Buying a home

Yes, it’s been a bit quiet for the last few weeks. There’s a good reason for it, honest.

You may have noticed I’ve been very quiet recently. Well, there’s a reason for that. I bought a house (technically half a house, I guess – joint mortgage), and it’s taken up a lot of my time. Between packing, moving, buying furniture, making furniture, unpacking, fixing problems, working and a few other things, I’ve been rather short on time. But it’s been interesting – perhaps more for me writing than you reading, but since you’re here, I’ll share it anyway.

The first thing is, everyone else seems to find mortgages a lot more stressful than I do. Perhaps I’ve just spent longer thinking about them than other people. Maybe it’s because I’m borrowing what I can afford to pay back rather than breaking the bank just because the bank would let me.

Maybe it’s because small things have always stressed me out far more than big things. One good friend once said I’d be the perfect person to have around in a dire emergency because I’d basically be unmoved whilst everyone else freaked out. To be fair, that might be true. I was once on an Underground train where there was a bomb scare. Everyone else ran for their lives. I just let them all run off, because I figured if there really was a bomb, it was most likely to be in the big crowd…

Or maybe it’s because, in the warped world of the UK housing market – yes, even in the cheaper reaches of the country – it’s significantly cheaper to pay off a mortgage than to rent at market rate. If I had to pay rent at market rate, that would stress me out!

The second thing: solicitors. It’s amazing what being paid does to them. Before you pay them, they’re helpful. Afterwards, not so much. I’m sure I can hear a cynical voice telling me I should have expected that.

The third thing: it’s amazing the things you discover when you move in, that you’d think might have been mentioned to you, like the bathroom sink that leaks down into the kitchen whenever you run it, or the boiler pipes that leak (and only needed screwing tight), or the external doors that don’t lock – and then you wonder, how did they live with that? We had quite a few things we needed to get seen to or fixed in all:

  • Two leaks
  • The phone line into the house didn’t work
  • The property had no bins
  • The external TV aerial cable was shorn in two
  • Some of the light sockets didn’t work, and some of the power sockets only worked sometimes
  • There were plants growing in some of the guttering
  • Oh yes, and those locks that didn’t lock

The hardest thing was trying to work out what we really needed to get looked at first, and what could wait. I decided making the doors lock was probably the most important thing, but not flooding the house, and making sure it wasn’t about to burn down, were fairly important too. No phone line means no internet, so that couldn’t stay that way for long either. So, the guttering and the TV aerial will have to wait.

The good thing is, in amongst all those things that needed looked at, so far none of them have been terribly expensive or difficult to fix. The electrical work took two days and we needed new sockets, but the wiring itself was fine and we got a shiny new fuse box too. The leaks were simple to fix too, and hadn’t (as far as we can see) caused much damage.

Of course, once you’ve looked at all that, then there’s all the things you want to do to the property outside what you need to do. The list basically consists of redoing every room in the house and building a whole new garden, but obviously you can’t do all those at once. We decided we should probably redecorate one of our bedrooms – in hindsight it would have been good to think about that before we got halfway through building a bed in there. Also, your Ikea Family Card comes in really useful when someone accidentally screws right through a board they’re not meant to.

So, that’s why I’ve been a little under the radar, and probably will be for a bit longer. Now, if you excuse me, I need to go and finish sticking up some new blinds in the front room…



NFL 2015-16 Power Rankings

With the playoffs fast approaching, how do the teams stack up against one another, and who should we be looking out for on the road to Super Bowl 50? Well, the good news is, I can point you in the right direction (with a little explanation of how I got there).

For the last few seasons, I’ve published my own version of the popular NFL Power Rankings that appear on a number of sites. On most sites, these seem to be calculated arbitrarily, whereas I’ve tried to produce something that adds at least a slightly more scientific approach. What follows is an explanation of the method, but if you just want to see the rankings, they’re at the bottom of the piece.

It’s worth noting, before reading further, that I’ve adjusted my rankings formula again, so if you’ve read my rankings in previous years, they’re not directly comparable.

Finding common games

This approach is made a little tricky by the way the NFL organises schedules, but not impossible. No team plays the same sixteen opponents across the regular season, but in each division, every team plays a similar schedule across fourteen games:

  • Home and away against each team in their own division;
  • Once against each team in a designated NFC division;
  • Once against each team in a designated AFC division.

There are some differences in that schedule, as the combination of games played at home and on the road is different, and the final two games are unrelated, based against each team’s relative performance in the previous season, but it’s a good start. Thus, I base my Power Rankings on those fourteen common games, ignoring the two outside that.

Comparing divisions

As games are only common within divisions, I need a way to compare divisions. I do this by comparing the number of total wins in each division, as each division. Whichever division has the most wins is the strongest division (for now, at least). It’s the mark by which all the other divisions are marked. All other divisions are then assessed based on their relative percentage of wins. If the division with the highest number of wins has forty wins, and therefore has a relative strength of 100%, a division with thirty wins would have a relative strength of 75%.

Matching divisions

Whilst a good start, this is still very crude. What if a division had fewer wins than another because the divisions it was matched up against were actually very tough? What if a division Was matched against two weaker ones, and so had an easier ride?

Well, this is relatively easy to solve, as each division is matched against two others. So, by combining each division’s relative strength with that of the two it was matched against, I can calculate an overall division strength, and I do this by adding the three values together. Thus, carrying the previous example, if the top division has forty wins, and it’s up against two divisions with thirty wins each, the formula would be:

1 + 0.75 + 0.75 = 2.5

The resulting figure of 2.5 is the division’s overall schedule strength. A higher number means a tougher schedule. This value is then, for each team multiplied by their record as a decimal value, where 16-0 would equate to 1, or 12-4 to 0.75. The resulting figure is the team’s final ranking.

The final formula

So, the final formula (when fully expanded) looks like this:

(D + A + N) * R


  • D – Division strength
  • A – AFC opponent strength
  • N – NFC opponent strength
  • R – Record

Whilst form is important enough to be in, I reduce its weighting because I consider the overall division strength and record to be a more reliable indicator.

The rankings…

So, without further ado, here are the 2015-16 NFL Power Rankings (as of week 16):

Arizona Cardinals2.7350.8672.372
Carolina Panthers2.3820.9332.223
Cincinnati Bengals2.7350.7332.005
Denver Broncos2.7060.7331.983
New England Patriots2.3820.8001.906
Green Bay Packers2.8530.6671.903
Minnesota Vikings2.8530.6671.903
Kansas City Chiefs2.7060.6671.805
Seattle Seahawks2.7350.6001.641
Pittsburgh Steelers2.7350.6001.641
New York Jets2.3820.6671.589
Washington Redskins2.7060.5331.442
Houston Texans2.6760.5331.427
St Louis Rams2.7350.4671.277
Atlanta Falcons2.3820.5331.27
Oakland Raiders2.7060.4671.264
Indianapolis Colts2.6760.4671.25
Detroit Lions2.8530.4001.141
Chicago Bears2.8530.4001.141
Buffalo Bills2.3820.4671.113
Philadelphia Eagles2.7060.4001.082
New York Giants2.7060.4001.082
New Orleans Saints2.3820.4000.953
Tampa Bay Buccaneers2.3820.4000.953
Baltimore Ravens2.7350.3330.911
Jacksonville Jaguars2.6760.3330.891
Miami Dolphins2.3820.3330.793
San Fransisco 49ers2.7350.2670.73
San Diego Chargers2.7060.2670.722
Dallas Cowboys2.7060.2670.722
Cleveland Browns2.7350.2000.547
Tennessee Titans2.6760.2000.535

I’ll likely write a separate post about the various methodologies I’ve used to calculate the Power Rankings, and why I’ve changed them along the way. I’m also open to refining the formula and also to know if any of the teams look out of place in these results!

Wondering why I’m publishing this before the final regular season games? I’m doing it because I want to see how the rankings stack up against the week 17 games. Not entirely scientific, I know, but interesting all the same.

New year, new site

Sometimes, you need to make a clean start. I’ve neglected my website a lot over the past few years, so I’ve decided to start again in 2016. I’m sure you won’t like everything on it, but hopefully you’ll find some of it at least a little interesting!

Many years ago, when I was a student (and yes, many is the correct term for that now), I had a very active website – mainly because I had a lot of free time and a lot to say. Unfortunately, times change, and over the last few years, the amount of content on said site has dwindled, almost to zero.

I’ve often thought to myself, “I’ll just redesign it nicely, and then I’ll start using it properly again“. Of course, that never happens. And so, I’ve bitten the bullet, so to speak, and decided to do it the other way round. The old site will be burned to the ground (at some point) and this new site will go in its place. It will look nice and pretty if I ever get around to it, but for now I’m just focusing on using it.

My main focus subjects will be:

  • Eurovision – you know I love this, right?
  • Faith – something I’m rubbish at writing about;
  • Politics – you know, that thing no-one cares about, until it impacts them?
  • Sport – American Football, Formula 1, and anything else that takes my fancy;
  • Technology – probably a mixture of things related to my day-job and server-side website bits too.

It’s unlikely all five of those categories will interest many people, but hopefully at least a couple will interest some.