The Star Chamber

December 6, 2022

Following the catastrophic financial crisis of 2008 that was caused by cheap credit and lax lending standards that fueled the housing bubble that could only burst. Banks suddenly found themselves holding trillions of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. The Great Recession that followed cost many their jobs, their life savings, and their homes. Somewhere in this narrative against the backdrop of this indescribable financial carnage. A group of post graduate students interning at the nearby aerospace facility in Rolls Royce gathered at McDonald’s in Derby UK. It was a wet muggy day when these budding scientist began to question the fundamental premise of money thru a new and revised assumption that was once considered heretical. One of these men scribbled on a paper napkin a equation that expressed the conception of a new form of currency known as money that today we call crypto. It was a strange formulation as it contained a cryptic reference to a Haiku about Samurai walking in the rain. This new currency that they had envisioned to eclipse old money was not created out of the evil seed of avarice or the self serving interest of perpetuating the apparatus of capitalism. It laid the prototypal blueprints of novus coptus – the new order. Only this time, power over who determines the actual value of this new currency will not be vested in man. For he is a flawed creature who can too easily succumb to the temptations of greed and self interest. Instead the purity of will of machines will be the vanguards that will guard against the greed of mankind thus creating a fairer and new improved economic utopia. That day the burgers and chips were soggy, but it didn’t matter much. As the men who sat on the table next to a life size figure of Ronald McDonald’s realised that what they would unleash into the world could only transform the idea of money itself by destroying the vestiges of old money.

Somewhere in this deep discussion over ‘what actually is money?’ The men found themselves in the no man’s land of hubris that led them to ask – what money should ideally be. It had only been one week after the great financial crash and they worked frantically to flesh out the bare outlines of this new hope. Somewhere between closing time and realising that they must have missed the last bus. They decided to walk. That was when one of them asked, what if this new money goes crazy and causes the same mayhem as real money? Another asked – Shouldn’t we build in a cut off switch that we could flip if the experiment goes crazy? At that moment the men who had till then ambled along aimlessly came to an abrupt halt. A eiree bluish hallow had descended on the square and in the far distance over the brow of the hills the first tendrils of light had began flaming the cold of darkness……… It was a new dawn.

People ask me why I write constantly abt the importance of maturity. intelligence without maturity can only be very dangerous. So is wealth without maturity, it can be destructive. Talent without maturity is even worse. As it can only lead to avarice. As for good looks without maturity, it can only lead to heartache. And you can say this about virtually every aspect of human endeavour…everything ranging from religion to bicycle maintenance, when it is not sensibly coupled with maturity, it will all go downhill.

It’s gambling. Even if its Bitcoin, its still gambling. That doesn’t mean gambling per se is bad, it just means its the opposite of investing and these two diametrically opposite concepts should NEVER be confused as one of the same reality. Investing is investing. Gambling is gambling. They’re different like heaven and earth. Our community has been very badly hit by the FTX fall out. There is alot of hurt and pain out there. This is one reason why I have always repeated this caution again and again and again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again and againagain and again and again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again and again etc etc……… Crypto will ALWAYS be gambling, thats the reason why fiat money exist stupid!

The 747’s built before 1984 all have a very weird array of alarm sounds along with a very intimidating male voice warning, it’s scary if you’re not used to it.

Every time something new and seemingly innovative makes alot of money in an impossibly short time. Otherwise ‘smart’ investors make really dumb decisions by rushing in, all because they invariably suffer from the fear of missing out complex and this psychosis (for lack of a better word) seems to be amplified considerably when they see rival investors and funds jumping on the bad wagon. The problem as I see it is like this – when these risky investments turn out to be duds. Then you know that all the talk about due diligence has to be unadulterated bullshit! BC if it was real due diligence where you have seriously smart folk going thru the numbers with a fine tooth comb. They would NEVER have made a decision to go in. The way I see it is like this. If the decision to invest in FTX was made without due diligence, then don’t insist that was the rationale for going in. Keep quiet. Or if you really have to disclose then just hang a big sign in red letters that say ‘Casino in session’. Because insisting the rationale for the investment was based on the outcome of the due diligence report when it wasn’t is nothing short of misrepresentation of a crucial fact. In the same way if I take my car in for a regularly quarterly service and there are 25 items on the ticker box that has been contracted to be checked off by a qualified mechanic. But let us assume this mechanic derelict supervisor just signed on the dotted line knowing full well that none of the work was actually done. Then in my book that’s willful negligence and possibly even fraud. I don’t wish to mince words here! There is a clear presence of deception here. Now if that really happened and one day I am driving on the PIE or AYE and suddenly a mechanical failure that could have been easily avoided had the checks been done. Then I have a right of claim on the garage BC they owe me a duty of care to be diligent and professional. So I think this example is extendable to the FTX case as well. Because when the term due diligence features as the basis for investing and it turns out to be a lousy call that makes a mockery of the DD report. Then these big investors have to bear a certain degree of culpability to the small investor for the same reason as the example of the wayward garage as the owe the small investor a duty of care to disclose honestly. Because the question you have to ask is this – would a small time investor like dumbo farmer me or some kid whose just investing in crypto as a hobbyist be unduly influenced to invest in FTX when he has been informed A, Y or Z whale investors have decided to go in after conducting a rigorous due diligence?

He asked me, why does it always seem effortless for you? I told him, you try too hard and when you hard sell that’s a big turn off. He asked is it wrong for me to put my best foot forward by grooming myself well and conveying to her that I am a good catch? I replied, real men don’t need to talk too much. They just go about their business of drawing out the man from the boy daily, weekly, monthly and yearly quietly with dedication and grace and if still she can’t see it, it simply means she can never make out a good thing. Not even if it stands right before her! BUT if you keep at it. A day will come when a real woman will be able to make out the real man in you and she will drawn in naturally because this is the way attraction works. He asked, how do you know these things? I asked of him, BC you know I am real. Otherwise why are we having this conversation?

This conversation took place sometime before covid. He called me up just then and told me he was getting hitched. I am happy for the real man.

If you fear…. U r not alone

November 28, 2022

Many of my readers imagine I am fearless. This not true! I am susceptible to fearing from everything to snakes and things not going to plan. However, I believe the way I regard the things, situations and people who I associate with fear is very different from most people n it is this aspect of how I deal with fear that comes across as fearless. There is no magic to what I do. I don’t even have a technique that requires me to penetrate my fear and to come out wiser from the other side. All I really do when fear threatens to overwhelm me, if you must know is remind myself that I am not the sum of my fears to paraphrase. I am not my Thoughts. They’re really just stuff that come n go thru my brain. This dynamic is NOT me! The indelible part that is me is the witness whose watching very quietly in a non judgemental attitude what’s going in and out of my brain. This is not a trick or life hack to deal with fear. It is very deep understanding of a way that I had to develop to live in the wild so many years all by myself.

The Dilemma of Modern Man

November 28, 2022

Modern Man is hollow. He suffers from emptiness and restlessness. This was what T.S.Eliot expounded in his poem The Wasteland abt the dilemma of modern man. Ancient man did not suffer from the brain fog of identity and gender crisis. This was because there was plenty of opportunities to sharpen and even define his sense of manhood. But since modern man lives in an epoch where warmaking is considered primitive and uncivilised and the opposite of progressive. There is no longer a need for modern man to prove or for that matter perpetuate his manhood. Instead modern man has been emasculated by the marketing manifesto that even considers it anathema for a man to insist on his manliness. Hence modern man is now so confused as to who he should be and there lies the seed of his perpetual emptiness and restlessness.

T. S Eliot did not expound this theory. It is I who see this disease in modern man.

Maturity & Being Alone

November 27, 2022

I don’t think it’s possible to talk abt maturity without mentioning how it’s so intricately intertwined with the idea of having the integrity to stand alone. It took me 10 years of living (I am slow) to figure out why the word integrity is so closely associated with standing alone. That’s because most ppl who choose to stand apart all alone, do so usually for selfish and contrived and nefarious reasons. They don’t stand alone for honest and noble reasons. Usually it is done to convey disapproval and to punish those who they have differences with or simply out of a narcissistic desire to stand out from the crowd. Only a mature soul can stand alone without malice, anger or for that a hidden agenda. As to do so requires integrity of the highest order.

The one question that I get regularly asked since FTX went into bankruptcy is this – how did I know FTX was fake? Let me fully disclose. I did NOT know it was a badly managed company. Infact I had absolutely no idea that FTX was even going to crash and burn as it did. Why should I? Especially against a backdrop of blue chip investors that FTX had managed to garner, Sequoia Capital, BlackRock, Tiger Global, SoftBank, Temasek and even the Ontario Teachers Pensions fund. I remember saying to myself – ‘Hey! You are just a dumbass farmer! do you mean to say, you are more financially clairvoyant than the due diligence team of these firms?’ So to be honest with you. I was seriously thinking abt using FTX as an exchange. But, I never got around to it and one reason for this was because I was busy obsessing about why SBF had such a lousy ranking in the online game league of legends. I had big difficulties understanding how a gamer who played this game for three years straight was still stuck in the mud in Bronze III…..to cut a long story short. I never got around to using FTX as an exchange. I think from this episode we can draw the lesson that big investment outfits owe the small investor a duty of care that they don’t inadvertently endorse or render kosher risky investments.

Because whether whale investment outfits realise it or not (they should). By virtue of their legacy, prestige and sheer size, they can often sway markets along with modulate market sentiments. Like Spiderman said, ‘with power comes responsibility.’ Alternatively just hang a big red disclaimer like ‘Danger! Folk who like to live dangerously juggling hand grenades here!’

Blame yourself. Because in life, if you didn’t confer power ontu others, they could NEVER have power over you! But in the case of FTX, many believed SBF was a genius. They were so mesmerised by his brilliance (mostly imagined) that they were prepared to be open minded abt everything concerning SBF, from his sloppy beach bum attire to his impossibly wide sweeping claims on how well FTX was doing. But if there is one compelling reason why those who lost $ on FTX should blame themselves and not SBF or any one else it is this, they were all first and foremost guilty of unmitigated greed. Had they been free of this one character flaw, all this could not have happened.

Most Malaysians irrespective of class, race and religion are genuinely happy that AI is the 10th PM of Malaysia. They are happy bc its been a long ardous odsessy for AI to finally get the PM seat and many believe he has been unlucky not to get it due to a thousand reasons. Malaysians by and large are hopeful. BUT and its a very big but, they are also cautiously optimistic and possibly guardedly hopeful that life in Malaysia will improve meaningfully. When one stands on the bridge of time. It is understandable why the average Malaysian has adopted this guarded attitude. In a sense, the rakyat (citizenry) is like a bride that has been stood up so many times at the altar that she doesn’t dare to harbor any hopes and aspirations of a better tomorrow any longer. BC all that does is bring the pain of shattered dreams. I understand. I understand this completely. My fear concerning AI is simply this, the collective expectation of the nation is simply too high, out of reach even and this means, there will always be a irreconcilable gap between yearning and fulfillment. So in a sense, AI has an impossible mission.

Long time no see

November 26, 2022

Analog cockpit. I guess you can only find them these days flying cargo and in boneyards where planes go to die……. Nice to c u again. 🙃

Silence & Maturity

November 25, 2022

A guaranteed sign of a mature mind is the lack of will to prove to others who you are by telling the whole world the story of your life……when you are completely comfortable in silence that by itself is louder than a freight train.

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‘It is needless to talk too much….people who talk alot if you observe all come across as insecure and unconvincing. What gives them away is they try too hard and most who they’re trying to convince can sense it.

Its the people who talk very little and mind their own business, who usually command the most respect, authority and attention.

So dont fall into the trap of trying to explain, justify or prove….it is a waste to direct so much of yourself in that worthless direction. Makes more sense to go inwards and invest in the self.

This is not to suggest for one moment you should be an anti social person. Rather it is the wisdom to know your priorities and to focus on only what you can truly change – yourself.

For me, speaking personally. I don’t ever trust someone who had it all easy in life. So when I come across people who have always had it their way in school and career, that always scares me and I am wary of that sort of person when it comes to managing himself and others. One reason for my biase has to do with my belief that suffering imparts wisdom. Because it forces one to areas that we would normally not go too. Painful zones such as having to deal with the terror of feeling abandoned and marooned in one head along with battling the desolation of loneliness. That could be why. If you examine the lives of effective leaders they all seem to have one thing in common. They have all been victims at some point in their lives and they have suffered their fair share of slings and arrows. Roosevelt had to deal with the ravages of polio that robbed him of the ability to walk and stand. Winston Churchill battled crippling depression all his life. As evidenced in his morose writings. De Gaulle, struggled with raising a mentally disabled child. Mandela had to deal with demons of decades of incarceration in Robbin Island. Martin Luther King constantly struggled to find meaning despite being afflicted with chronic bipolar syndrome that caused him to take his life 13 times! I could go on and on, but I think you could just as well do a better job of filling the blanks here by dredging such illustrations from your circle of family and friends. My point is. In every single case you will have no problem in discovering that a hard life where things come to one only after having paid the price once, twice and thrice is an indispensable education in effective leadership. In this regard Anwar is imminently qualified for the PM job. In my opinion, there is no one that even comes remotely close to Anwar when it comes having the requisite core competencies to be PM. But I want to be clear here. When one has suffered it is not always a bed of roses Deepak Chopra moment that only gives one character depth, nuance and contours to bring everlasting happiness to the oppressed and disaffected and disenfranchised. There is also the dark side of suffering as well and I want to be clear, this side has fangs and claws and it can rip a person into shreds, it is this aspect that is hard to scale and even predict….so suffering is a double edged sword.

I will Survive!

November 25, 2022

Conversation between a man and a papaya tree in Bugis.

Tree: What the fuck are you gawking at?

Man: Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.

Tree: What you mean? Don’t I have a right to sink roots any where I want?

Man: I didn’t mean it like you don’t have a right to grow…..

Tree: Oh, I get it. You’re wondering how I got so big without someone with a name tag chopping me down!

Man: Yeah.

Tree: If you must know. I try not to stick it too much 🙂

I have mixed feelings abt AI being the 10th PM of Malaysia. On one hand its a long awaited and fitting chapter that caps his personal odyssey to lead Malaysia. I am happy for him and his family. But when I ask myself – how much ground did he have to give away to secure the PM seat? Its a question that has all the power to disturb simply because this election has highlighted some serious issues that Anwar needs to deal with. The first is the Malaysian psyche has never been as polarised along religious, sectarian, racial and ideological lines as it is today. These are great divisions that cannot be easily bridged. The best one can hope for is some form of detent or agreement to disagree. The second is Anwar’s hold on power is at best tenuous and fragile. This means his mandate will always be challenged in and out of Parliament. The third is the opposition this time round isn’t the rag tag motley crew that it was in the last elections. This time round they seem to have established a respectable foothold in the rice belts and they are menacing. And finally the biggest question I have is abt Anwar himself. This may seem like the strangest concern, but it isn’t simply because I don’t believe these issues that I have raised can be resolved with a benevolent hand. Ideally that should be the ideal approach. But in practical terms, thats like trying to bring down a 3 ton elephant with a peashooter. What’s needed is the heavy stuff and a PM who can stomach doing what needs to be done……hence for the moment. I much prefer to remain cautiously hopeful abt AI ability to stay on.

Pattern matching in computer science is the checking of specific sequences of data of some pattern. Unlike pattern recognition, the match has to be exact in the case of pattern matching. And why is this observation so jugular to the tragic relationship between SBF and his dearly unfortunate investors. Because SBF ticked all the right boxes. His parents were the gold standard of sobriety. They were both Stanford law professors. SBF was a ivy leauger who read physics in MIT. After that he worked as a trader in the prestigious Penny Street Capital where he perfected crypto arbitrage into a science and this led him to give birth to Alameda Research. I think what differentiated SBF from most actors in the crypto world was his enthusiasm to engage regulators. He was not defensive or for that matter mad dog territorial and irrationally paranoid abt the whole idea of regulation like so many in the Crypto fraternity. Infact SBF saw the guiding hand of officialdom as a necessary precursor to the final evolution of the crypto sphere and this attitude commanded a very high level of competence trust in starched collared investment community. I think many investors saw SBF as a sort of pathfinder or partner who they could collaborate with to navigate the volatility of the crypto sphere which they themselves regarded as a sort of financial terra incognito. I don’t think many really understand how compelling this aspect of the attraction is simply because it has a strategic dimension. For once the high brow investment community seem to have one of their own in a perplexing growth sector that could not only speak their language, but he was also seemed to have the uncommon power to demystify the Crypto sphere to make an incredible amount of money in a very short period of time. I really dont think it was possible to say no to SBF. You see when the object of desire which is opportunity in this case is packaged in such a way where the fidelity of the pattern matched is 1 to 1, its virtually impossible to say No. And let me share with you something scarier, it’s impossible to say no even if SBF was a lousy fake either. Because by that stage, the mythology of SBF has overtaken his reality and since many who signed off on the cheques really only wanted to see what they wanted to see, it was impossible for them to say No! That’s the real tragedy of FTX.

Russians will go thru many iterations of death. Since they were removed from Swift. The most highly educated, mobile and cosmopolitan Russians have been relying on FTX to manage their finances. Germany’s ranking is a big surprise to me. BC there’s no compelling case for crypto. Both Turkey and India are understandable BC of strict currency controls. I would expect countries like Lebanon and possibly Israel to be in the top ten, but not so.

The delimma of Crypto

November 20, 2022

Yes. Of course. There is a risk of owning Crypto. But there’s also another risk that most investors don’t seem very interested to scale in and that is the risk of NOT owning Crypto.