Thursday, February 26, 2009

the hero I am and the hero I wanted to be - conversations with MmeP

H: I never thought my life would turn out this way !

MmeP: how ?

H: I'm passionate about things I would have thought deadly boring only a few years ago.

MmeP: such as .... ?

H: I fight the City Water company because they expect my block of flats to pay for repairs to a water pipe that is actually their responsibility. The others and I fight for that, for commonsense and fairness. We fight the bureaucratic bullshit used to justify a legal loophole.

MmeP: I see you DO feel strongly about that.

H: If you had told me 10 years ago I would fight for such things I would have laughed at you.
Now I'm in the middle of the battle.

MmeP: and what did you imagine ?

H: I imagined that I would save the world, not one water pipe at a time, not one block of flats at a time, that is far too boring and pedestrian...

I imagined I would do great and magnificent things, rescue damsels in distress, at the last second, inches before they hit the asphalt !
Or cure millions, or invent propulsion-less space flight, or ..... or ... or .... .
They would show they gratitude and I'd walk off and say 'oh it was nothing' but secretly I would have wanted to large crowds to witness the whole scene and admire me for it.

I don't what famous wit said something along the lines of:
"There is nothing as sweet as a secret good deed accidentally revealed." Very true, that way I get it both ways, the modesty and then my good is revealed without my doing it.

MmeP: I have also harboured thoughts such as these :-)

H: I guess that is what's called 'maturity'- moving on from there.

MmeP: perhaps. But don't forget there is more to life then fighting Water Companies, there really ARE great things to DO ! Perhaps not exactly as you described but who knows... !

One of the ladies entered at this point with a message for Madame and a fresh pot of tea.
She read the note and poured some more tea, then turned back to the conversation.

MmeP: Don't throw out your dreams too quickly my friend. There is something worth keeping, and I believe it is waiting for you after the Water Company battles.

It was time to meet the evenings clientele. Madame gathered her clothes and departed, accompanied by the swish of cloth and the smell of new tatami.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

how to figure out the best mobile phone deal...

Mobile phone plans are designed to confuse until you just give up and pick something, anything and hope it's ok. Well it will be ok, sort of. Unless you are an Engineer that is. Here is my Engineering approach: Reduce any plan to two fundamentals:
  1. how many minutes do get to talk for per dollar ? or if you like it the other way round: what is the cost per minute of talk ? Ignore special offers and funny stuff, free time between phones subject to a large number of provisos and restrictions etc...
  2. What is the minimum spend per month ?
Reducing any plan, any offer to those two metrics (numbers), makes the choice really simple.

If you are an Engineer it helps make the choice even simpler.

Example: Australia: Virgin Bean counter prepaid. 10cents/minute, 24/7 any phone in the country.
This one is easy to work out, they give it to you up front:
10cents/minute (or approx 9 minute per one dollar if you count connection fee).

You need to count the 25 cents connection fee.

You also have to pick some standard call lengths.
Lets say we look at 30 seconds, 1minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute , 20 minute calls and compare the cost per minute for those fixed times.

Now things get a little tricky here: if we count 1 minute, or 60 seconds than most companies will charge the next block of time.
So for all the numbers below, when I write 1 minute I mean 1 minute less 1 second, or 59 seconds.

2 minutes means 1 minute and 59 seconds.
3 minutes means 2 minute and 59 seconds and so on.... .

Just under: 30sec 1min 2min 3min 5mins 10mins 20mins
Virgin Bean counter $ 0.30 0.35 0.45 0.55 0.75 1.25 2.25
Virgin Long Expiry $ 0.60 0.95

- to do:
- make a table and add it as JPG image,
- add the common plans here !
anyone willing to help me ? please email me on

Minimum$/month :
Virgin Bean counter : $16.67/month (Min $25 for 45days).

  • special phone numbers that charge more are ignored.
  • special free call time is ignored, usually the restrictions means you can only call one or two people for free anyway and only at certain times. That's too complicated and generally not much use if you want to, or need to make a call.
  • special free arrangements such as free calls from Company V to Company V are ignored.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The cost of money - the value of money

This started out as a blog on money, what it is and what it is now.
Then I found a video here, that kind of said most of it.
So here is just a link to the video.

Below is the half finished blog for what it's worth- I've looked at a few ideas for a more fair means of exchange of work, effort and labour. I've come to understand that the basis of rich and poor, the basis for money of any form, is the desire by humans to be 'more' than other humans. It's probably as simple as that. "I'm more important that you, so one hour of your work is worth only one minute of mine" - or something along those lines.

In the old days: Gold used to be the standard that stood behind bank notes.
The money a Government issued, had to be backed by real gold bullion, real metal, once.

This is now gone, actually it has gone for some time.

You can still buy gold, and gold is still a valuable asset of course, but it is no longer the backbone of the monetary system.

Money now is a virtual entity.

If you live in a certain country the money you have is worth more than in another country because the international currency exchange rate, which is linked to the value of goods, which is linked to what people pay for things they want.

There is another way to view money, instead of using the gold standard, use the human labour time standard.

At its most basic level:
Money is equated to time spend working.
1 hour of labour is worth say X amount of money.

Pretty quickly you will realize that the 1 hour of someone with great expertise and experience is worth more than that of 16 year old just learning how to serve people behind a counter.

So you have to factor experience into the equation.
It's pretty clear that the system can get very complicated very quickly.
How to do you rate experience ? etc....

Some of this way of thinking is already in operation in everyday life.
People spent time studying acquiring certain skills get more money than those who didn't.

Financial Crisis 2008, stock market crash, after American Civil war

If image is too small, just click on the image for larger size, or right click and 'view image'.

Read this, and guess what period in history it talks about ?

Ok here's the answer:

The excerpt above is from a novel set around the Civil War period.
Just after the American Civil War 1865-ish.

Has the basic issue every been fixed ?
Has the tiger changes its stripes ? :-)

From the book: "Scarlett" by Alexandra Ripley, 1991, , sequel to "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, comes a description that could be very accurate in 2008 for the financial crash.

Note: A historical novel is a work of fiction, however there was an actual Stock market crash at that time. The basic mechanisms of stock market crashes seem to be the same over the last 200 years.
Could it be a systemic problem ? Do we need to refine the system ?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day-Trading as a psychological mirror

Anything in life can serve as a mirror for one self.

Everything I do, every situation can teach me about myself, IFF I'm interested to look.

Surprisingly, even share trading, 'day trading' can teach me ! Not something I would have picked as a psychological tool to give me insight about myself.

This is how it happened:

I bought $15K worth of shares at 15 cents a share.
The price dropped to 12cents.
I bought 5K more of shares, at a good low price.
The price dropped - a LOT.
I stood open mouthed gaping at the computer screen: "this can't be real, this is not possible" - there is a word for this kind of reaction: "denial"

Now the value of my shares had plunged to half.
If I sold now, I would loose 10K.
"No way ! I'm not losing half my money ! It'll get better !"
I remembered the old adage, the common wisdom: "If you don't sell, you haven't lost anything yet !"
I remembered wisdom from the old hands: "You just got to ride it out, in a few years it will all spring back !"
"Phew! Yea, you're right, I'll wait it out".

The price dropped to 30% of its original value. If I sold now I'd lose 14K.
That was not acceptable. This can't be happening to ME ! I don't lose $10K ! Only other people do that. I NEVER make a loss ! I'M different from THEM ! Ha !

In the last two years I'd made a nice income from day trading, paid for travel and stuff. I was like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming car, mesmerized and frozen in denial and unbelief.

The price dropped to 10% of its original value. I had 2K left of the original 20K I paid into the system.

Ouch!!!! ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch !
That hurt.

"You've been too miserly to spend that 3K on new windows for your flat, you've been too stingy to spend money on a new shower and hot water system.
You thought 100 times about helping Mz M in country B, and you didn't donate anything to charity XYZ.....
But look at yourself: Now you are shovelling it out by the truck load ! 20K ! My God ! Just imagine what you could with 20K !" Such were the thoughts that flapped around my mind like vultures.

"Imagine you put that 20K on the house loan, you'd really make a big dent on the repayments".

Ok so I turned the tables a little:
I said to myself: "Image you didn't do anything and like a good little vegemite you put the money on the house loan and thus you took the safe and secure option.
OK I'm imagining: You know what ?
If I had done that, I would tell myself something like this: 'You could have made 20K extra, and paid off 40K by now ! You didn't want to risk it did you ? Too scared. You always go for the safe and boring option don't you ?!"

I got a traffic fine $270 or so. Ok not nice, but no big deal. "Get some perspective old boy," I told myself, "if I can blow 20K out the door, then $270 is ....well .... not nice but I can cope..."

So then I sat back and took stock: was it worth it ?
Actually you know what ?
That lesson was worth it ! I probably wish it had only cost 5K and not 20K, but that's life.
Overall, on balance I am happy with what happened.
I learnt something.

I learnt about my pride. Pride that would not accept a loss of 10% ($2000) and thus made me hang in there till I had lost 18,000 !

But most of all: I am happy I didn't just sit in fear and NOT try it. I tried, and I learned.
And it was worth it.

And you know what ? The story is not over yet.

As I sat on the floor, having lost 90% of my investment, a thought, like a beetle, crawled across my numbed brain: "The remaining 10% ($2000) is hardly worth keeping, not compared to what I used to have ! BUT, I'm going to use it with abandon."

I felt as sense of freedom, of wild abandon, - I had hardly anything worth investing, but by Jove I was going to use my newly learned lessons to start again !

"I'm going to use it as seed fund to start again. I'm going to rebuild !"

I had to say goodbye to the $20K !
I had to watch as the red figures on the screen said -89% or -91% .
I watched as I started again with a cost basis of 2 cents, - of what once was 15cents.

I wasn't willing to wait for years. The company might no longer exist in a few years.
I didn't feel like hanging around waiting for things outside my control. Whatever small and slim control I could exert, I was going to do it by Jove !

Something inside me changed.
The cautious scared rabbit had left.
A more impersonal, perhaps more ruthless - if that means: less timid - 'me' emerged from it all.

I didn't expect share trading to teach me all that.
....and...... I'm not finished yet.....
Excuse me, have to place a new 'open order' for 1.7 cents.....

'day trading' is a term that refers to buying and selling shares based on the price changes that happen WITHIN one day. It can also mean trading shares for a short term, days or weeks. Trading is different from investing for the longer term. Traders are hit 'n run types, who make a profit on the small fluctuations in price during a day or a few days.
Investors wait for the tide to come in an out in long slow cycles. Day trading is
a bit like generating electricity from the motions of the waves of the sea, the minute by minute, second by second changes.
From now on: Gross profits from future trading of that 20K: a percentage will go to worthy causes...

Later a friend said:
you rock !
My reply was: I never expected to learn all dat stuff from trading stock...
Her reply: you took the opportunity to learn. you saw what life offered you.

I replied:
thank you, it was quite an interesting ride....
usually I'd just walk away from the mess and say 'f*** it!',
not worth to bother about 2K after you once had 20k.
but now I'm clawing it back.... 2.5k now... but the next wave could wash it out, or move it to 3k .... we shall see.
7Aug09 Friday Melb, Oz: today I realized, this way of thinking was not restricted to my share-trading. It was a part of me.
And being a part of me, I saw that the same principle operated in other areas of my life.
Instead of money, the same thought processes applies to how I view years of my life.
"The last 3 years were a waste, a write off" - i.e. in share trading terms: loss of value.
"But I can't cope with the idea of having wasted 3 years of my life. I'll just keep beating myself up about that."
So another 3 years pass.
"Oh my god, I've wasted 6 years...this is really unbelievable... oh my god etc..etc..."
And now the 'awfulness factor'  is much greater and and so I beat myself up even more.
It becomes 9 years and so..... and so on...........
Until one day, I simply write it all off, and start again.
The turning point came when I just accepted it.
"Ok I've lost 12 years... of nothing much done or achieved. Ok." no more beating up of self.
That was the turning point.
So I see now:
The way I behaved in the share-trading scenario was not an isolated once off event, it was an expression of how I behave and think in certain circumstances. 
And then I found out a secret: only after the turning point, I found, that one never really loses any years anyway.A 'loss' is only a loss if you don't learn, only a loss from a certain angle.
It can also become, and it always was, a gem....
Just like in a story, the most dire situation turns around and the hero comes out on top...
and so i see once again: all things have a higher and a lower aspect. 

23Sep09 more thoughts on the above:
Looking back on my life I notice an interesting pattern: 
Something bad would happen, (relationship break up) and it took me a year or two to get over it. 
Then I regretted the wasted time of the relationship and the wasted time getting over it. 
This time of regret was still unproductive. 
After a while I'd look back and think: "Gosh, I've wasted time getting over it and now I've wasted another two years regretting the two years" 
Then I had problems coping with the wasted of four years. 
So I spent another 3 years beating myself about that and so on and so on... 
it seems silly, it was, but it was what I did. 
I didn't SEE clearly because it was years and years , and spanned more than a decade in total. 
Only the sharetrading fiasco showed me the psychological mechanism of how that downward spiral worked. 
I didn't understand what was happening to me in the relationship issues, so it took shares, money, figures, numbers to really bring home the point and make the point. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The real ME - the image of me

Madam, I have a story.

Go on.

All my life I have tried to be something I am not.
What I was, was not acceptable. How did I come to believe it was not acceptable ? Well it was not acceptable to the way things were organized in the world, and my feeling and ways of behaving had to be pruned to fit the world, the civilization, the social world I had been born into.

That is normal. Everyone is pruned, and everyone feels they are not acceptable.

Part of the path ?


Does it have to be this way ?

I don't know but it has been for you.

I can feel the real ME deep down. And there is a tension between the real ME and the me I pretend I am, the me I try to make myself into. The pain in my body, the illnesses, are the result of that tension. I can blame society and outside factors, but really it is all within me. Between me and ME. Everything else is just an excuse. I feel tension now, but I know, it is my deeper self talking to me.
I'm learning how to listen to that language.

You are welcome.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Lady on the Train

I was sitting in the train carriage on my own one night on the way home.

A lady came in.

She sat down next to me and looked at me. Suddenly I felt as if I’d just woken up and remembered why I wanted to be born. My life until that moment seemed like a dream to me. I understood that life was worth while - something about her inspired me to reach out to where I had never dared to go before.

There was something odd about her eyes, I couldn’t pick what it was at the time.

She told me a story about someone I knew and vaguely remembered. She told me about his past and she told me about his future. She showed me how the great disasters of his life fitted into a picture that made perfect sense.

Her voice was calm and peaceful and and I felt as though every word cam from an infinite time and distance and had taken an eternity to reach me at this moment.

Then she patted my hand and looked into my eyes for a long time. I saw her lips move and after a while I realized she was calling my name. But it was a name that I’d never heard before, but it was more ME than the one I’d used all my life.

She smiled and stood up.

“We’ll meet again, - enjoy your journey”.

She walked away and I didn’t even remember which way she went.

I have never doubted that we would meet again. At times I have felt impatient, but I know that she will choose her own time and place.

In her honour I live - I am awake every moment.

by T. Ngiam