Friday, June 15, 2007

Recent Reading and Grand Central

The image is of the Atrium of Grand Central Terminal, New York. The massive flag was put in place shortly after 9/11 and has remained in place since. Quite an impressive sight. There is another flag in the building shown in a nice picture by the NY Daily Blogger.

In other news...

Paul McCartney has created an iTunes advert. I quite like it to be honest. Nice and colourful. Song is pretty good too.

A group of students have proved what we all knew to be true, an then some. Food is still safe to eat after you have dropped it, so long as it's less than 30 seconds - even for wet food!

In a story by the Consumerist blog, a Dell employee has spilled the beans on their tactics. I ignored the story until I noticed this afternoon that Dell have sent a take down request. It was then nice and clear that there is something worth looking at.

The part that interested me most was that if you go on the Small Business section of their website you get better deals than Home. Sure enough, you can get the Inspiron 6400 from the home site for £429 with Vista home and a 80gig HD. On the Small Business site, the same laptop, with a 120gig HD and Vista Business is only £399. Crazy!

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Student Loans

Following a very interesting discussion last night at the pub on the issue of student loans, I felt the need to do some numerical research. My first step was to work out what is currently being paid.

For the next academic year, the government gives £3,244 to the parents from a home that has an income of less than £16,340. Of that amount £1127 is a loan, the rest is a grant. From that income there is a sliding scale to £34,000, where nothing extra is given.

I therefore assume that the government has picked the figure of £3,244 as the amount of money that needs to be given to a student so they can afford university (AMM). In a fair society all students should get that amount of money.

The government assumes that parents earning less that £16,340 cannot afford to give any of that and parents earning £34,000 or more can pay it all. Principally it’s quite a reasonable stance in my opinion. However, I disagree with the numbers.

My initial belief is that there is a problem with the simplicity (if you can call it that!) of the current system meaning a group of people in the middle are paying out relatively more for university. So I did some Maths.

I calculated the percentage of the income it is expected parents should be providing. The amount the parents should be giving was chosen by working out the difference between the full subsidy and what the child actually gets. The result gave a graph like this:

As predicted, there is a section of people in the middle who are expected to pay up to 10% of their income to support their child at university. On average, of the parents who pay anything, the AMM is 6% of the income. I believe that it’s unfair that for some people it’s almost double that.

So what’s the solution? And won’t it be even more complicated or expensive?

The solution I believe will level the playing field will be no more complicated and only very slightly more expensive.

Currently the loan section of the AMM is between £1,127 and £0 for households earning up to £34,000. Households earning less than £23,085 get the full amount, and those in between are on a sliding scale.

If the criteria were altered for this section alone, increased fairness can be achieved. I would propose households earning up to £35,500 receive the full £1,127. There is then a sliding scale up to £52,500, above that nothing is given. The result is this graph:

The new system dramatically reduces the middle group inequity. It’s not perfect but I’m only using rough numbers and only altering one aspect of the system.

The system would require some extra admin work as more students would need means testing. As the extra money given would be a loan, rather than a grant, the government would not lose any money (unless they charge the wrong interest).

If you have spotted a fault, please let me know.

Coming next: Extra Children and The New Loans System.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stockton Town Hall

Stockton Town Hall is located in the centre of the High Street (which incidentally is the widest in England). The bulding isn't overly impressive, and not a patch on South Shields Town Hall (which I will upload tomorrow).

Been a day of good news. Most of my medic friends have passed this academic year and Kieran was elected to VP of the JCR. Well Done! 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Lakes

Camping in the Lake District may not be the most glamorous of holidays, but I love it. The fresh air and the peace and quiet of the mountains. Nothing quite like it.

The picture above was taken about 5 yards from my tent in Keswick. The view is Derwentwater showing Cat Bells.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Safari on Windows

I'm posting this from Safari on Windows. 

My first impressions are mixed. The speed is defianatly faster and the look of the general interface is as sleek as would be expected from Apple. 

However, there are two big flaws for me. The biggest problem is the fonts. The font's aren't even close to standard windows fonts, let alone what you get when you enable cleartype (or use IE7). Fonts have always been the biggest issue for me with linux, and is still the reason I don't use it more. Without nice basic fonts, web browsing is a pain!

The second problem is the lack of extensions. I use several extensions in Firefox, mainly adblock and scribefire. Without them it isn't really going to change my browsing habits.

A third and minor flaw is the lack of a spell checker. I'm used to the one you get on Firefox.

Still nice to try something new and I applaude Apple's inititive. I'd like to see the mozilla developers take note and speed up Firefox.

To give it a try go to


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Darlington Market Hall

I work in Darlington and on the walk from the train station to the office I pass this impressive work or architecture. The town clock was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who is best known for the Natural History Museum in London.


Friday, June 08, 2007


The view down Whitehall at noon on my recent trip to London. Looking at all the bustle around on this picture reminds me why I could never live in London.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cool Graffiti

I've still not got the internet at home so I am unable to upload any new pictures leaving me with a choice of New York, New York or New York.

This wonderful example of graffiti really impressed me. The park in Downtown Manhattan would be very dull was it not for this lively work of art adding much needed colour.


Monday, June 04, 2007

NY Street

This picture illustrates the sheer scale of New York to me. The picture was taken on 57th street (I think) during 2006. I hope to return there sometime this year.

I haven't posted in a week or so because BT are crap. It's also come to my attention that people are reading this through Facebook. I added the import ages ago and I always forget that these things show up in the news feed. I really need to watch what I say.