Monday, May 29, 2006

Screwing with the numbers

Some people make a living out of bullshit. Meet Kenneth Lay, recently convicted in all counts of fraud charges against him in the Enron collapse.

Here's a rant. The Media and statistics.
I get pissed off when the media misquote statistics to portray a completely different intent than the numbers show.

It's easy to do - ask yourself which burger you'll eat:
1. Hamburger - contains an almost whopping 20% fat....or....
2. Hamburger - over 80% fat free to say "Hello" to your heart.

I know that is simplistic, but one does sound a whole lot better....hell, OK, I'll eat both.

Anyway, I was having a debate today with a friend about whether the NZ property market is going up, down or flat right now. The last 3 years it's been cracking 15%-18% capital gain on average each year. What that equates to is 3 years ago a 200k house x 1.18 x 1.18 x 1.18 = 328k now. It's amazing what compounding capital gain can do in a short time.
The problem is, 100s of years of history has shown us that the market is cyclical and at some point it will correct to align with the average long term 7% per annum capital gain. Those people that have entered the market within the last five years for the first time (i.e. first home buyers) cannot believe their luck and how easy it is, and why the heck they didn't do it earlier.
However those that have been in the market a bit longer can remember the days in the early 80s of 20% mortgages and years of flat or declining house values.
When I bought my first house I was 23, the mortgage rates were 12.5%, and the market was flat for about 5 years after I bought it. Hardly a crisis at the time, but even the thought of those conditions now send some people into writhing heart attacks on the floor - they just don't believe it's possible.
Consequently, I believe in the cycle, and I reckon 15-18% capital gains are not sustainable for much longer and will ultimately get many people in a great deal of financial trouble when they correct soon.

Anyway, during this debate today, we referred to an article in today's NZ paper,2106,3683844a13,00.html

Many "hardcore" property investors believe now is a good time to buy investment property.

The finding comes from a survey by Kiwi Property Investor magazine and BankDirect - a member of the ASB Group - to try to find out what property investors are thinking and doing.
The 689 investors responding to the survey were divided into hardcore property investors - those with five or more properties now or with ambitions to have that many - and the rest.
Of the 203 hardcore investors, a net 30 per cent thought now was a good time to buy. But the rest leaned slightly the other way, with a net of (minus) -6 per cent thinking now was a good time.
ASB chief economist Anthony Byett said the bullish mood among the hardcore investors may be driven by perceived opportunities in a slowing market, or a confidence in their own strategies.

"Whatever their reason, these hardcore property investors are in the mood to invest - over two-thirds stated intentions to buy within the next 12 months."
BankDirect head Jim Anderson said there was an appeal to buying on price dips, and buying houses in the flatter stage of the cycle did work.
The key was to have a strategy, including a clear vision of cashflows under alternative scenarios.

Overall, 49 per cent of those taking part in the survey felt house prices would neither rise nor fall in the next 12 months. Of the remainder, a net 7 per cent thought prices would rise.

Now, if you take a closer look at that article, it is pretty misleading - especially the headline. What does "Many" mean? Does it mean most? Nope. The majority? Nadda. A good proportion? No. What "Many" means is "more than a few", so out of 600 people, "Many" can actually be, well, the minority.

This is what annoys me. Even reading the article it's easy to believe the complete opposite to the truth as stated by the numbers. I am sure this happens all the time, it's just this time it's so blatant I actually noticed.
What the article should say is this (based on their own facts):

"70% of a group of hardcore property investors believe that now is NOT a good time to buy property, according to a recent survey carried out by Kiwi Property Investment Magazine and Bank Direct.
The majority of investors surveyed believe that property value will neither rise or fall over the next 12 months, and of those that believe prices will actually move, and incredible 93% believe prices will decline"

I reckon there should be a law against this sort of thing. I mean, if you're not going to represent the facts then it's blatant bullshit to mislead in such a manner.

I like conspiracy theories. It must be the government.
Who again carried out the survey? Oh yeah an investor magazine and a bank, both organisations make the most cash when investors buy property. I guess they can't just hide the results now can they - they've gotta dress them up a little.

Mutton into Lamb or something like that.

Wiki article on Kenneth Lay and Enron

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Make a Dog Catching Pole

I have made few of these for mainly because they are not readily available in Taiwan, but also, the commercial poles in the US run towards $100+ USD. The pole shown here costs approx $200nt (about $6-7USD) and half an hour or so to make. This pole is not as good as a commercial pole, but is ideal for voluntary organizations or for people who just need to use one occasionally.

The most difficult part to find is plastic coated cable. Dogs will bite the loop, so plastic coax or similar is not strong enough. Some alternatives for sourcing the cable are cable based plastic covered clothes line, and long bicycle cable locks.

I was recently in Canada on business and found some 3/16” plastic coated aircraft cable at a Home Depot for 36 cents CND a foot.

What you need: (prices quoted in Taiwan Dollars. 30nt = 1 USD)

  • 1 standard extendable mop/broom utility pole ($85nt)
  • 10ft plastic coated steel cable (approx 100nt)
  • 2 Hose Clips ($35nt for 4)
  • 2 Metal Squash type Cable clips/clamps (5 nt or so) or a few plastic cable ties.
  • 1 Roll of Electrical Tape (10nt)


  • 1 Electric or hand drill
  • 1 3/16” or ¼” drill bit (slightly bigger than the cable)
  • 1 Pair of pliers
  • 1 Screwdriver
  • 1 Dog (for testing purposes)
  1. Disassemble the pole enough to enable drilling of the locking mechanism. If it’s a 3-piece pole (as shown) the disassembly is a PITA and you have 2 mechanisms to drill thru. On the 3-piece poles, if you fully extend the pole and keep twisting the joint counter-clockwise while pulling really hard, the joint comes apart. Don’t twist clockwise as this will activate the lock and make it impossible. If it’s a 2-piece pole, then you’ll just need to take of the cap handle to do the drilling. Note: I choose 3-piece poles for the extra strength, and tape up the small extension, which is weak.
  2. Drill through the threaded end of the pole, the locking mechanisms and the end cap. Make sure the drill is perfectly aligned with the pole when drilling, especially for the locking mechanisms, which are quite thin where the drill penetrates.
  3. Thread the cable through all the pieces before re-assembly. It can be tricky to get the cable through the last hole, which is usually the threaded end when I do it. Usually, some jiggling around gets it in the hole after a few attempts. Make sure there is enough cable out each end for the dog loop and the hand loop.
  4. Reassemble the pole. For a 3-piece pole, it’s a matter of forcing the joints back together by twisting. For a 2-piece pole, it’s just a matter of putting on the cap handle again.
  5. Use the 2 hose clips to clamp the loose end of the cable as near to the thread end as possible. This will clamp onto the plastic end inside the tube for extra strength.
  6. Use the cable clips (or some plastic cable ties) to form a hand loop at the other end. This loop needs to be strong as once the pole is in use, this loop will support the full weight of the dogcatcher as he or she gets dragged along by a raging stray dog.
  7. Tidy up. Wrap the sharp edges of the hose clips with electrical tape. If you used plastic cable ties for the hand loop, it is worth wrapping these in tape also. When taping the hose clips, I also lock the small extension joint and tape it also, to prevent use and increase rigidity of the pole.
  8. Test. Extend the pole and lock the joints. There should be enough loop to fit over a dog’s head. To close the loop up it’s a matter of holding the pole with one hand an pulling the hand loop back. If the catching situation is hostile the pole itself can be let go and the dog can still be retained by holding onto the hand loop only. The Dog will naturally try to get away and the loop will tighten, giving the catcher time to regain control of the pole.
Guidlines about humane animal handling
Tomahawk Control Poles
Ketch-All animal control equipment
Alana Ecology Control Poles

Friday, May 05, 2006

I rike it. I rike it a rot.

If you take a look over at the links there on the right ->
you'll see the word "Frashcards." With an 'r' not an 'l'. It's not a typo, as bad as my typing often is, I actually meant to type it that way.
I have no idea what you'd call it, but in Asia is pretty normal to pronouce english words contain an 'L' or an 'R' around the wrong way.

Hurro. I rike you, no, I ruv you. A rot.

The reason I mention this is I was looking through the blog search statistics, and someone in Japan used yahoo to find this site by typing in "FRASHCARDS". HAHAHAHAHAHA.


It's all to do with the make up of the sound bytes that we learn when we are younger and learning our mother tongue. In chinese, there are 37 sounds that make up the intials and finals of spoken characters. It's known as Bo-Po-Ma-Fa and it's about as close as you could get to the alphabet in Engrish...meaning each sound on it's own usually means nothing. Like B in engrish (on hangon that means something), or P (whoops that too), i (...mmm.), q (yep), x. Yeah like x.
Bearing in mind that I am an engineer, not a liguistics expert, I will continue in saying that at a very early age, learning the BPMF is the foundation of the Chinese language.
Now, it's normal to pronounce a word based on the collection of sounds you are programmed with, and if the BPMF does not have a certain sound we would say in Engrish, then the next closest sound is used.
Native engrish speakers do the same thing when we learn chinese. There are some sounds that are extremely uncomfortable to say for us, due to the way we have learnt to position our tongue....So, when a native engrish speaker speaks in chinese, it can be quite difficult for a native chinese to understand WTF is being said. If you are fortunate enough to be a New Zealander, then no one understands you when you speak engrish, let alone any other language, so you'll be conditioned to it.

Add in the mix that every sound in Chinese has a one of 5 tones (for mandarin) then things get kinda messy. Taiwanese has 9 tones apparently....sheesh.

Sometimes when I ask a chinese speaking friend to interpret for me, I am amazed at how long a dialogue can go on for to get a simple answer. If I could understand more chinese maybe I could translate the diarog myself and it would make sense.

1: Yo blood, what's happenin brother?
2: Did you just call me lover brother?
1: I aint got no brother.
2: Then why did you say I'm your lover's brother?
1: Well, it's a blue truck that one.
2: No, wednesday man.
1: Ok, you got it.

And the answer to my question is "Yes". Phew.

So, this is a world wide phenomen, fenomun, phinomin thing, and any way you look at it, it's damn funny. A buddy of mine happens to be a canasian (candian asian) and is perfectly fluent in both Engrish and Chongwen. I think she's an expert in the "L" and the "R" thing. It's pure art when done plopery.

Whenever I have had a long break from chinese lessons and I go back to class, things are a bit rusty.

So I say this to my teacher : "I'm a bit lusty today don't you think?"
Of course, she always agrees: "Yes, you are quite lusty today."

That's an honest answer to an honest question, really.

Chinese tones, initials, finals n shit like that
Gene Simmon's Tongue Transplant
Pork Rind for sale on Ebay that looks like a tongue