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w/e 2019-08-04

This week I have mostly been listening to Fresh’s album Withdraw. Here’s Nervous Energy from it:

The start of the week was in the shadow of post-Indietracks clouds. Coming home from any holiday is a bit of a downer but when you’ve been surrounded by nice people and good music then the return to London’s a bit… ugh.

I read one nice review of Indietracks that described it as “a model for a better society,” which is a lovely thought but isn’t realistic. Indietracks, or any music festival, is no more a workable model of a society than, say, Burning Man. It’s not surprising that a place full of fairly homogenous people, on holiday and away from the problems of the real world, feels like a utopia but, like all utopias, it’s not realistic.

I guess one focuses on the ways in which such a place is better than the real world: it felt like gender, sexual orientation, and/or how you choose to dress weren’t issues. Be who you are! It’s fine! (I’d like to say race wasn’t an issue, and I’d like to think it wouldn’t be, but Indietracks was, on the whole, very white.) That’s all great, and made it a lovely place. But it was also a lovely place because it didn’t have to deal with inequality, work, education, illness, ageing, most money issues, most family responsibilities, traffic, psychopathic power-hungry clowns, democracy, planning, sustainability, the future…

It was a lovely little place full of middle-class-ish, left-leaning-ish, easy-going, sensitive people sharing a love of guitar-based pop played by underdogs, who could temporarily ignore many of the real world’s problems. Which is fine.

Anyway. I had some time to catch up on various piles of admin this week, which was (in the end) a relief. I generally think I’m always on top of things but stuff slowly, slowly accretes until I realise I’m a little more anxious than I’d expect and I need to fight the piles — physical and digital — into submission.

I also had time to make some changes to django-spectator that allow me to add images of book covers to this site. So far I’ve only added a handful of images, e.g. on this year’s list of reading. Like so much of this site this is mainly for my benefit: seeing the book covers will give a much better feel of a year’s worth of reading than the titles alone.

I thought about grabbing the already-existing images off Amazon or wherever, which would look clearer, and be quicker, but these books are objects — I’m still reading paper books most of the time — and so where I can I’ll take photos of my copies of the books. I read this book, not any old instance of this book. It’s a difference worth noting I think.

This week I read Smarter Investing by Tim Hale which must be the most frequently recommended book for people in the UK reading about passive investing. It’s pretty clear, detailed and well-explained, although if your eyes glaze over at the first mention of equities, SIPPs, index funds, etc, then this will only transport you to the land of nod.

This was the third edition. I read the second edition a few years ago and thought a re-read should be of the latest version, but the third edition is already nearly six years old. I haven’t compared the two editions directly, but I think one change is a recommendation to use short-dated bonds as the minimal-risk part of a portfolio. I don’t recall the short-dated emphasis previously. (More about bond funds on Monevator here.)

I expect that by the time I dither for a while, thinking “I’ve been doing it wrong,” and then slowly get round to changing how I do things, then there’ll be a fourth edition with different ideas. This is why sensible people just get something like a single LifeStrategy fund isn’t it.

One aspect of investing that the book barely touches on is what to do when you need the money you’ve been putting away, whether it’s for a retirement income, children’s university fees, or whatever. But I guess the strategies for doing that are a book in themselves.

That’s all. Have a good week. Sing a song, if only to yourself.

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