Thursday, December 31, 2009

No more noughties

It’s been a tricky year and I’m glad it will soon be over. It’ll also be the end of a decade – the “noughties”. I wonder what they’ll call the next one. The teenies? The tweenies? And there’s still little consensus on whether next year will be “twenty-ten” or “two thousand and ten”. With the future still very much up in the air for me, it seems fitting that we’re about to enter a decade that nobody knows the name of and a year that nobody knows how to pronounce.

I can't believe it's been ten years since the millennium, and all that hype about why-two-kay and planes falling out of the sky. It's made me think about what I've achieved in that time, or rather what I haven't.

Mum took me out this morning for nine holes of golf. Some surprisingly good shots were interspersed with totally expected duffers. I had two par threes and a bogey five, but on other holes I struggled to stay in single figures.

Tonight I expect we’ll be seeing in the New Year at Caroline Bay. They put on a fireworks display at midnight. Historically New Year’s Eve has been one of the most painful days on the calendar for me so I’ll be hoping for an uneventful evening.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

iPredict Annual Report

As 2009 comes to an end, I thought I'd give a quick rundown of my profits and losses so far on iPredict, arranged by stock in descending order of profitability. Everything is rounded to the nearest dollar, only stocks with a swing of $10 or more (up or down) are included, and all related stocks (usually these would form a bundle) are lumped together. Here goes (please excuse the iffy formatting):

October 2009 petrol prices ......................... +$315
Gordon Brown not to resign ........................ +$121
Special votes at 2008 NZ election .............. +$99
11 June 2009 OCR ....................................... +$82
June 2009 petrol prices ............................... +$72
Spelling of W(h)anganui ............................... +$52
Swine flu cases .............................................. +$28
30 Apr 2009 OCR ........................................ +$24
29 Jan 2009 OCR ......................................... +$23
Anti-smacking referendum turnout .......... +$16
July 2009 petrol prices ............................... +$15
4 Dec 2008 OCR ........................................... −$10
CPI for year to 31 Dec 2008 ....................... −$13
10 Sept 2009 OCR ....................................... −$24
30 July 2009 OCR ....................................... −$58

A few notes:
  • The Gordon Brown resignation stock is still ongoing: it pays $1 if he resigns before the next UK election which he could still do (though personally I doubt it). However I haven't been exposed to that stock for some months.
  • I might not bother with the OCR stocks in future - I figure there are many iPredictors who know a lot more about the economy, and the goings-on at the Reserve Bank, than I ever will.
  • I'm sitting on a handful of temperature-related stocks. Specifically I'm long on the stocks that pay $1 if this year's average global temperature ends up being higher than in 2008. I should make a thirty-odd-dollar profit here, despite the recent snow storms in Europe.
  • For all the stocks on the list above, my investment decisions were based on facts rather than gut instinct, with one exception: the W(h)anganui stock. I didn't know, or particularly care, what would happen there. I wasn't even sure what the definitions meant. I just figured that a 20% probability of some kind of compromise seemed a bit on the low side.

All in all 2009 was a successful year for me on iPredict. Who knows what will happen in 2010, or even whether I'll be in the country long enough to meaningfully participate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friends and family

Yesterday I didn’t feel like I was on holiday at all. I just wanted to get back to Auckland, away from Mum’s friends and family. Unfortunately I have little in common with many of the people I’ve met over the last week, particularly the blokes. I don’t engage in conversation, mainly because there is no conversation, just jokes, banter and anecdotes about the time Wayne O’Shea left a dead sheep in the back of his ute for six months. Then out of the blue someone asks me about my future plans, and suddenly I’m the centre of attention. I get fifty ideas chucked in my direction, some serious, some not so serious, and I’m overwhelmed.

For most of yesterday I was depressed and didn’t want to know. We went to the Caroline Bay carnival. For some reason halfway through one of their concerts I suddenly felt more relaxed. We had a go on the chocolate wheel but our luck was well and truly out. Then I tried my hand at a darts game where you have to hit paper stars attached to a board. I was lucky enough to come away with twenty bucks for an outlay of four. I found the darts game interesting: among the vast array of games it was the only one where a skilful player could earn a long-term profit. Indeed a professional darts player would surely clean up there. In my case, however, skill played a minor role, if that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Today is the first real day of my holiday. Officially it started on Tuesday night, but the last four days have been taken up with Christmas and family, which aren’t conducive to holiday at all.

My last day at work was a successful one. I was able to keep a fairly low profile, just like I have in the rest of my time with the company. My colleagues very kindly bought me two books – Andre Agassi’s autobiography (I’m just past the crystal meth, or gack, phase) and Vroom with a View, an account of a journey from Milan to Rome on an old Vespa. We had morning tea and lunchtime drinks (I was happy to pay for them), after which I cleaned my desk, packed a box of memorabilia, said my final goodbyes, then I was off.

I took the 7:30 flight to Christchurch and stayed the night at Uncle Dan’s – he and his wife Anne live on Memorial Avenue, just yards from the Airport. Dan has lost even more weight. Though his surgery was a success, the weight loss is a real concern, and his illness seems to have affected him mentally. Sadly he appears to have given up on life. He showed me some pills he’s recently been prescribed, supposedly to help him put on weight. Citalopram. I was on that for nearly eight years. During the first year I did indeed gain weight, though I doubt the medication had anything to do with that. Whatever, his illness has now become mental just as much as physical. On Wednesday morning we drove down to Mum and Dad’s place in Geraldine.

We spent Christmas Day up the Rangitata, at a place called Stew Point. There were seven of us – Mum, Dad, Dan, Anne, another of Mum’s brothers, his third wife, and myself. It’s nice to get out of Auckland; it would be hard to find a place less like Auckland than our Christmas picnic location. I sometimes think of Geraldine as being in the wops, but this was the real wops. It was blowing a gale up there. It wasn’t easy trying to eat ham and turkey without being savaged by a bull or my paper plate disappearing.

Yesterday I met up with Phil in Timaru. His mother lives in Waimate. The carnival had just started up so we tackled the crazy golf course. Phil beat me by six shots. The hole that replicates the Port Loop Road was my undoing. Phil flies back to Auckland today, and will soon be meeting his Danish girlfriend. Last night Mum and Dad had a barbecue; it seemed everybody was there. I wasn’t in the mood for all that food and drink, and having to explain my, er, career change. Now everybody has gone and I can breathe a sigh of relief. I no longer have to explain anything.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Just a short one today because, as is usually the case at this time of year, there really isn't much news. Yesterday I went along to the Autism NZ meeting. The turnout was back to the October level of 25 or so. The room is rather echoic, and unsurprisingly all that noise became too much for some people. I felt bad because I hadn't brought any Christmassy food - were we told to at the last meeting? - and again I wished I could have been more helpful. The main facilitator - the boss if you like - now knows that I'd like to play a more active role there in the new year. I'm in the middle of reading Congratulations! It's Asperger Syndrome, a book written by one of the more eminent people at Autism NZ. It's a fascinating read.
On a similar theme, I'll soon be helping out (I hope) a twelve-year-old boy who suffers from dyspraxia. We'll go to the beach, to the movies, for walks, that kind of thing. Basically giving him some much-needed stimulation when his parents are unable to (I'm hoping it might be stimulating for me too).

My shirts are ironed in preparation for both my remaining days at work. I'll try to enjoy them. On Tuesday night, after my leaving drinks, I'll be catching a plane down to Christchurch. I'll stay at Uncle Dan's for the night and travel down to Geraldine the next day. We'll be having a quiet Christmas, and if previous years are anything to go by, probably a hot one. In fact extreme weather is almost to be expected in that part of the country. Just last week they were bombarded by inch-wide hailstones.

PokerStars bankroll update: I'm now sitting a few cents shy of $30.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The final countdown

My new laptop arrived last Thursday so I’m back in the world of the living. I never thought a computer would become an indispensable tool for me, but I now realise I’m lost without one. Despite this, I still don’t like computers that much and generally feel more comfortable with a pen in my hand than a mouse. I see a computer purely as a tool – I’m pretty much oblivious to all the noughts and ones and nuts and bolts that make everything happen.

Ten days ago I attended the mental health support centre’s Christmas party. It was a very well-run event with close on 200 in attendance, many of whom are isolated at this time of year and rarely get to go to something like that. It was great to meet up with some people I hadn’t seen for a while, and the food was a definite bonus.

On Friday I had another meeting with Mrs You’re Screwed, a.k.a. the careers advisor. Things didn’t seem so bleak this time, mainly because we didn’t get into the specifics of my future career options. Instead we concentrated on my CV – I showed her both versions. She took a real dislike to my choice of font in the old version. “It’s Times New Roman, that’s so old-fashioned.” I protested, saying it wasn’t Times New Roman (it was Garamond) but she insisted that fonts with those “little sticky-out bits” belong in a previous century. So serif fonts are dead then? Has she picked up a book lately? Or a newspaper? Once we’d done with the font debate (by the way, font design is something I’d like to get into) and focused on the content, she actually talked a lot of sense and was very helpful. We’ve got one final meeting, about interview tactics (hmmm) after Christmas.

I’m now in my last full week at work, and to be honest I’m relieved. I've worked with some good people (not least my current boss) but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. Four months shy of thirty, it’s time I jumped off this conveyor belt. For too long I’ve been drifting along, letting everything happen to me. School just happened to me. University for the most part just happened to me. And for the last 5¾ years, work has just happened to me. In fact working in the corporate world has been similar to school, all the more so since we moved to our expensive new offices in a soulless business park two years ago.

Competitive tennis is over for 2009. My record since the start of the season (seven wins, nine losses) is disappointing. I lost my last match, a mixed doubles, by the unusual score of 7-6 (7-0), 7-5. Unfortunately I’ve played very little singles which is my forte (if I have one). Yesterday we had great weather for tennis so I turned up to club day, which I enjoyed more than usual. Bazza was there, perhaps for the last time: he’s moving to Papakura at the weekend. Though house prices are considerably cheaper there, I seriously question his move because he won’t know anyone. If he joins a tennis club down there, people won’t accommodate him like they have done. He won’t get away with making dodgy line calls all afternoon, tell his partner she’s a bloody idiot whenever she misses, and swiping food from the fridge afterwards. I tried to convince him to stay in the area, but when he’s made his mind up there’s no stopping him.

It’s a while since I mentioned online poker but I haven’t given up, although I no longer play those time-consuming freerolls. I deposited US$10, as a challenge to see how far I could get on just ten bucks. My bankroll (if you can call it that) now stands at $22, mainly from playing hold ’em at penny stakes. I think I’ve got the right skills and temperament for poker. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frustrate me when that fourth diamond hits the river to give that muppet who played A 2 a higher flush, but crucially I don’t let it affect my play on subsequent hands. Obviously playing for inconsequential stakes helps in this regard, but when I was younger I’d have been far more susceptible to what they call “tilt”. I’ve played very little poker with real people and real hands, but at university I remember being dealt a king-high straight in a penny-ante draw game. The hand was dealt out of turn, we all had to muck our cards, and I went ape-shit.

I’ve just got home from my last Italian class of the year. Our teacher Matteo has done a good job of selling all things Italian. I’d love to go there some time next year so I’ve enrolled in a five-day intensive course at the end of January.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Death spiral

I won't be doing much blogging in the next ten days or so. I've been having problems with my computer for some months, but this week it finally gave up the ghost. It wouldn't even start up - instead it went into an infinite loop: a neverending death spiral. This morning I bought a new one - a Toshiba costing $1500 including all that anti-virus stuff, but I won't get it for another week or two. As I write from an internet café I realise how much I rely on the internet.

I haven't been at my best this week. On Wednesday I saw a careers advisor in the city; she said my prospects of finding work are bleak. According to her, I've got nothing that any recent graduate doesn't have, with the exception of almost an extra decade on the clock. She also gave me some handy hints on writing CVs. I agreed with her regarding the content of a CV but wasn't so sure when it came to the layout. "You must use Arial." Well I think Arial is a perfectly good screen font, but on print it screams "I don't give a toss" to me. All in all, that meeting put me in a foul mood.