November 6, 2013

MCM Capital - Macro-Agnosticism & the ‘Invisi-Bubble’ > 15min

Market bubbles are called bubbles for good reason. They form, they inflate, they grow to an unstably distorted size, and ultimately they undergo the effects of rapid decompression in search of equilibrium. In a word … they pop. And generally speaking, the bigger the bubble the bigger the bang. … Most of us are pretty good by now, we think, at spotting bubbles. After all, we know what they look like; we recognize their characteristics, don’t we? Maybe. Maybe not. Not all bubbles look or act the same. … Is there a bubble inflating again? … people often shrug their shoulders, scratch their heads, and simply accept that there must be good reasons why stocks have been on a roll. The average investor, after all, is at least one step removed from the markets for intangible assets and therefore has comparatively little experience to help avoid becoming their occasional Venus flytrap dinner. … When it comes to assessing the state of the real economy, on the other hand, most people are more circumspect and not so easily taken in. … this bubble was born of desperation, first by the misguided monetary policy regime and then by investors who are sure to become its unsuspecting victims as they look for return—any return—in all the wrong places. … Railing against Fed policy, of course, doesn’t change it. … we continue to believe it is possible—and necessary—to see both the forest and the trees in order to fulfill our highest obligation: to continue acting in the best interests of our clients. As noted investment manager Francois Sicart said recently: “The attitude of many professional investors toward the current market makes me think of a crowd enjoying a dance party on top of an active volcano. They know it is going to erupt but, instead of planning an exit, they keep dancing while trying to guess the exact date and time of the eruption.”

Aeon - Master of many trades < 5min

Our age reveres the narrow specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things ... I travelled with Bedouin in the Western Desert of Egypt. When we got a puncture, they used tape and an old inner tube to suck air from three tyres to inflate a fourth. It was the cook who suggested the idea; maybe he was used to making food designed for a few go further. Far from expressing shame at having no pump, they told me that carrying too many tools is the sign of a weak man; it makes him lazy. The real master has no tools at all, only a limitless capacity to improvise with what is to hand. The more fields of knowledge you cover, the greater your resources for improvisation. … We hear the descriptive words psychopath and sociopath all the time, but here’s a new one: monopath. It means a person with a narrow mind, a one-track brain, a bore, a super-specialist, an expert with no other interests

The Street - Bill Erbey Made $2.3B Off Your Underwater Mortgage 5-15min

Soon after Bill Erbey and his wife Elaine moved last year to St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, they ran up a $2,000 electric bill. They turned down the air conditioning in an effort to cut costs and Erbey, who is 64 and overweight, sat around sweating. ... "He lives a lifestyle that, if he lived for 2,000 years he couldn't spend his net worth," says Orin Kramer, general partner of hedge fund Boston Provident. "It's one of the things that makes someone comfortable as an investor, because he's always focused on the dark side." ... Focusing on the dark side was, of course, a good thing to be doing ahead of the subprime housing crisis. It's one reason Erbey, who is the chairman of Ocwen Financial and four other publicly-traded companies, has managed to quintuple his net worth to $2.3 billion over the past two years.

Wired - The Amazingly Unlikely Story of How Minecraft Was Born 5-15min

Someone on the fringes might regard what Markus did as intellectual-property theft. Without beating around the bush, he revealed where he found his inspiration and even went as far as to call Minecraft a clone of an existing game. But game developers, more than other kinds of artists, often find their starting point in an existing idea that they then work on, change, and polish. … For most people, the colorful numbers and letters that filled the computer screen would be completely baffling, but Markus felt right at home. The game was called Dwarf Fortress and it had become a cult favorite in indie circles. Markus had downloaded it to try it out himself and watched, entranced by the simple text world drawn up in front of him. … A couple of weeks had passed since Markus started working at Jalbum and his thoughts were circling full speed around the game he’d promised himself he’d work on. Like when he was a child and would run home from school to his LEGOs, he now spent almost all his free time in front of his home computer. He combed the Internet in search of inspiration for his project; the heavy labor—the coding—could begin only after he figured out what kind of game he wanted to create. The idea for Minecraft began to take shape in his encounter with Dwarf Fortress.

Foreign Policy - The Rise and Fall of Somalia’s Pirate King 5-15min

As the Somali piracy blockbuster Captain Phillips raked in $26 million in its opening weekend on U.S. screens, Mohamed Abdi Hassan, better known as "Afweyne," was on a flight to Belgium with gainful plans to sell a very different story about East African marauders. Expecting to consult on a movie based on his life as a seafaring bandit, Afweyne and his associate were instead arrested by Belgian police and charged with the crimes of piracy and hostage taking. The two men had fallen for a hard-to-believe, reverse-Argo ruse -- a months-long sting operation set in motion to catch the mastermind behind the 2009 hijacking and ransom of the Belgian-owned dredging vessel Pompei. … Though his hopes of being immortalized on the big screen have been dashed, Afweyne, more than any other pirate, is responsible for making Somali piracy into an organized, multi-million-dollar industry. … Beginning in 2003, the former civil servant was plying investors with a self-described "very good business idea" and headhunting veteran pirates from Puntland to train his own "Somali Marines." The result was the birth of modern Somali piracy: organized bands of skiffs and supporting motherships hunting hundreds of miles from shore for commercial vessels that would deliver multi-million-dollar ransoms.

Quartz - Health nuts are guzzling coconut water faster than aging palm trees can produce it < 5min

The world’s supply of coconut water—along with the myriad foods, oils, cosmetics, fibers and fuels made from coconuts—could be under threat. The United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Nov. 1 that global demand for coconut products is outpacing the rate of production in Asia, where about 85% of the world’s coconuts are grown. ... As world-wide consumption of all things coconut has jumped over the last decade, Asian countries have seen their exports of the commodity explode. At one point last year, exports from the Philippines, the world’s second biggest coconut producer, had grown over 400% from the year before. Between 2009 and 2012, exports of coconut oil from Asia have grown about 3% a year, according to the Asian Pacific Coconut Community, an Indonesia-based organization that represents coconut growers. Now, coconut water and milk, used in drinks and health products, make up 30% of global coconut consumption, according to the UN.

GQ - Oops, You Just Hired the Wrong Hitman 5-15min

Say you want someone, you know, eliminated —a lover, a business partner, a mother-in-law. There are guys out there who will do that. For a price. Then there's another kind of guy. A guy who looks and acts just like a regular hit man. Prison tats, do-rag. But instead of doing the job, he turns sides and then you realize that you were his target all along