Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Monday, 29 September 2014

Runaway Spider in my Bedroom

About ten minutes ago, I was lying on my bed with my spine lined up against a rolled-up towel. I was doing stretches that my osteopath prescribed for me. I have to do these stretches every day. It's very annoying. While stretching, I saw a spider on the ceiling. I took out a plastic container and then trapped the spider in this container. I put the lid on and was about to take this container outside where I would release the spider into the wild. Unfortunately, there was a hole in the container. The spider got out. It ran into a bunch of paper. When I moved the paper aside, the spider disappeared. 

I now fear sleeping in my room because I know there is a spider somewhere in this room with me.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Comfort of Deferring to Expertise

When people come to me seeking my advice because they think I'm an expert in my field, I try my hardest not to let them down, and I give the best advice I can give. When people seem satisfied, I start to wonder whether it was wise of them to trust me because nobody knows my own imperfections as well as I do, but whether it is because of trust or image, there is a myth commonly held of the expert. This is why physicians are held in high regard and are respected. They are seen as experts in health. I am not the only one who feels this insecurity, and indeed there is a term for it: impostor syndrome.

When I start to doubt the veracity of my own advice and expertise, naturally I start to question the veracity of other people's advice and expertise, and certainly being sceptical of expertise can save us, e.g. the Commonwealth Bank financial planning scandal.

But at the same time, I understand the comfort of deferring to expertise. Before I went to the gym, every second person I met gave me advice on health and fitness. They'd tell me to buy a bike and then go into detail about different types of bikes, materials used for the types of bikes, and so forth, and yet others say different things, e.g. I should be playing soccer or tennis or badminton. Of course, deep down I knew that these people simply tried to sway me one way or another based on their own personal interests. If they were passionate about cycling, they'd naturally want to steer me towards cycling with them.

After I joined the gym and received advice from one fitness consultant, my friends stopped giving me amateur advice. When people asked me what I did for health and fitness and I told them that I was now a gym member and that my fitness consultant or personal trainer prescribed me this and that, that weight of expertise seemed to intimidate other people from giving me their half-baked views, and suddenly I feel calm and at peace because I don't need to listen to diverse viewpoints, evaluate, decide for myself, and feel ashamed if I made the wrong choice. I can just obey the expert, and typically no one dares to question the expert.

If I knew more about health, maybe I'd do my own research, but health is not my area of expertise, nor is it an area I am passionate about, so I am satisfied with deferring to the experts in this area. But in other areas, e.g. personal finance, I am quite passionate about finance and prefer to do things myself rather than rely on a financial advisor or financial planner, and given the bad reputation financial planners have had recently, I am glad I've taken this route.

There is probably no best way to handle uncertainty. In some areas you want to do it yourself and in some areas you want to outsource to an expert.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

What to do after you win the lottery

1. Tell no one. If other people know about it, they will be greedy.

2. To prevent the money being spent all at once, divide the money over time with an annuity or invest it and live off the passive income. Don't increase spending or live extravagantly or more than passive income.

3. Don't get into debt.

4. Don't help others too much. Don't bankroll friends and families' crazy business ideas. Say no to anyone who wants a handout or a loan. You need to help yourself first before you give it all to others. No one is to know of your wealth anyway (see rule 1).

5. Don't divorce. If you are single, don't get married.

6. Don't do drugs e.g. cocaine.

7. Don't gamble.

8. Be careful of being sued. Frivolous lawsuits are common. Protect your assets in retirement accounts or family trusts. Talk to a lawyer or accountant.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Using E10 and Commodity ETFs to Destroy Animal Farming

I've always been a meat eater. Meat tastes good. I also love milk and cheese. But I've always been guilty of the industrial slaughter of animals that occurs in order to produce these goods. When I speak to people about this topic, there is a tendency to rationalise. For example, people say it is natural to kill animals. Even animals themselves kill each other. When I respond by saying that it is also natural for humans to kill humans (as humans have done often during human history) people criticize me for thinking too much about it. In other words, there is a tendency to just stick with the status quo, and if something just doesn't seem right, rationalise it away.

Animal cruelty takes place in an animal farm. If you care about animal welfare, you must study the business model of the animal farm and do everything in your power to disrupt it.

How do you disrupt a business? There are three ways: (1) increase costs, (2) reduce revenue, and (3) increase volatility of costs and revenue.

If costs rise and revenue reduces, the animal farm becomes unprofitable and will shut down. If the volatility of costs and revenue is high, e.g. if the price of feed fluctuates too much, then animal farms are less likely to start up due to unacceptable risk.

Many vegans already try to increase costs and reduce the revenue of animal farms by switching from meat to plant-based food. For example, if instead of eating beef you eat vegetables, the revenue of the animal farm decreases and furthermore because the land that is set aside to make vegetables to sell to the consumer is used for this purpose rather than being used to sell feed to animal farms, then the price of feed will go up.

That is simple enough, but there are two more ways I think we can disrupt the animal farm. One is to use ethanol blend petrol in our cars (E10 for most cars or E85 or E100 if the car is compatible). Proof that this works can be found in American renewable policy that forced petrol to be blended with ethanol. This causes the demand for ethanol to rise significantly, which in turn meant that corn being grown on farms was being sent to cars rather than to animal farms. Animal farmers then had to pay higher prices for feed. This resulted in much higher meat prices (see Ethanol Helps Boost Meat Prices - NPR).

With regards to increasing volatility in agricultural prices, this is where I recommend buying agriculture ETFs as part of your investment portfolio. Not only can it save animals' lives, agriculture investments can make you rich. For example, in Australia, you can buy the Betashares Agriculture ETF. These investments don't actually buy agricultural products like corn and soy and store them. That would be far too difficult. Rather, when you buy these investments, a team of financial experts buy and sell futures contracts for corn, soy, wheat, and rice. Buy doing so, your investment will approximate the prices of the underlying crops. When fund managers buy and sell agricultural derivatives on the market on your behalf, you are contributing to more speculation in these markets, which has the potential to increases prices and, more importantly, to increase price volatility, which makes the business of animal farms much riskier.

The bottom line is that we should be switching from meat products to plant products. This applies not just to what we put in our bodies, e.g. switching from cows milk to almond milk. This should apply to what we put in our cars and our investment funds.