Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Got Paid!

Finally. It's two months worth of pay. I paid off the credit card bill which was around $A3,800. Now we have $A6,000 worth of borrowing capacity there. $A5,000 available on the Australian margin loan, and about $A4,000 in our Australian bank accounts. Of course there is more cash and borrowing capacity in our US accounts. We don't have an emergency fund as such. The goal now will be to build more borrowing capacity again. The money that is in the bank accounts that isn't spent in the next month will be allocated to investment and reducing the margin debt.

One of the things I want to do is take advantage of the Superannuation Co-contribution Scheme. Low income individuals (who get more than 10% of their income from employment or business) are eligible for a government contribution of up to $A1.50 per $A1 contributed from after-tax income to a superannuation (retirement) fund up to a limit of a $A1,500 government contribution. I should qualify for the full co-contribution I think as I'll only be employed for 4 months this tax year (which ends on 30th June).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Target Portfolio and Asset Class Performance: Australian Style

As promised this post looks at the performance of our target portfolio from the perspective of an Australian investor. As I did in a post in December I am representing foreign shares by the MSCI World Index converted into AUD and Australian shares by EWA converted into AUD. The other asset classes are as in the U.S. post but again converted to AUD. However, the managed futures fund and hedge fund index have the exchange rate risk hedged out as is standard for products of this type offered in Australia, but the foreign stocks, bonds, and real estate are not hedged. The target portfolio is modeled as:

EWA: 30%
MSCI: 17%
CREF Bond Fund: 10%
TIAA Real Estate Fund: 10%
Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index (hedged into AUD): 14%
Man AHL Managed Futures (hedged into AUD): 14%
AUD Cash: 5%

Again 20 cents is borrowed (in AUD) for each dollar invested.

The target portfolio performs pretty nicely - it doesn't manage to avoid losses in either bear market but it doesn't suffer a sharp drop in the current bear market, outperforming Australian shares since the market peak. The target portfolio has a mean monthly return of 0.78% and a Sharpe ratio of 0.69 vs. 0.65% and 0.28 for Australian shares. Again, a mix of hedge funds and managed futures would have done even better (ignoring tax implications).

March 2009 Final Performance Report

Now all the unlisted fund returns are in for March I can present the final performance numbers. Australian Large Cap stocks, mainly via the CFS Geared Share Fund, provided the largest returns in dollar and percentage terms.

Our foreign stocks appeared to perform poorly relative to the benchmark indices. But the numbers are confusing because there is an important distinction here between individual stocks and Australian based foreign stock funds. In the former, performance is computed as total return in USD, Euros, or Pounds. I then convert those numbers to Australian Dollars at the end of month exchange rate (and to USD too for the European investments). The effects of changes in the exchange rate on the value of these investments are then included in the foreign exchange item below the subtotal line in the table. The returns on these stocks should be compared with the MSCI in USD terms. By contrast an Australia based managed fund reports monthly returns in Australian Dollars and incorporates any effects of the exchange rate on asset values in that number. Therefore, those funds' returns need to be compared to the MSCI in AUD terms which only rose 0.39% for the month.

Real Estate had a negative impact on returns as did private equity and commodities (Man OM-IP fund).

The rise in the Australian Dollar over the month from 64 U.S. Cents to 69 U.S. cents caused exchange rate losses in AUD terms and exchange rate gains in USD terms. Either way we beat the market though time series estimates of our portfolio beta are around 1.2 so we should expect to outperform a rising market.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Asset Class Performance Through the GFC

This post follows up with the performance in the last 4 month of the asset classes I discussed in the context of endowment style portfolios in December. The chart shows a bunch of funds and indices and a simulation of my current "target portfolio" - the thick brown line - through the end of March. That's not the portfolio I have, which is heavier in stocks and lighter on managed futures but the one I am aspiring to in the next few years. The simulation uses:

47% MSCI World
14% Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index
14% Man AHL Managed Futures
10% TIAA Real Estate
10% TIAA Bond Market
5% AUD Cash

Then a 50% hedge into the Australian Dollar is applied and the portfolio is invested in with 120% of equity (i.e. borrowing an extra 20 cents for each dollar). Returns are in USD terms. The portfolio certainly does not escape the financial crisis and by following the path of the AUD you can see that the hedge into Australian Dollars exacerbates the bad performance.

The portfolio did well in the previous bear market but except for a portfolio constructed of bonds and managed futures this bear market has been too sharp for anything to do well.

The target portfolio has a beta of 0.86 and an annual alpha of 5.66% relative to the MSCI World Index. Not considering tax consequences, you could have constructed a smoother and better performing portfolio from managed futures, hedge funds, and real estate. Or really just managed futures and hedge funds...

Next up, I'll look at the problem from the Australian investor's viewpoint (i.e. in AUD)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You Don't Have to Pay Cash to Save by Paying Cash

A phenomenon we've encountered in Australia but didn't see in the United States is discount department stores that give a lower price if you pay in cash instead of either using a credit card or EFTPOS card. First we came across "The Good Guys" when we were first setting up our apartment in Australia. We didn't end up buying much there, because there cash price was usually no better than Harvey Norman's regular price. Then yesterday we encountered the same thing at "Clive Anthony's" a store I'd never heard of till one popped up recently at DFO in Fyshwick. We had finally decided to buy a Sony music system (like the one above except the wood bits are black). The marked price was $A228 but the guy on the floor said he could give it to us for $208 if we paid cash. We then started discussing with him how we'd have to go to the ATM and withdraw the money from our credit card anyway and I was starting to calculate the fees... I think when he saw a sale possibly slipping away he told us we could have it for $208 even if we paid by credit card!

Now the difference in price in this case can't account for credit card fees or even interest if there is some delay in them getting their money this way (and there are costs to the store in handling cash). And we got the price even when we imposed those costs on the store. So this has to be a method of price discrimination on the assumption that credit card buyers are less price sensitive than cash buyers.

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Take an Economics Test

U.S. High School "Advanced Placement Economics Test courtesy of the New York Times. I got 18/18 but for a couple of questions that was because I knew all the other answers had to be wrong rather than I knew the one I selected was right. It's all macro-economics questions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Transferring TD Ameritrade Account to Interactive Brokers

As there is so little in both my US brokerage accounts, I can't see much sense in keeping both open. Though Interactive Brokers charges monthly fees if you don't make sufficient trades their other services are all cheaper and they allow access to markets worldwide. So I've decided to close my Ameritrade account and transfer it into my IB account. I could do this transaction online on Interactive Brokers website.

Sold Some Platinum Capital Shares

I sold some shares in Platinum Capital (PMC.AX) to bring my allocation to the fund back under 5% of net assets and the gross asset allocation to hedge funds back to about 15%. Also the market has risen a lot very fast and it feels good to sell something. I now have $A5,000 of available buying power on my Australian margin loan which feels good too, after all that time in the buffer or getting margin calls.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monthly Automatic Saving

The table shows our total automatic saving on a monthly basis. Unisuper and PSS(AP) are superannuation funds - the Australian equivalent of US 401k's and 403b's. The employer contributions are 17% and 15.4% of stated wages for Moom and Snork Maiden respectively (The amounts shown are after deducting the 15% contributions tax). In Moom's case the employee contribution of 7% is required, in Snork Maiden's case it is voluntary. We also each have standing orders to put money into accounts at Colonial First State - an Australian mutual fund provider.

Our total joint pre-tax salary including the employer retirement contributions is now $A155,173 or $US111,724. Automatic saving is, therefore, 25.54% of total pre-tax income.

In 2005-06 our income would have put us just on the edge of the top 10% of households. We're clearly in the top 20% but not top 10% currently.

BTW when Moom last worked in Australia in 2001 his salary was $A60,562 and now it is $A61,831. That's not adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hedge Fund Returns for March 2009

Credit Suisse/Tremont have lowered their estimate of hedge fund returns for March to 0.68%. HFRX have not changed their estimate from -0.03%. But the HFRI index is reporting a 1.84% gain for March and the numbers are better than Credit Suisse/Tremont in most fund styles. HFRI is equal weighted while Credit Suisse/Tremont is capitalization weighted. Fixed income and long/short equity did well and short bias (not surprising) and managed futures did poorly.

Investment Choice

In this final post in this series I'm going to look at the investment choice in my super fund. You can either choose a preset mix of asset classes or make your own choice from a short menu. The premixed options have slightly higher percentage management fees but choosing the a la carte option incurs an extra $60 fee per year. I suppose the extra percentage fee is either for rebalancing or for access to the alternative asset class that is not included in the menu. And the property component is a mix of direct property investments and REITS while the a la carte option is REITS only. The "Growth" portfolio costs 0.57% vs. 0.37% for "Australian Shares" and 0.33% for "International Shares".

These are the returns of the different pre-mixed options over the last 5 financial years, the current financial year till the end of December and the current quarter.

Over 5 years till June 2008 the High Growth portfolio has the highest return. Over 7 years though (not shown) the Growth Portfolio had slightly higher returns (7.14%, after tax of course).

The Growth portfolio is invested 32.5% in Australian Shares, 30% in International Shares, 15% in Fixed Interest, 12.5% in Alternative Investments, and 10% in Property. In other words it is a 60/40 portfolio with a diversified 40 component. The High Growth portfolio is invested 40% in Australian Shares, 32.5% in International Shares, 17.5% in Alternative Investments, and 10% in Property. The Balanced portfolio is 30% Fixed Interest, 27.5% Australian Shares, 25% International Shares, 10% Property, and 7.5% Alternatives.

My current target is 28% Australian Shares, 14% International Shares, 10% Bonds, 9% Property, 33% Alternatives, and 6% Cash and Other Assets. But it turns out that Unisuper's alternatives are infrastructure (which I classify as real estate) and private equity. And, in fact, all current alternative investments are infrastructure or timber plantations.

It turns out that the Growth Portfolio is nearest to my target allocation, though it is still further from my target than our current portfolio is. Snork Maiden's superannuation is closer to the target than the current portfolio. Compared to other portfolios I track it is the following "distance" from:

Moom 28%
Moominmama 47%
PSS(AP) 28%
Yale 47%
Harvard 36%
Princeton 51%
Average US Endowment 39%
The Future Fund 28%

Not surprisingly, it's most similar to other Australian funds. It is also a good diversifier relative to Moominmama. It's not possible to get closer to my target using choices from the a la carte menu. So the choice is made.

Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution: Analysis

I've run a few different scenarios to work out whether I should go for the defined benefit or defined contribution option.

Scenario 1: Work 1 Year at an Australian University

This is the simplest scenario as the only variable is future rates of return in the defined contribution scheme. I don't need to project my future salary. I assume that the tax on superannuation earnings averages 7.5% (15% on general income, 10% on capital gains, and zero on fully franked dividends). All numbers are in 2009 Australian Dollars. I don't worry about projecting inflation. I am currently 44 years old.

The results of the analysis are also very clear cut. I and my employer would contribute a total after tax amount of $13,262 this year.

Under the defined benefit scheme I would receive $13,603 if I retired at age 60 (the earliest age I could access the benefits) and $14,221 if I retired at 65 or older. Clearly this rate of return is very low. A 1% real rate of return gives a lump sum of $15,450 at age 60 and $16,181 at age 65 in the defined contribution scheme. A 5% real rate of return gives $28,460 at age 60.

Selecting this option only makes sense in this scenario if you are extremely averse to market risk. Unless you expect hyperinflation and negative real interest rates in the future it will make more sense to invest in the cash option in the defined contribution scheme.

Scenario 2: Work Till Age 60 at Current Salary

Under this scenario total contributions are $225k and the age 60 defined benefit is $231k. Again, a 1% real rate of return beats the defined benefit.

Scenario 3: Smooth Rise in Salary to Full Professor (E1) at age 60

An E1 Professor currently earns $133,901. This scenario is not clear cut. The defined benefit is $505k if taken at age 65 but actually quitting at 60. A 3% real rate of return gives $508k. Continuing to work at that salary till age 65 favors the defined benefit a little bit more.

Scenario 4: Switch to Full Time Next Year and Then Smooth Rise to E1

Now the age 65 defined benefit (working till 60) is $513k and a 2% rate of return gives $516k.

Scenario 5: Switch to Full Time Next Year and Fast Promotion to E1

I assume I rise one salary notch every two years. I become a full professor in ten years. Defined Benefit is $523k at age 65 and the 2% rate of return yields $535k.

As you can see, the earlier promotion comes or if promotion doesn't come at all the lower the require rate of return in the defined contribution scheme. I reckon scenarios 1 and 5 are most likely. I'd assign them a 40% probability each and the other 3 scenarios (20/3)% each. The expected value of the defined benefit is then $299k of a 1% real rate of return defined contribution it is $273k, at a 2% real rate of return $309k , at a 3% rate of return $350k.

Using expected value assumes I am risk neutral. If I am averse to career risk then I should put a heavier weight on Scenarios 1 and 2 than on the more positive career scenarios. Those scenarios have lower required investment rates of return.

Given this low required rate of return and the advantage of portability I am going to choose the defined contribution scheme.

Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution

The major decision I need to make in response to receiving my job contract is which type of superannuation (retirement) scheme to join. Yes, we have a choice between defined benefit and defined contribution (or accumulation in the Australian jargon). Defined benefit is mainly based on your average salary in the last three years that you work for a university that is a member of the Unisuper fund (indexed for inflation) and the number of years that you contribute to the fund. So here the main risk is career risk. This option performs best for someone who will work their whole career at Australian Universities and get promoted to professor or dean right at the end of their career. In defined contribution you have both a career and a market risk but much more of a market risk. An important benefit of the defined contribution is that you can rollover your benefit into another superannuation fund - i.e. it is portable - while the defined benefit is not.

When I previously worked at an Australian university we initially had no choice and were all in a defined benefit scheme. Then when we were given the choice of switching to defined contribution I did it immediately as I didn't expect to stay in the Australian university system in the long-term. After I left the university I rolled my super into Colonial First State. That was all going well until some unfortunate investment decisions last year.

Given my great career uncertainty at this point it seems obvious to go for the defined contribution scheme. But I will do a proper analysis and report back with the results.

The Unisuper scheme has, on top of a massive 17% employer contribution, a required 7% contribution from the employee's nominal salary. To balance things out, and given our higher income now, I will start 7% "salary sacrificing" (pre-tax employee contribution) for Snork Maiden too. Her employer contributes 15.4%. As her salary is higher, it seems fair to me to go for the equal percentage salary sacrifices.

BTW I'll see no gain from salary sacrificing this tax year as my marginal tax rate is 15% which is the same as the superannuation contributions tax.*

* In Australia retirement contributions are usually taxed at 15% going into the fund. You can choose to make employee contributions pre- or post-tax. Post-tax ones don't attract the contributions tax but obviously you pay your regular income tax on them. If your marginal tax rate is above 15% (as most people's is) then it seems like a no-brainer to go for the pre-tax contribution known as "salary sacrifice".

Australians' Loss of Wealth

According to an article in the Australia the Treasury Department says that the average wealth of Australians fell from $A249,000 in 2007 to $A225,000 at the end of 2008. This is described as unprecedented. Well, I can't find any information on Treasury's rather uninformative and unattractive website about this. A Google search reveals that the data is included in the "Modeller's Database" released today by Australian Bureau of Statistics. It appears that the numbers given by the newspaper are "private sector wealth" averaged over Australians of all ages. So I downloaded the population figures from ABS too and came up with some charts. First up is wealth per capita in December 2008 dollars (GDP Implicit Price Deflator):

In real terms, Australians' wealth is at the same level as in late 2003.

While doing the calculations I noticed that from when we arrived in Australia in September 2007 till the end of December prices rose 9.1%. Snork Maiden's salary rose 8.9%. Some of that salary increase was supposedly due to a rise in the pay scale. But we are just keeping up with inflation.

The next chart shows that we were near average wealth levels for Australia in late 2007 but since then have dropped dramatically below the average:

These numbers are not adjusted to inflation. The Moominvalley variable is our net worth divided by two.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I finally got my contract today. Last night on Snork Maiden's insistence I sent another e-mail to human resources and my supervisor immediately also sent one. Today the guy sent me an e-mail at 3:17pm that it was ready and I went downstairs from my office and picked everything up. I'll be busy this evening going through the details and filling in the forms but the key details are:

Official worktime is 65% of full-time

Nominal salary is $A95,126

Employer superannuation (retirement contribution) is 17% on top of that or $A16,171 (the minimum required in Australia is 9%).

So actual salary is $A61,831 and superannuation of $A10,551.

That's about $A10,000 a year less than Snork Maiden earns in a full-time position.

Rather ironically, after taking almost 3 months to come up with this contract, they give me till Friday to complete all the paperwork and return it to them!


Follow up on the conference situation - they didn't agree to swap my papers. I expect I'll end up withdrawing both papers. It's quite a lot of money relative to my earnings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


My paper was accepted for the Venice meeting. But as I mentioned, I can't use project funding for the trip. Registration would be E450 and the hotel E230. Flying on Ryanair from London would be just £10. The train from Brighton to Stansted airport would cost much more than that! So I estimate a total Australian Dollar cost of about $A1,300. My marginal tax rate is 16.5% so after tax we're looking at about $A1,100. Originally, when I submitted to the conference I didn't know whether Snork Maiden would get accepted for the course in England. But now she can't come with me to Venice and I was there before anyway (1998). So I expect I'm going to have to withdraw my paper. I'll state the reason of course, just in case they have some funds to help out... The Amsterdam meeting is a similar cost and the same story pretty much if they don't agree to swap my papers.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Port Douglas

Last night, Snork Maiden and I booked a trip to Port Douglas (about one hour's drive north of Cairns in Northern Queensland) for us and the Snorkparents. The thing the Snorkparents most wanted to see in Australia was the Great Barrier Reef so it's worth spending quite big on doing this. Snorkmama has actually been there before but she wanted to show it to Snorkpapa. We're flying on Virgin Blue (which was the lowest fare we could find on Webjets - but we bought the tickets on Virgin's own site to avoid Webjet's fees) leaving Canberra at 6:30am in the morning and flying via Brisbane. Return times are much more flexible for the lowest fare.

We started looking at Cairns. There are really a lot of great accomodation options there in both hotels and apartments. Snorkmama, though, had expressed a desire to stay in a small town and Moom had recently been to Cairns. So we then looked at Port Douglas and settled on this apartment complex:

which is close to the centre of town, and the beach, has a decent swimming pool, looks nice, and is a reasonable price. We used,, and Google Earth to make our decision. There are cheaper choices, but they are either not as nice or further from town or the beach.

Snork Maiden's next task is to explore whether renting a car makes sense. It might be cheaper than paying for all four of us to travel from the Cairns airport to Port Douglas and perhaps we can then construct our own rainforest tour rather than paying for a trip. There is no need for a car if you just want to hang out in town and the beach and go on a trip to the reef. Moom will look at tour options - does it make sense to buy/book upfront or wait till we get there.

Oh, and the money for the trip came from the money the Snorkparents gave us before we married and when we were in China.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Answer to My Question:

The answer to my question: "Can I use project funds to go to Europe" is "No". So I just wrote to the conference organizers and told them I can't come unless they swap my papers over and accept the one they previously rejected which has the funding attached to it. Don't know what the chances are but can't hurt to try. The other options are:

2. My supervisor sugggested to find another conference to present at. But I think it is too late for that, but I'll have a look.

3. A colleague elsewhere in Europe is interested in funding a visit by me. We were looking at next year, but maybe...

4. Pay my own way to Europe.

5. Don't go.

I think that's it. Any ideas?

Early Hedge Fund Returns for March 2009

With 55% of funds reporting Credit Suisse/Tremont estimate that hedge funds gained 0.86% on average in March. It's better than HFR's estimate but not much compared to equity markets. But that's fine, hedge funds are continuing the trend of again not being correlated to equity markets, which is a sign the global financial crisis might be abating.

Taleb on Rebuilding Capitalism

A Black Swan in Canberra

Nicholas Taleb has an article in the Financial Times about how he thinks the capitalist system needs to be changed in the wake of the global financial crisis. Roger Nusbaum made some comments on the piece. Taleb's comments are all about making the system more resilient to shocks and some of them make sense in that regard. However, his point that people shouldn't depend on financial assets for their retirement "which they don't control" but instead on "their businesses" that "they control" is problematic. If you've read this blog you'll know that I am all for people being entrepreneurial but on the other hand not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. And risk is very concentrated in most small businesses. While the owner controls management decisions they have no control over the external environment. And though an economy of many small businesses might be more resilient in the face of shocks than one with just a few large ones this isn't true of those businesses themselves. This is why small businesses are usually sold for lower multiples than large businesses. Of course there are some small businesses which are pretty solid like a medical practice, though they still have their risks. But most retail and manufacturing enterprises are at great risk from competition as well as general economic conditions. Farms are at risk from the weather and market prices.

And anyway what is the retiree supposed to do when they "retire"? Sell the business and put the money in financial assets? I guess we might consider land to be a non-financial asset, but it's not risk free either. In pre-industrial economies people could retire by renting their land out to a tenant farmer or relying on their children to feed them.

Realistically, retirement income can only be provided for most people either from financial assets of some sort or from the government taxing productive people and enterprises to pay the retirees. Not everyone has children or could depend on them to look after them. Relying on an employer to pay you a retirement income would be even more risky unless the firm invests in financial assets.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

March 2009 Moominvalley Report

We gained this month and so did the markets and we beat the market again. The following is based on the available data as a couple of funds won't report till near the end of the month. As usual everything is in US Dollars unless otherwise stated. I'll continue with the less formal format I adopted last month.

The MSCI World Index rose 8.29% in USD terms and the SPX rose 8.76%. We gained 11.33% in USD terms (3.22% in AUD terms). Performance was strongest in Australian stocks (9.07%) and the Australian Dollar gained. Leverage also helped for a change. Alpha measured against the USD MSCI rose to 4%.

We spent $3052 which is a bit below recent levels. The main mitigating factor is that according to Redbook the value of our car rose which I treat as negative consumption. Snork Maiden was surprised though as with her parents here we expected we would have spent much more than normal.

As you can see from these accounts our retirement accounts did much better than non-retirement investments this month. Net worth reached $202k ($A292k). Asset allocation moved away from our target as Australian stocks gained strongly and the shares of everything else in our portfolio fell:

The craziness of the financial crisis is evident in this chart of monthly returns:

As mentioned above, performance so far this calendar year has been better than the market even when adjusted for leverage in fact:

Points above the regression line are market beating on a risk adjusted basis. The slope of the line is "beta" in this sample.

Initial Hedge Fund Performance for March

The HFRX index is showing a 0.03% decline for March while stock indices rose more than 8% globally for the month. But a lot of the component indices seem to be unavailable so far and HFRX is based on a small sample of hedge funds. So the picture could look different later in the month when more hedge fund performance figures are in.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Moom Returns Breakdown for Feburary 2009

The returns for each asset class are also net of any movements in currencies. Losses have been adjusted up a bit since the close of the month due to hedge fund and commodities returns being poorer than expected.

Snork Maiden Returns March 2009

Snork Maiden finally saw a gain in her non-retirement investments this month after six losing months in a row. The gain was only $A332 or 3.8% but it's better than nothing I guess. Her super account gained $A412 pre-tax (there was a gain last in December). That's 4.1%. These are returns in Australian Dollar terms of course. The MSCI World Index only gained 0.4% in March in Australian Dollar terms.

Can I Use Project Funds to Go to Europe?

My paper about my funded research project was rejected by one of the two conference organizers in Europe I submitted papers to. They accepted a second paper on a different topic. I still need to hear from the organizers of the conference in Venezia but that paper is on the second topic too. So the question is whether I can use my research funds to go to Europe to present on a different topic. Of course I can talk to people there about the research project but it will be very much a general professional development thing. Snork Maiden had both her papers accepted, but she's going to the course in England during that time. I could present one of her papers but unless she registers we probably won't get a presentation slot.

AEP Announces Program To Maximise Shareholder Value

From the press release:


• $60 million pro-rata return of capital proposed
• Continuation of business model for existing investments
• Suspension of new investment activity for the time being
• Shareholder vote in two years to determine future direction of the Company depending on
share price performance

AEP is a private equity company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The stock has been trading at less than 50% of net asset value for a while now. So it is good that they are looking to try to boost the share price, which indeed did rise on Friday following the announcement. It would be a shame though if this opportunity for retail investors to participate in private equity was wound up in the end.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rationale for Joining LinkedIn

This guy has almost the same rationale as I did for joining LinkedIn - getting more visibility for your own website (and yourself). The same is true of RePEc in economics. If you are not on that site, to some extent you don't exist in economics... Increasingly people will use these sites as well as the traditional search engines to look for expertise. And RePEc and LinkedIn pages tend to come in high in Google Searches.

Sandisk Cruzer 16GB

I got the 16GB version of the Sandisk Cruzer USB Flash Drive in JB Hi Fi for $A75. The local Apple reseller only had one rather ugly small LaCie drive available. Dick Smith had plenty of 2 and 4GB drives but only one type of 8GB drive and no 16GB drives. I only recently realized that JB Hi Fi also sold general electronic goods... The name of the store is not that descriptive.

I followed the instructions on Sandisk's website for removing the included U3 software (which is useless on a Mac) and I reformatted the drive as a Mac drive. My e-mail often shows a very noticeable "latency", but so far it is not too annoying...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Moominmama in March

The table shows Moominmama's performance in March. The MSCI World Index gained 8.29% and the S&P 500 8.76% (total return). But Moominmama's allocation to equities is pretty low (24%) so she only gained 2.80%.

Flash Drives and Trees

I just got an e-mail about a new social media things called The organizers state:

" was founded by Richard Price and a team of people from Stanford and Cambridge University. The aim is for the site to list every academic in the world, together with their university and department affiliation."

But like LinkedIn, I'm not yet sure whether it is really much use for anything else but being seen to be there. From a quick look around, it's overwhelmingly graduate students who are members despite the claim that: "Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman and Steven Pinker have all added their names to's tree recently, and so have 70% of the Nobel Prize winners for 2008."

I'm settling into my office - all my books and stuff are now there and my computer is set up and I have an appointment scheduled for today to check my ergonomics.

I'm trying to decide on the best system to always have the most up to date version of my data (i.e. all my computer files excluding applications etc.) with me whether I'm working at the University or at home. In the past I've used an external hard drive with all the data on it, which I've then plugged into my home or office computer. I had the applications residing on the computers and used the computers as backup for the data (where usually an external drive is considered the backup). The only problem is the long cable to the drive is awkward when using a laptop and gets easily disconnected. I know that there are networking solutions like Apple's MobileMe but I can see where that will very quickly exceed my internet download allocation at home or I'll still need to use the hard drive to make backups. So the solution I'm coming to is getting a 16GB USB flash drive instead. It's big enough for all my data. I have a 2GB one at the moment Kingston Data Traveller but it is very slow when copying lots of small files as some users note. And too small for even my e-mail database. From what I read there is no reason why these things should be slower than hard drives. Maybe the next one I get will be faster?