Free speech is under fire from a variety of directions. For most people free speech is limited by their company, in other words their words are stifled by what they might think their company thinks about what they say. They go from outgoing and outrageous to virtually a politician – too afraid to say anything that might be construed in the wrong way and are brought into silence as to not offend anyone.
Secondly, free speech is under fire from certain governments across the world. It is not uncommon to be jailed for what you say on Facebook whether it is against a politician or a government practice. In these countries the government is not really representative of the people but rather in control of them. Some countries forgo this hassle by simply blocking Facebook, Twitter, and any platform where people can “congregate”. In the US, free speech is allowed but closely monitored and recorded. Private emails and messages are a joke.
The last and most serious threat to free speech are those who would terrorize and kill to silence their opponents. Also this has previously been confined to third world countries, the practice is spreading to Europe especially. This kind of activity is a threat to a free and just society, and if not stopped may be the biggest threat to human civilization and the progress it has made.
Every human should have the right to express themselves or their thoughts on a subject without facing danger or imprisonment. That includes you and me, and the more people who reject the notion that they should keep silent the more sinister the things folks will get away with.
The US once again celebrates Columbus day – and again disappoints those who oppose ruthless murder and exploitation. Murder, slavery, and rape of indigenous peoples was common among Columbus’s crew – and Columbus forced the natives to work the gold mines as slaves and killed those who refused. Columbus’s lust for gold corrupted his mind and made him a slave himself to coin. Five years ago I wrote an article in the Iowa State Daily talking about just this… I remember receiving a lot of negative comments on the opinion piece but my stance on the topic remains the same – I will not support or give honor to a man with such an unscrupulous coin grabbing lunatic.
It’s always interested when a company you are following closely suddenly goes belly-up. It should have been expected given that GTAT was not awarded production of larger screens on the iPhones and iPads but instead only producing tiny camera pieces – after investing huge amounts of money in a new production plant in Arizona. My suspicion is the one to benefit the most from this failure will be DOW CORNING, the joint venture between Dow Chemical and Corning. More news is bound to come out on the specifics of this company’s failure, most likely a mixture of production problems and lack of orders given its huge liability.
After falling almost 13% the day of Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch GTAT stock dropped by another 14.5% today as investors dropped the ownership of the company speculated to be making sapphire screens for many or all do the new iPhones. Instead, GTAT will be producing screens only for the Apple Watch for the time being. This just goes to show how dangerous speculation can be – and how reacting to news quickly may say you a lot of money.
Regarding the future of GT Advanced, only time will tell if they will be included in the production of other device screens. The company already has business with the solar industry but the incremental benefit of sapphire over Gorilla Glass is disputed by Dow Corning and price conscious consumers. Perhaps the 6S will have these screens?
Screenshot courtesy of Google Finance
After Apple showed off it’s new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch the stock for GTAT, or GT Advanced Technologies rumored to be the producer of sapphire screens for the new phone plummeted 13%. The September 9th event was devoid of mention of the sapphire screen for their phones, however their watch seems to be using the sapphire technology. This makes sense since the Sapphire screen on the iPhones would have forced Apple to increase their price mark by about $100 per unit, and the screen size on these watches are pretty small. Unfortunately this means less revenue for GTAT and hence the huge price drop. I do see GTAT advancing in the moderate to long term as more manufacturers embrace the scratch proof material going forward, and the use in just the Apple Watch will keep GTAT from under-producing.
As GTAT is an American manufacturer, there is also a risk they will be undercut by cheaper foreign manufacturers – only time will tell.
I’ve been considering starting to use a password manager for awhile now, however I’ve been holding off because of the simple fact that a password manager means that if someone cracks or keylogs your master password then they can view all the passwords you have for every site in existence – including your SSN and other personal information if you have so chosen to put it in their system.
PasswordBox works by having a you downloading a client and setting a master key that will be used to encrypt all of your passwords – so your passwords aren’t really stored on their system but instead a encrypted version of your password is stored and then decrypted by you entering your master key. The encryption method is AES-256 which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, and PasswordBox does not store your master password on its server.
That being said, if your computer is already compromised than one entry of the master password means that hackers could potentially download the PasswordBox program and then use that one password and see all the passwords you have for all of your sites : email, facebook, banks, etc.
For that reason I am still sceptical, not to mention there is no fee for this application so it’s doubtful they aren’t collecting information to generate revenue from the users.
Two Stroke Engine Illustration
Something most folks may not be aware of is that standing behind a idling scooter is about 1000 times worse than standing behind a idling car breathing in fumes – that’s because common two-stroke scooters which make up a large portion of the vehicles in Asian countries especially Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and India process fuel in a way that leaks fuel out of the exhaust port after each cycle.
These two-stroke engines have been banned in certain cities in China already, but are a cheap way to buy transportation in 3rd world countries and most likely will remain for years to come. This is something everyone should be cognizant about when going about their daily activities – avoid being around these scooters and hold your breath if they pass by you. The emissions from these vehicles in essence is attaching toxic benzine and organic aerosols to dust and dirt in the air just ready for unsuspecting victims to inhale. You can compound the problem if there is already pollutants suspended in the air.
For reference purposes below is a visual chart showing pollutants by vehicle type and running versus idling.
Click on Graph to See Pollutants Per KG of Fuel
Gallagher, Sarah. “Scooters Pollute More than Lorries.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 20 May 2014. Web. 20 May 2014.
Chinese GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) may surpass the US this year (at around 16 trillion USD). Purchasing power parity adjusts GDP based on costs in a country – for example if average costs in China are half those in the US then their PPP should be around double of their nominal – which is almost true. China’s nominal GDP stands around 9 or 10 trillion this year. The first quarter the US economy grew a very tiny 0.1%, which is very tiny compared to a approximately 9% growth rate happening in China. It will really be interesting to see what the world is like when the Chinese economy becomes the largest – and how that will affect the balance of power around the world.
Most financial advisers will tell you to dollar cost average your investments especially retirement investments throughout your life. However, what you do with your investments is up to you and many folks are wary of the stock market given its multi-year rise, its all time high, and the winding down of QE from the Federal Reserve. I hope this article helps you understand how you can “short” the stock market without risking too much money, or how you can buy options to insure your long position in the stock market for this year.
For those that don’t know – if you short a stock you buy negative shares of the stock with the obligation to buy those shares back sometime in the future (unless the company goes bankrupt). Quite a few people now are advocating shorting the stock market, trying to time a large market correction. There are a few ways to in essence short the stock market – you can either buy some short positions in individual shares like Amazon or Twitter or any other stock that has a large P/E ratio (meaning the stock is overbought), or you can buy put options for those shares – which is buying an option to sell the stock at a certain amount in the future. Buying a put option is infinitely safer than buying an uncovered short position in a stock since your loss is limited to the premium paid for the option. You can also buy exchange traded funds (ETFs) that are managed funds that comprise a variety of short positions aimed at giving returns if the stock market falls.
One example of such exchange traded funds is DOG, which according to its description “seeks daily investment results that correspond to the inverse daily performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)”. Such exchange traded funds do extremely well if the stock market falls, and might be a good way to “insure” your long stock positions. DOG went up 40% from May 2018 to late November during the financial meltdown.
A call option for a ETF like DOG could be profitable if you buy one with a good strike price. For example, DOG is currently trading at $26.10, there is a call option for 11/22/2014 strike price $28. The option is currently priced at $0.70 and each option is a bundle of 100 shares, so buying 1 option would cost $70. If DOG goes up 40% between now and November (like happened during the financial meltdown of 2008) the price will go up to $36.54 and your call option would be $8.54 above the strike price per share – which would be valued at $854, and after subtracting the premium of $70 you would have made a profit of $784. Your gross profit margin percentage would be 91.8%, versus the 28.6% profit margin you could get by simply buying a share of the ETF.
The last way to avoid stock market risk is of course to sell your stocks or if you have a 401k that only allows certain allocations to reallocate to a fixed income account or bond account. That being said, a market meltdown will also hit bonds.
*disclaimer I own a call option for DOG but do not have any short positions*
I’m asking myself whether or not Toastmasters is worth the time I spend each month attending meetings, giving feedback, and giving speeches. I’ve had the pleasure of living in the vicinity of three toastmasters clubs in Kuala Lumpur – The Allianz Toastmaster club, the KL Advanced Toastmasters club, and the Bangsar Toastmasters club. I would also mention Pricewaterhouse Coopers, but I have only attended that club once and if that was my gauge of determining whether or not to attend toastmasters I certainly would not.
In my couple of months with Toastmasters I’ve had a pretty good time and have grown as a speaker and listener, as well as enjoyed some very good speeches and the occasional snack. Meetings at Allianz go from 6:00 to 9:30 while those at KL Advanced start at around 7:30 and go to 10. Allianz is composed of mostly younger employees with the splattering of a few old ones, the meeting room is usually pristine and there is a good mix of beginning and intermediate level speakers. The KL Advanced club is composed of mostly middle aged folks with a splattering of younger people such as myself – KL Advanced is hosted by a man who goes by ‘Lucky’ and is is run pretty much like clockwork.
What have I personally gained from being in Toastmasters and spending a few days a month in these meetings instead of relaxing in my apartment? Firstly, I’ve met some pretty interesting people – it’s nice to communicate with new folks when you’re an expat and gain more local friends. Secondly, I’ve learned a bit behind each and every person who gives a speech since their world views and personal life often come out when giving their speeches. From this you can take another perspective when creating your mental construct of what the world really is and how you can approach communicating with similar people in the future.
The only disadvantage, of course, is that you are obligated to go to improve yourself and sometimes time seems to be wasted when visiting guests try to get you to go to their clubs or workshops or if time is wasted from someone giving a unprepared speech.
Adding up the positives and negatives, I must say that Toastmasters is for me a positive thing, as long as I keep learning within it, and meeting new folks. If both of those other things halt then there probably is something better to do.
It’s bound to happen someday, maybe not to you but at least to someone – where Facebook becomes more of an online graveyard then a place to hang out and post funny photos etc. All of my facebook friends that have died still have accounts which have become kind of like tombstones that still have photos and memories of the deceased and one way comments. Wouldn’t it depressing if at one point half or more of the friends you had on Facebook are dead? Lets just say someone makes all their friends in their twenties and grows to be 90, unless that person is in the habit of making many new friends in their older years then most of their friends from the early 2000’s would probably be deceased. How will Facebook deal with this, will they convert these accounts into memorials, which are segregated from the friends list?
Just a morbid thought I would like to throw out there to ponder upon, and I guess Facebook friends are the last of a persons worries when most of their REAL friends have passed on. Also, if Facebook follows the trend of every social media site before it, Facebook will have fallen out of popularity by the time our generation has gotten old.
As of March 2014 this is what Facebook allows relatives to do with a deceased person’s account
Today I read a lot of news headlines that read “Pentagon’s Chuck Hagel Plans to Downsize Military”, “Hagel’s Pentagon Cuts Target Top Brass”, and “Get real, Hagel tells nation in proposing military cuts.” All of these headlines put the emphasis and responsibility of the cuts on the man who came up with the plan. However, it should be noted that this plan is based on following the budget that was passed by our Federal government – and a president who was elected to a large part in reducing military action overseas. The military budget has become so large that it is considered by some to be dead-weight in moving forward with getting into a balanced budget scenario. Unfortunately for libertarian thinking folks government spending will not really go down, but will be shifted from military to social programs including Obamacare – the best result would be a reduction in spending in both categories.
Now, having discussed how Hagel is not responsible with having to do cuts, one should argue that Hagel IS responsible for how those cuts were allocated. He will be reducing the size of the military manpower while not really touching how much is spent on nuclear defence – although we have the nuclear capability to eliminate the entire planet, let alone any aggressor country. Hagel is eliminating the A10 and U2 programs, one which is a low altitude low speed highly durable plane that was introduced in the 1950’s which became known as the “Tank Killer”, while the other was the main plane used for high altitude surveillance over Russia during the Cold War.
I guess time will tell whether or not this military reduction will be a good thing or bad thing, however I am certain there will be folks that are incensed at reducing military size or strength (even though our military budget is HUGE).