Family Tabitha Travel

Suddenly, Mongolia is interesting

You know what it’s like.

You’ve not seen one far-away country, you’ve not seen them all. Although they all conjure up different thoughts and conceptions, they all fall into the class of “remote and not really relevant” (if we are to be judged by our actions, that is).

Until there is some real connection.

Now, for me, I have a connection with Mongolia. Some of my genes are wandering around out there – and suddenly it’s a real, vibrant place full of wonderful people.

Even though the capital (…. go on, have a go… what IS it? Hint: five a’s) is – apparently, a dump.

My eldest daughter’s travel blog explains my connection.

Worth connecting to, I’d say.

Books Mind

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

Another book on my Amazon WishList – The Optimism Bias by Tari Sharot.

It seems that we are hard-wired to look “on the bright side of life” – even when evidence suggest life is a lot darker.

From a Guardian review of the book:

“People hugely underestimate their chances of getting divorced, losing their job or being diagnosed with cancer; expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted; envision themselves achieving more than their peers; and overestimate their likely life span (sometimes by 20 years or more).”

Read the extract by Tali Sharot in the Guardian article, which ends with this

“Why would our brains be wired in this way? It is tempting to speculate that optimism was selected by evolution precisely because, on balance, positive expectations enhance the odds of survival. Research findings that optimists live longer and are healthier, plus the fact that most humans display optimistic biases – and emerging data that optimism is linked to specific genes – all strongly support this hypothesis. Yet optimism is also irrational and can lead to unwanted outcomes. The question then is, How can we remain hopeful – benefiting from the fruits of optimism – while at the same time guarding ourselves from its pitfalls?”

“I believe knowledge is key. We are not born with an innate understanding of our biases. The brain’s illusions have to be identified by careful scientific observation and controlled experiments and then communicated to the rest of us. Once we are made aware of our optimistic illusions, we can act to protect ourselves. The good news is that awareness rarely shatters the illusion. The glass remains half full. It is possible, then, to strike a balance, to believe we will stay healthy, but get medical insurance anyway; to be certain the sun will shine, but grab an umbrella on our way out — just in case.”

Alternative Money Uncategorized

Running the UK is a sideline

I have been continuing my studies into how money works – inspired by the excellent folk at

This has led me to the High Wycombe MP – Steve Barker – who is a director of the Cobden Centre and a thinker of some depth.

In turn, he led me to the Institute of Economic Affairs and Nick Silver, who wrote a shocking and sobering report in 2008 – A Bankruptcy Foretold – about the real size of UK  debt – when you account for pension (and other) liabilities in the way you would for a company.

With the latest figures, UK government debt is not £772 billion (54% of GDP) but £4.8 trillion (333% of GDP).

The figures quantify the situation, but what moved me most was his succinct summing up when he had to update the figure to £6.5 trillion:

Looked at this way, the UK is effectively an enormous unfunded and effectively bankrupt pension scheme, with a large speculative holding in some banks and a sideline in running a small island state off the northern coast of France.

I wonder – is it better to continue with the perverse (but accepted for countries) accounting policy that ignores pension liabilities, or face the reality that the UK – if it were a company – would be bankrupt?

Would that acceptance change our responses to anything – in particular, the spending cuts?

Somehow, I doubt it.

General Mumblings

The first post of a new blog

What do you say in the first post of a new blog?

As a minimum, I feel compelled to offer some sort of justification (to myself, at least) for setting it up in the first place: otherwise I may feel I’ve squandered the best part of the last day of 2011.

I have other blogs that cover my professional (= money-earning) interests, but as I’ve got older, I’ve become increasingly opinionated – or “grumpy” as some would have it. Also, more contemplative and questioning. Perhaps also more inquisitive about more topics.

And since thoughts generally remain incompletely formed until written down – I conclude that I created this blog partly to vent my grumpiness, but mostly to help me figure out what I think.

And I hadn’t figured that out, until I wrote that last paragraph – so it seems to be working already.