Lockdown survival guide 4: chill

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Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

Lockdown survival guide 3: fitness

A long time ago, I was in a position of great distress.  I suffered a lot of intrusive thoughts that made it hard for me to do those things that I needed to do.  I went to the gym, joined a hiking group, met with friends, but none of these could calm my mind enough for me to get on with my life.

Finally I started Read More

Keynes/Hayek: the final word

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Book review of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics, by Nicholas Wapshott.

[Written in 2019]

I went into this book knowing that my sympathies already lay heavily with Hayek because I’d read more of his work and because I HATE HATE HATE inflation.  It eats directly into the fruits of my hard work and parsimony.  Few things fill me with such murderous rage.  I see Bismark Germans carrying wheelbarrows full of marks to the shops and my hearts softens slightly towards Hitler.

But preening that I am an open-minded chap, I decided to give Keynes the most generous hearing possible.  I would do this by leaning slightly towards his side, just like a fair under-12s umpire does towards the visiting team when his son is on the home side.

But actually, what struck me most about this book was not the triumph of one side or the other, but just how Read More

Word from the Dark Side – chilly ban on foreigners, chilling escaped pathogens, and cheeky Japanese coppers

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Remember how the United States and Australia were so racist for banning travelers who had been in China during the previous 14 days?  Now China has banned all foreigners from entering, including returning residents.  This is vastly more draconian than what happened in Australia, when the government actually flew non-citizen residents and spouses back.

The World Health Organization has sternly criticized China for the move, saying that it is unhelpful, racist, and potentially counterproductive.  Oh that’s right, no they didn’t, because Read More

Lockdown survival guide 3: fitness

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Previously:

Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

Remember kids, don’t spend all day reading bad news, watching your investments plummet, and worrying about how long this thing will last.  We need routine, and the most solid part of any routine is fitness.

If you’re allowed out and about, you can continue to run and walk as usual.  If you’re cooped up at home, you’ll need some other form of cardio workout.

If you have a yard, skipping is fine.

A less boring alternative is Read More

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

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Part 1 is here.

Hi, Zoomers.

I meant to tell you, back when I gave you The Talk about those donkey videos you’ve been watching since you were twelve, sometimes we have these horrible things called recessions.  This isn’t the first time we’ve had one.  They’re actually pretty regular.  Like, literally.  I know, it totally sucks, doesn’t it?  #OMG!

First, don’t Read More

The thoughts of an emperor

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Book review of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

Poor old Marcki-poo.  High-born and bookish, he wanted nothing more than to go to Athens and study philosophy.  But duty called him to other things: in the age of the Five Good Emperors, starting with Hadrian, each new one was chosen for his virtues rather than because he was the son of the old one – though none of the previous four had had sons, so that was easily done.  And Marcus Aurelius felt the unwanted tap on the shoulder.

He insisted, against the wishes of the elite, that his Read More

My short story is up at Terror House Mag

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My short story has been published at Terror House Magazine.

Hyenas

The old fighters greeted each other with their customary, shoulder-bumping handshake. They went to their usual table in the corner of the raised section where they could look over the other customers in the restaurant. There were two types of food to choose from: Italian or Eritrean. They were so old that they could remember when this colonial-era hotel served many Italians. Even earlier, natives had not been allowed.

The Italians were long gone. The friends ordered a simple meal of lentils and injera because both were adhering to an Orthodox fast. It was late afternoon.

In any group of three people, there is a government spy, but Johannes and Tesfay were only two, and the other customers were slightly too far away to hear their easy conversation. They spoke freely of brownouts, feuds with tenants, mandated food prices, the water shortage. The coup attempt. The boys who’d been arrested. In a small city of old families, there are only a couple of degrees of separation to both sides of a conflict.

Coffee came. Now they talked about the many shops and cafés the government had closed down for supposed tax evasion. They didn’t speak of Johannes’ surviving son, who was absent. He’d presumably slipped overseas to escape endless national service, like everyone else. They were old men, so next they spoke of old times. On this occasion, Johannes was the one to bring up the hyenas and Tesfay smiled with nostalgia. He had, after all, been the one who’d almost been eaten.

“Think of it!” Johannes guffawed. “You survived the Ethiopian airstrike but nearly got killed by those beasts instead.” They both laughed. Their youthful exploits were their favorite topic because everything was different now. Complicated. It was simpler when the enemy was foreign and in the other trench.

Tesfay stretched his hand towards his upper back, where the scar was. “It’s still there. No bite marks, though! Only the burn, thanks to you. Thank you, my friend!” It was something he’d told Johannes many times before. While manning a rugged mountain redoubt on the Nakfa front, the Soviet-made bomb had sent him rolling down a cliff-like mountain slope, coming to rest against a boulder with several broken bones, unable to move as the sun plummeted beneath the horizon and the hyenas began to squeal. He’d heard other men die that way, and women. The ones too far away to be rescued by their comrades. The Martyrs never aged, never saw their country free. Or, mercifully, what had happened to it since.

Johannes suddenly grew serious. He looked at his friend intensely, as though about to inform him of another death in the family. Tesfay returned his look quizzically. Normally they bantered at this point, perhaps about how he would be a skinny feed for such large predators, or how, if things had become desperate enough, he might have had to eat the hyenas, instead.

The hush and the penetrating stare continued. Somewhere in his heart, Tesfay knew what was coming. He’d been waiting for the moment for 30 years.

Finally, Johannes broke the silence.

“Do you remember your promise?” Read More

Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

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I’ve been in two situations somewhat analogous to our current Corona Zombie Apocalypse.  The first was in 2011, when radiation levels were rising in Tokyo following the Fukushima meltdown.  The second was during my time in Africa, when I needed to shelter alone a lot of the time in order to cope with the events unfolding around me.

About the second, I’ve already written a piece on how to stay calm.

In a stressful situation, your mental health is often the weakest point.  In Tokyo, radiation levels were not nearly so dangerous to me as the anxiety was.  In Africa, the physical threat was always limited, but the whole saga has taken a toll on me.

As the Stoics point out, there is the thing, and there is what we think of it.  Only the latter can cause us harm.  Up to a point.  And so it is now: undue stress or frustration could do you more damage than the Wu-Flu.

I confess to having panicked in the past, but I’m now better able to cope with difficulties.  In this series I’ll share some of what I’ve learned.

What is panic?

Read More

Word from the Dark Side – podcast tip, plague shenanigans, and prisoner naughtiness.

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First, I’m fine.  Thanks to all who expressed concern.  My cupboard is stocked, my compound is secure, and we’re holding the zombies off for now.  It looks like my job will still be available if I can get to Japan at some point, but let’s see what happens.  They’re probably desperate because a lot of Nervous Nellies dropped out altogether.

I’ll start a series soon on how to survive being holed up in a stressful situation as I have a bit of experience with that.  But for now, on with the Dark Side.

Filipino police chief caught sleeping with female prisoners:

A police chief was allegedly caught sleeping with women he arrested – after converting the back of his office into a love nest.

Police Chief Major Ildefonso Miranda extended his room then added two large beds at the Argao district station in Cebu, the Philippines.

This amazing video shows what happens when you Read More

Two sad stories

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There was once a forum on the main site for foreigners in Japan, Gaijinpot, and one thread was about ‘relationships’.  Here there moped a sad fellow known as Kansai Ben.  To tell his whole story would be too much for now, and would simply mirror the experience of thousands of other Gaijin like him, but in short he was divorced from a J-girl, was struggling to meet child support payments as he was unable to do anything in Japan but teach English, and he never saw his kids.

So far, so sad.

His ex always talked shit about him to the kids, about how he was a Read More

Badwhites in Cambo

Cambodia bans foreign men over 50 marrying local women ...

I live in a goodwhite bubble.  My colleagues frequently make anti-Trump comments, whereas making pro-Trump comments at work would be slightly less socially appropriate than doing a bushman’s hanky in the living room.  Any conservative thought is frowned upon.  And as for the material in this blog: it would be like licking up the detritus of that bushman’s hanky, spitting it in the Queen Mum’s face, and saying, ‘ner ni ner ni ner, ner!’

No actually, it would be much worse.  But this is a family blog so I’ll leave it at that.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that Read More

Stuck

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This is not one of my stupid pranks.

I was due to fly to Tokyo via Manila next week for my new job, but awoke to the news that Manila’s been placed under lockdown.  I tried going to the airline office to change my booking, but you’ll never guess, a few dozen other people had the same idea.  I was number 39, they got up to number 8, and they were taking about 15 minutes per customer.  I made a quick calculation about how many flights there would be until the ban came into effect vs how many people were probably trying to book them, and realized that I was wasting my time and also getting the Wuhan Virus by being crowded into this tiny space with so many people.

I rushed home and tried to book online instead.  Bingo!  I got a flight direct from Cebu City.  Getting a refund would be another issue, and for some reason the booking site gave me a return ticket instead of one-way, but I had a ticket.

Then I awoke today to hear that Read More

Self-destructive bloody-mindedness

[Written in Africa]

The boss suggested we use up some existing resources because we’re getting in some new supplies soon, anyway.  I reminded him that it took eighteen months last time to get all the approvals to import what we needed.  He said, don’t worry, I’ve got all the signatures already, including the most important one from the minister.  I shrugged and said, maybe wait until the boxes arrive, just in case.

Turns out he needed just one more signature, from the bank.

The bank said no.

Our plan was to Read More

Performative loops

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I have said that I mostly prefer to be alone, but I have not explained why.

Perhaps I have not wondered why.

Other people bother me, but they bother me in very particular ways.  It seems that most people, perhaps myself included, have cycles of behaviour which they simple can’t help and which they are mostly unaware of.

A very obvious example will demonstrate: I know a guy.  Let’s call him Trev.  He Read More

Word from the Dark Side – dodgy Congolese oil, divorcee prizes, and dunny paper panic

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Did the Republic of Congo pretend to discover oil just to steal money from a European environmental fund?  It looks like they did!  Perhaps I was right to worry about Congolese stealing my gold in Addis airport.  If you follow that link you’ve got a long read before you get to the relevant part.

The image is from the same area but is about a related story.

While on Africa, a lot of Africans are marrying Chinese girls in ‘Chocolate Town’, which is the area of Guangzhao where heaps of African traders live.  Fascinating article about cultural differences and how there’s no such thing as the spouse visa.  And hey, did you know about this? Read More

Which book title is better? (Updated)

Quick question.  Which is the better title for my upcoming book?

The Poor Man’s Guide to Financial Freedom: A Realistic, Ten-Step Manual for Building Liberating Wealth on a Low to Medium Income

Or:

10 Steps to Financial Freedom: A Realistic Manual for Building Liberating Wealth on a Low to Medium Income

I’m getting the cover done now and suddenly had second thoughts about the title.  The original is the first, which emphasizes that a high income is not required.  The second focuses more on the fact that there are ten steps outlined in the book, which will be the concept illustrated on the front cover.

The target audience is young men aged 25-35 who are in the early stages of their careers, have modest wages, and who know absolutely nothing about managing their finances.

The ten steps are:

Step 1: Don’t Get Into (More) Debt

Step 2: Make a Frugal Budget.

Step 3: Save an Emergency Fund

Step 4: Get Out of Debt

Step 5: Increase Income

Step 6: Protect What You’ve Got

Step 7: Plan Your Life

Step 8: Invest Wisely

Step 9: Get Advice

Step 10: Record and Reevaluate

 

Any feedback appreciated.

 

Update: it’s finished!  Here it is:

 

 

Also available on all other major platforms.

 

Trust WHO?

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This is a long post, part 1 of 4 in a series, because I wanted to be thorough.  Big claims need big evidence.  You might want to pack your lunch.

“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” said Dr Tedros. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus. WHO is working closely with the government on measures to understand the virus and limit transmission. WHO will keep working side-by-side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  Source

When the WHO first made this announcement, with its bold and slightly baffling praise for China’s, erm, transparency, I was willing to give it a pass.

China had finally owned up to the crisis (once they couldn’t hide it any more), had notified the WHO, had released the DNA sequence of the virus, and was sharing infection data.  Sort of.  The WHO could be excused for worrying that China might clam up again, as it had done during the SARS crisis, so it was probably trying to offer some positive reinforcement for China’s baby steps towards being a responsible global citizen.  And anyway, as a UN agency, they have to be diplomatic.

But then things got weird.  Two days later, the same Director-General was saying this: Read More