Archive for March, 2009

This past week I had the opportunity to perform magic and give the audience member an experience to remember.  You see, I noticed one of my Facebook friends wrote on her status "Sandra (not her real name) is not having a good week."  I decided to do something about that.  She was at the dance studio at the front desk where I was taking a lesson and I got there a few minutes early.  I said to her "I think I can make the end of your week a little better."  She agreed to let me give it a go.

I said to her "Imagine you are in Victoria, BC, at Beacon Hill Park.  It is a flower garden and you are wandering down the garden paths in amongst all the flowers.  You stop and turn to your left and see a flower.  What do you see?"

"A carnation," she answers.  I repeated it back to her, and then took out a notepad of post-it notes and wrote down the flower on the notepad.  I folded it up, removed it from the notepad and placed it on the counter.

I then asked what other flower she sees.  She replied with a lily.  I again wrote it down, folded it up and placed it on the counter.  I repeated it 3 more times and she named a rose, a lilac and a tulip.  I then took all five pieces of paper which were folded up and held them in my hands (the words on each were hidden because I had folded them up).  I shook them up in my hands.

I said "Sandra, you then close your eyes and lean forward to pick a flower."  I offered her the choice of packets of paper and she closed her eyes to reach forward to take one.  She took it, opened it up and I asked her "What flower did you pick?"

She opened up the paper and answered "A rose."

I replied "Sandra, it is no accident that you selected a rose.  It was written long ago that is what you would pick.  For you see, what I have with me is an envelope."  I opened a notepad and removed it.  "Please take this envelope and open it up."  She did, and inside was a note.  "Open up that note and read it aloud," I instructed. 

She unfolded the note and then read it out loud.  It said Sandra, you will choose a rose.  March 26, 2009.  Let me tell you, she was impressed by that one and really appreciated it.  I believe I succeeded in giving her end of week a bit of a boost.


I performed the trick again tonight, but I changed it a little bit for another girl down at the dance studio.  I knew it was her birthday today, so I decided to make it extra special.  I did the same effect  as per above and she ended up selecting a red rose (that was the exact flower she named, including the color).  When I handed her the prediction, it said "Amanda, on your birthday you will receive a red rose.  March 27, 2009."  Then, beneath the prediction, there was a picture of an actual red rose.

Let me tell you, she was also very impressed.  It’s not often that I stumble across a trick that draws such a powerful reaction.  But this one clearly does and it will now stay in my repertoire.  With great power comes great responsibility.


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To buy or to rent

This comes from the Peter Schiff blog.  It helps explain why I rent rather than own.

I have been a renter for a while. People used to laugh at me for renting my house because I was throwing money away on renting. I had to remind people that I wasn’t throwing money away because I had a great place to live and I did not throw money away on food, on clothing, so I wasn’t throwing money away renting a place to live. I needed to live some place.

But off course the mentality was "you are throwing away money because you are foregoing all the profits associated with home ownership." In my mind it wasn’t profits that I was throwing away but expenses and headaches.

I knew as an educated consumer looking at real estate realistically that economically I was better off renting then buying. But everybody else assumed that they were better off buying because they assumed appreciation.

What they forgot to understand was that assets were already overvalued based on what we could rent a similar house for.

So if an asset is already overvalued based on rental alternatives or cash flow, why should that asset appreciate? That was the flaw in their analysis.

At some point in time when real estate actually becomes cheap enough that renting is no longer economically better then buying , then I might decide to buy a place. For a lot of people renting makes more sense then buying.


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People sometimes ask me where I get inspiration for some of my effects.  There are a couple of answers.  One is that sometimes an idea just comes to me, like when I was waiting in line for lunch and thought of the idea for a trick involving fortune cookies.  Sometimes I am actively playing around with an effect, thinking of ways to make it better and through working the routine over and over, I refine it to make it work.  This occurs both in practice and actual performances.

Another source of inspiration is through watching other performers.  Historically, when I first started magic, the two performers who influenced me the most were Lance Burton and Guy Hollingworth, two very smooth performers.  Later on, as I added mentalism, I added Alain Nu to that list.  While I like the work put out by Derren Brown, his style of performance is not similar enough to mine to say that he influenced me even though I now perform several of his tricks.  But Alain Nu… his style is very close to mine.  I learned my Invisible Deck/Watch effect from him as well as my Zodiac effect.  His personality is similar to mine so he’s another source of inspiration.

You might want to check out this video of him.  If you’re too lazy to watch the Youtube video, then the summary is that he does a demonstration of dodge ball effect.  Several members of a basketball team throw balls at him, but he dodges them while wearing a blindfold.  It’s a neat video and I find it very entertaining.

Now, as you readers will know, a few weeks ago I did a dance performance on Feb 14, 2009.  I recently signed up to do another one.  I’ve got the song picked out, I think that the dance is going to be an easier (slower) one.  Now this past Friday, I headed down to the studio and started chatting with the instructors during the various dances during the course of the evening.  I started saying that I have the song picked out and am looking forward to doing another routine.

I then said "But I would like to put a twist on things."

"Alright," the instructor replied.  Remember, I did this twice with two different instructors as the one I will be working with is not yet determined.

"So, rather than doing just a dance routine, both myself and my follow will do it… blindfolded!"  Drawing from my inspiration from Nu, I thought it would be neat to do a routine blindfolded and would be an interesting twist on things.  But I wasn’t serious; I didn’t actually think that anyone would seriously go for it.  After all, a dance performance is a performance of dance while doing it blindfolded is more of a trick.  The venue doesn’t fit quite so nicely.

But here’s the thing.  When I told it to the first teacher, she didn’t protest at all.  She seemed to mentally work through how it would work.  I stopped her and said "I’m just kidding" but it sure seemed like she was thinking it through.  I then told the second teacher the same thing.  A blindfolded routine.  I let her think it through and she looked like she was taking it seriously even though I wasn’t serious.  I then said I was kidding, but again, she didn’t protest about the impossibility of it, either.  It was almost as if she were picturing it.

So that kind of backfired on me.  It was meant as more of a joke.  But maybe, just maybe, my reputation for doing the impossible is starting to make these things plausible in the minds of the people I interact with.

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For all the talk I’ve been hearing about deflation in the financial media, I have yet to experience it personally (as in, benefit from it).

For you see, I just got notice today from my apartment complex that my trash collection fees are going up.  Last year, my rent went up.  I expect my energy costs to keep rising.  When do falling prices start to work in my favor, rather than against me?

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I was waiting in line for lunch last week when I got the idea for a new magic effect.  If you’re reading this blog, don’t tell other people about this effect.  I present here to gather feedback on whether or not this would be a good idea.

This is the first unique effect I have ever invented.  I am sure that no one else is doing it (note: I’m not actually sure about this).  But here is the effect:

You and I are out to lunch, or perhaps dinner, at a Chinese restaurant.  It is near the end of the meal and we start to talking about countries of the world and the ones we have traveled to, and the ones we would like to travel to.  I then say to you "I want you to think about traveling.  Think about new cultures, new experiences, new adventures.  If you were to travel to a country, think about what it would be.  Think about the name of that country over again in your mind."

The check comes and being that this is a Chinese restaurant, it comes with fortune cookies.  You pick up your fortune cookie and I pick up mine.  You crack open your fortune cookie, pull out the fortune, and on it reads the name of the country that you are thinking of.

Personally, I think that would be an awesome effect.

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I saw a link posted on Facebook that is an editorial out of the Globe and Mail.  The writer is talking about the recent Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) / Jim Cramer (of Mad Money) feud.  Allow me to quote an excerpt:

Jon Stewart did what no one else has done so far. He pointed an angry finger of blame at an individual, and he didn’t let the culprit slip away. It was a symbolic public beheading, and as popular as those always are. And wouldn’t you know, it also managed to improve Mr. Stewart’s own ratings.

There was Mr. Stewart, nailing Mr. Cramer to the videotaped proof of his own bone-headed calls, advising people to buy Bear Stearns (to cite just one example), only days before the company collapsed, then lying about how wrong he was. As if the truth is meaningless, as if it’s all a game – except, as Mr. Stewart pointed out, “it’s not a [bleep]-ing game” when peoples’ lives and jobs and retirements are at stake.

Will Jim Cramer lose his job, or at least resign? If he doesn’t, should a couple of CNBC executives be placed in stocks for letting him speak crap on air again and again?

We can’t blame others for our own mistakes. But we can punish them for making it so easy to behave like fools.

If you read the entire article, the writer goes on to state that the market failed, capitalism failed, people on Wall Street need to be punished.  Cramer should be punished.  Bernie Madoff, who bilked people out of billions, is not enough.  The cheerleaders on CNBC should be punished.

That was the crux of Stewart’s interview, the people on Wall Street knew what was going on and CNBC knew as well.  They should be punished for incompetence or conflict of interest (cheerleading while the boat was sinking).  Anyone who is leverage 35:1 is surely going to get clobbered.  Cramer and CNBC should have known that, or were even in collusion.

Before I continue, I should point out that I like Jon Stewart.  I think he’s really funny, I have watched his show for five or six years.  But he, too, has his own hypocrisy issues.  The title of his show is fake news and he claims to be nothing more than a comedian, but he misquotes his political dislikes all the time and slants his news against Conservatives far, far more than against Liberals.  I could see it when Republicans controlled the government, but they don’t anymore.  And his coverage is still heavily slanted against those with whom he disagrees with.  And his show is very political in nature, it does affect people’s actual views.  In fact, it’s quite easy to tell that’s what he is trying to do by using comedy as his communication medium.  So the claim that all he is "is a comedian" is either disingenuous/ignorant at best or deliberately deceptive at worst.

Having said that, Congress and the media are now out on a witch hunt to attempt to vilify evil doers in the market.  Specifically, financial corporations overleveraged themselves and are now paying the price (ie, they borrowed beyond their means).  But really, how is the government taking the high road on this one?  As we saw in my previous posts, credit expansion applied again and again and again is what leads to the boom and bust cycle.  Corporations and business couldn’t even borrow out excess money leading to the boom/bust cycle if money wasn’t constantly injected into the system.  If the regulators of the money supply weren’t constantly tinkering with the money supply and distorting the gross market rate of interest, then lenders and borrowers wouldn’t even be able to do it in the first place.

Why do governments and central banks expand credit?  To win votes, mostly.  When the market starts to expand, governments take credit.  When it collapses (due to the side effects of the policies that they themselves implement), the blame game begins.  Thus, where are the columns and calls for tighter controls on the money supply?  What about restricting rules and regulations for credit expansion?  Where is the regulator of the Federal Reserve (who are supposed to be the regulators but whose policies add fuel to the fire)?  What about repealing the Community Reinvestment Act?  Or re-instating Glass-Steagall?  The uptick rule (not sure about that one but it probably caused more damage than it helped)?

Private enterprise deserve to be vilified, and rightly so.  All these companies that made reckless loans and failed to protect the interest of their shareholders should not be bailed out.  But what about looking at the government that has failed the general public for so long?  That really angers me because the people elect officials to public office and their gross incompetence hurts the very people they were elected to serve.  They then chase rabbit trails, ignoring the real issues and setting up the rest of us for the next crisis.

Mark my words, there will be another crisis.  The markets will adjust, the economy will start to expand and credit will expand again.  The boom will start and will finish with a bust.  And once again, the government and media will look for people to blame, but will be largely ignorant of themselves.  When you give someone the power to print money and circumvent the rules of money (the market consists of millions and millions of people, the government maybe a few hundred), you’re setting yourself up for failure.

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At this point, we’ve now looked at central banking and the role that it plays in inflation.  The Federal Reserve has the ability to inject or remove money into the economy.  The question now is why do they do it?

The Gold Standard goes away

As I alluded to in my other post, in 1971 the United States went off the gold standard.  Whereas before bank deposits were backed by a hard tangible asset, now they are backed by paper securities (ie, nothing tangible).  They are based upon the issuing "government’s" perceived ability to guarantee that what is being used as currency is a valid currency.  There still are actual deposits in the bank, but they are things like bonds, treasury securities, and so forth.  Stuff I don’t understand very well.

But what this means now is that the Federal Reserve can inject money into the system at will.  It can write a check against itself (out of thin air) and increase reserve requirements, or lower the short rate (interest rates that you always hear about on TV) or make open market purchases or sales.  I won’t go into the details of each of these, I will just say that doing any of these things can make more money appear in the market.

Booms and busts

So, why is this such a big deal?  Why does injecting more money into the system turn out to be bad?  Well, as we saw earlier, monetary inflation drives down the purchasing power of the base unit of currency.  But it also distorts the market.  It does so in the following way:

  1. Let’s say that the day before the market has new money injected, the market forces set the value of all goods in production.  These are always in flux, but the market adjusts.  Goods x will cost money y.  Bankers have to make an estimate based upon the borrower’s ability to repay.  Borrowers look out into the market and based upon current conditions as well as how much money is available, whether or not they should start new projects.  The amount of money in circulation is M, the amount of goods is G.
  2. The day the market has new money, P, injected by a central bank, the amount of money in circulation is now M + P.  Banks are more willing to make new loans, borrowers can get credit easier; after all, more money is available.  New projects start up, companies are formed.  The economy gets moving again because of credit expansion – credit is process of borrowing money you don’t have with the intention of paying it back.  This is the beginning of the boom cycle.
  3. But there is a problem with this scenario.  It is true that new companies are being formed, loans are being made and people are making money.  But the market has been distorted.  The amount of total money in circulation = Total(M) = M + P, but the amount of physical goods on the day before credit expansion is the same as there was after credit expansion.  In other words, whereas before M was chasing G, now M + P is chasing G.  Borrowers take out money on the belief that M + P would be chasing G + new(G), but that belief turns out to be false.  There is no new(G).
  4. Inflation now sets to start in and prices begin to rise.  This benefits the financial industry the most because they are closest to the credit expansion.  They are making loans on new money and reaping the benefits.  Producers and consumers are at the tail end of this credit expansion and for them, they get new stuff at first but then start seeing the buying power of their dollars decrease.  That means that ham-and-eggers like you and me get the short end of the stick on this one.
  5. More and more stuff is being produced by the economy, but again, the economy does not expand at the same rate that the money supply did.  So, while the economy is expanding, it was not based upon rational market allocations of capital.  It was based on the belief that there was more of a market out there than there really was.  And eventually, the market figures it out.  That’s when the bubble bursts.

    And it always bursts.  Always.  There is no question about this.  The Dutch Tulip Craze, the South Sea Bubble, the Mississippi River gambit, the real estate bubble from 2001-2007…  When the market sees that there is not enough actual demand (as opposed to perceived or illusory demand) to consume all of the excess supply, prices drop.  And they drop fast.  I can’t explain why, but as the old saying goes, the bull climbs up the stairs but the bear jumps out the window.  What that means is that markets climb slowly but the collapse quickly, wiping out tons and tons of wealth.  The truth hurts and when reality sets into the market, panic ensues and everyone gets a lot poorer.  The bust has begun.

When the bust begins, there is really not a lot the government can do to stop it.  The market is bigger than the government and things will adjust to where they should be to allocate all of the sufficient capital that is in circulation.  While it is sometimes true that the net standard of living may be higher at the end of the bust than it was at the end of the previous bust (ie, the start of the boom), it is not true that it is higher than it would have been had markets been allowed to naturally grow and allocate capital rationally without artificial credit expansion.

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Continuing on in my series about banks and bailouts, we saw last time that banks used to loan out money based upon actual assets in their deposits.  So long as there wasn’t a bank run, they’d be alright.  However, with the rise of central banking in the nineteenth century, everything changed.  In the United States, this is the Federal Reserve, and it has the power to create money.  It is the power of central banking that allows for the implementation of credit expansion.

Central Banking

In 1971, President Nixon took the United States off of the gold standard.  What that means is that no longer is the currency in circulation backed by any physical asset.  Whereas prior to that, $1 dollar theoretically meant that $1 in gold existed in a bank reserve (actually, maybe 1/10 of that amount due to banks being able to loan out that amount), now, $1 is backed upon nothing but a good faith assertion that the note is legal tender, as issued and guaranteed by the government.  In the United States, the government does not issue the money.  Surprised?  Well, it’s true.  Get out a note of currency and read it for yourself, at the top of the bill it says "Federal Reserve Note."  If you live in Canada or England or wherever, it’ll say something similar for the country you live in.

The Federal Reserve in the United States is a group of 12 private banks.  It is not a public institution (in theory).  This means that a private institution is in charge of regulating and monitoring the value of money (and the way I read Article I, Section X of the Constitution suggests that this is illegal).  So what is the problem with central banking?

To put it simply, a central bank has the power to inject or remove money from circulation.  When based on the gold standard, a central bank can say to other banks — that do loan out money, as the Fed itself does not loan money out — what the reserve requirements are.  For example, the Fed can say that banks must have a minimum expense deposit ratio of 10:1.  To put it in plain English, a bank can only loan out a maximum of $10 for every $1 it has in its deposits.  The Fed can later on say that the deposit ratio is 15:1, and then shrink that down to 8:1.  So, if the ratio is 10:1 one day and all the banks in the United States have $100 million in deposits, then they can loan out $1 billion (100 million x 10) into the general population.  Banks have an interest in loaning out as much money as possible because they can charge the borrow a certain rate of interest.  Just consider it: if you pay 2% interest on $100 million, it will cost you $2 million per year.  But if you charge 6% interest on $1 billion, you make $60 million per year.  Not a bad way to make a living, I’d say.

If the Fed then says that reserve requirements are now 8:1, and banks only have $100 million in deposits, then they can only loan out $800 million.  But if previously they had loaned out $1 billion, then they now have to reel in $200 million.  This can occur by calling in bad loans; it is also known as shrinking the money supply.

Money and Inflation

I need to take a jump from talking about banking to talking about inflation.  When we use the term inflation, most people generally think that it is a gradual increase in prices over time.  That’s not technically correct; rising prices is caused by inflation, but it is not the definition of inflation.

Money is a commodity like anything else.  Like any commodity, it is driven principally by two factors: supply and demand.  Consider a Tickle Me Elmo doll.  Back in the 1990’s, there were not a lot of these things kicking around and the price of them skyrocketed.  High demand + low supply = high prices.  Oil is (or rather, it was) in demand and the supply was not increasing.  Therefore, it’s price increased.  Conversely, the real estate market now has a ton of supply and low demand, therefore, prices are crashing.

Just like oil, real estate, and Tickle Me Elmo, money’s value is also affected by supply and demand.  If there is $1 million worth of gold in circulation, then market force (which constantly adjust) set the value of goods.  There are a certain amount of actual, tangible goods and services out there in the market.  The Invisible Hand looks at everything and calculates that x amount of dollars by y amount of goods.  This value is constantly in flux.  If only $1 million worth of gold stays in circulation, and more and more goods come into production, then money is becoming more rare relative to other goods.  In other words, demand for money (to buy more stuff) increases while supply stays the same.  Increased demand for money increases its buying power.  To put that another way, if that actually happened, your money would actually buy more stuff tomorrow than it does today.

On the other hand, let’s say that Terry’s Great Gold Company all of a sudden discovered a gold mine in his backyard.  There was so much gold that the amount of gold in circulation could be doubled within two years.  What would happen?  Well, because there would now be more gold, and dollars were backed by gold, then the amount of money in circulation would increase.  There would now be more dollars chasing the same amount of actual, physical goods in production.  The value of money would decrease since there is now more supply (money) demanding the same amount of goods (stuff).  Of course, the goods would gradually increase over time, and the market would adjust itself as if by magic (but in reality by The Invisible Hand).

The point is that when more money is injected into the money supply, you have increased supply of dollars.  Increased supply means that the market will eventually adjust and it will take more dollars to buy the same amount of goods, assuming that the market doesn’t react by expanding to offset amount of dollars increased in the market.  If it doesn’t, then it means that prices of goods will increase.  Rising prices is the result of inflation of the money supply.

History shows that the market has not adjusted to an increase in the money supply.  The proof is that $1 today buys far, far less than it did 30 years ago.  Or even 20 years ago… even 10 years ago.  As central banks have increased the supply of money, it’s value has decreased.

More to come in a future post.

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I want you to imagine something for a second.  Think back, deep into your memory, and hear in your head the following song:

Celebrate good times, come on!

I know that I will, that’s for sure.  Why, you ask?  Because that steaming pile of failure I call an investment property finally has a renter!  It’s no longer going to cost me a large fortune each money!  Instead, it will only cost me a small fortune.  Then, in August of this year, it will cost me a slightly larger fortune but not as much as it was costing me the previous six months.

It’s still a bad investment, and I’m still not happy that I made the decision to buy it, but at least now I am not losing quite so much money each month and I will have a little of extra money to play with after my first paycheck each month.

This means that I can now cross project number 4 off my list of things to do.

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As I have shifted my focus from sleight-of-hand to mentalism (while still retaining sleight-of-hand… it’s too useful to ditch), I have read 5 books on the topic in the past three weeks:

  1. Pure Effect, by Derren Brown
  2. Absolute Magic, by Derren Brown
  3. Tricks of the Mind, by Derren Brown
  4. Psychological Subtleties, by Banachek
  5. Psychological Subtleties 2, by Banacheck

I’ve also bought two more new effects for a grand total of $17, learned three entirely new effects and invented my own trick (my first one!).  Not bad for a month’s worth of work, I’d say.

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It’s currently the 9th of March and I am on day 6 of fighting a sore throat.  It started last Thursday, and it’s now Tuesday.  It has only improved marginally.

I have a long and sordid history with getting sick in the month of March.  Towards the end of the previous two decades, 1999 and 2000 I think, I used to attend Springfield Youth Parliament.  In 1999 I lost my voice due to getting sick and in 2000 I was sick again with a sore throat.  SYP occurs on the second weekend in March most of the time.  Then, in 2001, I was sick for the entire month of March while I was living in England.  I had a sore throat that was incredibly painful that lasted for 9 days (I counted) and experienced bad sinus congestion for 7 days (counted that, too).  All in all, I was sick for about 28 out of 31 days that month.  It was the sickest I have ever been, either up to that point or since.

So now, it’s currently near the start of March and I am feeling under the weather.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, I have a history of feeling poorly during this month.  The past few years haven’t been too bad (last year I definitely remember being fine), I can’t recall getting sick in the springtime, but I definitely recall getting sick in the fall (Sept 2008, Oct 2005, Oct 2004, Oct 2003).  I think when the weather changes from winter to spring, and summer to fall, that’s when it affects me the most.  Very irritating, but also predictable.

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Over the past six months, nay, over the past year or so, I have noticed a trend with regards to my waist line.  It’s decreasing.

I have never been overweight in my life.  In fact, I’ve always been thin without a lot of mass on me, whether it be muscle or fat.  But in the past six months specifically, I have been losing weight without even trying.

Since October, I wager that I have lost at least 5 pounds.  Now, I don’t exercise a lot (maybe once or twice a week at the gym) and I don’t eat particularly healthy.  But I don’t eat unhealthy, either.  I drink mostly water and have sugar water (Coke, Pepsi, etc) maybe once per week.  I don’t eat a lot of junk food, but I do have it from time to time.  My meals are not models of Canada’s food guide but at the same time you won’t find me eating butter wrapped in bacon and mayonnaise.  Still, these were habits I have had for a while but my weight was relatively stable.

But I’m finding now that my trousers aren’t fitting well anymore.  I have finally decided that I have to take them in a bit at the sides with safety pin.  Belts don’t do it, I find that they squish and bunch up the slacks too much at the front.  And then I have to really do my belt in.  Trousers that used to fit comfortably a few months ago now feel looser.  A pair of pants I bought back in August that felt a little tighter now feel perfectly fine.

I’m not saying that losing weight without trying is a bad thing, but it can’t be a good thing either.  There’s not a lot of me left to lose!

PS – you’ll notice that I used the correct grammar and always used the term lose instead of loose.

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I’m currently working on a bunch of projects, let me run through them.

  1. Revamping my magic act – I am working on my mentalist routine and I recently made a list of 25 effects that I could do.  About 1/3 of them are performance quality.  This is in anticipation of a talent competition in Seattle that I have entered, and in anticipation of a future content I plan to enter.  I also, perhaps this summer, would like to start advertising my services on Craigslist.
  2. Writing "contest" – I am planning to give a presentation at a couple of anti-spam conferences this year.  One is in June, the other is in September.  The former is in Amsterdam, the latter is in Geneva.  To that end, I am putting together a paper based upon what I do at work.  I think I have a good chance at presenting, given how delightfully entertaining my writing style is.
  3. Regular blogging – on my other blog, I am currently writing a series on how to fight foreign language spam.  It’s tough to motivate myself some days but I think it’s a very important topic.
  4. Getting my condo rented out – I am evaluating my options for renting out my empty condo.  I may have to sell it, this will take a bunch of time and effort to get it out of my hair.
  5. Planning my trip to Peru – this is a bit of a pipe dream, but I am planning to go to South America this year.  Mostly, it’s because I haven’t been there but I want to see Macchu Picchu and the Nazca lines.  This is heavily dependent on (4).
  6. Another dance routine – I have been playing around with this in my head for a while.  I’ve been encouraged to sign up for another dance routine as a sequel to my previous one.  I had a lot of fun doing the last one and I got a lot out of it, I think I would enjoy doing a second.

As you can see, I’ve occupied my time quite a bit.  None of this stuff I actually get paid for, in fact, I have to pay to do them all!  But I enjoy them a lot and I get a lot out of them.

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I have started doing some cash flow projections.  Based upon some estimates I have found on the web for tax deductions per year, minus the estimated rent I think I can collect, plus the mortgage payment, plus estimated capital appreciation of 2% per year (7% per year as the national average is nonsense; it will take way longer than that to recover) it will take me 20 years to break even.  Here are the numbers:

Year Cumulative increase in net worth




























































As you can see, it will take me forever to start making money and erase two decades of losses.  On the other hand, I calculated that if I take $500 per month and put it into a savings account yielding 2.5% per year (which is pathetic), it takes 33 years to overcome that strategy.  But after that, having real estate beats that crappy savings account by a huge amount.  In fact, after 60 years, it outperforms by $2 million.  So over the long run, even this lousy investment would pay off than other low risk strategies.

But the problem is that by the time I start making money on this place, I’d be 50.  By the time this strategy outperforms, I’d be 63.  If I take the mortgage payment, split it into two and save half of it and spend the other half, I could afford to buy a lot of doodads (which I do irregularly) or go on trips to foreign countries (which is one of my favorite hobbies).  If I sold this place and took a $50,000 hit right off the bat, I could probably refinance it and pay $1000 less per month.  That’s affordable and I’d be paying it off for 30 years and getting nothing out of it.  But at least I’d have that extra $1000 for which I could save half and spend the other half.

I suppose the question is how badly do I want to use this money?

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I am currently reading a trio of books by Derren Brown: Pure Effect, Absolute Magic and Tricks of the Mind.  In Absolute Magic, he talks about how to go about developing a performance character.  Darwin Ortiz talks about this in Strong Magic, but Brown also has something to say.  Here’s an excerpt:

My own performance character is borne from the way I live.  I spend my days in a Victorian flat full of neo-gothic trimmings and a sprawling library; I collect taxidermy and have a proper fake bookcase that opens up into my drawing room.  I did not develop these to suit my profession; I gradually allowed my magic persona to fall in line with my lifestyle.  When I started, I felt I had to provide my audiences with the image of a magician that they would expect.  I donned  a big blousy shirt, leather waistcoat and boots and thought I looked rather cavalierish and street-magicky.  Of course, I actually liked like the Gay Gypsy Poet of the Wild, Wild West.

One issue here is that I choose material that suits my character.  A very common mistake made by magicians is to develop a character that suits the magic they are already performing.  This has to be the wrong way around.  If you enjoy mentalism it does not mean you must grow a goatee and to stroke and wear black shirts.  Nor does it mean you should adopt the mannerisms and performance style that you think suits mentalism.  You must start by examining yourself and gaining knowledge of your own character, and then shaping the material and how you present it to fit you, so that there is no trace of artifice.

If I take a look at my own personal style, I have some principles that I try to incorporate into my act.

  • I live a simple life.  My apartment doesn’t contain a lot of stuff.  My car is not cluttered with stuff.  My desk at work is not overly cluttered with stuff.  When I go out, I actually kind of enjoy winter because I can carry my wallet, car keys, phone and deck of cards in my outer jacket so I don’t have to carry a lot of clutter in my trousers pockets.  Thus, I like my magic routines to be fairly simple with limited props.
  • I like to travel.  Thus, when I perform a trick, I particularly enjoy wrapping them into stories of my travels.  I don’t do this a lot, but when I do I think it’s fun.
  • I’m not the outgoing, extroverted type of person.  I’m reserved and quiet.  When I perform, I start to mesh into a more extroverted performer but I still have a "rhythm" of performing; it’s reflected in my act.  I like to do things deliberately, smoothly and rhythmically in real life and my performance is the same.
  • I like telling stories.  I like to gather up lots of information and tell stories about stuff.  If you’re ever at my place, and you should spot it on my bookshelf, you should ask to hear the story about my pop-out map of London.  It’s a neat story.  So, when I perform tricks, my favorite types to do are ones that tell stories.  That’s why Sam the Bellhop is one of my favorite effects.
  • Finally, I like things that deal with fate and free will.  The TV show Lost deals with this theme all the time.  A few years when I was reading about theology and process theism, I found the concept incredibly interesting.  Thus, when it comes to mentalism in particular, the theme of free will and predicting the future crops up again and again.

As someone who is not professional, I don’t have the luxury of creating performance character and a non-performance one.  The people who I perform for, mostly, are people I see all the time.  I can’t quite pull off a klutzy clown character because people just wouldn’t buy it from me.  But they would buy into an act from me where I deliberately read their thoughts or project images into their mind.  It dovetails nicely with my actual personality.

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Little factoids

On Facebook, I saw someone fill out the note 100 truths. 100 is a lot to fill out and I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to have everyone find out 100 truths about me. On Facebook, the reading audience is much wider than this blog. So I decided to edit it down to some relevant ones and post here.


1. Last beverage→ Water
2. Last song you listened to→ Praan, by Gary Schyman

Have you ever:

3. Dated someone twice → No
4. Kissed someone & regretted it? → No
5. Been depressed?→ I think so, after my accident for a short period of time a few months later.  I think it was physiological in nature, however.
6. Been drunk? – No.

This year have you:

7. Made new friends→ Yes
8. Met someone who changed you→ Not yet.  But there are certainly people I met last year who have changed me… a little bit.
9. Found out someone was talking about you→ Yes, but in a good way.


10. Do you have any pets → Not right now.
11. Do you want to change your name→ No.
12. What time did you wake up today→ 8:30, though I didn’t get up
13. What were you doing at midnight last night→ Typing up an email
14. Last time you saw your father→ October 2008
15. What is one thing you wish you could change about your life → Buying that investment property in August 2008
16. Zodiac sign → Sagittarius. Interesting factoid: I do a magic effect where I reveal the zodiac sign of a complete stranger.
17. Elementary→ Oakbank Elementary
18. Do you have a crush on someone? → If you’re read through thus far, then I suppose I’ll be truthful and answer in the affirmative.
19. What do you like about yourself? → Man, too many things to count. I work hard and accomplish things that I set my mind to.


20. First surgery → Arthroscopic hip surgery in October 2008
21. First best friend → I think it was my friend Tyler in kindergarten and grade 1.
22. First sport you joined → Sponge hockey in 2002
23. First vacation this century → Edinburgh, Scotland in August 2001

Which is better on a member of the opposite sex:

24. Lips or eyes → Eyes
25. Shorter or taller → Shorter
26. Older or Younger → A little younger, though a little older is okay
27. Romantic or spontaneous → Gotta be honest and go with romantic
28. Sensitive or loud → Sensitive
29. Hook-up or relationship → Relationship
30. Trouble maker or hesitant→ A little hesitant.

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