Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Coffee Shop future

"My Christmas shopping this year was 90% through Amazon Prime. Not having to fight the crowds and having it delivered free of charge to my home is a big plus, but as with the Kindle store, the online retail selection is much better that even the largest retail outlet.

Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart? For the sane: Starbucks. So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?

Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like? Again: a coffee shop."

In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop - The Speculist via Kottke

Buy Starbucks? Starbucks = Apple 2.0?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An anecdote of Athens

"A friend and I met up at a new bookstore and café in the centre of town, which has only been open for a month. The establishment is in the center of an area filled with bars, and the owner decided the neighborhood could use a place for people to convene and talk without having to drink alcohol and listen to loud music. After we sat down, we asked the waitress for a coffee. She thanked us for our order and immediately turned and walked out the front door. My friend explained that the owner of the bookstore/café couldn’t get a license to provide coffee. She had tried to just buy a coffee machine and give the coffee away for free, thinking that lingering patrons would boost book sales. However, giving away coffee was illegal as well. Instead, the owner had to strike a deal with a bar across the street, whereby they make the coffee and the waitress spends all day shuttling between the bar and the bookstore/café. My friend also explained to me that books could not be purchased at the bookstore, as it was after 18h and it is illegal to sell books in Greece beyond that hour. I was in a bookstore/café that could neither sell books nor make coffee."

"From @economistmeg, here is more, none of it especially encouraging. She is, by the way, one of the very best people to follow on Greece and the eurozone."

via Marginal Revolution


"The chief investment strategist of Boston-based institutional money manager GMO LLC doesn’t mince words. In Grantham’s view, outlined in a quarterly letter published late Friday, individuals launched into the market have embarked on “dangerous investment voyages” that threaten to separate them from their money. They hear the tempting call of countless stock-market sirens — self-interested cheerleaders and barkers who promise that it’s different this time, and that you must buy now or miss the boat."

10 investment lessons from Jeremy Grantham - Marketwatch

He suggests 10 investment lessons:

1. Believe in history

“All bubbles break; all investment frenzies pass,” he says. “The market is gloriously inefficient and wanders far from fair price, but eventually, after breaking your heart and your patience … it will go back to fair value. Your task is to survive until that happens.”

2. ‘Neither a lender nor a borrower be’

Never borrow to invest. Period.

“Leverage reduces the investor’s critical asset: patience,” Grantham says. But excessive debt is even more insidious. “It encourages financial aggressiveness, recklessness and greed.”

Debt has ruined countries, communities, corporations and consumers. “It has proven so seductive that individuals en masse have shown themselves incapable of resisting it, as if it were a drug,” he writes.

3. Don’t put all of your treasure in one boat

Obvious, yes, but worth repeating. Diversification isn’t about returns, after all. It’s about resilience, Grantham says. “The more investments you have and the more different they are, the more likely you are to survive those critical periods when your big bets move against you.”

4. Be patient and focus on the long term

“Wait for the good cards,” he says. When you find something to buy, you don’t have to act immediately. Wait for it to hit your price range. As Grantham explains, “this will be your margin of safety.”

Now comes the hard part: handling the pain of investment losses. But often the suffering is worth it. As Grantham notes, “individual stocks usually recover, entire markets always do. … Outlast the bad news.”

5. Recognize your advantages over the professionals

Patience is one of the key advantages individuals have over traders and money managers. Yet many people squander that edge, reacting to day-to-day events and chasing the latest hot stock or sector. “The individual is far better positioned to wait patiently for the right pitch while paying no regard to what others are doing.”

Such a luxury is “almost impossible” for professionals, Grantham says. Wall Street, he adds, worries about jobs, careers, bonuses and the like, needing to look busy (read: costly, frequent trading) to earn their keep.

6. Try to contain natural optimism

Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, but on Wall Street it’s bad for business, Grantham notes; many a professional has been fired for being too bearish. (See job security, above.)

Optimism can win friends and influence people, but it’s a lousy investment strategy. You have to be willing to hear bearish, bad news about the risks you’ve taken with your money — and to make informed decisions about it, Grantham says. That’s doubly true at times when buyers and brokers are exuberant.

7. On rare occasions, try hard to be brave

Professional investors often spot bargains, but (and this is key) they can’t and don’t always act on it.

That’s because the price of being wrong, even for a few months, is just too high, according to Grantham. A manager who lags his or her peers for a couple of quarters will start to get probing questions from disgruntled clients. If those clients pull their money, the manager’s bosses will get upset. If they get upset, they may decide that someone else is better for the job.

Individuals don’t have that worry. So if you find an investment that looks cheap, even if it’s likely to be out of favor for a while, trust your research. Says Grantham: “If the numbers tell you it’s a real outlier of a mispriced market, grit your teeth and go for it.”

8. Resist the crowd; cherish numbers only

Market bubbles and the madness of crowds are exciting — until they’re not. Hard as it might be, don’t jump in because everyone else is, Grantham advises. “Ignore especially the short-term news. The ebb and flow of economic and political news is irrelevant.”

What is relevant? Numbers. “Do your own simple measurements of value or find a reliable source,” Grantham says.

9. In the end it’s quite simple. really

Stocks are bought and sold based on expectations for the future value of a company’s dividends and earnings. So if a stock is trading at a discount to its long-term earnings multiple, investors can assume that over time the gap will narrow and the price will rise. Conversely, if the shares are priced above average, it’s likely the price will decline — and return to the mean — over time.

Estimates and forecasts such as the ones GMO makes for the next seven years aren’t complicated, Grantham says. “These estimates are not about nuances or Ph.D.s. They are about ignoring the crowd, working out simple ratios and being patient.”

10. ‘This above all: To thine own self be true’

William Shakespeare probably would have been a great investor, with his deep knowledge of human nature and foibles. Take a page from the Bard, Grantham suggests, and save yourself a lot of money and mistakes in investing.

“It is utterly imperative that you know your limitations as well as your strengths and weaknesses,” he says. “You must know your pain and patience thresholds accurately and not play over your head. If you cannot resist temptation, you absolutely must not manage your own money.”

In that case, Grantham notes, hire a skilled manager or buy an inexpensive global stock-index fund and don’t look at it until you retire.

“On the other hand, if you have patience, a decent pain threshold, an ability to withstand herd mentality, perhaps one credit of college-level math and a reputation for common sense, then go for it.

“In my opinion, you hold enough cards and will beat most professionals (which is sadly, but realistically, a relatively modest hurdle) and may even do very well indeed.”

The Longest Quarterly Letter Ever

Monday, February 27, 2012

More valuable than two Apple shares

"Although it was released back in 2007, Lego’s “Ultimate Collector’s Edition Millennium Falcon” is still the biggest set they’ve ever released. It’s not in production anymore, but you can still pick one up for the price of a small car on Amazon." via Wired

I actually bought one of these back in November 2009 for my daughter. $499.99 from the US Lego website. She was obviously too young and I guess I really wanted it for myself, but did think we might be able to build it together when she was older. So imagine my surprise when I came across the listing in Amazon, offering this model at nearly $2000. In the same time period an investment in Gold in dollar terms has yielded 160%, Apple shares 270%, the Lego kit, 400%.

No mention of more sex or bungee jumps

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Top five regrets of the dying - Guardian

Law of Large Numbers

"The law of large numbers may explain why, even at its recent lofty stock price, Apple looks like a bargain by most measures. The ratio of its share price to its earnings, a common measure of a company’s stock value, is less than 11 based on earnings projections for this year. That is well below the market’s average P/E ratio of about 13. Apple shares are even being bought by so-called value investors, who are usually confined to stodgier, low-growth but arguably undervalued companies.

“The valuation on Apple stock right now is unjustifiably low,” Mr. Cihra said. “If it weren’t so big, the P/E multiple would be a lot higher. They almost doubled their earnings in calendar year 2011 and yet the stock is trading currently at a P/E multiple of less than 11. It’s trading way below the market average, even though it’s growing way above the market average. The multiple is being compressed simply because investors are asking how it can get bigger.”

“The reason Apple has been able to continue growing at a spectacular rate, even as its revenue base has surpassed $100 billion, is because it targets the world’s biggest markets,” Mr. Cihra said. He rates the stock a buy and projects revenue for calendar year 2012 at $165 billion. “The simple fact is that they still have a small share of huge markets — single-digit shares in both PCs and mobile phones.”"

Confronting a Law Of Limits - NYT

Letting go of that rope

"Teahupoo- Aug 27th 2011 during the Billabong Pro waiting period is what many are calling the biggest and gnarliest Teahupoo ever ridden. The French Navy labeled this day a double code red prohibiting and threatening to arrest anyone that entered the water.

Kelly Slater described the day by saying “witnessing this was a draining feeling being terrified for other people’s lives all day long, it’s life or death. Letting go of that rope one time can change your life and not many people will ever experience that in their life.”"

Biggest Teahupoo Ever - Gnarliest Surf Wave Video by Chris Bryan via TBP

"Teahupoʻo is a village on the south-west coast of the island of Tahiti, French Polynesia, southern Pacific Ocean.[1] It is known for the surf break and heavy, glassy waves offshore, often reaching 2 to 3 m (7 to 10 ft) and up to 20 m (70 ft).

Teahupo'o is a reef break. The swells mainly break left, but the outer reef also creates right breaks that surfers must be cautious of when paddling out. Teahupo'o is also renowned for the consistent number of barrels it delivers. It is a rewarding location and is widely regarded as being on the 'must-surf' list of every enthusiastic surfer. However, only experienced surfers in peak physical condition should attempt Teahupo'o; heavy waves combined with a shallow shoreline can result in serious injuries and even death in a wipeout."

Teahupo'o - Wikipedia

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My long lost French brother

Seen in Ebisu returning from Sunday's ride.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The real problem in Greece

"It took 10 months, a fat bundle of paperwork, countless certificates, long hours of haggling with bureaucrats and overcoming myriad other inconceivable obstacles for one group of young entrepreneurs to open an online store.

As e-commerce continues to gain ground apace abroad, and even Greeks seem to be warming to the idea of Internet shopping, opening an online store based in Greece is no job for the fainthearted.

Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

Eventually, Antonopoulos and his associates decided to use foreign banking systems like PayPal, and cut the Greek bank, with which they had been negotiating for three months, from the middle. “It’s their loss, not ours. We eventually solved the problem in just one day,” explained Antonopoulos.

Starting an online store is no easy business -

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hakuba Brownie Villas

Spent the last few days in Hakuba skiing with family. Stayed at a great log cabin, thoroughly recommended, great price, warm, good location for eating and drinking (in the middle of Echoland -  we enjoyed a good night at the 'Cherry Pub'), but as with most of Hakuba you need a car to really get to the slopes easily. The resort bus service is fine, just easier by car. Best of all they welcomed dogs and it was great to watch the two beagles romping around in the snow. Conditions were good on the slopes, plenty of snow this year. Nothing fresh to bury myself in, but a good family trip was had. I want to go back.

Hakuba Meteor Brownie Villas

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bluebird Day

The benefit of taking a few days off work is empty slopes, the weather was a nice additional extra.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Thursday, February 16, 2012


Underwater Dogs

via The Guardian


"Look at the amount that the Greek economy has already shrunk: 16%. That compares to 20%, peak-to-trough, in Argentina, and 29% in the US in the Great Depression. But the big problem in Greece is that the worst economic effects of austerity haven’t even happened yet.

I feel that what we’re seeing right now is the playing-out of the endgame in Greece.

If you look at the various players — bondholders, the European Commission, the Greek government, the Greek population — all of them want Greece to stay in the euro. I have a feeling they’re all going to be very, very disappointed."

Greece is broken, and can’t be fixed - Felix Salmon


"Apple is disproportionately impacting indices and earnings data, skewing the picture of what is actually occurring.

I have jokingly told people recently that there are 4 asset classes: Stocks, Bonds, Commodities & Apple. This article is more evidence supporting that."

The Big Apple (AAPL) via The Big Picture

WOULD YOU BUY THIS STOCK? - Pragmatic Capitalist

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mind over matter

"For now, the study raises more questions than it answers. But it suggests that some of the limitations we encounter during hard exercise may actually be self-fulfilling prophecies – and that knowing your VO2max is less important than believing that you can go a little faster or a little farther."

The brain’s the boss when it comes to oxygen uptake

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yahoo Boys

"Those unfamiliar with Nigerian culture might find one of the study's findings particularly surprising - scammers make regular use of voodoo. As one Yahoo Boy put it: "The Voodoo thing exists for real, I have used it but I have stopped because of the fear of repercussion. With the aid of Voodoo the money comes faster. I have friends that still use it, they can collect money twice or thrice a week and it helps. I have a friend that uses a calabash filled with black substance; he hides it in his room and says incantations.""

Meet the Yahoo Boys: Nigeria's email scammers exposed - New Scientist

Monday, February 13, 2012


"Further still, at 150 feet, you enter a dream state caused by the high levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas in your bloodstream: for a moment, you can forget where you are and why. At 300 feet, the pressure is so extreme that your lungs shrink to the size of oranges and your heart beats at less than half its normal rate to conserve oxygen. You lose some motor control. Most of the blood in your arms and legs has flooded to your body’s core as the vessels in your extremities constrict. Vessels in your lungs swell to several times their normal size so they won’t be crushed by the incredible pressure.

Then comes the really hard part. You open your eyes, struggle to force your semiparalyzed hand to grab a ticket from the plate, and head back up. With the ocean’s weight working against you, you tap your meager energy reserves to swim toward the surface. Ascending to 200 feet, 150 feet, 100 feet, your lungs ache with an almost unbearable desire to breathe, your vision fades, and your chest convulses from the buildup of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. You need to hurry before you black out. Above you, the haze of blue water transforms into a sheen of sunlight on the water’s surface."


Fascinating (horrifying?) article which is well worth reading.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Derelicts

Absolutely adore this stuff. Want one so bad.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Tell the truth

"I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency.

Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start."

Truth, lies and Afghanistan - AFJ

Caveat Emptor

"This is the standard disclaimer that Contango Oil & Gas Company (MCF) includes with their quarterly earnings reports:

Lawyer Stuff

The future is unknowable. We have good intentions but all of our projections and estimates will be wrong, and could be materially wrong. Wildcat exploration is expensive, speculative and potentially dangerous. An offshore spill or explosion would be enormously expensive. We have insurance but it may not be enough. You could lose your entire investment. Don’t be lazy – read our 10-Q’s, 10-K’s and press releases, and if you lose money – please no tears.

“Don’t forget about risk-free T-bills in your portfolio…After inflation and taxes you’ll likely only lose 5-10% of your investment.”

- Contango V.P. Investor Relations"

via The Big Picture Best Disclaimer Language Ever


I love these, via Doonesbury

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Alberto & Lance

"I have some sympathy for Contador. He has presumably been targeted for testing since the 2010 Tour. No hint of anything suspicious has reached the public domain. He has demonstrated that, assuming parity of conditions – most riders very slightly doped? – he is the best. He has shown astonishing resilience, and held himself with some dignity – not least in last year's Tour de France – in the face of immense pressure.

Given the minute quantities concerned my feeling is that in any other sport the case would never have come to light.

The fact remains Alberto Contador will not ride again competitively before 5 August 2012, and he will have to return all the 'medals, points and prizes' won during the 2010 Tour de France. Whether or not this includes the cuddly Credit Lyonnais lions has yet to be confirmed."

Matt Rendell analysis: What have we learned from the Alberto Contador ruling?

"The announcement of the dropping of the case against Armstrong came from the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles, and reminded us that its primary purpose was not to prove that the rider had doped. In the US, sports-related doping is not a federal crime. The effect of doping is the issue, and in Armstrong's case an attempt was being made to discover if sponsorship money provided by a US government body had been used to subsidise a doping programme by his US Postal team. Fraudulent misuse of federal funds would have been the crime, rather than cheating in order to distort competition.

It would have been nice to have established the truth, either way, and put it beyond further dispute. A suggestion that the US Anti-Drug Agency will continue the pursuit seems unrealistic.

Case closed, then. There will never be a smoking gun, or a dripping syringe. We are left to examine our own conclusions, and to wonder how it really feels to be Lance Armstrong."

Lance Armstrong's impressive record will be left for history to judge

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Leg cross-section




More fun

"“If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now,” says a hedge-fund executive. “You’d go to Silicon Valley. There’s at least a prospect for a huge gain. You’d have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It looks like he has a lot more fun.”

On Wall Street, the misery index is as high as it’s been since brokers were on window ledges back in 1929. But sentiments like that, accompanied by a full orchestra of the world’s tiniest violins, are only part of the conversation in Wall Street offices and trading desks."

The End of Wall Street As They Knew It - NYMag

Monday, February 06, 2012


via Time

Friday, February 03, 2012

"It sucked"

"The question dogging the industry is whether these falls are temporary or permanent. “Trading goes up, trading goes down,” Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, told journalists in January. “When things come back these numbers will boom again and we’ll be geniuses, and it won’t be because we did anything, it will be because we stayed in the game.”"

Bonfire of the bankers - Economist


"I find Facebook’s impending glory a bit awkward, as it touches on two themes I have written about previously. One is that I just don’t like Facebook. And, I confess, I don’t really understand it. I sort of understand why people like it, but I don’t really understand why it’s going to be the most valuable technology company on the planet in a few years. I don’t understand why anyone would ever click on an ad within Facebook (or why anyone would even see them, since you could just use AdBlock), since I don’t understand why you would want your shopping choices to be dictated by who is willing to spend the most money for your attention. (When I want to buy something, I prefer using organic Google search results, since at least they aren’t affected by ad spending.) Maybe I’m just too old.

At the same time, it’s pretty clear by now that Facebook does whatever it is that it does pretty well. $1 billion in annual profits is impressive, and it’s also considered a pretty good place to work. And who is the CEO of Facebook? A twenty-seven-year-old kid with no other work experience. So while, as a customer (“user,” in software industry parlance), I’m less than thrilled, I can’t deny that Zuckerberg is doing something right as a CEO. Which is further evidence that the myth of the experienced CEO and the cult of the generalist manager are just a myth and a cult, as I’ve written about before. According to Reuters, Zuckerberg will soon be the fourth-richest person in America, after Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison. Which means that, like Gates and Ellison, it’s a good thing he never let anyone convince him that his company needed an experienced CEO."

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg - The Baseline Scenario

Gawd.. maybe I'm just too old too. This expresses my feelings exactly, but I think you are standing in front of a train and should buy the stock anyway.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

New XX

UPDATE. Changed the embed to a hyperlink as Shockwave keep scrashing(?)

"This week, the label Young Turks guest-hosts the midday show on Australia's 94.5 FBi Radio. On yesterday's show, they premiered a new track from Jamie xx, called "Touch Me". It comes in at about the 49 minute mark in the above stream.

It's followed by a mini-mix from Jamie's the xx partner Romy, featuring tracks from Elastica, Fleetwood Mac, Everything But the Girl, and more. There's also a live session from Chairlift in there, as well as a mix by Bullion."

via Pitchfork

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Obsessive pursuit of perfection

"For decades, Japan simply imported the wares of foreign cultures, but recession has led to invention. The country has begun creating the finest American denim, French cuisine and Italian espresso in the world."

Made Better in Japan - WSJ

Lack of a model

"The big banks share a common problem with their old-line counterparts in the airline industry. Like the legacy air carriers, the top banks in this country have yet to find a sustainable profit-making model in a changed world."

Big Banks Lack Convincing Business Model - American Banker