Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Artist Jeffrey Thomas has created a “Twisted Princess” series, taking some of Disney finest characters and giving them a turn for the macabre.
Check out his Deviant Art profile for more examples and information:
The drama continues.
It is a pity the U.S. is still trying to borrow its way out of a crisis that occurred basically because it has borrowed too much. To make it worse, failing U.S. companies expect the government to borrow to save them. It’s an ugly, ugly marriage and divorce will likely be one causing the death of the other. It is fine that U.S. wants to make a mockery of themselves, but dragging the rest of the world down with it? That is just….. I can’t even find the word to describe it.
Russia has the world’s greatest Gold reserves so we can safely eliminate gold as an option to avoid creating another all-dominating superpower. Even if all trades are to be pegged to gold, it has to be physical gold we are referring to and not just another inflated value on a piece of paper. The plus side, at least it looks shiny.
So we come back to the option of energy – fossil, nuclear or renewable. Since there are boundless demand and uses for energy, it makes sense that they will be the most desirable commodity. If an index of energy is the new benchmark, there will also be less resistance.
It is not hard to imagine that in the foreseeable future, energy prices will climb to ridiculous heights and the country that controls energy controls the world. Is that the reason why the U.S. exploits other countries of their oil reserves instead of harnessing their own? Considering that other developing and developed countries are draining their resources, some would say that U.S. is well positioned to keep its superpower status.
At least this show is interesting and special - the bad guys always win.
Monday, March 30, 2009
With eyes on the speaker at the other end of the elongated dinner table, I pulled out my cell phone under the table careful not to rouse any attention. Silent mode, I quietly thanked whoever invented SMS. What a genius. Typing without looking is no easy task but lucky for me, I was well-trained during my teenage years in Asia when SMS is free and everyone was sending dozens of SMS everyday. Message sent.
Our eyes met briefly before the speaker continued to put the crowd to sleep. A second later, she stole a moment to check her message before turning back to the stage. A smile rose at the tip of her lips.
“If you want to get out, give me a smile.”
I have become quite adept at getting out of boring situations. Timing is crucial as openings will be limited. There is almost an art to waiting. Oh, screw that, any second longer and this guy will kill my remaining senses, paralyzing me from making any move. It is now or never.
“Sorry to interrupt,” cutting in, “my skin is dehydrated and desperately need a bathroom break.”
“Excuse me.” I stood up, took a short bow and left the table.
Success. Now it is time for me to be the hero and save the damsel in distress. A dozen ideas ran through my head. Set off the sprinklers? It would ruin her dress and hair. Too crude. Create a distraction? It lacked a certain subtlety. There must be a way to steal her from under everyone’s nose.
Then as a waiter walked past, it came to me.
“Excuse me. Can you help me pass a message to that lady in stunning white?” I turned and used my eyes to point. She is always the brightest star, impossible to miss. It adds to the challenge not to attract attention during escape and I love challenges.
With my plan in action, I stepped outside and took in a deep breath of cool raspy night air. It relaxed me but not my heart in anticipation. “Operation Vamoose” would work.
Moments later, I heaved a sigh of relief seeing her walking close.
“Thanks,” Wearing her million dollar smile, she mused. “for your note. I was able to get out in the commotion.”
Wait a minute. That's not on the script!!
She chuckled, “The commotion was when the waiter found you fainted in the restroom.”
We turned and almost instantaneously I walked into a brick wall, at least that what it felt like. I paused for a moment and reflected on the situation. She pulled a fast one on me. I suppose it was just a small prank, no big deal. How bad can it be?
We broke into laughter and then some tears.
Meanwhile, the restaurant was in panic – a body was missing somewhere.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
She is the most artistic skater and leaves me breathless each time she performs.
Friday, March 27, 2009
A while back, sometime last month, BC Children Hospital just held a fundraiser dinner event charging an atrocious $250 a person ($2,500 a table). It was pricey but nevertheless it was for a good cause.
Then yesterday night, a friend of mine carried his 6 month old daughter to the BC Children Hospital when her right eye tip started bleeding and waited for 4 hours before they got the attention of a doctor. The diagnostic is an allergy to antibiotics she took earlier which could have been more serious. This kind of disregard for human life is simply a disgrace to the socialist culture Canada is known for.
Can you imagine 4 hours, sitting in that waiting room, scared to death not knowing what is wrong with your daughter? This is just pure cruelty. Unacceptable and unforgivable. If it was my daughter, I would have left after half an hour after making a big scene cursing at the doctors and staffs.
They are a disappointment and they have lost my support forever. Though it may not be much, I will write in an official complaint for my friend. Something has to be done.
If U.S. cannot defend its currency as the only global currency then it would lose the advantage of not having to pay true market value for costs of the debt binge that has exploded and massive debt for bailouts and financial decisions on the road to economic recovery. The cost of borrowing therefore is shifted to and distributed among other countries and the commodity/energy prices.
Why is the dollar “extraordinary” strong? The main reasons are foreign central banks keep piling up huge reserves of the U.S. Dollar (To save the U.S. economy) and that it is the international medium of exchange for commodities and energy (everyone trades in U.S. Dollar).
Every country in the world has bought U.S. treasuries, albeit lending money to the U.S. at cheap rates. There is also additional pressure on countries to keep its own currency cheap to keep their exports competitive. There used to be when U.S. enjoyed sovereignty as the World’s strongest country.
Well, things have changed.
Asia has been less affected by the global depression than the regions. A major reason is after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, many Asian leaders have done what was needed, which often included building up dollar reserves, to avoid a repeat of history. As such, many believe that the Asia economy will be the first to recover in this global recession.
In any case, the global economic crisis will run into full-blown and make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to continue to get cheap credit without giving in to the need and desire for a new “super-sovereign” global reserve currency.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Marketing has become an indispensable part of business efficiency - Newspapers, commercials, internet advertisements, auctions, seminars and whatever you can come up with to promote an idea or product. As businesses find themselves struggling with diminished sales, effective marketing is even more so important.
Talking about selling an idea, first, interest has to be generated. How do they generate interest and why do people buy it? Think about it.
Most people buy on impulse and most if not everyone have desires. Of the seven sins, vanity is the most heavily marketed. Vanity can come in many forms but most commonly status, image and visual appreciation. For example, in “Second Life”, users are given the option to purchase add-ons or customizations, gifts and services to enhance your online experience. In other words, you give people a chance to feel special and they will bite the bait. It is that simple.
Now this is important. To understand customer philosophy, look at your product. If you were a customer, why would you be drawn to your product? The best way to know a product is with an explanation of its many wonderful features and some hands on experience but that is one of the worst ways to sell. You will be surprised that most people are not buying the features but the initial attraction. It has been tried and tested - image sells.
It does not even matter that you are selling them an illusion, a dream or just an idea. If you can dress it up to look good, chances are there will be someone who wants it. You will need a marketing strategy to maximize product exposure to the niche market and in so doing boost sales volume. Your sales pitch is very important so fine-tune it to perfection for a stronger presentation. Don’t give the clients a chance to know what hit them.
Finally, it is time to close a sale, the most important part of the package. There has to be a balance between the desire to buy and the price. In other words, the price must be justified. Fortunately, there are countless ways to add value to a product - exclusivity, usefulness, quality, innovation and brand to name a few.
If you do everything right, you will eventually create a brand. Branding is a byproduct of successful marketing; it connects the public to your products through a name. The fact that the brands have existed for extended periods suggests customer and supplier satisfaction as well as continued profitability.
Next time when you want to buy something, think about how the marketing was done, how the price is justified and why do you want it.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Three movies have been made:
1) The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004)
2) The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines (2006)
3) The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (2008)
This show has a recipe for success - a combination of witty humor, adventure and romance. I particularly like seeing how even without the luxury of fancy gadgets or the James Bond Charm, the Librarian is always able to use his knowledge and wit to get out of seemingly desperate situations.
The story begins. From a book worm with 22 scholarly degrees to being kicked out of college and forced to get a real job, Flynn Carsen found himself chosen to become the Librarian. His main job is to recover and protect relics or artifacts at all costs. Usually he finds aid by a romantic interest.
Maybe it is destined that the love and passion for relics will be greater than romantic love, just like the Librarian’s calling to be the protector of history. Sometimes he has to sacrifice what he wants for the greater good. It adds to the nobility of the saving the world and the Librarian job.
I love to think that Flynn has matured from an introvert into a man of the world. He has learnt to put his knowledge to use and has found fulfillment in his work. He is no longer just brains as his sword training with Excalibur has turned him into a worthy swordsman. In a way, his job has given him the balance in his life he needed and it is truly a blessing.
“It is not just a job. It is your life.”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Central Banks now has a problem. It simply cannot do much more on the rate front. Only two other options are available: (1) increase the money supply independent of interest rate policy; and/or (2) expand credit by more purchases of the illiquid paper in the financial system.
Reuters reported that China has proposed the IMF special drawing right as a global super-currency. With a new global super-currency, the world’s main currency reserve may no longer be the US dollar.
What is the SDR? It is a basket of currencies units valued against a composite of currencies. It is a better crisis buffer than solely marked against the US Dollar. On the other hand, a global super-currency by an international organization will be questioned for its on efficiency as consensus will be rare.
Personally, I have always been a preacher of the tri-power balance as history has shown it proposes more stability and peace compared to the dominance of a single power. Dominant power will always succumb to corruption and exploitation because they can. Bi-power will always become a race for one to outdo the other. There have been discussions with considerations mainly on population and GDP, the powers of the triangle will be US, India and China. Or if you go by region, it will be Europe, North plus South America and Asia.
The power in numbers? Or the wisdom of few?
Monday, March 23, 2009
The Public-Private Investment Program will also rely on Federal Reserve financing and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. debt guarantees, the Treasury said in a statement in Washington. One of the challenge would be to hand-pick the appropriate banks and private assets managers that will be the beneficiaries of this program.
The news drove the stocks higher. Dow was up 313.65 to stand at 7,592.03. The market will take any good news it can take and this program implies wonderful promise. However, I would remain cautious till they announce the beneficiaries of the program.
If all works well, the program will stabilize the shaken financial system and free up credit lending in an important first step. Then foreclosures will subsequently reduce helping the real estate market recover. With the promise that certain vital companies will not be allowed to fail, job security and public confidence will slowly return.
Indeed, the outlook is promising. Looking deeper, drawing upon debt to buy debt means increasing the money supply and increasing the risk of hyper-inflation. But that is a possibility that we do not have the luxury to be concerned about at the moment.
Nearly 18 months into the crisis and trillions more in debt, the tax-payers have to wonder how much more they have to be saddled for this crisis to be over. Companies that took irresponsible gambles for profit are being bailed out at the expense of tax-payers. Till this day, I still find myself struggling to accept the immorality and unfairness of present.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Dwayne Wade is arguably the most unstoppable man in the NBA this season, single-handedly bringing his team to victory.
But somehow I am convinced that Wade can win a playoff series in 7 all by himself. I have seen it before. So if Wade by some miracle manages to steal the award away, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Yesterday, news reported that the Federal Reserve will spend $300 Billion in the next 6 months to buy Treasuries. Fed policymakers have committed to buy or lend against everything from corporate debt, mortgages and consumer loans to government bonds as they try to end the seizure in credit markets. Here comes the flood of greenbacks.
As a result, the US dollar was oversold and collapsed across the board yesterday and further today. USD/CAD has fallen around 530 pips from the 1.2727 to reach the 1.2186, fresh five weeks high. Oil and Gold have appreciated approximately 7% to $51.06 and $957.40 respectively.
We have all been expecting hyper-inflation as borrowing costs remains low. Government spending of this magnitude will undoubtedly accelerate inflation.
As we speak, the Dollar continues falling.
Tomorrow, when the Canadian Retail Sales Report comes out, I suspect the CAD $ will get another lift.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
This morning, C opened at $1.96 and never looked back. It briefly broke $2.50, marking an astounding 178% increase from barely two weeks ago.
The market is starving for any good news. News of Citi turning profit in the first two months of 2009 and Pandit's memorandum both fed the market bulls in the past two weeks. In addition, you can thank Obama for announcing Citi will not be nationalized and shareholders will not be wiped out.
To determine the next course of action, stress tests are performed to ascertain the banks’ state of health. Those with fundamental insolvency with limited implications will be nationalized. Others will be assisted with bailouts till the regular credit and spending have recovered.
Interestingly, the other major bailout recipient, AIG, has recently paid $165 Million to executives which raises the question: "Bailouts for who exactly?"
Just two weeks ago, I completed stress tests for my bank’s loan portfolio requested by OSFI, the financial regulatory body in Canada. It was painful, slow, complicated and ultimately pointless. The model is not receptive to countless market factors and based its calculations on too many assumptions. Each case essentially is unique.
As such, I fail to imagine stress tests for the major banks which are hundreds of thousands-fold more complex and greater in numbers. The only way would be to do a specific stress test for specific factors then cross-factor them with another stress test for a different factor. This is extremely difficult, if not impossible when you consider the countless variables in play. Even if it is possible, that amount of time and money can be better spent on direct fiscal stimulus.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The fact is we have screwed up. What’s done is done, and before we can look to correct our mistakes and avoid future recurrence, acceptance is required. Acceptance with complete understanding of the causal relationship of our actions leading to this mess that has buried us so deep that we can hardly breathe. Accept it and we can move on.
Do you want an answer? Look in the mirror.
It is as if we have forgotten that money was not created to measure us but to facilitate and promote ease of trade and cooperation. If you at least understand this point, maybe greed’s leash on us will weaken and bring back hard work, honest living and respect for oneself and others.
Years and years and evolution and where have we ended up? Let’s face it. It is not flaws of the systems and it is definitely not bad luck or timing. In an ideal scenerio, Bank nationalization will be the best option to stimulate spending. But considering that we are led by what Louis Lerman calls "prostitutes", giving the government more power will not stimulate spending. Of course bailouts are even more stupid as they are just burning money trying to save doomed companies. Restructuring the accounting regulations so that the amount of bad debts can actually be calculated, but I suspect that the number will bankrupt amajority of the financial institutions. So is it better to leave the bad debts undisclosed? In other to avoid the immediate meltdown of all related industries, that is all we can do.
There is a reason why even though I do not approve of teaching people how to make money, I consistently acknowledge and share opportunities for profit. I have a dream. I dream through logical reasoning and active knowledge sharing, we can think critically, accept criticisms and progress as a group.
But these are not the answers you want, is it? You want a quick fix, someone or something that can tell you it will all be alright and take responsibility for making life better for you. These are the people who made the rules, the ones that has pocketed most of the riches and found ways to get away with it. Rather than rely on others, why not rely on yourself?
In every crisis, there are opportunities. Every great company or leader has emerged during difficult times. Think about what you want to do with your money, which product are you most informed and confident of, and think about the future instead of the present. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Energy - G7 is no more. G20 now includes developing countries such as China, India and Mexico. Energy is essential to country development. Alternatives to oil will be more and more attractive especially when oil price continues to grow.
- Technology - Whether it is telecommunications, computers or green concepts, there are more and more demand for innovations and technological breakthrough to cut costs as well as maintain an environment code of ethics.
- Real estate - Real estates worldwide has taken a hit dropping anywhere from 15% to 90% partly due to the bubble created in past years and the recent credit crunch. There are plenty of good deals around, not just for residentials but industrial and commercial rental properties which generate income/cash flow. Cash flow is crucial for securing bank loans and leverage.
Land Banking simply involves the acquisition of land, which does not enjoy planning consent, in advance of expanding urbanization. The price of an open space plot, not immediately subject to urban development pressures is low. When urban expansion occurs the land rises in value especially when planning consent is granted.
Land Banking is an alternative form of investment in solid ground whereby the investors are purchasing a piece of land collectively in Canada or America or UK . Each investor is required to sign sales and purchase agreement with land office in the respective country.
The huge potential for profit in land banking lies in buying land in specific areas with hope of future development.
Their logo: "Don’t wait to buy land. Buy land and wait."
Attractive Return - Walton International Group claimed their track record is above 10% pa(simple return) and actually almost 15% pa in recent years. It looks even more attractive when supported with countless testimonies. Most of their sales are repeat sales and Asia region alone capture 50% of the sales total sales volume.
Portfolio Diversification - Land Banking investment offers an opportunity that isn’t directly correlated or tied to the movement of other standard investments. This offers clients a unique opportunity to bring diversity to their portfolios
Land is located Overseas - The real value of the land is unknown. All you have is the promise of the marketer that no investor had sold the land at a loss (They would hold the land till a point in time that no loss has been made). No real loss anyways unless you take into account the opportunity cost and inflation.
Land banking is unregulated - This is a legal grey area with possible disputes between companies and individual investors, which means the basic security or protection you have is your trust in the land bankers.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Meanwhile the US unemployment has been reported to be over 10%. Note that this figure is actually conservative under stringent unemployment criteria. For example, only jobless workers in the labor force actively looking for work are considered. So, to the extent that workers have dropped out of (or never entered) the labor force because they felt they would not be able to secure meaningful work, the official unemployment rate understates weakness in the labor market. Then you throw in the independent contractors and I am conservatively estimating a realistic US unemployment at 15%.
If you look at import-export figures, they are as dismal. Overall exports fell 9 per cent to $31.7-billion while imports fell 7.9 per cent $32.7-billion. According to Statscan, Exports to the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, fell by 8.9 per cent to $23.3-billion, largely reflecting drops in automotive and crude petroleum products. This outpaced an 8.4-per-cent decrease in imports.
It is hard to imagine that such severe numbers of decline can persist. I beg to differ.
The U.S. stock market has fallen 55 per cent from peak to trough, and is at essentially the same price level as it was in 1997. Volatility is extraordinarily high. But, rather than seeing how much it has fallen and how cheap is it now, it is more important to think relative to the future and how cheap it will be then. That is what the stock market is – banking on expectations of future value.
In a pessimist’s world, stocks are doomed.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Crimes are escalating, instilling fear and chaos in the public and growing ever so violent. Have you asked yourself the cause for the increase in severity of crimes? Do you realize these are crimes of desperation rather than greed? What can we do to stop them?
Desperation is powerful because it removes rationality from the equation and in doing so, make the perpetrators fearless. Without a secure job, no money for necessities, no home, food or warmth, hope slowly dissipates and desperation becomes the cheapest commodity. Everyday the news revolve around people jumping off buildings and mass family murder before suicide, robberies and kidnappings.
In a nutshell, people stop caring - because they can no longer afford to.
What happened to all these people who used to come up to me, laughing about how much they made from stocks and how great their lives are? Upon reflection, they are deserving of their downfall for over-relying on and over-exploiting the system. The innocents are those who never played with risky investments, never enjoyed a day off from hard work and still ended up dismissed from their jobs.
Life is unfair. It always has been.
Because we know equality is a myth, we have progressed into the era of dream economy, driven by consumerism and individualism. In this era, it is important to understand people including their hopes, fears and dreams.
We are the dreamers and we have failed. Failure in trusting the wrong people, selling the wrong ideas and living the wrong dreams.
This is our wake up call.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
For a long while, we lived in a world where life was good - sometimes too good to be true. Time has eroded whatever little sense we had to think for ourselves and therefore we had fallen prey to the American dream.
We dream. Everyone could afford cars and homes, and accomplish anything they want if they are willing. We dreamed for so long with an optimism that can only feed on our naivety. We became followers - blind and lazy. This is reflected in our self-reinforcing nature and is one of the main reasons the world has evolved into bubbles. This self-reinforcing nature has already switched gears and will continue to drive the economy down to its grave unless stopped. That is IF it can be stopped.
The market is an interesting concept, almost having a life of its own. However, like any child, it needs boundaries. The responsibility of these boundaries rest on the regulators, and let’s not forget that these regulators are also bureaucrats. It is beyond me to guess what underlying intentions exist between these regulators, but one thing I can be certain – they are children too. The world today is ruled by those who are perceived to be better than the rest, rather than those who know what they have to offer. This is our death sentence.
What is reality? We have a market system which has failed, a credit system which has locked up, financial instruments few really comprehend, loss of confidence, loose regulations and not enough accountability. Where has the money gone? They went where they came from – nowhere. These inflated values are simply being deflated into real hard value or simply put, those who have hard assets. Demand for jobs, goods and services have evaporated because they were inflated as well. Sad to say, but it is impossible for everyone to have jobs especially as advancing technology replaces human labor at increased efficiency.
Make no mistake: This is a global recession, a global crisis. For those who believe China’s growth is the key to spark a global recovery, follow my line of thought if you will. China’s total workforce is 820 million strong and 150 million migrant workforce (almost as big as the US workforce of 153.7 million). While the US’s true unemployment has grown to 13 million, just the Chinese migrant workforce unemployment is already at 20 million. That is 20 million people sent back to their homes without jobs and no income.
China can only produce 8 to 9 million jobs per year so at least for the next two or three years, the unemployment rate will remain extremely high or climb even higher. This is a clear indication that while China still enjoys a strong economy based on its GDP and resources, it is a matter of time before recession hits.
It is also important, however, to keep things in focus. In the US, unemployed have heavy debt (house, car, credit cards) and are not able to meet their obligations long term if they are out of work. Most Chinese have savings and little or no debt, live frugally and can more easily withstand loss of wages in both the short and medium term. Yet the size of the population suggests that if recession hit China, it will hit harder than it has struck the US. Now that is a scary thought.
The underlying problem is a public mentality – exploitation for personal benefits. With exploitation, there comes a price. You also have to realize it is no longer enough to rely on governments, leaders or supernatural religious power. The recovery has to begin with changes on the personal level.
(Part 2 to follow tomorrow: Now back to work.)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Did they so conveniently forget to disclose how much bad debts they had written off in these two months? CitiGroup made $19 billion in January and February but if you recall that since October 2008, they had received two federal bailouts, $45 billion of capital from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, and a government agreement to cap losses on $300.8 billion of troubled assets, you have to ask how much can $19 billion fill the deep hole CitiGroup is in.
Judging from market reaction, I am dumbfounded whether people are genuinely that naïve or perhaps they are simply willing to settle for any glimpse of optimism and hope.
In any case, may I remind you that 1929 Depression had such dire consequences that it took the market up to 1954 to recover. Globalism has magnified the effects of gobal economic crisis surpassing standards set by the 1929 Depression. Recovery will be slow. Dead slow. Think about it.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Call me confused as oil is up and over $47 but the Canadian Dollar is falling and once again testing its resistance at a four year high of $1.3064. I doubt that today’s news of lesser housing starts in February weakened the Canadian Dollar to such extent. After failing to break the resistance the fourth time since October 2008, the Canadian Dollar has climbed back to $1.2930 and trying to break the support.
Warren Buffett predicted there will be a sharp inflation quick to follow this recession. I think he will probably be right with the US extravagantly printing money for futile bailouts. Normally, it would make sense to anticipate and prepare for the hyper-inflation but this has become quite a dilemma for the governments.
Pick your poison - Stagflation or Hyper-inflation.
It is a crazy world. You better get used to it.
I took the silver lining from the clouds.
I drank from the other half of the cup.
I stole the light from the end of the tunnel.