June Financial Tips, part 2 – Italy

Il Duomo di Milano (the main cathedral)

This is the second part of the travel journal from my recent business trip to the UK and Italy.  The first part was posted earlier this month. Being a native Italian, Italy is such a huge topic for me that I get a peculiar type of writer’s block: there’s so much, almost too much to write about, so I literally don’t know where to start.  In the end, the easiest way was to approach it was in little bits and bites of observation, one at a time.  After all, that's a travel journal is about. Economics and Politics Now there’s a target-rich environment for ridicule.  As far back as I can remember, Italy’s governments have been a joke, collapsing and re-forming with depressing regularity.  Everyone seems to get a turn at playing … [Read more...]

Are You Worth As Much as a Plumber?

Avert Your Eyes!

When spending time in front of the computer, I have to make some calculations about how to best budget and divide my time amongst the menu of online activities: writing blog posts, posting comments on other PF blogs, spending time on forums, answering emails and Facebook messages, researching stocks and finance (mostly mining stocks), and just plain time-suck web surfing. I calculated that given our ROI over the last few  years actively managing our finances (and even despite recent setbacks in the commodity space), that the limited time spent on online on research is worth between $75 and $100 an hour.  When doing projects around the house or for the Mrs., I've been know to shamelessly propound this fact, if only to get out of doing … [Read more...]

Random Bits and Bobs (and Links)

Sharing tomatoes with hungry birds

I was going to post a random doodle image, but the printer/scanner cable is missing. I suspect that #1 son has stolen it again. The young lad has been doing a bit of programming on his new circuit board, and the HP printer cable seems to be just the right length and fit. In the Garden:   Sharing the Surplus Being mindful and learning permaculture ethics and principles, I’m happy to produce and share the surplus from my garden efforts. In the words of Bill Mollison, one of the early proponents and founders: The third component of the basic ‘care for the earth’ ethic is the contribution of surplus time, currency and energy to achieve the aims of earth and people care. This means that after we have taken care of our basic needs and … [Read more...]

Alternative Investments: Dirt

Soil Erosion in Linxia County, Xihe Township, China - source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve blogged extensively about the second house we bought last year, now named somewhat grandiosely as Terra Farms.  One of the reasons was to diversify our assets into land. From that perspective, productive land is and always has been a reasonably good investment.   If lucky enough to blessed with extraordinary foresight and be thinking in terms of location, location, location, one could buy some raw land near an expanding city, and in due course hit the proverbial jackpot, much like SingleMomRichMom’s Father did. Besides being a weekend getaway and a renovation, I’ve also been also looking at this little nine-acre patch with a little different eye. I've recently finished reading "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations", by … [Read more...]

A collection of Links on China

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Lots of China stuff in the news today:   From the Wall Street Journal: China's Economy Faces Three Contradictions China is undeniably an economic miracle. It has been doubling living standards every decade since it started opening up, a feat that took the U.S. about 30 years even in times of its fastest growth. But fissures are showing in China's economic foundations. I was part of a team a few years that evaluated the possibility of locating a manufacturing facility for my company. At the time, the official outlook on labor supply issues for the rich coastal areas, where most industrial development occurs, was that continued migration from the hinterlands would provide an endless supply of cheap labor for China's … [Read more...]

Career Tip Number 9 – Leadership and Delegating Well

Vaguely disturbing photo on communication from Wikimedia Commons - looks like person A is licking Person B's ear with a massive forked tongue

Continuing on with this blog's series on career advice for young folks just entering the workforce, from someone who has more than his share of gray hairs.  Other installments of this series can be found here and here. At some point, which may well occur early in a career, a young person's talents and hard work may be recognized with a promotion to a position of leadership. One of the key aspects of transitioning into leadership is letting go of the tactical tasks you used to do very well yourself, and moving into a more strategic role. Thinking up ways to change, measuring progress, systems analysis and re-design, all the good stuff that your own management thinks you can do, and wants you to do.  But you can't do any of that if … [Read more...]

Financial Tips – United Kingdom

Lord BP's statue on the Quay, with random unknown person walking into the camera frame (

Just got back from an 11-day business trip to the UK and Italy, and there’s no place like home.   Traveling to fun and exotic locations is just dandy when vacationing, but business travel has all the attraction of spending time away from home and loved ones coupled with the stress of cramming as many agenda items as possible into a tight schedule – to avoid making a return trip. Poole, in Dorset in the south of England, is a picturesque tourist slash former industrial town, with well-preserved museums and attractions. Poole and surrounding towns and hamlets have transitioned from an industrial and fishing past into one that’s largely aimed at the tourist and recreation industry with kitschy gift shops, restaurants, pubs, and … [Read more...]

Long Supply Chains and Business Ideas

Some years ago when we lived in Saudi Arabia, I was fortunate to get introduced to a young man who had a great little job.  Sam was an ethnic Indian, and his job was to be a representative to a custom men's tailor shop in Hong Kong, also of ethnic Indians.  Sam would come by our house by appointment, and sit down with fabric swatches and catalogs.  After taking measurements --- usually only once, more if I'd gained or lost since the last visit --- and then we'd order slacks, shirts and suits.  The order would be faxed in to the shop in Hong Kong, and a few weeks later the clothes would be arrive by DHL courier. The prices were not that cheap compared to off-the-rack stuff, but this were custom-tailored clothes that fit like they're … [Read more...]