What Would You Do?

November 19, 2003


What would you do if you woke up one morning, fired up your browser, and were faced with the strange creature above staring back at you? No matter what you did, you couldn’t get out to the internet. This cheerfully sinister little space bug man was blocking your path.

This is what happened to me on Monday, and it was a terrible surprise. I thought I’d been hacked, and this little man hardly looked cute to me after trying again and again to get through him. In truth, this was some kind of a new security feature by my ISP here in Taiwan. I don’t know if you’ve ever been locked out of the internet, but it is a terrible experience.

I was so happy to be back online that I thought I’d finally put up a new entry on the new blog. Life has been busy lately for both me and my partner Rich Lancaster. We run the site together from opposite sides of the planet – Rich in Seattle and me in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We meet out here in cyberspace. This was my week to put up the links on the homepage, but I was locked out, so I couldn’t. My apologies!!

I’ve been in Taiwan for about 3 months now, and it is interesting since I don’t speak Chinese. But it is not really necessary to function, since Taiwan is part of Western Civilization, and Western Civilization is basically ‘plug and play.’ I’m basically a functional illiterate here, but you don’t have to be able to read in the plug and play world. All the elements of western society are here: Roads, cars, busses, modern department stores and grocery stores.


I have been thinking about the signatures of Western Civilization – what are some of the defining characteristics? Feel free to add your comments below on what you think. To me, it has to do with roads and the internal combustion engine, allowing for the expansion outward. Western Civilization is characterized by sprawl, even in a country as tiny as Taiwan. One thing is certain, though. Western Civilization is huge. It encompasses the planet.

And you know what they say, ‘The bigger they come, the harder they fall.’

Being so close to China, I hear a lot more news. The problem for Taiwanese manufacturers is the same as for American or European ones. China is simply flat out the cheapest place to make anything, so all production is moving there. I didn’t know how much until I moved here, but Taiwan makes a lot of computer equipment. They are number one in market share for 14 computer products, including:

Notebook PCs, LCD Monitors CD-R Drives, CD-RW Drives, the disks themselves, DVD Drives, PC Cameras, Ethernet Cards, Ports, Hubs, ADSL Modems, Wireless LAN devices, Analog Modems, IC Foundry, Mask ROM and IC Packaging

Amazing for a tiny country of only 22 million. But alas, all of this production will be moving to China. What will Taiwan do? What will we all do? This is the great hollowing out of industry that is happening all over the world so that China may work hard and join the ranks of Western Civilization with the rest of us.

I just wonder if China joining the party will be the end of the party for everyone. How will planetary systems deal with a billion more cars, refrigerators, air conditioners, and all the other trappings of the good life? We’ve already taxed global resources to the max. To say nothing of the fiat currency system upon which it is all based. Gold is really heating up now. She kissed $400 yesterday. Rich and I have had the debate going since our predictions last year. I didn’t think Gold would get past $400 this year, while he predicted a high of $450. He’s got a month & a half for a 12% rise or so…

It is early for you, but it is late for me. 10:30 pm is bedtime in Taiwan, but market open time in the U.S. Stocks are off to a positive start…barely. Gold has stood back down to 397. She’d have to fall a long way for my prediction to come true. The winds of inflation and uncertainty seem to blowing too hard for that to happen.


Posted by manystrom at November 19, 2003 10:37 PM

Hey, being locked out the internet can be pretty liberating, too. You're not compelled to check your email, or the net. The world goes on, whether you know what is going on or not. I get so much spam now - way more spam than actual email that I'd like to quit using email altogether. I swear the ratio is about 10:1 or worse for spam to mail.

I'm with you on gold - I don't think it'll get much past 400. This is where all the pro's will unload on the suckers who see that gold is the new 'hot' investment. But I'm not complaining, and I'm not selling. This is a buy the dips market.


Posted by: Dirk Davies at November 19, 2003 03:06 PM

Hey, BTW, great link on spam from your homepage:

Were you reading my mind?

- Dirk

Posted by: Dirk Davies at November 19, 2003 03:08 PM

Your little man has boxes like any other log on. The Chinese reads:
USER representational number/name [ ]

The block below is "remember my info."

The grey box is for pushing after filling in the above boxes.

Pretty much a straight translation of Western Civilization. Might as well learn to recognize them, because in not so many years, the Chinese internet will be carrying a lot more traffic than the US version!

Have long enjoyed your web page. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: David Tatman at November 20, 2003 03:34 AM

Hey Michael.

Just getting caught up on the site, I was lucky enough to be in Newport Beach, California, this week for some business - ironically in a Victorian bed and breakfast where the phone was the only connectivity - so I went without email and the web for 3 days, which was liberating (as Dirk mentioned - of course its not liberating when you have a site to run and readers to satisfy).

As for the 12% rise in the POG, well that probably isn't going to happen in the next 40 days! I grant that, although ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN - and almost at any time!!

I do think we've entered an unprecented phase in human activity, which is reflected in the markets. Uncertainty and radical change are the order of the day, which makes predicting anything very difficult in my mind.

I do think there are many gold bugs who are going to hold through a massive run over multiple years in the POG. With Barrick dehedging, and no doubt other producers to follow suite, I anticipate some serious action shortly - perhaps in the next week. There could be a spike in the price, followed by a sell off thereafter.

Personally I'm looking for a bit of a sell-off, have been for weeks, so I can get back in to some explorers at a relatively reasonable price. I'm long on many of my gold investments and they look great, but my trading account needs topping up with the high risk stuff that tends to be high reward too in times like these - question is - when do I jump back in, and what represents value right now on the juniors??

Cheers Rich

Posted by: Rich at November 24, 2003 12:49 AM
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