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The Europe, Australasia and Far East Index is a very old multi-national index (it has been calculated since 1969). It is designed to reflect the performance of 'foreign' stocks from the point of view of an American investor. The nice thing about it is that by combining it with a US only index such as the S&P500 or the Russell Index you can get a measure of the performance of global stock markets.

Even better, since a future on this index is traded, it is possible to get some proxy for the performance of the global equities from positions in only two futures. My own preference is for the S&P500 index, which can be traded in 'mini' form at about $50 a point, so that the margin required can be kept modest.

The EFE index is traded, in principle, around the clock, as is the mini S&P500. However putting in a market order outside regular trading hours in CBOT (CME?) would be a big mistake. It is tricky to trade because there isn't a whole load of liquidity, so stops are difficult to use. Of course this opens up the opportunity for someone with more time on his hands than I have to make some money by providing some liquidity to the market by actively trading this future.

Of course a more liquid exposure to global stock markets could be achieved by taking positions in the major European and Far Eastern indices. Probably it would be sufficient to take a position in something like the STOXX 50, and then the Nikkei and Hang Seng. This would use up a lot more capital though, and would miss out Australasia entirely (adding the ASI to the mix would not be too difficult, I suppose).

I'm very sorry if this is means nothing to you. It is certainly not any kind of investment advice: only you can take a view about going short or long.

Current Mood: tired

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When I did this search for pages containing the phrase second-life, and the words bank and linden
I received over 200,000 hits. Searching the classifieds listings turns up hundreds of advertisements for banks. Interest rates are pretty generous - you can easily get 1.1% a week. Inflation is under control though because SL has it's own ever-vigilant central banker just waiting to take away that punch bowl - check out this article from Reuters.

I had a chat with the CEO and owner of SL Investors Bank, Tyrian Camilo, who has his own blog here
(I guarantee this to be much more lively than any blog of any RL bank president on the planet!). No need to make an appointment with his press office, no need to bluff my way past his PA - I just IM'd him and we were chatting within seconds. We discussed BIS rules, capital tiers, strategy, choice of law, arbitration and mediation, deposit protection, his deposits with the central bank, equity investments. I bet I'd never get such openness from anyone in a RL bank, let alone a CEO/President.  Maybe it's because he was the owner and had no shareholders to worry about. Anyway, he is admirably transparent in his reporting. His holdings are revalued real time. You can see exactly where he is invested here. Don't you think this is really rather cool, or am I just sad?

I guess, apart from the Lindens themselves, those who have made money out of SL are RL journalists who get such a lot of copy. Actually I think the best articles are often from bloggers - this one from Neville Hobson caught my eye as it seemed much better researched than stuff even in grown up mags like the Economist.

Anyway, all this is very interesting, although maybe the authors of www.getafirstlife.com/ do have a point.

Current Mood: curious

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I have always suspected that the key to happiness is self-knowledge. I am hopelessly gauche, awkward with people, interested in things and emotionally illiterate. These days people these kind of characteristics are much better understood, but in mine there was no labelling. Maybe thinks haven't only got better.

As a callow youth I wanted to be a journalist. It's hard when one is young to have an ambition to do a job that one doesn't even know exists. I knew about the educational establishment because I was immersed in it. I knew about journalism because I read it. Not only newspapers, but magazines like New Statesman and Nation, The Spectator and Encounter. How little I understood that these were hopelessly uneconomic undertakings.

Nowadays I realise how lucky I was. People won't pay to read the work of journalists. Especially the sort of self-indulgent stuff that I imagined that I would be able to write. Thank goodness for this blog, which allows me to play at journalism without putting my income in danger.

This page on journalist remuneration from Prospects, a website devoted to providing information about graduate careers is fairly shocking. Even the highest salary band mentioned is barely at the level at which an intern to an investment bank is paid. How could anyone armed with this knowledge choose to go into journalism as a career? How could anyone hope to own a modest house on such a salary.

As I have said before, the press is in a spiral of decline because of the migration of job and classified advertising to the web. Once a tipping point is reached nobody will ever go to a newspaper to find a job and the papers will simply close down. Twenty years ago there were half a dozen specialist publications which were supported by advertising for software developers. I am out of that  industry, but I'd be surprised if any of them survive in anything like their previous form. Computer programmers may have been the first to see the advantages of finding their perfect job online, but it can't be long before the rest of the world follow.

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Current Mood: gloomy

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The web is a source of great interest to me. The web is the most important vector of content since the invention of the printing press. It is a truly liberating medium because it is accessible to everyone at no cost.

The raw language of the web is HTML, but even Tim Berners Lee didn't think that people would use the raw format. With Francis I have looked at a lot of candidate systems, but all suffer some fault or other. The system which Francis and I chose, eventually, was Drupal. It is not as functional 'out of the box' as Mambo/Joomla etc. but is ultimately more flexible because of its open architecture that makes it possible for the Drupal community to extend the functionality easily. The magic of the web itself is that it provides some plumbing to connect together sites and pages easily, but minimally restricts what can be put on websites.

Software that encourages independently-produced content must add most value. In a way that's what operating systems have always done, and M$ has done the most, although it looks as though they'll never catch up with linux on the server front, because their attitude to IPR has always stifled innovation in server software. I may use Windows as a client O/S to write this, but it is ending up on a database on a computer that almost certainly doesn't run Windows.

I wonder how Google will tap in to this zeitgeist. It always seems to do the right thing in locking into technology trends. None of its services yet quite measure up.
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This is an excellent gastro-pub. We went there on 13th May, but for reasons of continuity I am posting this entry in the past.

The menu is rather ambitious. There is a multi-choice, fixed price menu which is like a pools entry. You have to perm any one from 1-4 with any one from 5-7 etc.etc. The food is basically Italian with some token traditional English dishes.

I had Umble Ale (see this page from Nethergate Brewery for tasting notes).

I had a very fishy meal, with sardines and mackerel. The latter was cooked pretty well, although really it is pretty easy to cook fish well. Both fishes tasted pretty good.

All in all the service was good, albeit a bit slow on occasions. The place was packed and we were lucky to get a small table in the bar at short notice.
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Childhood is a time of intense experiences. As a child, I travelled by foot, bike and bus. Buses were the most magical forms of transport. Especially travelling at night, with dim yellow lighting, often getting as close to the cab as possible, where the single radiator would radiate some modest heat into the front of the bottom deck.

We travelled around by bus routes. As far as I know we never looked at a map. The total number of destinations were very limited: just the odd locations of Cardiff where relations had dispersed to, none of them very distant. Presumably at one point directions had been given to my mother, bus numbers and the final short journey by foot.

We never used, or knew timetables. We just walked to the bus stop and waited. We never seemed to wait that long. At that time the world going by was enough to keep me occupied until the bus did turn up. As I got a bit older I would travel more on my own, principally by bike. I never went anywhere outside of Cardiff. All of the city is, or at least at that time was, reachable by bike. I suppose that in reality there were plenty of remote parts of Cardiff I never made it to, and in fact will probably never make it to.

Current Mood: chilled

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I've been struggling with Google Adwords for a long time now. My first campaign was started back in 2002, which is surely before even Google got started. But anyway, it was a long time ago.

I have never been convinced that AdWords really delivers any benefit for me, but I am still prepared to pay five pounds a day as an experiment. This is the level of spend I have on the likes of RightMove, and PrimeLocation. 

Part of the problem with Google Adwords is that I never seem to be able to bring up my own sponsored link with even cheap keyword searches. I know that other people are, because Google tells me the number of visits I get. I am sure that Google Analytics tells me exactly what proportion of my referrals comes from Adwords (nil, the last time I looked, but I spruced up my campaign in the hope that I can get more results).

Yesterday 14 people visited the new site via Adwords. I don't know what they made of it. I try to focus on landlords, but they might well just search for the keywords that they think tenants would be using in order to find a property, to see who reaches tenants most effectively. It's all terribly difficult.

I am sure I have posted about this before. If you know where, please send me an email or comment below.

Current Mood: confused

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We are always on the lookout for enjoyable places to eat.

Our favourite is probably the Waggoners at Ayot Green. This is really a fairly serious restaurant with a lot of French staff and produces high quality meals with very good service.

The Wellington Inn at Welwyn has great food, a good atmosphere, friendly but suffers from two faults (i) the service is desperately slow and (ii) one cannot book, except for very large parties (10 or more?). This makes it too unreliable for an important occasion. Even on a Tuesday evening it is full, so it is really the victim of its own success.  All the wines are from a single Australian winery, which is an interesting approach.

The Tilbury at Datchworth serves good, modern 'gastro-pub' food and has a good selection of wines. The service is good, the decor has improved significantly since it was converted from its previous incarnation of a basic rural pub. My opinion is that the food is somewhat overpriced, and not quite as good as the owner thinks, but it is worth a visit.

The George and Dragon at Watton at Stone is an old favourite, frequently busy and does good food, but my feeling is that it has rested on its laurels for too long. Rather old fashioned menu, ISTR, although it is a few years since I went there.

The Three Tuns at Ashwell is an excellent pub serving traditional English Pub Food.

The Bull at Gosmore is a new pub that has come to my attention (a flyer was posted through my letterbox). It looks pretty good from the flyer, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating so I'll have to report back!  

Current Mood: hungry

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This article from the FT explains how large employers such as Tesco manage perfectly well to recruit and retain employees the length and breadth of the country. I always imagined that individual managers had the scope to negotiate individual wage settlements with each employee. In fact this is found to be impractical, and instead each store (or group of stores in a zone) is assigned to a particular band which fixes the salaries of each grade of Tesco employee.

The public sector, because nobody really suffers from chronic problems of recruitment, simply has  a pair of South East weightings, with the rest of the country being on a nationally fixed scale. This means that inner city and difficult schools and hospitals chronically suffer from poor staff retention, and poor-quality staff. Rather than address this as a problem a special category of 'Key Worker' has been created with special deals for mortgage financing and housing association tenancies.

Current Mood: baffled

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My paternal grandfather was called Butt. Stating this fact probably opens me up to having my bank account drained by a hacker and my identity stolen. Ho Hum.

Anyway, I got to wondering about the name Butt. I noticed that Salman Butt, of the Pakistani cricket team shared a name with my mother, which is pretty odd since she there are no obvious subcontinental links in our family tree as far back as the eye can see.

Wikipedia reveals that Butt is a name that means 'priest' and is linked to Bhat or Bhatt and is a Kashmiri family name. I can find some web references to Butts of Shepton Mallet. I am vaguely aware that my grandfather came from Somerset, but I don't even know if Shepton Mallet is actually in Somerset, although surely it is in the West Country.

As someone who grew up in South Wales I could hardly fail to be aware that the word 'butt' is used to mean something like 'mate' in the slang of the region. I could find only one reference to this meaning of the word on yahoo answers. I would never use this in English company as it already has too many confusing meanings.

Why is it that we are asked for our mother's maiden name as part of the 'taking you through security' when phoning one's bank. It is becoming rarer and rarer for women to change their names when they get married, and now as many women have children when they are not married as when they are. The other questions one is asked are date of birth and place of birth, but these are on passports, which are constantly being photocopied as the 'photo-id' that is needed even to hire a power drill these days.

Current Mood: grumpy

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