The tale of three fingered Ned

There once was a man from Peru.
Who owned several pairs of shoes…
And a habitually angry Llama.
Yes, that too.
 
The thing was a beast! 
It wasn’t that bad…
IT TOOK THREE OF MY FINGERS YOU MISERABLE LAD.
 
A finger and thumb are all that remain, of that chance encounter in the pen that day.
 
Oh Ned won’t you please, relate for me that tale, of you and that Llama, on that fateful May day.
 
Well… The Russians were marching… of that I am sure…
And I heeded not the warnings of local (and ancient) lore
 
I reached out to pat it… But little did I know, the thing was of violent temperament…
And I was a little slow.
 
It lashed out quick as a flash… and that… as they say, was that.
Oh I howled and I cried for all that it helped…
My fingers it swallowed with a smile and a belch. 
 
So should you ever go down to the pens one day…
Remember old three fingered Ned… and turn the other way.

The ethical omnivore

LEGO-City-Farm-Lot-8-Brown-Cow-_57.jpgVegetarianism is basically a crime against humanity. Metaphorically its taking your ability to walk upright and choosing not to use it. Instead you want to crawl around everywhere on all fours. It took your ancestors millennia to get to this point and look at you, spitting on their accomplishments while you crouch down to munch down on your Cos lettuce. Like some Watership down cottontail.

We have our ancestors to thank for our ability to eat basically anything. Including but not limited to our yellow timberland boots and should we so desire the paper in our Gideon’s bible. I would suggest boiling your boots first to soften them up a little. Native American Indians were known to boil strips of tanned hide when buffalo and berries were hard to come by. If you’re going to eat your bible I suggest starting with the Old Testament. Maybe Leviticus. Broadly considered the least useful to modern ethics and morality. I find it irksome to carry these rocks around in case I happen on any homosexuals that need stoning. Also, Revelations is supposedly a good substitute for Rizla. Pretty sure those 144,000 spots have already been filled, by people A LOT more virtuous than me. So might as well get blazed while we wait for the end times.

To be fair we’ve been murdering other creatures (and one another) since the dawn of time. It’s kind of our thing. But if you like to believe that being a vegetarian absolves you of bloodshed then you’re very much mistaken. Your morning Oats are basically bathed in the blood of a million tiny creatures. When that combine harvester goes rolling through the fields it literally picks up and then dices and slices hundreds of little field mice families, bunny rabbits, little baby does and well meaning voles. Not to mention snakes, lizards and chameleons minding their own business, plus all the beetles, slugs and snails and all the other insects that couldn’t get out the way in time. Breakfast cereal is basically an animal kingdom holocaust in a brightly coloured box, endorsed by a creepy cartoon character. Really if that isn’t the biggest indictment of humanity, then I don’t know what is.

The reality is, in order for me to eat, something else has got to die. If you eat anything other than hydroponically grown vegetables raised in a sterile environment you are a killer.(although sterile means you killed some bacteria along the way) Maybe not on a killer on a personal level where you look your sheep in the eyes before sawing through its jugular, getting sprayed with its warm blood and then hauling it up by its hind legs in order to get an efficient bleed out. But by eating meat you’re endorsing the death of another living creature.

I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is how the industry that feeds us has evolved into this insane cruelty machine.

So I endeavoured at some point last year (I don’t remember when exactly) to try and become an ethical omnivore. So the rule was if I didn’t know the provenance of my food I wouldn’t eat it. I very quickly found out that I almost couldn’t eat anything. Let me start with breakfast. A very good place to start since I love breakfast.

Eggs

So what do you imagine when I say ‘free-range’. Chickens roaming on a rolling green acreage, eating bugs and having dust baths in the sun? Yeah, unfortunately all free range really means is not caged. So they could still be under-roof in a warehouse on a concrete floor. Doesn’t attest to their time spent outdoors or in the sun.

Eating out becomes a massive ethical issue. No restaurant is going to shell out (no pun intended) a bit more for free-range eggs. Margins are way too tight. Your omelette, eggs benedict or even your slice of chocolate cake was made from factory farmed eggs, produced by chickens living in a cage the size of an A4 piece of paper for their 18 month existence, after which they are considered ‘spent’ and disposed of. A normal chicken can live for about seven to eight years, sometimes longer. But really after 18 months in a cage you’re probably begging for death.

No matter if your eggs are free range or battery farmed male chicks are killed the day they are born. New born chicks are sexed, the ‘useless’ males are picked up and thrown onto a conveyer belt which drops them into a big grinding machine, which instantly blitzes them. Sometimes this gets fed back to the chickens. Nothing like a bit of cannibalism to get things going.

Milk

Again we imagine our black and white Friesland cows roaming the pastures, grazing, sun on their backs, before some cheerful herder summons them to the barn where they are milked. The product is then bottled, shipped and then combined with our bloody, dead animal oats in our morning ritual.

The majority of dairy operations are indoor operations. It costs too much money for them to roam free and then having to go fetch them and bring them back to get milked twice a day is totally inefficient. Easier if they don’t leave the warehouse, we will bring the food to them. I never knew this until recently, but a cow needs to be pregnant to produce milk. I mean duh. So dairy cows are constantly artificially inseminated to keep them pregnant. As soon as they give birth the baby calf is taken away from them, some of them will join the milking herd but most are murdered to give us veal. A man with a glove and some sperm then enters the cow from behind and knocks her up again.

As you might imagine, one cow produces as much milk as is sufficient for one calf. Not very efficient. To get round this the dairy cow is pumped full of hormones to maximize milk production. The poor cow now produces twelve times as much milk as she would under normal circumstances. Obviously she can’t produce that ruminating on grass all day, so we supplement their diet somewhat…

The constant stress of being pregnant, the separation anxiety of having your calf forcibly removed from you as soon as its born, the perpetual lactation and near constant confinement means the dairy cow after, four years, starts to dip in milk production. Which is bad news for the cow. A normal dairy cow lives for about twenty to twenty five years. The now spent dairy cow is zapped in the head with a stun-gun and ground up to make mince which ends up in your Quarter pounder with cheese. Yum.

Editors note: I always thought the milk industry was quite benign. Those are some evil motherfuckers. Glad I sold my Clover shares. Fuck them.

Bacon

This is possibly the cruellest and most despicable of all industries. There are few fates worse than being a breeding sow. You live in a gestation crate which is a concrete box just big enough for the sow to turn around in. You spend your day lying in your own shit and piss. Pigs are intelligent, clean and social creatures. Only if you’re a sow you spend your life alone and pregnant, constantly artificially inseminated via rubber glove. When you give birth you are moved to a slightly bigger concrete box where you can suckle your piglets through steel bars, after which they are taken away from you and it’s back to the gestation crate to repeat the cycle. Lucky you.

Piglets are taken to a large concrete pen to get fat and await slaughter. But first their tails are chopped off, their ears mutilated, their teeth clipped in half and if they are male their balls chopped off. All without pain meds.

They are crammed into sunless concrete pens, again living in their own shit, with no space to move. They are pumped full of antibiotics to keep the wounds they inflict on each other from getting too infected. Still, some pigs die, and get eaten by the others. Half the pigs are suffering from some sort of lung infection by this point, and more than half are suffering from mange. Almost all of them are developing severe arthritis and joint pain because they can’t move and are growing too heavy.

At four months they are taken off to the slaughterhouse. Because of the sheer volume of pigs that need to processed, many pigs are not properly stunned before being dumped into giant vats of near boiling water (which softens their skin and removes their hair) and end up drowning. Although I’ve lately seen a video where screaming pigs get lowered into a gas chamber. That was chilling. I’m not sure which is worse.

So if being a vegetarian is going against evolution. Being an omnivore makes you a sick fuck. You’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. Sure we can get around the inconvenient truth by just not thinking about it. I mean clearly most of us don’t really give a damn where our food comes from. We’ve got enough other shit going on in our lives. Food needs to be cheap, easy and convenient. Not ethical.

I just worry about where we draw the line in the sand. When are we so ethically compromised that nothing matters to us anymore. If we don’t care about the animals that we share this planet with, what do we care about?

Black Jesus.

I know. White people shouldn’t write about racism. I can’t write objectively about something I’ve never experienced. I have no reference point. Basically I can only make assumptions about it, based on my intuition, feelings and what I’ve seen or read. Consider me admonished.

I’m going to do it anyway. Because, one, I don’t be like being told what to do. And two, I think that we only have two ways that we can approach this problem. Conversation or violence. I also feel those two things are mutually exclusive and we should probably pick one or the other. And while I am (sometimes) partial to a good, solid bout of fisticuffs I feel, in this case, blogging is the better option.

I should probably also mention that I am not very clever. Or a particularly good writer. So if you’re expecting something profound or liminal you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Let me start by saying I think our definition of race is all messed up. Which is where things start to go awry of us. After all we are all…

  1. from the kingdom of Animalia. ie we are animals
  2. Our Phylum is Chordata. ie we have spine thingy (I know super technical)
  3. Our class is Mammalia ie. we are mammals
  4. Our order is Primates ie. Yay! Monkeys
  5. Our family is Hominidae ie. Big Monkeys
  6. Our genus is Homo ie. Human being
  7. And finally our species is Sapiens ie. us

Since we genocided all the other genera of human beings (likely with rocks and sharp sticks), so we homo-sapiens are only ‘branch’ of humans that are left on this planet. We are the ‘human race’ by process of elimination. Why is it that we have included the human race to have a further subcategory of eh.. race? This is where it starts to get a little confusing for me. Do we actually mean phenotype? I think we do.

A Phenotype is the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

So, as I understand, one of those phenotypes is pigment. Which I think is the main determining factor in racism, because it gives us a very visual cue to differentiate ‘us’ from ‘them’. (as an aside if we were all blind, would there still be racism*?)

*I think there probably would be. We’d just find a different characteristic (like smell) to re-organise ourselves by.

Lets recap, Our ancestors that lived on the equator about one million years ago started to develop eumelanin as a form of defence against the sun when they started spending more time out on the savannah instead of in the tree-line. Their bodies adapted to their environment and their skin turned darker. They also lost their body hair and developed a better perspiration system.

Our ancestors were all dark skinned. (and we are all African immigrants) As my ancestors trekked north they headed up into cooler climes and their skins got lighter and lighter. With less sunshine our bodies couldn’t absorb the required amount of Vitamin D from the sun, so we started shedding eumelanin. And hey-ho, the white man arrived.

Basically my ancestor was an ape. Then he was a black man and then he became a white guy due to lack of rays. (Personally I think that’s amazing) So when we are hating on each other because of our differing skin color we are actually expressing a serious self loathing for our species.

I know. Some ridiculously large part of the world’s population doesn’t believe in evolution. Also try tell my camo-wearing-god-fearing-rifle-toting-white-brother his ancestor was actually of the coloured persuasion. See how that works out for you.

I do think this means our definition of racism is incorrect though. When say racism do we actually mean something more akin to culturism? Ie. My culture is superior to your culture.

Racism is defined as the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races

The whole ‘Race’ thing wasn’t even a ‘thing’ until relatively recently. A German anthropologist named Johann Blumenbach grouped humanity into five groups. The Caucasians (or whites), The Mongolians (or yellows), The Malayans (or browns), The Ethiopians (or blacks) and the Americans (or reds). Interestingly as an aside Blumenbach was of the very radical opinion that no race was superior or inferior to another. A very unpopular opinion at the time.

Having been grouped into these broad categories based on pigmentation (which generally denoted how we had migrated across the earth), the stage was set to meld the concept of superior culture into that of race. After all racism is actually pretty stupid. But maybe we can flaunt our ‘white’ culture over everyone else as a rationale for our obvious superiority complex.

Up until the eighteen hundreds, the world more or less ticked along at the same sort of pace. Europe, the Middle East and China were basically on the same level of advancement. Then something happened in Europe that changed everything.

Two concepts were developed in quick succession that would disrupt everything. Capitalism and the Scientific method were born. These two concepts, in almost no time at all, catapulted Europe past everyone else on the advancement track.

You know in Spiderman when Ben Parker says to Peter Parker, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’. It was one of those moments in history…. and we really stuffed it up.

I don’t think anyone can deny that what happened next is an undeniable abuse of power. We went on to fuck up (almost) every other nation on earth. We systematically destroyed and plundered every other continent on the planet and no one escaped our greed unscathed.

My ‘superior’ white culture started out by killing millions of people, destroying millions of lives. (not that any other culture would have done anything different) Our golden age was mostly punctuated with torture, plague and unbelievable cruelty. Its something a lot of us are (weirdly) proud of. Although we tend to leave out the wicked stuff and focus more on the railroads and medicine as our more notable achievements. Even more bizarre is that we often did all of this in name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Back in the day I used to be a hardcore Catholic. My best friend at the time happened to be a Catholic priest. He bounced around after the seminary but eventually he got sequestered in a tiny parish in Soweto called Zondi. So I used to go there quite regularly to keep him company.

Behind the altar in that church is a mosaic of Jesus and the twelve apostles. Only they’re black. (Judas slinking off with his thirty silvers is actually my favourite part of this picture)

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I remember thinking how interesting it was that a depiction of Jesus wasn’t regulated by the Vatican. (I mean they feel they can regulate everything else) At the time I was parishioner in a parish where the ubiquitous white-Jesus in stained glass looms very large over everyone.

I agree with Huey Freeman. (at least on the first part of his speech) Jesus probably had a skin hue that was likely very dark brown. Sorry y’all with your blue eyed, brown locks and scraggly hipster beard version of JC in your head.

Jesus was from Galilee. (basically the area north of Palestine and south of Lebanon). If we extrapolate that Jesus looked like your typical Galilean he most likely would have been short, with dark slightly curly hair, dark brown eyes and a short black beard. And most importantly his skin tone would have been dark brown. A feature of Mediterranean skin and being in the sun all day. It is very likely Jesus would have been pulled aside in any immigration queue for ‘additional screening’.

Jesus (if he existed) probably looked like this….

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Which doesn’t exactly ooze charisma. The hippy Jesus look started in the middle ages, when Jewish/middle eastern features and ancestry fell out of favour with the Catholic church. (You know, that whole Christ-killers vibe) Suddenly a white-Jesus appeared, looking decidedly European. A poster child for some crusading action against the heretical browns of Jerusalem. ‘We want YOU!’

So next time you’re on your knees asking Jesus to intercede on your behalf with his Old man. Remember that you are in fact bowing down to a ‘man’ of color. You’d think that’s got to be quite an awkward conversation when you’ve just hung up your conquistador helmet after putting half of South America to the sword.

Unfortunately I think racism in some form or other is here to stay. Probably forever. It has slowly, over time, become less overt and we’ve all become better at hiding our prejudices towards each other. Instead of racism we’ve replaced it with nationalism or elitism or even sexism. Those are still broadly acceptable in segregating human beings we deem undesirable to associate with.

I think that’s just the way we are. Sure we can try and regulate behaviour through laws. But humans are cunning. And hate is largely (and historically) our thing, it motivates us.

Mustachianism versus Fundamental Joeyism 

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It depends on who you trust more. A guy with a paedophilic stash standing on a huge pile of money… or an awesome lego dude with a coffee mug and a giant wiener sausage. Personally I know whose lap I would sit on.

#justsaying

In all honesty I didn’t know all that much about Mr. Money Mustache. I mean I knew the basic tenants of the faith… like insane frugality, polygamy and bathing once every full moon. Or is that Mormonism? I always get them confused. But beyond that I thought they were a bunch of forest dwelling boonies that live in houses made from recycled car tires that walk around barefoot and grow their own pot. (sorta like an Ewok)

Turns out they don’t grow any pot. Which personally I thought was quite disappointing. And definitely a flaw in their religious dogma. Seriously, you need take this up with the head hombre.

This week I listened to an interview with Peter Adeney (Mr. MM) First off motherfucker is Canadian hey. heh he. See what I did there. But really, turns out that he’s actually a lot more reasonable than I gave him credit for. I think it might be his disciples that are the problem.

We disagree on some stuff. But really you shouldn’t be following any -ism verbatim. Not even your own. Personally I’ve schismed with my own fundamentalist view points loads of times. Only I couldn’t find a church door to nail them to. Is that too obscure a reference?

Lets start with two that I disagree with.

Mustachian tenant #1 – Move closer to work. ie The East Rand.

Wait, what? I can already see the air I breathe during my work day. Now you want me to endure this on weekends too? There are only two reasons to leave the northern suburbs ‘circle’ in my opinion. One is to go to work. And the other is to dispose of a dead body. Besides  we have Nice, Pablo-eggs-go-bar, Salvation Cafe, Warm & Glad and The Whippet. I’m not sure ‘they’ (the people that side of the N3) have anything even remotely competitive. Its possible that they don’t even believe in breakfast. Its not that I have anything against people from the East Rand… other than they breed a bit too flippantly for my liking and that their eyes are too close together.

I must say though, my new warehouse is a new agey purpose built wonder compared to my old warehouse. Which had bullet holes in the front facade and a melted Zimbabwean in the asphalt outside. I’m assuming he was a Zimbabwean. Sufficed to say when I saw him he was already quite dead. And very melted. This happened during the xenophobic riots a couple of years back. An angry mob caught him sometime during the night. Put a tire round his neck, filled it with petrol and set him on fire. His fat actually melted into the tar. For days crows would risk traffic to try pick bits of him out of the road.

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This is me around that time. In my body armor. Blue steel look. Shotgun not pictured. One of my workers had just phoned to say they were burning down shacks in his row and would I mind very much if I could come pick him up. Took a selfie (as one does) to send to my girlfriend at the time.

 

 

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This is Ronny. Post rescue. With all his worldly possessions stuffed into two bags. They burnt down his shack shortly after we left. He was remarkably stoic about it all, having just lost almost everything. Not sure I would have been. A couple of years later the police would come and and arrest him at my warehouse for having a fake ID. He evaded them for about an hour by running away and then hiding in a cement bag. Turns out he was from Malawi.

 

 

Mustachian tenant #2 – Cycle to the grocery store. 

While conceivable, this is also decidedly deadly. And also uphill from my house. (which might be more of deciding factor) Let me use a Terry Pratchett-ism to illustrate my point. In the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork there are very few murders. There are however loads of suicides. Walking in The Shades (the Ankh-Morporkian version of Hillbrow) after dark was considered suicide.

This is basically how I feel about cycling as a form of commuting in South Africa. I’m happy to hit the trails with a mountain bike. But sharing the avenues and byways with…

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Well you get my drift. Its basically suicide. Same goes for scootering. Your face becoming one with the front grill of a Quantum are somewhere between reasonable and highly likely. Fuck that shit

Mustachian tenant #3 – Cars are basically bullshit 

This one we actually agree on. Cars are basically bullshit. And the amount of money I’ve spent on them makes me suck air through my teeth. Fuuuuuuck.

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Most recently I had a Jeep. Which for a while really defined me as a human being. ha ha. Or so I thought, but really, no object should ever define you. I had this weird love/hate relationship with my Jeep. Its difficult to explain.

Eventually the sprog-monster came along. Car-seats, babies and Jeeps do not go together. I can’t actually convey to you how unpractical this car is… in terms of everything, except cruising around with the top down and listening to AC/DC at full volume. This is basically a Jeeps only function. Anything else its total crap at. It has the fuel consumption of an Airbus A380 with the aerodynamics of a cinder block, the turning circle of an unimog… with probably the same suspension. Although I did love the meccano aspect of it, ie that you can basically take the whole thing apart with one screw driver. That was pretty cool.

Now I drive a 10 year old Opel Corsa 1.4 with 155,000Km on the clock. And you know what? Thats totally fine. There are days when I miss my Jeep. Like when its raining and Gillooly’s is six feet underwater. And also being able to park basically ANYWHERE was super useful. But really, R450,000 is a lot of money to waste on that sort of experience. Thats like… ten very decent overseas trips to exotic locales and way more memories. I suppose it depends on what you’re into.

Mustachian tenant #4 – Don’t buy anything unless it subtracts from a negative in your life. 

This is actually such a good rule. I think the example was ‘Does my life suck because of the absence of photographic capable drone?’. And the answer is no. Unless you’re Casey Neistat, the answer is always no.

But if something is going to improve your life through its purchase, go for it.

He had some other good points about our weird consumer habits. Like before you buy something, imagine how you would feel about it if it broke? Or if it got stolen or lost. If you can’t afford to easily replace something, you shouldn’t be owning it. Otherwise it ends up owning you.

For a second he seemed truly guru-like in assertions about the world. But then I had to swerve for one of those annoying recycling trolley guys who was free-wheeling it down the hill, and all that good will dissipated. Stupid Mr. Money Mustache. I tend to project my frustrations on the world.

Oh well.

A case for ‘for-realsies’ diversification

Trading has been halted. There’s been an explosion outside the New York stock exchange. From what we can tell there are only a couple of casualties. First responders are one the scene now. 
lego

Only this is much more serious. Mounted radioactivity alarms are going off all over the financial district. What initially is thought to be a suicide bombing was actually a Radiological Dispersion Device or ‘dirty bomb’. People are freaking out. Half of Manhattan tries to flee the island by any means possible, jamming the tunnels and bridges. By the end of the day its established that forty blocks of downtown manhattan have higher levels of radioactivity than the EPA deems safe.

This isn’t even a black swan event. There are very serious people at Homeland security and in NYC that imagine an event like this is and I quote, ‘inevitable’.

The number of people that would die in such an event are quite low. But the economic and psychological damage would be profound.

What would something like this do your portfolio? How do you quantify one third of Manhattan being uninhabitable for the next ten to twenty years? How many points would the Dow Jones drop by? 2000? 5000? 10,000? Whats the total cost to the world economy? How long to recover to where we are now? Seven years? Twenty years? What would happen if this happened three months before your retirement? Would you survive?

There are too many variables. Too many considerations. And really, nobody knows what would happen in a situation like this. Imagine every employee at the world’s top banks being irradiated? Now imagine it wasn’t some radical Islamist. It was North Korea. What does that do the world economy? Its easy to punish Afghanistan for 9/11 without any real consequence for the rest of us. Much harder to punish North Korea. Now imagine Trump in charge.

Just gave myself the heebie jeebies.

Anyways. The point I’m trying to make is one of diversification. I mean real old school diversification. These days if you ask someone if they own property they say, ‘Sure, I have property tracker index fund’. But for-realsies bricks and mortar physical buildings have somehow fallen out of vogue.

I am not an engineer, however lately I’ve being playing a lot with colored wooden building blocks. My 11 month old daughter doesn’t build stuff yet. She does like to smash whatever I’ve built though. Like some miniature baby Kaiju laying the smack down on my Tokyo.

I’ve learnt some stuff recently. This is a poor design.

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This is WAY better…

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In a perfect Fundamental Joey-ism world this is what I want my retirement to look like. I use the term retirement loosely. Infact retirement to me doesn’t really mean what retirement does to other people. Maybe I should choose a different word.

So lets start there. Retirement for me is a state of existence where I work ten to twenty hours a week, in a company that I’ve created and love. Basically until I die. If you’re doing what you love it isn’t really work after all. This company will pay me a salary forever.

I have real physical property which is paid off and giving me a rental income every month. Hopefully by the time I want to ‘retire’ this will be properties. Plural. I will never sell these buildings. And will form part of a legacy.

Then theres my share portfolio. Again. Something I will never sell. It chugs along. Doing what it does. But again, something I NEVER plan on selling. Dividends now are relatively paltry. But give it time. Eventually dividends will equal my salary and rental income.

Finally theres interest. However you get this is up to you. Loan accounts, bonds, savings (shudder). But I feel it should be a component in my little brick plan. Even if its a brick I don’t lean on.

So if my company goes bust. Well then I still have some rental income and dividends. If the NYSE gets nuked. Well I still have my rental income and my salary. And if sea levels rise and Vredehoek is the new beach front… we have dividends and salary. If everything goes to pieces I can still sell my properties. It feels much more secure and safer than the single pillar of dividend income and shares that I have to sell.

My portfolio has never been tested. I was too young for the dot com bubble. When 2008 really hit I was all in bonds. I’ve never been been hit by a panic of 1907, or a great depression or a black Monday. Neither have most people trading today. Things have been pretty peachy for quite a long time now.

I’m not saying we’re due for an ‘event’ sometime soon. But lets not be naive about these things. I like the Boy-scouts motto. Be prepared.

Hypocrisy and the forever gray.

You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their stock portfolio. Or what share they happen to be punting. Example. People who own gold shares or define themselves as ‘Gold bulls’ are basically cunts. You should totally unfriend them, lest they taint you by association. They need to walk off into the wilderness, think about all the evil they have wrought and then die alone. Basically they occupy the same moral landscape as gun-runners, human-traffickers and child pornographers.

This is what you’re doing when you buy a gold share. You are, with you money, endorsing a industry, that is, to call it gray, is only to reference the layer of slime that floats on top of its thick indeterminable darkness.

Whenever you’re having a shitty day, think, at least I don’t have to pull on gumboots and don a headlamp and travel 3.9km underground, which takes an hour in a tightly packed cage, to go work in a tight narrow claustrophobic corridor, where the rock face temperature is 60C. All the time knowing that if ANYTHING goes wrong with any of the mechanical equipment that keeps you alive down here, you are basically fucked. Lets add explosives, dust, rockfalls, earth tremors and extreme stress into the mix. At the end of your crappy shift where all you have been doing all day is hard physical labor, you get to look forward to another hour long ride in the packed cattle cage on your way to the surface.

But you don’t get to go home to your family and friends, cause they live in 500km away in another province/country. You’re doing this for them. To put food on their table and pay for your kids school shoes he doesn’t have to follow in your footsteps. So you head back to your shitty  hostel (*cough* Lonmin *cough*) or your congregated tin shack on the outskirts of the mine thats been cooking in the sun all day, hopefully no-one has stolen your blanket or your bucket that you’re going to use to give yourself a quick sponge bath.

You head towards the local shop, but have to backtrack to avoid the micro-lender thugs whom you’re indebted to for 120% of your wages every week. Holding your breath you quickly squat in the pit toilet, before making a beeline to your domicile. Its noisy, dusty and you don’t have electricity. But at least you can get a couple of hours sleep before you have to wake up, and do it all over again tomorrow morning.

And yes. These people are not slaves. And yes, free will. And yes, they get paid. And yes, supply and demand. But really, it doesn’t make you any less of a cunt when you tacitly support these practices with your money.

My portfolio is basically DBXW, CTOP50 and PTXTEN. Which I weight 50-40-10. I was thinking it needed some international property… There was a Coreshares S&P International property that briefly peaked my interest. DBXW already has some property in it though… and thats fine for me. I like the way I’m weighted. Its mostly off-shore. ie. most of the top 40 companies in SA earn their money off shore these days. There is one thing I am going  to change. I’m moving my CTOP50 into equally weighted CSEW40. Well thats the plan. I haven’t actually gotten round it to yet. Oh and I have some bonds still. But really that’s it.

So what does this say about me. Well… that I’m financially lazy. Maybe lazy in a bit harsh. Uninterested seems like a better term. It also means I’m a local earnings skeptic. And that I am a least partially a cunt. But mostly I think I’m a hypocrite.

That’s the problem with ETFs. It doesn’t allow you to pick and choose. You have take the whole basket or nothing. So that means in buying an ETF I’m supporting evil gold mining companies. I support addiction, cancer and big tobacco. I support open cast mining. I support big banks and big finance. (I’m sure glad no one went to jail for the 2008 financial crisis) I support big pharma who make unaffordable aids drugs. I support the amazon rainforest being chopped down, monocropping and pesticides. I support oil spills, gas pipelines and the gazillion metric tonnes of air pollution from the production of petrochemicals as a necessary inconvenience. I support retirement firms (gah!) I support pigs being gassed to make my bacon and ‘chickens’ being kept in row cages and force fed to satisfy my paleo diet. I support child labor. Minimum wages. And war.

All these things means dividends for me. And ergo, take-away coffee, netflix and lego. Which helps with my internal validation and ego. But let me make a small donation to oxfam or deworming the world or malaria free or whatever altruism helps me sleep better at night.

Editors note – The only donations Jo does actually make is to Sea Rescue. He actually compartmentalizes quite well and sleeps like the dead.  (he was going to say baby here, but has since learnt the lie)

Unfortunately my hypocrisy doesn’t end with shares. It blows out into everything. Full disclosure. Or something like that. Example…

I was visiting a steel mill in India that I was vetting as a potential supplier. I was taking the factory tour (as one does) and we came across a man wielding a crucible, filled to the brim with orange hot molten metal, with a pair of long tongs. His safety equipment for this daunting job consisted of, an apron (of some non-descript plasticy material), big black sunglasses, and pair of crocs.

A little taken aback I asked the sales director (or whoever he was) WTF? (or rather the subtle business form thereof). He shrugged and said, ‘Did you see that queue of people outside the main gate’, I nodded, ‘That’s the queue of people who want his job’. And with that, it was settled and we went for a vegetarian lunch.

I’d like to say this was the exception to rule. I visited another half a dozen similar mills on that particular trip. I remember one other mill where the run off from the heat treatment plant flowed into this little gully, out under the fence and into the river. Not even two hundred meters down river, cows drank the river water and people were bathing and washing their clothes.

These aren’t fly by night operations. These are billion dollar entities and global players. A lot of people come back from India raving about the beauty and the amazingness of it all. They spend two weeks in Goa and take the Taj Mahal trip in an air conditioned bus. My trip was a horror show of darkness which included being attacked by a gang of child beggars (not fun). My guide was like ‘just hit them’, and indicated that I should use the lamp post to bash them against. Easier said than done. One particularly stubborn little fucker managed to hold onto my leg down two flights of stairs. The food was really good though he said, feeling he needed to balance some of his negativity. Anyways, sufficed to say I was never so happy to get back to South Africa as I was after that trip.

So. Given a choice. I can buy from the expensive European mills. Be completely uncompetitive and not make any money. Which in turn means not hiring people. Not paying taxes and not contributing to the economy. Or I can buy cheap and get a chemical composition that includes some melted worker from time to time.

Anyways. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not sure I believe in good and evil anymore. Because otherwise we would all be evil. And that seems a bit depressing. Maybe its just a broad expanse of gray that reaches out forever, and we all just wander round it, lost, thinking that we are actually making a difference, that we are different from the ubiquitous ‘them’. But really we are all the fucken same, living in permanent denial.

I wish I had some fruit loops right now. I’m hungry.

Unfucking myself

‘You are not perfect’, to quote Chuck Palahniuk, ‘You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake’.

But you could be. (if you buy our book)

I’m weary of opening with Chuck. He’s a little overdone, when really what we crave is something new and medium rare. He’s also very much, last century. He’s a 16 bit guy in a 64 bit world. That sounds like I stole it from somewhere. The original quotation remains valid however, only now we market to you as something you can change. For a price. Don’t accept mediocrity, you have the potential to be so much more. Ten ex your life. (I can’t tell you how much I hate this phrase)

Why is it that as a society, broad consensus has decided on a set of human endeavours that we find valuable and worthy of emulation. I’m not entirely sure who decides these things, having never been asked to venture my opinion. But maybe it’s less like a democracy and more like a steering committee.

Vaguely I wonder if it’s always been this way. Once upon a time, in a neolithic period, far, far away… would I have wanted to be the best hunter in my tribe. Even if I was already a pretty good berry picker. (I’m assuming here that neolithic tribes separated roles based on skilz. My whole analogy falls apart if they were all broad generalists) Was there a hierarchy of coolness when it came to tribals positions… or did everyone just organically assume a role that was required.

Mammoth hunting for dummies.

What if you were a berry picker. A noble but boring occupation. I say boring but really leaving the flickering confines of your camp-fire to take a dump was a serious and potentially life ending undertaking. Maybe you thought this gig didn’t really define you as a tool-wielding proto-human. But hunters, they got all the best cuts of offal, women basically threw themselves at their feet in the hope of being dragged back to their cave for a bit of prehistoric rough and tumble. (I imagine the emphasis was on rough) Hunters were respected… and when they grunted… people listened!

So you decide to take up the challenge. You woke up early. For months you practiced your sharp-stick throwing, you would run, you would jump, you would wrangle baby sloths… eventually you’d recover, and decide to find something less violent (with smaller claws) to practice your wrangling. After a lengthy period of time and a fair number of unintended mishaps you would level up sufficiently to consider yourself a hunter.

Only you’re not the BEST hunter. You’re only average. And well… that’s just like everyone else. How awful.

Then someone tells you that you should copy the ritualistic morning routines of the best hunters out there. You need to adopt their diet, their sleeping patterns, their bowel movements and their weapon choice. ONLY then will you be the best.

But then you realise being a berry picker was actually quite nice. And that mammoths are surprisingly grouchy and foul tempered. Especially when you poke them with a stick. Only you’ve realised your tribe really values hunters and that vegetarianism is viewed a lot like a mental disorder. Maybe now you’ll get to cross off some of Maslow’s higher order needs. After all being a hunter is where its at. The pinnacle success and self actualization.

Fast Forward a couple of thousand years and  I feel like I’ve just described a day in the life of Jo last year. Only without mammoths. Although I hear they’re making a comeback soon… in a lab near you. The new bacon. Nom nom nom.

These days the bottom half of Maslow’s pyramid basically takes care of itself. Woolworths covers the foundations. And Tinder/Pornhub takes care of the love aspect of your life. So we get to concentrate on the esteem the and self actualization part of life. Almost exclusively. And its fucking us up.

Well, it fucked me up.

At some point we all want to feel relevant. Like our lives HAVE to mean something. Back when we were tribal things were a lot easier. We had a role to fulfil in that tribal structure. And if we didn’t fill it there’d be consequences for everyone. It made us feel relevant. Useful. Connected. Also we died young. Which helps. You didn’t have all this time to sit around and consider your circumstances…

Today our tribal close knit society has grown fractured and thread-bare. Thanks to social media we know more people than ever before, but really we hardly know anyone. Now we are a tribe of one. Or two. Or three. Sometimes four.

I think we’ve always done it. We elevate some homo sapiens to occupy positions of great honor in our society. They almost become demigods to us. We used to do with heroic warriors. But now its all billionaires, movie stars and professional sports people. These are the Titans we wish we could be like, whose lives we wish we had. A second generation of divine beings, not quite gods, but close as damn. These are the people we follow, whose wisdom we seek out, whose every word we hang on and consider with reverence and awe.

I mean if you’re going to aspire to something, demi-god status seems like the right way to go. To have people seek your council. To have them care what you had for breakfast. To have them try and replicate your personal philosophy and your personal circumstances in the hope of hacking their own lives. What an ego trip.

Only its all bullshit. For six months I felt like a pegboard full of round holes systematically trying to smash square pegs of various sizes into each of the openings. These square pegs are other people’s virtues. Other people’s skillsets. Other people’s mantras and circumstances that have been sold to you as some sort of quick fix hack to success and happiness.

Its like trying to smash windows, iOS and linux together into a super operating system. Everyone knows that’s never going to work. The more stuff you try and graft onto yourself in the hope of making yourself better the more it actually diminishes you. I was doing all this crazy stuff… and instead of getting happier with my life it made me more and more miserable.

Four twenty five AM, wake up. Because that’s when Jocko Willink wakes up. Four thirty, ice cold shower, because Wim Hof. Sardines for breakfast because ketosis and Dom D’Agostino. Ten mintues of mediation with headspace because fucken everyone. Off to gym and kettlebells because Pavel Tsatsouline. Sauna because Rhonda Patrick. Etc etc ad infinitum.

Of course this seems crazy to me now. But I was really into it. Every week I’d be drinking some new weird ass tea, trying some new weird ass technique. One week I ate nothing but beans and rice and slept on the floor practicing stoic misfortune.

Sufficed to say you are who you are. You are not them and they are not you. Fuck them. Stop trying to replicate and be you. Don’t be like me that had to learn this the hard way.

Rule change

One coffee event per day, per location. Being quite transitory this seems like a less egregious ruleset, he said sipping  on his first coffee. (At the office) But really the third of the day. Previous transgressions happened at 3am in the domicile of the Jo. Then at 7am in the vehicular transportation of the Jo. Then now at 9am at the office of the Jo.

The ten month old infant that my wife and I created decided 1am was a good time to start the day. She feels the need to impress upon her parents that, ‘Sleep is for the weak’. Her chances of getting a sibling are very much diminished at this point. Sometimes we wonder (when we can manage a brief moment lucidity) where she gets it from. We both love sleep.

This obviously puts a damper on Joeys ability to to coherently order his thoughts. *someone in the peanut gallery starts laughing*

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In case you were wondering… The lego is/has/continues to be bought for my daughter. Although I as custodian of said lego will continue to keep it safe for her until she comes of age. Also, I will continue to test said lego. Making sure all the pieces are present and accounted for, that all structures are up to code and that all lego trains are in a fully functioning condition. Yeah, that was plurality. Hamleys see me coming and they be like ka-ching, ka-ching, wakka, wakka, dance, dance. ‘We are eating today people!’ *balloons start to come down from the ceiling*

Other than lego my daughter owns some DBXW. Which is sitting in my portfolio at the moment. I’ve heard some arguments for accounts in the child’s own name and some arguments for a trust. In all honesty I’m not entirely sure how to tackle this problem yet. Bring your kids up right and they don’t blow all their money versus at eighteen kids are basically reckless n00bs and you’re much better off having a trust pay them pocket money. And then the ever sobering thought that if I die before all that then my cold dead corpse gets sodomised by the taxman first. Also Capital gains tax when I sell them. Neither inevitability appeals to me.

At one point I even thought, well let me just turn everything into Krugers and Morgans. And mail her the safety deposit key when she’s thirty. But then FNB happened. So fuck that. I have no idea. If anyone has any clever suggestions?

In terms of schooling. Tax free accounts happened more or less the same time my wife got knocked up. So we each got one. One very conservative. One medium-ish risk. Both seem to be fairing better than the DBXW at the moment, which has pretty much done nothing this past year. Whether or not we actually use these funds for education has yet to be determined. Alot depends on the finance minister upping the limits in the next couple of years and providing some clarity on how they’re gonna run this thing going forward. I have a sneaky suspicion they’re going to kick the can down the road again this year. But lets see.

Having kids is a serious mind-fuck, an improvised explosive device to your previous cushy lifestyle that took a careful decade to cultivate and nurture. ‘And like that… *snaps fingers* it was gone!’ (Usual suspects) If I had known how easily sex leads to children I would have been MUCH more circumspect in my youth. Monk like even.

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This is me, in Japan at the exact moment I found out I was about to be a dad. Me and my friend had just been to the Robot-restaurant (which is this insane robotic cabaret show… with giant pink bunny rabbits and… it’s a bit hard to explain). We were trundling around Shinjuku (Shinjuku is basically noise, brothels and Pachinko gambling dens) in a Japan-o-rama fueled haze when I got the ‘little bean’ sonar pic. This is the resulting phone call home.

People often ask me if I miss being a childless hedonist. It a weird question. You’re not really comparing apples with apples. That life is over. You had those experiences and they were nice. Now it’s a different experience. You can’t live your life just doing the same thing over and over. I think I might answer differently if I felt I hadn’t achieved all those things I wanted to in my early twenties and thirties. Not that I checked all the boxes… but I checked a lot of them. Now I have new ticky boxes and its exciting.

Decoy

If you’re going to leave work early… make sure you leave a decoy.

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Make sure its of similar management style and appearance. You don’t want your ruse to be immediately discovered. Also (and I speak from experience) better if you and your decoy are of equal skill… you don’t want to be upstaged by a garden variety vegetable. We had an unfortunate incident once where an oversized gem-squash solved one of our more challenging bottlenecks. It was a little embarrassing.

Also yes. This me. The one of the left.

Trading is for Muppets

(n) Slang, meaning silly, foolish people. As opposed to a frog and a pig that have a weird interspecies relationship. But you know, if you tell me their love is real, who am I to argue.

Spoiler alert. I used to be a Muppet. (Might still be one)

I feel like a having a good first trade stuffs you up. It makes you feel like you’re special. You strut your stuff, pelvic thrust. You sneak some little dance moves in there, maybe some air punches. Not me. I’m talking about the little people. I was like a fakir on a nail board. Floating on a pool of lava. Conversing with my inner Atman. Oommmh, motherfucker.

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Joeys trading desk circa 2010.

At least that is how I choose to remember it. I have a memory like a goldfish, so really it could have gone either way. But since this is my narrative I choose to believe the latter. I do however know I got ridiculously lucky. Like 400% lucky. Downside is when you’re just starting out you have no trading capital. So really that means very little in the grand scheme or schism of things.

Unfortunately your financial priorities just starting out are skewed towards things like Timberland and Soviet and taking the hot blond to the restaurant you can’t really afford. That was basically my first pay check. Not a great return on investment. Except for a brief preoccupation that I’d contracted chlamydia.

Next months expenses included a needless visit to the GP who touched me in my no-no special place, but after a stern talk, gave my junk the thumbs up. At least I got a lollipop. But that was like two hundred shares in a good blue chip in those days.

Worse than having a good first trade though is when trades two, three and four are also good. Soon the ridiculous size of my ego-bubble rivalled the Death-star in girth. Tight spaces became problematic for me, and small objects would randomly start to orbit my house.

Generally this where Icarus flies too close to the sun and melts the wax, falling to earth. And we all learn a valuable lesson. Which is that Greek engineering should stop at wooden horses and not expand to include aeronautics.

Not me though. I get a bit wobbly standing on the second rung of a ladder. But you do know that idiom where pigs get slaughtered. I forget the first part of it. Wait, is it hogs that get slaughtered? Anyway someone gets slaughtered. It made an impression on me.

I was generally super cautious. I did pay school fees once. It was my worst trade. And I lost twenty five thousand. And what made it worse was the share got suspended. So that damn trade sat at the top of my portfolio for two or three years (possibly longer). Reminding me every damn day about what an idiot I’d been.

Long story short. I listened to some bullshit story from someone I trusted. Thought I had this inside track. Didn’t check my ego at the door, didn’t have any rules and I got burned. Could have been a lot worse.

If you’re going to dip your toe into this murky pond you have to have a rule set. And you need to be completely committed to those rules. There can be no deviation, no variance, no exceptions. A stick with a knobbly bit on the end also helps. (so you can hit yourself in the face when you stray)

I rarely traded fundamentals. And technical trading is still a complete and utter mystery to me. I used to watch them on tv, with their little charts and their little ruled lines, in complete amazement… they are like those crazy fringe people on the unkempt verges of society, you humour them, but really it’s like the scientology of trading. Don’t make eye contact, because at any moment they might start espousing their thoughts on Xenu or Cthulhu or whatever fashionable kaiju is in vogue in cuckoo-land.

Mostly I momentum traded. I watched what other people bought. And I bought that. I wasn’t very clever. But I was super disciplined about it. If I got stopped out I didn’t cry about it and if a share ever went over 32% I sold it. Sometimes that share went on to triple or quadruple in value. *shrug* These things happen.

I had some other stuff going for me. I was lucky. I traded in one of the best bull runs in history. I lived for free in a cottage at the back of my parent’s property. If I trundled on down the garden path to parents house and looked really sad my mother would feed me. No dependents. It all adds up to disposable income that instead of blowing, I would trade with.

Which all sounds quite groovy. Only it began to consume me, to the detriment of living. It became the alpha and omega. And money became the score that I used to gauge my success in life. There wasn’t much introspection going on at the time. But I look back with morbid fascination at that strange doppelgänger that was me. It took me a while longer to snap out of it completely.

I’m still not completely over it. Like some sort of weird addict I relapse now and then. I bought Woolworths shares the other day. R64 something. Some stray neuron in my neo-cortex went… ‘ooooh shiny’. A week later I was like what the hell are you doing… and I sold them again. Anyways, annoying because now I have to pay tax on that. I hate paying tax.

Anyways, the point I’m trying to get to is. Don’t trade.

Okay. Maybe I should start with; Don’t trade futures. Or currency. Or commodities. Or cyclical shares. Banks are also pretty shit. Or fucken gold. But really don’t trade at all.

Money is this bullshit construct humanity has created. It’s not real. None of this stuff is real. Are you really going to commit all this time and effort to a figment of your imagination? Money, shares, options, Rand Dollar, it all exists because we allow it to exist by believing in it.

‘Burn it down!’ ‘Burn it all down!’ Well… I’m not really a fan of that either. I’m not a sandal wearing, tie-dye hippie. I like coffee and iPhones and MacBook airs. And these things cost money. What I resent is having to spend all this time doing something I don’t particularly love. If you LOVE pouring over balance sheets before bedtime, reading financial articles and logging into your portfolio twenty five times a day… and this is your thing… the thing that defines you as a human being… well then go for it. Fuck ‘em up son.

Me… I’ve paired down to just three exchange traded funds. I buy some every month. It’s infinitely better than gearing up every day and charging into the breach. Trading is not glorious. It’s awful grunt work. It’s listening to opinionated ego-maniacs all day, every day. Trying to sift through a slime soup of noise with a fork looking for a chunky bit. Don’t do that to yourself. If you’re into abuse get a partner that will dress up in leather every so often, tie you up and slap you around for a bit. Maybe burn you with a cigarette once in a while. Infinitely more fun. Don’t trade.