Another TBB post featuring the most eclectic links around the web such as the wild FTX trial, Michael Lewis is not sorry, world retirement ages, the best street foods, the 20 most haunted places, the magnificent Chicago Marathon medal I earned, how you will be better off not buying stocks and move on with life owning ETFs, more horrific violence in the Middle East again, anti-vaccine conspiracy nuts, the number of animals killed every day will shock you, music concert archives and pet photography, best museums and street food and we always end with the latest developments in the crazy world of frequent flyer miles and points, enjoy your weekend!
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This blog publishes every Friday. If not Friday, it will be Monday. This is a one man labor of love operation, enjoy it white it lasts.
If you are here primarily for the miles and points content, please scroll way down to find it.
I want to single out one article that blew my mind. More about this topic in its own section.
Chinese Bribes, Thai Prostitutes and an End to the Lies: Caroline Ellison’s Explosive Second Day of Testimony Against Sam Bankman-Fried
Excellent post: Why don’t you just sell all your stocks and buy ETFs, you’ll probably have better performance? The sad reality though is that a lot of people just won’t do this no matter what stats you shove to their face. It is like, you know, people blow billions on lottery tickets expecting to win smh. Article ends with some justifications why people continue to do this to themselves.
You are unlikely to have an informational or analytical advantage
It’s unlikely you will pick extreme outliers like Monster Beverage, Chipotle, Amazon, or Apple and hold them long enough
Most single stocks underperform Treasury Bills
Of the nearly 26,000 common stocks that have appeared on CRSP since 1926, less than half generated a positive holding period return, and only 42% have a holding period return higher than the one-month Treasury bill over the same time interval”
“When stated in terms of lifetime dollar wealth creation, one third of one percent of common stocks account for half of the overall stock market gains, and less than four percent of 28 common stocks account for all of the stock market gains. The other ninety six percent of stocks collectively matched Treasury-Bill returns over their lifetimes”.
If it has not come through in the previous article, you really need to give this investing thingie enough time to work. Which means pain comes with it and you need to be able to tolerate such pain. Investing Has Been Ugly. Stick With It. This is the direct link to NYT.
If you’ve lost money, take some deep breaths, practice yoga, watch a ballgame, enjoy time with family and friends — whatever works. But don’t make abrupt changes in your investments. A good plan is better than an emotional response when markets fall. [You do have a plan, right?]
Another amazing one from Visual Capitalist: Retirement Age by Country.
SAM BANKMAN-FRIED FTX TRIAL AND MICHAEL LEWIS
Update: Again, this section will dominate this weeks’ post, I apologize. With the trial every day and so much attention to it I should have done a special post. But I don’t have the capacity to be posting more than once a week at this time. Oh boy, so much to unpack here, first I will give you my own take and then share with you all the worthy links.
Caroline Ellison’s testimony against SBF has been absolutely devastating for him. Actually, at this point, I just don’t see how this guy can be found innocent. Maybe his only shot left is to call Michael Lewis on the stand and have his defense attorneys flat out ask him if he thinks SBF is guilty. And Michael Lewis, who fell all over for this goofy nerdy character with the messy hair (part of the act per Caroline!) and was going to write this amazing book about…how Sam was going to be the first trillionaire giving it all away to charity and solving all of our problems blah blah blah.
But Mr. Lewis got lucky and FTX’s implosion served him an opportunity to continue writing the book to tell us all how it all went to shit. But, nope, he just could never do that and instead he keeps looking worse and worse insisting to read the book instead, you know, maybe be a little sorry for going along Sam’s charade? So disappointing! I think he still believes Sam is innocent and will come back to save us all smh…Well, we have seen some crazy things happen lately and everything is possible. But I wouldn’t take that bet. Because I am diametrically opposite with Sam’s incredibly insane risk appetite! If he is found guilty and is cut off from web access I am afraid he may end up like that Epstein creep…
The FTX trial, day six: A constant state of dread. Like I said, testimony has been totally devastating for SBF. Seven different spreadsheets, give them #7 lol. I am beyond words…
The FTX jury suffers through a code review. When you are in the hole and keep adjusting the code to allow Alameda to go negative…Since it was only going one way Gary Wang, the Chief Technology Officer of FTX, finally threw in a number to stop updating it and he went with $65 Billion. As in, Alameda could “borrow” from FTX up to this amount. Which meant taking from FTX customers’ money. Hoping somehow that this will work out in the end. Until it didn’t. And the code was explained as “allow_negative”. I mean, you can make this stuff up (pun intended). The more I learn about FTX is that all these kids around SBF knew all along what they were doing and were going along hoping it would all work out magically someway somehow. So, when the Feds came, they all plead guilty right away to try to avoid prison. Blaming SBF for everything which makes sense, this fiasco is SBF’s fault and maybe his defense should have advised him to make a deal? Then again, maybe they can fool just one juror…
Now, let’s switch to Michael Lewis and his book “Going Infinite” glorifying Sam, oh boy, where do I even start?
Where Michael Lewis Went Wrong. You think I have been harsh on my (former) idol author? No way, here is Nassim Taleb:
The tragedy of the good writer. Michael Lewis never had any idea how finance worked, yet managed for ~34 years to fool nonfinance people into believing that he knew what he was talking about. The good news is that one gets caught eventually, but 34 years is far too long!
Two things that stand out to me about Michael Lewis is him saying that FTX the exchange would be making crazy profits if it was just not for that run on customer deposits. How would he know? Would he be given spreadsheet #6? Or how FTX had built this amazing risk engine. I mean, if only they had implemented it. And they were showing how they had an insurance fund to cover bad losses for customers (you know, like FDCIC or SIPC but for crypto and shit coins) and the number showing up on its website was based on a random number generator programmed into the code. I am starting to think these were not kids that just lost track of the money Michael, maybe, I don’t know, you can find a humble gene in your DNA and say, maybe, you got this character wrong and you are sorry?
And, come on, Going Infinite? Even after the implosion? Maybe the ones responsible for getting the book out had changed the title to “Going to Prison”? Ok, I could not resist this dig, I am sorry. Let’s continue…
Barry Ritholtz, a buddy of Michael Lewis, came for help and had him on his popular podcast. This is what friends do, try to help. I am just going to leave it there…
And this, so disappointing indeed: Michael Lewis Likens Critics of His New Book on Sam Bankman-Fried to a ‘Mob’. And very upsetting too. Molly White shared my feelings on this one by tweeting this:
This time mag interview with michael lewis is really disappointing. he likens those who panned his book to a “mob”, doubles down on his book being a “letter to the jury”, and suggests that the two options available to a jury are acquittal or “lynching”.
and this, I was shaking my head so much at this point it almost separated from my body!
TIME: Do you believe Sam is a serial liar?
Michael Lewis: I think he’s a serial withholder.
“Serial withholder”, WTF is that supposed to mean? Speechless.
This section got way too long, I am sorry. I took out the Scams section and will have it for you guys next Friday…
I hope the events in Israel do not make us all forget what is being done to Ukraine…
I am going to say a few things and link to three great articles, all from The Atlantic, and move on. I subscribe to The Atlantic and I highly recommend it, support what you care about and want to see continue operating #hint. Remember how Jared Kushner was going to solve the Middle East problem? I guess the deep state did not allow him to do so. I am being sarcastic. Because of so much pain I am feeling. I think the last chance of a solution and peace ended when Rabin was assassinated by a far right Israeli wanting to derail the Oslo Accords. So, the bloodshed and suffering continues…
I watch the Greek media and I follow a TV channel in my hometown Larissa. They interviewed a Greek who has been working and living in Israel for the past 35 years. He said a few things that stood out: 1 ) This Hamas violence was the worst he had seen and can not stand and 2) He went on and on about his own family’s experience during the Hamas terrorist attack and then at the end, painfully, he said something that went like “ok, we will hit back, we will create more martyrs and this has been going on for so long, an eye for an eye until when, we all go blind? I think most of us just want to leave in peace. It’s just sad’. It sure is…
What I am still shocked about is how in the hell Israel let Hamas do this? Why were so many of its citizens unprotected? It just boggles the mind…This Atlantic article elaborates on this: The Reckoning. Israel must grapple first with its enemies, and then with the failures of its own government.
The reality is that barbarians have attacked the margins and in some cases—as on 9/11—the core of the civilized world. We need to shake ourselves loose of the notion that these are completely distinct and limited phenomena. They are not. All of us, not just Israelis and Ukrainians, are in the fight of our lives, and it is about time we recognized that, and acted with the vigor and courage the times demand.
I think what comes next is going to be incredibly bloody. But Hamas went too far and they will be hunted down and so many more will die in the process. We were so close to getting a peace deal between the Israelis and the Saudis and I think Hamas sensed that and they derailed it.
Please also think of the innocent Palestinians as well. If we start demonizing everyone we’ll all go blind. Hug your loved ones and brace for more suffering.
I think seeing peace in that area in my lifetime is a long shot at this point. But we should not give up hoping and trying.
ODDZ & ENDZ
Another worthy fight is fighting against all the conspiracy nuts out there: Vaccine Scientist Warns Antiscience Conspiracies Have Become a Deadly, Organized Movement. Vaccinologist Peter Hotez explains how the movement to oppose science and scientists has gained power.
The first step is bringing in people from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice and the Department of State because of the role of Russia in amplifying the discord. I think we need an interagency task force [in the U.S.] and the same at the U.N. I don’t think the World Health Organization can solve this problem. I think this needs to go to the attention of the U.N. General Assembly and maybe the Security Council and NATO, perhaps, because it is a security threat, and it undermines democracies and the security of countries. [First, we need a Speaker of the US House of Representatives man!]
Massive Concerts database in Live Music Archive. Listen your heart out.
Amazing photography once again from the 2023 International Pet Photography Awards.
How many animals get slaughtered every day? This just blew my mind. I am trying to eat less meat by the way.
I should have saved this one for a few weeks later but I want you to plan your travel ahead to visit The 20 most haunted places in the world. I can assure you I had a wonderful time at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, no evil spirits encountered.
For the foodie readers: Guide to the Best Street Foods in the World.
Interesting listing: Best Museums in the US – Ranked.
Last year when I ran the Berlin Marathon there was a world record. This year when I ran the Chicago Marathon there was a new world record again, this time by a young runner running his third marathon ever. I am starting to think, conveniently, that both of these guys got really scared when they saw my name and decided not to give me any chances to catch up to them. Wooohoo!
So, I finished and got my sixth marathon medal. My expectations were very low. As to finish by the time they shut it down. Which I managed to do with an hour to spare. My slowest marathon to date but oh so satisfying due to the injuries I have had since mid July. And then Covid in mid September to top it off. I stuck to my plan to walk/run 0.10 miles at a time. And actually I must admit there was never any doubt I was going to miss the medal. The pain from the bottom of my feet was tolerable and I popped a few Advil pills after Mile 20. And then I ran a little more in the last few miles and actually ran the whole last mile and finished strong. I really enjoyed this marathon, lots of crowd support and over 48,000 runners all around the city. And again I was lucky with perfect weather.
A section where I go on and on about some stuff that happens in my life and anything else that just does not fit in another section above
I am going to keep this section very short since the rest of the blog post is so long.
I saw the movie The Creator. I am still confused by it. I liked it…I think. About AI. And humans. I guess the message was beware of the humans, AI can be good if it wasn’t for us humans. Or something like that.
One artist I have followed since my youth days is the Australian Nick Cave. Who has transformed (something that I have tried to do in my life) from the wildest craziest angry punk days with legendary band The Birthday Party on to increasingly mellow melodic ballads. But for some reason a certain sense of anger and grief underneath. Anyway, he is still going strong touring and making music. And then life turned on him recently losing two sons and legendary artist Anita Lane, the mother of his sons. So yeah, grief became even heavier. And then he started responding to fan questions at The Red Hand Files. And he has just written a book. Yeah, I saw Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds in Detroit in the late 80s, wow. Great interview here: Nick Cave on Why the ‘Kubler-Ross’ Grief Model is ‘Bullsh-t’. Singer-songwriter, who just released paperback edition of ‘Faith, Hope and Carnage,’ book also talks about social media’s corrosiveness, his comedic side and how, surprisingly, he’s happy most of the time.
You know, part of the mission of my blog is to inspire so this excerpt from Nick’s interview would do this hopefully:
You can check out his haunting “Push the Sky Away”…
This blog started with a focus on miles and points and travel. It has evolved since then. Everything below deals with the hobby of collecting frequent flyer miles and points. If you are not interested, you can stop here, thank you.
MILES & POINTS NEWS/PROMOS/MY ACTION
I went under 1 Million miles/points burned in 2023 because I canceled my Hyatt Place London City East reservation for the 2024 Marathon and got back 48,000 World of Hyatt points. I am thinking to do only one marathon next year and I am aiming for New York, we shall see. But I did burn 23,000 World of Hyatt points to treat Ann Arbor friends traveling to Rome, so they are staying at The Lord Byron hotel.
My wife is running the Detroit Half Marathon this weekend. And the Doubletree Fort Shelby in Detroit downtown is perfectly located just two blocks from the Start line. But of course it has been sold out for months. So I made a backup reservation at the Detroit Hilton Garden Inn for 50,000 Hilton points. But, just like last year, award availability opened and boom, I booked it. The wild thing is I got a suite for only 50,000 points #winning.
I canceled a Chase Ink Cash card and my wife’s Freedom Unlimited card. And I applied for a Chase Ink Business Unlimited card with my own links, desperately trying to increase the blog’s sales so I can keep them before they take them away and I retire this blog! Been three days and the card has not shown up online so I guess I will need to call to push them to approve me.. Update: I called Chase at 1.800.453.9719 and I was approved after a friendly chat agreeing to shift $10k from my other Ink card. Hope I get it in time to use it for a $3k business invoice I will be receiving shortly and then I have another $3k to go to meet the minimum spend to get me another at least 99,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (90,000 SUB, 6k spend at 1.5 points. Thanks Chase, I love you.
Well, like all lists, all lists are subjective: The 10 Best Centurion Airport Lounges in the World.
No, the optimal time was thirty years ago. But I guess it is never too late as long as banks give you thousands of miles and points for you to travel at very low cost and you can handle yourself in not getting carried away with spending and, heaven forbid, incurring credit card debt! Why Now is the Optimal Time to Start Travel Hacking with Credit Card Bonuses.
Always check my TOP THREE TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD OFFERS RIGHT NOW below. At this point, the two no brainer cards are the two 90,000 NO Annual Fee Chase Business Ink cards, by far! 4 Reasons to Get a Chase Ink Cash or Unlimited Card Right Now. Available HERE. Chase will give you around $1,000 for free, come on! And also available with my REFERRAL link. I have new links below explaining more about the cards designated as NEW.
For newbies, swimming only in the Chase ecosystem, I recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card becoming an anchor card to keep it going forward. It allows you to combine points from other Chase cards into it and they become worth 1.25 points per dollar then. Or you can transfer to airline and hotel partners. World of Hyatt is now the best transfer partner. United used to be the preferred airline, not anymore after its latest horrific devaluation. Maybe transferring to Southwest can work for you. Anyway, for unbonused spend with the Sapphire Preferred, you can have a second Chase card such as the Freedom Unlimited cards. Of course the Business version will give you a huge 90,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards signup bonus right now. If for some reason you do not want to have a business card, you can go for the personal Freedom Unlimited card. These Unlimited cards earn 1.5x points on ALL spend and they have no annual fee. Right now, there is a new different kind of signup bonus for the Chase Freedom Unlimited: Uncapped double cashback for one year (but there may be a better offer). At this point, this card does not show up in my affiliate links, so sad.
In a way, I want the uncapped Chase Freedom Unlimited offer to totally bomb. Because, if it succeeds, this does not bode well for our beloved Signup bonuses you guys.
So if you have ever held a Platinum card of any kind you are now ineligible for the welcome offer on an Amex Gold card. Pure insanity!
Once again, Amex left a path to getting all of the cards with this new Amex Gold Card family rule. While that doesn’t help anyone that has already unknowingly mucked it up, there is a path to victory for new comers.
There are currently two ways to go about this:
- Gold then Platinum then Green
- Green then Gold then Platinum
Miles Earn and Burn has a way to get the 150k Amex Business Gold card to come up, see the first item on this post and good luck.
Some guidelines for American Express: NLLs and the Popup.
Be careful if you get involved with buying groups to increase your credit card “manufactured” spending ok? Low demand for Travis Scott creates liquidity crisis in ticket reselling economy.
MILES & POINTS
HOT CREDIT CARD OFFERS: 90k CHASE Ink Business Cash, 90k CHASE Ink Business Unlimited, 75k CAPITAL ONE Venture X, 150k CAPITAL ONE Venture X Business, 75k CAPITAL ONE Venture Rewards, 100k CHASE Ink Business Preferred, 60K CITI Premier, $1,000 Cash Back CHASE Ink Business Premier, 140K CHASE IHG Rewards Premier (with $100 Statement Credit), 60k CHASE Sapphire, 60K CHASE Sapphire Reserve, 60k US BANK Business Altitude and many more including many AmericanExpress cards such as Delta Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors cards! Please check out my Affiliate links. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. If you do not see a credit card with my affiliate links, perhaps I could refer you?
This section is about my
hobby addiction of collecting frequent flyer miles and hotel points since the early 1990’s! SKIP if you are not into it!
As of today, I have burned 996,850 miles/points year to date in 2023 and have 4,151,974 miles/points in the bank. Some do drugs, I do miles lol!
Thanks to US banks, very lucrative travel rewards credit card offers come and go all the time. This section will act as a reference point on the best CURRENT offers. I will designate new material preceded by NEW.
TOP THREE TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD OFFERS RIGHT NOW
Ok, the amazing 90k Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Ink Business Unlimited card offers are back! These are NO ANNUAL fee cards. The Ink Business Cash earns 5% on office supply stores and internet/cable/phone services and 2% on gas and restaurants. Why don’t you go to Office Depot and buy gift cards of the stores you usually buy from, hello 5% Amazon! The Ink Business Unlimited works differently, it just earns 1.5% on everything…so if you were going to use a card to earn 1% why don’t you pull this one out instead? Bottom line, I think these are the BEST business travel rewards cards out there right now! The 90k Signup Bonus can be earned after $6k of spend on the cards in the first three months. you can apply HERE to support this blog, thank you (they can be found under Category/Business).
The Capital One Venture X card offers a 75,000 point Signup Bonus after a minimum spend of $4k in the first three months. If you like simplicity and looking for one (premium) card, I highly recommend this card (and yes, I have it myself!). It has an annual fee of $395 but it comes with an easy $300 statement credit for travel booked on its excellent travel portal, essentially turning it into a $95 annual fee card. But wait…there is more! On each card anniversary you earn 10,000 points essentially making it FREE! Every dollar of spend earns 2 points and flights booked on the travel portal earn 5 points per dollar. You get access to Capital One and Plaza Premium airport lounges and a Priority Pass Select lounge membership and, this is important, you can add FOUR authorized users FOR FREE who can also have their own Priority Pass Select airline lounge membership. You can transfer your Capital One points to up to 18 Transfer Partners. No foreign transaction fees. Free Hertz President’s Circle rental car top elite status. Cell phone protection and PRIMARY rental car coverage. Awesome seats at baseball stadiums for just 5k points each. And lots more. Available with my Credit Card Links, thank you for your support!
Remember, you are NOT allowed to ever carry a credit card balance if you ever get a credit card here!
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Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.