Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Cash Register In Every Home


     Is there any greater Christmas wish for a retailer than to have a voice-controlled cash register in every home, lovingly sitting by the family hearth? Amazon has accomplished just that by leveraging the cloud-computing power of Alexa with the Echo Dot, a hockey-puck sized peripheral computer.

     The possibilities now for Amazon are virtually limitless with Alexa acting as a personal assistant for almost any consumer desire available to be shipped to your door within an hour in many metro locations, and instantaneously for digital music or movies.

     Content has now become as simple as a voice command; a user's Amazon Prime account includes nearly limitless digital movie and music choices with thousands being added daily. For commoditiy products from paper towels to water to laundry detergent the integration of Alexa with the Echo Dot and the Amazon Dash button can fulfill even the most basic need.

     Jeff Bezos has succeeded beyond the wildest sugar-plum dreams of any child by successfully marketing Alexa as a personal assistant available for the ridiculously low price of $40!  The evolving power of cloud-computing coupled with Amazon's distribution logistics arguably just ushered in the age of Artificial Intelligence with millions of Echo Dots installed in homes around the world.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)


Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

                                                              The Desolate Wilderness

     So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city, and therein quieted their spirits.

     When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as cold not come with them followed after them and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them ships, and to take their leads of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

     The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

     Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no house, or much less town, to repair unto to seek for succor; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

     Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? And what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

     If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

And the Fair Land

     Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

     This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

     And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater.  America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

     So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

     For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.

     His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.

     How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Of when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places--only to find those men as frail as any others.

     So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

     Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

     But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measures. For that reminder is everywhere--in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

     We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

     And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delfs-Haven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

BurgaBox


     Occasionally you run into an idea, a concept, an ethos that is so fundamentally right you just can't look away...I bring you fellow investors BurgaBox! BurgaBox is a Woburn, MA tech startup that delivers amazing cheeseburgers of varying size and construction to your front door. Many in this great country of ours have hoped for such an amazing development for years, because as the world well knows, America excels in convenience food sales. The real question is why it took so long after our second favorite food, pizza, could be had in virtually any zip code within 30 minutes?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Snapchat Spectacles



     A fine example for all you aspiring readers who want to Invest Like A Farmer of "scarcity value" (and most likely a bubble) is the launch and ravenous demand for Snapchat Spectacles. Some choice commentary by an arbitrage master who literally rented a helicopter to get 4 pairs: "I have no clue what these things do. I don't even have a Snapchat," commented John Reuter to the Wall Street Journal. Yet these $130 glasses were quickly flipped for over $1200 each.

     The mania in buying, especially prior to holidays for hot items with limited supply is a great niche economic field. Master of product launch exploit it to the fullest, creating scarcity by advertising products that were manufactured to run out with timed releases across multiple high-visibility channels. Two great books on this phenomenon are Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds and Tulipmania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Rise of the Creative Class


     Arguably one of the most meaningful socioeconomic books over the past decade is Richard Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class" For those who haven't had a chance yet to read it, read it. This book details the rise of intellectual creativity a la the Rennasance in the digital world across a spectrum of tech niches; from coding to 3D printing to design and even real estate.

     The vast majority of the world's population aren't landed aristocrats controlling huge swaths of land, but as Florida identifies, the creative class is leveraging their skills via technology, and especially the virtually limitless power of the cloud. A huge trend going forward of course is going to be voice/verbal commands, and Amazon.com's Echo Dot is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that creative wave.



     Frequent readers of this blog know that this author believes all wealth ultimately springs from the land, in one form or another (beauty of physical location, underlying minerals like Gold, or even clustering of talent.)  Along those lines, the demographic shift into "hipster" cities has concentrated that very creative ability now amongst multi-hubs which have become in their own rights extremely valuable physical locations for manufacturing cloud-based services and products. I see no end in sight for this trend, especially as it fosters efficiency and meritocracy.

     An interesting area of ongoing and future development will be the utility combining the power of both verbal and AI commands into increasingly "smart" machines that will derive significant advantages from just-in-time manufacturing, idle time swaps, and latent repairs. In essence, manufacturing facilities that have largely become redundant or obsolete could once again rise to compliment the creative class production model. Labeled the "internet-of-things," this mechanical evolution hopefully has a long and promising future.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Strong Dollar Makes For Great Arbitrage


     A strong US Dollar makes for great arbitrage opportunities, especially for those investors looking to pick up land ex-USA at a significant discount to just weeks ago. Consider, the Mexican Peso is now trading at 20 to 1 US Dollar. The South African Rand trades at nearly 15 to 1 and the Euro almost reached parity! For dollar holders, Latin America is particularly appealing to potential land purchases. Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize immediately come to mind. The American Dream for many may now be possible OUTSIDE the United States with a strong dollar in place it offers expats and residents alike the opportunity to leverage monetary advantage for the time being into cheaper physical holdings. Sign me up. 



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In Gold We Trust


     With the election of Donald Trump as President, the United States has voted to put in power a pro-growth, pro-infrastructure leader who has vowed to make significant structural improvements in America's roads, bridges, highways, byways, airports, tunnels, schools, hospitals, and walls...all of that takes money. Almost by definition, big spending booms in infrastructure correlate with inflation. From a gold buying perspective we are almost in a perfect storm; the U.S. Dollar has rocketed in value versus a global currency basket while gold has fallen in value nearly 10% since the election due to the "fear" trade dollars flowing into the stock market. Buyers of Gold in U.S. Dollars betting on big government spending on defense, healthcare, and most poignantly infrastructure now looks like an ideal time to add to your hard physical Gold holdings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Complete & Utter Repudiation


     The American voters have spoken, and they have completely and utterly repudiated the Obama and Clinton big government ideology of a nanny state infringing on personal rights, choices, and decisions. This is a victory for the Republic as a whole as history will soon begin to illustrate. In the coming weeks and months changes to the tax code, Supreme Court, and health care industry will have far-reaching and liberating effects for Americans of all walks and stages of life.

     From an investment standpoint, a Trump presidency offers the opportunity for large corporations to repatriate several trillion dollars back into the United States at a proposed flat tax rate, lowering of the corporate tax rate to 15%, lower of personal income tax rates for Middle Class Americans, restructuring trade deals, rebuilding the infrastructure of roads, bridges, and transportation hubs. In addition, both biotech and the defense industries stand to benefit as the free flow of capital returns to innovation. These are several of the many proposed economic improvements that the Trump ticket has focused on during his campagin. 

     The net effect to average Middle Class American should be an increase in real wages, job security, national security, opening of educational opportunities, and rebuilding of the core physical infrastructure and health care systems. Long live the Republic.

Potonomics


     Cannabis is a growth industry. The big winner in yesterday's election was pot. Today Gov. Jerry Brown awoke destined to become a drug lord bigger even than Pablo Escobar. If the trailing 5-year chart of Altria aka Phillip Morris USA is any indicator, marijuana will to become one of, if not the, largest recurring cash crops of all time in the United States.

     California has a strong track record of absconding with successful tech (Apple taking the Xerox mouse, Intel "borrowing" Digital Equipment Corp designers, Oracle perfecting IBM database software.) Nowhere else in the world has made tech theft a cottage industry better than the giant corporations in Cali...and the trend will continue with pot.

     After becoming legalized for recreational use most prominently in Colorado and Washington, look for the proverbial bloom in closely related "partners," like fertilizer companies, payment processors, accounting software, and legal services. And how about just pure product revenue alone? Think big, no even bigger.

     The Prop 64 ballot measure described to voters projected $1B in annual revenue, but the authors of this bill must have been getting high on their own supply. Lucid math figures indicate if Colorado is now tracking yearly at $3.2B, California will do somewhere north of $1B per month.

     For the record, this blogger vehemently opposed Prop 64 and (proudly) is considered the local neighborhood "Narc." From an economic standpoint, however, passage of Prop 64 should have several immediate effects; massive tax revenues that politicians will never want to relinquish and the reduction (elimination?) of drug cartel shipments of pot into the United States.

     As with the fall of Prohibition, a/the major source of revenue for organized crime ceases to be profitable and the state becames the uber-drug lord. The Kennedy's simply transitioned quite adroitly into politics after Old Joe's Canadian Whiskey running operation ceased to be profitable. Funny how dynasties are born.

     The combination of tech development and pot legalization will probably now vault California, in terms of GDP, into the Top 5 economies of the world by itself. This makes Gov. Jerry Brown second to the President in power (he who holds the gold...)

     The societal impacts of Prop 64 will be wide-reaching; driving under the influence, working under the influence, working under the influence, selling the minors, pay-to-play for growers, etc.

     These are a whole host of problems that will need to be addressed, funded, studied, legislated, and enforced. Maybe the DEA in California will become the Drug Enactment Agency?

     Luckily for big government, that $1B in monthly revenue will help fund some of the cost, because remember the the first line of this post. Cannabis is a growth industry.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Most Valuable Asset: Time


     Almost any investor who has been in the game long enough will instinctively tell you to a man that the most valuable asset they have (or had) is time. For those who wish to Invest Like A Farmer, time is the essential element which helps structure and ultimately facilitate your financial farm. Time allows investors to plan, prepare, and save. That is the great benefit of time; it allows you to build diverse holdings over a number of weeks, month, years, decades, lifetimes. A good friend of mine remarked that it takes 100 years for a family to build their personal brand. I agree. From a generational perspective it is essential to not only consider your role in that dynasty, but that of your parents, their parents, your children, and their children. A great harvest is often the result of a great farm built over time.

Amazon's Echo Dot


It's hard to imagine a future now with the release of Amazon's new Echo Dot that isn't in some way voice-controlled. The Echo Dot can turn on your house lights, close the garage, start the oven, cue the music, and yes faithful readers of this blog...trade stocks! Click on the picture above or the hyperlinked text to read the reviews on this device. Simply amazing. Undoubtedly on the Christmas list for many!

Business Adventures by John Brooks

"Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street"



Just cracked open Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's favorite business book: Business Adventures
Great intro and am already absorbed with the first story "The Fluctuation." Quick excerpt for a flavor of the humor and writing style: "Evidence that people are selling stocks at a time when they ought to be eating lunch is always regarded as a serious matter." Hahaha superb reading!

Yogo Sapphires


Pictured above is the Tiffany Iris, constructed primarily of Yogo Sapphires which are mined only in the Yogo Gulch, MT (USA) and boast the purest untreated sapphires in the world. I'd encourage readers of this blog to follow the Wiki link embedded and learn about these awesome stones. It is an interesting lesson for investors to consider: the value of these "worthless tailings" ultimately became worth far, far more than the actual gold that was being sought at the mine.