Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting your Brain to Work

Perhaps it’s a slow day, or the start of the week, or just the coming of age, but the brain just doesn’t get it. So come aboard the narrative therapy and see if it all makes sense. New reading brought a new investment idea: demographics and sector-economics by a new guru – Bob Froehlich, confidently espousing a theory that certain unavoidable truths like demographics can be put to good use. Aging boomers – invest in healthcare stocks, emerging nations and their youth – invest in consumer goods targeted to the young, the convergence plus continuing rise of technology – invest in tech stocks. The sheer demographics of the reality will inevitably result in profit. This strategy is more in the George Soros mold who studies industries and economic trends, rather than the Warren Buffett School of fundamental analysis of companies. Nevertheless, Dr.Doom himself – Nouriel Roubini is predicting that the stock market will rise in the coming 2 years before all hell breaks loose.


So it is refreshing to read Mary Buffett’s ‘The Stock Portfolio of Warren Buffett’ – a former daughter in law of the billionaire, being previously married to his son Peter; or so it says in the internet. It is like a refresher course, coming back to the fundamentals before it all became complex with technical trading, derivatives, options and other so–called financial weapons of mass destruction. This morning while I was at the gym, MSNBC interviewed Warren Buffett and, listening to him talk, calmed my investment nerves like an elderly grandfather saying all will be well, just stay the course. Last week I ordered Froehlich’s other books like ANTS (Alternative Non Traditional Investments) which focus on currencies and real estate which seems to me a good path with all the uncertainty. Indeed, one is not a billionaire like Warren who actually buys companies as well as invests in stocks. The world is a changing as Bob Dylan said, which reminds me of the BBC series, Changing Fortunes – about the changing patterns of global wealth.

A good series viewable in the Internet with interesting characters – wealthy billionaires or multi-millionaires in places like the US, Brazil, China and India; filled with short articles and info-graphics. Singapore is heralded into the select few with more millionaires per square feet likely due to the rising price of real estate in that small island, astute government management and their focus on financial services – another demographic shift predicted by Froehlich. It will be interesting to see how Singapore’s PAP will manage the rising discontent of its middle class perhaps with the Chinese method of providing the basics (or throwing money at the problem) at the expense of political liberties plus the fading of founding father LKY. But time is a changing across the straits in Malaysia too with the National Front maintaining their parliamentary majority but losing seats to the opposition as the Chinese ethnic group voted against the government, wary of the affirmative action that favors Malays at the expense of meritocracy. Singapore would probably favor a win by the opposition for their economy to expand, a long standing strategic view of LKY if Singapore is to survive the future.

A good investment is Singapore real estate as one can profit from rising prices and get a ring side seat to the Gotterdammerung of the PAP and National Front as more political and economic liberties are demanded by their middle class; perhaps with unintended consequences. The emerging markets in South East Asia will be a sight to see like the dazzling Shanghai Bund as one gazes across the river at the futuristic buildings in Pudong, a scene in the sci-fi movie ‘Looper’, that I watched in the weekend. Sadly, I neglected to mow the lawn due to the rain as I bought a lawn mower and trimmer from Lowes, assorted tiles, sand and plants for a summer project, neglected to organize my emails into folders to prepare for my new role in the coming 8 days, but absurdly able to complete my weekend one hour walk in the park, watch assorted moves and documentaries and read several magazines and books. I altered my routine to go to the gym in the early morning before going to the office, emboldened by new energy from a restful sleep due to the CPAP machine and being home early. But I am still lost in my current project I try to complete the last plodding steps in a marathon while the pressures of my new assignment await me.

Writing makes sense of it all, from understanding the swirling ideas in investment, the changing patterns of wealth and geopolitical alignments, the new order at work and in the world, making plans for the future, raising kids and wondering how to help these young adults in the new country, striving out in doubt and confusion, beaten by challenges at work, but unbowed and moving forward to make sense like Ishmael going to the sea to calm his mind, finding a great whaling ship to chase the huge leviathan across the ocean like finding truth to set one free. Instead of the vast seas is the nature park, where trees and lakes provide a natural substitute for the solitude of the wide ocean; and the Internet where one can find new ideas unencumbered by the cubicle and the anonymity of blogging where narrative therapy is like getting lost in a large universe as one’s vessel rides up and down the swells of the tide, driven forward by a mad captain chasing the futility of a dream, perhaps of wealth and fame. One cannot help but see some underlying symbolism in Moby Dick – a book I am reading in preparation for the coming of Herman Melville in the Spring Chautauqua festival.

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