22 February 2009

I Married My Horse

Above you can watch a documentary on Youtube about men in America who have intimate relationships with non-human animals. One man even married a pony. An episode of Jerry Springer featured the man, but this episode was never shown on TV because management watched it and disapproved.

What I find interesting is the politics of bestiality. According to libertarian ideology, bestiality is okay because libertarians believe that humans are free to do whatever they want with their property so long as they do not harm other humans in the process. Non-human animals are the property of a human and so that human is allowed to marry or have sexual relations with that animal if he or she wants it. According to Liberty Scott (see Bestiality, Oopss), "The fundamental point is that the animal does not have rights. Since it is legal to kill the animal, farm and hold the animal as property, having sex with it is no different. The Dutch prohibit cruelty to animals, in that deliberate sadistic conduct or cruel neglect of an animal you own is illegal - but do not prohibit bestiality, but acts of bestiality that are cruel are prohibited because they are cruel, not because of the sexual dimension."

No wonder the Libertarian Party in the US is so unpopular.

14 February 2009

Doom and Gloom from Gerald Celente

Gerald Celente is a futurologist. In the Youtube video above he talks on Russia Today, saying that he predicts in 2009 a global economic depression that will be bigger than that seen during the Great Depression in the '30s.

He claims that soon that as retailers and banks collapse, the commercial real estate market will tank and unemployment will soar. This in turn will create violence, rioting, kidnapping, etc.

08 February 2009

How to Get Enough Fiber in Your Diet

It is recommended that you get about 30 grams of fiber in your diet every day. Fiber is helpful for your body because it brushes out toxins from your digestive system.

I actually count how much fiber I get. Whenever I eat something that I suspect has a lot of fiber in it, I use my mobile phone camera to take a picture of it. When I am on my computer and I have free time, I look over the images I have taken with my mobile phone and estimate how much fiber I have consumed. The fiber content of food is usually available simply by reading the nutrition information on the package. For fruits and vegetables you can check out the website The Fiber Content of Common Foods.

If on a particular day you only get 15 grams of fiber, simply eat more fiber the next day. Be careful not to eat too much fiber as this can be bad for your digestive system. I estimate that more than about 50 grams per day is bad.

There are many different types of fibers, from soluble fiber to insoluble fiber. Some fiber comes from chicory root while others comes from wheat. I don't bother too much with the type of fiber I eat. I simply try to get a wide variety of different fiber from different sources.

If I am low on fiber for a particular day, there are some techniques I use to boost my fiber intake. One of these techniques is using Fibresure. Fibresure is pure inulin, a form os fiber. Some health experts say that inulin is not as good as other forms of fiber. Metamucil (the makers of Fibresure) claim that you can mix Fibresure with any food and it will not affect the taste. In practice what I find is that Fibersure tastes a little bit sweet (not necessarily a bad thing) and it has trouble mixing with certain beverages, especially Coke. One teaspoon of Fibresure contains 5.8 grams of fiber, so putting one tablespoon into a beverage will give you more than 16 grams of fiber, which is half a day's requirement.

Another fast source of fiber is the breakfast cereal Bran Plus from Uncle Tobys. Just one serve (about one cup) of this cereal has 20.4 grams of fiber in it, which is about two-thirds of your daily recommended intake. The problem with this cereal is that in my opinion it tastes really bad and dry. Whenever I eat Bran Plus (or any other similar bran cereal like All Bran) it makes me choke. I recommendation is to eat Bran Plus with a very large jug of water near you. Whenever you feel you cannot swallow the cereal, just chug down some water and you will be fine.

The Collapse of Storm Financial

Storm Financial encouraged its clients to take out margin loans secured against their houses and use the borrowed money to invest on the stock market. According to a member of Aussie Stock Forums, Storm Financial used the borrowed money to invest in ASX200 index funds.

Such a plan worked fine during boom times, but things turned bad for clients when the market went south.

Many people say that it is important to be optimistic and to have a positive attitude. I believe that always being positive is very dangerous when you are investing. One thing investors should be careful about is leverage, which is borrowing money to invest. Borrowing money to invest is a great idea if the asset you invest in goes up in value by a greater rate that the rate at which you borrowed. However, you are often uncertain about whether a particular asset will perform that well. You are also uncertain about whether you are capable of paying back the loan. Borrowing to invest is very risky.

Another lesson you should learn is to be cautious about financial advice. Storm Financial charged hefty fees and used this money to pay celebrities who in turn promoted the product. You should be careful about financial advice you get from other people. Try to ask as many different people as you can. Think carefully about their justification for why an investment is reasonable and make sure it makes sense.

Another lesson is to diversify. Leveraging into an ASX200 index fund through Storm Financial does provide diversification because you are investing in 200 companies. However, you are putting your faith in one firm. If that one firm collapses, you are in big trouble. Those who invested all their worth with hedge fund manager Bernie Madoff would have lost everything as well. Even the Bible recommends diversification. Ecclesiastes 11:2 says, "Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth."

Storm Financial and Bernie Madoff are different. Bernie Madoff actively deceived investors, telling them that he was investing in options and other fancy investment products. In reality he was running a pyramid scheme. I am not aware of the full facts but it seems as if Storm Financial actually told its investors exactly what would happen, which is that they would borrow money against the house and buy shares with the borrowed money. A pyramid scheme is illegal but borrowing money to invest in the stock market is certainly not. It is a legitimate way of investing.

Kiva for Residential Property Investors

The website Kiva allows individuals to loan money to entrepreneurs in poor countries. This popular website has grown a lot lately. A similar website is Microplace, which is owned by Ebay. Microplace also allows investors to loan money to entrepreneurs in poor countries but the primary difference is that Kiva does not pay back interest while Microplace does pay back interest. Both Kiva and Microplace are US websites. Kiva allows non-US citizens to loan but Microplace does not.

Loaning through Kiva is very simple because you only need US$25. Your loan is pooled with the loans of many other investors.

Buying residential property as an investment is often very difficult because house prices are typically very high. The average house in Australia costs about A$400,000 (approx US$300,000). Because of this, the typical person has to either save up for a very long time in order to afford to buy a house or borrow a lot of money from the bank.

I believe it would be a great idea if a website exists that takes the Kiva idea of collective investing and applies it to the residential property market. I believe there is strong demand for residential property investing in Australia, but because taking out a massive loan or saving up to buy a house is such a major task, most people never take the leap. A Kiva-style website for residential property investors will give these people an opportunity to dip their toes in the residential property market with little money and therefore little risk.

Here is how the website will work. You look at houses that are for sale. You get an expert property valuer and value a particular house. You borrow how much you think the house is worth from a bank and you go to that house's auction and try to buy that house for what you believe the house is worth. If you are successful, you put the house on the website and ask investors to invest in it. If not enough investors put money in, you have overestimated demand. Once enough investors put enough money in, you pay off the bank's loan immediately. You get lawyers to draft a contract in such a way that title of the property is split among the many investors who have invested. Every house will have a specific loan term. This house you have purchased will have a loan term of e.g. three years. During these three years, the property is rented out. The rent will be collected monthly and then distributed to all the investors. Once three years has gone by, the house will be sold and all the money you receive will be distributed back to the investors.

Under this system, if an investor invests in a particular house then he or she will not be able to get his original capital back until the house is sold (which is three years in the example given above). The investor will receive income for the first three years and then when the house is sold the investor will be able to collect any capital gain or capital loss.

What if an investor needs money straight away? We can modify the system to make it more like investing in the stock market. We simply treat each house as if it were a business that produces revenue in the form of rent and we allow investors to buy shares to guarantee ownership of a portion of that stream of rental revenue. For example, suppose 100 people invest in one house. If the house collects, say, $1000 per month in rent then each investor will get $10 per month. If after one year a particular investor wants to cash out completely, he can sell his right to receive $10 monthly to someone else. Clearly this system would be a lot more complicated.

One reason why I believe Kiva is good is because it does not charge interest. This can be good because if investors get not interest then they do not have to declare anything during tax time. Obviously with this collective residential property investment scheme, investors need to collect rent or capital gains. Kiva investors are willing to forego interest because they want to do good for the world. Real estate investors, on the other hand, tend to want to invest only for the sake of making money. Because of this, the real estate website, to be successful, will have to provide investors will a lot of support with their taxes, which will mean providing investors with tax statement before tax time every year as well as providing free accountants who will do their tax forms for them if they are having trouble.

This website will make money by charging a fee. For example, three per cent of the rent and three per cent of the total value of the house will go the business.

07 February 2009

Full Time Work Improves Sleep

I started my full-time work this week. This means I normally start at nine, which means I have to get up at around 6:30 in the morning. When I was in university I worked part-time mainly from about six in the afternoon till midnight. This meant I slept at about one in the morning and woke up at around about eight or nine.

One of the problems with waking up so late is that you are often asleep when it is not dark. I'm certainly not an expert on this topic but if light goes on your body then melatonin production is suppressed. Melatonin is an antioxidant. If your body does not get enough melatonin then you run a higher risk of getting breast cancer or prostate cancer.

Because of worries about melatonin deficiency, I have been collecting data on when I sleep, when I wake up, when sunrise is, and how much sleep I get in the dark. Obviously the earlier I go to bed the more sleep I get in the dark.

I have put the data for the last few months into a time series chart. If you look at the chart you can see that I normally go to sleep at about one in the morning and then recently I have been going to sleep at about ten or eleven at night. I used to wake up at about eight or nine but now I wake up at about six or seven. As a result of shifting my sleeping period earlier, the amount of time I sleep in the dark (called "Dark Sleep" on the chart) has increased significantly. I used to average about five hours of dark sleep per night when I worked part-time but now I average about seven hours per night.