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Tips on Market Timing and International Travel

Timing never works

Monday and Tuesday this week were extraodinary in stockmarkets. Strong up days.

The first because a right-win lady French politician did not win (not yet).

The second because Donald Trump floated lower tax rates (not yet).

I’m watching the “action” on a beach in Australia and wondering what I did to deserve my gains? Was it pure inertia? Also called “Buy and Hold” Or, simply,  “enjoy the beach? Or “Ignore an overpriced, frothy market.”

I tried to understand what was happening. I read the gurus. Most of whom seem to be paid by the word. There were lots of words. Mt favorite was an interview in the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch headlined:

Elliott Wave investor Robert Prechter says a Depression-like shock is coming

Mr. Prechter has just written an 813-page book called “The Socionomic Theory of Finance,” He took 13 years to write. Here’s a picture of him with the 61,000 sheets of paper he generated in the editing for the book.


Prechter tells the article’s author, Avi Gilburt, that today’s mood of optimism will give way to a funk that will rival that of the 1930s. His timing for the funk is vague. Like do I sell all my stocks now, and retire to a nice beach Down Under? Or do I buy more?

No answers.

But lots of paper.

I guess I’ll stick with my present investment “philosophy”:

+ Stick with CEOs who are clearly brilliant — e.g. the guys at Facebook, Amazon, Google, Netflix.

+ Stick with companies that seem to be a good spot — e.g. Honeywell, Home Depot,

You can read Gilburt’s interview with Precheter here. You can buy a Kindle version of his book for $49 here.

More travel stuff learned

+ AT&T and Verizon conspire to make overseas phone calls complex and pricey. Don’t be sucked in by the BS. It’s easy: First, buy yourself an unlocked iPhone. Yours is probably already unlocked. Second, when you land overseas (like Australia), buy yourself a 30-day prepaid SIM card for unlimited calling and heavy date. (I bought one for $25). When you get there, pop out your U.S. SIM and pop in your new local country SIM. When you get back to the U.S., pop your Australian one out. Pop your U.S. SIM back in. Takes about 15 seconds. Needs a paper-click.

+ Don’t do stupid. Someone left their hefty wallet on a Change Currency counter in the Sydney Airport. I found the wallet and could have emptied it. It was loaded with cash and credit cards.

+ 50 lbs luggage is it. One ounce over will cost you $50, or more. Pack to 40 lbs max. Start packing a week before you leave. Then pull out stuff you don’t need. Pack for three days. All hotels and AirBnB places have washing. I packed too much. Susan packed too much. Everyone packs too much. We had too much stuff we never wore.

+ WAZE is not good in Australia. Google Maps is better.

+ WiFi is slow in most places. Often too slow for your online brokerage account. Your iPhone with a foreign SIM card might be faster — use the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone.

+ Take soap. Some places are skimpy.

+ You don’t need to pack all those shoes.

+ Don’t take books. You can read books using Kindle on your iPhone. Works just fine.

+ The iPhone is a remarkably good camera. You don’t need a separate camera.

+ CHECK. CHECK. CHECK. Travel is complicated.

+ Everything is bargainable. You can always get a 10% to 20% discount. Ask. Even in Australia.

+ Take an extra laptop battery. Airline power outlets are totally unreliable.

Reasons I don’t own shares in IBM:

First, no growth:

Second, IBM’s CEO is hopeless and way overpaid. Click here. 

Your Internet access: This is what you should be getting:


I got this speed this morning at a conference company called Convene at 720 Third Avenue, New York. You should have at least this speed. Speed really makes a difference. You can measure your own miserable speed: Click here. 

Weekend reading I recommend (You have a lot of time to read on planes.)

+ How Google Cashes In on the Space Right Under the Search Bar

SAN FRANCISCO — Before Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google, they wrote a research paper as doctoral students at Stanford University in which they questioned the appropriateness of ads on search engines.

“It could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want,” the pair wrote in the 1998 paper.

How times change. Two decades later, it’s not unusual for a smartphone user to see only ads on a Google search page before scrolling down to the regular results.

When Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reports earnings this week, the internet giant’s big profits are expected to demonstrate yet again that the billboard space accompanying Google queries is the web’s most valuable real estate for advertisements.

For more, click here.

+ Syria changed the world.

ISTANBUL — The world seems awash in chaos and uncertainty, perhaps more so than at any point since the end of the Cold War.

Authoritarian-leaning leaders are on the rise, and liberal democracy itself seems under siege. The post-World War II order is fraying as fighting spills across borders and international institutions — built, at least in theory, to act as brakes on wanton slaughter — fail to provide solutions. Populist movements on both sides of the Atlantic are not just riding anti-establishment anger, but stoking fears of a religious “other,” this time Muslims.

These challenges have been crystallized, propelled and intensified by a conflagration once dismissed in the West as peripheral, to be filed, perhaps, under “Muslims killing Muslims”: the war in Syria.

Now in its seventh year, this war allowed to rage for so long, killing 400,000 Syrians and plunging millions more into misery, has sent shock waves around the world. Millions have fled to neighboring countries, some pushing on to Europe. …

Click here.

+ An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life

Running may be the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy, according to a new review and analysis of past research about exercise and premature death. The new study found that, compared to nonrunners, runners tended to live about three additional years, even if they run slowly or sporadically and smoke, drink or are overweight. No other form of exercise that researchers looked at showed comparable impacts on life span.

The findings come as a follow-up to a study done three years ago, in which a group of distinguished exercise scientists scrutinized data from a large trove of medical and fitness tests conducted at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. That analysis found that as little as five minutes of daily running was associated with prolonged life spans. …

For more, click here. 

+ This Isn’t Tax Policy; It’s a Trump-Led Heist

What do you do if you’re a historically unpopular new president, with a record low approval rating by 14 points, facing investigations into the way Russia helped you get elected, with the media judging your first 100 days in office as the weakest of any modern president?

Why, you announce a tax cut!

And in your self-absorbed way, you announce a tax cut that will hugely benefit yourself. Imagine those millions saved! You feel better already!

I’m deeply skeptical that President Trump will manage to get a tax reform package passed into law, and that’s just as well. Trump’s new tax “plan” (more like an extremely vague plan for a plan) is an irresponsible, shameless, budget-busting gift to zillionaires like himself. …

For more, click here.

+ Uber’s C.E.O. Plays With Fire

Travis Kalanick’s drive to win in life has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has at times put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion.

For more, click here.

+ The Crisis of Western Civilization

…Now various scattered enemies of those Western values have emerged, and there is apparently nobody to defend them.

The first consequence has been the rise of the illiberals, authoritarians who not only don’t believe in the democratic values of the Western civilization narrative, but don’t even pretend to believe in them, as former dictators did.

Over the past few years especially, we have entered the age of strong men. We are leaving the age of Obama, Cameron and Merkel and entering the age of Putin, Erdogan, el-Sisi, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

The events last week in Turkey were just another part of the trend. Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismantles democratic institutions and replaces them with majoritarian dictatorship. Turkey seems to have lost its desire to join the European idea, which no longer has magnetism and allure. Turkey seems to have lost its aspiration to join the community of democracies because that’s no longer the inevitable future.

More and more governments, including the Trump administration, begin to look like premodern mafia states, run by family-based commercial clans. Meanwhile, institutionalized, party-based authoritarian regimes, like in China or Russia, are turning into premodern cults of personality/Maximum Leader regimes, which are far more unstable and dangerous. …

For more, click here.

Charming story on Australia

I love this. It’s by Damien Cave, the New York Times’ new bureau chief in Australia.

SYDNEY, Australia – Some of you probably think your adolescence was filled with adventure because you drove your parents’ car to the local pizza place when you were, what, 15 years old?

Lightning Ridge, on the edge of the outback in Australia. The conditions of the roads in the area can be grueling, with long, empty stretches for miles. Credit Conor Ashleigh for The New York Times

Well, just try to compete with this: Police officers near the Australian mining town of Broken Hill stopped a sport utility vehicle Saturday that was being driven by a 12-year-old boy who had been on the road in the middle of nowhere, driving alone, for 800 miles.

And he was only a third of the way to his chosen destination on the other side of this vast country.

Let’s step back for a minute and consider the scale of this endeavor.

Distance Covered

The police said the boy, who has not been identified, took the family car and started driving on Friday from his home in Kendall, a small town about 220 miles northeast of Sydney.

The distance between there and Perth, on the far western end of the country, is around 4,300 kilometers, or 2,700 miles.

How far is that? It’s similar to the drive from New York to Los Angeles, which is a little more than 2,800 miles, or from Ottawa to Edmonton.

A quick reminder: The boy is 12. And while it’s common for young people in Australia and all over the world to drive tractors or other vehicles at young ages, this boy managed to drive on major roads for an entire day without being found out or being harmed. The police said he was stopped at 11 a.m. Saturday, which means he spent a night alone on the road.

So how far did he really go?

The distance traveled doesn’t look like much on a map, particularly given Australia’s size, but the 800 miles that he drove – again, alone, as a 12-year-old – is about the equivalent of making the long and annoying drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, back and forth, with a few dozen more miles thrown in for rest stops and food.

Or, for our non-American readers, it’s like driving from Paris to Prague, deciding that’s not far enough, then deciding to head for Vienna.

Averting Danger

Road trips in Australia are a little different than road trips in many other places. The police said the boy had clear and specific plans, but to complete his intended journey, he would have had to drive through the Nullarbor Plain, a flat, desolate, hot and largely empty stretch in the south that is about four times the size of Belgium.

Those who have made the drive warn people to pack extra gasoline and car parts – in addition to ample food and water – because gas stations are so far apart from each other.

The tourism board advises that people take six days just to get across the Nullarbor. Driving at night is not advised because of the risk of hitting stray emus, kangaroos, wombats or camels. Yes, camels: About 100,000 wild ones are there, the descendants of animals imported to help build inland railroads.

Online, just a mere mention of the drive across Australia often elicits references to something even more frightening: “Wolf Creek,” a well-known Australian horror film about murders in the outback.

Lingering Questions

It should be noted that the boy is safe. He was released into the care of his parents on Sunday, and the police said they hoped to speak with the boy and his parents on Monday. An investigation into the incident is continuing, and the police have not said much beyond that.

“It’s pretty unusual,” a spokeswoman for the police said in an interview Monday. “It’s not something that occurs every day.”

Online, Australians reacted with awe and inquiries. Several people seemed impressed that the boy managed to avoid getting a speeding ticket and that he would even take on such an expedition. Others raised a series of questions, some of which various reporters are also sharing, including:

 How did he pay for gas?

 Who taught him how to drive?

 What compels a 12-year-old to do something that drastic?

 Did his parents report him missing, and if so, when?

 What kind of punishment does the boy face from the police or his parents?

 Is anything deeper or darker going on with this story that we’re unaware of?

There’s a third option?


United Airlines does it again.

It killed this giant rabbit:


Simon, a three-foot-long, 10-month-old Continental Giant rabbit, was found dead in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 upon arrival at Chicago O’Hare recently.

Simon, a continental giant rabbit expected to weigh more than 32 pounds when fully grown, was bought by a mystery US celebrity buyer who paid more than £2,000 to fly him from Heathrow to Chicago.

United has the worst record of killing checked animals of any airline. Just two months ago, Condé Nast Traveler posed the question: Is your pet safe to fly in cargo? And while the Department of Transportation found an incident rate of less than 1 per 10,000 pets transported in cargo, one third of the pet deaths and more than half of the injuries reported in 2016 occurred on United.

For more, click here and here.

New United Airlines slogans

+ Board the plane as a doctor – leave as a patient.

+ Would you like a neck pillow, or a neck brace?

+ We have Red Eye and Black Eye flights available!

+ We have an offer you can’t refuse. No really.

+ We put the hospital in hospitality.

+ United Airlines was recently voted number 1 in Chinese takeout.

Harry Newton, who’s back and amazed… He traveled around the world, flew all around Australia… Every single flight was on time. Every one delivered his bag within 20 minutes of landing… Every one delivered amazing service, especially American Airlines. Thank you also to Qantas, JetStar and Virgin Australia.