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The weekend was moderately successful. The main business, the seventh birthday of the Captain and associated ceremonials passed off well.

My mum has arrived to help out with getting the holiday let house in good shape. She's a great gardener so she's giving the garden a good once over. She's also doing bit of DIY and generally being on hand to keep tradesmen focused. She also has a job to do exploring the village and surrounds and making friends with the locals.

My daughter came up from university for the weekend arriving on Friday.

I got home from a week of being successfully audited by internal audit fo find my family waiting for me and all well and in good spirits.

Family takeaway from the nice Thai takeaway with mum and dad, MLW, BB and the Captain. All very nice until my dad picked a fight with my mum about the need for more populism in the NHS and I called him a Faragist. (There being in my view a very important distinction between popular engagement and populist engagement.)

Saturday, no early morning football due to the Captain's foot injury. Mum and MLW made an early morning run to B&Q. Then the Rugby. A mass expedition of MLW, the Captain and I, the Captain's Good Friend and his dad, an old school friend of mine, her husband and their rugby mad son to Murrayfield to watch Scotland (still in contention for second) play Italy (still in contention for their first win of the tournament). Sadly for both teams neither was to be. In not great conditions for precision rugby Scotland ran in four tries for a 29-0 victory. This somewhat flattered us as the Italian kicker missed three straightforward kicks at goal and then gave up prompting a ten minute passage of Italy kicking for the corner and having their driving maul not work. So of Scotland's kicking out of hand was of questionable quality and value and the crowd got a bit bored, frustrated and restless. I'm not saying the crowd were unhappy but if not exactly disgruntled they were very far from gruntled. They cheered up after a well attended Mexican wave and the bonus point-winning fourth try. I'm told the game looked better on TV than from the North stand.

Fairwell Vern Cotter, but not I hope adieu to Scotland's more attacking, higher quality style of play.

The Captain had a small nap in the backseat of the car on the way home. He'd been very excited about his birthday, often waking during the night for a visit to our bed and was very, very tired. Happy but tired.

I introduced mum to rugby with the second half of the Wales - France match. Explaining the last 20 minutes put me on my metal but I think I managed to convey some of the game and she picked up on the potential moral hazard of the French doctor. As little as can be said about the England - Ireland game the better. Sadly, the chips did not fall where they needed to for Scotland to finish second, or even third and we ended the Six Nations with a muted 4th. I'd have taken that at the begining of the tournament. We must rue the missed opportunity for a fourth try against England.

Sunday arrived. Early. The Captain's party was at 10am in a massive softplay dome. It's the old Leith water park, now converted in to a muti-story climbing frame. It's definately the best in Edinburgh. He and his friends had a grand time. The event was well run by the venue staff and MLW. Everyone had a lovely time. My son has the sweatiest head in his class.

Home for presents, of which there were many. The quality of toys and co is definately higher than it was ten or twenty years ago. The main big present is a PlayStation 4 with Lego Dimensions. I have no idea what to do. Nor does the Captain. It took me hardly any time to set it up but a while for the controllers to charge up. A short play, then out for tea, then home for some more epic Lego adventuring.

All in all in a fine weekend.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have been to the USA. Specifically to Columbus, Ohio on a week long business trip.

It was fine. The necessary business was taken care of as much as it could be. Columubus is a nice town. It's about twice as big as Edinburgh, flat and a little dull but perfectly pleasant. I would not hurry to go there on holiday but if I had to spend a week or two somewhere for work on expeneses there are worse places (Runcorn I am looking at you, but not a starting a fight way).

There are easy flights from Edinburgh to Columbus. The direct service from Edinburgh to Newark and the many connections from Newark make travellilng to the USA from Edinburgh pretty straightforward. I could have done without the 4 hour layover in Newark airport. Long enough to be thoroughly bored not quite long enough to go to New York for a coffee. I read a lot of science fiction.

Security and immigration was very straightforward despite the heightened attention on these matters. It took no longer than usual to pass muster.

There is ample decent beer in Columbus. Truly we live in a golden age of beer. I found that the local bar sold Newcastle Brown (I did not order any, I don't like the stuff). I prefered the Hawaiian lager (I'm very well thank you and thank you for asking.) The pick of the bunch was World of Beer in the university district which has about 40 beers on tap. I had three and watched the sunset from beside the firepit in the beer garden.

My hotel was near the Ohio State University campus. The OSU "Buckeye's" stadium is huge. 110,000 capacity. Took me half an hour to walk round. Quite handsome looking, modelled on the Flavian Amphitheatre and the Parthenon.

I also found a Spurs supporters bar. I was in there with a colleague. He's buying the beer. I'm looking round. Spot a Spurs scarf. Then another, then a third. There's a wall of them. Several flags. Collect drink from the barman.

"Why do you have so many Tottenham scarves?"

*sigh*

"We're a Spurs bar?"

"Really!?! That's nice."

"Not really, I'm a Gooner."

aside to my colleague "When you're a Gooner working behind the bar in a Spurs pub it's time to reconsider your life choices."

Anyway, nice beer.

Home on Friday morning. Spent the day napping and hanging out with The Captain and one of the Cousin Uncles. There was judo.

Then beers and dinner with visitors who had come to see N and her companions. Illegal Jacks had haggis quesades and beer. That is all you need to know.

Saturday involved a trip to Murrayfield to watch a surprisingly good Scotland win handsomely in the end over a less than convincing Wales. 29-13 if I recall correctly. The usual high seats in North 4. Grand views but b'gad make sure you've been to the loo and the bar (in that order) before you take your seat.

(I watched the England Italy game on Sunday. I'm not laughing honestly. Not even a little bit.)

I am not now predicting a win against England but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. In any event, it's nice to be three games in and still in the hunt for the Six Nations and the Triple Crown. Uncle Vern we shall miss you up in North 4.

Saturday night involved a trip to my local craft beer pub, Cloisters, where the Cousin Uncle secured a table. Yes, a table in Cloisters on a Six Nations match day. Yes, I was surprised too. He even got enough seats for everyone. Admittedly he juggled a pint of beer on top of the table and that didn't end well for the beer but sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. We then dined splendedly in a Greek restaurant next door. The backlava was particularly delicious.

The evening was rounded off with a dram of my new, duty free, Ron Zapaca solero rum. Lovely.

Sunday, lunch with dad and the aformentioned rugby in the afternoon.

In the morning the major business of the weekend, the Captain's first competative rugby match. He and I took the bus to Dalkeith to play a round robin mini tournament for Bororoughmuir against Dalkeith and Falkirk. He had a grand time and scored four tries including one rather fierce one diving over the line. He was playing at about 80% for the first few games and then got injured. Several kids fell over each other and one of them bashed his teeth of the Captain's leg. He was in tears but once the shock had worn off he was on fire. Four consecutive tags in one passage of play, left wing, right wing, left wing, right wing with no one else involved set the tone for the next half of the morning. He might turn out to be rather good at the game. A well received sausage roll and a lift to Grandad's for lunch rounded off the morning's sport.

I was delighted to spend the morning with him and very pleased to see him play so well.

All in all a good weeked after a decent trip away. I'm a little tired. I shall look forward to an early night tonight.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have a new mattress. It is wonderful.

The old mattress was perhaps 20 years old. It predated me moving in with MLW by some years and we've been married for 11 years. It was knackered and sagging and worn out and very, very uncomfortable. I had not properly recognised how uncomfortable it had become. What I realise now is that for the last 18 months or so I've basically been clinging to the side of the mattress to stop myself rolling in to the middle. Not so much clinging as having to hold myself rigid and brace myself.

No wonder I've been feeling so sleepy recently. (Still need to go to the GP about that.)

Inertia and a sort of creeping failure in service had kept us from buying a new mattress.

The new mattress is one of the famous Premier Inn mattresses which you can now buy.

http://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/why/sleep/buy-our-bed.html

I've been staying at Premier Inns at least once a month for about a decade and half now. I've never found their beds anything other than really, really comfortable. So an easy choice to make. After a few night's experience definately the right choice. I can already feel myself more rested than I've felt in months.
I even enjoyed having the mattress delivered.

I've put a reminder in my diary to buy a new mattress in ten year's time. I love my new mattress and would want to part on good terms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I am watching more television than I usually do. A combination of feeling a bit tired and having access to some new television. I've recently started reading again (thank you Mary Beard scourge of the Daily Mail and defender of the Roman Patriachy). Before I forget here are some of the things I've watched and what I thought about them. There may be spoilers for Agent Carter, Accension, Designated Survivor, Firefly.
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Here are some economic trends I think are important.

Globalisation -

a) ability of goods and services, capital and people to move anywhere in the world

b) technology transfers from rich countries to poor countries that allow firms in poor countries to mass produce products for sale to rich countries or each other

Automation

the ability of machines to perform tasks with out human control or physical effort - ranging from simple automated production processes through to more complex processes requiring manipulation and processing of data during the production process in order to produce a final good or service

Betterment

The ability of an automated process to have access to the best control systems, the best information, the best expert system or the best design of outputs through the use of non-rivalous software.

Western Productivity

The slow and slowing growth in how much valuable work people can do in rich parts of the world.

Aging

The average age is increasing almost everywhere. In poor countries this is largely because children are living in to adulthood more often. In rich countries it is because adults are becoming old more ofren. Everywhere the demographic pyramid is becoming more of column with equal numbers of people in each age band.

Enrichment

The poor are becoming less poor. Global Income Inequality is falling. Many poor countries are getting richer and many, many poor people in poor countries are getting richer. By 2030 there will probably be as many people in China who earn more than the average European wage than there are people in Europe.

Energy Prices

A world with abundent, cheap, clean energy is a very different world to one with shortages of energy and energy that is expensive or polluting. Personally I think we're about to enter a long period of steady reductions in energy prices and steady improvements in the amount of energy available and the cleanliness of that energy but I could be wrong.

Climate Change

We're already released so much carbon dioxide in to the atmospher that we are already going to have significant climate change. Change presents opportunities and challenges but I think globally rather more challenges than opportunities come from climate change.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Some quick throughts on Trumps first 100 days proposals. He should strike fast before House Republicans remember that they hate him.

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/09/501451368/here-is-what-donald-trump-wants-to-do-in-his-first-100-days

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For those of you watching in black and white the pound is now at its lowest level against the US dollar in 31 years, trading this morning at $1.2757.

That's below the value it touched just after the EU Referendum result.

This isn't a result of Brexit. This is a result of us *talking* about Brexit. My guess, for what its worth, is that if we ever get round to actual Brexit we'll see the pound worth more or less one US dollar. Its high over the last twelve months was 1.55. Dollar parity would see the pound worth 2/3rds of its value a year ago.

You'll start to see this in inflation figures over the next few months. The next Bank of England quarterly inflation report is due on the 3rd of November and this will be the first one where the whole period is after the referendum and the fall in value of the pound. Anything that is imported, anything where large parts of the components are traded in dollars and anything involving lots of oil will get more expensive.

The FTSE 100 share index, made up of large multi-national firms, so not really a great measure of the UK economy, rises to a near record 7,000 points. It is traded in pounds. In dollars, it's down 2% this year. Basically people with dollars are taking their valuable dollars and buying cheap pounds to buy shares in FTSE 100 companies at a bargain. Apply the same logic to other UK stock indices.

If you are able to negotiate yourself a payrise now might be the time to start. Or if you're a pensioner with a triple locked pension and investments in the FTSE 100 sit back and crack open a bottle of English sparkling wine.
 
 
 
 
 
 
This post was written before this weekend but not posted as I've been away from keyboard.

Autum is upon on and in time honoured tradition it is time for my much loved Strictly Come Dancing blog - the blog where psephology dress in tails and forecasting executes a slow Samba role. After an initial "But who are these people?" unpromising start the inclusion of Ed "Glitter" Balls and a record breaking opening week mean that Strictly this year is shaping up to be classic.

Usually I like to do my first predictions before the first week of the dancing and then revise them after I've seen them dance but a genuine lack of knowledge about some of the contestants and my deep imperative to comment on the Labour Leadership election between two obscure backbenchers no one had ever before meant that I didn't.

This is the first year in which the first round of scoring has seen no couple score less then 20. Initial quality of dancing has been high and pretty even. I think this year's competition will be much more open than previous years.

Anastacia and Brendan

Anastacia is genuinely a global superstar, if you live in the 2000's and listen to a different genre of music from me. She'll be pushed by the ever competative Brendan "Hot" Coles. Her Cha-cha-cha was well received with 28 points putting her in 5th place on the leaderboard. Does she have the combination of stunning dance moves and heavy weight lovability to get to the final. I think not - she'll fight through to the closing stages but will be eliminated before the final.

Claudia "Just Dance" Frangapane, is the smallest and youngest and most gymnastic of the this year's contestants and the most reminiscent of Chelsee Heeley. She is paired with new dancer AJ Pritchard. Rightly marked down by Head Judge Len for her unwarranted gymnastic interludes she managed a creditable 8th. It's difficult to comment on the abilities her partner brings to the show but my general rule in Strictly is don't bet heavily against Olypians. They are popular with the public, know how to train and have a determination to win. Unless they are Victoria Pendleton, in which case no one loves them. Difficult also to judge the dancing her in amongst the gymnastics. My big note on the evening was that she'd telegraphed one of her tricks very clearly. I'm going to reserve judgement but my gut says, if she can dance a Cha-cha-cha she wouldn't be tumbling.

Daisy "Daisy" Lowe is a model which to be honest isn't a field I've taken much interest in since the heternomative culture of the 1990's told me I should fancy Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. She's paired with Aljaz Skorjanec, a former winner and a dancer and choreographer I really rate. She topped the leader board with 32 points after a delightful waltz. Before seeing her dance I wouldn't have expected her to make the final. My view is that models aren't all that popular with the voting public. But someone who can dance as well as Daisy has surely got to be in the final. I don't think she'll win but she's my first finalist.

Danny "Flasher" Mac. When I first saw Danny Mac I had an instinctive, irrational dislike of him. Finding out that we was an appearer on Holyoaks only made my dislike of him instictive and rational. Discovering that women of my acquaintance were public prepared to admit to finding him sexually desirable, well, let's just say no one came out of that well. Danny has Oti as a pro-dancer. I like Oti, I think she has potential as a dancer. Their score of 31 for a rather loose limbed cha-cha-cha was flattering but put them in to second on the leader board. Let's see how he does with something that requires him not to smarm. He ought to be a contender for the final with a score of 31 but I don't like him even if he is good so I'm going to put him down to go out a few rounds before the final.

Ed "Glitter" Balls is paired with Katya Jones one of a number of new professional dancers this year. I love him. I salute him. Ed Balls. But he's out of place. By far the worst dancer over the weekend he finished bottom of the leader board on 21. Ed Balls. Difficult to see him lasting beyond the first dance off I suspect we'll next hear of Yvette Cooper's husband when he returns from the wilderness to lead Labour to a stunning election victory in the second general election of 2020.

Natalie Lowe this year is paired with famed ginger jumper Greg "the Ginger Jumper" Rutherford. Despite early problems getting his legs to move slowly and not in a straight line Greg managged a creditable 27 points putting him in 6th place. One again, through a double whammy of being an Olympic athelete and not Victoria Pendleton the Ginger Jumper's staying power should not be underestimated. Easily a contender for the semi-final.

Judge "Judge Not Lest You Be Judged" Rinder. Flamboyant does not do justice to Judge Rinder's Cha-cha-cha. Strangely persuasive also doesn't do justice to his cha-cha-cha. 25 points and joint 10th place with Laura Witmore probably does do justice to his cha-cha-cha. Charisma, entertainment, energy and a celebrity appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch about the time the trailers for Sherlock start appearing will keep him in till the half way mark. After that, he'll be up against good dancers in the dance off. I have to fully own that I do not warm to Oksana for reasons I can not put my finger on.

Laure Witmore. I have never heard of her until Strictly. 10th on 25 points was probably a fair return to opening efforts on Saturday night. Paired with another of the new pro-dancers. I don't see Witmore doing better than mid-table mediocrity.

Lesley "Delorian" Joseph, in the able and long suffering hands of last year's 4th placed Anton de Beke gave a surprisingly moving waltz which I thought was a touch undermarked at 23 and second from bottom. Likely to make it through a few weeks on the basis of being surprisingly not awful.

Louise Redknapp was the whirlwind crush of my generation, the pin up of the early 90's before the Spice Girls and All Saints. Musical and popular and charming she's paired with perhaps the best professional dancer in terms of choreography. I'm not sure she'll win but I'm sure she'll be in the final.

I like Janette Manrarra - she's a another of the professional dancers who takes a three dimensional approach to teaching, and performing with her celebrity. Melvin seems like a jolly chap but I don't think he has the natural affinity for dance that is needed to get much beyond the half way mark.

I quite like Naga Munchetty as a news anchor but she's a bit awkward. A competent opening dance saw her comfortably off the bottom of the leaderboard. Pasha Kovalev has a decent track record of getting his celebrity partners through the rounds but I don't think he's every really gotten someone several weeks futher then they ought to have gone, or done something that changes the game. He's solid but not spectacular as a partner. I predict an earlyish exit once the definate no hopers have been cleared out.

Ore Oduba, of whom I had not heard, was the surprise delight of Saturday night. A good dancer with some charisma I loved his first dance. I immediately thought he'd make it to the final.

Tameka Empson fills the roll of Surprisingly Good at Dancing for a Large Lady this series. Eastenders usually gives someone a good voting base. Anyone who can "surprise" the audience by being a competent dancer whilst overweight and cheerful can coast in to the second half of the series. For a value of coast that involves working really, really hard to get fitter and dance better and remain cheerful.

Will Young and Karen Clifton. If Will Young doesn't win then I will be very surprised. Musical theatre veteran Will is paired up with one of the better professional dancers to form the second power couple of Series 14. He comes with his own fan base. One that I think largely crosses over with Strictly's fan base. Karen has steered some less then awesome dancers to a decent places. Now she's paired up with someone who can actually dance in his own right I expect Will will be straight through to the final and is my pick to win.

So, my predictions for finalists, Will Young, Louise Redknapp, Ore Oduba, Daisy Lowe and Greg Rutherford. I think Will Young will win.

First out, sadly I predict Ed Glitter Balls will be first out.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have been surprised by energy things over the last week.

Firstly, I'm surprised that OPEC appears to be getting its act together to control supply and therefore increase prices.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37502538

I'd largely decided that either (or both) the Saudi's had lost control of the price setting process within OPEC or they were trying something that would take a few more years to either work or not.

The agreed cuts in production are relatively small, and come at a time of fallling demand for oil. Oil, despite increasing sharply in price today is still around the $50 a barrel level. Less than half the $110 barrel recent peak. We've also yet to see if the dirty work of allocating the cuts in production amongst members will happen.

I don't think this changes my general assumption that oil and gas will remain significantly lower than recent highs for at least a few years because OPEC are unable or unwilling to drive up the price significantly. But that assumption is now on the watch list.

Secondly, I've been surprised by how quickly solar generated electricity costs are falling. Record low prices in the Middle East of $23 per MWH or £18 (compared to £50 $65 in the UK at the moment or £100 $130 for Hinkley Point C.

http://blogs.platts.com/2016/09/27/solar-prices-point-to-middle-east-future/

http://rameznaam.com/2016/09/21/new-record-low-solar-price-in-abu-dhabi-costs-plunging-faster-than-expected/

At $23 per MWH solar electricity is cheaper than the gas you would burn in CCGT to generate the same volume of electricity. Which leaves a lot of value left over to build complementary infrastructure like High Voltage DC transmission cables, or storage. It also makes places like the Middle East pretty attractive for high energy intense industries.

This doesn't appear to be a trend only in the Middle East. Latin America (also close to the equator) has seen sharply falling solar prices.

I'm not sure what's driving this. My guess is that solar generation balance of plant costs are falling but I'm not sure why.

My current assumption for solar electricity is that I expected the costs to fall by 1-2% year on year for a decade or two leading to cost parity with other grid sources in good locations over the decade 2020-2030. Looks like I might have to keep an eye on this assumption too. I think there is a virtuous circle operating in solar generation where learning curve effects and economies of scale make marginal production cheaper as total production increases so it could be that solar generation is about to fall more steeply in price than I anticipated.

Thirdly, I'm surprised to discover I might be making a small personal investment in some solar panels of my own so I need to go an remind myself how the Feed-In Tarrifs work.

My assumption had been that as I lived in a ground floor flat in Victorian tenament building in Edinburgh my own personal experience of renewable generation would be limited. Again, one to watch.

So, it's been a surprising week in energy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
My Lovely Wife has been away in Holland on a singing holiday. The Captain and I were left to our own devices for the week. MLW left on Monday morning. We continued to have visitors. BB and one of the Captain's grown up cousins were staying. BB took the Captain to school on Monday and Tuesday and collected him on Tuesday. We headed round to my dad's for tea on Monday after he had picked up the Captain. Sunday saw BB and my nephew going to see a rather good comedy magician called Pete Firmin. He for some reason reminded me of George Formby. Or at least how I imagine George Formby would have been. Had he been a comedy magician. He was entertaining.

We also went to see Chris Turner, a cousin on the other side of the Captain's cousin. As Robin Williams might have put it O Cousin of My Cousin.

http://www.christurnercomedy.com/about/

Chris is a philosphical stand up and freestyle rapper. He makes me think and his show is multi layered and many textured. It also had a picture of the Captain's cousins in the bath.

On Wednesday I went out for dinner with my dad and his oldest friend. Couple of beers in Summerhall then grilled meaty delights in Hanedan's. Good to see my dad's mate.

Grown up cousin left on Tuesday. BB left on Wednesday.

I had many early nights and did about a dozen loads of washing and cleaned the bathroom. The Captain and I went for a ride on our new tag-a-long tandem. It works but it will take some getting used to.

University update - BB has a place at university. Not her first choice despite getting an A* in the subject she's planning to study. Hey ho. She'll enjoy where she's going.

I was very impressed by how quickly and forcefully she reacted to not getting her first choice. It took her less than two hours to sort out a place following what I know would have been a great disappointment to her. When it mattered she executed. I'm very proud of her for all the hard work she's put in and very pleased that it has worked out well in the end.

I watched Deadpool last night whilst MLW was out at choir. It was perfectly acceptable. The actiony bits were action-packed. The promised levels of sarcastic witty banter were wittily sarcastic. The darker tinged plot was tinged a touch darker than I might have expected from a superhero movie. It had a begining, a middle and an end and competently started in the middle, moved to the begining and worked up to the end. I quite enjoyed it.

I feel like I might have missed something. I'm not a comic book fan or a fan of superhero fiction so I'm probably not seeing amusing subversions of the genre or I'm underestimating the appeal of a character I'd not heard of till I saw him on the side of a bus. I fully accept that I may not be the target audience for the film. It provided a good level of diversion and entertainment after a long week Captain Wrangling