Wealth International, Limited (trustprofessionals.com) : Where There's W.I.L., There's A Way

W.I.L. Offshore News Digest :: May 2010

This Month’s Entries :


“I would be careful ... I have had no shorts since the fall of 2008, but in the last month or so, I started adding to my short positions for the first time in 18 months.”

Jim Rogers sees the Greek “crisis” as just another manifestation of the ongoing currency crisis. History indicates the huge financial imbalances in the world – “All the credit to nations in the world are in Asia and all the debt, you know who the debtors are and you know where they are” – will lead to more currency crises, “more currency turmoil over the next year, two or three.”

No surprise that Rogers continues to like commodities. He thinks their fundamentals are better than stocks’. They will do well if the world economy gets better, and will be a better place to be than stocks, all over the world, if it does not.

You have been warning us for quite sometime now about our currency crisis. Is that what is finally upon us?

The currency crisis has been going on for a while. It did not start this week. It has been happening for a while. It started with, maybe depending on how you want to look at it, with Iceland or Latvia or many other countries who have been having problems, and the currency crisis is continuing and is going to get worse. This is not the end. Over the next year or more, we are going to see more. So prepare yourself.

I was reading that you are long on euros. Is that the case?

I have been long on the euros and I am long some euros, I wish I were not. I have been going down but I am long some euros. I am long more U.S. dollars for what that is worth but euros are not helping me that these days.

What is your sense? Do you think that the Eurozone is going to shrink because of what we are witnessing in Portugal, Greece and Spain?

Eventually the euro unfortunately is going to break up I am afraid, because it keeps weakening itself from within. If they would lead Greece go bankrupt, for instance, it would strengthen the euro, it would strengthen the Eurozone because then people would know you have to maintain a sound economy, you have to maintain a sound currency and everybody would jump in and buy the euro including me. I would buy more if that would be case. Weakening from within and continuing to lend money and paper over problems is not a solution for a sound currency. I do own the euro, do not get me wrong but I do not think this is the proper approach.

We are also seeing the impact of the crisis on most commodity markets. Do you think that this is just temporary and commodity is still the place for investors to be?

Yes, gold is making all time highs in some currencies. So some currencies are doing well during this period of time. But to your bigger question, if the world economy gets better then obviously commodities are going to do better because the world would use more and there are shortages developing. But let’s assume the worst, let’s assume the world economies does not get better, the things continue to get there, then I would rather be in commodities in most things because governments are going to print even more money and whenever you have had printed money throughout history, it has led to higher prices for real goods whether it is silver or natural gas whatever it happens to be. So I would rather own commodities than most things in the world that we have in the next two or three years.

I am looking at the Rogers International Commodities Index and I see that for this year rubber has done exceptionally well and so has lumber. What kind of commodities do you like at the moment taking a longer term view?

I prefer agriculture just because agriculture has not moved up as much. Metals have boomed in the pasts 15-18 months. Energy is up a lot in the last 15 or 18 months. Agriculture for the most part is still very depressed. Yes, you are right, rubber has done well, some things have done well but for the most part, agricultural products are still very depressed, including sugar. Sugar went up a lot in the last couple of years, but sugar is still very depressed compared to its all time high.

It is a known fact that global markets are really swayed by movements across the globe. Any cataclysmic events that you expect to see in 2010 the rest of the year or do you think it is going to be a largely meandering benign kind of year that we have ahead of us?

I have no idea. As we started the program I explained to you that there will be more currency crises, more currency turmoil over the next year, two or three. We have huge imbalances. All the credit to nations in the world are in Asia and all the debt, you know who the debtors are and you know where they are, those imbalances have not been sorted out yet. Throughout history, most imbalances like this have been sorted out in the currency markets or once upon a time when we were on the gold exchange through the gold markets and so we have more problems coming. You may well see some more countries going bankrupt in this period of time because these imbalances still exist. I would be careful if I were you. It is just one other thing. I have started selling short in the last month or so. I have had virtually no shorts. In fact, I have had no shorts since the fall of 2008, but in the last month or so, I started adding to my short positions for the first time in 18 months.

What are you shorting?

I am shorting a stock market index in the U.S., I am shorting an emerging market index and I am shorting one of the large western international financial institutions. It is an emerging market index; it is not a specific country. It is an index of many emerging markets and that is mainly because the emerging markets have grown more than most things here during this big recovery. So that is where some of the excesses are developing. As far as the large western banks is because it is a bank which people think is extremely sound if I am right, there are going to be more currency problems and more turmoil in the markets, it will have to come down.

A thought prevailing in some people’s mind is that China over the next six months would have to cool down a little bit. There could be rate increases as well that could come in and that will put a stop or a temporary blip in certain usual suspect commodities, the likes of base metals, so on and so forth. Do you think that is a distinct possibility?

There is no question that China is already trying to cool things up and they should. They are doing the right thing. They have raised reserve requirements three times, they have raised interest rates, they are putting out some pretty serious measures, they are cooling off the housing bubble which has developed in urban cost of real estate in China. So yes, China is taking smart measures. It is not just China though. Australia is raising interest rates several times. We do have inflation in the world. Some countries deny it and lie about it, but we do have inflation and so people are trying to cool it off. Will that have an effective course whenever you cool off demand for anything; it has an affect in the market. Because of the commodity markets to collapse, if it does, stock markets are going to go around a whole lot more because the fundamentals are much better for commodities than they are for stocks.

Are you bearish on all Asian equity markets or are there any pockets of value that you like?

“I am not buying any stock markets anywhere in the world. I have not bought any stock markets for the past 18 months.”

I am not buying any stock markets anywhere in the world. I have not bought any stock markets for the past 18 months. I have been playing this world economy through the commodity markets for those 18 months and the currency markets and as I said, now I am starting to sell short but I have nothing to do with any Asian market. I just have not bought any markets anywhere because I have been leery of this big rally in the stock market. It has been caused by a lot of money being pumped into the world economy. So my view was as I said before if the world economy gets better, commodities would do well and they have. If the world economy does not get better, commodity is going to be a better place to be than stocks, all over the world, not just Asia.

Right. Now you said that you are shorting Western financial institutions. Now if I am not wrong, you were doing the same thing in the second half of 2008 and we saw what happened back then. Are you concerned or worried that something like that is going to happen again? Do you think another financial crisis is going to be upon us when investors are just going to get scared about banks?

“I only see two bubbles in the world, one is Chinese urban real estate and the other is the United States government bond market.”

Well I was short on major Western financial institutions in 2008, I am delighted and surprised you remember but I was. Then there were great excesses in the Western financial community. We do not have that kind of excess now. We have excesses but nothing like we did then. I am just shorting this major Western financial institution because it is very high priced and if the markets are going to consolidate, it will be one of the first to get hit because the reasons in my view we will have consolidation because of currency turmoil and financial market turmoil. I do not see a bubble in finance like we had two or three years ago. We could have one again but it is not there, yeah. I only see two bubbles in the world, one is Chinese urban real estate and the other is the United States government bond market. We do not have major periods of excess like we did have three years ago in the Western financial arena.

Right. Coming back to commodities where you are largely bullish, the sugar story though has gone badly sour right now. Prices are down about 40%. So people wanted to put fresh money to work in the commodities space. Do they need to be cautious about this kind of sharp price correction in some of the commodities, which have already had a big run up?

Well, sugars are 400% over the past few years. It depends on how you look at it. Yes, sugars came down in the past few months, but that is the way markets work. ... They always have consolidations and corrections. I did not say buy sugar before, I was just pointing out to you that sugar is still probably 70% or 80% below its all time high. It does not mean you should buy sugar. I am just pointing out using that as an example of how cheap many agricultural products are. But yes, you must be careful of markets. ... Markets do not go straight up and they do not go straight down, they have various and sundry consolidations and corrections along the way. If you are going to get involved in anything, you need to try to buy when they are down and not when they are up.

The latest data indicates that EPFR funds have been pulling out of the emerging markets. Just wondering if indeed China does slow down over the next six months, Europe comes out relatively unharmed. What do you think will happen to the fund flow situation to emerging markets over the next six months?

Well, I am not quite sure that you would see emerging markets slowing down if Europe did, not if I understood you properly. If Europe and America slow down, that is going to cause the markets everywhere to have an affect. Europe and America, for instance, are over 10 times as big as the Chinese market. People talk about China, people talk about India, but these are very small markets or economies compared to the major economies in the West and in Japan. So if the West slows down, of course it is going to affect everybody. I do not see the emerging markets slowing down and the West reviving because the West is so very big and the West needs most emerging markets. Most emerging markets are commodity-based economies and if the world economy does well, the commodities are going to do okay. So I do not see the emerging markets slowing down if the West continues to revive. I started selling short in emerging market index, but that is just because the emerging markets were the ones who went up the most in the past few months.

Now how long do you think that the U.S. Federal Reserve is going to stay on hold with interest rates between 0 to 0.25%?

Well, I do not pay that much attention to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve basically follows the market. The market has a lot more money and a lot more power than any central bank, including the Federal Reserve. The people or bureaucrats would follow the markets for the most part. The market is already getting hesitant as you probably know. Long-term interest rates have been going up in the past few months. The long-term bond in America made its peak several months ago, so I would watch the markets more than the Federal Reserve, if I were you. The markets are getting leary of all this money printing, which has been going on and as you know, central banks have been buying bonds in a huge way. The markets are getting suspicious and leary of that including me. So I would suspect you will see higher interest rates in the next year or so.

Now my final and slightly unusual question. I do not know if you get asked often about Africa, but since you are bullish on a multi framework on agriculture, do you think that absolutely does boost Africa’s prospects for economic growth?

Well, Africa has more than 50 countries. So it is hard to talk about Africa as a whole. But I am extremely optimistic about some countries in Africa. As you pointed out, there is huge agricultural interest in Africa. Yes, I would much rather be invested in Africa than in some continents I know. So by all means, but again you cannot just say a blanket invest in Africa. You have got to make sure you get involved with the right countries, the right people in the right situation. But yes, as a gross generalization, I would rather own Africa than not own Africa.

Read the source article.


International Living has published a “health issue,” giving their top picks of locations associated with residents having longer and healthier lives. The short list: New Zealand, the Volcan valley in Panama, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, Sardinia, and the Vilcabamba valley in Ecuador.

It is generally agreed that longevity and health are greatly aided by a lifestyle featuring low stress, a good diet, exercise, and social interaction, along with a live-and-let-live yet optimistic attitude towards life. We humans are creatures of our physical and social environment to a far larger degree than we generally appreciate, so if health and longetivy is your aim then attaining that is made much, much easier by putting yourself in an environment where you are naturally encouraged to eat well, live actively, accept life, think optimistically, etc.

Or as IL puts it here: “Luckily, it is easy to embrace those elements when you are living in a place where they come naturally. ... In these enclaves, people tend to put great value on personal interaction and friendship – and that involvement keeps you engaged every day. A slower pace – often coupled with a much lower cost of living – relieves the pressure and anxiety that so often takes grip at home.”

They all sound like nice places to relax even if you do not stay forever.

Optimism and purpose, a low stress level, a natural diet and an active lifestyle ... experts say those factors are three times as important as your genetic makeup when it comes to enjoying a long and healthy life. Luckily, it is easy to embrace those elements when you are living in a place where they come naturally. And they do in our top picks for the world’s healthiest places to live.

In these enclaves, people tend to put great value on personal interaction and friendship – and that involvement keeps you engaged every day. A slower pace – often coupled with a much lower cost of living – relieves the pressure and anxiety that so often takes grip at home. In the U. S., the “locavore” movement – which advocates eating foods grown near where you live – is just gaining momentum. But in the places profiled here, the foods you find at the markets are always fresh, local and organic. In these destinations, the air is clean and the sun shines – so you tend to be outside more and therefore more active.

As American Lee Carper reported after a few months in Ecuador, “I haven’t felt this good in so long I can’t remember. I used to take pain medication, but here I rarely take an aspirin. I don’t pick up a phone or get on the computer. I used to be glued to all that at home.”

If you are ready to escape to a place where you will feel better, look younger and live longer, here is your short list:

New Zealand: Healthy Living Kiwi-style

New Zealand Home to 4.3 million people, New Zealand and its awesome landscapes is admittedly a long way from North America. But as our winter is their summer, you could consider retiring here part-time. In a pollution-free environment, it is much easier to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Those of working age may have a skill that New Zealand needs. Most transplants find their work-life balance changes for the better. There is less stress, and health care is affordable and often free. For both sexes, average life expectancy is two years higher than in the U.S. Here, it is 83 for women and 78 for men.

Its “outdoors lifestyle” is no all about high-octane adventure or team sports like rugby. The most popular participation sports are walking and hiking. Surveys suggest that 64% of adults go “tramping.” Many families own a small boat, and fishing and swimming opportunities abound. No matter where you live, nowhere is more than a 90-minute drive from the ocean.

A Colorado transplant, Jill Chalmers moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband. “Everyone, young to old, always seems to be doing something active,” she says. “People just get out and do things. It’s easy to join in.

“Plus there’s an abundance of healthy whole foods. We eat fresh seafood (we often catch it ourselves) and local organic fruits and vegetables. Everyone grows something here and neighbors all put out bags for purchase by anyone. We get fresh lettuce from the kids’ school, avocados from our tree, and kiwis, apples and plums from our neighbors.”

Panama: Shangri-La Valley

Volcan, Panama “Live long and prosper.” In the famed Star Trek series, it was the typical Vulcan salute. And that brings Volcan to mind. What better place in Panama to seek long life and live off the grid?

Expat Patrick Greer, owner of the Lost and Found eco-lodge, says few places rival Volcan for green-highland scenery and low-cost living. But he and other expats are cottoning on to the health benefits of living here.

Check out the cemetery gravestones and you will note people in this region were living into their 80s and 90s when life expectancies elsewhere in Panama averaged 77 years or less. It is a combination of the spring-like weather and the fresh produce here.

Often described as the “Shangri-La Valley,” Volcan’s attractions include thermal springs and berry stands. Just try to stress out here; it is hard to do – the pace of life is so serene.

U.S. expat Paul Votava runs Restaurante Polineth in Volcan, which serves Thai fare. He lobbied organic farms to grow chilies for his dishes and grows many herbs in his own garden. Today, $10 gets you full of the tastes of Thailand – guilt-free, of course, thanks to the organic vegetables.

Patrick’s lodge is in a national park with dozens of hiking trails. “We are surrounded by tranquility,” he says. “Hordes of monkeys come through the trees ... cacomistles appear every night at eight like clockwork.” His neighbors include an organic farmer who specializes in coffee and makes his own wine. You can sample both and have a farm-to-table lunch, then lose yourself under the green canopy of La Fortuna nature reserve.

Centenarians in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica “Blue Zones” have been determined by scientists as places where the world’s longest-living people reside. One of these is Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula on the country’s northwest coast. Researchers spent nine months there in 2007 to determine why so many people live well into their 90s and 100s – longer than anywhere else in Costa Rica ... or the world, for that matter.

The scientists studying the centenarians of the Nicoya Peninsula found eight key reasons for this longevity:
  1. Diet. The people here are heavily influenced by the indigenous diet of the Chorotega, consisting of high-fortified corn and beans – healthy and high in fiber.
  2. Water. With loads of calcium, the hard water encourages strong bones and fewer hip fractures.
  3. Family focus. The Nicoya centenarians tend to live as couples or with children and/or other family members from whom they get support.
  4. Eating lightly. They eat a light dinner early in the evening. (Eating fewer calories is proven to add years to your life.)
  5. Dry climate. Nicoya is the driest part of Costa Rica, and in dry climates food doesn’t spoil as quickly, the sun is more intense, and people get fewer respiratory diseases and more Vitamin D.
  6. Social networks. The centenarians here get frequent visitors and they know how to listen, laugh and appreciate what they have.
  7. Work. They’ve enjoyed physical work all their lives and find joy in everyday chores.
  8. Purpose. They feel needed and want to contribute to a greater good.
Sardinia: Ancient Island, Ancient People

Sardinia Off Italy’s Mediterranean coast, Sardinia is a rugged island of 1.3 million people. It is often synonymous with the jet-set lifestyle – Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, owns a vacation villa here.

While Signor Berlusconi happily admits to a hair transplant and cosmetic surgery, he looks in good shape for a 73-year-old. Could it be something in Sardinia’s air?

Maybe, but by local standards he is a youngster. Sardinia is another Blue Zone. Due to their extraordinary number of centenarians, the close-knit villages of its interior have attracted several major research teams.

Dan Buettner, a noted author on longevity, interviewed several centenarians in Barbagia for National Geographic. (Tavern calendars here feature a “Centenarian of the Month.”)

Most still live with one or more family members. The men are shepherds and continue that lifestyle. They typically walk five miles a day and eat similar diets: whole grain flatbread, fava beans, tomatoes, greens, garlic, various fruits, olive oil and pecorino cheese from grass-fed sheep (high in Omega 3). Among older people, meat often remains reserved for Sundays and feast days.

One interviewee is Guiseppe Mura, aged 102. He starts work at dawn, comes home, sleeps a little, and then spends some time with friends in the village square. He then returns to the fields until dark.

Maria, his 65-year-old daughter, estimates her father drinks a liter of wine daily. The local wine is Cannonau, a dark, red wine with the world’s highest levels of antioxidants.

The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Olive oil. Soups studded with yellow split peas, broad beans, haricot beans, chickpeas and lentils. Small portions of nuts. Wheat bread or pasta. Moderate amounts of fish and poultry. Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods. Aromatic honey. A low intake of red meat, but a moderate intake of red wine.

There is nothing faddish about the Mediterranean diet. The term was coined by American nutritionist Dr. Ancel Keys in the 1950s, but southern Europe’s people have eaten this way since antiquity.

Numerous studies suggest it helps combat heart disease and boosts longevity. It did not do Dr. Ancel any harm. He spent 40 years residing in southern Italy and lived to see his 100th birthday.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol that clogs up arteries. Highlighted on ABC News, a recent study from Columbia University suggests it may also help seniors avoid strokes, and ultimately dementia.

And the taste, like Greek flavors, is great. Along with red wine, nothing beats a lunch of feta cheese, zucchini, olives and tzatziki-garlic yogurt. But wherever you go, even simple soups taste wonderfully flavorsome. Mediterranean cooks use herbs such as oregano and thyme to season foods. And bread – real bread – is not slathered in butter. Instead, it is often smeared with tomato pulp and drizzled with olive oil.

Some items from the Mediterranean table may bring other benefits. Ancient Greeks and Romans threw walnuts at weddings because they reputedly improved fertility.

Then there are pine nuts. Italians combine them with basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese to make pesto sauce. In classical times, pine nuts were considered a libido booster – they are rich in zinc.

Galen, a second-century Greek who became personal physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, devised a prescription to enhance male performance. He recommended: “A glass of thick honey, plus 20 almonds and 100 pine nuts repeated for three nights.”

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: The Valley of Longevity

Vilcabamba, Ecuador Why can natives of Vilcabamba’s “Valley of Longevity” live longer, healthier lives? Maybe it is the pollution-free environment or the highly oxygenated air. It could be the unique combination of minerals in the water or the abundance of negative ions emanating from the mountains and fast flowing rivers. Easy access to natural medicines, largely unavailable in developed countries, is another possibility.

While all these factors can contribute to a longer, healthier life, they are not the typical reasons expat residents give when they explain why they feel so much better living in Vilcabamba. A more typical response will reference the valley’s magnificent weather.

The health benefits may not be immediately obvious. But this consistently good weather means your body does not have to expend energy adapting to climatic extremes. Windows can be open 24/7, filling your house and your lungs with crisp, clean air.

Vilcabamba’s idyllic year-round weather means anytime-access to fresh, tasty and inexpensive fruits and vegetables. And it is easy to get up and go when the weather outside is so good. How can your doctor and your body not like that?

But it is not just Vilcabamba’s atmosphere that helps make the area a healthy place to live; there is also Vilcabamba’s “attitude.” Stress, the stealthy destroyer of a person’s physical and mental well being, is no match for the valley’s ambience. Residents laid-back approach, combined with Vilcabamba’s spectacular scenery, can make anyone’s disposition as wonderful as the weather.
The French Longevity Recipe

In 1911, The New York Times reported on French life expectancy. “At the beginning of the last century, the average duration barely exceeded the age of 30. In 1880 it was up to 40, and now varies between 47 and 48.”

Since then, life spans have increased at an astonishing rate. Life expectancy now tops 80 for France’s population as a whole but is 84 for women.

That is the average. The Paris-based National Statistics Institute showed 20,115 centenarians in 2008. Offset against a total population number of around 65 million, France’s centenarian ratio outranks the U.S. and Japan.

Moving to France will not deliver immortality, but the World Health Organization ranks its health care system as the world’s best. Contributions-based, it is costly to maintain, but nobody falls into serious debt – the unemployed are covered, too.

Adrian Leeds, who has lived in France since 1994, told IL about her situation as a foreign legal resident. “My [French] social security payments are approximately $2,175 per year. I top it up with a $1,300-a-year complementary policy providing 100% coverage, including dental benefits.”

Provided you can support yourself or are legally employed, you can obtain such status. However, many expats opt for private health insurance. With one provider, it costs around $215 monthly if you are 50 to 64; $300 if you are 65 to 69; and $335 if you are over 70 years old.

What puzzles researchers is that, despite a rich diet, France has low rates of heart disease. Some scientists suggest the explanation could be the habit of eating everything, but in small portions.

Others put it down to red wine. Particularly high levels of a plant chemical called procyanadin are found in Tannat grapes from the Southwest region. Experts say this is beneficial for blood vessels.

Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who lived to the age of 122, defied all explanation. Still riding a bicycle when she reached her 100th birthday, she did not quit smoking until she was 117. She attributed her longevity to olive oil, port wine and chocolate.
Look and Feel Young Overseas

If you dream of moving to one of the overseas destinations that International Living writes about, you probably look forward to a low-stress, affordable lifestyle. It is likely to be a healthier lifestyle, too. Here are some reasons why.

Warm climate: Most of us dream of retiring someplace warm. Snow and cold are things we gladly leave behind with our old 9-to-5 lives. And when the weather is warm and sunny, it is easy to spend more time outside in the fresh air. Before you know it, you may ease into an active lifestyle with lots of exercise ... which health experts agree is key to keeping us looking and feeling young.

Some expats actually choose an overseas destination because they can practice a favorite sport there, such as golf, hiking or fishing. Others take up a new activity once they move. If you are near the sea, for instance, swimming or strolling the beach may become part of your new routine. If you live in a city, you may soon be walking to shops and markets, or just exploring your new home town on foot. When adventure or fresh discoveries lie around every corner, long walks do not feel like exercise.

Social life: Fresh air and sunshine can also help you make friends. (Health experts say that social networking helps us live longer, too.) Ever stayed home from a social event because you could not face a cold, wet night out? In your new warm-weather home, you are more likely to ask, “Where’s the party?” and enjoy the evening stroll there and back.

Healthy eats: With a warm climate comes a long growing season for fruits and vegetables. Expats often praise the quality and freshness of the produce they can buy locally. You can choose to eat junk food if you want. But fresh, exotic produce can tempt you to eat more healthily. If you do, your health – not to mention your taste buds – will thank you.

Of course, in warm weather it is also tempting to lie by the pool and just do nothing. That is okay, too – it lowers all that unhealthy stress.

Read the source article.


“Subversive Uncle Frank” has an intriguing website/blog. Exclusively promotional on the face of it, a little reading through the comments and responses in the product pages unearths a lot of experience and knowledge. The eBook descriptions brought back memories of reading through the late and lamented Loompanics catalog in days of old.

Anyway, SUF and his family spent eight months in the title “sleepy Nicaraguan Fishing Village” among an “eclectic mix of Canadian, British and American ex-pats who live sprinkled among the Nicaraguan locals.” The living there was easy – inexpensive, and the townfolk were friendly – but “it takes awhile to figure out how to get certain things done.” SUF shares the experience of figuring such things out, which undoubtedly translates to just about any similar town.

San Juan del Sur is a sleepy fishing village on the Pacific coast near the border of Costa Rica. It is small enough that you would never need a car. All of the hotels, restaurants, stores and homes are mixed together in this tiny fishing village. The entire town consists of four streets back from the beach and four streets along the beach.

A larger grocery store called Pali is just on the outskirts of town. Visitors can stay in Hotels such as the Colonial or the Gran Oceana for around $50 per night or spend $350 per night for the best room at Pelican Eyes resort up on the hill with a spectacular view of the cove. You can eat at the five star restaurant or out by the infinity pool. Then go visit the monkeys on-site in their sanctuary.

But we are not travelers. We prefer living internationally. Outside of town, you can rent a four bedroom three bath house up on the hill with a full time guard and a swimming pool for $2,500 per month.

We love living in town among the eclectic mix of Canadian, British and American ex-pats who live sprinkled among the Nicaraguan locals. We rented a six bedroom, four bathroom home with a huge balcony and hammock for $800 per month. Our two preschoolers had fun trying to find purposes for all of the extra rooms.

That way we did not need or want a car. We were within quick walking distance of the beach, stores, restaurants, the park and every other amenity you can possibly desire ... almost ...

Small town living in a relatively poor country has its advantages. Both ex-pats and locals get to know you in this friendly town. But it takes awhile to figure out how to get certain things done.

For instance, there is an open market in the center of town for fresh produce, but it really does not look very good. Greens are wilted from the heat. Fruits are small and blemished. There must be a solution.

There is, but you have to ask around. On Saturday mornings, the ex-pats have their own open market next to the American chiropractor’s office across from the harbor. Just ask for the Chiropractor’s office. There is only one in town. It is run by Dr. Andrew. Tell him, I said “Hi.”

The grocery store on the outskirts of town also has a very limited selection. You may eventually grow to miss Sam’s Club and Costco. The good news is that Costco is in Nicaragua. They operate under the name Price Smart. The nearest store is in Managua which is a two hour drive though.

The solution is just as easy. Four blocks away from Andrew’s office on the other side of town, you will find Big Wave Dave’s, a bar and restaurant tucked away on a side street just off the beach. The owner, not coincidentally is Dave Grace, but everyone calls him Big Wave Dave.

You need to introduce yourself to Dave the first day you get into town. He is a problem solver of all kinds. You can find him sitting at his own bar “holding court” just about every afternoon except Sunday when the entire town is pretty much closed.

Dave runs a van service to Managua every Tuesday and Friday. I think it costs $10 to take the ride. He fills the van and dictates the itinerary based on everyone’s needs. Some are going to their embassy. Some are shopping at Price Smart or another large grocery store in Managua. Others are going to a doctor’s appointment. You just tell Dave what you need and he will get you there, but you need to be flexible about which order people get dropped off and how long it might take to be picked up.

But if you just want a big juicy California orange, some smoked salmon and a root beer (none of which are available in San Juan del Sur), you just tell Dave on Monday or Thursday night and he will pick it up for you. He charges a very reasonable fee for this service. I think it is 10% of the purchase price or $10 whichever is more.

Prescriptions are not a problem in Nicaragua. He can pick those up too ... often without actually having the prescription since most pharmacies are pretty lax about requiring prescriptions even for the few drugs that theoretically require them in Nicaragua.

A couple of doors down from Big Wave Dave’s (on the same street), you will find the El Gato Negro (the black cat) bookstore and restaurant. Rob and Kelly, who own and operate El Gato Negro have been called “book nazis” by the local ex-pats for their firm policy of not allowing people to read books from their vast collection without first paying for them. Little signs advertise that it is a book store, not a library.

But here is where you will find English books to read in Nicaragua. They also have a great menu of very healthy and delicious food.

This is also one of three places in town to get the secret greens. Remember when I told you the greens in the market are wilted? Well, some of the restaurants in town have these excellent wild mixed greens that are fresh and organic. It will take you a few weeks to get a local to tell you where to get them. Actually, I never did find out the real actual source. It is a HUGE secret and people joke about how hard they worked or who they had to pay off to find the supplier of the secret greens.

I do not know the source, but I do know that you can buy them for about $6 a bag (more than a week’s supply of salads) from either El Gato Negro or from Big Wave Dave. They are also usually available at the Saturday market.

Another ex-pat you will want to get to know is the owner of Jerry’s Pizza which is located right in the middle of town and serves a great pizza even by international standards. The owner’s name is actually Bob, but he does not mind if you slip up and call him Jerry. He bought the place years ago from Jerry and in typical San Juan del Sur style, he decided it just was not important enough to change the sign or the web-site so he kept the name Jerry’s Pizza.

There are other ex-pats you will want to get to know in town for various reasons. Of course one reason is that ex-pats in San Juan del Sur are just plain cool people.

You will want to get to know the pirate family who makes and sells the homemade bagels. Yes. I said pirate. And I am not going to tell you anything more about that. You will just have to ask about it yourself when you get there.

Also ask about The Pier and go watch a sunset with my friends Steve and Shannon. It is one of my favorite parts of the San Juan del Sur experience.

Who do you ask? Well, you can ask Dave at Big Wave Dave’s or Rob and Kelly at El Gato Negro or Bob at Jerry’s Pizza, but the real place you absolutely need to go is the Saturday market.

All of the gringo ex-pats gather across from the harbor to trade stories and socialize every Saturday morning for the Saturday market. It is also a great chance to buy great looking produce from the organic gardens of the ex-pats or get other rare commodities craved by ex-pats.

San Juan del Sur is a truly magical place that needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

Read the source article.


Breaking in your new home down south may require some patience.

Carter Clews moved into his new house in Honduras, and immediately found that the TV and refrigerator were broken and plumbing system was clogged ... “roto”. Not what he was hoping for, but these things happen in less-developed countries. “Chances are that if you ever follow my lead, you are going to have a similar experience,” Clews writes.

He found people nearby to fix everything in fairly short order, at a cost of $50 all told. He is now sharing what he learned from the experience, “because if you even consider heading south of the border, you are going to need to know what to expect, and, frankly, how best to react. So, here, are ‘Clews’ Views Top Five Rules for Settling in Without Cracking Up.’ Take my advice and print them up before you move on down.”

The refrigerator was broken. The TV was broken. And the hot water would not work. That, in sum, was my introduction to my new home in El Pino, Honduras.

Outside, the sun was shining, a tropical breeze was blowing, and the easy sweep of swaying palms accented the aura of paradise found. Inside, it was “drizzly November in my soul.”

Now, let’s back up a second so that you can get the full impact of my predicament. Regular readers will recall that I was not in El Pino to visit relatives, minister to the natives, backpack the adjacent Pico Bonito Rainforest Mountain, or languish on the pristine sands of El Porvenir beach.

No, putting my money where my mouth has been for the past year, or so, I had bought a home in El Pino, and was moving in to set up housekeeping. Clews’ Views, after all, is not about helping tourists take pretty pictures and spend an exquisite evening at some secluded rendezvous. It is about helping adventurous resettlers – pioneers, as it were – find a new home in some faraway place with a strange-sounding name where they can live the good life at a great price.

And, so, I found myself sitting somewhat forlornly in my new home in El Pino, Honduras – sin a refrigerator, sin a TV, and, worst of all, sin a hot shower. But, not sin hopes, dreams, and an indomitable determination to make this land my own, even if I had to drink warm sodas, entertain myself with hand puppets, and bathe in the nearby Rio Coloradito.

That is an important point, one well worth driving home – not to aggrandize myself, but to acclimate you to the bare, essential facts of making a move to a “developing aation,” where all of the comforts of home do not instantly appear at the flick of a switch. If that is what you are looking for, my best advice is to either stay home, or be prepared to pay several hundred thousand to a million dollars, or so, for a high-ticket condo in a gated community on a posh Caribbean beach. And there are plenty of them.

As we established when I first started penning this column some 14 months ago,, Clews’ Views is for pioneers who want to pay, perhaps, $50,000 to $100,000, to be a part of – not apart from – the Latin American lifestyle. It really is a good life at a great price. But, you have to adjust to it. Because it is likely to be quite a few years before it adjusts to you.

So, there I was with the roto refrigerator, roto TV, and roto shower ... awkwardly trying to hablo my pitifully few words of Spanish ... attempting to make my young live-in housekeeper (who habla-ed even fewer words of English) understand that this was muy mal ... and muttering to myself that even though I had hardly expected the Welcome Wagon, I did expect a little more than hot sodas, a cold shower, and a blank TV screen.

Chances are that if you ever follow my lead, you are going to have a similar experience. And that is why in this column I want to share with you what I learned over the next week, or so – because if you even consider heading south of the border, you are going to need to know what to expect, and, frankly, how best to react. So, here, are “Clews’ Views Top Five Rules for Settling in Without Cracking Up.” Take my advice and print them up before you move on down.

1. The two most important words in the Spanish language are “roto” and “reparar.” The former means “broken;” the latter (as you might have imagined), “to repair.” Chances are good that once you move in, you are going to find many, many things roto. And, fortunately, chances are even better that there is someone nearby who can reparar whatever it is very quickly – and remarkably cheaply.

For example, my El Pino neighbors repaired my refrigerator, TV, and shower all in one afternoon – and all for about $50. And, they were not minor repairs. The fridge and TV needed new electrical parts; the shower needed some sort of rotor rootering of underground pipes. But, alas [alas? He must mean the opposite], within hours, I was sitting in front of my TV, thoroughly cleansed, with a cold soda firmly in hand.

Now, one thing I will tell you was not easily or cheaply repaired was TACA Airlines. The locals say that TACA stands for “Take A Chance Airlines.” And I can attest to the fact that for TACA, “manana” seems to be a term of urgency.

2. Make quick friends with your new neighbors. In the United States, neighbors are, as often as not, those bothersome folks next door whose dog will not stop yapping; whose tattooed, body-pierced kids are Freddy Krueger clones; and whose idea of the perfect time to mow the lawn is 7:00 AM Saturday morning – with your mower.

Not so in most Central American countries. And particularly not so in the small towns and villages where I have recommended – and will continue to recommend – that you move. Like El Pino. Here is your choice: You can either make friends with the neighbors (don’t worry about the language barrier; they will work with you), or you can sit in stunned silence staring at a blank TV screen, nursing a warm soda, and contemplating a cold shower.

Now, let me hasten to add, that I consider myself the “Beautiful American.” So, this making friends stuff comes pretty easy to me. Unlike Homer Atkins, I really do consider the rural, simple life of the average campesino very uplifting and dignified. I do not have any particular missionary zeal to convert the “heathen.” And, frankly, I do not think a government handout is the automatic answer to all of society’s ills. If that were the case, we could all go live in Detroit.

I am moving to El Pino because I prefer their way of life – not because I want to inflict mine on them. “Civilization” will beset them soon enough. Then, they, too, will have the yapping dogs, Krueger clones, and roaring mowers.

3. Take the bus. As I have mentioned time and again in this column, I am a city guy, raised on the hardscrabble streets of downtown Baltimore. So, I like the energy and excitement of urban life (sans the drive-by shootings and open-air drug markets). Which means that, when in El Pino – which is, quite literally, out in the middle of nowhere – I like to visit La Ceiba, the nearest city (population 120,000).

On my first day in El Pino, I took the cab to La Ceiba. It is a 20-minute ride, and it cost me five bucks. That is not bad – except for the fact that for the same five bucks I could have eaten for a day in El Pino (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and had change left over. And remember: I am actually moving to El Pino; I am not stopping by to sample the simple life and then head back to modern civilization. So, living that high on the hog is definitely out.

And that brings me to the bus – which I want you to accept as a symbol of adopting the local way of life. The bus to La Ceiba takes about a half hour – and it costs 50 cents. Now, if you’re thinking Greyhound or Trail Ways, go sleep it off. We are talking little yellow school bus of Sixties vintage, with the only “air” coming through the windows. It is you, 57 locals, eight chickens, and three goats. (All right, I am just kidding about the chickens and goats.)

The point is that if you are going to be a pioneer, you might as well learn to enjoy the ambiance of the new frontier. It is quick. It is easy. It is cheap. And, quite frankly, it is fascinating.

4. Remember that everyone who speaks English is not your trusted friend. I bought a coffee pot, a set of sheets, and a water cooler from a merchant largely because he spoke English. The coffee pot melted, the sheets were too small for my bed, and the water cooler was cracked. But, the guy really did speak great English.

I do not want to ride this horse into the ground – after all, the young girl at the local Tigo phone company also spoke English, and she was a big help; as was my English-speaking attorney who wrapped up the settlement on my house in eight minutes flat. The point is this: when you are in a foreign country, the sound of English can be music to your ears. But, particularly if you intend to set down roots, it can also be the Siren Song of high hopes gone awry. Commit to learning the language.

5. Watch “Medicine Man,” “The Edge,” and “Hatari.” I know this last rule sounds like a joke, but, believe it or not, I am absolutely serious. When you make your move to a small village in a “developing nation,” chances are that to a certain extent, you are going to be roughing it. So, quite simply, watch how the “real men” handle the rough life, and act accordingly.

For those not familiar with “Medicine Man,” “The Edge,” and “Hatari,” each is a movie about people living in primitive situations who not only survive, they extend. They accept what most of us think of as deprivations, and they learn that happiness, fulfillment, and success are actually “inside jobs;” that how comfortable you are is determined less by temperature than temperament.

“Medicine Man” stars Sean Connery playing a researcher living in an African jungle that finds – and then loses – a cure for cancer. He sleeps soundly in a hammock and walks heedlessly in the rain. “The Edge” stars Anthony Hopkins playing a wealthy man who after having a plane wreck in the outback survives nobly on his wits and sheer determination. And “Hatari” stars John Wayne, playing, well, John Wayne – and if that is not inspiring enough, you probably ought to stay stateside.

Seriously, the point I am trying to make is that life in the small villages and tiny towns dotting the Latin American map is probably not for the faint of heart. But, it is for young at heart, of any age. And, for the strong of character. Watch Sean, Tony, or the Duke, and you will see what I mean.

So, that’s it. That is what you can expect when you join me at any one of the 1001 wonderful little locales scattered throughout Latin America that I write about each month, offering you the good life at a great price. True, at times your whole world will seem roto. But, a thing worth having is worth reparar.

Read the source article.


A nature lover’s paradise.

This is essentially a sales blurb. We are posting it because it highlights an area of the Caribbean that is less commonly covered. The Costa Rican Caribbean enjoys year-round rainfall, unlike the Pacific Coast where the “dry season” is quite hot and dry. (The Nicoya Peninsula, mentioned in the World’s Healthiest Places to Live article above, is on the Pacific Coast.) For some the lack of dry spells means lush green foliage all year around. Others will hear that and think “stifling humidity.”

The particular development being plugged is 1,300 up, which “allows for fresh ocean breezes. The site is diverse, with virgin rainforest, five rivers, two waterfalls, and gently rolling hills. You will spot hundreds of bird and animal species.” OK ... sounds nice. Worth checking out in person, perhaps.

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is picture perfect. The sand is white and the water is turquoise.

Back from the coast, you have the Talamanca Mountains. You get magnificent views of the Caribbean and the surrounding mountains and valleys. The breeze is fresh and the wildlife abundant – 70% of the coast is protected.

Unlike the Pacific Coast, the Costa Rican Caribbean enjoys year-round rainfall without a dry season. So instead of the parched, dusty environment found in some areas, you will find lush green tropical forests and tumbling rivers.

This is a nature lover’s paradise – sport fishing, dolphin-watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and white-water rafting. You can enjoy a quiet nature hike, a volcano tour, or a visit to an indigenous village.

The province of Limon stretches the length of the Caribbean coast. The city of Limon is home to 75,000 people, 40% of whom speak English. It is equipped with up-to-date supermarkets, excellent small specialty stores, and a modern hospital.

Limon is known as Costa Rica’s forgotten province. That is set to change. A major gentrification process is underway in the city. There are plans for a $600 million modernization of the ports of Limon and nearby Moin.

Moin has a Caribbean charm, but not much in the way of amenities. A $40-million marina development including a 500-slip marina, two breakwaters, a shopping center, 800 homes, a yacht repair area, and a luxury hotel is on the way.

The marina will change this sleepy Caribbean outpost. How much? Consider Los Suenos on the Pacific side of the country. This was Costa Rica’s only private marina. When it was developed, the area boomed.

Now is the time to act before the world remembers Costa Rica’s forgotten province.

There is a development here that I consider the gold standard project in the area. Set back from the coast in the Talamanca Mountains (a 30-minute drive from Limon and Moin) the 1,300-foot elevation allows for fresh ocean breezes. The site is diverse, with virgin rainforest, five rivers, two waterfalls, and gently rolling hills. You will spot hundreds of bird and animal species.

The large private properties here take advantage of the Caribbean, valley, and mountain views. Lots range from 1 to 5 acres, assuring plenty of room to stretch out. (You can build a 1,400-square-foot house for $100,000.)

Better yet, you can get financing to stake out your piece of this land.

Here is the deal: $40,000 buys you a 1.5-acre lot. You can buy this lot with $14,000 (35%) down. The balance of $26,000 can be financed over 10 years. You pay no interest for the first two years, and make monthly payments of $216. At the end of two years, you can repay the outstanding balance ($20,816) or alternatively you can finance this amount for eight years at 8.5%.

That is a monthly payment of $299. ...

Read the source article.


In some cases, rental yields are higher than they have been for decades.

Where to look for values in the post-real estate bubble market, when your investing universe is the whole world? The author here has one set of rules for “crisis investing” and another set for buying pre-construction properties – you do not touch these properties in a “crisis” market – in what he deems to be the best real estate market in the world right now: North-East Brazil.

After years of thinking that investing in overseas property through “pre-construction” deals was a one way bet, investors have almost completely withdrawn. Many are nursing a major hangover. For some, the pain has yet to be felt – this will happen when their unit is delivered and they close on their contract. Many will lose all the money they have invested ... and maybe more.

Of course, today we know investing pre-construction (also known as “off plan”) was never a one-way bet. This was always a party that could get out of control.

This type of real estate investing is inherently risky. Essentially, you are making a leveraged bet – like trading options on a stock. In a fast-rising liquid market you can do very well.

The pre-construction party was so good it attracted more and more revelers. An increase in the number and projects and the number of salesman and sales ploys ensured greed overruled good sense.

Then, supply outpaced demand ... banks tightened their lending policies ... and, most importantly, everyone copped on that the case from Dubai to Bulgaria simply did not stack up. You only made money if you got your timing right or got lucky and “found a bigger fool.”

The party was over before the current financial and economic crisis hit. The crisis made sure that the last few stragglers were shown the door.

Today, it does not make sense for investors to invest pre-construction in markets they have been traditionally attracted to. I am talking about the UK, Spain, Portugal, Central and Eastern Europe, Dubai, and Panama. No sales volume in these places means the risk of the developer running out of money – and the project failing – is great.

But – that does not mean there aren’t opportunities

Developers have been left with unsold units. Banks are looking to recoup what they can. There are deals to be done. There is an extremely active rental market in places that have shown relative employment stability.

Places like Panama and some UK cities. In some cases, yields are higher than they have been for decades. The opportunities in these markets are from distressed sales. Not distressed “pre-construction” sales though. You do not want to run the risk that the developer or builder will go bust. Only buy completed units.

In some case you can buy quality for 40 cents on the dollar. However, you need to be careful and always follow my three golden rules of crisis investing:
  1. Buy quality (location, construction, amenities and fit-out)
  2. Do not take on any construction risk ... buy completed units
  3. Do not take on any project risk ... make sure the condominium is functioning
That is what you do if you are interested in crisis investing – but where in the world should you look if you want the strong terms offered by good pre-construction deals?

The world is a big place and there is always a party to be found somewhere. The best party in the world today is in North-East Brazil. Could you think of a better place for a party?

Brazil is booming and is now an investment-grade middle class country. As soon as Brazilians can afford to, they want to visit the beaches around Fortaleza – Brazil’s #1 domestic tourism destination.

Soccer’s Confederations Cup comes here in 2013 followed by the World Cup the following year – $5.5 billion will be spent improving infrastructure and tourism amenities in the lead up to 2014.

There is oil offshore – bringing revenues and high-paying jobs.

Best of all, there is a hotel and condo shortage in the area where visitors want to stay. Here you can buy pre-construction with as little as 1% down. Prices have been appreciating by 20%-30% for the last couple of years. Buying pre-construction here, you should look for: It is happening in North-East Brazil. A relatively small number of U.S. and European investors are active here. More are starting to come. The party is getting started.

Read the source article.


Your journey abroad should be reasoned and carefully planned, or it could leave you worse off.

Last June we featured an article by Lila Rajiva, “Time to Run?”, whose key idea was that one start creating the option to expatriate immediately, even if the likelihood of exercising the option in the near future was not high. She dealt with some of the objections to that article in a followup one titled Fight and Flight. Both are worth rereading from time to time.

Ms. Rajiva continues to suggest that it might be time to run. But before you run, figure out the tricks for running “smart,” lest your move leave you worse off than before.

A while ago I wrote an article suggesting that for some libertarians it might be time to run.

I still think it is. But I also think your journey abroad should be reasoned and carefully planned, or it could leave you worse off, not better. Run smart, not stupid.

To help you do that, here are some things I have learned from years of going back and forth across the world. I have grouped them under four headings that express fundamental elements of a libertarian stance in the world.
  1. Connectivity (the free market is all about communicating and persuading)
  2. Security (libertarians should take the initiative in defending themselves)
  3. Simplicity (less always makes for more independence)
  4. Flexibility (don’t resist change; it is the essence of the free market)
I. Get Connected

You cannot travel freely if you are not able to take care of family or business problems quickly from wherever you are. You can forget about phone calls for that. You will not always be in a time-zone that allows you to call, your bank’s local line is not going to be as accessible, and that 800 number you used to call at home will not work from overseas. Also, endless international phone-calls will not help your budget.

The solution? Get online.

Before you board your flight, make sure you have online access to your family and friends, your doctor, lawyer, banks and insurance companies. Skype is the simplest way to keep in touch abroad and it does not cost a dime. Get accounts for yourself and for your family and friends before you leave.

Here is the way to carry around your account information. Now, make two or three copies of this vital information on tiny cards, and leave one in a locked drawer at home. Put another into the wallet or purse you always carry with you, and leave the third with the person you trust the most.

If you have excellent computer security, you can also save this information in an encrypted and password-protected file on your laptop. But with all the security threats around, I would avoid this.

Make sure you have a reliable laptop computer to travel with. If all you are doing is emailing and browsing, a net-book – a smaller, more portable laptop – should be enough. You can find good ones on sale for under $200. Make your purchase well before you travel to avoid lugging around a lemon.

Make sure that your cables and plugs are compatible with the outlets in the countries you are visiting. Get onto an online forum and ask for specific details. Something as simple as an adapter might not be available locally in exactly the shape you need, so buy it before you leave. Electronic items are usually much more expensive abroad than in the U.S. and you are probably not going to save anything by trying to buy them abroad. Buy adapters, DSL cables, converters, and surge-strips, wrap them carefully, and label and number them so you do not lose track of them while moving around.

II. Get Secure

If you plan to use hot-spots for your wireless, make sure you have extra strong security. It is easy for trojans and viruses to attack your computer through unsecured wireless connections, which means thieves could steal your bank information and credit card numbers.

Do not rely on just one security system. You need different kinds of software to protect you from different threats. Learn which security tool protects you from what, and research and keep up to date with new threats. Spyware, viruses, trojans, rootkits, phishing attacks, malware and adware all need different kinds of protection.

Security programs can also interfere with each other or make your laptop unbearably slow. So practice playing computer-doctor before you go abroad. If you are not ready to do that, make sure you have an extended warranty and a technical support line you can call from overseas.

Before you leave, install any software you might need, check all your settings, and make note of them, so if your laptop crashes abroad, you will know what the default settings are.

Write down your computer’s web address – its IP (Internet Protocol) number. If you feel you need it, get some kind of encryption or proxy to hide it. That should give you some online privacy when emailing or surfing. But be warned that most programs will not give you complete protection against determined enemies. They are mainly intended to deter casual attacks.

For bigger trouble, keep the phone numbers and email addresses of a couple of tech-savvy friends on hand.

A few safety precautions: III. Keep It Simple

I have been living abroad for over a month now. My luggage consists of four items:
  1. A small purse carrying vital information, passport, credit cards, and money.
  2. A small raffia bag that folds up easily. It holds a few toilet articles, an umbrella, a face-cloth, pen and paper, and a disposable camera. It is what I carry ordinarily on the street. Anything in it can be replaced without great loss.
  3. A padded computer bag with my laptop inside. I pack wires, attachments and flash drives separately, since laptops have to be unpacked in security.
  4. A duffel bag for clothes. I find duffel bags are easier to stow overhead or under the seat on a plane.
How much do you need in the way of clothing?

The less the better. From many years of packing I have learned that you can live anywhere quite easily for a month or two in two pairs of pants, a dress or skirt, a fitted t-shirt, a top, a few pairs of leggings, a couple of sweaters that can be layered or worn separately, and two pairs of shoes. Any umbrella you take should be foldable.

Stick with black and solid colors that can be mixed and matched. Take clothes that can do double-duty at night. Leggings, for instance, can be worn under trousers on a cold day, worn by themselves on a hot day, and slept in. Everything worn next to your body should be made of material thin enough to wash and dry by hand, thick enough to avoid chills, and dark enough to hide stains.

Prefer clothes with pockets. Prefer pockets that can zipped or buttoned-up. Prefer front-pockets that you can see to back pockets that you cannot. Especially useful: a light-weight jacket in a dark color, with inside pockets.

Do not take expensive ear-rings, chains, watches, or glasses, even if you are going to attend conferences. In fact, avoid even inexpensive jewelry. It takes up valuable space in your bag. Actually, all your clothes should be inexpensive. If you pack old clothes, you will not care if you lose them and when your trip is over, you can just give them away. That leaves plenty of space to pack anything you bought abroad.

When packing, roll up your clothes into tubes and wrap them in clear plastic. They take up less space and stay clean, and you can see where everything is without trouble. Vacuum bags are also useful for saving space.

Avoid taking too many toiletries because of the new security regulations. You will end up arguing with the security personnel. On the other hand, medicines and vitamins are useful things to carry with you.

Wear bulkier items like jackets on the flight, to save packing space. You can shed or add clothing as you travel, depending on the weather.

On the flight, wear your jacket over your purse so it is even less visible, pack the raffia bag into the duffel bag so it counts as one piece of carry-on luggage, and carry the laptop in your hand, watching it carefully in security so it is not damaged.

With just these four items, you will be able to avoid having to check-in any luggage, which can save you around a hundred dollars on a budget flight.

IV. Stay Flexible

My final tip is the one most people find hardest to follow. Stay flexible. I do not mean by this that you should be footloose and fancy-free. No. Your travel should be as structured and purposeful as you can make it and you should try to accomplish things methodically.

But the biggest mistake people make with big decisions is not usually spending too much time on them. It is rushing them and getting into trouble. And that is where you need flexibility.

For most people, a house is the biggest investment they will ever make and they need to take their time buying. If you go abroad and find after a month or two that you really have not found what you are looking for, feel free to change your plans.

This might mean coming home earlier than you intended. It might mean sheepishly going back home and looking for a farm in Iowa, instead of Patagonia. So what? You eat a bit of humble pie, your friends snicker, “I told you so,” and within a few weeks it’s all over.

Buy a house in a hurry and you could spend half your life regretting it.

On the other hand, you could fall in love with a country ... or stumble on something wonderful that you never suspected existed ... or find yourself inexplicably at ease in your foreign life. In that case, why stick to a plan developed before this new world opened out to you?

Go with the flow.

Rearrange your affairs at home and stay on.

Contrary to what most people think, opportunity is always knocking.

The problem is with us. We are not listening for it.

We are so fixated on what is that we cannot see what might be.

Leave what is to the determinists.

Libertarians need to focus on what might be.

Read the source article.


Just let us do that hard thinking for you, son.

Butler Shaffer is our one of our favorite writers. His archive on LewRockwell.com is a treasure-trove of original and mind-expanding thinking. We posted a review of his book Boundaries of Order here. A PDF of that book can be downloaded for free from here.

A quote from that review is worth repeating here: “Shaffer argues that we are living in a world of glorious upheaval, managed in an orderly way by virtue of individual volition and property ownership. The state is not part of this path of progress and only works to impede it temporarily and at terrible cost.”

Continuing on that there, Shaffer notes that Obama’s line, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion” which puts “pressure on our country and on our democracy,” from a recent commencement address is yet another example of how the state wants to control our minds by controlling the information we take in. Unfortunately the state has a lot of willing takers of its Faustian bargain to let the state take on the burden of doing the thinking.

Shaffer’s line of reasoning is, taking direct quotes from the article: Life itself is dependent upon our capacity for creative adaptation to changing surroundings. The problem we encounter is that information is a very elusive, incomplete, and subjectively-defined quality. As uncertain as it is, the quality of the information available to us is a principal factor in determining how well we are to live. Information is also at the core of our social and political behavior. In time, information provided not only by others, but from our own experiences, tell us not only that those we have empowered enjoy no greater access to “truth” than do we but, further, that most of the fears of which they warn us have been fabricated and propagandized by the power-seekers themselves.

Continuing: Computerized technologies continue to innovate new systems for the creation and communication of information, but the liberating influence of free-flowing information has proven troublesome to members of the corporate-state establishment whose authority over others depends upon the maintenance of a mindset of subservience. Obama’s little warning is a predictable response to the establishment’s worries that the spread of information is getting out of control.

Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind. ~~ Gen. William Westmoreland

What luck for the rulers that men do not think. ~~ Adolf Hitler

In a recent commencement address, President Obama declared that “information becomes a distraction, a diversion” which puts “pressure on our country and on our democracy.” Technological innovations – including the Internet – produces a “24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” He added that “with so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all – to know what to believe, to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not.” Hillary Clinton expressed similar concerns a few years ago when she suggested that a “gatekeeper” be created for the Internet, to prevent just anyone from putting their opinions out into the public.

How do we know what we know? Our institutional mind-keepers find such an inquiry too volatile and threatening.

A book I am currently writing addresses the epistemological question: how do we know what we know? This is doubtless the most important question ever to confront mankind, a question we nonetheless fail to ask because our institutional mind-keepers find such an inquiry too volatile and threatening to the maintenance of their status quo interests. If institutions are organizations that have become their own reasons for being, our inquiry into how we came to accept such thinking could be devastating to such systems.

Life itself is dependent upon our capacity for creative adaptation to changing surroundings. It is resiliency – not rigidity – that sustains life. But in order to act purposefully to achieve life-enhancing ends, we must be able to identify, analyze, and act upon the conditions that confront us. This is why liberty is central to human survival, for it allows people to respond to circumstances as their individual judgments best inform them. But how effective they are will depend upon their capacities for clear thinking, as well as the realistic and accurate nature of the information upon which they are to act.

The problem we encounter is that information is a very elusive, incomplete, and subjectively-defined quality. Each of us looks for, discovers, and assesses information according to the demands of our prior experiences. Added to this, the study of “chaos” tells us that our universe is far too interconnected with networks of variability to allow us to know all of the influences at work upon our decision-making. Our ability to predict outcomes requires a “sensitive dependence upon initial conditions,” which translates into our being able to not only identify all of the factors that influence events, but to measure the precise degree of their influence. (If you doubt this, try predicting the precise events that will occur in your life for the next seven days.)

As uncertain as it is, the quality of the information available to us is a principal factor in determining how well we are to live. One of the main characteristics of an entrepreneur lies in his or her abilities to identify and act upon information that others do not see. If I have located a source of widgets that I can purchase for $10 apiece, and I know of a sizeable group of people who (a) are not aware of this source, (b) are willing to pay me $20 for each widget, and (c) my costs in getting them to this market amount to only $1 per widget, I will likely have a successful business.

Information is also at the core of our social and political behavior. A tribal leader established his authority over our more primitive ancestors by telling them of threats from others – known only to himself – and of his special pipeline to the gods who would assist him in his rule. As we have seen more recently, fear causes us to huddle together around those who promise us protection. This is due to our innocent belief that our alleged “protectors” have more information available to them than do we.

Those we have empowered enjoy no greater access to “truth” than we do.

In time, information provided not only by others, but from our own experiences, tell us not only that those we have empowered enjoy no greater access to “truth” than do we but, further, that most of the fears of which they warn us have been fabricated and propagandized by the power-seekers themselves. Do you remember all of those “weapons of mass destruction” with which the Iraqis planned to attack us? Have you heard of the contrived “coming ice age” (oops, “global warming,” oops, “climate change”) that continues to be modified and employed in political efforts to control our daily lives?

Johann Gutenberg demonstrated to the world that the free flow of information is very liberating. His invention of movable type permitted men and women to read and inform their own minds, without a need for authority figures to tell them of the nature of things. Gutenberg’s efforts were responsible not only for the Reformation, but for much of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the scientific age, and, ultimately, that most creative and liberating of all periods, the Industrial Revolution.

Over time, humans began to see just how personally relevant information was to the quality of their lives. At the same time, the political racketeers whose interests depended upon their victims remaining in a state of institutionally-controlled ignorance, saw the threat to their rule. In one form or another, the control-freaks embraced censorship and the burning of books. It was people’s minds, not just their bodies, that got burned at the stake. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 shows how far a totalitarian state might go to preserve its control over the minds of people. Mark Twain expressed the proposition more humorously when he said: “Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it."

Computerized technologies continue to innovate new systems for the creation and communication of information, the most familiar of which is the Internet. Begun as an in-house network for military agencies, it quickly spread – like a genie released from a bottle – into the rest of society. Tens of millions of people were soon communicating with countless others whatever material they chose to send and receive. The model of vertically-structured information flow one found in schools, religions, the media, and the government – premised on the idea “we will tell you what we want you to know” – collapsed into horizontal networks run by nobody who had a monopoly power to control content. Your Uncle Harlow or niece Marcia could become sources of information to others who chose to read their opinions.

But the liberating influence of free-flowing information has proven troublesome to members of the corporate-state establishment whose authority over others depends upon the maintenance of a mindset of subservience. Information gets people thinking about the arrangements in their lives. They begin to see the lies, corruption, deceit, violence, and looting that have been employed – with the help of propaganda supplied by schools and the major media – to keep them in their servile state. Like the disillusioned denizens of Animal Farm, the herds have begun to break up. Sheep are deserting their pens; the cattle are stampeding to greener pastures.

The establishment’s presidential sock puppet warns Americans that the “distractions” produced by the free flow of information and opinions will create more “pressures.” A dictionary defines “pressure” as “the action of a force against an opposing force.” The ruling classes cannot tolerate such countervailing influences that would upset the status quo they wish to maintain. To do so would be to acknowledge the legitimacy of interests other than their own. Besides, efforts to distinguish “truth” from “falsehood” place a great burden upon the individual mind. Most of us are content to allow others to bear this burden for us; to have the schools and the media provide us that optimal level of knowledge and understanding with which we can function in our assigned stalls as useful institutional servo-mechanisms. The keepers of our thoughts could summarize their message to us in the words implicit in Pres. Obama’s address to college graduates: “Confine your thinking to what is in our interests to have you know. We will keep you informed.”

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Hundreds of Free Online Lectures To Watch or Download

We list the Massachusetts Institute of Technology online course offerings in our resources pages. Here is an access point to offerings from a more comprehensive list of major universities (including M.I.T.).

If you are interested in learning about technical subjects but you do not really feel like reading a book, how about watching a lecture? In fact, how about watching up to 1500 lectures, on everything from computer studies and psychology to medicine, architecture and entrepreneurship?

If this sounds tempting, head over to Academic Earth, where you can watch all these lectures, and more, from respected educational institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

In some cases, these lectures form parts of formal courses that you can study online or in person. But if you simply want to watch them for your own personal education, at no charge, that is not a problem. And if you happen to be involved in teaching or training, it is fascinating to see how others do it.

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Grow Your Own Food Do-It-Yourself Kit

Portable Farm™ sells “aquaponics systems” – closed-loop, water-based, fish and organic vegetable production facilities which require only a small amount of room. From their home page: “[A] 20’x30’ [about 1/7 of an acre] farm produces 3,600 vegetables and 1,400 pounds of fish a year which will comfortably feed 5 adults their vegetables every day, and fish several times a week, forever.” Moreover, “the systems require 90 - 95% less water than in-ground growing and very little labor.” The systems are available as DIY kits, and truly are portable.

Why one might want a Portable Farm system are obvious. Now EscapeArtist is promoting the system to its readers: “Imagine living anywhere in the world and growing fresh vegetables and fish right outside your kitchen in a Portable Farm™ that’s sized to feed your family. Or, how about owning a full-sized commercial farm that requires only ¼ acre ... of land that requires only one person to operate?”

And: “Food security (access and availability to fresh food) is an important issue facing all families, organizations and communities in the world today. Portable Farms™ Aquaponics Systems offer an ideal solution to address the issue of food security by providing a constant 12-month supply of fresh, healthy and nutritious vegetables and home-grown fish (protein source).”

Interested parties can take it from here.

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A Brilliant Way to Organize a Meeting or Activity Online

Having finally reached the point where massive email exchanges did not cut it when it came to finding a common meeting time which worked for 10+ people, we thankfully discovered Doodle. It is simple and intuitive. The administrator starts by going to the site, schedules an event, and creates a row of possible meeting times – one per column – and sends out invitations. Each invitee goes to the designated page and creates a row with their name, and figuratively checks off columns which work time-wise. After everyone has done that, any matrix column which is uniformly filled with figurative check marks is a time which works for everyone. As we said ... simple.

It is time to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or new job with a group of close friends and family. Or perhaps you need to get together with a few colleagues for a meeting. What is the easiest way to arrange it?

If you are lucky enough to all work in the same organization, and you all use something like Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes, the process is relatively easy. You can search everyone’s online diary to find dates and times when the entire group are free.

But what if you do not have such a tool at your disposal? Do you have to resort to endless emails and phone calls, in a desperate attempt to find a date and time that suits everyone? Thankfully, no. The reason? A brilliant web-based organizer called Doodle.

Using Doodle is simple. Go to the site (there is no need to sign up or register). Give your event (meeting, party, conference or whatever) a name and description, and pick a handful of dates and times that are suitable for you. The site reckons that a choice of 5 different dates should be sufficient, and a selection of times within those dates.

Once you have done that, Doodle generates a unique URL for your event. Just email it to everyone you want to invite. They can then click to select which date/time combination they prefer. You can log back into the site at any time, using a special “administration” URL which also gets generated when you create your event. This allows you to view everyone’s responses, add more dates/times, and so on.

Using Doodle is simple yet powerful. You can, if you wish, integrate it with Google Calendar, Outlook, Yahoo and Facebook.

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Great Privacy Settings Scanner for Facebook

We do not use Facebook, for privacy and I-already-have-a-life reasons ... however tempting it is to join at times. If you are among Facebook’s numerous users you should definitely be aware of your privacy exposure. The company/site is not known for its preemptive protection of user privacy.

Here is a tool that cuts through the site verbiage to tell you exactly what exposure you have. For example the reviewer’s assessment showed that his friends could accidentally share his personal information. Sounds like something that is good to know about?

If you use a PC you may already be familiar with Microsoft’s free “Baseline Security Analyzer” tool. It checks your PC for missing security patches, critical updates, weak passwords and so on.

If you like the concept of such a tool, and you use Facebook, and you are worried about allowing strangers to find out information about you online, you need ReclaimPrivacy.org. It is a great new piece of freeware which checks your Facebook settings and gives you advice about whether they are secure or not. For example, here is what it said about my own Facebook account.

Reclaim Privacy is written in Javascript. It is free and open source, so anyone who has concerns over its motives can easily check to see that it is not doing anything that it shouldn’t.

To use it, go to ReclaimPrivacy.org and add the utility to your browser favourites. Then log into Facebook and go to your security settings page (there is a link on the reclaimprivacy site to help you). Then run the Reclaim Privacy script by selecting it from your bookmarked favourites, and the analysis of your security exposure will be ready in just a second or 2.

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Find Out What Has Been Causing Your PC to Crash

Windows is generally quite tolerant of badly behaved programs but sometimes a program (or especially a device driver) causes a problem so severe that Windows gives up entirely, and you are left with nothing but a Blue Screen of Death.

Before Windows stops responding, it normally creates what is called a Minidump file. Within this file are a lot of clues as to what caused the problem. However, understanding the file is not easy.

And that is where a great freeware utility called Nirsoft Bluescreen View comes in. It is a tiny download (123 KB), compatible with all versions of Windows from XP upwards, which automatically analyses all your minidump files to help you track down the cause of crashes. ...

If your system has been unstable recently and you are having problems finding out why, this excellent program should help.

Download BlueScreen view [here].

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Ajax Toolkit in Fewer than 50 Lines

Ajax is the Web 2.0 enabling technology, used in web applications everywhere. Wherever you see see that ubiquitous little animated graphic with a radial line moving around in a circle, chances are it is an Ajax program in action.

Ajax programming is not hard in theory if you have some programming experience. Javascript syntax, as with all languages derived from the C programming language syntax, is not exactly easy to read (although not impossible). Most people just decide to grab one of the free Ajax libraries out there and adapt one of the pieces of code. Meanwhile, you carry around all that overhead from the library’s whole kit and caboodle (unless you want to read through it all and figure out what can be winnowed out), dragging down your website’s rendering speed.

Enter Feather Ajax, which, in the author’s words, is “designed to be light-weight, customizable, and easy to use. ... Feather Ajax is more or less an Ajax framework that is designed to be built upon. It’s meant to be as simple as possible so that you can understand how it works to learn Ajax, and continue its development for your own purposes.” The simplicity of the examples on the home page is impressive.

Ajax is the technique that Web developers use to allow one part of a web page to be changed without having to reload the entire page. It is at the heart of just about every modern web application, such as Google Docs. See how Facebook adds a text input box to the current screen when you click on the Comment link? That is Ajax too.

Creating Web 2.0 Ajax sites is not particularly easy. Most people start off by using a framework or toolkit, i.e., a big library of subroutines and other Javascript snippets such as jQuery. But while these libraries are undoubtedly powerful, they are also big and complex and, frequently, overkill.

If you have some basic HTML and Javascript experience and you want to consider adding Ajax effects to your web pages, check out Feather Ajax. It is tiny, at around just 50 lines of code. And the code is fully commented so that you can easily add new features to its admittedly basic functionality.

Read the source article.