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Should We Be Worried About Ukraine?

Going to be a short one today, guys, because what I'm really looking for is your feedback. Depending on whom you believe, we're either on the brink of WW3 or the whole thing is basically over, so move along there's nothing to see here. Obviously my primary concern is the potential impact on the market (as mercenary as that sounds). Yesterday it got knocked around a bit, but today all the world markets are up, presumably on hopes of de-escalation.

So I'm wondering how seriously we need to take this. The whole mess in Turkey a few weeks ago made the market look shaky, and now there's this, so I'm forced to wonder if the market is just looking for an excuse to go lower in dramatic fashion.

And then there's Bitcoin. I buy BTC every Monday morning, and I got mine yesterday for $582.97. At one point yesterday it went over $700, and that was before I had dinner. I'm not sure if it's oligarch money trying to find a way out of Russia/Ukraine, if we have Her Royal Majesty to thank, or if an unknown New York bank regulator's off-hand comment is the cause. If Bitcoin becomes a flight to quality in times of turmoil, well, then we've got a whole new ballgame.

Monday @Mentions March 3, 2014

Thread of the Week:

This week's Thread of the Week goes to @"Mr. Manager" for his post "Lessons from a PE Superday". Not only was it a fantastic post, it also highlights the growing power of WSO on the Wall Street landscape. Ten years from now asking you what your WSO username is will be a standard interview question, so take a page out of @"Mr. Manager"'s playbook and always bring your A game. This thread earned him 29 Silver Bananas and 2 Tweets.

Comment of the Week:

The thread, "HELP- Pissed in Big 4 Audit" by @"breezy44" was a treasure trove of fantastic comments, but the one that stood out among all the others was written by @"_bird_" and it brougt in 18 Silver Bananas. He spits the inconvenient truth that, despite what we'd all like to believe about our own importance, we're all just easily replaced cogs in the wheel. Well said!

Caption Contest Winner:

This week's caption contest winner is @"animalz" with his shot about a non-target kid being so out of place at Goldman Sachs that they had to photoshop his picture in. Ouch...that's gonna leave a mark.

Is This a Great Country or What?

America is not a place without its problems, but there are some things we do better than any other country on Earth. Opportunity has to be at the top of that list. America is one of those rare places where you can truly start with nothing (or with even less than nothing) and become enormously wealthy. Generations of immigrants have borne this out since the founding of our country, and the same remains true today.

If you're like most people, you're probably at least mildly shocked over the news that Facebook is acquiring WhatsApp for almost $20 billion. Say what you will about the valuation; only time will tell if it was a great call or a bust. But here's something you might not know: the founder of WhatsApp grew up in a house with no hot water just outside of Kiev, immigrated to Mountain View when he was 16, and lived on welfare while he taught himself computer networking by reading manuals. In an inspirational twist to the story, he signed the deal to sell WhatsApp to Facebook on the door of the welfare office that paid his rent as a kid.

Quote:
At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to Mountain View, a result of the troubling political and anti-Semitic environment, and got a small two-bedroom apartment though government assistance. His dad never made it over. Koum’s mother had stuffed their suitcases with pens and a stack of 20 Soviet-issued notebooks to avoid paying for school supplies in the U.S. She took up babysitting and Koum swept the floor of a grocery store to help make ends meet. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance.

FX Traders the New Kings of the Street?

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from February 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Icahn Lowers the Boom on eBay

Does anyone else get the impression that Carl Icahn is just an angry dude? Maybe, like me, he just longs for the 80's when we were both much cooler. Be that as it may, Carl has been a mite cranky of late. First, he was very publicly dissatisfied with the way Apple was handling their massive pile of cash, and now he's taking the eBay board to task for being...well...idiots. In his defense, there does appear to be some fairly egregious conflicts of interest here. His delivery is acerbic and classic Icahn. I can almost picture Icahn as Rust Cohle, whispering to the eBay board, "If you get the opportunity you should kill yourself." It's anyone's guess whether he'll be able to seed the eBay board with his people at the next election, but it appears he's determined to make the interim entertaining at least. Enjoy:

Monday @Mentions February 24, 2014

Thread of the Week:

This week's Thread of the Week would also garner the Rocky Balboa prize. @"upod01" gave non-targets everywhere some hope with his inspirational tale of breaking in with a non-target background. The post was "Can a Non Target land a IB SA? With hard work and persistence it definitely is." and it proved once again that anything is possible with enough hard work and dedication. The thread brought in 17 Silver Bananas and a Tweet. Nicely done.

Comment of the Week:

Comment of the Week this week goes to @"SilvioBerlusconi" for his comment in the thread "NYC is pointless unless you're rich or either in college". We love to bash NYC, but the fact remains that it's about the most baller place to live on Earth, especially if you're single.. That's what Silvio was alluding to when he quipped, "NYC just ranked #1 by Business Insider's "25 Best Places to Roll Dolo" so I don't know wtf you're talking about." The comment earned him 7 Silver Bananas.

Grizzled Veteran:

The Grizzled Veteran award goes to @"BOTT1702" for his epic thread, "What I Learned From Losing $1.2 Million". His somewhat dour view of the world of trading was spot on and really took me back, and his advice was top notch. The post earned 16 Silver Bananas and 4 Tweets.

Why You Should Own Some Bitcoin

If you've been following the news over the past couple weeks, it's been impossible to miss some of the goings on with Bitcoin. A number of high-profile arrests have been made of people at least tangentially related to the crypto-currency, a successful hack looted millions of dollars worth of Bitcoins, and one of the largest Bitcoin exhanges is teetering on the brink of destruction, sending Bitcoin into a freefall on that exchange while its price remains stable on all the others. In the world of Bitcoin, there's never a dull moment.

So why on Earth would you ever get involved?

Because you really can't afford not to. Seriously. Just on the off chance that Bitcoin changes the world in much the same way the Internet did, do you really want to look back and say to yourself, "Man, if I had only seen that coming." Of course, Bitcoin could be gone tomorrow. To be sure, many people in high places would love nothing more. And if volatility ain't your thing, Bitcoin can give you heart palpitations. But I'm forced to agree with the Wall Street Journal: Bitcoin is at a turning point and I just don't think you can afford to miss it.

What most people are only now beginning to understand is that Bitcoin is about more than just money:

How Well Do You Know Women & Money?

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from January 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Here is a fairly infuriating quiz about how well you know women and money, put together by female personal finance guru Suze Orman. I scored 3 out of 10, underscoring my lack of knowledge of the fairer sex, despite several decades experience and tens of thousands in divorce settlements. See if you do any better.

Bonus Bananas February 21, 2014

1) Yes, the Wealthy Can Be Deserving (NY Times) - When's the last time you saw anything that was actually printed in favor of the 1%? That's why I thought I'd lead with this one this week.

2) Lending Where Banks Can’t, Blackstone Thrives in Ireland (Dealbook) - Shadow banking at its finest. Make all the jokes you want about these guys being crooks (they make it pretty easy) but in reality these are really novel solutions to some sticky problems and ultimately they're saving jobs.

3) Having Control Over Your Time Is the Only Sensible Financial Goal (Motley Fool) - It's the age-old conundrum: people with all the time in the world have no money, and the people with all the money in the world have no time. Striking a balance is often difficult, but take it from your old Uncle Eddie: ultimately it's worth it.

Protect Yourself from CryptoLocker

So I was going to write a post about Tesla's big beat after the market yesterday and how the stock is off to the races today, but I came across a computer virus yesterday that was so nasty I wanted to make you guys aware of it so you don't get victimized.

I do a bit of IT consulting on the side for C-level guys who are technophobic. I was scheduled to do a training with one such CEO yesterday, when he asked me if I'd ever heard of CryptoLocker and was it some kind of service. In fact I had heard of CryptoLocker recently on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, and the fact that this CEO was asking me about it could only mean one thing: he was infected. Sure enough, he said a timer had popped up on his desktop, his files had been stolen, and he had 72 hours to pay $400 through Bitcoin to get his files back or they'd be deleted forever.

Unfortunately, this thing is for real. It comes disguised as an email from UPS or FedEx with tracking information in PDF format attached, only it ain't a PDF. It's a double-extension executable file that installs itself on your hard drive, steals and encrypts all your files, and then demands a ransom for you to recover them. Because the ransom is paid with Bitcoin, it's impossible to track where the money is going. Up to now, the hackers have been true to their word and have returned the files once the ransom has been paid.

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