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Running out of excuses

24 min read

This is a story about whether it's right to stay with an alcoholic and/or an addict...

Nail clipper door

Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. Like every alcoholic and/or addict I have a million and one reasons why I had one too many bottles of wine, or why I lapsed or relapsed into drug addiction.

I mentioned on Facebook earlier today that I rearranged the furniture in a hotel room in Bournemouth, right at the very worst most moment of my divorce. If you think that "worst moment of my divorce" caveat is me getting my excuses in early, then you're wrong. Let's get this straight: I didn't break anything or chuck a telly out of the window, but I made a lot of extra work for housekeeping.

I was actually so concerned that I was in such a bad frame of mind that I was actually going to throw a telly out of the window, so I phoned the duty solicitor. The duty solicitor gets phoned after you've been arrested, if you don't have your own solicitor.  I had not been arrested, but I didn't like the way things were going.

The duty solicitor was rather bemused by a person ringing up to chat about things before they're arrested.... in anticipation. He said that he didn't think the police would arrest me, and I should probably just ring friends and family. I was loathe to involve friends & family in a mess that I had made.

Eventually, having tried several other local solicitors, I rang the family solicitor, who phoned my Mum, who told my Dad to phone me. He was exceedingly unhappy that one of his longest friends had suggested that I might be in the need of a bit of support during a messy divorce.

I rang my friend Tim, who texted an ex police constable, who confirmed that the police would not press charges given the circumstances. Tim came to the hotel, and said it wasn't bad at all and we could fix it up in 5 or 10 minutes, but I just wanted to get home.

Despite a couple of offers of financial compensation for any inconvenience or damage the hotel manager laughed, being rather experiences with the wrecked hotel rooms due to the large amount of stag dos who visit Bournemouth. His housekeeping staff had not even commented. However, I still feel guilty about that today.

That was December 2013.

Let's make one thing really clear before we go on. My ex wife did not addict me to drugs. She's not responsible for any of my addiction: then or now.

My startup company fell to bits because I was under unbearable pressure to deliver Investment Banker lifestyle on startup wages, and base my company in Bournemouth, where there are no angel investors, no venture capitalists, no startup scene, no customers, it was over 2 hours away from my co-founder and his new baby girl. It was an irreconcilable problem, with my ex-wife being least willing to compromise despite having a job she could work anywhere in the country. But, that's not her fault. It's my fault. It's my fault that I made myself CEO instead of my co-founder. It's my fault I couldn't handle the pressure. It's my fault I wasn't strong enough to leave a toxic unsupportive relationship.

Drugs - legal highs - appeared on the scene in the autumn, as I sat at home, desperately depressed about the situation. I had already tried about 5 different antidepressants by this point, and had even moved on to trying over 10 extremely rare antidepressants that are extremely rarely prescribed, even in treatment-resistant depression cases.

It's not like I didn't recognise the problem. I accessed local drug & alcohol drop in centres, where I sat listening to teenaged alcoholic prostitutes talking about their children being taken into care, knowing that I owned my own home, cars, boats, hot tub, summer houses and had tens of thousands of pounds in the bank. I left, because it feel like sheer selfishness to deprive the time that could be given to somebody more needy.

I spent a day in a residential rehab as a day patient. By the end of the day, I had brushed up all the leaves, done all the washing up, hoovered, mopped and done just about everybody's weekly chores. The people's lives were fascinating, but most of the day was drinking tea & coffee and sitting around.

I don't know if I was successfully hiding my habit, but I gave a talk to a bunch of startup founders in London, and a few came over and said they'd heard me speak in Cambridge, and they thought my public speaking had improved a lot. Go figure.

The only real problem for hiding my habit was school holidays - my ex being an educator - when I wouldn't have the daytime to take drugs. Christmas holiday was unspeakably awful, with me sneaking off in the middle of the night to take drugs.

Getting clean and staying clean is my sole responsibility, but I found it telling that the only book on addiction my ex read parts of was called "Nag your loved one sober".

After Christmas, my ex demanded that my parents take me away. Naturally, they resisted and I resisted. My dad came down, and my ex had been nagging our mutual GP about how hard it was on her to deal with my addiction. Deal with my addiction? She didn't even know about it until a week earlier, when I struggled to hide it during the school holidays.

I was completely spooked by the sudden appearance of my dad and my GP, through no request of my own. The idea of leaving my home, my friends and everything else I'd spent years building around myself, to go live in a house I'd never lived in, trapped in a village where I didn't know anybody. That's fucking offensive.

Anyway, the psychiatrist I saw just before I left Bournemouth told me to taper off the legal highs gradually - over the course of 6 to 8 weeks - because nobody knew what withdrawal would be like.

Having gotten rid of me to my parents' house, my ex then refused to take my phone-calls and generally treated me like dog dirt.

I would say, that if it turns out you're dating an addict and/or alcoholic, you should make a decision - based on how long you've been together - as to whether they're the type who's going to bleed you dry and move onto the next unwitting victim, whether you're prepared to help them - and trust me, it's really fucking hard - or whether it's your moral duty to help them because they became unwell while they were your husband, wife or long term partner.

Anyway, my ex continued to be a right ***** until someone who isn't me hacked her email account and found out that no sooner had I left MY house, she had been dating other people. I confronted her with her infidelity, and she started treating me like a human again. Unfortunately, I thought a leopard could change its spots, so I spent £4,000 on flights to Hawaii to get married and £3,000 on an engagement ring. As you can tell, I'm the kind of junkie who spends all their money on themselves.

I struggled with sobriety, but held down a couple of good jobs and continued to be a good provider. My ex could have called off the wedding at any point.

The wedding, which was supposed to be stress-free with no guests, somehow became one of the most stressful things I've ever had to deal with. The whole holiday was ruined by my bridezilla. In the end, I threw a tantrum and said I could no longer deal with teepees and camper vans that break down and other eclectic but stressful shit that I had to organise, and booked us into the $800 a night Hilton. I had cocktails by the pool and it was bliss, but there were two days until we had to go home.

I relapsed as soon as we got home. It didn't help that my then-wife had booked a taxi online, specifying the wrong year. We could have stayed at Heathrow and waited for 4 hours, but having been on a plane for most of a day, I wanted to get home: unexpected £180 taxi ride in a black cab that I managed to negotiate.

My then-wife must have ordered my parents to come and 'deal' with me, because my dad marched into my house and said "you're an addict. you're an addict. Can't you see you're a dirty addict?" which was rich coming from a man with a history of drug use. That's not the kind of treatment you should ever receive in your own home, nor did it take account of the fact that I'd been in a lot of correspondence with several specialist psychiatrists who could deal with my specific condition: dual diagnosis. I was bipolar before I was a junkie, and the two do not complement each other well.

My mum had decided that she could 'smell' drugs on me. Unless she has a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer for a nose, she is wrong. You can smell smoke and cannabis on somebody's clothes, but drugs that you snort, swallow and inject are excreted through kidneys and faeces. It's a completely disproven hypothesis. Anyway, My then-wife did nothing to vouch for my sobriety when my mum had a go at me on my sister's wedding day (I was clean).

I'd gone back to working at JPMorgan, and they coughed up £12k for me to go to The Priory for 28 days, without a single qualm. My general psychiatrist had said I needed treatment in a therapeutic environment, which clearly my home was not. My then-wife said that she'd divorce me if I followed his advice and got treatment, and that she'd rather be a widow than a divorcee.

On my first day at The Priory, I phoned the local florist near our home, and asked them to leave a different flower each day under the windscreen wiper of my then-wife's car, before she left for work. She however, joined the dating sites again and decided not to visit or phone me.

During my stay at The Priory, we established that I was not well supported at home, and indeed, perhaps my relationship did not contain the prerequisite levels of respect, love, care, compassion etc. etc.

I panicked on day 27 of rehab, realising I had to divorce my wife, sell our house and decide what I was going to do next with my life. I spent the day talking to a few friends about different ideas, and returned for my final day a lot happier.

Straight after that was the birth of my niece. My loving then-wife did not attend. In fact. I remember her once being extremely put out that my grandmother had the temerity to die at an inconvenient moment. I think my friends had been right all along: she really was "the poison dwarf".

Anyway, after being under virtual house arrest, where I must admit I abused a lot of drugs as I tried to grapple with the magnitude of selling a house and downsizing. Probably moving to London. The friends who would take sides. Having to get a new job. I got fed up with my then-wife making me feel absolutely terrified by her unjustified rage and abuse, so I took to cocooning myself into a single room of our ample 3-bedroomed house, and even built myself a man cave in our summer house. She was never content to leave me be, and would hammer and scream all the time at whichever door I cowered behind.

Then, I sent an SOS email to our parents, to come and force our separation. I was starving. I had no toilet, no shower. Do you think that's the way that people get clean & sober?

My friend Posh Will kindly offered his spare bedroom to get back into London life. I was clean & sober, riding my bike all over London, incorporating a new company and touting for consultancy work. I was entrepreneur-in-residence at PlayFair capital and I was loving the London startup scene. I was making new friends and I quickly got a beautiful new girlfriend. I know I wasn't the first to commit adultery, because someone who isn't me hacked my then-wife's email and found out she was fucking a married man with kids.

Then, divorce turned nasty. A six week house sale turned into a six month sale, simply because my then wife wanted to drag it out, knowing I had no income yet in London. She kept making me do the 4 hour round trip to Bournemouth to do trivial things she could do herself, like get estate agent valuations. Finally, we arrive in December 2013, where I went to a hotel because our house was sold but I was so angry and frustrated by my wife dragging out the sale to the point I almost ran out of money, I was going to trash the place.

Sure, I then did a 5 days of a 10 day detox, at a place where they didn't know what a detox was, or how to deal with somebody with a benzo habit. I then did 7 weeks at a proper residential rehab. My parents were on my no-contact banned list, but my mum still wrote to me with Louise's divorce demands. I told her from the start I wanted to rent out the house, defer the divorce and deal with it all when I had my health. When she refused, I said take whatever you want, but just don't drag it out. If I wasn't the kind of person who assumes that everybody's OK deep down, I'd say that it was all because she's a vindictive, abusive, greedy, *****.

Anyway, after a mix-up at my parents about what day of the week it was, my dad demanded that I get dressed in front of him and leave immediately. I agreed to leaving immediately, but I refused to get dressed in front of him, on the grounds that it would be one of the most degrading things you could ever ask a person to do. He manhandled me and a mirror got knocked off the wall, slicing my shin muscle in half along with 4 tendons and 2 nerves. Only then did he allow me to get dressed in privacy.

After my operation, I was taking fentanyl and tramadol - both strong opiate painkillers - for the pain, and yet I managed to avoid becoming addicted to these drugs. Having to wear a plaster cast kinda means you're going to have to destroy a nice business suit, and who wants to hire somebody who's sick?

My friends said it was time for me to get a place of my own, although I was still on crutches. I rented a room nearby. I went for dinner with Posh Will, and I was honest with him about my addiction struggles, and his attitude towards me changed visibly immediately. Our friendship was almost ruined, because he had such strong preconceived notions about what drug addiction is. He virtually accused me of being at risk of coming round to his house to steal stuff to feed my habit. I had the money from the sale of my house and some successful Bitcoin investments. I didn't need to steal from my friends. I cried myself to sleep and then tried to commit suicide.

Hospital discharged me, but I'd lost my flat, so I was homeless. I lived in hostels and Kensington Gardens. I guarantee you that not many people get clean from drugs when they're homeless.

Anyway, I finally got a great group of friends at a hostel in Camden, and a beautiful girlfriend. Those were some of the happiest months of my life. I also got an IT contract for Barclays and a room in a student house in Swiss Cottage.

I did have a couple of 'lapses' on mild drugs, but I was clean and I was happy. Then Barclays terminated my contract and I was evicted (the landlord was selling the apartment).

I tried to put a brave face on things and have a happy family Christmas, but I'd broken up with my girlfriend, lost half my friends, lost my contract, was homeless again. A lovely family in Ireland saved my life, looking after me at one of the most depressing and vulnerable times of my life.

At the suggestion of Posh Will - ironically - I stayed in a hostel in Shoreditch. Initially I had a whole dorm to myself, but when they realised I had an OK personality and was a long-term resident, they moved me to the infamous 'Ward P'. The drink and the drugs were off the scale in that place. I had to leave because I was off my face around the clock, but it seemed normal because everybody was.

I started staying in AirBnB places, because they were homely and I could do short [but expensive] lets. I'd recently reconnected with an old friend, so it was nice to live near him, in the East End.

I was running out of money again, so I stayed in a really awful hotel that's covered quite extensively in the blog post called Finsbury Park Fun Run.

That got me back to the Camden Hostel, but I was still hopelessly re-addicted to drugs. Trust me, it's hard to hide a drug habit in a 'regular' tourist hostel, and the tourists don't really love it if you're acting all weird because you're so strung out you can't even see straight.

Somehow, I managed to land the HSBC contract.

I ran out of money. Working for HSBC while living in a hostel is just not possible either. More drugs - whole week AWOL from work. Got away with it.

Stayed clean all the way to Christmas pretty much. I was a wreck on Christmas Day. I hadn't eaten for days. My Kiwi sofa surfer had kindly cooked the turkey but he'd pretty much cremated it, and it'd taken him hours to coax me out of my bedroom. Still, it was super kind of him to cook the world's most depressing Christmas lunch.

Then drugs, drugs, drugs to March 21st. I had a bag that could quite easily have kept me supplied for 3 years. That's the problem with being rich and choosing a cheap and powerful drug - you're never going to run out.

Are you spotting a theme yet?

January, February and March are my nightmare months. If I'm off kitesurfing at some exotic location, no problem. If I'm working a contract, no problem.

This year, I've had acute kidney failure and severe and ongoing leg/foot trauma AND the loss of my contract at Lloyds to deal with. However, I had the best Christmas ever and I'm also dating the world's most amazing girlfriend, so perhaps these things should cancel each other out?

have to think about drugs at the moment, because my leg is so damaged that I need a cocktail of strong opiate painkilllers, nerve blockers and a sleep aid, just to be able to partially function. I wake up every 4 hours in the night in excruciating agony.

Through the urgent need to re-stock on painkillers, I found myself back on the Dark Web. It was a stupid move. I kinda knew I'd never be able to resist the urge to go window shopping. I tried to order weaker drugs that might satisfy the craving that was instigated by nothing more than buying other products, but lapse and relapse were inevitable.

My most amazing girlfriend in the whole wide world is somebody I could spend 100% of my time with, and never get tired of her company. We like the same trashy TV. We enjoy the same high-brow movies. We both have an insatiable appetite for feature-length documentaries. We love London. We love the same things and we love each other.

Why then would I relapse onto incredibly dangerous and destructive drugs?

The watchword you need to look for here is trigger. When I was with my ex-wife, if she ever went on holiday on her own - which is something she did regularly during the death throes of our relationship - it built a Pavlovian association with an opportunity to take drugs without having an aggressive abusive ***** attempting to kick my prison door in and screaming horrible things at me.

I found a black market seller who would supply just enough for me to have a moment of fun, but not enough for me to end up in a destructive binge. Then that supplier disappeared, and I ended up buying the next smallest bag I could find: 100 to 200 mild to medium strength doses.

The net result is that I spent all yesterday evening and all last night trying to jam my locked bathroom door closed with a pair of nail tweezers, because I was convinced that angry neighbours had phoned the police, and even a mob had formed outside my apartment, ready to heckle me when the police led me from the building, cuffed in shame.

That's a net result of two things:

  1. Having more than you need of a highly addictive drug is bound to lead to a binge
  2. It's impossible to measure milligram doses of drugs without excellent scales. The difference between no effect, and psychotic overdose, can not be seen by the human eye

I sold my scales because I've successfully been having long periods of abstinence, and it makes sense to get rid of drug paraphernalia that could 'trigger' a craving.

Of course, I should have controlled my craving. Of course, I knew what the worst-case scenario would be. Of course, it seems to suggest that the love of my beautiful girlfriend is not enough.

All I can say in my defence is that my life is pretty depressing right now. I'm on such strong pain relief that I can barely even concentrate on writing. I'm not well enough to go back to work. I've been stressed about running out of money and being evicted.

Life is also awesome right now, because me and my incredibly fetching and intelligent and knowledgeable girlfriend both have riverside apartments, and we take turns to spend nights watching sunrises and sunsets.

She has a really difficult decision to make right now. My longest period of abstinence from drugs is what? 9 months, since becoming addicted. My longest period of sobriety was 121 days. All my money has been frittered away on private healthcare, periods where I was too unwell to work, and yes - perhaps as much a 5% - has been spent on drugs. Would you choose somebody like that for your boyfriend?

Alright, so my drug habit isn't going to lead me to a life of crime. I've been cautioned by the police 4 times, but there's not much point in wrecking my career because I'm an addict is there, when I'm not shoplifting, dealing drugs, robbing, doing fraud or committing any other crime.

However, this weekend has shown that I still have the capacity to get myself in a life threatening mess. I was ready to stab myself in the carotid artery this morning, rather than have my life ruined by a criminal record and have all that shame on top of what has already been a pretty awful February and March.

Of course, nobody can deny that I brought this on myself and that the behaviour is just the same as it was over the last few years. Is my addiction getting better? It's certainly not cured.

If you want to know if my addiction is getting better, you could look at my medical records for 2014. I was an inpatient for 14 weeks. You could consider the fact that the longest period I had without my drug of choice was 2 weeks, for the first couple of years. You could consider the fact that I'm in a meaningful relationship with a kind, caring and compassionate girlfriend who's sympathetic and well informed. I'm not lying to her to have a drug habit behind her back. I've lied to her twice when she went away on holiday, both times shortly after I had lost a contract and was a bit depressed.

Ask yourself, am I worth knowing as a friend? I could drop a dirty HIV or hepatitis infected syringe in your kid's playpen. I might replace your salt with cocaine for a prank. I'll probably take money out of the purse and wallet of everybody in your house. I'll nick anything that isn't nailed down. All I want to talk about is drugs drugs drugs and my life story's not interesting because it just goes addiction addiction addiction. I'll bring shame on your family and you'll get in trouble just because you're friends with me. Not worth it, is it?

What about dating a junkie? Well, everything they say is a lie, and you won't like having sex with them all the time because you know they're probably thinking about a syringe of heroin while they're doing it to you. They'll take all your money and ask for more. Nobody ever got cured of drink & drugs. Death's too good for 'em.

I do feel terrible about the lies [two] and the betrayal of trust. Also, she knows that a binge could easily hospitalise or kill me. She's also trying to have a relaxing holiday break, but she knows I'm sick, haven't had any sleep and haven't had anything to eat.

She can't watch me like a hawk all the time. She can't spy on me using webcams when she's on holiday. She doesn't know what I get up to at home when she's at work.

Why take a risk on a loser with such a poor track record?

I've told her if she wants to break up with me, I'll fight to save the relationship, but I won't just say anything to talk her out of it. I actually advised her to break up with me, because I'm a month or two away from earning money again, I've got depression, bipolar and maybe even borderline personality disorder, along with the death sentence of dual diagnosis. Would you want your kids to have those faulty genes? Would you want your family to find out one day that you've been dating a loser?

Anyway, that's where I am right now.

No amount of stick will stop anybody from taking drink or drugs. I need to find a social group to regularly attend. I need to get out of the house more. Through socialising will come enjoyment of even more people's company, as well as routine. There will be new opportunities. Maybe a new hobby? I'll get a new contract and throw myself into work. Once the money starts rolling in, me and her can have holidays and plan adventures.

Could I replace everything and everybody in my life with supercrack? Almost. It is pretty fucking good. Still, how much money would you need? Even if you lived in a tent, I still reckon food & drink would cost you £150-200k over your shortened lifespan. I do however think you get sick of it after a while, but the bastard thing is so fucking good when you go back to it after a little break.

What can I tell you? That's the truth?

So am I honestly comparing a night with the love of my life, with a sniff of supercrack? No. The comparison is facile. If you choose the tent dwelling supercrack life, there's no coming back from that. Also, I've never been in such a good relationship in my life: it just keeps getting better and better.

One final question to ask yourself? Even if you think you have the perfect partner, perfect friends, perfect job and generally perfect life... do you still occasionally do something that looks totally insane in the context of your amazing life, like get too drunk, or take a recreational drug even though you never do drugs? Do you think the fact that you do that, means you love your partner any less?





5 min read

This is a story about liberal arrogance...

Black Sheep

Ah, caps lock, my old friend. Also, exclamation marks: you can never use too many. Do you think if there was more caps lock typing and sentences ended with multiple exclamation marks, we could wake the sheeple from their coma? The sheeple are clearly sleepwalking [or is it shleepwalking?] towards disaster.

While this is self-deprecating humour, it's also mockery of the same old liberal lines that are trotted out instead of any kind of nuanced counter-argument.

During Brexit, I noticed that people on both sides would say "I can see you're far too intellectually inferior to be able to have a debate, therefore this argument is over and I won". I lament the loss of anybody who can actually be bothered to have a proper debate, without being so childish.

Your white-trash, redneck, poorly educated person is now incredibly bored with the tried and trusted liberal short-cuts that supposedly immediately discredit an opponent in a debate. "Bigot" is a particularly charged word, and guarantees instant disengagement by the disenfranchised members of the public, being browbeaten by a group of elites who consider themselves morally superior.

I'm as guilty of it as anybody.

But, I've also noticed a kind of pathetic infighting amongst the intelligentsia.

Firstly, one must overcome the snobbery of the grammar Nazis. For your argument to even be considered it must be deemed to have attained certain standards. The most innocent spelling mistake will become the focus of commentary, rather than the points raised by the original author, no matter how eloquently the central argument is presented.

Having established oneself as 'a cut above the rest' there is one kind of ad hominem attack that succeeds where all others might fail. All one has to do to win the argument is write "WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!" in mockery of your opponent's attempt to make a reasoned argument and reach a sensible conclusion. Essentially, you're accusing somebody of being a nutjob; a raving madman. Case closed. End of debate.

Our asylums are stuffed full of 'visionary' people, and those seized by absolute conviction that the end of the world is nigh. However, do we not also laud that tiny handful of individuals who successfully predict recessions, stock market crashes, credit crunches, housing crises and other cataclysmic man-made events?

Why is it that a stock market trader or hedge fund manager, who might make a good living from short selling - betting against the market - is considered a highly intelligent person - cloaked in the mystery of mathematical models - while others who also forecast negative events, are dismissed as lunatics?

Humans always err on the positive side. There is a psychological test where participants bet money and win precisely as much as they lose. In this randomised gambling experiment, most test subjects will report that they think they're making a profit, even though they're breaking even. Even when the experiment is adjusted so that the participants are losing money, most will still think that the course of events is in their favour.

It's undeniable that we do see a herd mentality amongst groups of humans. The accusation of sheep-like behaviour is entirely valid and well supported by evidence. Stock market crashes are created by market sentiment not by external events. When investors collectively lose confidence, there's a rush for the door. The sheep line up for slaughter, even though by selling their stock, they're going to lose money.

Bank runs are another great example. The FCA underwrites deposits - your savings are safe - but we still saw long lines of people queuing up to withdraw cash from Northern Rock, during the credit crunch. That's a bank run, and it's driven by sheeplike behaviour. The panic is not rational. It's animalistic behaviour, not calculated and logical.

The well-educated middle classes have turned on one another, in this zero-growth second Great Depression. Research grants are at stake. Well paid middle-management jobs are at stake. The baby boomers are trying to collect excessively generous pensions. For God's sake don't even breathe, for the whole house of cards may come tumbling down at any moment. We are so highly leveraged - indebted - that one hiccup and we're all screwed. 

We should remember that the working-class are more numerous than the middle-class. While the working-class wail inarticulately about their poverty and lack of opportunities, the middle-class lock themselves into an echo-chamber of Facebragging and snobbery. Whenever somebody is critical of the status quo, we quickly shut them down by typing "WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!" to bully them into submission.

Personally, having safely circumnavigated the City of London - and profited - during the dot com crash, 9/11, the commodity price boom (and bust), the credit crunch and Bitcoin's ups & downs, I feel rather like Cassandra.

Dismiss and ignore me at your peril.




Seasonal Variation

3 min read

This is a story about cyclical natures...

Columbia Road

Summer = happy. Winter = sad. It's usually that simple. Why would anybody be happy in winter? Winter is a time of hibernation, cold, hunger and death.

However, human society has evolved to take advantage of seasonal variations. We all tend to have a wild time in August, as our children are off school and we also enjoy the good weather and general festivities. Summer brings optimism and joy, in line with our increased energy levels due to longer days and the balmy air temperature.

Frankly, this summer has been the most depressing that I can remember.

I thrive on human connection, and most people are distracted with all the fun of the fair at the moment. The bright lights and fanfare of the Olympics and other theatrical bullshit are titillating the fickle attentions of the proletariat. It's mighty dull for anybody who doesn't subscribe to the mass hysteria that can afflict our society of simpletons.

So, I'm riding out the summer, waiting for reality to bite and the true situation to reveal itself. Things always look better when bathed in golden sunlight. In the shortening days of the autumn, things are going to look pretty bleak. I don't relish the collapse in the current mood of delusional optimism, but at least destruction heralds reconstruction. So many things are broken. Limping along thinking everything is OK is not helping anybody.

I have now come to understand my own cyclical nature. Normally my moods are dictated by the prevailing weather, but now my mental health is so deeply damaged that even summertime cannot lift my depression. However, I'm able to appreciate that all of humanity is similarly affected by the weakness that means they feel unreasonably happy when the sun is shining.

Last year, I predicted a winter of discontent. This was plainly wrong.

But! I tend to be a bit premature with all my proclamations of doom. The number of years that I've been talking about a collapse in the London housing market have proven ridiculously wrong... although the bubble continues to inflate to epic proportions.

I was once young and naïve. Now I'm old and cynical.

I've made a few smart predictions: the credit crunch, the commodity boom (gold, oil) and Bitcoin. I've profited from astute investment and hedging during every crisis of the last 20 years. I'm most definitely proactive, not reactive.

The simplest thing to predict is that summer must come to an end. People will come back from holiday. The kids will go back to school. Workers will go back to their jobs.

In the cold light of day, everything's going to look pretty shit.




Counter Cyclical

4 min read

This is a story about being a contrarian...


I remember sitting down with a mortgage broker in 2007, and he said "just focus on the teaser rate, don't worry about the interest rate after the initial 2 year discount. When your 2 years is up, we'll get you another great deal!". I said to this guy "you do realise I work with Credit Default Swaps, don't you?". Naturally, I ignored his advice and went for a deal that I could afford if there was a credit crunch.

I didn't even want to buy a house anyway. I wanted to put all my money into gold, in 2005/6, and I had opened an account at a bullion vault and bought a small amount... at $550 a troy ounce. The dollar was also really weak so it was a cheap buy.

I thought the housing market looked massively dodgy and the amount of money I saw flying around at JPMorgan, in the credit markets, was ridiculous. Clearly, the bubble was about to burst and a store of wealth in a scarce commodity looked like the best bet. There were plenty of dumbasses around though.

In Cambridge in 2011, I read the original paper on Bitcoin. I thought it looked a damnsight more interesting than my startup. By the end of that year, I had started buying Bitcoins. I bought hundreds.

By the spring of 2012, I wanted to pump all of my wealth into Bitcoin. I was buying Bitcoins at $5 a pop. I was certain that there were big capital gains to be made in the emerging Cryptocurrency. Again, dumbassses didn't see the potential, but even I frittered away those first Bitcoins that I bought, rather than keeping them as an investment. Unless I was going to make a sizeable bet I wasn't interested.

Come the summer of 2013 I was running out of money. My solution: invest in Bitcoin miners and buy bitcoins at $100. I borrowed every penny I could lay my hands on and sank it all into Bitcoin. I offered to cut friends and family in on the potential rewards. Two friends let me manage an investment for them. My family wouldn't give me a cent, even to help me keep a roof over my head.

An idiot - my father - called me "lucky" when I sold my Bitcoins for well over 1,000% return, later that year. I sold my bitcoin miners for a profit. I made money for my friends.

At some point, you've been "lucky" so many times that it's statistically improbable that it's luck, and in actual fact, all the analysis and reading, and time spent thinking about the macroeconomic environment, somehow seems to beat "luck".

If I'd taken the advice of the idiots, I'd be working in a factory in the provinces for minimum wage, or I'd be dead, although the two things sounds pretty much the same to me. Is it "luck" that means I'm not? Well, I'm not arrogant enough to believe that it was smart choices or hard work that mean I am where I am. I know that I'm "lucky" to be alive, to have functioning kidneys, to have enough brain cells left to not be left as a vegetable.

How do you unpick luck from your story?

There's a snobbery that's coming across, and perhaps you even think I imagine myself as some kind of smarty pants. Well, it's pretty clear from this tale that I've taken some pretty dumb risks and done some staggeringly dumb stuff, lately.

I like to think of it as some kind of karma. If your family treat you like a worthless piece of shit and a know-nothing waste of space, then why shouldn't the wider world be a little kinder to you, and gift you the occasional lucky break when you really need one?

These are my fundamental rules for life:

  • Be nice to your kids
  • Invest in scarce commodities

That is all.




Coder's Block

4 min read

This is a story about grinding to a halt...

Mining Shelf

I have been enjoying writing immensely, and continuing this blog is certainly no chore. Words still flow effortlessly, but I am floundering a little, as I try to avoid repetition and decide what direction to go in next.

I really need to get another job/contract, and the easiest work to find would be as a programmer. I hate programming other people's systems. They usually haven't stopped to answer the simple question: are we solving the problem in the right way?

Most computer systems that ever get created for a company are CRUD systems. That means they can Create, Read, Update and Delete data. Think about it... how many companies know your name and address? They all want that exact same data. Think how hard it is when you move house, change address, to update all those companies to send their correspondance to the right place.

The thing about creating CRUD software, is that if you've done it once, you've done it the same as you're going to do a million times after that. They're all the same. Garbage in, garbage out. Ok, user interfaces have gotten prettier, and we now employ people specifically to work on User Experience (UX) but it's solving the same old problem in the same old way.

I specialised in something called Straight-Through Processing (STP). The idea that the processing of transactions should be fully automated, wherever possible. This at least means that you're not doing yet another CRUD user interface, and you're building elegant pure software solutions, not just trying to stop a halfwit user from doing something they're not supposed to in the system.

Software still gets boring and repetitive. Most of the software challenge is change management. If you can control the change so that the software is well versioned and releases are well managed, then everything gets much more stable. The amount of time actually spent programming is minimal. It's actually kicking arses and taking names that takes the time. Most corporate systems have been over-complexified by the cowboys and the have-a-go heros.

If I had an hour to spend writing an extra feature, or an hour to analyse some rats nest of a mess that nobody's owning, I'll go for the mess every time. Still, it's all thankless work though, and there is no novelty, no sense of achievement in doing something you've done a zillion times before.

Mining Pool

Bitcoin and Blockchain really fascinated me, since 2011, when I read the famous paper "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System".

Bitcoin has everything the frustrated programmer could possibly wish for. The original source code is in C++ for a start, which is just a joy to behold... the seemingly impenetrable world of templatised code, where the templates are a complete black art, developed into a style completely unique to each developer.

Algorithms are enticing little puzzles. The one-way hash is particularly interesting to anybody who likes the idea of being a codebreaker or hacker. Trying to find the weaknesses in encryption and hashing is a mathematical, formal logic and computer science challenge. I love thinking about how to reverse engineer a problem like that.

But it's brain-exhausting stuff, having to think about bit shifts, and the endian-ness of your numbers, and all the myriad complexities of a hardcore problem. I can't spend too long thinking about things before I start to worry I'm going to need to take a drill to my skull to try and relieve some pressure.

Using statistical analysis to reduce an important algorithm to an equation with known co-efficients, could make you rich and famous, at least amongst geeks. However, it's the challenge for your mind that's the reason why you'd tackle such a problem. The intellectual stimulation, the incurable curiosity.

Once you start thinking about Bitcoin though, it's hard to stop. It's hard to leave a problem that hasn't completely defeated you. When you know there are still things that you want to try, approaches that might work, it's like an addiction... you keep going back to the hard problem, again and again. Pandora's Box is open and you can't unsee the things you've seen.


Mining never really made me much money, but speculating on the cryptocurrency brought substantial rewards




Alternative Calendar

7 min read

This is a story about clean slates...

Apple Pencil

Life is like a line of dominos all perched precariously upright. People have filled massive areas - like basketball courts - with row after perfect row after perfect row of these surprisingly weighty little objects. Watching a huge 'wave' fan out as all the dominos fall over, after just the very first one looks very pretty from a distance.

Let's imagine I'm 1/10th the size of a domino, and I'm staring up at these skyscrapers. I couldn't lift them or knock them over. I'd assume it was something like stonehenge: an unnatural arrangement of things, so much bigger than human scale.

When the seismic event finally happened, and the first one was pushed so that it would fall over and cause the other one to fall, you wouldn't be able to believe your eyes and ears. That something so heavy and seemingly stable, could topple over would be amazing. It would seem to take ages to accelerate and smash into its neighbour. Then with an almighty crash, most of the energy would be transferred and the next one would fall to the ground.

Looking at the two fallen objects, they would seem now to be permanently in this collapsed heap. The idea of re-standing something up that's so big and balancing it again... unthinkable, impossible. People who never saw the objects upright, would be amazed when you told them that they were, at one time, defying gravity.

Every event can be traced back to something that started a chain reaction.

I now own the world's most expensive pencil. Well, I don't - technically it's capital expenditure on a business asset. I was having a cashflow crisis when my business insurance expired. That means that when my Macbook Air had its 3rd major hardware failure, and is completely broken, there is no policy for me to claim on.

Her Majesty's Revenue Collectors have come up with 2 ways to get businesses to invest in new assets. Firstly, I'm on a scheme where if I spend over £2k on a single invoice, I get the VAT back (£334). Secondly, I can buy assets rather than pay tax. So if my Corporation Tax bill was £2,000, I would buy assets instead of paying the bill.

This is how my company came to own an iPad Pro as well as the Apple Pencil. I don't even like drawing on it... I much prefer the feel of graphite on paper. It's good for more accurate 'white board' type stuff, where you're sketching out technical ideas, but it's still plastic slipping all over really shiny glass, with no sense of how hard you're pressing down.

So I have the Mac Pro now, instead of the Air. The main difference is that it's nearly a completely blank slate. I've decided that I'm not going to rush to fill it up with Adobe Photoshop, Windows & Microsoft Excel etc. etc.

I have a backup of old photos and things, so I'm not panicking too much about lost data yet. I can find most things somewhere in 'the cloud' but I still have a habit of creating local notes for myself, and not putting code into github.

I wrote a piece of code that basically simulates a CPU, so I could track bits through left and right shifts. Theoretically, it could be used to solve 'impenetrable' algorithms like SHA, which have such a cascade of effects from changing just one bit, leave the end result unrecognisably different from the unaltered starting data. This code is lost.

I wrote my own blockchain (e.g. Bitcoin) in Java, so I could reverse-engineer the problem, and figure out some theoretical attacks on the cryptocurrency. This code is lost.

I'm not really worried about losing code. If I had to do it again, it would improve immeasurably, and take me a fraction of the time. I might also gain a new insight, understand something a bit better, or completely restructure things, so they are elegant and simple.

There will be little notes, half-finished graphic design projects, other people's example work they gave me on a USB stick... they'll be gone. One day soon, I'm going to say to myself "I know what I can use here" and I won't have it. No biggie. I am going to start taking more regular backups from now on though.

I also have a clean slate in terms of where I go from here. A contact thinks I can get Undercover Manic Depressive published in serial form, which means I'd be a paid author... how cool is that?

Self-publishing in digital form is cool 'n' all and I did it as an experiment to see how hard it was. It took me 5 or 6 hours to write 12,000 words, sign up with Amazon, upload, create a cover... and that was it! My incomplete book with terrible formatting and zero editing is published and can be bought for $3. I don't think it's going to compare to actually seeing a book I wrote on bookshelves, if it happens.

Cashflow is a disaster... paying rent left me with £40 and my company probably can't afford to pay salaries at the moment. My salary of £676 is about 70% of my rent, but I needed a new laptop, and at least this way I can keep writing on a half-decent machine with a familiar keyboard.

Yes, it seems ridiculous to risk eviction and bankruptcy, to sit by the River Thames, writing, on a brand new laptop. Do you know how long I've been out of full-time work, in total, since my 17th birthday? It's less than 2 years. So, any of you who went to Uni or had a couple of gap yahs can get off your high horse. I genuinely did earn this. Sadly, it was my ex who nicked the profits and my parents who've had to reach into their pockets and give me just enough to do nothing except be stressed and not able to reach escape velocity.

Getting up to go to a job that feels like it conflicts with my values, ethics or has simply reached the point where I'm sick of the lack of passion and expertise, gave me a 'direct debit' life where everything got paid on time every month, and I never had to borrow any money. In fact, I had tens of thousands of savings, and spent tens of thousands more on the poison dwarf (ex) and it was killing my soul. I feel I have died a thousand deaths and I fear not one more.

Yes, it's upsetting that this disruption means missing out on time with friends, my sister, my niece and maybe my mum. People might think it's selfish, immature, irresponsible... those certainly weren't adjectives that were being applied to me when I skipped University, and missed out on all those sweet girls, drunken nights, reading books, writing and just thinking and being challenged by something different every day.

If you want to know about deferred gratification, ask me.


This is the kind of stuff there's no space or time for in Canary Wharf or The City. I needed to stop and smell the roses, and we ask so much of our children with homework and good grades to get into a good Uni to get a good job etc. etc. that there are some people who just don't know how to say "I feel I'm not getting what I need in life to stay alive, but I have never had chance to explore what that is".




From Pole to Pole

10 min read

This is a story about living with a mood disorder...

Sick Note

Type II Bipolar Disorder took a long time to diagnose, despite a fairly obvious pattern of moods that can be easily traced back to adolescence. Of course, we all have mood fluctuations, but it's the extremity of those moods that qualifies something as a disorder.

I would say that hypomania was the more obvious one of of my pathological moods. Being able to concentrate and work with great intensity, with little sleep & food and a refusal to be diverted from my task, an irritability for distractions, hypersexuality, spending loads of money, risk-taking. Talking seems too slow to express your thoughts... the speed that you're thinking is too fast to explain to anybody else, to put into words. You're just a blur of activity.

It felt like driving with the hand-brake engaged for a lot of my life. I was always waiting for the next slim window of opportunity to work on something that I loved. Whether that was the Design & Technology at school, where there was never enough time to finish what I was working on before the end-of-class bell, or the lego model I was making, before it was mealtime and playtime was over.

Of course, we all have to work within a timetable, and we all have to eat & sleep, but these things always made me feel like I had to rush at everything I did as fast as I possibly could, in the hope that one day, I would complete one of my projects. I also grew incredibly frustrated with the limitations of timetables, mealtimes, bedtimes.

Switching to the world of work, there wasn't actually very much to do. Most people did very little. I ended up searching around for extra things to do.


The computer network at my first full time job ran like an absolute dog. That was because AppleTalk traffic from the office Macs and their printers was polluting the Ethernet traffic from the Sun SparcStations. I managed to talk my friend Lucas into helping me to rewire all the cables one evening.

OCD Cable

I wish I could show you the actual images, but we weren't even supposed to be in the server room. This was a Ministry of Defence prime defence contractor with a high level of security clearance. The two junior programmers aren't supposed to go and fix all the networking problems in the office without any authorisation.

The next morning, everybody was commenting how amazingly well the network was running. Lucas & I obviously couldn't claim any credit, because we had acted without authority, but nobody was going to do a witch-hunt when everybody was so pleased that the most major problem affecting everybody in the office had been solved overnight.

That's pretty much how a person with Bipolar Disorder hides out in a corporation. You bumble along, bored, depressed, coming in late, demotivated... and then you suddenly pull something out of the bag that nobody else would risk their career to do, let alone the lack of sleep and unsociable hours.

Bosses seemed to just accept my erratic working patterns, knowing that when there was something that needed doing with an impossible deadline, that's normally around the time I'd wake up and start hacking something together.

Late Message

It all kind of hung together until I started at a new company in 2008 and the project they were asking me to do was so huge, I didn't know where to begin. I was just entering a depression, which was bad timing. There was also a cultural problem, where their in-house IT staff built everything using Microsoft Excel, and any 'proper' software was built by Oracle consultants or bought off the shelf... but nobody liked those big expensive systems.

My depression got so bad I couldn't even get out of bed or stop crying randomly. I knew I wasn't going to bounce back quickly from that one. After a couple of months I quit that job and started making iPhone games in my back garden. 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. I couldn't go fast enough.

And so began a completely unstructured phase of my life. I would take on a project or interest, completely immerse myself in it for as many hours as I could stay awake, and stay obsessed with that single task until I burnt out. Then I would be depressed, and with no reason to even drag myself out of bed and go and be miserable at work, I would just be depressed all day in bed. I stopped answering my phone. I stopped answering the door. I never opened the curtains.

Being self-employed after 11 or so years of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday structure and routine, is kind of a red rag to a bull, if you have a tendency towards mood instability.

I relished those periods of hypomania. I wrote a series of iPhone games. I built a wooden summer house. I read a huge pile of books on Theoretical Physics and had lengthy email conversations with professors around the world, I wrote a mobile eLearning system and launched it at Learning Technologies conference, I decided that I wanted to be a startup founder and applied for TechStars, I learnt all about Bitcoin, bought Bitcoin miners and started mining in my summer house, I traded Bitcoin for profit, I wrote my own virtual CPU so I could attack algorithms like SHA-256, I started investigating security loopholes in things like internationalised domain names and the Google and Facebook developer platforms.

It's not long before you stray into legal grey areas though, so a lot of my projects have been shelved and I've had to go on raiding missions back to the corporate world, to stay afloat financially. These are normally timed with my hypomania, so a company gets 3 months of incredible productivity, and then a month or two of me being depressed, and then we normally go our separate ways.

My depressions have gotten worse and worse. They seem to last longer, and I've actually started to harm myself more & more. It's strange, when you emerge from a depression and enter a period of hypomania though... you can't remember just how dark those previous days were. There's no rational voice that says "hey! slow down, or else you're going to crash again!". Instead, the voice says "better go as quick as you can, because we know a crash is coming again soon".

Down the Road

So how do we know that depression is the pathological mood at the other pole from my hypomania? Well, I sleep. A lot. Sometimes 16 hours a day. When I'm awake I have very low energy, low motivation. I have no interest in things I'd normally find enjoyable. I don't want to see or speak to anybody. I generally think that everything is pointless, broken, useless, hopeless. Lots of negative memories keep coming into my head, and make me think "I can't believe I said/did that" with extreme regret, embarrassment, shame. I think the world would be better off without me. I start to do pros & cons of living lists, either in my head or written down. I start to think of ways to kill myself, and what affairs I would need to set in order before I committed suicide. This goes on for weeks, months.

I've written before about trying mood stabilisers and antidepressants. The side effects just aren't compatible with good quality of life. You might think that risk to life outweighs quality of life, but it doesn't, especially when you have the waves of hypomania to surf, before crashing onto the rocks of depression.

My body and my mind seems to have decided to adapt itself to this world, to this society, to this environment. We applaud the kid who busts their balls to study for their exams, and can then collapse in a heap during the school holidays. We applaud the employee who pulls the all-nighters and comes in at weekends when work is behind schedule. We applaud the 'overnight success' stories, when an impressive project is unveiled, seemingly created out of thin air, as if by magic. There is no magic. It's just an unsustainable burst of energy, focus, determination, single-mindedness and a touch of madness.

Hospital Note

I'd like to go back to the routine I once had, pre-2009. Only I don't seem to be able to retrace my steps, yet. I know the formula that used to work, and a very dear and trusted friend urges me to take a permanent job, and he's probably right to some extent. However, if it all goes horribly wrong again, I would have earned a fraction of what I would have done in a contract.

I'm hoping I can find my little niché. Somewhere I can deliver more value than keeping a seat warm from Monday to Friday. Somewhere where the bosses are more interested in results than headcount in their empire. Pretentious? Moi?

I don't really care whether you think I should cheer the fuck up or calm the fuck down... my moods seem pretty intent on doing whatever they want to do. I've been fully aware of the calamitous consequences of not keeping my mouth shut at the right time, or not getting out of bed and doing some urgent crap. It doesn't really feel like I'm choosing even if it does look like a choice to you, as an outside observer.

This looks like a load of angst-filled teenaged immature self-centred selfish drivel. It probably is. I call it my life.

I'm probably more self-aware than you give me credit for. If you're thinking "oh my God, can you even hear what you're saying? Can you even hear yourself?" the answer is yes, yes I can. I spend a lot of time cringing and wishing things weren't so, and indeed wondering why I'm like a moth to a flame so often. I can see the train wrecks before they happen. I've plotted my mood and activity data, and the patterns are as clear as day. So what?

I'm sure there are days when you'd really like to be a bird, just soaring on the air currents above the ground, looking down on people & buildings. It doesn't matter how badly you want to be a bird. It doesn't matter how rational it seems, to become a bird and just fly right over that traffic jam that's getting in your way, it's not actually possible. That's a bit like those days when I would really like to feel normal. I can want it, but it's not actually possible. Anybody who tells you that you can stop worrying or be happy just by choosing is full of shit. You have my permission to punch them in their smug mouth.

So, I'd say my experiment with abstinence was a failed one. We need a little alcohol to calm our nerves. We need a little caffeine to perk us up. We know when we need it, and most of us know our limits. We're pretty adept creatures at tweaking our own moods. We probably need a pet for a bit of soothing oxytocin. We probably need a girl/boyfriend for a bit of serotonin and a squirt of dopamine. Other than that, we just need something to keep our minds occupied as a distraction from the inevitability of death and decay. Not God though. God is for crazy people.

Anyway, that's my two cents, on my two poles: Type II Bi-polar Disorder.




Advent Calendar (Day Eighteen)

30 min read

This is a story about running out of ideas...

Let there be light

That's a light box. It's supposed to be a way of treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It's the final thing I thought I could try, as a natural remedy for depression. The regimen that I have followed for 6 months is:

  • Varied diet, including plenty of fruit & veg
  • Sleep hygiene: strict bedtime and getting up after 7 or 8 hours, even on weekends
  • No caffeine
  • No alcohol (actually only 3 months)
  • No medication
  • No drugs
  • No legal highs
  • Amino acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Exercise
  • Making new friends
  • Trying to have a stable place to live
  • Trying to have a job
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Getting some professional help (only had a whole week in hospital)
  • Being disciplined and self controlled
  • Wearing blue-light filtering glasses after 4pm (for the last few months)
  • Using the light box for at least an hour every morning (for the last month)

Guess what happened? My mood was able to react to things, and I reacted to my mood. There was no stability. In fact there was no coping mechanism. Everything I used to do to regulate my mood was removed, so I did other things that were detrimental to my overall wellbeing.

Being hung over or drunk at work is quite good if you hate your job and think that the management are idiots. Because I was sober, I told the HSBC management team that their project didn't stand a chance in hell of being delivered, because it was being run by people who are terrible at Agile Project Management, and seem to be completely lacking any relevant software development experience. I said I didn't want to be any part of it unless some big changes were made. I said I wasn't comfortable doing the wrong thing.

Being hopped up on coffee is good if you want to rescue a project. I recoded Barclays entire Corporate Pingit system, in 30 hours, with no sleep. I kept the existing public API, but everything else was thrown away. Instead of spaghetti code, full of copy & paste, and buggy as hell, poor error handling, poor logging - unsupportable - I just rewrote nice clean code. Lots of coffee, 30 hour hackathon, all the bugs solved, code reduced by 80%, production grade error handling and logging. The team leader felt important because the old system barely worked, so he spent a lot of time understanding the spaghetti. There wasn't really anything for either me or him to do after I wrote a decent system. My boss was happy, the team leader wasn't, I got my contract terminated, Barclays customers were happy, I was happy that I'd delivered the software that meant I no longer had any work to do.

Corporate software is boring. The projects I'm asked to do are child's play. 48 million customer's metadata? That's only 48 terabytes, if we store a megabyte per customer. A low res scan of their passport and maybe a utility bill, plus a few thousand characters for their name, address, phone number etc. etc. At JPMorgan we stored about 3 petabytes of document scans. That's about the same amount of data in the entire Library of Congress.

AI, games, simulation, data analysis, physics & cosmology modelling, codebreaking... those are the hard problems. I remember I wrote a program that calculated every single possible checkmate. Then I wrote a program that found all the moves that led to those positions. It ran out of memory before it got back to the early moves. Then I wrote a program that could take the position of the pieces on the board, and find the moves to checkmate, where there is no opportunity for your opponent to win. Most of the time the program couldn't find a path where the opponent had no chance. In theory, with enough processing power and storage space, chess could be solved by a program. However there are 10 to the power 80 (10 + 80 zeros) atoms in the universe, and there are 10 to the power 123 (10 + 123 zeros) moves in the chess game tree. We should probably concentrate on modelling the cosmos at subatomic scale before wasting our time on a silly game.

So, that's my quandary. I'm not very challenged or interested by anything in the corporate world, and my solution of just being drunk all the time can't have been doing my liver much good. However, without alcohol/benzodiazepines I think too much, and without caffeine/bupropion/stimulants, I can't get motivated to keep solving the same easy problems that don't even need solving.

In fact, when I think about it, I must have made a lot of people redundant. I've automated a lot of stuff that people used to be employed to do. I've made corporations very rich, by allowing them to lay off loads of their workforce, but increase their productivity and profitability. My main specialism is Straight Through Processing (STP). I know how to get $1.16qn processed with just a few programmers, database administrators, infrastructure engineers, network specialists and system administrators. You don't need project managers, because they just put the lies you tell them into a spreadsheet and tell everybody that everything is going really well. You don't need testers, because good programmers write good automation tests, and they don't write bugs. There's no difficult logic or calculations in a corporate system. I do get spooked out when my code works first time, but it's quicker to do it that way.

Human workflow and user experience. Here's a better use of your time and money. Fill out paper forms and then set fire to them. Nobody gives a shit about having to go through your life story just to become a customer or get a government service. If I want broadband, just send somebody to install it and set up a direct debit. If I want to rent a flat, I'm going to pay you 6 weeks deposit plus a month's rent in advance, plus letting agent fees. Just give me the keys as soon as I've put the money in your account. Don't even bother with the contract. Burn it. The contract is simple: I pay you rent, I live in the flat.

You send a person to read the electricity meter. They can take my card payment for whatever I owe when they are in my home. You send a person to read the gas meter. They can work out my bill and I'll pay it on the spot. You send armies of traffic wardens. They can spend less time hiding in bushes and more time knocking on doors taking card payments for the rubbish collection, street lighting, police, fire service, libraries, schools and other things that I quite like rather than hovering near cars whose meter payment is about to expire.

My bank sends me a letter saying that they've paid a bill for me, but I didn't have quite enough money, so they're going to charge me even more money. My bank's only function, so far as I can see, is to make my problems worse. Rather than ringing me up and saying "Hello, Mr. Grant. We can see your income has suddenly stopped. We're not going to charge you any interest until you start earning again, because otherwise we are going to stress you out and make you bankrupt, and then we won't get our money back"

You see, everything trundles along fine when you play along with the game. Keep working doing that job you hate, at a company run by imbeciles, on a project that just needs 5 decent full stack developers to get on with what they do best, for 2 weeks, with no project managers who couldn't organise a piss up in a bar, and no 'architects' who just draw on whiteboards and produce documents that nobody reads, because they were rubbish at actually producing real working software.

The worst code I ever wrote was my first iPhone game. Games are awful as a single indie dev. You have to do all the graphics, sound effects, music, plus design the user interface, and then there's the game itself which has to run at at least 30 frames per second. The calculations are hard. Doing it in Objective-C was a nightmare. I've never know a language with such whacky syntax. I can probably write code in about 20 languages (BASIC, Pascal, Assembler, C, ADA, C++, Java, Javascript, C-shell, Korn-shell, Bash, Perl, PHP, C#, SQL, AWK, Batch, Google Apps Script, Logo, VBA, XSLT) and there's a bunch more I know enough of the syntax of to read and edit.

I can glance at some data and tell you if it's XML, JSON, Base-64, HEX, key-value pairs, fixed position, CSV. I can probably guess how the programmers of your favourite game store the high score table, and insert myself as the number one player with an unassailable score.

Yes, playing the games that everybody else does, competing... it seems a bit pointless when you know the game is rigged, and if I really wanted to, I could tweak my bank balance. Fraud is not hard, and banks make so much money they don't even go after the small fraudsters. It's easier to charge honest hard working people exorbitant rates of interest and fees rather than doing their actual legal & moral duty to Know Your Customer (KYC). I could buy a digital identity for about $100, open a bank account, get some loans, use the money to buy a real passport from a European country that's a bit more relaxed about staff members making identity documents in return for a cash bonus.

Once you're in Europe you can just keep heading east until you find a country where people don't read too many newspapers and watch too much TV. You can find somewhere you can afford to eat and sleep for a couple of years, while you wait out the storm. You can take some time out from the rat race, because you deserve it.

My iPhone app business was a hit, my first IT contracting company made loads of money, my electrician business was profitable, but the building trade is hard, my enterprise mobile apps business was too ahead of its time and never made much money, my Bitcoin trading and mining was hugely profitable, my second IT contracting company made loads of money. I don't really want to sell out and get another contract just yet. I've got some cool software ideas.  Instead of doing what I normally do and start with a profitable business model, I want to do something I'm passionate about.

I don't work at MIT or Stanford. I don't work at CERN or the UK Atomic Energy Authority, but I can tell you that the strong nuclear force is the energy that's released when a heavy element is split into two lighter elements. But what does "heavy" even mean when we haven't managed to get the Standard Model of Particle Physics to be unified with Special and General Relativity. Special Relativity tells us that energy and mass are two sides of the same coin, and General Relativity tells us how mass stretches the fabric of spacetime. Gravitational lensing has proven the theories predictions. The Standard Model had it's wartime and industrial applications. The transistor radio and faster computers. Every experiment discovers new weirdness though, rather than proving the model is complete. The particle zoo grows and grows, every time we smash protons together at higher and higher energies.

What does Quanta mean? It means "how much". A photon - a packet of light - comes in a specific frequency, which tells you how much energy it has. Let's imagine that a red photon is 2, green is 4 and blue is 6. We can also imagine that an X-ray might be 20 and a gamma ray 50. Do you notice that all the numbers are even? That's because you can't see anything odd numbered. A photon with the wrong energy won't interact with an atom that needs a higher energy to absorb it, and then emit a new photon. The only way you know anything exists is because of the photons that are emitted from atoms.

So we can only work with things we can see, and those things will only tell us about the photons that have the right energy. We can build a machine that measures microwaves, but what material should we use to listen to the frequencies that no known material interacts with. How would we even find elements that our eyes and our radios and our photographic chemicals can't detect?

Well, cosmologists reckon there's loads of it, whatever it is. They call it Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Nobody can see it, but they've done the math, and there just isn't enough visible matter to glue the galaxies together. Imagine if Dark Photons came in frequency 1, 3, 5, 7 etc. but our visible universe is governed by the Planck Constant, which means multiples of 2, in this  simplified example. If you can only see 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc. then you can't see the Dark Photons and the Dark Matter that can only be seen with the materials that we only hypothesise to exist.

General Relativity is normally right, and GR isn't fussy about the matter that it accelerates. It doesn't deal in packets of energy. GR doesn't do probabilities. Quantum Mechanics says that if we stop observing something it loses certainty and spreads out into a probability cloud. If you know the location of something, you can't know it's momentum. If you know something's momentum, you don't know where it's located. It's like saying that if everybody stops looking at the moon, it won't be where you predicted it to be when you look back. But GR doesn't care about that. GR has predicted the moon's orbit with incredible accuracy, and the moon always obeys the law of gravity.

If you ignore gravity in your subatomic world, you permit matter to behave unpredictably. If you ignore special relativity, you permit massive particles to fly around faster than the speed of light, in order to uphold the uncertainty principle.

If we think about the duality of light. Both a particle and a wave. We think of photons as massless, but they have energy and finite speed so General Relativity applies. The speed of light is too fast to get caught in orbit but light will bend around massive objects. Let's use the Pilot Wave Theory instead of all that Quantum weirdness. Imagine our photon being carried along by the gravitational waves that it's making. Gravity waves can travel as fast as they like and can even escape black holes. You can't detect them, because your ruler will stretch and compress as a wave passes. You can't take a timing of how long it takes for something to travel from A to B because time and space are different for different observers. Just by carrying my atomic clock to my fellow experimenter, to compare the time I measured and the time they measured, my clock will run slower because I'm moving in space. Time is not distance divided by speed.

Time measures how much slower you're moving than the speed of light. If you could travel at the speed of light, and tried to shine a torch forwards, no light would come out and your watch would be stopped. You wouldn't even be conscious, because you'd be frozen in time. If you slowed down to 99% of the speed of light and shone your torch, you'd see it beaming off just as fast as normal. That's because time is passing more slowly, so you don't notice that your light is moving at 1% of its normal speed. When you get back home, you'll probably find that everybody is dead, because time didn't slow down for them. Your clock is right, but so is theirs.

So what's going on at the subatomic scale then? Well, you can't really detect a single particle. When a photon hits the Charged Couple Device in your digital camera, it's absorbed. Enough photons have to be absorbed to trigger the discharge of a capacitor. Only the amplified signal is strong enough to be measured. The thing about amplification is that you get noise. You're trying to measure a signal, but a percentage of what you measure is noise. That's the signal to noise ratio. It gets worse. Because instruments are digital, they have limited precision. If you measure colour with 8 bits, you can only pick the closest of 256 colours. A CD can only store 16 bits of air pressure: 65,535 possible values. It does this 44,100 times a second. Pretty good, but only an approximation.

Because all digital equipment depends on an effect called Quantum Tunnelling, it's hard to know if the Quantum phenomena are being observed, or whether it's the instrument's noise that is being amplified. Early computers sent signals in parallel, but sometimes the data got 'skewed', with some bits arriving later than others. Now data is sent in serial, with very fast modulators and demodulators, but that means that a lot of buffering has to occur. If you imagine the time it takes for a detected signal to be amplified, that amplified value to be measured, the value stored in a buffer, a modulator to turn the value into electrical pulses, the time to travel down the wire, a demodulator to measure the pulses and store a value in another buffer, a memory controller to load that value into the computer processor's register, the processing instruction has to be loaded from the cache, and then the calculation is performed, the result is copied from the result register to memory, the I/O controller sends the result to the storage device.

Then, ages and ages and ages later, a scientist comes and looks at the values. According to Quantum Physics, every piece of measuring equipment, power source, data transmission cable, the computer and it's storage device, are all part of a quantum superposition, and the value is not determined until the scientist observes it, at which point the wavefunction collapses. Computers are great at doing calculations and for sharing research, but by their very nature as machines that exploit strange subatomic behaviour - semiconductors - they are also not very reliable when measuring the very properties of physics that they themself are built on.

It's useful to think of the Pilot Wave theory, because it explains observations like the double-slit experiment, in a nice deterministic way. Photons don't travel through both slits, but the wave does, and then the two waves interfere. Interference disappears as soon as you polarise the particle, because the peaks and troughs are no longer in phase. We really don't need to mess around with probability waves.

Yes I really hate probabilistic theories. Because subatomic things are smaller than the wavelength of light, we can only make statistical measurements. The size of the atomic nucleus was estimated by hammering a sheet of gold really thin and then firing electrons at it. Based on the number of electrons that bounced back and got detected, an estimate was made of how much empty space there is in an atom. However, you might know the weight of the gold, and the surface area, but you don't know how thick it is. It might be 5 atoms thick, it might be 50. Where did you get your measurement for the weight of a gold atom? How you know its density? How do you know how tightly packed the atoms are together?

At some point you're going to have to rely on some old science. The periodic table gives us the atomic weight, based on a presumed number of protons, neutrons and electrons. But what about the strong nuclear force that's holding the nucleus together? What about the energy of the electrons in the biggest orbits? Does a 1g diamond have as many atoms as 1g of Carbon dust? Prove it.

So we know that heavier elements are unstable, radioactive, and decay into lighter elements. We know what amount of what element, in a certain isotope, will give a self-sustaining fission reaction. We guess that fusion in stars creates all the elements up to iron, and all the elements after that we guess are created in supernovae. We haven't done much apart from a bunch of chemical reactions and some atom smashing yet though. We've done pretty well with electromagnetism and radio waves. Semiconductors and transistors are completely ubiquitous. It's all useless junk if the Van Allen belt blows away in a coronal mass ejection and we're all bombarded by cosmic rays and the radio waves are filled with static noise.

I can tell you something that's fairly easy to observe. Hotter air takes up more volume than colder air. Also, there's an altitude where Earth's gravity can no longer hang onto its Nitrogen, Oxygen, CO2 and noble gasses. Also, if you suck up dense polycarbons from deep underground, where they have been heavily compressed, and then set fire to them, the result is less Oxygen, more heat, and the expansion of liquid into a big volume of gas that's heavy, so it lies close to the ground, while the useful Oxygen is pushed into the upper atmosphere, where it thins out and drifts off into space.

If you have more CO2, you should plant more trees. However, we're doing the opposite. Deserts are spreading, rainforest is being cut down and fire sweeps through vegetation in California, Australia and Borneo.

So many people work in banking, insurance, accountancy, financial services, paper pushing jobs of such woeful uselessness that probably the bulk of humanity's job description is: sit at desk in front of computer, wear telephone headset, read the script on the screen to people on the phone and type their answers on the keyboard, drink tea & coffee, go home.

Why can't I do something to help feed some people, spread the wealth, speed up the conversion to clean energy, get more computers doing more useful calculations and modelling, rather than just massaging sales figures and marketing crap that nobody needs?

I'm going to risk running out of money for another few weeks at least, and that means I definitely will run out of money, because it's usually 60 days until I get paid. For the amount of money I'd get selling my depreciating electronics, and the time and hassle involved, I might as well get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket.

I'm just going to do the type of work that I'm passionate about and good at for a few weeks. I know HSBC are going to need a Customer Due Diligence system before February. I like my ex-colleagues, but my god nobody had the balls to just bin the junk and start again. It doesn't scale, it's not maintainable, it's so hard to roll out in-country, the pilot was a disaster, all the good people are leaving, and 85% of the work still has to be done.

I remember getting really angry at an all-day meeting with about 40 people. I didn't know at the time, but the CIO was there, and head honchos from Retail Bank & Wealth Management and Corporate Banking, plus the best in the software business trying to save Europe's biggest bank, on their number one project, money no object. It maddened me that we spent 2 and a half days estimating how much work there was to do in 3 weeks, but nobody knew what our productivity was. Nobody knew what the backlog was. Nobody knew what Minimum Viable Product was. Nobody was bothered about Continuous Deployment. Nobody had thought about the godforsaken task of pumping thousands of questions and rules and logic into a spreadsheet that you needed to know 3 programming languages to even make a stab in the dark.

I said I'd do half the questions on my own. I then had to spend an absolute age reprogramming the core system so that it would spit out meaningful syntax errors. There were about 500 things wrong before I even started. Then the architect admitted that he hadn't even thought about some fairly fundamental things and his solution took days to get right, while my suggestion was roundly ignored. Then the data architect started changing everything, even though it was tightly coupled throughout the entire system. I had to give loads of people lessons on Git and Maven artefact versioning. It was madness, and I had to call time out: I asked for a code freeze while we got everything stable. To everyone's credit, they listened to me, trusted me and supported me. I think it was only 5 straight days of midnight finishes. The work wasn't hard, but there were major bugs in every single component of the system. The pressure of knowing that hundreds of people are effectively twiddling their thumbs, and if you don't get it all working, you've damaged a huge amount of productivity.

A little cheer went up when everything integrated and the screens went green for the first time in weeks. It was also just in time for the CIO to announce that we'd achieved a significant milestone at the Town Hall. It was false optimism though. I had unearthed an absolute mountain of buggy code and dodgy config. My worst fears about performance were confirmed too. It took 5 minutes for the homepage to load.

I found a Scrum Master I liked and gave him a list of names that I wanted to work on a new version of the application. We picked good tech, designed a simple system and had something to demo in a week. They sacked my scrum master, me, and the longest serving member of the development team. People were getting jumpy and we were making management look pretty incompetent. I was also leaving a paper trail that was inconvenient. I was quite explicit about the urgency of the situation and what the simple remedies were. I didn't sugar coat it, because I'd been giving the same advice for 5 months.

I had plenty of warnings to keep my head down, and toe the line. I knew my days were numbered, and when I found out my old scrum master wanted me back because everything was tanking, I fired my parting shot. I knew I'd get terminated. Quicker than having to work a notice period. No need to lie about your reasons for leaving. No 4 weeks of hell working for a micromanaging idiot.

There's no challenge for me in corporate software. I ran the IT for a nice medium sized company. The board asked me for a data warehouse and a new phone system. Instead I gave them a new card payments processing system and an accurate set of accounts, with the correct ledger for all their customers. It's the only reason why the Office of Fair Trading didn't shut them down when they sent their forensic accountants to see why the books didn't really balance. Oh, and they were in breach of card data protection and were going to have a data theft until I tokenised all the card numbers. I had such a hard time in convincing the CEO of the right technology strategy that when he said "fit in or fuck off" I was more than happy to leave that rudderless captain.

When JPMorgan needed somebody to figure out why their FX system was running like a dog and they were going to cause a market liquidity disaster on International Money Markets Day, they'd had 10 Oracle consultants and none of them could find anything wrong. I found a DBA I liked in London, who didn't even work in my department, and we went through everything with a fine tooth comb. I also harassed the sysadmins until they got my disk I/O up to scratch and tweaked every kernel configuration value, applied every patch and generally wrung every bit of speed we could muster out of the hardware. I then had to take the vendor's code to bits and tell them where they had multithreading issues. They didn't believe me, but I kept sending them the measurements I'd made and pretty graphs, until they put a dev on the phone to me, and we talked through the code, and found a bug. Then the marvellous DBA found the setting that was causing the latency. With the new code and the much faster database, I could hardly believe the timings from the performance tests. When IMM day came, we blitzed it. We absolutely wiped the floor. Fastest FX platform in the world. There wasn't much appetite for developing our own in-house system anymore, I really didn't want to sit around looking busy. I liked my friends and the culture, but I still need interesting work.

And that's how it goes. Hire me to fix your technology problems, and I will, but then I'll want to leave if new challenges don't come along. I hate just keeping a seat warm. I guess that's Bipolar. I work like a son of a bitch for 3 or 4 months, then I'm really struggling to stay motivated for another month or two, and then I'll just stop coming to work.

I could try and pace myself, but invariably I find myself drawn to the impossible challenges. Normally you hire somebody who turns out to be rubbish, but refuses to leave. They literally stick to their chair like glue, because their main motivation is job security, not being good at their job. When you hire somebody who's really good, you can't let them know what a hideous stinking mess everything is in, and that they're going to be under relentless pressure to do horrible work. People who are really good will just go and find somewhere better to work.

I'm an idiot. I want to finish the job I've started and leave feeling proud of delivering stuff. I never ask for the poor performers to be fired. Most of the time I'm able to calmly filter out the new guy I'm training, when they're trying to impress me, but they don't know what they're talking about, and I've got an absolute bitch of a schedule to keep. I had to keep just saying "no" when 3 people were shadowing me, and they were all saying you forgot this or that, or you did that wrong... then I press a button and it all works first time and I can start to be more amenable again.

I'm absolutely not perfect. The first implementation is normally a dog. An ugly dog. But it works, and then the pressure is off so I can refactor for elegance. It's a bit of a thankless task though. When you start refactoring you then start looking at other code, and you end up having to change more and more and more and all the tests break because everything is so fragile, and then people start complaining that they can't find their bit of code anymore, and they have to merge their bit of work into an unrecognisable new world, because people don't pull, commit and push often enough.

I don't even write much code. Ask me for a bit of code that does something, and I'll give you a little bundle that you can plug in wherever you want it. When everybody is developing features but the application doesn't work, I'll concentrate on bug fixing and stabilising the build. When everybody is trampling on each other's toes, I'll concentrate on release management and versioning. When an important demo is coming up but people are committing code that doesn't work, I'll roll it back and tell them to put it on a branch until it integrates. When code starts getting promoted from DEV, to UAT, QA and PROD, somebody has to make sure the database is created with the latest schema, test data is loaded, Business Process Management tasks are cleared down, and all the little microservices are up to the right versions. That can take 3 hours on a bad day.

Software is not hard. Managing a huge team is hard. I haven't had a management role since 2013. However, I know that every untalented email forwarder who thinks they can manage a big project says "features, features, features, we're late, features, features, oh my god we are so late, let's just get it working, get it working, oh my god so many bugs, performance is terrible, let's try and go live anyway, oh my god it's hard doing a production rollout, and the users hate it even more than the testers, what do we do? what do we do? everybody panic, work 25 hours a day 8 days a week, 366 days a year, what do you mean we don't have any metrics? what do you mean we don't have any reporting? what do you mean it's not multilingual? why are all the good people leaving? why do things seem to get done a lot slower now we're supporting 3 or 4 more environments, instead of just one? who could have predicted such a thing? why didn't any highly paid consultants tell me? oh, they did? get me the mail server administrator immediately, there's some junk mail I don't seem to be able to delete permanently. Just get it done before the regulators come asking why we've failed to meet our timetable commitment".

And that's why I hate corporate bullshit.

It's the engineer's curse: we want to just solve problems, to make stuff that works, to make things better. I don't care that it hurts your feelings when I say your idea's rubbish. Your job is to listen to the experts, motivate people and sign the paychecks. My job is to come up with the ideas and make them a reality for you.

I don't really think I'm cut out for having a boss. I don't really think I'm employable anymore. I just completely ignore all the management, then they love me, then I tell them I'm not doing it again unless things change, then they hate me, then I get fired, then they get fired.

I probably need to figure out a way to get paid for more than 5 or 6 months of shouting and swearing at everybody and just doing whatever the hell I want. But it's so soul destroying to go to work and think that you made absolutely no difference. In fact you were complicit. Your day rate bought your silence. You were more worried about losing the stream of big invoices than your ethics. You put financial benefit ahead of professional, moral and legal obligations.

A bunch of white collars have got to get prosecuted soon.

Bankers have had their hand in the till for far too long.





Stress Test

5 min read

This is a story about reaching the limits...

Looks Closed to Me

We are about to enter a consumer debt crisis. Credit Crunch 2.0. How do I know this? Well, I don't see any joined-up-thinking in retail banking, but I do see all the signs of a bubble about to burst.

In Germany, there is a central system that tracks what money is owed between every company. When you raise an invoice, you enter it in the system, and that way, you can see who owes who, and how much. You can do something called netting where all the balances are totalled up and you can then see exactly who's in debt and who's in credit.

The Germans have got that spot on. We need to know where the bad debt is, so we can contain toxic companies that are trading recklessly.

We don't have anything similar for consumer debt.

The credit-scoring system is only useful when people are applying for more debt. When they get into a debt crisis, they only show up when they start defaulting on their loan repayments, get to the limit of their overdraft, can't make their credit card minimum payments, default on their mortgage etc. etc.

I worked in Debt Management in 2012 and I listened to many phonecalls with ordinary individuals who didn't do anything reckless, but got caught in a debt trap. They were encouraged by consumer lenders to take out more loans to cover the last loans, and then payday loans to cover the interest, and before you knew it BOOM they were as good as bankrupt.

Personally, I hadn't been in debt since the age of 19 or so. This is unusual. I paid the deposit on my house. I paid for my wedding. I paid for my cars. I paid for our holidays... all with cash I had personally saved. The only way that was possible for me to do this was with way above-average earnings. This would have been impossible for anybody who was earning average wages.

I didn't really know what it was like for an ordinary person, living on an ordinary wage, in an ordinary way.

There was a huge amount of interest in my Debt Management startup, when I tried to found it in 2013. People still email me about it today. People still remember. I only worked on it for a short amount of time before I was consumed by my own ordinary life event - a divorce - which tore my stable world apart.

I wanted to let out our house, so that we had steady rental income, and I was able to defer the stress of financially settling the divorce until I had re-established myself back in London. I begged my wife to allow me to secure my life before she rained fire and brimstone on my head. She undermined everything I tried to do to protect myself.


Dining Room

Master Bedroom


Guest Bedroom




By the time 2014 started, I had managed to keep my finances ticking over with Bitcoin trading, but she had wrecked me. When the house sale money eventually came in, I was in no fit state to work. She had destroyed me. I could have sold the house in 6 weeks. She managed to drag it out to 6 months. It was fine for her, she was staying in Bournemouth and she had a job. I had to rebuild my entire life.

I had a huge cash pile, but I had been stress tested to the limit and beyond. I couldn't work. I had to go to hospital. I was a wreck.

So, I ended up spiralling downwards. I didn't borrow money, but you sure rip through it if you're unwell, living in London and trying to support yourself getting better. Especially if you can't afford to sit and wait for state support. It was a Catch 22. London is where friends and my work network are, but it's certainly not easy to get any help from over-stretched boroughs. I had to turn to the private sector. That cost me a lot of cash.

So, I don't really qualify for state support... that's right. Why should I take something which I could afford to pay for privately? Only I couldn't really afford it... I got well, but then I had no personal safety net any more.

I spent all my money keeping myself alive. I had yet to thrive. 

Other people are very good at spending my money. My ex totally forgot that I paid for everything. She felt entitled. My ex flatmate, John, went overbudget on a flat that he didn't pay a penny towards, and even took some of my furniture with him when he left. He felt entitled.

Why do people feel entitled to come and pick my pocket? I've got nothing left.

The banks have done very well out of me and I've defended them. I've not claimed my PPI that I'm entitled to. I've not frozen the interest on my loans and had unfair credit charges refunded to me. I could - in fact - just throw down my tools, and say sod this for a game of soldiers. I'm trying to prevent a domino-effect of systemic failure in the banking system, which would see bank runs and total carnage as the whole system deleverages in an extremely inelegant way.

I'm trying to help my masters avoid such a crisis, but I feel like ground zero at the moment.

I need to go to work tomorrow, but I can't. I'm not well. I have been stress tested to the limit, and it's broken me.

Cat in Bed

Poor Frankie lost his home, which was his castle. Look how relaxed and happy he was there in his lovely big bed (June 2008)



What Goes Down Must Come Up

3 min read

This is a story of exploration, at the ragged limit of control...

Before the Bitcoin Rally

Promises are easily made, but you have to make good on those promises if you really meant what you said. When I found myself without any money or support to build the startup that would set my conscience straight, for my involvement in the Credit Crunch, and help me back to health & wealth after separation from my wife, I had to think creatively.

I sank every penny I had, plus everything I could borrow from the banks and other commercial lenders (which was a lot... I am extremely creditworthy) into Bitcoin, in August 2013. This turned out to be a rather shrewd investment. Only one friend, Cameron, was wise enough to back me, and I think the return on his capital is likely to have exceeded a lifetime of Governement-backed tax free saving.

Another friend, Will, decided to copy my investment strategy, and had me to manage the purchase and sale of his Bitcoin Miner to maximise his profit. However, he decided to hold and try to run his profits on his Bitcoins, when I was cashing out in December 2013. The losses he sustained from that mark-to-market point, have been pretty eye-watering. Oh well; he's still suckling at the teet of Investment Banking, so he doesn't need the money.

Selling my house, dividing up all my posessions and trying to move what I could to London, as well as divorce paperwork and general breakup unpleasantness, plus having to risk everything just to keep my hopes & dreams alive, was the very last distraction I needed. Doing a startup is hard at the best of times. Moving is stressful. Leaving everything you've built and worked for is heart-wrenching. Doing it when you are unwell... it's enough to finish a person off.

And so, in the first half of 2014 I had to invest in myself. All my profit was re-invested in my health. I parked my dreams of building a social enterprise - a not-for-profit built to salve an aching conscience - built with knowledge gleaned from my obscenely rich masters.

Exactly how rich did I make my masters? Well, software I designed and delivered was responsible for the confirmation of $1,160,000,000,000,000 in Credit Default Swaps contracts in 2008. That's $165,714 for every man, woman and child on the planet. That's f**ked up.

A guy I worked with resigned in moral protest... but he was really just looking after himself: he bought gold at $550 a troy Oz and a chicken farm in New Zealand. I was disturbed by what we were doing, but I'm just a frustrated coder... I knew I could deliver the project for the bank... I didn't know how to say "no".

Double Hashpower

Scarcity, collatteral, securitisation: the basis for the non-insane version of capitalism (September 2013)