Greek Fire

So the “right party” wins the election in Greece supporting the bail out.  Good news? No, not really. The ECB and European (aka German) policies on Greece are doomed to fail. I tweeted this morning that all I don’t see any good news, but I can small straws burning. Those are the straws that are being clutched by desperate Euro-area politicians and policy makers.

I here more and more credible stories of major companies sweeping their cash from Greek banks every single night. Regulators are asking for stress tests against any number of catastrophic scenarios that are waiting to happen. If it’s not a dead certainty now, it’s pretty close.

Look at the response of Spanish bond yields to the “good news story”. Those with money know that the UK and the US aren’t going to default any time soon, aren’t going to suffer hyperinflation any time soon and that Spain and Greece are approaching the brink.

Spanish bond yields leave 7% behind them
Spanish bond yields are rising to new highs all the time as the size and extent of the problem in Europe is better appreciated, as the current policies are shown to be failing completely

No gold-standard Austerian, Austrian mania explains any of this.

Hong Kong almost contemplates removing the dollar peg

The previous head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has suggested that HK should consider a different monetary system than the peg to the US Dollar. Most others seem to think it’s a mad or at least premature idea.

What it isn’t is a suggestion to move to a gold standard –  I’m looking forward to hearing John Butler talk soon. I’m reading his book one why and how and when we will all move back to a gold standard. It’s actually not badly written, and his analysis isn’t as frothing-at-the-mouth as some, but he’s still wrong. I hope I get a chance to debate with him at the event.

Systematic risk in insurance

Lots on this topic to come over the next few months.

Life in Hotels: Sandton City Garden Court (June 2012) updated

Now that I’m back spending time in hotels more weeks than not, I thought it might be useful to track and record my experiences.

If you travel to Johannesburg primarily for business, appreciate hassle-free check-in, painless-to-setup and cheap wifi, decent room-service and convenient locations without exorbitant prices, these records may prove useful to you. The prices are as I paid, possibly incorporating some corporate discounts, but I’m sure these are available to other groups.

Two days in the Sandton City Garden Court in June 2012

Price per night  R1044
Convenience / location Right in the middle of Sandton – very convenient
Overall comfort and condition of room Pretty basic with a slightly tired bathroom with a shower over the bath. No major complaints though.
Internet Supplied by WirelessG. Can probably pay online with a credit card, but via the hotel requires a paper voucher to be printed out at the front desk. Painful and a decade out of date. R80 for a day with a 200MB limit. I may have forgotten how expensive internet is in hotels, but this really is disgracefully expensive. This is at least R400 per GB, compared to the < R20 per GB available via home ADSL. The internet itself was pretty flaky, up and down all the time.
Parking arrangements Underground parking, with a charge added to the room of, I think, R40 per night using the room card, which is at least fairly straightforward.
Check-in No queue at the time I arrived, the usual painful forms to fill in, but friendly and courteous staff at the check-in desk.
Room service Haven’t tried it yet, but it only operates till 22:30, which is good for not eating late but really bad if one is hungry late after a late flight.I did eventually try the room service, which was acceptable.
Interviewed a potential team member over breakfast. Not the most impressive environment, but I was brought tea and the food was hot and the service pretty good.
Time to settle bill  Pretty quick, but still seemingly needless amounts of signing of paper and printing and so on. It did take the staff several long moments to stop chatting to each other and acknowledge I was actually there in front of them.
Other comments My room was still being prepped when I arrived (10:30 at night…)  -not ideal.Random calls in the evening to tell me about their Frequent Guest card were definitely not appreciated.  Leave a note, slip something under the door, but don’t call me.


The health cost of congestion

I’m not saying this alone justifies etolling, but it does suggest that long commutes and congestion are bad for health and therefore bad for our country.  Leveraging the etolling system in a more sophisticated manner to mange congestion might have additional hidden benefits over time.