We are living in anomalous times

Growth of GDP per capita in the USA 1300 – 2100
The graph above comes from Is US economic growth over? Faltering innovation confronts the six headwinds by Robert J Gordon. He points out that growth of GDP in the UK between 1300 and 1750 was extremely low, and the growth since then (measured using the USA’s figures) (the start of the industrial revolution) is probably a blip in the curve, which is already dropping back to the “norm” again.

Gordon sees three waves of innovation which fuelled the growth:

  1. Steam and railroads (from 1750 to 1830)
  2. Electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals and petroleum (from 1870 to 1900)
  3. Computers, the web, and mobile phones (from 1960 to the present)

He thinks growth in GDP will return to pre 1800 levels unless we discover a new technology or resource to enable us to continue the rapid growth of the last 250 years.

It costs $5 to download the paper, or you can see a summary of it here.

Thanks, Iberfone!

Helpful e-mail from Iberfone

I just wrote a message to our telecom provider in Spain to tell them that we have changed our bank account. This is their reply. You wouldn’t believe it was sent by a company specialised in providing internet and telecom services would you? It isn’t even valid HTML.

They probably need to hire a smart 12-year old to sort out their e-mail encoding…

Split personality?

Above the Spanish Mediterranean coast
The photo was taken on a flight from Germany to Spain at the end of last week. We’d previously been to our local government offices in Kronberg to collect our certificates of German nationality. Ruth and I are now dual-nationality: German and British. Normally, if you apply for German nationality, you have to give up your previous nationality, but they make an exception for citizens having nationality from another EU state. At the moment, anyway.

The woman who gave us our certificates told us they had had a letter recently stating that in future they may be asked to retain British passports (specifically “British” – no mention of other nationalities). She didn’t know why; maybe concerns about the possibility of the Brits holding a referendum in future about staying in the EU? Thats just my speculation, don’t read too much into that. Anyway, she told us that as our application had already been processed when she received the letter, she was not going to keep our passports. Just as well, as we have flights booked with Ryanair shortly, and Ryanair requires a passport if you want to board their aircraft!

We have to go back to the government offices in Kronberg in a few weeks time to collect our new passports and ID cards. The Brits are quite anti-ID-card, but I think they are a great idea. In both Germany and Spain you are supposed to carry a passport or ID card all the times, and a credit-card sized ID is much easier to keep with you than a passport.

We need recipes for tomatoes!

In the spring, we bought 6 small tomato plants, and a similar number of green peppers and aubergines.

We have been surprised how many tomatoes (in particular) our little raised garden has produced. It’s only 4 m² in area. All the plants have done well, but the tomatoes have done much better than we expected – on the basis of this year’s experience, we need to stake them better, and probably 4 plants would keep us in tomatoes all summer. And fresh homegrown tomatoes really do taste better the freshest ones from the supermarket!

Nicola and Joe’s Wedding

This post is a bit late – the wedding was last weekend, near Keynsham (Between Bristol and Bath in the UK).

We weren’t the only ones coming from abroad – guests arrived from as far away as New Zealand and Australia. We were very lucky with the weather, as they had a picnic after the ceremony, and the weather was hot and sunny – just the day before it had been raining.

A great time was had by everyone: the picnic was fun, the food was great and so was the company!

Surprise, surprise: BMWs are unreliable

The British consumer magazine “Which” has just published a report showing that two different BMW models are the most unreliable and the third most unreliable models on the road in the UK.

This isn’t really a surprise. In Germany the brand enjoys better reliability statistics, but BMW runs a fleet of “Service Cars” there (and in Austria). A BMW owner in those countries gets free roadside assistance from the silver and white striped BMW estate cars 24 hours a day, every day of the year. (Follow the link in the previous sentence to see a picture of a service car).

Of course, the BMWs serviced by BMW’s Service fleet don’t get counted in the official ADAC (automobile club) break-down statistics, so the reliability looks a lot better. Perhaps someone at BMW Germany needs to give their British colleagues a word in their ear? Of course, it don’t affect how reliable the cars really are, just the statistics.

It’s interesting, BMW has operated the Service cars for many years, so presumably it is cheaper to run a team of mechanics on 24 hour standby and fix the break-downs than to build higher quality cars in the first place.

Never trust a statistic that you haven’t manipulated yourself…

Gun rights in the USA

The cultures of the USA and Europe have moved apart over the last 2 or 3 decades. Europe is more or less dominated by far-left political views, almost communist, if you listen to many Americans.

While in Europe, most people find the American belief in the unalienable right of its citizens to bear guns increasingly difficult to understand, given the public massacres that have occurred there in recent years. (Not that Europe is immune from massacres, even though it has more restrictive gun laws)

The Economist has an interesting short article on the origins of “rights” and on the US attitude to gun laws:

PEOPLE’S ideas often don’t make any sense when you try to hold them together in your head simultaneously, as Richard Rorty, Daniel Kahneman or Desiderius Erasmus will be happy to tell you.

One of the areas in which people tend to have ideas that don’t make sense, when you hold them together in your head simultaneously, is that of rights. For example, many Americans believe that our rights derive from God or from the very nature of being human. As Paul Ryan put it in a discussion of Obamacare this month, folks of his political persuasion don’t believe that the people have the power to make up new rights; rights come from God and nature.

These same Americans also generally believe that our rights are those delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution, including a non-infringeable individual right to bear arms. And yet, clearly, people in most law-governed democracies other than the United States, countries like Britain, Canada, France, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan, do not have an individual right to bear arms.

How, then, can the right to bear arms as enshrined in the constitution derive from God, or from the very nature of being human? …

New venetian blinds

We knew that in the summer we’d need to keep the direct sun out of the bedrooms. We’ve already had temperatures of 40°C and humidity of over 80% while we were here in July. That humidity was very high, even for here. Normally it’s more often in the range of 40% – 60% at this time of year.

The sun shines into the main bedroom in the morning, and moves round to the guest room in the afternoon and evening. But finding blinds that went well with the style of the house wasn’t easy. In the end Enrique and Antonio found a company near Valencia, more or less round the corner from the Ford factory in Almussafes, (Fustablinds), who make traditional wooden venetian blinds in various colours.

We chose a natural finish which matched the underside of the roof, and the blinds arrived last week. We are very pleased with blinds. We have also been impressed with both the quality of the workmanship from Fustablinds, and their attention to customer satisfaction.

Recommended if you need traditional wooden blinds!