Print Story That's like hypnotizing chickens
By TheophileEscargot (Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:12:10 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP, Museums, Consumerism (all tags)
Reading: "Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life", "The Ghost". Museums. Watching. Consumerism: coffee machine. Thoughts: Turner prize. Web.

Poll: UK house prices?

What I'm Reading
Comic book Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life. I'd been avoiding Warren Ellis on the grounds that he has a decent blog, and writers with good blogs tend to do bad books, and vice versa. However he seems to be an exception: the book was pretty good.

Covers various stories from a cyberpunk future city, from the point of view of gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem. Quite wittily told with some interesting ideas. Wonder if the author might be identifying a bit too much with the protagonist though.

What I'm Reading 2
The Ghost by Robert Harris. Light but compelling thriller with satirical touches. After the sudden death of his predecessor, a hack ghost-writer is hired to finish the autobiography of former Prime Minister Adam Lang, who is almost exactly like Tony Blair.

The plot rocks along, and the protagonist is amusing and sympathetic. Good satisfying ending.

The satire doesn't amount to much, though at least there's no Alastair Campbell-alike for once. Maybe I'm reading it a little too late: in the Brown era it's harder to believe that Blair was uniquely bad. Also the normally impeccably thorough Harris seems a little weak on the details: there are some convenient coincidences and some dubious tradecraft.

Overall though, definitely a good read.

Supplemental. Harris interview. Guardian, NY Times, Independent reviews. It's apparently going to be a movie helmed by everyone's favourite child-rapist director. Wikipedia.

Went to the National Gallery a couple of weeks back but don't think I mentioned it.

Saw The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600 - 1700 It's mostly about the painted wooden religious sculptures, which are displayed alongside equivalent paintings.

Found it fascinating: painted sculpture was the major art-form of antiquity, but is hardly seen now that bare marble is preferred. The sculptures have a lot of impact, especially the hideously tortured Jesuses. Worth seeing.

They're also making a foray into modern art with Kienholz: the Hoerengracht, a replication of part of the Amsterdam red light district, populated with mannequins with frames around their faces.

Seems quite realistic, even down to litter and leaves, but also a bit pointless. We know what it looks like, so it pretty much falls in the all-concept-no-impact category for me.

What I'm Watching
Rented the DVD of the 1960 Inherit the Wind to compare it to the Old Vic production I saw recently.

The movie's more sympathetic to the anti-evolutionists, less black-and-white than Spacey's production. Some of the townsfolk side with the schoolteacher: his students and a farmer. Brady and Drummond have more dialogue together, reminiscing about the old days, and Drummond talks to Brady's wife.

Also looked up the real Scopes Monkey Trial. Thought that the play would be completely different: it was apparently written as an allegory for McCarthyism, criticizing it by associating it with a ludicrous dead controversy. However, large chunks of it were the same, including the bizarre incident when denied testimony from his experts, the defence lawyer Drummond/Darrow cross-examined the prosecution lawyer Bryan/Brady on his knowledge of the bible. Also the townsfolk weren't quite as dumb as they were portrayed. The trial was largely a set-up to garner media attention.

Good grief. I'm now on my fifth coffee machine since 2006. My previous Russell Hobbs Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Maker just stopped working Saturday morning after two years: a shame as I liked it, it worked well, and Argos don't stock it anymore. I got the 3-year warranty though, which paid for the new Russell Hobbs Filter Coffee Maker. Nice and compact, though I miss the thermal jug. Still fiddly to fill, and the cone's a bit small.

Previous attempts included the Morphy Richards Graphite Complements Filter Coffee Maker, the Cookworks Signature Aluminium Coffee Maker, and an ultra-cheap no-name jobby, though none was a good as my trusty old second-hand 8-year-lasting Braun.

Is it just me who has these problems? Why are coffee machines so fragile?

Housing market thoughts
Was thinking, or possibly assuming, I'd buy a flat at some point. Got asked at work about at wasn't sure, so I want to think it through.

The problem is it's impossible to know what's really going to happen, in spite of all the confident predictions. There are some possibilities.

  1. 1990s UK. Quantitative easing money and accelerating recovery lead to a surge in inflation. Interest rates are raised to double-digits to cure it. House prices fall as the apparent cost of borrowing rises.
  2. 1990s Japan. For 15 years or so, the economy stagnates. Interest rates remain low, growth is also low, house prices fall throughout
  3. No housing bubble. The recent house price rise was mostly driven by demand, so the modest recent fall was all that's going to happen, and prices are going to keep rising for years.
Found a few interesting graphs, like Japanese housing prices and UK inflation-adjusted prices and comparison to a hypothetical bubble. Nationwide data.

I've sketched rough guesses here:

Since there's no way to know which option is right, or if any of them is, I think I may have to wait a couple of years to see what happens.

The thing is, each of those options seems unlikely. 1 seems unlikely given that we now have an inflation-targeting independent central bank alert to the possibility of stagflation. 2 seems unlikely given that we still have a growing population due to immigration, though that could change. And given that the post-1989 decline was both longer and greater than the post-2007 one, 3 seems unlikely too.

Turner prize
Only zoomed through this year's exhibition so didn't write it up. Richard Wright won. Didn't have any strong opinions about it: it's an abstract wallpaper-like pattern painted in gold on the gallery wall. It looks quite pretty. If you went around to your hippyish friend's house and they'd painted that on the wall, you'd definitely say "oh, that's nice".

So, it's not the totally-conceptual no-aesthetic-impact stuff that I hate. But it's not something I'd get excited about.

Economics. Pirates cause inflation in Somalia.

Video. Ad pulled for glamourizing sexual abuse. Night of the Lepus highlights.

Articles. No laugh tracks anymore. Henry Rollins, Mark Rippetoe on picking up heavy things (via).

Anti climate-denial. General arguments, the CRU emails.

London. Another Harrow mosque demo and counterdemo (last time). Nonexistent J.G. Ballard exhibition reified. London in 2010 seen from 1989.

Random. Gambler sues casino after losing $127 million. Moebius bagel cutting. Bloggers Anonymous Prosecutor, Deal with Disability answer questions. 1960s Executive colouring book. Eight Tips to Know If You're Being Boring.

< on fog | Are these flu vaccines ever going to be available? >
That's like hypnotizing chickens | 26 comments (26 topical, 0 hidden)
Hmm. by Herring (4.00 / 2) #1 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:43:59 PM EST
"The recent house price rise was mostly driven by demand"

Not according to the Book of Vince. It is written in the BoV that the people were led to pay the prices of vastness by the mortgage broking of plenty fuckwittedness.

I haven't seen any evidence either way, but then I haven't really looked.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

Houses... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:11:31 PM EST
I've been trying to think through the same question, renting doesn't seem like a winner long-term in London...

Shortage of housing may militate against a stagnation scenario, but the slow-motion nature of the recession does seem to point to stagnation. The quantitative easing etc. has stabilised the economy, but there doesn't seem much engine to growth. House prices have taken a little step up, but mainly on really low volumes of sales. I don't think there's any way to know right now, but most of the "cutbacks" talk seems to indicate that the firelighters will be taken away before the economy gets moving again...

A guy I work with by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:20:43 PM EST
Is seriously considering buying, he got mortgage approval today. He seems convinced he's got to get on the property ladder before prices start skyrocketing again. He thinks he need to get in before stamp duty goes up. And I think he probably thinks more typically than I do. If most people are still convinced that prices must rise, maybe they will.

But it's hard to see where the buyers are going to come from, at least for flats and small houses. When interest rates go up it's going to be harder to get mortgages, the young are being massively hit by unemployment. Even if everybody thinks the prices are reasonable, how are they going to raise the money.

And basically prices fell for about 8 years in the UK in the Nineties, and for about 15 years in Japan. This seems to be a much bigger recession, so I don't really see where the sentiment that this time they'll start rising after 2 years comes from.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Have to agree with you... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 03:39:12 PM EST
I don't see where the money comes from to push general house prices up in the next few years.

It seems to me there's a particular problem with drawing conclusions from the prices trends of the low sales volumes of the moment.
London is basically 3 zones:

A) A City zone - prices dependent on bankers bonuses (so prices went down, but are now on the rise again anticipating the return of bonus-time)

B) An international zone - prices stable to growing - areas where wealthy foreigners and foreign real-estate investment funds buy...

C) The "normal" zone - prices dictated by the incomes of people in the other 80% of the population...

It seems to me that the stability/slight growth in zone B and return to rise in zone A form a larger part of the small volume of sales at the moment. Zone C is basically paralysed... so people are extrapolating that "prices are going up" from a really biased sample.

But... it's a couple of months since I looked closely at the figures... 

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by Beechwood 45789 (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:21:54 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by Beechwood 45789

Warren Ellis by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #5 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:37:42 PM EST
I quote him in my grant writing seminars.

Also, I recommend his web coming, Freakangels, Six new panels free on Fridays.
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat

I love Freakangels by gpig (4.00 / 3) #9 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 04:50:21 PM EST
and coincidentally, I wish I had glowy purple eyes!
(,   ,') -- eep
[ Parent ]
But it's a whole package by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #13 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:33:13 PM EST
You might end up with white hair, and a tin foil hat.
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat
[ Parent ]
I can deal with that by gpig (4.00 / 2) #16 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 10:57:36 PM EST
as long as I get the mind powers!
(,   ,') -- eep
[ Parent ]
Oh shit, that's him!? by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #15 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:42:20 PM EST
Somehow I never made that connection!
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Transmetropolitan by ni (4.00 / 2) #7 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 04:07:38 PM EST
It gets much better as it proceeds, but start at the beginning! It's really very good.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
Coffee machines. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 04:45:37 PM EST
I don't actually own one, but I know that my Bosch toaster and my Philips kettle are both sturdy and destined to last. I was discussing small appliances with my sister the other day (she has got through several hand blenders in the last few years), and my thought would be to get the John Lewis own brand one.

Coffee machines by lm (4.00 / 2) #10 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 05:32:05 PM EST
I've not had a single problem with my Boudon french freedom press. I did have a Hormel one made from plastic that died rather spectacularly.

Brauns' machines are good too. I think my father used the same Braun coffee maker for over twenty years. I think he bought a commercial grade one, though.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
Our last press was glass, and it broke by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 07:50:48 PM EST
the current one is plastic, and it's been working about a year.

[ Parent ]
I gave up on glass too by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #20 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:16:00 AM EST
Seems like I'd wash it twice then drop it on the counter-top and break it. The plastic one is working well.
[ Parent ]
you get what you pay for by Dr H0ffm4n (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 11:17:51 AM EST
If TE wants good coffee from a machine that will last then he should just get a Gaggia Baby Class?

[ Parent ]
I hear Technivorm is what the cool kids use by lm (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 08:17:42 PM EST
But I'm not a cool kid.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
I gues that'd do. If you like filter coffee by Dr H0ffm4n (2.00 / 0) #25 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 04:52:47 AM EST

[ Parent ]
good blogs/bad books by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #12 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:17:18 PM EST

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
Opinions will differ by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #21 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:39:23 PM EST
But I'd say Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross for good blogs, bad books (now anyway); George R.R. Martin and Alastair Reynolds for good books, bad blogs.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
interesting by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #22 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 06:02:22 PM EST
I had never considered that dichotomy before. I don't actually follow very many writer's blogs. I enjoy both Max Barry's books and his blog, but I wouldn't say either are the epitome of their form. Then there are those blogs that become books, but in that case I don't know why you'd read both.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
[ Parent ]
"How long are you planning to stay?" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #14 Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:40:17 PM EST
That's the single most important question to ask when buying.

The other important thing to remember is that the true cost of a house is based on the mortgage rate.  If housing prices drop but interest rates rising, you are doing yourself no favor by waiting unless you expect to sell in two years.

The other important thing is to not get too wrapped up in it as an investment.  I think it is better to compare it financially to renting and for the other benefits (and deficits) ownership brings.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 2) #17 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 05:39:34 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
It is as issue if by Herring (4.00 / 1) #18 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 05:52:57 AM EST
you are using the house "value" to guarantee other loans. But that could lead to madness ...

I agree that it's daft. Take other stuff you need to live - if the price of food, water, fuel goes up then that's considered bad. If the price of shelter goes up then that's good? Really?

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Turner Prize by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #19 Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 08:20:52 AM EST
Hoping to go down on Saturday. Apparently close-up Richard Wright's painting is full of minute detail.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Home Ownership by jimgon (2.00 / 0) #26 Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 09:10:52 AM EST
Don't think of Home Onwership as an investment.  It's not.  Between the interest paid and the repairs which will inevitably need to be made a home is not an investment.  Investment real estate is an entirely different thing and used for rentals.  

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
That's like hypnotizing chickens | 26 comments (26 topical, 0 hidden)