Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Joke

I heard this joke in the pub on Saturday. It has got a mixed reception from the usual audience (teenagers).

A man is driving down the motorway when his car conks out. He pulls onto the hard shoulder and calls the AA. Unfortunately there are a lot of stranded motorists so it will be at least 3 hours until someone can get out to help him. The man tries to flag down several cars, and eventually one stops. He has the following conversation with the driver:

"Hi mate. can you do me a favour. My car's broken down and the AA can't get to me for three hours. The thing is I've got six monkeys in the back."
"Six monkeys?"
"Yeah. Look could you take the to the zoo for me. I'll give you a hundred quid."

The man thinks about it for a moment then agrees. They load the monkeys into the back of the car and he drives off.

The driver sits back to wait for the next couple of hours. Then he sees the car approaching in the opposite carriageway, still with six monkeys in the back. he's furious. He leaps out of his car, dashes across the motorway, vaults the central barrier and flags down the car again.

"What do you think you're doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"I gave you a hundred quid to take these monkeys to the zoo!"
"I did. We had a great time, and we've got thirty quid left so we're going to the pictures."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Conversation Of The Day

Pupil S: Sir, who's the better singer - Stephen Gately (RIP) or Justin Bieber?
Me: Gately.
Pupil S: Yay!
Pupil E: Boo.
Me: Of course Bieber's only 16[1] so he may improve yet.
Pupil S: Boo!
Pupil E: Yay!
Pupil S: His voice hasn't even broken yet.

I'd be happier about being down with the kids if it weren't for the fact that it seems to be more about me having an encyclopedic knowledge of various boyband/teen heartthrobs currently discussed in Year 8.

Also if you're ever in a minibus filled with 12 year old girls, try and avoid radio stations which mention Justin Bieber as having a high pitched chorus of "Justin Bieber! Justin Bieber!" is not a pleasant way to start the day.

[1] I nearly said "Of course Bieber's still alive, which gives him an advantage," but saying this to a 13 year old girl wearing a "Stephen Gately 1976-2009" bracelet is a little untactful.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Cook Food: Spicy Pot Roast Pheasant

So I discovered the parents defrosting a pheasant; a pheasant that had been labelled "POT", indicating that due to age condition and (presumed) toughness it should be used in a casserole, or, perhaps, be pot roasted.

"Would you like to pot roast it?" asks my Mum, knowing that I have pot roasting form.
"Sure," says I.
"You could use up that chili while you're at it," my Dad suggests.
"...and maybe finish up this open tin of coconut milk, and some of this ginger," I say poking my head in the fridge.
"Would some sort of curry work better?" asks Mum.
"No; spicy pot roast is the dish I was born to make," I said. And so:

Spicy Pot Roast Pheasant (serves 3)

1 medium-sized pheasant
1 piece of ginger as big as my thumb, peeled and sliced
1 red chili
half a tin of coconut milk
Some Thai 7 spice powder
4 potatoes sliced
2 onions roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic cut into 3
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 stalk celery roughly chopped
half a chicken stock cube
some butter
some vegetable oil

Season the bird with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 190C. Heat a knob of butter and some oil in a casserole. Brown the pheasant on all sides. Take the pheasant out and put it to one side.

Throw the chili, garlic and onion into the casserole and sprinkle with Thai spice powder. Cook until the onion starts to soften, then add the celery and carrot and sweat for a bit longer. Introduce the potato slices to the vegetable mixture[1], stir, then add stock cube, coconut milk and water to not quite cover the vegetables. Put the bird on top, cover and put in the oven for about an hour.

Check the pheasant is cooked. Pull it out, carve it up, then serve with the big pot of vegetables.

[1] "Potatoes, this is the spicy vegetable mixture. Spicy vegetables, these are the potato slices. Fire in the hole!" [Dives for cover]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Public Debt 1

Strangely all the main parties agree[1] that the national debt is too big. But why is that? Why is the country borrowing money? Can't they balance their budget like a normal person me?

In case anyone is unclear, here is my idiot's[2] guide to public debt.

1. No one can borrow money more cheaply than the government.

This is almost[3] always true; governments of developed countries don't default on their debts, so there is no risk attached, making it easy for them to borrow money. If you or I borrow money from the bank we have to pay more to cover the chance of us failing to repay the money (or, to put it another way, we have to pay for everyone who fails to repay their loans (bad debts)).

2. The money borrowed is spent which helps to grow the economy.

The money borrowed gets spent on goods and services, employing people, who buy goods and services etc. etc. Gordon Brown, who has some knowledge of macroeconomic policy, set guidelines (which he did not always follow) that debt should only be increased to pay for capital projects, not for ongoing costs, salaries and maintenance etc. This ought to maximise the economic growth of the deficit spending as it would all go to pay for (for example) new roads, new hospitals, new computer systems, which would provide infrastructure for other economic activity.

3. The economy has grown since we borrowed the money, so it's cheaper to repay it.

As a thought experiment, if the size of the economy was £100 Million and I need to spend £20 Million, I'm going to need a 20% tax rate on everything. If I borrow the £20 Million at 5% interest, then at the end of the period I need to repay £21 Million. If the economy has grown by 6% to £106 Million in the meantime I need a tax rate of 21/106 = 19.8%. Obviously this requires a growing economy.

Anyway, that's the theory of public debt simplified to the point where it's slightly more true than not. If John Maynard Keynes were here today, he'd probably slap me for my generalisations (presumably after he'd told off the people who think Milton Keynes is named after him).

Next time[4], how the debt got so big.

[1] I say strangely, but there are many many such agreements - crime bad, employment good etc. And they all want to win lots of seats!
[2] The idiot is, of course, me as I attempt to explain some subtle and complex Keynesian economic theory in three bullet points, hopefully before both my readers fall asleep.
[3] People have been known to borrow small amounts of money from me at 0% interest. If you need £20 for a taxi or to cover the bill for a curry this is fine, but I'm not likely to lend you £100 000 000 for 10 years for a capital project. At least not at that rate.
[4] Based on my usual blogging schedule this will probably be during the next recession.