by being a bit salty and less dense it can also be drunk as a kind of heavy tomato juice and is refreshing especially when it is hot (and curiously a lot cheaper than tomato juice).
I have bought a set of CAT Interchange shoes after trying a pair for a little while because they are well built and fairly rugged as per the brand value.
They are fairly good for bad weather and they still look conventional enough for an office environment or even a suit attire. The build details are good too.
It is sometimes difficult to find in the UK woolen heavy clothing, as most clothing seems cotton and light, and while layering is a good idea, layering cotton especially in wet climate is not something I like..
It is therefore fortunate that ASDA Living shops carry some moderately cheap (£2 per pair) thick socks with around 1/3 wool and they seem to be (after a few weeks of testing) fairly resilient and warm and tolerate machine washing well. Since they come in sedate solid colours like shades of blue they are also suitable for most business dress styles.
I haven't yet finished reading The Volatility Machine by Michael Pettis (published in 2001 by Oxford University Press) and I yet I feel the need to review it now.
The parts that I have already read are already exceptionally interesting and relevant to understanding an important political and technical side to the evolution of the international economy in the past several decades.
The main observation in the book is that the capital structure, that is the composition (and not just the size) of the portfolio of financial assets and liabilities of a country is important just like for a company, and it can be shaped to dampen or amplify the effects of events in the international credit markets.
The other main observation is that events in the
international credit markets are mostly driven by monetary
policy in big economies, and in particular the
floods of money that they periodically create,
usually in response to major policy changes such as wars, and
secondarily driven by temporary panics.
A third subsidiary argument is that financial events in minor countries, whether booms or busts, are often unrelated to policies in those countries, but that country policy can make a difference as to the impact they have.
The argument is that by structuring the capital of a country for dampening country defaults can be minimized in the case of events caused by major policy changes, and essentially eliminated in the case of temporary panics.
The main things I liked about the book are:
minor(at least in a financial sense) country events it also contains quite a bit of enlightening discussion of the matching events in major countries. The arguments it makes also largely apply, the changes due to different scale, to major countries, and in particular for the 2008 crisis (and previous ones too).
What I did not like:
wouldn't it be nice ifcategory. Unless it is read in a sense opposite to the one obviously wished for by the author, as a manual on how to engineer a country's capital structure to maximize leverage and its impact on, volatility and thus allow country elites to extract maximum advantage from a boom's gains, without regard to to the losses during the bust.
correlation, which are used a bit too interchangeably to describe the dampening or amplifying effects of some aspect of the capital structure.