Life is like a plant that lives on its rhizome…

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away – an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

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Fate Zero – Interesting Dialogue!

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Ryuunosuke: Maybe we had too much fun, so God punished us.

Gilles de Rais: I’ll tell you this, Ryuunosuke. God never punishes humans! He simply toys with them. I once committed greater atrocities and blasphemies than had ever been done on this Earth. But no matter how much I murdered and defiled, no divine punishment came! Next thing I knew, my quest for evil had been ignored for eight whole years. In the end it was not God who destroyed me, but the self-interest of humans just like me. The Church and the State convicted and executed me simply because they coveted my wealth and land! What brought an end to my evil deeds wasn’t judgment or anything like it. It was simply theft!

Ryuunosuke: But mister, God still exists, right?

Gilles de Rais: You are faithless and have never witnessed a miracle. Why would you think that?

Ryuunosuke: Because the world appears to be boring, but you just have to look to find all kinds of crazy stuff! I’ve always thought this. A world filled with so many wonderful things could never have come about by chance. Once you decide to enjoy it for real, you’ll find no better entertainment in this world! There’s got to be an entertainer out there who’s writing a saga about five billion people. If you wanted to describe somebody like that, God is the only thing you could call him!

Gilles de Rais: Then Ryuunosuke, do you think God loves humans?

Ryuunosuke: He’s head over heels! He couldn’t possibly write the saga of this world continuously and restlessly without love. I’m sure he has loads of fun writing it, enjoying his own work all the while. God loves human virtues like courage and hope, but he loves screams, blood, and despair just as much. If he didn’t, there’s no way fresh intestines could be so colourful! That’s why I’m sure the world is filled with God’s love!

Gilles de Rais: In an era where people no longer believe and the state has abandoned God’s will, I had no idea a faith as new and invigorating as yours could result! You have my admiration, Ryuunosuke, my Master! But wouldn’t my blasphemies simply be a farce according to your religious viewpoint?

Ryuunosuke: No. It takes the best entertainers to get smiles out of playing the villain, right? If you ask me, I bet God just loves playing along with your antics.

Gilles de Rais: (Laughing wildly) So you’re saying that both blasphemy and praise are forms of worship to you? You truly are the bearer of a deep and profound philosophy! A God who makes puppets of all men for sport and is just another clown himself! I see. Then his vicious ways make sense. Very well. Then we’ll have to stain the garden of God with the brilliant colours of despair and terror. We’ll have to show the director in heaven that he’s not the only one who knows what entertainment is!

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Shadow

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

“It was night in some unknown place, and I was making slow and painful headway against a mighty wind. Dense fog was flying along everywhere. I had my hands cupped around a tiny light which threatened to go out at any moment. Everything depended on my keeping this little light alive. Suddenly I had the feeling that something was coming up behind me. I looked back and saw a gigantic black figure following me. But at the same moment I was conscious, in spite of my terror, that I must keep my little light going through night and wind, regardless of all dangers. When I awoke I realized at once that the figure was… my own shadow on the swirling mists, brought into being by the little light I was carrying. I knew, too, that this little light was my consciousness, the only light I have. My own understanding is the sole treasure I possess, and the greatest. Though infinitely small and fragile in comparison with the powers of darkness, it is still a light, my only light.” – Carl Jung

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Where is your bliss station?

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

“Most of our action is economically or socially determined and does not come out of our life. I don’t know whether you’ve had the experience I’ve had, but as you get older, the claims of the environment upon you are so great that you hardly know where the hell you are, or what is it that you intended. You’re always doing something that is required of you, this minute, that minute, another minute. Where is your bliss station, you know? Try to find it. Get a phonograph and put on the records, the music that you really love. Even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects. The one you like. Or the book that you want to read. Get it done. Have a place in which to do it. There you will get the whole feeling of life.” – Joseph Campbell

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Seth Klarman – “I’m more worried about the world…than I have ever been in my career.”

Here’s an excerpt from an article of WSJ’s Jason Zweig. I’m currently reading his book Your Money and Your Brain, and I recommend it to anyone interested in investing.

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To measure Mr. Klarman’s importance as an investor, you need only see the value his rivals place upon his words. You could have earned at least a 20% average annual return since 1991—better than twice the performance of the market—merely by buying and holding Mr. Klarman’s book, “Margin of Safety”: Published that year at a cover price of $25, hard copies now fetch up to $2,400.

But the professorial Mr. Klarman speaks in public about as often as the Himalayan yeti. He made an exception last Tuesday, when I interviewed him in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 1,600 financial analysts at the CFA Institute annual meeting in Boston. He then made another exception, speaking with me over the phone later to clarify points that he feared had been misconstrued.

Mr. Klarman specializes in buying securities that nauseate other investors. As the credit crisis exploded, he put more than a third of his assets into high-yield bonds and mortgage-related securities. I asked him what he had meant, in a recent letter to his clients, when he compared the financial markets to a Hostess Twinkie. “There is no nutritional value,” he said. “There is nothing natural in the markets. Everything is being manipulated by the government.” He added, “I’m skeptical that the European bailout will work.”

Some members of the audience gasped audibly when Mr. Klarman said, “The government is now in the business of giving bad advice.” Later, he got more specific: “By holding interest rates at zero, the government is basically tricking the population into going long on just about every kind of security except cash, at the price of almost certainly not getting an adequate return for the risks they are running. People can’t stand earning 0% on their money, so the government is forcing everyone in the investing public to speculate.”

“We didn’t get the value out of this crisis that we should have,” Mr. Klarman told the audience. “For our parents or grandparents, it was awful to have had a Great Depression. But it was in some ways helpful to carry a Depression mentality throughout their later lives, because it meant they were thrifty with their money and prudent in their investment decisions.” He added: “All we got out of this crisis was a Really Bad Couple of Weeks mentality.”

You could have heard a pin drop as Mr. Klarman proclaimed, “I am more worried about the world, more broadly, than I ever have been in my career.” That’s because you can make good investing decisions and still end up with bad results if you reap your profits in currencies that do not hold their purchasing power, he explained.

“Will money be worth anything,” asked Mr. Klarman, “if governments keep intervening anytime there’s a crisis to prop things up?”

What is the proper trade according to Klarman?

To protect against that “tail risk,” said Mr. Klarman, Baupost is buying “way out-of-the-money puts on bonds”—options that have no value unless Treasury bonds plummet. “It’s cheap disaster insurance for five years out,” he said.

Later, I asked Mr. Klarman what he would suggest for smaller investors who share his worries.

“All the obvious hedges”—commodities and foreign currencies, for example—”are already extremely expensive,” he warned.

Especially gold. “Near its all-time high, it’s a very hard moment to recommend gold,” said Mr. Klarman.

Mr. Klarman pointed out that his own ideas “on bottom-up opportunities in undervalued securities are more likely to be accurate than my top-down views on what’s going to happen in the world at large.” In other words, while you might want to insure against a disaster scenario, you shouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

And, said Mr. Klarman, one of the best ways to protect against a decline in purchasing power is to buy whatever is “out of favor, loathed and despised.” So forget about gold or other trendy hedges. Instead, wait patiently for markets—European stocks, perhaps—to get so cheap that they turn most investors’ stomachs. Then you can pounce.

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Trusting Yourself, by Warren Buffett.

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

“I have this complicated procedure that I go through every morning, which is to look in the mirror and decide what I’m going to do. And I feel at that point, everybody’s had their say.”

– Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett on Common Stocks.

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

“We select our marketable equity securities in much the same way we would evaluate a business for acquisition in its entirety. We want the business to be (1) one that we can understand, (2) with favorable long-term prospects, (3) operated by honest and competent people, and (4) available at a very attractive price. We ordinarily make no attempt to buy equities for anticipated favorable stock price behavior in the short term.  In fact, if their business experience continues to satisfy us, we welcome lower market prices of stocks we own as an opportunity to acquire even more of a good thing at a better price.

Our experience has been that pro-rata portions of truly outstanding businesses sometimes sell in the securities markets at very large discounts from the prices they would command in negotiated transactions involving entire companies. Consequently, bargains in business ownership, which simply are not available directly through corporate acquisition, can be obtained indirectly through stock ownership.  When prices are appropriate, we are willing to take very large positions in selected companies, not with any intention of taking control and not foreseeing sell-out or merger, but with the expectation that excellent business results by corporations will translate over the long term into correspondingly excellent market value and dividend results for owners, minority as well as majority.”

– Warren Buffett, 1977 BRK Annual Report