The happier I get, the older I feel

Quadranting was mildly cheered, over the weekend, to read this article on Naked Capitalism about the “mid-life low” phenomenon.

As a physically sprightly but otherwise pretty morose sixty something, it’s good to know my life has entered a phase of rising  self-satisfaction.

Look at this graph from the UK Office of National Statistics. It charts how happy 416,000 of my fellow civic elements are with their lives at various ages:

midlifeUK

(Source)

Seems I’ve made it through the Slough of Despond that is the average human’s mid-50s and am now roaring back to a state of happiness on par with my early twenties. Yes, those early 20s when I was beset by powerful feelings of insecurity and inferiority. The age when I really began to forge an early adulthood full of bad choices. Wrong jobs. Wrong partners. Wrong everything.

But hey, that peak of happiness is still to come for me … when or if I hit 73ish. Right now, my life satisfaction (assuming it follows the curve on the chart) is roughly back up to where it was in my mid-30s. Yay! Divorce. Redundancy. Formal depression diagnosis. Worse job choice ever. Who could want for more?

Yet I do feel better about life than I did six or seven years ago. The only way I got past that low point was to promise myself I wouldn’t force myself to stay alive past 65 unless I felt a whole lot better by then. Who knows: perhaps I will? Just like baked beans, 416,000 other people can’t all be wrong.

After all, not a lot of rationality goes into one’s assessment of how good one’s life is. Since my own ‘happy’ 20s, the world’s gone into population overshoot, passed peak oil, entered the structural crisis of capitalism and turned the climate knob to 11.

Who could be happy about that? Well, me of course. I can’t help it: I’m 61.

Advertisements

EVs and the renewable delusion

I wait for ages to read an article on my pet bugbears and then two come along at once.

Bugbear #1 is governments’ fond belief that the global auto fleet can somehow be entirely replaced with electric vehicles in the next 20 years.

Bugbear #2 is the Magical Thinking / Techno Green delusion that these billions of EVs, along with the rest of civilisation, can be sustained completely with renewable energy.

Kris de Decker dismantles the latter argument in How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone at Low Tech Magazine. Whatever way you look at it, trying to replicate the round-the-clock energy flows available from stored (fossil) sunlight using energy from current account sunlight (solar and wind) is beyond any conceivable future flow of capital.

And a pointed, if uneven, (raison d’etre does not mean ‘article of faith’) post on OilPrice.comElectric Vehicles: The High Cost Of Going Green – looks at the issue of job elimination in motor manufacturing as well as the challenges of upgrading infrastructure.

”two additional natural gas plants near Manchester have stalled because the developer has been unable to raise the dual project’s 800 million pounds required for them to be built.”

Indeed. If firms cannot raise relatively modest amounts of capital to install essential capacity running proven hardware, where will the thousands of billions come from to build EVs and fleets of wind and solar farms?

Both articles veer towards a point I keep making. Liquid fossil-fuelled Happy Motoring was a one-off. High energy-returned-on-energy-invested (EROEI) fossil fuels are starting to diminish in the rear view mirror. What’s left is insufficient to maintain the global autos and transport infrastructure we built over the last century, let alone fund a multi-trillion dollar transition to renewable-powered EVs for everyone in a 30-year timeframe.

Put simply, shrinking the liquid-fossil-fuelled car fleet will shrink people’s ability to afford to make the switch to electric cars. My guess is that after a few more years of accelerating replacement of ICEs by Evs, there will be a Seneca cliff moment when sales of all types of private auto go into a steep decline.

When that happens, trucks, tractors, trains buses and ships will be where the action is. Very Victorian. But it will be a sweet thing – for a while at least – to own an electric bike shop.

Outlook’s unannounced junk mail failure

Between 60 and 100 million people use Microsoft Office 365. Back in May, Microsoft released an update that broke the junk filters on IMAP email accounts.

Office 365 users with IMAP accounts where the junk filter is set to ‘safe senders only’ are having their inboxes flooded with spam.

Microsoft has been, to say the least, backward in coming forward over its culpability. Google the issue and you’ll find plenty of MS gurus handing out pointless instructions to spam-swamped enquirers on how to check their  email settings. But you have dig much deeper to find references to the fact that MS know about all about the problem and are – apparently – working to fix it.

A curious aspect of the issue is that there hasn’t been more online agitation. True, very many 365 installations are corporate and on Exchange servers, which aren’t affected.  Perhaps the number of 365 users with IMAP accounts and tight junk settings who’re motivated to seek help or complain is small enough for MS to feel they can take their time over fixing something they broke themselves.

(Just to add insult to injury, since the faulty update, Outlook catches the first spam message after the user adjusts their junk settings – as if to say ‘look, I could do this if I wanted to’ – but then lets through every subsequent crudmail).

Why aren’t more people complaining? Have we become so inured to (a) the inescapability of spam and (b) the frequency with which obvious junk messages get past Outlook that most users just put up with it?

I’m often surprised, when I see other people’s inboxes, at how much spam they regard as normal. In most cases, setting their Outlook filter to safe senders only and ticking the ‘trust messages from my contacts’ box would clean up their inflow marvellously.

As it happens, there is a 100% effective workaround for this Outlook IMAP junk problem: roll back Office updates to May 2017. All the ‘how to’ information you need is in the comments section of the article linked at the top of this post.

Trouble is, you have to turn off automatic Office updates after rolling back or your filters will end up broken again. So,  if and when MS cure the problem, you’ll need to know to turn updates back on. It’s rumoured that the fix might be in the September 2017 update.

But since MS aren’t openly admitting that the problem exists, I’ll have to keep on hanging around in arcane corners of Microsoft.com hoping to learn of their unannounced cure for their unannounced mistake.

Loony Uni

So who benefits from a common or garden university education these days? I don’t mean from a high-end Oxbridge mind-expander or a career-critical science/engineering course but from the bog standard ‘Uni’ experience the system shovels school leavers into by the tipper-bucketload every autumn.

According to today’s Independent, the average student clocks up nearly six grand in loan interest before they graduate. By the time they finish paying all the interest over 30 years, their three years at the University Formerly Known As Nnnnn Technical College will have cost them over £120,000.

Supposedly, this gives graduates an advantage in the jobs market.

It doesn’t.

After a decade of taking on grads who can’t spell, add up or manage critical thinking; and who also require babying through their first two or three years on the job, employers are saying “WTF? We might as well take bright school leavers at 18 and be three years ahead of the game by the time they would have left Uni”.

Moreover, when you consider that these 18-year-olds’ other option is to waste three years of their lives at Uni and come out with a £120k ball and chain of debt round their ankles, it wouldn’t be hard to justify asking them to go to work for virtually nothing if it meant being formally work-certified in some way and largely debt-free after three years.

Employers I know have begun taking apprentices instead of graduates for the first time. They’re getting the pick of the crop of kids who’re too smart to get saddled with a shed load of debt in return for making themselves less useful to those employers three years down the line.

Maybe it will take 20 years for all this to work itself out, at the end of which degrees will be rarer and have regained their value. Until then, my advice to anyone asking whether they should go to Uni is: “Only if you really, really have to.”