woman in depression

Lots of things happened this week disrupting my normal schedule, making it difficult to write on the topics I have prepared. So, instead I will just talk about what has happened this week.

First, my website revamp plan on Daytradingbias.com took a big hit when the site designer chose to quit. I was left with a partially completed new site that still takes a lot more work to complete. Hence I have to scramble to find someone else to take on the task. I may as well scrap the partially done design with a completely new one. We’ll see.

Second, a friend from Germany came to Toronto suddenly looking for my late girlfriend. I did not know how to deliver the news to him. Talking about the past is something that still triggers my suppressed emotions. And that this was happening over the Valentine’s week did not help either.

Third, a good friend of mine was served divorce notice by her husband. It is expected all along but choosing this week to deliver the notice is some statement. Talking about evil intentions, this is a prime example how some people’s integrity can be way below average.

Too many things happening at the same time.

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I was very proud of my good eyesight for many years. I am not talking about 20/20 vision here. Several years ago when I was at my early 40s, I still have 20/10 vision. No glasses needed all my life, well, until last year. Upon reflection it is an important event, for me, to share with everyone.

Better My Eyes Were, Worse I Exploited Them

With very good eyesight, I did not follow any advice to protect my eyes at all. I often read in the dark for hours just because I can. I chose to use dim lighting most of the time for the same reason.

I did not protect my eyes from extreme tiredness. Working on computers for many hours without a break was the norm for me.

In short, I exploited my own eyes as if they would never break.

Presbyopia Catches Me Finally

Since second half of last year, suddenly I need reading glasses to read from my computer screen and from reading books or even labels with smaller prints. It happened so suddenly that I was kind of caught completely off guard. In short, Presbyopia, a condition for which deterioration of the ability to see things clearly close to the eyes due to aging, has finally caught me.

The inconvenience caused by Presbyopia is mainly the need of reading glasses everywhere. Originally I thought I do not need them when I went out. Yet, as I try to buy something I often cannot see letters on some of the tiny price tags. When I need to read the description or details on a label for anything, I will have a very hard time putting the item at the right distance to read those damn words.

Blind Spot of Our Minds

According to a friend who is an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon), if I protect my eyes properly, I would be able to keep going without glasses probably for the rest of my life. My exploitations of my eyes led not only to aging them by 10 to 15 years, I also likely damaged some of the muscles supporting the eyes. I have no one else to blame but me.

Seriously, who would have thought of the consequence when they do not have the experience of the inconvenience of Presbyopia in the first place?

Well, I should have. I took so much proud on my ability to manage risk in trading and long term investing for not just myself but also large sum of money from my clients. Yet I do not see this coming.

I know the importance of staying healthy and took the time and measures to keep myself fit. Yet I did nothing to ensure my eyes would function at their best when I need them most, when I am getting old.

This is a blind spot in my mind. Because I did not see the existence of the risk of losing my eyesight, I blocked all the information regarding eye care from entering my mind. This is wilful ignorance.

I am sure there are other areas I have similar trouble.

From now on, I will take care of my eyes. I promise myself at least not to make the situation worse. It is the least I can do to contain the problem.

(Feature Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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We’ve heard about peak oil, peak gold and even peak water events. I like to suggest that peak marketing, or peak social networking, is a near term inevitable event. No kidding here. I seriously think the expected global economic slow down is at least partially affected by this.

 

It Is All the Marketers Fault

One thing that keeps up with the technological revolution all the time in the past 200 years is marketing. Every advancement in technology available to the public has turned into new ways for people and businesses to promote their products and services.

The moment publishing became a reality, we got flyers.

Shortly after the moment radio was invented, marketers figured out how to use the channel to blast out audio advertisements to the public. It works very well back then. However, as people got used to simple statement based advertisement, their effectiveness dropped. Smart marketers improved their ads with sound effects, music and pretty much anything you can think of since.

Whenever a new media form becomes available, the marketers would exploit that.

Whenever the simple delivery methods drop in their effectiveness, the marketers would refine their approaches.

As you can see, it is a never ending cycle of power struggle between the marketers and the public. The marketers try their best to trigger the biggest percentage of responses they want from the public. In response to what the marketers do, the public gets numb over time after every new marketing approach is applied.

Lucky for the marketers up to the present time, technology breakthroughs in introducing new form of media has been on high gear all years. Marketers get to benefit from this a lot as it gets easier and faster to reach more people at lower costs all the time.

As the marketers working hard to grab our attention, they desensitize our reactions to promotional materials. The marketers destroyed our attention span. In a way, it is all the marketers fault making us not interested in anything if the promotional materials could not catch our full attention.

 

Peak Connection Materialized in Social Networks

Until next round of even better technology emerges beyond the current state of computing, social networks have successfully connecting people all over the world in ways we can never imagine in the 20th century and probably maximized the potential of this capability. Even if the potential is not fully tapped, it must be very close to the limit because the best possible scenario is connecting every single person on Earth in some way on the internet.

For majority of people in the civilized world, especially for the younger generation, they are already connected on the net by some measure. Even governments and big companies are encouraging people to do so such that they can off load the cost of hiring more people to service their clients back to the clients themselves through self-serve internet portals. There is really not much more room for more improvement in this area. At least the leaps and bounds we see in the past 10 years will not be possible going onward.

So this is it, we are getting very close to peak connection among all people on Earth. And this is the where the nightmare begins for the marketers. The world has reached at least a short term plateau in distribution channels similar to the way how TV advertising was completely saturated at the end of the 20th century. The upper limit of audience that one can reach on the internet is now well defined.

 

Marketing End Game

All these techniques developed by the leading edge marketers on the internet nowadays are no longer driven by simple hacking or guesswork. Marketers tap into the science of human behaviours, from how we react to certain colours to how normal people focus their eyes on a page, in order to maximize the results they are looking for. The world famous orange colour button Amazon uses on its site is a prime example how much effort is put behind everything we see on the internet today.

Well, such optimized approach to trigger human responses works very well every time a new trick is discovered. But it has led to rapid decline in effectiveness of all marketing techniques as people are trained to ignore these “noises” affecting their normal internet usage. In short, people are evolving as well in the way how they handle visual and audio stimulants.

Unlike the TV era, where advertisements were shown to us one at a time. We are now bombarded by multiple advertisements within one web page almost all the time. Everyone of these marketing efforts contain at least several triggers based on human behaviour to induce us to response to them. We are bathing in these stimulants everyday. No wonder our numbness towards internet based marketing materials has been developing at such an incredible rate.

The numbness in human responses to advertising will be the biggest challenge for the world we are living in today due to the fact that our world is now a consumption driver economy. With less consumption, there will not be enough economic activities to drive the necessary growth to sustain the infrastructure cost of the big governments around the world. Big companies cannot solve this problem by reducing their operating costs only as the slow down in sales growth or real decline in sales can hurt the bottom line much faster.

Peak marketing will likely dampen global economic growth in coming few years.

 

Peak Marketing Until Next Technological Revolution

I am not a doomsayer and I do not believe in those end of the world stuff. This current peak marketing situation will probably be resolved in a way similar to what happened before. When internet was introduced, we did not know that one day, it will become the primary means for people to connect to each other. No one back then can tell how quickly TV no longer dominate the way people spend their time.

For now, internet is likely maturing into its final form and usefulness. It has come a long way from desktop to wireless, and now going mobile everywhere. When a similar disruptive event like the popularization of the internet happens in the future, I am sure marketers will find new ways to grab our attention, and our money, in no time.

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One of the favourite things Chinese people (and now Westerners who somehow love the New Age stuff) is to read about their fortune for the coming year. There is really no harm done if you take this lightly as a fun event. However, the practice itself, for which originated from commercializing the astrology knowledge for profit, has profound negative effects on people who needs real guidance.

The Economic Aspect of Yearly Forecast Books

First thing first, using whatever year a person is born in to map into a 60 year cycle for predictability of personality and other matters is stupid already. It should take no time for any normal person to reject the idea completely. Yet, every year you can find tons of Chinese horoscope yearly forecast books selling on the street starting December. I asked around when I was in Hong Kong to see how good these books are selling. From what I gather, the more depress a year has been, the more forecast books are sold.

I also asked around to see how people usually buy these books. I wonder if they have certain preferences or patterns that I can uncover. It turns out the psychological behaviours and motivations behind the purchases are very interesting.

Some people will always buy the forecast from the same astrologer, until one year the forecast no longer feels right. These people will then purchase an additional forecast book from another famous astrologer to compare the predictions. Eventually, these people would purchase multiple forecast books every year. As I learned, much of the profits for bookstores and newsstands in Hong Kong during December and January are coming from sales of these forecast books.

In general, it is those people who have a pretty bad year (in their own minds) will more likely to start the habit of buying these forecast books. Once they have bought the first one, however, it is very likely that they will buy another one next year. By random, even if the forecast are complete nonsense, there is always 50% chance of these new readers who find the materials meaningful thanks to skilful writing styles. Just like smoking, the big business of these forecast books is the accumulation of long term consumers.

The Psychological Aspect of These Astrology Yearly Forecasts

Those people who had a not so stellar year are always feeling down at the end of the year. It is a reasonable thing. Just like anyone who look around at their friends all hooked up with someone would feel blue themselves, these people will seek for comfort, specifically psychological comfort, by various means. Astrology forecasts are one of these products that serve this huge market.

The problem though, is that those who seek comfort this way is doing this wrong. To get out of a ditch you work your way out, not sitting there crying and do nothing. These forecast books, in a way, jailed these lost souls in the same bad place by giving them false hope. When they hope that things will get better instead of creating the necessary change to make things to better, they are stripped the chance to fight back.

I am not judging whether the Chinese astrologers are doing a bad thing or not. I am sure many people do find encouraging messages from these forecast books for which positive impacts can happen. But that all depends on the original personality of the readers and how they interpret the information which can be very subjective or biased.

If You Do Believe in Astrology …

Then you have to learn that the year you are born in cannot help you to figure out your fortune based on all the known Chinese astrology methods. In other words, those yearly forecast books are not going to help you. All those common methods based on the year you were born that are passed around on people compatibility, romantic compatibility, etc. are all bullshit.

In this aspect, Western astrology actually works a bit better, but only if you at least dividing up the Zodiac from 12 signs into 36 parts for decent precisions.

For Chinese astrology, a proper yearly forecast has to be done with accurate birth date including the time and location. This will usually cost a lot of money as famous Chinese astrologers command a lot of premium on their services. However, if the Chinese astrologer is not a responsible practitioner, you will still not get the precise forecast you are looking for.

A good Chinese astrologer has to analyze your birthdate in detail with lots of questions on your current status so that your actual situation can be mapped out properly based on the specific method in use. After that, the astrologer has to find out the context of your situation as well. What I mean by context is how you get to the current situation over the years. Without knowing that, the astrologer can only provide very general forecast that may or may not be applicable.

Higher Awareness Matters

The so-called forecasts made with astrology methods are forecasts based on patterns. These patterns exist not because there is a divine order for which our future is predetermined. Instead, it is our inability to think clearly, objectively in a calm manner that sent us into making the same mistakes over and over again.

I have seen many people whose higher awareness helped them to break away from the expected path based on astrology analysis. Their higher awareness is learned or trained over time. Many people invest in themselves by getting a professional degree. Some others figured out they need certain skills and went to study in programs to acquire the skills. But, rarely do people realize the most important thing to learn is training your mind so that it can protect you from your own physical body, with all these defects in terms of personality weaknesses and bad habits.

With higher awareness, everything can change, including your fortune.

Stop buying these astrology yearly forecast books can be the start of great fortune already!

Today is the inauguration of the 45th US president. Donald Trump will become the US president for the coming 4 years. Interesting, however, is that the focus in the mainstream media is not about this event. Instead, the top stories are flooded with negative comments, both on Donald Trump himself and how bad his presidency will become, coming from famous people who messed up the world very badly over the past decade.

First I saw on the news, the US congressmen, the infamous bad actors, are “grilling” the nominees of White House important positions. I thought the US Presidential Election already told us what the people of US are thinking. Why are these crowns allowed to have a second say on Donald Trump’s choices? Definitely an interesting way to make sure Donald Trump cannot run the country according to his vision.

Second, the name George Soros went to the top on multiple financial news outlets. Well, Soros being an “activist” and exposed for his “work” in funding all kinds of “unusual” activities worldwide to create chaos, told the press that Donald Trump will fail. Why is Soros so doomy? In my not so humble opinion, I think he is talking his book again. Maybe he is very short and need a outlier-sized pullback in the markets to get out of his troubled positions …

Third, the famous actors and actresses, teamed up with famous Hollywood figures, protested against Donald Trump in front of his Trump International Hotel in New York City. I remember some of these figures said they would emigrant to Canada (or other places). Why are they still there?

Here is a fun comparison of the importance of various things over time according to Google Trends.

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Obviously, Obama is not wanted since 4 years ago (that tiny blip in Nov 2012). On the other hand, Trump is so famous that we did not see a major surge in searching for his name unlike 8 years ago, when Obama was relatively unknown and being elected as POTUS for the first time. But both of them are not important, after all, as people searching on gold consistently beats them both.

And of course, jobs have always been in the mind of the normal people.

But none of the above matters when porn is added to the comparison. I guess it is fair to say sex being a primary human need is far more important than politics or work …

One thing I know for sure – the name Donald Trump will be a front page stable for the coming years whether you like it or not.

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I am very happy to be back home after the long flight from Hong Kong. No surprises during the flight, maybe with the exception that those who were sitting nearby are all sneezing and coughing. Hopefully I do not catch anything nasty from them.

While I was flying, I checked the costs for plane tickets going from Toronto to various destinations in the world. In particular, I was checking for prices to several cities for which I may have to go on a short notice this year. I found out, to my surprises, that the cost of plane tickets going anywhere within Canada are relatively more expensive than going abroad. What’s wrong with this picture?

Honestly, this was the case all along in the past. Years ago, I accepted the fact that Canada, having very limited number of airlines servicing the flight routes within the country, has to absorb the higher cost of operation on per customer basis. Hence higher ticket prices was unavoidable.

However, since 10 years ago, when more operators were allowed to compete for businesses, I thought the scene would have changed. Well, I cannot be more wrong on this.

After a bit of investigation, I found the culprit of the higher prices. It is the additional charges and taxes placed on the tickets that distorted the prices of these plane tickets. In other words, The actual fees charged by the airlines are now lowered while the government and its extended operations like the airport authorities have erased the competitive effect offered by more airline operators.

In short, we are seeing exactly what we can expect from big government – taking all it can with ever expanding charges and levies. This is not a big issue, really. People simply adapt to not travel, for both business and leisure, whenever possible within Canada. The incentive to travel also nudged towards go abroad instead even if the flights cost more because they are relatively cheaper in comparison to the ridiculous pricing for flights within Canada.

When we think of someone acting stupid, the saying of “shooting one’s own foot” comes to my mind quickly. In this case, however, this is definitely a case of shooting both legs – first leg for sending people abroad and the second leg for destroying the eco system of the airline industry within the country. You cannot get a better negative example than this.

Feature Image: Coffee served at the Charlie Brown Cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. The coffee there is great!

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Unlike any other country, China has experienced a prolonged growth in its real estate markets for a very long time. In fact, much longer than any other ones we have seen in the other countries in the past. Is it something sustainable? Well, I am going to discuss about this from a slightly different angle instead of the more traditional evaluation approach. Namely, I will look at the whole situation from the study of the participants in this interesting market.

The Rising Tide Lifts Everyone on Board

Over the past thirty years, China has been undergoing huge reform in its real estate market. The efforts to modernize the major cities and the relaxation of regulations to ownership of realty created the biggest boom in real estate markets across the country. Many people were assigned title ownership to various real estate and related resources as the laws changed. This alone created massive amount of wealth into the hands of the people who had the right connection or status at the time.

Let’s ignore the issue of fairness and whatever moral value you uphold for the moment, as this article is not about that at all.

What is important, however, is that this wealth effect has profound impact on the psychology of the people in China.

Those Who Won Big Without Knowing Why

Those individuals and their families who got the chance to ride on this boom have no idea why and how they actually become wealthy over such a short period of time. Just like any other people in the world who have similar kind of fortune, majority of people who won this lottery game of real estate attributed the success to themselves being smart, to their country being strong and for some with nostalgic beliefs, that Chinese civilization somehow helped them to get to where they are now.

Of course all of these thoughts are plain wrong. They are put into the right place at the right time. i.e. dumb luck

Well, ignorance is a bliss …

Those Who Have to Park Their Money Somewhere

During this wild west type of economic expansion and discovery process, the must have element of corruption and grey area deals for which money are made unethically, of course, are happening everywhere in China at the same time. These money, however, cannot enter the modern banking system easily because, even China does monitor outlier deposits, after all.

One of the obvious routes to park the money, of course, is with real estate, just like everywhere else in the world.

In fact it is a good example why real estate markets are the number one choice for dirty money. Since these money cannot be taken to the bank to exchange for the banknotes with the highest value, the space the money will take up now matters. Just imagine the actual physical size of the paper money needed to hold the value of a property. With small denomination banknotes, they will occupy more space than the property itself!

The Speculators Who Thought They Know

And then there are those short term speculators who think they know how to profit from this real estate boom in China. Of course there are many people who made a lot of money from this bull run. It is again no difference from speculation of real estate in any other parts of the world. The funny thing is, however, how leveraged these speculators can be.

According to various studies, Chinese speculators are the most leveraged speculators in real estates comparing to any other places in the world. Their voodoo beliefs in real estate markets can never drop drive them doing things that any people with common sense would never do. Yet, those with common sense are the ones who have been left behind in terms of financial well being over the past ten years.

So Who are the Suckers Here

Normal hard working people without special trade skills like a professional designation (i.e. doctor, accountant, etc.) will never see the light to even paying for their down payment for a decent apartment in China. Those young professionals will be able to afford buying their own property at the cost of turning into debt slave for the rest of their lives. Yet, they represent only a very small percentage of the population. Hence the important players in the real estate game in China are those who are already on board, either by dumb luck or out of necessity (e.g. dirty money) and those active speculators who continue to actively buying and selling in the current market environment.

Since the dominating players still playing this game are relying on the Chinese government to support the real estate markets as oppose to having at least one valid reason, I think that everyone in this game are suckers at this point, maybe except the central Chinese government itself. It is just a matter of time the Chinese housing market will collapse significantly.

Feature Image: Stanley Street Market in Hong Kong

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After talking to many people in Singapore from all walks of life, my impression is that it is no longer the uplifted, high energy place it once was. In fact, many factors that are contributing to its long term well being are no longer there. Similar to Hong Kong, Singapore can no longer depend on what it built in the past to thrive in the coming decade.

Real Estate and Financial Industry

The decline in Singapore’s real estate market has been on-going since 2014. Many analysts in Singapore think that the bottom is near. Well, I am not that optimistic. From my conversations with many people who work in the financial industry there in Singapore, many firms are ending their contracts with local staff and sending their own people back to their home countries. That means one segment of high income earners in Singapore is disappearing which is the real reason why Singapore’s real estate markets are under pressure.

In other words, Singapore is facing its biggest challenge ever as its role being an important financial centre in Asia is now at risk. We cannot tell if these major financial institutions will expand their businesses there in Singapore in the near future, but usually this type of business planning is at least 5 years or longer. Hence it is reasonable to say that if, ever, these firms will be thinking of growing their businesses in Singapore, it will be at least 2 years from now. The 2 years estimate is based on the fact that these firms moved out since 2014.

Tourism

As a tourist destination, Singapore is usually a one to two day tour city because of the overall size of the place. Majority of tourists who visited Singapore for leisure purpose would revisit the place for just once or twice more, unlike resort destinations where various resorts each offering a different experience where the visitors can enjoy their stay for longer time to rest and relax.

For seasoned business travellers, they have already enjoyed touring the city in the past hence they are no longer big spenders when they stay in the city. And the trend of rising prices at restaurants and shops targeting tourists and foreign business people is also a big turn off for the visitors as there are many alternative locations in Asia where they can better spend their money.

So I think it is reasonable to say that it can be difficult for Singapore to grow its tourist industry into something more significant for its economy.

Internet Era

For many years, Singapore has been very focus in ensuing their citizens being better educated to deal with the industrial world back in the last century. However, since the beginning of this century, the internet has completely upset the balance of the world economy. This wave of technology shock has affected economy worldwide. One thing that really messed up the world is that the education of people around the world were all pointing to the wrong direction since the internet revolution has started. Nothing in the education of young people are preparing them for the new economy.

This problem affects Singapore much more than the other countries in Asia. Even though in college level education, younger generations can be trained with more computer knowledge, but that implies that at least 2 generations of young workers in Singapore need training before they can be redirected into the knowledge based economy or Singapore will lose all the advantage they used to have against the rest of the countries in Asia.

More importantly, the education up to high school level has to put a lot more emphasis on computer skills which was never the focus. Without reform, the education system will continue to produce workers without the skill sets necessary to thrive in the new economy era. This is no difference from other high tech places like Hong Kong, Korea or Japan. Just that Singapore economy has always been driven by one or two main industries while other Asian countries have better diversifications. Thus, being able to stay at the forefront of knowledge based economy is more important for Singapore than other places.

Tough Time Ahead

In this modern time, as people demand more and more from their government while in reality the government is really nothing more than a construct to manage a place, Singapore is really dealing with a serious identity crisis at this point. Singapore, being a special sovereign entity situated at the centre of South East Asia, has enjoyed great economic growth and endured tough times while bouncing back gracefully every time.

Yet, as the world is entering this crossroad all together this time around, Singapore is facing a very tough time ahead as its government leading approach to its society and economy is facing its biggest challenge ever. To thrive into the future, Singapore has to figure out not only what lies ahead but also resolutions that has to be put in place as soon as possible before the tides turning.

Feature Photo: Singapore Changi Airport

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After a hectic week of visiting a number of countries in South East Asia, I am now getting ready to leave Singapore for Hong Kong tonight. I have spent time with bankers and traders who I know for more than a decade. I also got the chance to meet new friends and potential clients introduced to me by my friends. It is nice to see the familiar faces while enjoying the company of my new acquaintances.

First thing I noticed is that many of my friends are now bald and some are very out of shape. Some already passed away due to sickness. It is evidence that we are getting old. Time does not care who we are indeed. The experience is giving me stronger determination than ever to keep myself healthy. The choice is there for everyone, but we must consciously make the hard choices first in order to get the long term benefit.

The retail trading scene in Singapore and other South Asia countries have not changed much. The rules and regulations in many of these countries are still too lax and unenforceable. This give rise to unethical practices by many brokerages to lure naive people into speculations on high risk financial markets without realizing that they are engaging in such activities.

Worst yet, some of these operations are just outright scams taking money from people and then disappear overnight.

I am not sure how long will it take for these countries to mature to the point for which average investors are sophisticated enough not to fall for these scams and illegal activities. It will be a long road and it takes a lot of political willpower to make the necessary changes happen.

I have more to write about my trip to these countries but I have to do that another time. I have to pack up and head to the airport soon.

Have a nice weekend all!

p.s. feature pic is the airport train for connecting the terminals of the Singapore Changi Airport

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