Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I touch on a few subjects, some of which I’ve covered in the past but I think they need addressing again. I look at Dunning-Kruger in the context of vaccine safety. Also, a look at the situation in Afghanistan and the tragic death of a young refugee in my city of Sheffield. In addition to the usual financial updates, some thoughts on my plans for the next few months. Rounding out the blog for this week is a shout out to a great new cafe in Sheffield. First, the Quote of the Week, where I once again troll social media:
Quote of the Week
I do enjoy throwing a grenade into social media discussions, just so I can sit back and watch chaos ensue. I’m known to many of my friends as a troll when it comes to social media, and yeah, they have a point. My girlfriend is exasperated when I bring out my phone and ask, “who can I wind up tonight?” I’m not a malicious troll and I don’t aim to attack anyone specifically. It’s more a case of throwing out such absurd statements that it gets people wound up.
As serious as the Covid pandemic is, sometimes it’s best to use humour to make a point. In all the times I’ve engaged with anti-vaxxers I’m yet to be presented with a compelling argument against vaccines. Many of these people don’t know enough to know what they are against, or why they’re against it. This is Dunning-Kruger in action.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where people overestimate their knowledge or skill. It can also describe how experts underestimate their ability, but for now I just want to focus on the first point. We are all subject to Dunning-Kruger; it’s just part of human nature. The key is to try and recognise when you are falling prey to it, and then to mentally step back and look at the situation again.
In terms of vaccine research, I’m not an expert. I’m not even close to being an expert. However, I am well read on the scientific method and I’ve studied psychology at undergraduate and postgraduate level. So, I have a little bit of understanding when it comes to research. Vaccine development is improving all the time, and I was not surprised that Covid vaccines were developed so quickly. I think it’s a fantastic achievement that we were able to create, manufacture and distribute the vaccines as effectively as we have. It’s an incredible achievement for humankind. It was only possible because so many scientists worked on it, and because so much money and so many resources were thrown at the problem. Where there is political will, an unlimited budget and large scale public support, we can accomplish almost anything.
Keeping all the above points in mind, what is more likely; the vaccines are safe or some random person on the internet discovered something that the finest minds on Earth missed?
My faith in vaccines comes not from my own expertise in vaccine development, but from my understanding of the scientific method. I put my faith in the experts who created the vaccine, and anyone who thinks that is risky needs to think about all the times they put their faith in experts for their own safety. A common argument from the anti-vax brigade is that they will not use something if they don’t understand how it works. Well, how many typical people on the street understand the physics of flight and aircraft design? How many people understand the mechanics of the combustion engine? How many people understand how microwave ovens cook food?
I’m convinced that many people who are refusing the vaccine are doing it for attention. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe people are just that dumb.
This week has been dominated by events in Afghanistan, which is understandable. The wars in the Middle East have been foolish, and whilst I have enormous respect for our troops, I have nothing but disdain for the politicians that have brought us to this position. After two decades of occupation, and trillions of dollars spent, and thousands of lives lost, one has to wonder if any progress has actually been made.
Unless the West is willing to commit to a huge occupying force complete with investment in infrastructure, healthcare and education, I can’t see any way that these countries will join the international community and live at peace with their neighbours. Whenever I think of the War on Terror, I realise that it’s an oxymoron. Many people in Afghanistan are good, decent and kind; just like in most countries. However, every person that dies from our drone strikes creates several more soldiers for the extremist cause. Fighting terror with terror achieves nothing. If we want to commit to stamping out terror, it needs to be done through diplomacy, education and investment in infrastructure and healthcare.
The situation in Afghanistan had a tragic impact very close to home this week. In Sheffield, at a hotel not far from where I live, a young boy fell from a window to his death. It was later revealed that the 5-year-old was an Afghan refugee who was staying at the hotel with his family. It’s also been revealed that this hotel has had the safety of their windows questioned over the last few years, but it seems little has been done to rectify this as the boy fell from nine floors up, according to some reports. A quick google search for the hotel shows many windows being wide open, even on the higher floors.
I don’t know what goes through some people’s minds. As the story was being shared on social media, I saw several instances of people using the laughing emoji in reaction to the story. I would like to give people the benefit of doubt, and assume they hit the wrong icon. However, I’ve also seen some truly disgusting comments from people celebrating this horrific event. Whatever your stance on the war on terror, refugees, religion, politics, we are all human and a child who has fled from a war torn country has died. (Edit – since I wrote this, it appears that there has been at least one arrest made for comments made on social media regarding this incident).
Regular readers will know that I like to highlight local cafes, restaurants and other independent businesses, and this week I want to give a shout out to TIGS, a cafe that has opened a short walk from where I live. Although I’m not officially a vegetarian, I’m definitely eating less meat than I used to, and to the surprise of some who know me I was keen to try this vegetarian and vegan establishment.
TIGS specialise in bagels and coffee; two of my favourite things, but this is a far cry from when I was living off Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston for a while. The bagels here are fresh and tasty, and there is a real possibility I may be converted to facon, a plant based alternative to bacon. I’ve also been extremely impressed with the coffees I’ve had from TIGS, and it’s going to be dangerous to my bank balance having TIGS, joining Gaard and Albies as places to get a great coffee.
TIGS are located on Campo Lane, Sheffield and you can find their Instagram here.
2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021
1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg. (Current weight 121.5kg).
2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 79).
I’ve been smashing through more of Jeremy Robinson’s books and loving the shared multiverse he is creating. I also finished a book called Unexplained, which looked at a series of mysteries and attempted to, well, explain them. Some of the cases were fairly simple to explain, I think, but a few are real head scratchers. If you have an interest in debunking the paranormal, I would recommend it.
I gained a slight amount of weight this week, but that could be an anomaly as I got weighed at a different time of day than normal. I would love to do more walking but my ankle has been quite painful in the last couple of days. It’s going to be awkward arranging more physio in the near future due to our upcoming trip to Romania. I’m looking forward to spending some time reading by the pool.
Nika, Bobbity and Sweep
My girlfriend’s family in Romania have several dogs, one of which they took in as a stray when she was just a pup. She has been the best dog they’ve ever had, and I’m talking about Nika…
One of my favourite activities in Romania is taking her for a walk in the forest. She is so happy and full of life. The last time we were there, in December 2019, she was clearly getting old and a few times her legs gave out as we walked. She didn’t let it faze her though, and she still waddled along with that big smile.
I’ve been dreading the news that she has passed away because I really wanted to see her again. It appears that her time to cross Rainbow Bridge is drawing closer though, as she has lost use of her back legs. I fear we will not make it in time to say our goodbyes.
It’s been an awful couple of years for losing pets. In late 2019 my girlfriend’s family lost another of their dogs, Max, to what we think was a heart defect. He was a gentle giant, and very smelly! He also had a real love for life, and spending time with him in the garden at my (unofficial) in-laws was always fun.
The most heartbreaking loss was Sweep, who was my best friend. It’s been five-months since he went to sleep and I still miss him so damn much. It’s taken some time to accept Bob, and I think in hindsight we adopted him too soon. However, I’m glad we have him now. He’s a very different cat to Sweep, but he’s still extremely cute and a real character. Last night he decided to try and scale our shelves in the living room with not a care in the world for what he knocked over.
Bobbity had an eventful day yesterday as we took him to the vet. We normally get an uber there and back, but we couldn’t get a driver to bring us home. So we took him on the tram and then walked the rest of the way. He was so well behaved and not scared, as we thought he might be.
Premium Bonds: £21,500.00 (up £850.00 from last update).
Stocks and Shares ISA: £26,832.99 (down £1,339.34 from last update).
Fuck It Fund: £175.00 (up £25.00 from last update).
Crypto: £593.96 (up £70.25 from last update).
Pensions: £48,668.09 (down £194.50 from last update).
Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (no change from last update).
Total Assets: £439,675.04 (down £588.59 from last update).
Credit Card: £2,091.50 (up £157.37 from last update).
Residential Mortgage: £158,492.24 (no change from last update).
Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,061.34 (no change from last update).
Total Debts: £253,645.08 (up £157.37 from last update).
Total Wealth: £186,029.96 (down £745.96 from last update).
Investment Income in 2021: £2,110.65 (target £5,000).
My stocks took a pasting this week, and when coupled with the increase in my credit card it resulted in a sizable hit to my wealth figure. I’m working on something that should see my credit card reduced to zero in the near future. I have some items for sale which should bring in some cash that can go towards paying the card off. Every time I think I’m going to start making progress in reducing the balance, something happens. In this case, we had to pay for more meds for Bob.
Starting from next month I’m going to start scaling back how much I invest in Premium Bonds. I’ve decided to push the acquisition of another BTL back to 2022. I’ve viewed a few properties and the market is just a little bit crazy right now. There are signs that prices might start to fall slightly, and rather than scraping together funds for a property that’s lower spec, I’d rather wait a little until I can buy more with my JV partner when they have access to their funds over the next few months. 2022 should see two or three BTLs added to our portfolio.
Moving through the last few months of 2021, I want to try and concentrate on my ISA, to try and maximise my allowance for the tax year. It’s crazy to think that there’s only four more salary payments due in 2021. I have no idea where the year has gone, and mentally I still feel like it should be spring. The frustrating thing for the next few months is that we’ll have to pay for surgery for Bobbers, and for some work that’s being done to our bathrooms. It’s looking quite likely that rather than investing 50%-60% of my net salary, I’ll have to drop that to maybe 25% for the next few months. It’s all part of the process though. It’s the choice you make when you adopt a cat, and the work to the apartment will increase the value.
You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.
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You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.
Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com.