Luck & Good Fortune

Add Sydney Airport security to Death & Taxes

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Any aspirations working for organizations that support mayhem and chaos are off the list. Sydney Airport must be telling me I have no chance for that line of vocation. A 100% ETD screening record at Sydney Airport in the last 20 trips. I am constantly told it is random but if I could score 100% on every other ‘indiscriminate’ event – investments, love or lottery tickets – wouldn’t life be simple? I do note that I had the option to decline. When he offered an explanation of how I was selected I thought, “why not, I’ll hear him out?” – “Sir, we are trained extensively to profile people at random” That settles it then. Since when did ‘profiling’ and ‘random’ become mutually inclusive? Or do I just need to face the fact that I must look shady? It is 6am afterall.

Black Royalty in the Castle of White Privilege?

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By the tone of this article, one would be led to believe that Meghan Markle has managed to pull a fast one on the Royal Family. That maybe her pathway to the Castle of White Privilege was in part due to the Queen buckling to her Twitter feed bullying her to accept diversity rather than the reality that Her Majesty, at the ripe old age of 92, just simply loves her grandchild. What grandparent wouldn’t be wounded by seeing her grandson walk behind his mother’s coffin in front of millions? Why does race have to enter this equation? She is a grandmother like any other. Queen Elizabeth has served her country with exceptional dignity for  longer than most of us have been alive. She worked in the war as a mechanic before taking the throne in 1952 and has visited most countries in the world to adoring fans, even today. Hardly a sign of an old woman with no grip on world affairs. You might recall, HRH was an ardent supporter of Brexit. Her Majesty is sharp. Yet take a look at this quote from Kalyn Wilson,

Markle is everything the monarchy needs in 2018, a modern woman with a foot in the real world, and one who doesn’t retreat from her life story but embraces it.

Although couldn’t one argue that Harry, the product of a broken home, a person who fought with bravery in the British Army in Afghanistan and one who has faced the long running smear that his father is not Prince Charles but James Hewitt, make for someone that embraces life after many hard knocks? What has colour got to do with it? Why didn’t Harry just head down to Brixton to find a destitute black bride like Eddie Murphy did in Queens, NY in the film Coming to America? Surely he could have helped dispel White Privilege by not only marrying a black woman but one who wasn’t wealthy to start with. How could he be so classist? How insulting Harry didn’t marry a Brit! Wilson goes on,

A hallmark of white privilege, aside from the wielding and exercising of power through political means, is the employment of exclusivity as a means of social control.

Why does the media have to turn this wedding into a circus about identity politics? Could it be that the Royal Family has acted like most whites, blacks, Asians, Muslims, Christians and Hindus who overwhelmingly tend to marry within their social groups? It is not done in all cases, purely as a fix, but most likely because of the circles people they interact with. Population density of whites in Britain 50 years ago was around 90%. It is still 80% today. So even today, one has an 8 in 10 chance of marrying someone that is white. The miracle of flight has now allowed people to travel so they could fall in love with someone from a different background. Interracial marriages are growing, yet further evidence that those who could defend white privilege choose to mix their bloodlines for none other than the love of their partner.

Although, say the Queen had deep reservations about Markle which happened to have nothing to do with her skin colour? Being royalty is about keeping standards. All of the scandals that have surfaced about Megan Markle’s roots have been deeply embarrassing. Should the Queen question the actions of Markle’s father who staged photos of himself for $100,000? Or her sister that has used Meghan’s media status to flog, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister? It is a given that the Royal protocol office would have gladly given advice on the most tasteful way to promote Meghan’s childhood photos. Wouldn’t this actions by her family give the Queen a preview into the upbringing of her soon to be granddaughter-in-law? The Queen is no stranger to scandal. Her uncle married a divorced American, Wallace Simpson, and abdicated the throne to her father. Several of her children have split up. Her husband Prince Phillip has said some off-colored remarks in his time with respect to race, but does that automatically make HRH bigoted or racist? 

It would be nice for Ms Wilson to acknowledge that the Royal Prince is in love with Meghan Markle and leave it there. He undoubtedly chose her for her. She accepted. One can only hope that she doesn’t live up to any of the sensational headlines, the spiteful press or the silly actions of her family members. For if Meghan Markle ends up divorcing Prince Harry in years to come for some trivial reason, the Queen may well have been on the money with respect to her character not the colour of her skin. One can only hope for the sake of both of them they have a fairytale wedding where they live happily every after. If Markle can achieve 1/10th what the Queen has done in her decades of service we should be only too happy. Don’t worry though Meghan, it is enough that you’re “black” according to Wilson.

If only Elon Musk could summon institutional questions

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Elon Musk has apparently terminated the question of a Bernstein analyst ((followed by the rest of the institutional queue) on the basis of it being “uncool”. He said, “We’re going to YouTube [for retail investors]. These questions are so dry. They’re killing me!” If only the Tesla CEO could summon the right type of questions that deflected criticism of the company as easily as maneuvering a parked Model S from a tight parking spot.

While he urged non-believers to sell the stock, there is little to be gained pushing a line of  opacity for a company with production issues, continuing losses and $10.6bn in debt. Earnings results are not about having fun but for investors/analysts to probe and qualify assumptions in the interest of making rational investment decisions.

CM has made constant reference to Musk’s amazing ability to sell. He is coming up to the pointy end of having to deliver. There are countless distractions which perculate below the surface – copyright infringement trial launched by Nikola Motor, the NTSB autopilot probe, countless resignations and recent calls to cut the staff canteen cookies. By blowing off the main investor pool that feeds him, the question of CEO capability becomes a bigger factor than the dreadful earnings themselves.

There is no better disinfectant than sunlight but Musk continues to deflect. Cash flow continues to decline  The production shutdown in April will thump Q2 earnings, not to mention the capex spend should rise plus the write off of equipment that has proven to be surplus to requirements. Here he is talking of 10,000 units a week down the line to fill the hearts of the faithful followers. Perhaps his comments about not needing to raise capital are best addressed by the fact he’s raised 7x since that statement.

Today’s results meeting is more telling in that snake oil salesman tactics of talking up the situation was replaced by silence and stonewalling. Telling.

Which countries had the most search interest in Valentine’s Day?

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Iran

Syria

Iraq

South Africa

India

Bangladesh

Equador

Honduras

Nigeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also featured.

…according to Google Trends

Interesting to see so many predominantly non-Christian countries feature relatively higher than St Valentine’s Day searches.

Valentine’s Day according to Google Trends

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Gender stereotypes? Google Trends just threw a spanner in the works in a study on Valentine’s Day gift searches for a loved one. It seeems like women are far more proactive and engaged in searching for gift ideas than their boyfriends appear to be. What could explain it?

Could it be that men simply are too hard wired/unimaginative? Many women could attest to their men sticking with boring flowers, chocolates, and dinner reservations through experience or a sense of duty.

Tales out of school. At my old firm I used to buy 120 individually wrapped cakes for my female clients on Valentine’s Day and spend all morning delivering them personally. Never did I receive more sincere thank you’s for thinking more creatively than dropping off boring chocolates. So a note to the lazy men out there – women seem more likely to praise the “effort” over the “result” – hopefully ladies can confirm this so we can get “equality” back into Valentine’s search engines.

Could it be that males are harder to shop for causing women to have to search harder? Could it be that women are kinder and more thoughtful souls than men?

Most women get that men probably don’t want flowers or chocolates, but what will he like? Season tickets to watch his favourite team? A sports magazine? Golf balls (dangerous territory if he’s a keen golfer), motorcycle parts (extremely high risk)? A tie? Socks? iPhone goods? Underwear? Don’t laugh. Studies show that women are behind 80% of the purchases of men’s undies. Indeed it may well be that men are pickier (or lazier) about gifts causing women to search 2-3x more.

If we look at the above chart it seems that women searching for gifts for their boyfriends keeps making higher highs as the deadline approaches. Men too albeit at a flatter trajectory.

Maybe the devil in the data is what Google could really do for men and women. Instead of judging a partner’s devotion by the scale of money dished out on such a grossly commercial day, perhaps Google could let one know how much they meant to their significant other by the timeline on when the Valentine’s Day search began and to avoid gaming the system informing hours spent online during the process.

There are millions of factors which trigger Valentine’s decisions but isn’t that what diversity is all about – freedom of choice.

When you’ve seen something truly masterful

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What a fantastic innings by Mitchell Marsh. Recalled into the side after an 8 month break and he has even outplayed his captain, Steve Smith. While Smith has played a brilliant innings so far, Marsh has scored more boundaries and his straight drives have just flat demoralized the English bowlers. Enjoy. It is worth signing up to watch the video. Who said cricket was boring? Perhaps the trophy cabinet of Australian sports might start to fill up again.

Gold Coin vs Bitcoin – just go on a crypto blog and invite a fatwah by criticizing it

The Bitcoin debate rages again. I’ve been asked more times by friends about whether to buy Bitcoin in the last 3 months than I care to remember. This video is about as telling as it gets about understanding raw value. At the moment Bitcoin pricing is as random as a Lotto ball dispenser although only higher numbers are being drawn for now (despite the 20% flash crash yesterday, shows panic is a server outage away). My answer to them is I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole but everyone’s risk is their own. I answered along the lines below.

As a contrarian investor, this video warms my heart. When everyone seems to love something it tends to be a sign that ‘greater fool theory’ is alive and kicking. The video shows a woman unwilling to trade a stick of gum for a 1oz gold coin. If there was ever a better example of mean reversion, this must be it. Mark Dice did a similar video with people asking if they wanted a Hershey’s chocolate bar or a silver bar. Everyone chose the Hershey’s! While I am sure the response on Wall Street would elicit a different response it shows how few people understand the value of barbarous old relics.

The biggest issue with Bitcoin or any other crypto is that it is mined in cyber space. Do you ever wonder why you need to update your Norton anti-virus software every other day? Yes because some criminals are phishing/hacking your data trying to rob you blind. That’s just the amateur cowboy stuff by the way.

Gold needs to be dug out of the ground with considerable effort. The thing that spooks me about crypto (without trying to sound conspiracy theorist) is that state actors (most top end computer science grads in China end up working in the country’s cyber warfare teams), hackers or criminal minds (did you know 70% of top end computer science grads in Russia end up working for the mob (directly or indirectly) the value of coins in the system could be instantaneously wiped out at the stroke of a key. We’ve had small hiccups ($280m) only last week. So as much as the ‘security’ of these crypto currencies is often sold as bulletproof, none of them are ‘cyberproof’. Just like your home software, crypto at every stage has to constantly update its protection to prevent vulnerabilities and it is naive to think it can keep a 100% safety record.

It only takes one serious hack to bring most if not all the crypto down as vulnerable. In order for Auric Goldfinger to crush prices in Gold he’d need to smelt lead bars and paint them, were any left over from the pail and brush used on Jill Masterson. Gold is one currency that governments often threaten to confiscate (India springs to mind). Imagine if North Korea turns Bitcoin into the state currency?

I have just been on a Bitcoin forum and the insults being hurled at disbelievers has all the hallmarks of Tesla share ownership. It is a religion. Not an investment. I was accused of having no idea on crypto to which I argued 90%+ of those that own it probably don’t either. So having owners in Bitcoin or other cryptos knowing a tiny fraction of the risks means they’ll stampede faster than the servers can process data should ‘bit hit the fan’. One crypto ‘expert’ tried to tell me that artwork has no value as it is not tradable. It is tradable, just illiquid. I argued that the latest sale of DaVinci’s artwork fetched $450mn or 45,000 bitcoin. Storage costs aside over the long run I’ll have a Leonardo thank you!

As Mark Twain said, ”It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

My assessment is that the fascination of those around me about Bitcoin suggests that many of the fan base are punters trading on the greed of others. It has no underlying core value other than those prepared to pay more for it. That indeed is the tenet of all investment but like most manias, the risk/reward ratio can turn on a dime (no pun intended). At some stage the fall out from crypto will be ugly. As financial pundits know

the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”