Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Boot Camp

I am now participating in my third boot camp. Ok, so what is boot camp - essentially it is a regular group-based fitness regime. About two hundred people (at least in the Paramount Boot Camp, that I am involved in) turn up three times a week to different locales in Melbourne to complete a aerobic, anaerobic, and a team challenge. The times are Tuesday - 6.00am, Thursday 7.30pm, and Saturday 7.00 am (the tough one). In conjunction with this, there is some advice on what to eat when, and why. So why am I blogging about this - well I am just sitting at my desk warming up after a 6.00am start this morning with near-zero temperatures in Melbourne! And I thought it would be a good idea to jot down some of the 'mantras' of boot camp:
'If nothing changes, nothing changes'

'To achieve you must first attempt'

'The only easy day was yesterday'

'If not now, when?'
Ok, my feet now almost have some sensation returning; time to go to work ;)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Google Calendar

I know, I know another post on Google! I was demonstrated by a colleague of mine of the power of Google calendar and as always I am impressed. Ok, so what is good about it:
  • simple, easy-to-use interface and the ubiquitous Google-like drag and drop
  • ability to have multiple calendars (i.e. one for friend's birthdays, one for personal appointments, one for work, one for holidays etc.)
  • integration into Google maps
  • an exposable API, such that you can use other people's calendars (e.g. loading a FIFA World Cup fixture list!); I created a Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2006 Fixture list for all the Hawthorn supporters out there ;) - just search for 'Hawthorn Hawks' in the public search option for calendars
So yes the strategy to move 'office' like functions to the internet continues; so when is Google going to release its wiki/word processor?

PS: I lost my car key for 2 hours yesterday so couldn't collect my Macbook PRO - unbelieveable!
PPS: If anyone needs a gmail account to access the Google calendar function - just email me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Macbook PRO - its arrived!

Ok, just got the call; my Macbook Pro is here. V.excited - suddenly all social committments may be put on hold!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Must see movie ...

Ok, I am not the first, nor will be the last, but I thought I would join the blogosphere to support the upcoming movie - 'The Inconvenient Truth'. I had just read about the 'Climate Crisis' in last month's Wired and recently in the Age. This is a movie about the global environment and what humans are doing to the planet (let alone what is going to happen when China and India become industralised over the next 10-20 years!). It is presented from the eyes of Al Gore who I honestly don't know much about, but having read some background about him, I think he is truly inspirational.

What I am frustrated about is Australia's ambivalence to these issues, principally:
  • why do we not hear from the Greens (third strongest political party in Australia and supposedly biased to environmental issues)
  • why is Australia not part of Kyoto?
I have been impressed, however, with the speed that the nuclear energy argument has arrived on Australia's political scene, it is this (and hopefully many other) environmental debates that Australia should demand of its politicians. Rant over ;)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Following a stock broker or DIY investing

Ok, ok, I have been investing in the stock market for a couple of years now. Through this time, I have been assisted by a stock broker from Macquarie Bank; now there is a lot of conjecture as to the cost / value of using a stock broker over do-it-yourself (DIY) self-service share investing (e.g. e-Trade, Comsec). Ok so what are the costs?
  • 1.25% on every trade both buying and selling
Yes thats it! Note, there are no management fees, ongoing maintenance fees, or commission related fees if the investments outperform. So where is the value in having a stock broker?
  • Latest, greatest Macquarie Bank research (e.g. Daily Bulletin)
  • Offers to other financial products, and other types of investments
  • Comment from the stock broker in terms of market direction, good companies to invest in, investment strategies (e.g. dividend stripping)
  • Communication / partnership with the stock broker in terms of obtaining financial short-term, medium-term goals
  • Exclusive rights to Macquarie Bank led IPOs (indeed I just been offered a parcel of wotif.com, something for this weekend's blog)
  • Access to Macquarie Bank customer events (ok, not too many have been held, but the last one was hugely fun at NGV)
  • And lastly, having fun shouting 'buy, buy' on the phone while you are at work ;)
So I would definately advocate having a stock broker if you are going to invest in the stock market - it definately enriches the experience of investing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ouch - batten down the hatches - its going to be a rough day

Wow; woke up today to see the following world stock markets performance o/night:

FTSE -2.9%
DAX -3.4%
CAC 40 -3.2%

Ouch - maybe some of the shares I have been watching will finally become affordable. Its definately going to be an interesting May/June. And ... I hope this is only a correction ;)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

You can do it :)

I have a developing cold (i.e. sore throat) at the moment and it is a miserable rainy afternoon in Melbourne today, so I am staying in, keeping warm, and obviously writing too many posts! I just thought I would say that I have become interested in personal development/motivation over the last couple of months (probably because I have been assessing/re-assessing what the hell I am doing at the moment). I think I have been lacking some direction/goals, recently. This has significantly changed in the last 6 months (and definately will do so in the near-future!), here are some of the sources I have found for personal development/motivation:

(1) Family/Friends/Partners; the best advice anyone could tap into (indeed, I was recently termed a 'sounding board' by one of my friends); these people are your mentors, peers, and influences. Don't keep your ideas, hopes to yourself - share them with your friends so others can share in your experiences, adventures (e.g. a good friend just completed the 100km walk - this was a great achievement, but even more so because she had shared her prpearations, fears, and expectations with all her friends).

(2) Environment; I try and surround myself by people, activities, stories that are empowering; there are a lot of people which you can be inspired from. Books like 'Its Not About the Bike' - L.Armstrong (the cyclist) for the rewards of unbelieveable discipline, and No Opportunity Wasted - P.Keogh (the Amazing Race guy) for the rewards of travel , and lists (I now have a life list)! I like plans - I am a planner - plans bias one to look forward, lead to hope, goals, motivation, drive, and *potentially* acheivement. And if that ain't enough watch 'Touching the Void' - simply awe-inspiring.

(3) Personal; have goals, tell others, toss them about, and then go for it. 1 year ago I had significant knee surgery (all I could think at the time was that I wanted to attend my first boot camp as soon as I could walk again). I did it, and have now attended 3 boot camps in the last year. Sure my knee hurts, indeed there is not a day when I don't notice the reduced flexibility, the stiffness, etc. however, whenever I want to go faster all I think of is - there was a time that I thought I would never run again - so take this time that you have now and push through!

And now as a result of writing this blog - I am going to create my life list (what a bloody good idea) - if you are interested you can look here (remember it is a work in progress and I was getting hungry and needed some lunch).

David Gray - 'Life in Slow Motion'

Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to David Gray's concert (I was offered a free ticket) and I must admit that having owned and rated 'White Ladder' in my top albums that I enjoy listening to, I was unexpectantly looking forward to it. Well, it was v.good; Dave didn't say much, but the performance was v.enjoyable. It was also a good chance to listen to some of his other songs - and using Apple's iTunes I purchased Dave's 'Slow Motion' album this week. It is fantastic! excellent, intelligent lyrics (it mentions Elysium in one of the songs - cool), and v.good melodies.

Delays, and more delays ...

Well somewhat disappointed with Apple at the moment. Last week, I went to my local Apple reseller and to purchase a Macbook Pro 17' and was told that there are none in Australia!!?? So now, I have been put on a waiting list and it might not be until end of May until any stock arrives - annoying!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Environmental investing in Australia?

Ok, some people know that I am interested in ASX. A thought that has bubbling in the background for a while now is whether I want to start investing in the environment.

I have not always been actively interested in the environment, but like many others, I am starting to be aware that it really is time that individuals (prior to corporations, governments, etc.) take some responsibility for how we live and our environmental footprint (anyone interested in this may want to look at the May 2006 issue of Wired - it has some fantastic articles on the subject).

Anyway, I digress - so how do I invest in the environment in the ASX. Well, a v.good candidate which I heard about a 1-2 weeks ago is Babcock + Brown Environmental Investment (BEI). BEI has interests in a number of companies: Denco, Natural Fuels, Southern Oil Refining, Earth Power Technologies. So what do these companies do, well there is management of:

Bio-Ethanol Plant(s) - produces ethanol (E85 - ethanol 85%); ethanol can used as a fuel for automobiles (indeed in Brazil, 40% of fuel is provided by bio-ethanol); it is based on the principle of extracting ethanol from crops such as sugar, corn.

Bio-Diesel Plant(s) - produces diesel; based on the principle of extracting diesel from vegetable oils (e.g. soybeans) and animal fats (e.g. lard).

Waste-Energy Plant(s) - produces electricity; based on the principle of converting organic food waste to electricity/fertiliser (via bacteria - anaerobic digesters)

These plants are based in US, and Australia. In the long-term, this may be one alternative to investing in renewable energy.

The price of BEI is displayed below:

I have not purchased this yet, but definitely one to have on the watchlist.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Google again - this time, the translator - it ROCKS!

Ok, this weekend my mother who lives in Canberra emailed my relatives in Switzerland in High-German (carbon-copying me in the email); some of the transcript is below:

'Mark ist natuerlich gluecklich'
I having never studied Swiss-German before had no idea what was being said. So what did I do, well as always when confronted with a problem I turned to the Google - and voila babel fish produced. Google language tools were able to translate German-English and vice versa. Result I was able email my Swiss relatives with a full-German email (see below; indeed it even corrected my Mum's spelling errors!) ... now if only this was mobile ...

'Nat├╝rlich gl├╝cklich - ich mag den!'