Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blimey ...

This has to be the best find on You Tube for the longest time. Anyone who has spent a couple of years in Australia would find this hilarious. To most Australians, this would be fucking funny. The great thing has to be that its produced and scripted by our Indian friends, who obviously have lived long enough down under. The series were not done entirely by OZ-affected Indians, they have a couple of white Aussies producing this shit.

Enjoy ... you wankers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Panic. Judgment Day. Carnage. Meltdown.

The headlines for the past 24 hours seemed like great blockbuster movie titles. If you haven't already acted to realign your portfolio, now would be too late to get scared.

Emerging markets currencies collapsed, and to a lesser extent their stock markets. As explained before, the whole shebang can be largely explained by:

a) the bastardisation of developed countries' currencies (USA, EU and Japan) ~ liquidity

b) the slowing of global demand ~ demand for commodities tanked

Some of the liquidity went into:

a) higher stock prices

b) even more liquidity went into property ~ thanks to the low interest rate environment pegged to the developed nations' rates

So, what is the present carnage all about then. Isn't it sufficient to see emerging markets fall both in their currency and stock prices?

The fact that developed markets worldwide are falling in tandem are due to:

a) an unexpected volatility and mismanagement of the China's stock markets ~ a reflection of a real slowdown in China, having overspent on resources, commodities ~ devaluation of the yuan

b) China being an important demand and supply factor has to be factored into global share prices, esp companies that do business with China

c) a disenchantment with many global companies using share buybacks to prop up their shares ~ a misuse of cash flow, profits and cheap liquidity if you ask me ~ i.e. companies are not reinvesting properly ~ little real growth, little R&D ~ which in turn will continue to stunt global demand

Hence developed nations carnage will continue a bit more, but we near the end as investors start to realise that ASSET PRICES (stocks and properties) over the last few years are largely an illusion and not based on the real worth of these assets.

Its funny as selling these assets you would end up in currencies anyway, which have been bastardised. Hence refuge seeking will remain in USD and other developed countries currencies such as the British pound and SGD.

Having said that, many investors who have been cashed up earlier will be itching to move back in, ... thus the first signs of recovery will be in emerging markets with 20%-30% discount on currency and maybe 20%-30% discount on share prices ~ add that together you are seeing minimal risk and no one wishes to stay in any currency if they can help it in the long run.

Markets are very unforgiving ... I recall a mantra shared by a mentor of mine which may encapsulate the whole situation here: IF IT IS NOT GOING UP, IT IS GOING DOWN.

A bit zen but reflect on that statement. Investors buy for security, protection, dividends and capital appreciation ~ if things are fully priced or priced in too much optimism due to various factors ~ then the only way is DOWN. Only by going down, can they go up again. Sounds like kindergarten but its true.

Same for any stock recommendations or tips if you are a short term trader. If it is not going up, it will go down. You can give it a time frame if you are a trader, 10 days or a month if its more fundamentals based, but if it takes too long ~ the whispers are wrong ~ it was a play ~ big players are distributing. Because something that goes up can be manipulated or due to a growth in believers or buyers, that do not take too long. If the prices do not show those signs, you are holding the short end of a stick.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

An Affair To Remember

I used to think I would find my soul mate if that person could tell me the linkages among the 3 movies: An Affair To Remember, Love Affair and Sleepless In Seattle. Yes, these are all the so called chick flicks, but to me its a lot more than that. Who doesn't adore An Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Love Affair, an absolute labour of love from Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, was a remake of An Affair To Remember in 1994.

Sleepless Seattle made tons of references to An Affair To Remember, and it would have layered meanings when Meg Ryan met Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building. But, you should watch all 3 movies to truly appreciate what I am saying.

While some knew that the 1994 Love Affair was a faithful remake of the 1957 An Affair To Remember. What most do not know was that An Affair To Remember was also a remake. The film is considered one of the most romantic of all time, according to the American Film Institute. The film was a remake of McCarey's 1939 film Love Affair,  starring Irene Dunn and Charles Boyer.  An Affair to Remember  was almost identical to Love Affair on a scene-to-scene basis.

SPOILER ALERT: The two main characters were involved with different people when they met on a cruise. They fell in love hard, and when the ship made an unscheduled stop near some islands, he brought her to meet her aunt (played by Hepburn in 94 version). She loved Hepburn's scarf. Later she made him paint again. They promised to meet at the top of Empire State building 6 months later when both have sorted out their respective partners (meaning to dump them). On the day they were supposed to meet, she knew he was up there and kept looking up at the building and got knocked by a car, she was nearly crippled. He thought she did not showed up because she chose to stay with her man. Months later they bumped into each other at a theatre, she was with boyfriend and seated. He knew nothing better than to think that was very final on her part. Later he had to find out where she moved to as he had to drop off a present from his aunt for her ... see the rest in the video below.

Some of the more memorable lines from the movie:
Annette Bening: How long were you married? (on learning that Kath's husband has passed on)
K Hepburn: Dearie, I am married ... (long pause)  .. even though he died 12 years ago. I am still married.

Cary Grant ):
"Why didn't you tell me? If it had to happen to one of us why did it have to be you?"

Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"What makes life so difficult?"
Nickie Ferrante ( Cary Grant ):

Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories."

Nickie Ferrante ( Cary Grant ):
"You've been crying."
Terry McKay ( Deborah Kerr ):
"Beauty does that to me." 

Aunt Ginny
"He's always attracted by the art he isn't practicing. The place he hasn't been. The girl he hasn't met."

Aunt Ginny ( Katharine Hepburn ):
"The trick is life is not getting what you want. It's wanting it after you get it. For people like you and Mike, the getting is easy."

Kenneth Bradley (the boyfriend): I really hope you've found happiness, and if you're ever in need of anything, like someone to love you, don't hesitate to call me. 

Terry McKay: The Empire State Building is the closest thing to heaven in this city. 

The 1957 version was sublime. Though many did not like the 1994 version, I thought it was excellent and the music was brilliant, in particular they inserted my favourite Beatles tune as well, "I Will", so appropriately. Cannot really discuss the movie without revealing the plot, rest assured its easily the most romantic movie of all time, next to Somewhere In Time (Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve).

When you watch these two movies, the modern day chick flicks such as Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail pale into insignificance. The only good one for the last 20 years has to be When Harry Met Sally. I think its time they do another remake of An Affair To Remember, maybe with George Clooney and Zooey Deschanel.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Emerging Markets Conundrum

Suddenly we have emerging markets' currencies being whacked left right and centre. Suddenly we have a plethora of headlines and expert views on the situation. 

Where were all of them BEFORE? Including yours truly here ... most commentators will only comment on the situation AFTER it has presented itself. We will all try to sound masterly and professional when asked for our views ... which is why the financial industry is possibly the most over-rated, over-loaded with bullshit ... employing the most pathetic "hope-they-don't-find-out-how-average-I-am" souls on earth!

OK, now that thats off my chest, lets see if I can add some value add comments to the situation. My only qualification to comment is based on having ridden through bulls and bears from 87 till now, plus having lost sufficient money which hopefully translates to what we refer to as 'experience'.

Let's see if I can try to make more sense of the situation:

How did we get here?

a) wasn't really the EM's fault, you know ... I think its the Greenspan's keenness to print money in the early 2000s which started the whole thing (following the Internet crash),  even so, it was smallish compared to what happened later. 

b) its the bastardisation of currency ... that would seem to be the underlying crux of the whole thing. Following the subprime crisis, Bernanke had little choice but to print even more currency (unbacked mind you). The EU suffered too and difficulties in integrating the Euro with differing economic structure in each country caused imbalances. Coupled with the subprime fallout, even the ECB had follow suit and print more money, trying to delay the inevitable. Greece was an outlier but the excesses had been too much. As Spain, Italy and Portugal are still struggling with double digit unemployment, the ECB had to maintain the easy money policy.

c) Japan to the mix ... as if that is not enough currencies in the system, the new PM Abe started on its easy monetary policy as well

d) what you have now is the major developed countries printing a lot more currency, while the EM basically having to maintain a stable and low interest rate environment so that their currencies do not appreciate against the majors ... thus leading to massive asset reflation in stocks and properties in EM, and places where investors from EM would like to invest their funds (e.g. UK, Australian, Singapore and HK properties)

e) a slowing global economy ... just before the subprime crisis, a lot of funds had been invested in commodities, be it mines or oil exploration or renewable energy projects .. which continued somewhat even after the subprime crisis, and much of that investment was shelled out by EM.

f) so what's the EM's fault ... they did little wrong really. They had to maintain low rates, which caused local properties to zoom up. Maybe China and some countries over invested in resources and did not forsee how weak global economy was following 2008. Actually at best the global economy stuttered and slowed, stocks went up because of the massive liquidity in the system with nowhere to go ... same for properties.

g) the slowdown caused a glut in many commodities, oil was about the last one to crash ... which is why if you match the ringgit with Aussie dollar, we are about the same for the past 3 years.

h) commodities based currency, including Australia, Malaysia and Canada were hit very badly... Canada less so because their financial system were untouched by the subprime and their economy a bit more broad based. 

Hence the ringgit's weakness was largely caused by the sharp weakness in oil prices and palm oil. An unrelated factor was the political turmoil which exacerbated the whole situation. Now the black swan event, China's yuan devaluation.

China's move confirmed a few things: things are pretty bad in China, thus anyone trading with China will be affected; any country producing similar products as China will be affected ...

In conclusion: EM's faults lie in not moving up the value chain fast enough; not diversifying their economy sufficiently when things were good; not reforming their economy to meet global challenges ... But these are not crimes enough to whack EM currencies when the bulk of the problems were started and still maintained by the developed nations. EM just do not have the clout to determine their destinies ... which is also why we needed institutions such as IMF to help out nations in need. Capitalism is never fair.

So, what can Malaysia do. Let's not touch on politics. Let's look at economics and finance only. Looks like local rates will have to rise, banks will have to manage higher NPLs, property sector will be hit, stocks have been hit already and is in fact way oversold. Malaysia will have to keep spending locally, projects will have to continue. If we need to run a deficit for a few years, so be it. We need to keep domestic economy chugging while the world works out the realignment. We need to keep as many people in their jobs as possible. Jobs is the factor that could throw the whole economy into a tailspin - no jobs, no money to pay mortgage or car payments, defaults and more defaults, higher and higher interest rates to protect currency ... Hence, making sure jobs is around is very critical esp when we talk of our economy with very few safety nets.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Losing My Religion

Taleb, better known as the author of The Black Swan effect ... has hit many nails on the head with his views on "religion".
People rarely mean the same thing when they say "religion", nor do they realize that they don't mean the same thing.

For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law. For early Jews it was also tribal; for early Muslims it was universal. For the Romans religion was social events and festivals (law was separate ). For Jews today religion became ethnocultural, without the law --and for some, a nation. Same for Syriacs, Copts, and Maronites. For Orthodox and Catholic Christians religion is aesthetics, pomp and rituals. For Protestants religion is belief with no aesthetics, pomp or law. For Buddists/Shintoists/Hindus religion is philosophy. So when Hindu talk about the Hindu "religion" they don't mean the same thing to a Pakistani as it would to a Hindu, and certainly something different for a Persian.

People keep talking past each other. When the nation-state idea came about, things got more complicated. When an Arab now says "Jew" he largely means belief; a converted Jew is no longer a Jew. But for a Jew it means a nation.

In Serbia/Croatia, or Lebanon, religion means something at times of peace, and something quite different at times of war.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cooking With Dali - Kick Ass Corned Beef Hash

I am constantly amazed when I order anything corned beef hash, they usually end up as disappointing. This is my kick ass version.

Cut up two onions and three potatoes. The potatoes should not be too diced up as it would turn mushy easily - they should be bite size and I always leave the skin on.

Sweat the onions and cook them with the potatoes so as to partially precook the latter. 

Sweating the onions mean some oil, medium to low heat to soften the onions. Its done when they are near translucent and soft but not too soft.Sprinkle a half teaspoon of sea salt and one teaspoon of coarse black pepper.

Take a can of corned beef, any brand will do but definitely not those from China ... and none of those pre-seasoned corned beef, just a normal can will do.

Use half a block of very good quality salted butter. Melt it and mix with the beef. Keep it at medium heat, stirring every 30 seconds.

 You need to see the colour change from red plum till its nearly very dark brown. Most cooks do not cook the corned beef long enough. To me, to get the best taste, you need it to be relative well over cooked and almost dry consistency.

Mix in the onions and potatoes and stir well, switch off the heat and drizzle some good truffle oil and you are good to go.

A half boiled egg can be cracked ... optional.






Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Best Jibe At OZ Cricket's Dashed Ashes

If you follow cricket, the Ashes is the pinnacle event to follow because it pits England with Australia only. The English team has had a mediocre rebuilding team for the past 5 years, compared to the mighty Aussies which has stayed in the top two status for the longest time. 

In the current fourth test, which already sees England leading the best out of 5 series by 2-1, the Aussies had to at least win one and draw the other test to retain the Ashes. A Test usually runs for 5 days and it is normal for a team to bat for at least a day or a day and a half. The entire OZ team went out in about one hour and while 60 runs is not the lowest ever score, its pathetic in terms of number of deliveries needed to bowl the whole team out.

Naturally in this Pommicide, there were plenty of jibes at the Aussies, which I follow. But the most telling, funny and hurtful is the TWEET which summarises the whole innings in one tweet. There are 140 characters allowed I think, and in normal cricket scoring one over has 6 balls to be delivered. 0 means no run from that delivery, 1 means one run etc... W means a wicket has fallen.

When you can summarise the whole innings in one tweet, its so embarrassing to say the least, but kudos to the guy who composed it.


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wild Is The Wind

Cecil has been in the limelight for the past few weeks. It is very easy to be angry and condemn the trophy hunter. But lets be fair here. It is a horrendous act for sure, in particular when we put up the majestic picture of Cecil the lion - images of The Lion King only helped to fan the flames of fury.  But I think the general populace have over-reacted and jumped on the bandwagon of herd mentality and herd-like fury. The anger while understandable has certainly gone way way way overboard.

Let's look at some factors which we need to consider:

- we should not hunt esp when the specie is endangered

- we should never encourage hunting as a sport, esp when we do not make use of what we obliterate (i.e. if we hunt for something, we should make use of it by way of food, etc..., btw when we kill to accessorise, thats pretty bad and unnecessary too)

- cuteness and how majestic an animal may look should have NO effect on how we feel and how we react to the reprehensible act ... why we have no "save the hyenas" or "save the wild dogs" events??? Its always cutest stuff like dolphins, pandas, etc ...

Many Americans and even Europeans were very vocal over the Cecil incident, and rightly so... but please check your own backyard ... fox hunting and deer hunting???!!!,  pleeeasseeee ... 

- the Disneyland effect ... you know how it is, when you actualise and give personality, voice and character to animals via cartoons, they can have a "perception/sensory effect" on how we ascribe human values to these creatures. I am in no way diminishing the essence of living things but we can say that the way we look at deers will never be far from the image of Bambi; the same for pandas, lions, etc... We just have to be mindful and be sensible enough to separate fact from fiction.

- there are varying levels of morality here, of which some are based on religious background. You can take the high road and say all living things are sacred and should not kill any living thing - be a vegan. Or you think we are born to be meat eaters/carnivores and there are "domesticated animals" such as pigs, chickens, cows, etc... that can be eaten. Then there are religious beliefs which may prohibit the killing and/or consumption of cows, or pigs, etc.. Then there are "modern cultural beliefs" that animals we keep as pets should never be eaten such as dogs and cats.

Hence we can have so many backgrounds which would colour our opinions. I think for sure:

a) we should NOT hunt for sport, or just for the fun of it (and not make use of it, not for decor or trophies or accessories)
b) we should never hunt if the specie is endangered
c) we should not kill for blatantly STUPID reasons, e.g. some animals' penises, some silly rhino's horn, elephant's tusk, etc...

That should form the basis of our platform on killing animals. One can add to the criteria above based on their cultural background, religious persuasion, and inherent values. 

Hence based on the top 3 criteria, killing Cecil was a big NO-NO and rightly should be condemned. But do not over react NOW if there are killings that are just as reprehensible at your backyard for centuries and you DID NOTHING ABOUT IT. Do not just get caught up with the Cecil thing just because its faddish.

(great insightful article by a Zimbabwean)

By Goodwill Nzou

When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home. After it killed a few chickens, some goats and finally a cow, we were warned to walk to school in groups and stop playing outside. My sisters no longer went alone to the river to collect water or wash dishes; my mother waited for my father and older brothers, armed with machetes, axes and spears, to escort her into the bush to collect firewood.

A week later, my mother gathered me with nine of my siblings to explain that her uncle had been attacked but escaped with nothing more than an injured leg. The lion sucked the life out of the village: No one socialized by fires at night; no one dared stroll over to a neighbor’s homestead. When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.

 Recently, a 14-year-old boy in a village not far from mine wasn’t so lucky. Sleeping in his family’s fields, as villagers do to protect crops from the hippos, buffalo and elephants that trample them, he was mauled by a lion and died. The killing of Cecil hasn’t garnered much more sympathy from urban Zimbabweans, although they live with no such danger. Few have ever seen a lion, since game drives are a luxury residents of a country with an average monthly income below $150 cannot afford.

Don’t misunderstand me: For Zimbabweans, wild animals have near-mystical significance. We belong to clans, and each clan claims an animal totem as its mythological ancestor. Mine is Nzou, elephant, and by tradition, I can’t eat elephant meat; it would be akin to eating a relative’s flesh. But our respect for these animals has never kept us from hunting them or allowing them to be hunted. (I’m familiar with dangerous animals; I lost my right leg to a snakebite when I was 11.)

The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus.

PETA is calling for the hunter to be hanged. Zimbabwean politicians are accusing the United States of staging Cecil’s killing as a “ploy” to make our country look bad. And Americans who can’t find Zimbabwe on a map are applauding the nation’s demand for the extradition of the dentist, unaware that a baby elephant was reportedly slaughtered for our president’s most recent birthday banquet. We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.

 Don’t tell us what to do with our animals when you allowed your own mountain lions to be hunted to near extinction in the eastern United States. Don’t bemoan the clear-cutting of our forests when you turned yours into concrete jungles. And please, don’t offer me condolences about Cecil unless you’re also willing to offer me condolences for villagers killed or left hungry by his brethren, by political violence, or by hunger.

Things To Do During Lockdown

All local councils, utility companies, construction firms (those with permission) and city planners in Malaysia should take the opportunity...