Monday 26 July 2021

Lockdown blues

Eight weeks off - good.
In lockdown - bad.

HCMC has entered the mother of all lockdowns whereby we're only allowed out to the nearest grocery store. Given that I live in a windowless bed-n-bog, I've been eating anything that doesn't need cooked.

Dreams of clean mountain air in Dalat quickly evaporated leaving a residue of ham sandwiches and youtube.

It's said that prisoners in solitary confinement can develop suicidal thoughts. I've not found this to be the case. On the contrary, armed with a laptop, this has been the perfect opportunity to learn shit. The internet is a repository of all accumulated human knowledge - effectively infinite - no one brain can hold it all. I may have lost afternoon walks and street food, but gained youtube, coffee and introspection. It's all about perspective.

I was thinking about two old buddies. How we migrated to pastures new. One north, one east and one south. To three different countries. Like nomads roaming the planet - preordained? Or like shrapnel - random?

"Seems chaotic is all. As if my life trajectory has undergone Brownian motion since leaving school. Much of where I ended up dependent less on prevailing winds but more on localised eddies. Dust in the wind if you will. From that perspective I (perhaps erroneously) figured others were as listless. Situated, as they are, as a consequence of random happenstance rather than any prescriptive methodology.

I'd say chaos is a feature of life. Not a flaw. It's difficult to sustain order in our personal lives - despite our best efforts - as demonstrated by my epic financial loss. The idea of entropy would support this - a tendency to disorder. Given that there's much we can't control - I'd argue the only things we can control are our decisions whereby, at least from my end, decisions made today "may" forge a freer future. By freer I mean less beholden to employers, a more sovereign life. However, nothing is guaranteed. Am I describing stoicism?"
I write lots of word-salad while never answering anything. Lots of questions. I'm good at that. E.g:Can a school claim to be inclusive while excluding financially-challenged students?

Can a tolerant society avoid being destroyed by an intolerant one? No? It would therefore follow that a tolerant society must allow a degree of intolerance. Which is paradoxical, is it not?
I'm lucky to work with some sound characters. Paul cooked steak one night. It's odd hanging out with noobs from England. Their talk of pounds, jumpers and dear shops cause a wince of nostalgia. Has my vocabulary Americanized (with a zee) that much? I guess it has.

I'm more dollars and sweaters these days. Cell phones too - why not?

.These two lads have kept me sane. Much needed laughter when life was bleak. Full school years are beginning to feel like 12 rounds with Tyson. Sixth Form Physics next year - special relativity, photon energy and orbital mechanics among other things - mouth watering.

Man, look at those ties. Signaling our tax cattle status. This is the shit I have to wade through to reach the ultimate goal of freedom. My personal Shawshank Redemption sewage pipe.

I have to dress like a twat to get $$$. I have to get $$$ to get freedom. Simple. Like a flowchart. That's a nice segue into what to do with the $$$.

I have simplified my portfolio. Something I never thought I'd write.

I've swapped dividends for growth. Why? Tax and expense ratios - a significant drag. I've switched to SCHB - a broad market ETF with a 0.03% expense ratio. What does that mean? Well, I own a slice of America's best businesses for only $30/year for every $100,000 invested. This makes sense since, as a non-US citizen, I pay 15% tax on dividends but 0% on capital gains.

If you followed any of that - well done. I wouldn't have prior to 2017. I'm well into this stuff these days, who doesn't love a bit of discounted cash flow or P/E ratios?

With a lot of time on me hands, I've been reading me old mate Schoppy. Here's three gems:

"If a man does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free."

"The safest way of not being miserable is to not expect to be happy."

"Life swings like a pendulum between pain and boredom."


  1. A crowd is an untruth. It is only solitude that can allow truth to unfold.

    Is the etf USD and American stocks? If so, bit less diversified than I'd like.

    1. USD yeah. 2,500 companies. Pretty diverse.
      Currently adding SCHF - developed global - pricier ER @ 0.06%.

  2. Can your portfolio now support Battambang lifestyle in perpetuity?

    1. Yeah - if the borders ever open again.

    2. Cool, they have to eventually, looking forward to reading about the chilled Battambang again here soon.

  3. Are you paid for the 8 weeks in lockdown? If yes, that's pretty sweet!

  4. Enjoying the total lockdown?