Sunday 21 June 2015

Father's Day

It went like this: whilst I was at Halfords yesterday, Mum said to Daniel "It's Father's day tomorrow ... have you got something for Dad?"

Daniel gave that sheepish look that he does when he's forgotten something.

"Can you make something out of Jaffa Cakes"?

And so the Jaffa Mobile was born (wobbly spelling cos he made it at silly o'clock in the morning before I got up). Never let it be said that my family aren't creative. And like the best presents, I can share it with those around me, and I don't have to worry about where to store it.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Minecraft colours (dyes)

In the game Minecraft (official site here), it is possible to use dyes to colour various things, including wool, clay and glass. Some dyes are derived from plants, some are derived from other materials, and some dyes need to be mixed. All the information that anyone is ever likely to need concerning dyes is already available online but I wanted a handy reference in the game so I could quickly create a particular dye.

I put the "recipes" for each dye into a chest:

for "Crafted dyes", any item above the dye can be used to make that dye (note that there are three options for Rose Red and Light Gray, and only one for Light Blue and Orange). On the right, the furnace indicates that the cactus must be baked (in the furnace) to create Cactus Green.

for "Mixed dyes", the dye in the bottom row is made by combining the two items directly above it. The three on the right are the dyes that don't need to be crafted.

These two chests reside in a little shop in my town in the game - so if I need a dye, I can go there and grab one, and I have a handy in-game reminder of how the dye is made.

For reference, here is a bullet list, ordered depending on how the dye is made.

Crafted dyes (place the item on any cell of a crafting grid to make the dye)

  • Bonemeal (white dye) - from bones
  • Rose Red - from poppy, red tulip, or rose bush
  • Light Gray Dye - from an Azure Bluet, Oxeye daisy, or White Tulip
  • Pink Dye - from a Peony or Pink Tulip (also mixed)
  • Dandelion Yellow - from a Dandelion or Sunflower
  • Light Blue Dye - from a Blue Orchid
  • Magenta Dye - from a Lilac or Allium
  • Orange Dye - from an Orange Tulip (also mixed)

Baked dyes (cook in a furnace)

  • Cactus Green

Mixed dyes (place ingredients on the crafting grid to make the dye)

  • Purple Dye - Rose Red + Lapis Lazuli
  • Cyan Dye - Cactus Green + Lapis Lazuli
  • Gray Dye - Ink Sac + Bone Meal
  • Pink Dye - Rose Red + Bonemeal - also from peony or tulip
  • Magenta Dye - Pink Dye _ Purple Dye (or Bonemeal + Lapis Lazuli + 2x Rose Red)
  • Lime Dye - Cactus Green + Bone Meal
  • Orange Dye - Rose Red + Dandelion Yellow - also from tulip
Other dyes (no crafting needed)

  • Black - Ink Sac - kill a squid
  • Cocoa Beans - found in dungeons or on jungle trees
  • Lapis Lazuli - mined from Lapis Lazuli ore

Friday 12 June 2015

Investing money in the stock market

Before I begin, let me say loud and clear that I am not qualified to give financial advice. If you follow any of my suggestions, you do so at your own risk.

In recent years, I have been looking at ways of investing some savings. The interest rate in Britain has been 0.5% since 2009, which is fantastic for people with mortgages. But it's pretty rubbish for investors, even if you're prepared to lock away your money for five years. I wanted to know if there was a way of getting better returns.

I have done a lot of reading recently about financial investment. I read blogs by companies who sell financial services. I read news articles in a wide range of news-papers. I searched for stuff that famous investors like Warren Buffet have said, and I even went as far as purchasing some books. The main message that I learned was this:

Whilst the stock market is volatile, and goes up and down like a yo-yo, it consistently produces very good returns on investment in the long-term.

The best evidence for this is to look at how pensions companies behave. Every month, money goes into my pension pot, and the pension company buys investments with that money so that it grows over the decades until I retire. Where do they invest that money? They invest in the stock market. Why? because the stock market consistently produces very good returns on investments in the long term.

As an aside, perhaps the best advice that nobody ever gave me when I was young was to pump as much money into a pension as you possibly can before you're 30. The effects of compound interest are staggering if you can put 10% of your earnings aside for a very long time.

So I did some more research, and looked at companies that should perform well in the long term. I looked at their ability to make money, what dividends they return, and tried to find out how healthy these companies really are. I tried to imagine what their business will be like in 20 years. I bought shares in half a dozen companies in different industry sectors, and told myself not to panic if anything went wrong. Most of them were a good buy.

I use Yahoo Finance as a starting point for information about companies and shares. For example here is their page for Vodafone (I don't own any shares in Vodafone). All the numbers, graphs and news about that company are all in one convenient starting place.

The mechanics of buying shares is easy. I purchased mine through a Shares ISA so that any profit, interest or dividends are not liable to tax. MoneySavingExpert lists the details.

One of the shares I purchased didn't do so well. I thought that a large supermarket would be a safe company to invest in. People will always need to buy food, and they have a wide presence across the UK. I didn't foresee that they would be in the newspapers for the wrong reasons. In my haste, I overlooked the fact that many customers (including me, ironically) prefer a cheaper supermarket. The share price is still 13% below what I paid for it six months ago.

The final bit of advice I learned in my research (did I tell you, by the way, that you need to do lots of research?) was not to follow your feelings. Should I sell the shares and cut the losses? I have to remind myself that I'm in this for the long term, and not to be sidetracked by what I feel.  Warren Buffett again:

"Successful Investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."

In closing, if you're considering investing in the stock market, there are three things that I think you should do. First, do as much research as you can. Second, look at the long term. Third, start investing now (as soon as you've done enough research) so you can take advantage of the long term.