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Today's quote:

Monday, January 31, 2011

In memoriam


born 9.12.1907
died 31.1.1984


Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

Steht nicht an meinem Grab und weint,

denkt an mich, wenn die Sonne scheint.

Ich bin nicht mehr an diesem Ort,

Ich schlafe nicht und bin nicht fort.

Ich bin der Wind über brausender See,

Ich bin der Schimmer auf frischem Schnee.

Ich bin die Sonne in goldener Pracht,

Ich bin der Glanz der Sterne bei Nacht.

Ich bin die Freude der Blumen die blühn,

Ich bin für Euch in allem was schön.

Steht nicht an meinem Grab und weint,

denkt an mich, wenn die Sonne scheint.

Ich bin nicht mehr an diesem Ort,

Ich schlafe nicht und bin nicht fort.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Before and after



It's done!

Now for the noggings to support the towel-rails, shower-shelf, and handrail which should've gone into the walls before the plasterboard went up but didn't and the job is almost back on track.

The Plumber-from-Hell is back ...

... to fix the monumental stuff-up with the spa pump.

Instead of leaving enough space inside the hop to position the pump right alongside the bath, he solidly bricked it all in and left the pump sitting on the carpeted floor in the adjoining sitting-room.

When I went down to his shop during the week to tell him what a tosser he was and that I really had no plans of turning my sitting-room into a pump-house, he said, "Oh, that was only temporary to test it," and that he would be back to put the pump in its rightful place. So now he's back, hammering and cutting out big chunks of TEMPORARY bricks to make room for the pump behind the wall.

Reminds me of a German fairytale of the "Schildbürger" who forgot to build windows in their houses and tried to carry light in big sacks into their homes....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brian J. Herde

I am trying to locate Brian J. Herde, formerly of Adelaide, who worked in Papua New Guinea in the 1970 and again in the 1980s, and may have retired at some time in the late 1980s in the Airlie Beach area.

If you can help, please

Straya Day

To cerebrate or celebrate, that is the question!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plumbing new depths

Click on image for a look behind the scene

When I first thought about renovating the bathroom, I got myself a firm quote by a qualified plumber who specialises in bathroom renovations. Then a friend suggested I could get it done cheaper by employing an "after-hours" plumber and his helpers.


They not only cost more but they also do a far inferior job!

My "after-hours" plumber's bill will exceed the firm quote by quite a margin (always provided the rest of the work will get done within budget because it is far from finished!) and yet the lack of workmanship and lack of planning become more and more apparent.

Just now my "after-hours" plumber (middle-name "still-too-dear-at-half-the-price") finished installing the pump for the spa bath. Despite the installation manual calling for a 500x400mm access to be left for the pump, and despite the 'hop' at either end of the bathtub being big enough to accommodate several pumps, he somehow managed to brick it all in. The pump is now located outside the bathroom in the adjoining sitting-room.

Pity the bathroom isn't upstairs! My "after-hours" plumber could've run the pipes through the floor and suspend the pump from the ceiling downstairs. Now that would be something to show the neighbours!

To really make my day, he then told me he had to rip into the new plasterboard walls again because he forgot to insert timber supports for the towel-rails beside the vanity and spa, and the shelf and soap-dish above the shower! We had discussed their locations long before the plasterboard sheeting went up!

Wiser and worn down by the long delays, I look longingly at the fixed-price quote which I had rejected. It's signed off, "We are fully licensed bathroom renovators and our work is guaranteed."

However, as a good friend tells me, there is always a silver lining. I now have a whole litany of complaints and grudges which will keep me griping for years. And they will tell stories about me around campfires long after I've gone. Not only that, I'll also have no end of "I told you sos" cropping up all over NSW, so I won't feel alone and left out. I'll be the laughing stock of all the "licenced" plumbers for miles around. I'll be famous and my name will be emblazoned on all the "Don't end up like him" posters worldwide.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bran nue dae

Ever since my days on Thursday Island, I have had a love affair with Broome which, with Thursday Island, was Australia's pearling centre. One day I may even visit it!

In the meantime, I am going to watch the movie Bran Nue Dae, which is the story of a young man who, in the late 60s, lives the life of the idyllic old pearling port Broome - fishing, hanging out with his mates and his girl. However his mother returns him to the religious mission for further schooling. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away from the mission on a journey that ultimately leads him back home.

A cracking good yarn and some beautiful photography! As for the soundtrack - WOW!!!

…I feel like going back home
Right now while the mangoes are ripe
Frangipani starting to bloom
And the bluebone starting to bite
Hey mum I can just taste your fish soup and rice
I'm coming back home to you
Can't hack the pace of this city life
Sooner be dreaming in Broome…

And here are some more images of Broome:

Sooner be dreaming in Broome!

Friday, January 21, 2011


The market copped a belting this morning. It got so bad that I let my automated trading take over, i.e. I asked Winnie to watch the screen while I sat in my outdoor spa with a bottle of beer in my hand.

It looks like a bloodbath right now but overall the market is still trending up and the US Dollar is falling which supports higher commodity prices which is good for resource stocks.

The one-year trend is still intact

Even so, BHP is 55 cents down at time of writing which on top of yesterday's fall of 86 cents makes my portfolio look a bit sick right now.

Hang in there, Winnie!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Damn it, this is huge!

I've just bought the book The Olympic Dam Story: how Western Mining defied the odds to discover and develop the world's largest mineral deposit by David Upton. It's about BHP's Olympic Dam Project, the world's most valuable mineral resource.

Since acquiring Western Mining, BHP has more than doubled Olympic Dam ore reserves. Upton estimates that the current value of Olympic Dam ore is around $863 billion including $470 billion in copper, $270 billion in uranium, $116 billion in gold and $8 billion in silver.

The $863 billion valuation means that Olympic Dam has surpassed the value of Norilsk’s nickel-copper-palladium-platinum resource in Siberia which is valued at $745 billion. The Andina Chile copper deposit is third at $631 billion.

Because BHP’s drilling has doubled the Olympic Dam ore body it is now economic to create the world's biggest open cut mine. BHP will spend the next five to seven years removing the overburden. The world has never seen mining on this scale before. Under the BHP plan final product treatment will probably take place in China so we are looking at a massive transportation exercise – perhaps via Darwin. China will need the uranium because it is erecting hundreds of nuclear power plants and will later use its technology to erect them around the world.

The Olympic Dam Story includes a plethora of new information, sure to please the most demanding reader and mining enthusiast.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leaking again!

Julian Assange is not one to lie low.

The Wikileaks founder on Monday held a press conference in London at which ex-banker Rudolf Elmer handed him two CDs containing details of more than 2000 Swiss bank accounts.

Mr Elmer, a former executive at Swiss private banking group Julius Bär, alleges the disks contain proof that 40 politicians, and a bevy of multinational companies, are guilty of tax evasion.

Mr Assange told media at the Frontline Club gathering that "He [Elmer] is clearly a bona fide whistleblower... We have some kind of duty to support him in that matter."

However, Wikileaks will seek to verify information contained on the disks before making any of it public.

Mr Elmer worked for Julius Bär for eight years in the Caymen Islands - a tax haven - before being dismissed from his COO role in 2002.

In 2007, he became one of the first whistleblowers to supply Wikileaks, handing the site client data in 2007.

On Wednesday, Mr Elder faces trial in Switzerland on charges stemming from the 2007 handover.

Mr Assange is currently on bail pending an extradition hearing. Swedish authorities want to question the Wikileaks founder in relation to sex charges.

Bank of America prepares for Wikileaks attack

Separately, the Bank of America has today denied that an outage on Saturday NZ time was the result of an attack by Wikileaks supporters.

The online banking glitch was the result of a "routine systems outage," the bank told media.

Before Christmas, Wikileaks said it had obtained revealing documents about the bank, which responded, in part, but buying "dirty URLs" that could be used against its chief executive, Brian Moynihan, including BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com, BrianTMoynihanBlows.com, and BrianTMoynihanSucks.com.

The tactic mirrors BP's effort to buy key Google search words, including "oil spill" during its Gulf of Mexico crisis last year.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ashes to ashes

1. What do you get if you cross the Australian cricket team with an OXO cube? - A laughing stock.

2. The Australian bobsleigh team have asked the Aussie cricket team for a meeting. - They want to ask their advice about going downhill so fast!

3. What's the difference between Ricky Ponting and a funeral director? - A funeral director doesn't keep losing the ashes.

4. Of everyone in the Aussie team, who spends the most time at the crease? - The woman who irons their cricket whites.

5. What's the height of optimism? - An Aussie batsman putting on sunscreen.

6. Why did the Aussie break his leg throwing a ball? - He forgot it was chained to his foot.

7. What is the main function of the Australia coach? - To transport the team from the hotel to the ground.

8. On his way out into the middle to bat, Ricky Ponting gets a call from his wife and teammate Michael Hussey tells her he's heading out to the middle. - His wife replies: "I'll hold, he won't be long!"

9. What's the difference between an Aussie batsman and a Formula 1 car? - Nothing! If you blink you'll miss them both.

10. Who has the easiest job in the Australian squad? - The guy who removes the red ball marks from the bats.

11. What do Aussie batsmen and drug addicts have in common? - Both spend most of their time wondering where their next score will come from.

12. What did the spectator miss when he went to the toilet? - The entire Australian innings.

13. What's the Australian version of LBW? - Lost, Beaten, Walloped.

14. Why is Ricky Ponting cleverer than Houdini? - Because he can get out without even trying.

15. What does Ricky Ponting put in his hands to make sure the next ball is almost certainly going to be a wicket? - A bat.

16. What do you call a cricket field full of Australians ? - A vacant lot.

17. Why do Australians call their favourite drink XXXX? - Because they can't spell beer.

18. Why can't Australian blokes take their girlfriends to the cricket? - They eat all the grass.

19. What does an Australian batsman who is playing in The Ashes have in common with Michael Jackson? - They both wore gloves for no apparent reason.

20. What's the difference between Ricky Ponting and a phoenix? - At the end of the ashes, the phoenix still has a future.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A simple picture instead of a flood of words

Notice reads: "Sorry - Shop closed due to flooding"

The Queensland floods are taking their toll!

A friend in Brisbane has sent me this photo which shows the extreme hardship he is suffering as he can't even access his most essential neighbourhood store.

Seriously though, he is okay as his house at Acacia Ridge (postcode 4110) is well above flood level. Another friend at Deagon (postcode 4017) has just contacted me to let me know that he is all right too. Phew! At last I can stop drinking to their health!

For updates on the flood, go to www.abc.net.au/emergency/flood/.

If you like to help, go to www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html.

Our unelected Prime Minister, in her monochrome, clichéd and unmodulated voice, announced $17 million in aid so far for Queensland flood victims. Just $17 million !

That's after Australia's top 8 recipients have been given a total of 1.669 BILLION in foreign aid in 2009-2010, to wit

Indonesia $ 458.7 million

Papua New Guinea $457.2 million

Solomon Islands $ 225.7 million

Afghanistan $ 123.1 million

Vietnam $ 119.8 million

Philippines $ 118.1 million

East Timor $ 102.7 million

Cambodia $ 64.2 million

In 2010-2011 the Australian Government plans to spend almost $4.4 billion on development assistance to under-developed countries.

Thanks, Julia, for the $17 million aid to your own fellow countrymen and - women! Generous Gillard, they call her!

In the meantime, the floods had some unintended consequences:

In search of the perfect paraprosdokian sentence

The Greeks have a word for everything! A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.

So, if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with one of these paraprosdokians:

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

2. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

3. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

4. If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

9. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

10. How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

11. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

12. I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

13. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "In an emergency, notify:" I put "Doctor".

14. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

17. The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

18. Hospitality: Making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

19. I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

20. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

21. I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.

22. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

23. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

24. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Books are ships which pass through the vast seas of time

Books can console us in our griefs, distil the wisdom of the ages, help us understand the world around us - and even make us better people. Books can be monuments to high achievement, can call into question our most fundamental assumptions or suggest ways we can transform our lives. But they can also provide distractions, escapism and pleasures as straightforward and comforting as a bar of chocolate.

Here are two 'bars of chocolate' I found in my favourite "bookshop", Vinnies, when I drove into the Bay yesterday. I simply couldn't resist them as the first deals with one of my favourite writers, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the other tells the story of a French soldier, explorer and statesman who gave his name to an island which left a transforming mark on my life.

The Cruise of the Janet Nichol Among the South Sea Islands: a Diary by Mrs Robert Louis Stevenson

In April 1890 the steamer Janet Nicoll set off from Sydney for a three-month trading voyage through the central and western Pacific. Aboard were seven white men, a crew of forty islanders, and one woman: a short-haired, barefoot, cigarette-smoking American, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, wife of the famous novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cruise of the ‘Janet Nichol’ is Fanny’s account of her journey with her husband and grown son through what are today the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

Storms and Dreams: The Life of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville

Louis-Antoine Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811) is best known for his circumnavigation of the globe from 1766 to 1769. Throughout a long and distinguished life however, he participated in many of the turning points of world history: the birth of the United States, the fall of French Canada, the opening of the Pacific, the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars, the crowning of Napoleon and the modernisation of France. Bougainville was also a witty and charming courtier, becoming one of Napoleon′s senators.

A true Man of the Enlightenment, he was gifted in navigation, seamanship, soldiering, mathematics, longitude and latitude - many of the arts that made his age one of most productive and creative in modern history. John Dunmore, a distinguished historian and an expert in French Pacific exploration, brings the man and his era to life in this vivid and elegantly written biography.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A cop is a cop - except in Britain

The whole world has gone mad in the name of political correctness!

Monday, January 10, 2011

At my age I do what Mark Twain did. I get my daily paper, look at the obituaries page and if I'm not there I carry on as usual

Peter Goerman

Yours truly in his Port Moresby office


It was early 1982 when I was hired to set up all the accounting and administrative functions for Steamships-Brambles Joint Venture's tug-and-barge operations up the Fly River to supply the Ok Tedi Mine, then being built in the Star Mountains of Papua New Guinea.

The Far Eastern Economic Review got it right in its "Steaming to success" headline as within just a few weeks of my having set up the billing processes, I was able to pick up the first monthly progress payment of Kina 1,231,182.92 (then well in excess of $1.5million).

Of course, what also helped was that the mine construction manager I was sending my billings to was the same Bechtel Corporation I had worked for during my days on the Bougainville Copper job and that my former boss, Sid Lhotka, was again in charge of all payments. He knew I would bill him fairly and squarely which allowed him to pass my billing quickly and without deductions.

So what has all this to do with looking at obituaries?

Well, at the end of my very successful assignment (which I could have continued indefinitely but instead chose to move on to Saudi Arabia - a big mistake with sad consequences but that's another story), my boss handed me this glowing reference:

He is the same man whose obituary I read this morning on the internet:

Obituary - Alan William Curtis (1947 - 2009)

Alan was appointed General Manager of Hong Kong Salvage & Towage in 1985 following a successful period in Papua New Guinea. Alan modernized HKST’s fleet, ordering two new tugs from Japan which were delivered in 1986. He also embarked upon the construction of the 4000BHP Tai O, the first of a series of powerful and versatile tugs which were excellent seagoing salvage vessels but could also work as harbour tugs when required. In those days, Alan commanded Tai O himself when she went to sea and ran the company between voyages.

Before long, the company was attempting salvage jobs with Alan as salvage master. However, as the company grew, Alan had to curtail his seagoing activities and was promoted to Managing Director. But he always remained involved in salvage work and it is a tribute to his skills that the company never lost a casualty and succeeded in saving every ship they attempted to salvage. Perhaps his most famous case was the recovery of a Boeing 747 from the waters of Hong Kong harbour in 1992.

As the company expanded, Alan began to seek opportunities in new areas like waste transfer. He also secured tug work overseas and soon had HKST tugs operating in areas from the Arabian Gulf to Australia.

In 1995, Alan was transferred to Singapore as Managing Director of Swire Pacific Offshore, having transformed HKST into a company with a worldwide reputation for excellence.

Alan Curtis was a devoted family man: his wife Leslie and their children, Victoria and Alan were always his greatest delight.

Another one who's sailed over the horizon. Some days it gets a bit hard to carry on as usual!



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rare indeed!

Imagine a world without cell phones, computers, rechargeable batteries, telecommunications. televisions and DVD players.

We'd have that world without "rare earth elements" (REEs). The Western world was once self-sufficient in REEs, but now China produces 97 percent of the world's supply, and it is estimated that by 2014-15 they will cease exporting them to meet their own demand.

REEs have unique magnetic, metallurgical and chemical properties that cannot be duplicated by other materials.

And they are called rare because there are only a few known spots in the world where the concentration is high enough to make mining worthwhile.

They are elements, so they cannot be synthetically created, and they have such exotic names as tantalum, europium, yttrium and erbium.

Europium is the element for generating the colour on television and computer screens and tantalum is a critical component of iPods and computer camera lenses. Without erbium we wouldn't have broadband telecommunications.

Cell phones, BlackBerries and hybrid vehicles would not be possible if not for the permanent magnets produced with alloys composed of neodymium and other REEs.

It all means that -- regardless of all the wailing and pontificating -- China, which is already financing a large portion of the Western world's debt, will also continue to be our primary source for the myriad of electronic instruments, gadgets and tools that we all have become accustomed to using.

[Here] is an interesting article on China's stranglehold on rare earth.

I have taken positions in Lynas Corporation (LYC) which is the premier Australian REE facility at Mount Weld In Western Australia which plans to ramp up to 19,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides by the end of 2011; China Yunnan Copper Australia (CYU) which has just made a large rare earth discovery at Mt Dorothy, 50km east of Mount Isa, in Northwest Queensland; and Gold Search (GSE) which is a joint venture partner in China Yunnan's discovery.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Let me give you a leg up ...

2010 was a great year for natural resources but 2011 looks set to be even better...

“Demand for all commodities is forecast to increase in 2011,” said the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences in its last quarterly report.

And with central banks pumping out unprecedented amounts of new money in the form of quantitative easing, the case for owning real assets is even stronger than it was 12 months ago.


Even if you’re just thinking of playing the Australian resources boom this year, you should do yourself a favour and find out which Aussie resource stocks Dr. Alex Cowie of Port Phillip Publishing is recommending to his readers right now.

You can – on a 30-day ‘sneak peek’ basis – by clicking [here].

Now that's a big leg up!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Scary article on Arctic Warming

"The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consulafft, at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes.

Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.
Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable."

Oops!!! Never mind. This report was from November 2, 1922, as reported by the Associated Press and published in the "Washington Post" - 88 years ago! Sub sole nihil novi est.

Your home may be your castle but it is not a good investment

What a terribly un-Australian thing to say when the whole country seems to be obsessed with real estate and real estate prices! Well, I let another Australian make the case for me...

By Neville Kennard
who is a contributing editor to www.economics.org.au

"One of the underlying causes of the Global Financial Crisis was a government-induced over-investment in houses and property. Governments found it to be politically convenient to make special concessions and incentives to people to own their own home. In the USA, for example, home interest-payments have been tax-deductible. In Australia a home has been Capital-Gains Tax Free. Many countries have relaxed-lending criteria for home-ownership leading to people spending and borrowing more than is prudent on their home.

All this has lead to an over-investment in houses. On top of this the house-market in many places has been buoyant, leading people to think they have made a "good investment" in their home.

For many people their home, the house or apartment they live in, is the single biggest purchase they make in their life. People tend to keep their home for a long period, sometimes changing and moving as needs and wants change. Quite often the value of their home increases over their life or ownership period. This is often due to inflation, where it just seems to increase in value, but doesn't in real terms. Sometimes supply and demand pushes the price up, or down. Actually it is mostly the land on which the house sits that increases in price or value; the house itself mostly depreciates with age and declines in value.

With the house we live in we mostly have a loan to finance it and we pay it off over a longish period. It is a means of saving - a forced or disciplined saving regime for us. So after ten or fifteen or twenty years our house may be paid off, and when we choose to cash in and sell, it gives a nice lump sum, probably tax-free, that has kept up with inflation, and we can take our nest-egg and perhaps buy something less expensive, with something leftover to invest or play with.

Thus it seems like it has been a "good investment". But the Global Financial Crisis has caused the house mal-investment chickens to come home to roost and house prices are dropping in many places.

There is another side to home ownership which puts the purchase of a house in a different light.

A house/home is really a "long-term consumer-durable"; it is like a refrigerator or appliance. It will last twenty years or more years and serve us well. It will have running costs, such as rates and taxes, maintenance. It will need to have leaks fixed, plumbing maintained, paint and various repairs over its life. It will depreciate; it will get old and out of date.

And a home will not give a financial return over its life; it will cost quite a lot to own. The land under the house may go up (or down) with supply and demand, but a vacant block of ground will not give a return; rather it will cost money to keep.

Now this is not to say that one should not buy and own a house to live in. Quite the opposite, owning your own home is an attractive and desirable thing to do and most people do it. It can be shelter and accommodation; it can be a source of self-expression with decorating and furnishing. You can alter and change and expand your home when you need or want to. And it is "home". It is more of a "home" when you own it rather than rent it. And there is a sense of pride and satisfaction and security in "owning your own home".

But it is still not a Financial Investment. If you rented your home instead of buying it and put the money into a business or the stock market or even an income-producing property you would most likely come out well ahead.

The property market has swings. Prices go up and down. Should you be skilful or lucky enough to buy when prices are low, and then sell when they are high, it will look like a good investment. But this then turns it into a speculation. And mostly we buy a house when we want or need to, and sell when we want or need to. There are often other factors at play that push us into buying and selling our home - family, job or just because it's what we want to do.

Look upon your home as a long-term-consumer-durable. Own it, pay it off, make it the way you want it, move and swap when you want or need to, and look for other things for your Financial Investments. Look for investments that will hold their value or increase in value (in real terms) and give a return. A business, shares, investment property may do this. Enjoy your home, and if it does actually give you a financial return when you sell it, look upon that as a bonus.

Over-investment in housing and home-ownership has meant less investment is available for business-investment and more productive uses. Let's hope the home-ownership binge is behind us. Politicians can't be trusted to make good investment-incentive rules, so we must each think for ourselves and choose what is in our individual long-term interest."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us"

So wrote Kafka and I was reminded of it when I discovered the writings of William Hazlitt. I came upon him when I was searching for Somerset Maugham's book "The Gentleman in the Parlour".

Maugham was a keen reader as well as an accomplished writer who employed many literary references in his writing.

He had used part of Hazlitt's musings 'It is great to shake off the trammels of the world and public opinion...and become the creature of the moment, and to be known by no other title than "The Gentleman in the Parlour"' in Hazlitt's essay On going a journey for the title of his book.

And so I came to read Hazlitt's essays On the love of life, On the past and future, On the difference between writing and speaking, and On the fear of death.

Consider the opening paragraph of this last essay: "Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern—why, then, should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?"

As for travelling, "One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to go by myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone.", and "I should ... like well enough to spend the whole of my life in travelling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home!"

Wise words indeed! And there is so much more! So go and read Hazlitt; you will feel much the better for it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Science for hire

Fluoride is a highly toxic industrial by-product that cannot be safely disposed of economically.

So, after WW II, with the help of the good people at the "National Institute of Dental Research" (the "mercury in your mouth is good for you" people), US industry took a page from the Nazis who started the practice with the water supplies of "undesirable" people and manufactured the "science" needed to add it to the US water supplies as a "public service".

As did Australia!