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Archived Posts for May 2019

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May 19

Weekly Wrapup #4


Politics. Australia’s federal election was held this weekend and, in a shocking result, the Liberal party won re-election and Scott Morrison will continue as Prime Minister. Bookies and pundits alike were predicting a sure Labor victory, but a mixture of complacency, faulty polling, and policy miscalculations appear to have undone Labor leader Bill Shorten. Pocketbooks won out over climate change. (For my non-Australian readers, Labor is left leaning, and Liberals are right leaning.)

+ I don’t closely follow Aussie politics these days, but a Whatsapp group I’m on with a few Aussie mates felt reminiscent in tone of the conversations I was having locally after Trump’s 2016 victory.

+ To the glee of many, former PM Tony Abbott lost his seat to former Olympic medallist, Zali Steggall. Abbott had held the seat for over two decades.

+ Also, Engadine Maccas 1997.

Law. Lots of media attention this week over states passing draconian and extreme anti-abortion laws. In Alabama, a bill was signed into law by its female governor which will outlaw abortion procedures from the moment of conception with no exceptions for rape or incest. The penalty is up to 99 years imprisonment – in other words, a life sentence. Even Trump thinks that goes too far.

+ Under existing precedent, the law is obviously unconstitutional, but the Alabama legislature has made clear that it was designed as a vehicle to press the issue with the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. And they have also made it clear that they don’t really care about the collateral damage that occurs to women in the meantime.

+ The NY Times has a compelling feature about the impact of laws like this on women.

Finance. (1) Uber IPOed. It ended the week below its IPO price with a market cap of about $70bn. One problem was that, in raising billions of dollars in years past, the investors who would normally be investing in the IPO already were shareholders. But folks, it’s early days.

(2) The worst of the 2008/09 financial crisis is now 10 years in the past. That means some metrics on fund returns now look a lot better than they did a couple months ago:

The standard long-term metric used by financial-services companies on your quarterly statements is 10 years. But “recall that before stocks began rising with the start of the long bull market on March 9, 2009, they had fallen sharply.” The S&P 500 plummeted more than 50 percent in the previous two years. But — poof! Thanks to “the arbitrary logic of the calendar,” those miserable bear market figures are no longer incorporated in the 10-year returns. Don’t be misled by great-looking numbers that can provide an incomplete picture.

Startups. A classic article on finding product-market fit.

In other news… (1) Game of Thrones is ending tonight, and based on leaked reports, this earlier comment from showrunner Dan Weiss is looking quaint: “I’m hoping for the Breaking Bad [finale] argument where it’s like, ‘Is that an A or an A+?'”. Uh, yeah. (2) Big Bang Theory wrapped up its run earlier in the week with a touching finale. (3) The Warriors are going to roll through to their fifth straight NBA championship finals. (4) Architect I. M. Pei died. (5) Grumpy Cat died.

Getting Personal

It’s an uncharacteristically rainy and cold May in the Bay Area…

Susanne and I are finally getting around to putting an estate plan in place with an estate attorney. She asked for recommendations from work and received a dozen. After getting quotes and speaking with a few of those attorneys, we settled on one we really liked and who offered us a flat fee billing model.

Estate planning is more than putting a will in place. To execute a will, it needs to go through a probate process, which is expensive and public. To avoid this, assets get placed in a trust, which allows them to be distributed more efficiently and privately. In addition, there are advanced health care directives, HIPAA consents, guardianship nominations, and powers of attorney to consider.


In case you haven’t been watching what has been happening to Bitcoin recently…

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May 19

Weekly Wrapup #3


Health. No one enjoys visits to the dentists, but it turns out it’s not just the fear of physical pain anymore. Some dentists are carrying out unnecessary and invasive procedures to line their own pockets:

Lund extracted the wisdom tooth with no complications, and Mitchell began seeing him regularly. He never had any pain or new complaints, but Lund encouraged many additional treatments nonetheless. A typical person might get one or two root canals in a lifetime. In the space of seven years, Lund gave Mitchell nine root canals and just as many crowns. Mitchell’s insurance covered only a small portion of each procedure, so he paid a total of about $50,000 out of pocket.

As if there wasn’t enough that was wrong with the American healthcare system…

Tech. Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s numerous wealthy co-founders, penned a long article in the NYT arguing that Facebook should be broken up. One opinion from a friend in a Whatsapp group: “I reckon this will happen, feels inevitable”.

+ There’s certainly a swelling trend towards recognizing the dark side of social media’s impact on society. Perhaps the best place to look is how Silicon Valley workers think about tech and raising their kids. All I know is that our parents didn’t need to deal with this when we were kids – it’s all new ground. (That said, as someone fortunate to have a modem with BBS access in the early 90s, and net access in the mid-90s, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have been happy to find out that my teenage-self had access to stuff like the Anarchist Cookbook and rotten.com…)

Books. I’ve never read Danielle Steele’s novels, but apparently she has written 179 of them, including one that topped the NY Times bestseller list for a record 381 weeks. How the Hell Has Danielle Steele Managed to Write 179 Books? I’ve read a total of zero books this year. There are two waiting on my nightstand, but I just haven’t been able to make time for it.

Deals. Did you know that Amazon sends out free samples? You don’t even have to be a Prime member. Register here.

In other news… (1) Warriors take out the Rockets in a great series. (2) Uber started trading on Friday. (3) Tariff Man strikes again. (4) The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend that Attorney General William Barr be held in contempt of Congress.

Getting Personal

Firstly, happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there!

The weather has finally turned warm in the Bay Area and we felt it was time to replace our trusty 6 year old Weber Q 220 BBQ. We got a lot of mileage out of it, but it has a lot of wear and tear – the igniter is broken and a number of burner holes are now clogged.

After a lot of research and YouTube videos, I settled on the Weber Genesis II E-310 3-burner liquid propane grill. There are several important things in a gas grill, and the Weber has them all: a burner design that gives good heat distribution, thick steel for heat retention, easy to clean (the whole catchment tray is removable), lockable wheels for mobility, and a 10-year warranty. Ace Hardware is also running a promotion that provided free delivery and assembly.


Game of Thrones is trending… down

Bonus link: r/freefolk (currently the home of memes pillorying Season 8)

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May 19

Weekly Wrapup #2


Finance. (1) Unemployment is now at 3.6%, its lowest since 1969. And I didn’t know this was a statistic that people tracked, but the Asian population has an unemployment rate of 2.2%. GDP grew 3.2% in Q1. The Fed held interest rates steady. The Nasdaq closed at a record high.

+ So where’s all this wealth generation going? Not to wages, which only rose 3.2% despite the tight labor market. Rejoice if you’re an asset owner.

+ Meanwhile in China, red flags for the stockmarket (but that’s not the first time we’ve heard that in this cycle…)

+ To me, articles like this are a red flag: U.S. Expansion May Be Nowhere Near an End.

(2) You may have read recently that millennials are having less sex than previous generations. According to Quartz, one hypothesis is that it’s because the tail end of this generation is more risk averse because they don’t need to leave the house to entertain themselves. And relationships are risky. “Some commentators and economists speculate that millennials are more risk averse than previous generations. This is hard to generalize. But one thing sets millennials apart from previous generations is that they benefit from a higher risk-free return from not leaving the house.”

Real Estate. Here are 8 French chateaus that are cheaper than an average Sydney home (A$1m or US$700k).

+ But, look at what’s currently happening in one Sydney suburb… (HT: Kev)

Internet. A story about hiring a hitman on the dark web (Wired).

Deals. (1) From May 5 to May 11, Staples is selling Visa Gift Cards for no activation fee. Buy them with a Chase Ink card and get 5x points. A $200 card nets you $10 in points (or $15 if redeemed for travel).

(2) Until May 14, if you buy 2 $100 Visa Gift Cards (which will cost about $212 including activation fees), you’ll get $15 back. The Chase Freedom card is offering 5x points on grocery stores this quarter, so the net result is $200 in gift cards for $197 plus 1000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which can be converted to $10 in cash or redeemed for travel). To get this offer you’ll need to add the offer to you Safeway account via the Safeway mobile app.

In other news… (1) Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy A-G that oversaw most of the Mueller investigation, had enough and resigned. (2) Japan’s Emperor Akihito abdicated from the throne and his country went on a 10-day Golden Week holiday. (3) Venezuela continues to be a basketcase. (4) Uber IPOs next week. (5) Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) died.

Getting Personal

I work from home a lot these days. That means a lot of conference calls. I hate fiddling around with tangled earphone cords and having them get in the way of the keyboard, and laptop speakers are too tinny, so my favorite device is the Jabra Speak 510 speakerphone. It connects to devices via bluetooth and USB – I just always have it plugged into my laptop. It’s got great volume, noise canceling, and a mute button.

My second favorite device are Airpods. They’re perfect when I need to walk around and not worry about cords getting in the way. Because I mainly use them for calls and not music, the open air design that lets ambient noise through is perfect – especially when I’m outside and need to be aware of my surroundings. I tried the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds, but they really weren’t comfortable and they blocked out too much outside noise.


Hagoromo is now being sold by this Korean company

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May 19


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