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Heartache at the Stock-Exchange

For their personal wealth-management people have a quite different perception for money that they lost after investing into a falling fund, as compared to money they have failed to invest into a growing fund. In the first instance, they consider that it was once their "own" money (but in essence just a green bill that still belongs to the central bank), which - after investing into the "wrong" company - is now in the pocket of somebody else. In contrast, if they failed or forgot to invest into a company whos shares increased over time, this missed opportunities causes them much less regret. This is difficult to understand from a pure economic point of view, since it does not make a real difference on the long run if you either lose money that you possesed before, or if you missed the opportunity to gain the same sum of money. In mathematical terms: a double negation (avoiding a loss) is the same as positive gain.
Professional wealth manager know this intuitively, and to improve the total performance of their business it is equally efficient for them to avoid losses at single positions or to invest more into positions which are gaining profit. The failure to invest into a growing fund (like W.Buffets Berkshire-Hathaway Inc) should cause the same feeling of regrett as putting money into a loss-making fund (like Dell Computers Inc), the first of which doubled its share value over the last 5 years, wheres the latter lost half of its value during the same period.

You might say that, first of all, this is pure economic theory, and it is far away from the emotions we are suffering when we see our hardly earned money being burnt down by a badly advised investment. It might cause us a headche, but at least it wont cause us a heartache. Both arguments are somehow right, but only if one leaves the pure economic reasoning and starts arguing on the psychological level.

Now we came to point where economic reason interferes with emotions, with sorrow, feeling of pleasure and happiness and the like. And on this stage, we can go another step and compare the losses/missed opportunities on the stock market with another area of life where we also hope that investments will give us lots of rewards and happiness over a long time:  I am now talking about partnership, romance and love.
Here again, you hope that a loving relationship into which you have invested your feelings, many years of your life, last but not least some precious parts of your body, that this investment does not suddenly fail. If it does, it is usually associated with unpleasant emotions, hate, and a long term decline in self-esteem. People talking of their broken relationships are not really a source of very poetic ideas. They see themself as being betrayed, and - like in the case of a wrong investment - they deeply regret to have actively made a wrong decision. They would like to turn back time thinking "I wished I would have never meet you, becaused you have taken away the best 5/10/20 years of my life". People are usually not very enthusiastic writing blogs about their broken relationships, and if you find them they are not very touching somehow.
Another reaction you can find in people who suffer from an unresponded love. Objectively, their net ballance is the same as in case of a broken relationship. But in contrast to them, they suffer from the feeling that despite trying very hard they did not manage yet to start a relationship (investment) that would be so beneficial for them. So in contrast to someone who face the ruins of a failed relationship, the second category of people feel unlucky to start the relationship they want so heavily. (Rolling Stones: "Love in Vain")

The great song "Love in Vain" (original Blues by Robert Johnsson) shows very clearly that the feeling of not achieving the love we want might not be much easier to live with, but in contrast to the mental state after a broken relationship, at least it can be the source of great artistic expression. Garcia Marquez' great novel "Love in the times of Cholera" describes this, as did Charlotte Bronte in "Jane Eyre". The different self perception after a soul-destructing end of a relationship, and in contrast during the patient, tolerable time in a waiting room of a romantic love must have to do with peculiarities of our emotional reward system. It is easier to hope (endlessly) for the opportunity to get a reward, than to see that a reward has been refused for something we invested in.


Traditional Craftwork meets Modern Marketing

Next to our cottage in the Bulgarian Balkan Mountains (or Stara Planina) lives a three generations family. They are traditional mountain farmers, with goats and sheeps and a couple of acres land up on the plains. Always when I visit the village, I go over to Petars family to say Hello and to pay them for the expenses they have when they regularly having a look at our estate. 
And as always, we are invited to spend at least one evening with them and eat the plenty of Bulgarian food and drink the home-made rakia.
This time they told us their recent experience with modern information technology and globalisation. Dijan, their 15 years old son like every typical youngsters soon became the family expert for all questions relating internet. He proved his talent and creativity by attempting to make some money from traditional craftswork of his grandma.  She is a still very powerful and healthy woman, and prefers to spend the entire summer season up in a sort of ermitage, about 1 hour steep climing 1000 meters up, where water comes from mountain springs, and the air and soil is simply as pure and crisp and pristane as on the first days of creation. She lives there for about 5 month, only from milk, cheese, and fruits, and to spend the time for something nice, she usually weaves a traditional type of Bulgarian rug (called Tcherga, see below) on an ancient weaving loom.

Like the socks which Penelope nitted while she was waiting for Ulysses, the carpet on Dijans grandmas weaving loom becomes longer and longer with the summer month' passing by. Early in September this year, when the family brought her back down to the village, she had produced about 25 m (!!!) of this fine, artisan rug, nicely rolled on a drum like you find them in highstreet carpet shops.
Nobody of the family spend any thought what to do with this long carpet, maybe they all assumed it will be a nice gift once the grandson is going to build his own house for his own family. Only Dijan himself, obviously just discovering the global potential of Ebay, had a sudden idea. He made a photo of a small piece of the Tcherga and offered it on the online shopping platform (for the price of 5 Leva or 2.50 Euro per meter !!!!). This would be equivalent of paying for 5 month of grandmas beautiful craftswork 73 Euro.  Even for Bulgarian standard, this would be a beggars salary, let alone the value of such a rare and talented piece of art.
So first we were laughing when they told me this story, and then to resolve the conflict between economic needs and the goal to properly evaluate talented craftswork, I paid Dijan the price of the entire carpet and demanded that the Tcherga stays in possesion of the family, as was grandmas original intention while working day after day on the weaving loom.
Dijans grandma was so releaved about this salomonic solution, that she asked me if I would except a Tcherga as a gift from her. How could I refuse such rare piece of artisan craftwork ?  And of course asking for the price for it would have been considered a personal offence. But I ask her that a 5 meters rug would be fine, since we dont live in a castle in Munich.


Ready for Lift-Off: The Persian Cat on the Verge of Cosmic Fame

Shall I feel honoured that finally the Iranian authorities recognised my effort to promote the Persian Cat as a mayor player in science and research ?  Or shall I tell them what other science nations have experienced a long time ago ? 

Here is the recent news (source: The Guardian) about another effort of the Tehran regime to conquer space:

"Iran says it is considering sending a persian cat into space as the next animal astronaut after claiming it launched a monkey earlier this year. The effort is part of Iranian ambitions to send a human into space by 2018, but questions have been raised about the reported successes of the country's animal missions. Monday's report by the official IRNA news agency quotes the space official Mohammad Ebrahimi as saying the next animal could be the distinctive persian cat, a long-haired, flat-faced breed named after Iran's former name of Persia. No other details were given. In February, Iran insisted it successfully sent a monkey outside Earth's atmosphere and returned it safely. But photos raised international questions about whether the same animal was shown in pre- and post-launch images."

I assume it was more the name of the species (Persian Cat) which prompted the Iranian authorities to make a fixed booking for it in the next rocket to be launched, rather than any objective scientific arguments.  If everything will go well, they might state that "... a Persian was succesfully brought into orbit and back". If the mission fails, they will say "... a cat was lost during another test flight.".
The probability getting valuable data from a cat mission is small, anyhow. Whereas dogs were found by the Russians in the later 50s and early 60s to be extremely cooperative cosmonauts and provided a wealth of useful data, cats are a different story.  Every cat owner knows how delicate these cosy creatures are, how ladylike they behave, how easy it is to offend them and how resentful cats are.
If anybody remembers the pictures of how happy and gratefully "Bjelka and Strjelka", the two famous Russian space dogs left the Sputnik-5 landing capsule after returning from one day in space, and the first thing they did was running to their owner to lick his feets and face, full of gratitude for this big adventure, the return of a Persian Cat from space will end in a big disappointment:
1)  When the Iranian return capsule opens, the Persian Cat will appear very sleepy and arch its back.
2)  When the scientists try to help her out, she will spit and scratch.
3)  After leaving the capsule, she will walk away without looking back.
4) When she meets other cats, she will pretend that the space is full of mice, and she only came back because all the tomcats around are longing for her.


Just an ordinary day

Came to my lab at 9.30 am, with the firm idea to finish a manuscript and work a bid on my DSc thesis.

 At 9.40 am my master student arrived, whom a had not seen for the last 3 month after he did his last experiments. Two weeks ago he called to tell me that all his MSc thesis drafts got lost after he visited Munich Oktoberfest. O.k., I thought, the guy will have to rewrite the few parts he had not backed up then. A week ago he send an e-mail to tell me his parents had used his backup USB stick to store all holyday photos on, thereby overwriting the backup. Today he came around with a MSC thesis rewritten from scrap within a week, to ask me my opinion and corrections. I asked him to show me his protocoll-book with the original records and data. He sad "Sorry, but the Lab-book was also stolen at the Oktoberfest". This is the final disaster: Without the original protocol documentation, all his master thesis are worth nothing and publication is a joke. 

At 11.20 am a secretary from another Institute asked me for an advice of how to organize a lecture series. I told her this and that, and also that the students usually like to have name badges to be identified as course participants at the cafeteria. An hour later she asked me how such name badges can be made, and what she should write on them. I remained very calm, I don't know why. 

After lunch my office door opended and in came a strange guy from Japan. Looked like a world traveller with two suitcases. Explained me he just arrived from Minnesota University, where he skipped his BSc biology study. Asked me if he can work with me, doing proteomics and radiation biology. He said he can not go to Japan, cause everything there is radioactive, and he has documentation in his suitcase, and therefore the Japanese police is after him. He can not return to the US, since they also hunt him, because he knows too much. He said he does not want to study further, 'cause Master or PhD is too hard for him. And becoming a professor would not satisfy his ambitions to tell the world all the things he knows (and which are written in his documents). He also considered becoming a director of his own company, but he is not so much interested in making lots of money. At the moment he has not a single pence to take the bus to town, therefore he asked me very politely if he could sleep somewhere in our institutes building ( I like the Japanese people so much, for their politeness. He bowed again and again, even if I told him that our Institute is also completely contaminated by radioactive stuff, and that he would risk his last few brain cells by staying here overnight).

So happy, that tonight I go rehersing with our rock band. I hope we play some dirty Punk tonight in the backstore of this Munich petrol station. Sorry, but I did not managed to work on the manuscript, or on the DSc thesis. But I promise, tomorrow I will do nothing else (unless a silly MSc student comes with new horror messages, or a stupid secretary askes for advice how to sharpen a pencil, or a Japanese weirdo wants to colaborate with me to teach the whole mankind).