This is Uluru, aka Ayers Rock. I took the photo at sunrise this morning:
This is a photo of Uluru I plucked off the Internet.
This is where Uluru is, courtesy Google. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Everyone in Australia lives along the coast.
Most tourists up at sunrise were taking selfies. I guess they also figured the Internet had better photos.
There’s a lesson here. Take selfies. Keep the scenery in the background.
Australia is a seriously nice place to live. It’s booming and ultra-modern. Opportunities for business startups abound. The people are friendly and speak English (well, their own form of it).
They haven’t had a recession in over 25 years. A record for any industrialized country. Economists define a recession as two negative GDP quarters, one after another.
Housing prices rose 5% in the first three months of 2017. But in some parts, like Sydney’s eastern suburbs, they rose 13%. Housing has been rising for years, defying all predictions of a bust.
Australia is much farther along to the cashless society than the U.S. Few people pay with cash. No one writes checks. Commerce works with EFT — electronic funds transfer. Lots of businesses’ computers talk to their suppliers and their banks. The integration of IT is amazing. More on some of the tools shortly.
The quality of life here will blow you away. The food. The weather. The beaches. The scenery. The hotels. The new resorts. The overarching friendliness.
In the 50 years since I left, Australia has transformed itself into something magical. Among the changes I noticed: It once was a mine for China. Now it educates Chinese kids. There are Chinese-speaking guides in Uluru.
The Tall Poppy Syndrome is dead. Used to be they didn’t like ambitious or different people. Now they embrace them. It’s good to be rich. There are a lot of rich Australians, all living in overpriced homes.
The place is a haven for young start-ups — especially in computer fields.
The place is going “green.” Getting away from coal and embracing renewables like solar and wind.
There are predictable hiccups — like when one Australian state — South Australia — recently had a two-day state-wide blackout. They had to shut down the wind turbines because of a ferocious storm. Then they tried to suck too much power out of the adjoining state’s grid. And that shut that down…
They’re learning. Their heart is in the right place.
This stockmarket is getting too hard.
And too expensive.
The next “incentive” — leg-up — will be Trump’s tax reform — lowering taxes on corporations.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Now is not the time to buy most stocks.
1. Four wheels are better than two. Easier for you and the airline baggage handlers.
2. Full suitcases get crushed less often.
3. Weigh your bags. The airlines don’t like bags weighing over 50 lbs.
4. You need fewer clothes. Pack a week before you leave. Then progressively remove the heavy stuff you won’t wear. Everything weighs something. Shoes are the worst. Replace sweaters with light down parkas from UniGlo.
5. Kindles and cell phones make more sense than printed books.
6. Enlarge the type on your iPhone 7 plus. Bingo, no more reading glasses.
7. A brilliant iPhone app called MagLightPro lets you read menus with magnification.
How to stay in touch overseas
1. I took a laptop and an iPhone. WiFi is everywhere, mostly free. Hotels. Homes. Cafes. Airports, Email works and is free. iPhone-to-iPhone blue texting works and is free. Whatsapp works and is free. FaceTime works and is free. I rented a mobile hot spot from XCOM Global for $7.77 a day. I haven’t used it. A waste. If I can post this column from the middle of nowhere, Australia, we’ve entered a new world.
2. I bought a four-week prepaid, unlimited calling SIM card from a cell carrier called Optus. I popped it into my unlocked Verizon iPhone 6. It worked like a charm, retaining all my stuff — phone numbers, messages, etc. The Optus SIM cost $30. A bargain, compared to the $10 a day Verizon wanted, plus, plus, plus.
3. In places there was no WiFi, I simply told me iPhone 6 to turn on its Personal Hotspot and I then tied my laptop into it via WiFi.
I am addicted to Quora.
Someone asks a question and the world replies with great stories. Sample:
What’s the best financial scam still in existence?
Eleanna Morozov, Teenage student reported her girlfriend made a tinder profile and put “send me $5, see what happens” in her bio and when guys sent her money, she would unmatch and never speak to them again.
In less than a week she had over 20 men send her money.
Trump’s confusing strike on Syria
If President Trump broadens his aims against Assad, he will enter the very morass that Candidate Trump warned against.
IN August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda suicide bombers struck two U.S. embassies in East Africa, killing two hundred and twenty-four people, most of them Africans. Two weeks later, President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a fusillade of cruise missiles aimed at a reported Al Qaeda meeting in Afghanistan, and at a factory in Sudan, which was suspected of involvement with chemical weapons. “There will be no sanctuary for terrorists,” Clinton declared. The retaliation produced few tangible benefits. And yet, since then, from Kosovo to Waziristan to Libya, the United States has repeatedly threatened or carried out missile and drone attacks and air strikes for limited and sometimes imprecise purposes. In the modern Presidency, firing off missiles has become a rite of passage.
Last Thursday, his seventy-seventh day in office, President Donald Trump pressed the cruise-missile button, sending fifty-nine Tomahawks to strike an airbase in Syria. He did so after concluding from intelligence reports that President Bashar al-Assad’s Air Force had, on April 4th, killed or sickened hundreds of people in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a town held by rebels seeking Assad’s overthrow. Trump said that his strike was aimed at ending “the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
The President’s decision was familiar for being both spontaneous and confusing. As has happened before, he was apparently inspired to act by what he saw on TV-in this case, distressing images of stricken women and children. Yet, despite having previously seen similarly horrifying pictures, Trump had been skeptical of military action in Syria. In 2013, Assad’s forces attacked civilians and rebels near Damascus with sarin, a banned nerve agent, killing more than a thousand people. Trump advised President Obama, via Twitter, “Do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside.” (Obama had called Assad’s use of chemical arms crossing a “red line,” which might lead the U.S. to take military action, but he did not strike. Instead, Russia helped broker an agreement by which Assad gave up many-but evidently not all-of his chemical arms.)
Trump has said, “I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.” In the case of Syria, however, he seems to have acted without a clear plan in place. During the campaign, he promised to “bomb the shit out of” isis, which holds territory in Syria, but he also said that it was foolish to become mired in the civil war, or to target Assad, who has opposed isis-at least, rhetorically. As recently as March 30th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Assad’s future would be “decided by the Syrian people,” words that signalled a sharp departure from Obama’s insistence that Assad must leave office. Then, last Thursday, Tillerson seemed to shift direction, saying that “it would seem there would be no role” for Assad in Syria’s political future. But he later said, “I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or our posture relative to our military activities in Syria today.”
Syria’s civil war is the worst geopolitical disaster of the twenty-first century. It has claimed at least four hundred and seventy thousand lives; prompted a refugee crisis that has destabilized European politics and fuelled the rise of nativist populism; and created a playing field for Russian and Iranian adventurism in the Middle East. Six years of efforts to end the war through diplomacy have failed. The interference of regional and global powers, combined with the fragmentation of militias and guerrillas on the battlefield, have made the conflict appear all but unresolvable. During the past year, the more mainstream rebels opposing Assad have suffered repeated setbacks, including the loss of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city.
Why, then, would the Trump Administration want to lob a few dozen cruise missiles into this splintered landscape? One limited rationale might be that Syria’s conflict has eroded global treaties banning the use of chemical arms-every time Assad gasses civilians, he increases the likelihood that another dictator or general will use them. It seems odd, though, to initiate armed intervention to prevent one sort of Syrian war crime but not others. Assad has tortured and executed thousands of his own people. Syrian and Russian forces routinely violate international law by targeting civilians, physicians, and rescue workers with bombs and artillery shells. And, if Trump has suddenly been moved to address the suffering, he might start recognizing the legitimacy of Syrians as refugees of war and welcoming them to resettle in the United States.
If President Trump broadens his aims against Assad, to establish civilian safe havens, for example, or to ground Syria’s Air Force, or to bomb Assad to the negotiating table, he will enter the very morass that Candidate Trump warned against. He would have to manage risks-military confrontation with Russia, an intensified refugee crisis, a loss of momentum against isis-that Obama studied at great length and concluded to be unmanageable, at least at a cost consistent with American interests.
Since the Cold War’s end, the United States has led or joined more than half a dozen wars or armed interventions lasting longer than a few months, including the ouster of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in 1991; the conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo; the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11; and, in 2011, during the Arab uprisings, the removal of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. A few of these wars achieved their aims, albeit at a cost in lives and treasure; others went sideways or turned into disasters, as in Libya, where Obama’s intervention has been followed by six years of chaos, civil war, and the rise of a branch of isis. You don’t need an advanced degree in military history to identify the main lessons: once started, even limited wars upend initial plans and assumptions, violence produces unintended consequences, and conflicts are much easier to begin or escalate than to end.
Canadian, European, and Middle Eastern allies, as well as some sections of the Washington foreign-policy establishment, applauded Trump for his strike, pointing out its narrow scope, and noting that Assad had brought it on himself. Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s continual search for approval seems to contribute to his unpredictability. Perhaps he will soon rediscover his inclination to proceed cautiously in Middle Eastern wars. Given his bombast, his inconsistency, and his preference for gut instinct over policy knowledge, he always seemed likely to be a dangerous wartime President. The worry now is that he will also be an ambitious one.