Month: October 2016 (Page 1 of 5)

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We are the envy of our friends. We are perfect together and they know it. They will never be as great as us. We will be together for ever.

I remembered writing that passage in my diary back when and I were a beginning couple. It’s amazing how fast time goes by, and no matter how hard you try, it doesn’t go back.

I remembered the day we first met perfectly. It was almost two years ago. I was in the park, the sun was hidden behind a layer of clouds, the air seemed so thin. It was cold, snow started to blanket across the ground. Even though I waited for three hours, he never came. Then showed up. He offered me his jacket, and I excepted it without questioning. He sat and we started talking. . .

He suggested that we should go someplace warm, and I wasn’t going to wait for my date any longer. We went to the coffee shop just three blocks away. That’s where I saw him with another girl. And that’s how we came to be.

I flipped the pages in my diary one by one until I came to a passage that was dated almost four months ago.

June fourth, 2006

I was at the hospital all night. Something happened. . .

We all sat quietly. Just minutes away from freedom. Everybody stared at the clock, not bothering to listen to our math teacher, Mr. Corelli. Two minutes, I said in my head.

“?” Mr. Corelli called. I turned rapidly.

“Yes?” I answered in a sweet voice. Mr. Corelli sighed.

“Why do I bother trying to teach you children? You never listen anyway! Just get ready to go enjoy your spring break. I know I’m going to.” He never really liked being a teacher. He hated children.

Then the bell rang. We all left suddenly, papers flying like in one of those television shows that nobody watches anymore. Spring break was here. I skipped over to , who was waiting in his new 2006 Ford Mustang.

“Wanna ride, little lady?” he said, trying to be cool. I rolled my eyes and got in. He began to drive fast. He kept turning his music up one notch at a time until it was on max.

“Where are you going?” I asked, realizing that my house was the other direction. He smiled his “you’ll see” smile. I crossed my arms and pouted as houses and trees whipped by. I reached over and turned the volume down. Heavy metal is not my favorite genre of music.

“Quit trying to be something your not. Since when do you listen to heavy metal?” I asked, shocked.

“I’ve always listened to it, just not when you’re around.” I laughed.

“Come on, you’re as soft as a Tickle Me Elmo. Now really, where are we going?” I asked as we pulled into the airport. He smiled that perfect smile again.

“You know,
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your birthday is coming up in like four days, right? Where have you always wanted to go?” asked. My face lit up. “You’re taking me to Lanai?! How did you get my parents to agree?” We were getting out of the car at that moment.

“Your family is already there. They left as soon as we left for school. They have all of your things, so you don’t have to worry. Why did you want to go to Lanai again?” I looked at him as if he were stupid. I’ve told him why so many times!

“Because Lanai is the smallest of the Hawaiian islands. I feel sorry forit.” He shook his head, as if saying, You are such a dork! Why do I spend all of my time with you?

We gave the lady our tickets and got on the plane. gave me the window seat, knowing that I like to look at scenery. Suddenly realizing that came empty handed, I asked, “Where are your things?”

“Your parents have everything. If you are missing something, you can blame them.” We both laughed. “I love you,” I whispered. “I love you, too.” He leaned over to kiss my forehead.

I took two hair ties out of my purse and began to part my hair. I started to braid my brown hair when the plane took off.

“Where is the first stop?” I whispered, finishing my second braid.

“Not sure. By the way, I love when you put your hair up, then everybody can see what pretty blue eyes you have.” I blushed, taking one last glance at my town of Chester, Pennsylvania.

“I wish you would have given me more notice, then I could have packed things to do on the plane!” I complained. reached down beside him and pulled out a bag. He handed it to me while saying, “Your mom told me what you might want.” I opened the bag and saw my favorite book, my Ipod,
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and some gum.

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Thought he was unlucky on Sat to give away that og. I’ve no problem with a CB giving away an og trying to defend like he was, it’s when they turn their back or look like they’re avoiding the shot and the ball loops in off them I’ve a problem with. United to win, 3 1.

FOUR IN, FIVE OUT AT UNITED

I’d say get rid of Darmian and bring in a left back to compete with Shaw and Young. Bring Tuanzebe and TFM back in to compete with Valencia at right back and save us around 50m.

Get rid of Rojo and bring in a top CB like Varane.

I’d go all out then to sign Willian for the right wing position.

Finally i’d bolster the midfield by picking up a replacement for Carrick who can compete with Matic, keep Fellaini and obviously continue with McTominay just to boil JM1502’s p!

So outs are Darmian, Blind, Rojo, Carrick and Zlatan.

Ins are Sessegnon, Varane, Willian and maybe that SMS fella or Seri.

As for Fellaini,
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thank f he fancies a move away on a Bosman and the sooner that clumsy oaf is long gone from OT the better,simple as that.

Smalling and your crock mate Jones have failed to sustain an acceptable level of performance over a very long period and that is how they should be judged,simple as that.

I think people are going over board on Lovren.

He’s handled Lukaku very well in previous games. During any given game a 6’4 target man striker will get his head on the ball a few times. It’s how we deal with that is the issue and we didn’t deal with it well particularly with the knowledge that they had already been targeting TAA at right back.

It’s no surprise that’s it’s TAAs man that scored both goals yet I don’t see people giving him the abuse Lovrens getting, and neither should they.

Our ability as a team to support and help a team mate that was quite obviously being targeted from kick off comes into question.

Let me be clear here. I am in no way absolving Lovren of responsibility or suggesting he’s a long term option, I just think poeple are going over the top on the criticism because of who it is and what he’s done previously.

Yup ginger i dont blame lovren wholly for the 1st goal. Taa shouldve been closer with his man. He was ball watching.

MESUT OZIL THE STATS BETTER THAN THE PLAYER?

Just read that Oz has reached 50 assists quicker than any player in PL history. I’ve been one of his many critics but that’s a pretty impressive stat, as stats go especially when you consider the players he’s had around him during that time, not one of whom could be described as a prolific goalscorer.

He does get a lot of stick and a lot of it’s probably deserved. Doesn’t matter how many assists he gets, there’s no excuse for disappearing in games or strolling around the pitch like he’s out for a Sunday walk, but credit where it’s due. Does make you wonder how much quicker he would have reached this milestone if he turned up every game and had had better quality in front of him.

Aubemyang should theoretically bring the better side of his game to the fore. We need runners, that means the onus should be the players playing out wide. It’s didficult because we don’t have any wingers as well. But he is someone that can connect the dots without even trying, always loved his ability but it’s a shame that sometimes he does tend to go missing.
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If you haven’t at least heard the word Zumba, we have to ask what planet you flew in from. The incredibly popular Latin inspired dance fitness class has attracted millions of exercisers with a fun fusion of dance moves like Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton and Flamenco, and the sort of choreography you might see in a nightclub. In fact, it’s pretty much an international phenomenon. “But Zumba leaves room for interpretation. And it’s nonjudgmental. You don’t have to move exactly like the instructor. It’s more like dancing in a club, people can just move the way they want.”

But popular is one thing; safe and effective is another. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) teamed up with the University of Wisconsin La Crosse to determine whether Zumba is a workout, a party, or both.

Get your dancing shoes on: After crunching the numbers, researchers found that participating in a single Zumba Fitness class burned an average of 369 calories. In comparison with other exercises tested in the past, Zumba burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga.

Researchers determined that Zumba is an effective interval style, total body workout with built in variety because every class and every instructor is slightly different. “Because of that, with Zumba you burn a lot of extra calories compared to a steady state exercise like jogging.

“The surprising thing is that it doesn’t matter what fitness level you’re at our research shows that with Zumba everyone is working out at a zone that’s recommended for improving cardio health,” says Luettgen. “Both a fit person or a low fitness person are going to get an equally good workout.”

And by all accounts, Zumba is entertaining too, which means you’ll burn calories and get fit all while having fun with friends (old or new!). Sounds like our kind of party.
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The Blood Type B Diet is one of several related diets that depend on the individual’s blood type. These 4 diets all promise to promote weight loss, eliminate toxins and fat from the organism, fight against several illnesses, and slow the aging process. Blood type B, in which the letter B stands for barbarian, most likely started in the Himalayas. Most of the people with this blood type are located in that general area. Here are some of the diet principles.

You may eat a wide variety of food. But you should try to avoid nuts and grains. Eat pasta, corn, and buckwheat in moderation. Make sure that you eat at least one fruit a day. This diet comes with a long list of foods to eat and foods to avoid. Even among the favored food groups such as fish and vegetables there are plenty of items you should avoid. For example, avoid crustaceans, shellfish, anchovies, eel, bass, barracuda, smoked salmon, and frogs. Good choices include fatty fish and white fish. You should probably take magnesium supplements. Clearly it isn’t possible to follow this diet without a book. Three times a week perform strenuous exercise, which increases your cardio vascular capabilities. Relax with meditation, yoga, or tai chi twice a week.

Advantages of the Blood Type B Diet include improving the state of your cells and immune system. Its foods are varied and healthy. Its disadvantages include the need for food supplements.

Here are two sample menus:

Menu 1

Breakfast: Rice or bran cereal with skim milk. 2 plums. Grape juice.

Lunch: A fresh herb omelet. Light goat cheese. A slice of spelt bread. A banana.

The mid afternoon snack consists of a skim milk yogurt, cranberry juice, and green tea.

Supper: Parmesan fettuccini. Green salad. Frozen yogurt.

Menu 2

Breakfast: A slice of wheat germ bread. Skimmed cottage cheese. A poached egg. Green tea.

Lunch: Chicken salad. Green beans. A soy yogurt.

The mid afternoon snack is a glass of grape juice and a rice cake.

Supper: Grilled mackerel. Spinach. Boiled potatoes. Fruit salad.

Some information in this article comes from a fascinating new book, La Bible des Regimes, written by Jenny de Jonquieres and published by Amerik Media. Her book describes over 80 diets and weight reduction programs. Each diet is presented with 5 menu plans, a detailed discussion of its advantages and disadvantages, and lots more. La Bible des Regimes is available only in French at present.
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ONE afternoon in the middle of August, 1940, five sections of 607 (County of Durham) Squadron were scrambled in their Hawker Hurricanes from their home base at RAF Usworth, a few miles east of Sunderland.

Their orders were to intercept two formations of between 40 to 60 Heinkel and Dornier bombers which were approaching the Northumberland coast at 12,000ft. It would be an encounter of enormous importance in the early days of the Battle of Britain.

AT ten o’clock on the morning of Thursday, August 15, 1940, 141 German aircraft had taken off from their bases in Norway to launch a raid against the North East.

This was the first occasion on which 607 had been scrambled since it had returned in May 1940 from France, where for six months it had flown ageing Gloster Gladiator biplanes to give aerial support to the ill fated British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

The French expedition led, of course, to the BEF’s evacuation from Dunkirk, but it turned the men of 607 into battle hardener fliers and they put the experience to good use in the battle over the North East skies that August afternoon.

It was a brief battle, 607 landing back at Usworth 30 minutes after taking off. They suffered no losses, but they shot down eight enemy aircraft and badly damaged six others. Altogether on that day, the Luftwaffe lost 75 aircraft and afterwards called it Black Thursday.

It had been prevented from inflicting the damage it had hoped on its targets, but, as Echo Memories told a fortnight ago, it still caused great misery. Its bombs killed 32 people were and injured 105.

Yet the fierce defence put up by 607 and the other Northern squadrons meant the Luftwaffe never again sent such numbers against the North East.

The squadron had not started life as a fighter unit, nor was it the first squadron to be based at RAF Usworth, an airfield which started life during the First World War.

When the war ended in 1918, the land reverted to its original use until, some 12 years later, a new airfield was built on the site to accommodate a new Royal Auxiliary Air Force unit, 607 (County of Durham) Squadron.

Formed on March 17, 1930, as a light bomber unit, the Westland Wapiti biplanes 607 was told to expect did not ultimately arrive until December 1932.
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ON 13 JUNE 1923a dark brown paste hit shelves around Australia.

It had been invented after a few lean wartime years when imports of Marmite from Britain had dried up due to World War I, 30 year old Victorian chemist Dr Cyril Percy Callister had begun to work on a substitute.

The recipe was commissioned by entrepreneur Fred Walker, founder of Kraft Food Co, who had been trying to develop a similar yeast based spread since 1918 with little success.

Cyril spent months of trial and error experimentation before he could produce a brewer’s yeast similar the base substance of Marmite. Once he’d perfected the formula, a competition was launched to name the new spread.

Fred Walker’s daughter pulled the winning name name out of a hat in 1922, giving birth to a now iconic Australian food product.

History of Vegemite

But, the new product failed to sell in the expected numbers. An attempt to boost sales by changing the name to Parwill (accompanied by the tagline, ‘If Marmite then Parwill!’) fell flat, and the name reverted back to Vegemite.

Then, ten years on, the company was given an important health endorsement by the British Medical Association, and Vegemite was purchased in bulk to service Australia’s armed forces during World War II.

And it’s still considered healthy today. “Vegemite is a concentrated yeast extract that also contains vitamin B1, B2, B3 and folate, which are involved in a number of body functions including growth, healthy nerves and muscles,” says Kate Bullen, a dietician at the Department of Health in Western Australia.

During the war, civilians were limited to a per capita ration of Vegemite. Following this shortage, product sales increased and the spread gradually became the daily household item it is today.

Vegemite jars: a timeline (Credit: National Museum Canberra)In 1981, Vegemite’s iconic status was cemented when it featured in the song Down Under by Aussie pop icons Men at Work.

In 2009, the brand took a blow when a national competition was held to name a new product a combination of Kraft cream cheese and Vegemite. The product was given the name iSnack 2.0, which failed to appeal to audiences nationally. Following the backlash, the product was renamed Vegemite Cheesybite.

Despite this setback, Vegemite is now in its 90th year on our shelves, and remains a multimillion dollar product.

As Jamie Callister, grandson of inventor Cyril, says: “It’s part of our DNA. It’s something I grew up with and was just always there. It’s become a badge of honour for Australians, whether they are a fan of it or not.”
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‘There are eight different breeds of peacock,” says Bidzina Ivanishvili, as an albino specimen struts purposefully across our path and into a eucalyptus grove. “I have them all.” On our tour of his vast summer retreat on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, we also encounter a flock of flamingos, a kaleidoscopic collection of several dozen parrots, and Zelda the pet zebra, who gratefully munches on carrots that a lackey brings us to feed her.

Such an exotic menagerie is somewhat incongruous in an area where the primary non livestock animal is the stray dog, but ranked by Forbes magazine as the 153rd richest human being on the planet, Ivanishvili can well afford such eccentric luxuries. Of late though, the Georgian billionaire, until last year the most secretive and reclusive of the oligarchs to rise from the ashes of the Soviet Union, has had more serious worries on his mind than the progression of Zelda’s burgeoning pregnancy, or the parasite that is ravaging the dates on the estate’s palm trees.

Until last October, very few people knew anything about Ivanishvili. It was known that his primary residence was a sleek glass castle on a hill overlooking Tbilisi, that he doled out huge amounts of money in stipends to Georgia’s struggling artists and actors, and that he was a poor boy from a small Georgian village who had made it big in the 1990s in Moscow and now controlled assets in Russia worth several billion pounds. But that was about it until recently nobody even knew what he looked like.

Then, last October, Ivanishvili made a sensational announcement in an open letter, and called the media to his contemporary chateau to follow it up. He was going into politics. He insisted that the rule of President Mikheil Saakashvili, a US educated reformer who came to power in the 2003 Rose Revolution, had morphed into a ruthless dictatorship, and that he was the man to challenge it. He invited the country’s myriad opposition parties, ranging from ber liberals to radical nationalists, to join around him in a coalition, the Georgian Dream, and fight parliamentary elections as one bloc. He himself would be prime minister for one or two years, he said, and then leave politics, but continue to fund it from his personal coffers.

Fast forward 10 months, and I am following Ivanishvili on his campaign trail, ahead of parliamentary elections due on 1 October. The man who once only travelled incognito is now touring Georgia and drumming up support for his coalition. On the day that I join, he is campaigning in Svaneti, a mountain region of picturesque hamlets and ancient stone towers, an eight hour drive from the capital, Tbilisi.

Campaigning in Georgia is not for the faint hearted. At one point we climb for an hour up a sheer path to an 11th century church perched on top of a mountain, where a religious festival is under way and hundreds of locals and visitors are jostling both to make it up to the church, and to get a glimpse of the visitor. Save for the bodyguards and the motorcade of black limousines waiting below, the scene could be straight from the Middle Ages. Atop the hill, candles are lit, bells rung by hand, goats are being skinned and stewed in giant pots, and a strong man contest is under way involving the lifting of giant rocks. Ivanishvili, who hardly breaks a sweat during the climb in the summer sun, stops to hear the concerns and complaints of ordinary Georgians. Mainly they moan about a lack of jobs and investment. “We don’t know much about him, but we are willing to give him a try. He can’t be worse than the others,” says 82 year old Eduard, a local villager.

After a long day of pressing the flesh, a five hour drive tailing Ivanishvili’s motorcade brings us from the crisp mountain air of Svaneti to the soupy heat of the sub tropical Black Sea coast. As we are driving along the road that hugs the coast, the driver pulls a sharp right turn at the smallest of breaks in the trees, and we pass through an unmarked entrance equipped with a barrier and security cameras. I’m driven to a large wing of functional rooms where a small army of security agents, cooks, cleaners and other assorted staff stay. “Bidzina is tired, he’ll see you in the morning,” I’m told.

The next morning at the appointed hour, a crimson golf buggy pulls up stealthily to bring us to Ivanishvili, but I notice that the unassuming driver is the man himself, dressed in jeans, a short sleeved shirt and loafers. So begins an impromptu tour of the grounds the animal collection, as well as a house for friends, a restaurant complex, a metal promontory jutting out 20 metres into the sea that we drive down in the golf buggy, and finally Ivanishvili’s own house. He chats trilingually as the mood takes him; either in reasonable English, in lightly accented Russian, or in his consonant heavy native Georgian, translated falteringly into English by an aide who has accompanied us. It is hard to believe that the man casually showing off his summer house and pointing out his 15 year old daughter reclining in a lounger by the pool is the same person who until a year ago was considered the most reclusive man in the former Soviet Union. The golf buggy’s stereo system is playing a remix of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.

The buggy pulls up outside one of the buildings and we take seats in a bland lobby area that could belong to a four star hotel in any world city. We talk for two hours about why he has decided to fight what has widely been considered one of the most progressive regimes in the former Soviet region, and why it is that he has such hatred for the current government. “I was forced to come into politics, because Saakashvili had destroyed the opposition. I had a choice either to leave the country, because it was dangerous to live here, or to go into politics.” He even chartered a plane for his family several times, he claims, but in the end decided he had to stay and fight. “We will win. No doubts. I will be in the government for a year, or for two years maximum, and afterwards I will become an active member of society, to help society learn how to elect people and how to control their politicians. And make sure that there is a free press, and a real opposition.”f

The government’s initial response was aggressive Ivanishvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship, and his local bank was raided. Such an approach was counterproductive, so Saakashvili’s team then settled on a more subtle form of attack, painting Ivanishvili as a political dilettante and possibly a front for malicious masters in Moscow. “The dark forces of the past, whatever money they are armed with, whatever lies they are telling will not be able to stop Georgian people’s accelerated drive towards progress,” said Saakashvili back in May.

I meet with Raphael Glucksmann in one of Tbilisi’s pleasant outdoor cafs to hear the government take on Ivanishvili. Glucksmann, a svelte Frenchman in his thirties, is the son of a French philosopher and one of Saakashvili’s top advisors. “When you have this much money in the hands of one person, it would be a problem for any country,” he says. “But it’s especially problematic for a small country like Georgia. He has more money than the state budget.”

Glucksmann is married to Eka Zguladze, the Deputy Interior Minister, who at 37 is one of the older members of Saakashvili’s government. Saakashvili, himself just 36 at the time of the Rose Revolution, swept away the old guard and filled his government with youth. It was not unusual for ministers to be in their twenties, and with a few exceptions, any kind of service to the Soviet system meant an automatic disqualification from taking part in building the new state. This, of course, led to a whole generation of the angry and disenfranchised, which is very receptive to Ivanishvili’s campaign. But the billionaire insists he is looking to the future, not the past, and that his problem is not with Saakashvili’s Western leaning outlook but with the fact that the current government cloaks autocratic methods with a mere faade of democracy.

Ivanishvili’s narrative of contemporary Georgia is so wildly different to Saakashvili’s that the two men may as well be talking about completely different countries. Saakashvili’s people talk of a thriving democracy knocking on Europe’s door, with the old Soviet mentality erased by efficient reforms and replaced with an effervescent meritocracy. Ivanishvili’s brigade declare Georgia a totalitarian state, controlled by a ruthless cartel of a few men around Saakashvili who have scooped up all the economic and political resources for themselves, control the majority of media and are painfully sensitive to even the smallest criticism. The truth, unsurprisingly, is somewhere between the two extremes. The very fact that Ivanishvili and the opposition can make such public criticisms without the spectre of imprisonment or worse is testament to how far Georgia has come under Saakashvili in neighbouring countries, such openness would be unthinkable.

Everyday life has also changed irrevocably. A decade ago, the capital experienced frequent electricity shortages, the police took bribes from all and sundry as hungrily as they do in all the other post Soviet nations, and criminality was rife, with people scared to leave their houses in the evenings. Now, Tbilisi is a pleasant, civilised city with smart cafs and an aura of safety. Even Ivanishvili admits the police reforms were successful, at least initially, but says further reforms are needed and points to an autocratic streak in the government. “There is a strong vertical of power and one person decides everything,” he says. “We need to introduce a culture of self government and not have everything come from the top.”

Ivanishvili’s description of Saakashvili is withering; he calls him a “genuine coward” and even a “professional liar”. He pauses for a moment before delivering his most surprising accusation: “If you want to look at it more deeply, the main problem is that he does not know what love is,” he says gravely, fixing his hazel eyes on me. A few days later, I recount the allegation with a grin to a friend, a Tbilisi intellectual. But instead of giggling along, she nods resolutely, as if being apprised of a great truth for the first time. “You know, maybe Ivanishvili is right,” she says with a heavy sadness in her voice.

This, after all, is a country where emotions are highly valued and worn on the sleeve. The capital’s main street is named after a poet. The country’s first post Soviet president was a literary critic, and was in turn ousted by a painter and a playwright, who also happened to be military commanders. And one of the most revered professions in the country is that of the tamada, essentially a professional toastmaster who composes eloquent, impassioned speeches for the guests at wedding and birthday banquets to revel in before knocking back their drinks. There is no culture of the stiff upper lip here; this is a place where love, hatred, joy and sorrow come tumbling forth without filter.

But the hyperactive Saakashvili seems to me to be the perfect example of this Georgian exuberance even at his lowest points, such as when cameras caught him preparing for a television interview by munching on the end of his tie, his problems seem down to a surfeit of emotion rather than a lack of it. So what does Ivanishvili mean? “He does not love; he cannot love. He cannot share others’ sorrow. I feel sorry for him. He doesn’t need to be jailed, he needs to be helped.”

Glucksmann tells me Saakashvili and Ivanishvili never had any kind of relationship, so the President takes the criticism calmly: “They were never close so he does not feel it like a betrayal.” In fact, he says, the pair only ever spoke twice. “He gave his money for cultural things and the Church, but there was never a relationship there.” I ask Ivanishvili if this is true. “They said what?” he guffaws in disbelief. “There were days when Saakashvili called me 50 times! I would tell him, ‘Misha, stop calling, I can’t take it any more!’.”

Ivanishvili says he had a rule in Tbilisi, in Moscow and in Paris his house was for family only, and only one or two business partners who had become friends were allowed in. “It’s customary in business to invite your partners to your house, to make the families friends, it helps with business. But for me, the home is sacred. No business partners were ever allowed in, let alone Saakashvili! If Putin had found out I was meeting him, my business in Russia would have been over the next day.” Even before the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, there was extreme suspicion of Saakashvili and his pro Nato agenda in Moscow, and Ivanishvili claims he would fly to Saakashvili’s residence by helicopter, where the two men would have meetings in secret, to avoid the Russian leadership finding out.

Despite this, Saakashvili kept trying to call on Ivanishvili at home, claims the billionaire. “He called me once and said, ‘I’m in the botanical gardens below your house, why don’t I just walk up on foot?’ Another time he suggested driving himself up in a Lada Zhiguli, in disguise, so nobody would know. I told him no way.”

Ivanishvili says the two men met weekly for several years, but after Saakashvili’s re election in 2008, uneasy at how involved he was, and wary of the political course Saakashvili was taking, he cut off contact. “I told him I’m changing my SIM card, stop calling me, I don’t want to be a politician and you’ve made me into one. When you leave politics we’ll be friends, but for now we can’t meet any more. He tried to persuade me, even sent his wife to see me, but I said no.”

I went back to Saakashvili’s people with the broad outline of Ivanishvili’s claims. They reiterated that the two men had spoken “no more than two or three times ever”.

As with everything about this contest, the two versions of the relationship could not be further from each other.

How Ivanishvili went from being a poor Georgian villager to one of the richest men in the world is also a story cloaked in a good deal of mystery. As he himself puts it: “I could tell you anything and you wouldn’t be able to check it”.

The story as he tells it is a classic oligarch’s tale of wiliness and ruthlessness, clambering up ladders and dodging the multitude of snakes that dotted the gameboard of early 1990s Russia, when the clever few were able to get rich quicker than at any other time in human history. Excelling at secondary school, which was a three mile walk from his home village, Ivanishvili went to university in Tbilisi, where he learnt Russian for the first time. “I finished my degree with distinction in 1980,” he says. “Journalists never write that and it offends me.” He then set off for Moscow, where he struggled to fit in. The Russian students bullied him and told jokes about Georgians; eventually he was too embarrassed even to set foot in the cafeteria because of all the mockery. But he says he realised something the Russian students did not.

“In Georgia, people had already understood that Communism couldn’t survive, and I came to the institute in Moscow, and people still believed in it. They were completely different people and I found it very difficult psychologically.” He also began to realise how much potential there was in computers. “I was writing my PhD in the late 1980s and was keeping an eye on what was happening in the world. It became obvious to me that Russia couldn’t live without computers. I think I worked this out a year before anyone else. I started looking for people who could help import them.”

He managed to track down old Jewish acquaintances from Tbilisi, many of whom had since emigrated to Israel or the West, and begged them to borrow or steal enough money to buy a computer or two and sneak it into Russia. “They hadn’t left that long before, and they were by no means rich, but some of them managed to cobble together thef money for a computer and get it into Moscow, where we could sell it for 40,000 roubles. It was worth the price of two cars at the time!”

Within 18 months, Ivanishvili and three partners had earnt $80,000 enormous money at the time, and enough to open a bank. “The thing that saved us was that the bandits had no idea what computers were,” he grins. “They were blowing up cafs for 1,000 roubles, and we were wandering around with these large boxes that contained computers worth 40,000 roubles. As soon as they started to realise the value of what we were dealing with, we moved on.”

With the money they had made, the friends set up a bank, Rossiisky Kredit, which went on to become one of the largest in Russia, and Ivanishvili acquired a diverse portfolio of retail, property and other businesses. “Everyone rushed to oil, to aluminium, where you could get quick returns, but it was too dangerous. I made longer term investments. If ever a sector looked like turning violent, we got out.”
ugg america The billionaire with a Georgian dream

ugg classic The Billion Dollar Interview with Axonic Capital

ugg australia discount The Billion Dollar Interview with Axonic Capital

Axonic Capital LLC is a New York based trading and investment firm founded by Clayton DeGiacinto in 2010.The firm’s primary business is to manage client capital through structured credit, systematic mortgage, mezzanine lending and real estate strategies.Axonic and its affiliates manage over US$1.8 billion in assets and employ a staff of over 30 professionals including traders, research analysts and administrative personnel. Axonic Capital is a Registered Investment Advisor.

Eurekahedge: Please share with our readers a bit of history about Axonic Capital LLC and your motivation behind launching a suite of hedge fund products focused on asset backed securities. In particular, especially given the specialist nature of the trading strategies your fund deploys, how challenging was it to put together your star studded team that clearly has a strong background in mortgage and fixed income trading?

I left Goldman Sachs in early 2008 anticipating a shift in the mortgage and housing finance industries.The deterioration of prices in the housing market was going to have a profound impact on both security pricing and homeownersbehaviour towards their largest asset.The market shift coincided with a massive and ongoing regulatory overhaul that has changed the basic structure of the industry. History has proven that significant and systemic changes to any industry create opportunity often catching larger and slower market participants off guard and force non economic decisions to be made.

I agree with your characterisation of Axonic team!I think wee created a culture that attracts and retains talented people at a time in which many portfolio managers want to make a move from the sell side to a hedge fund or long only asset manager. We have differentiated ourselves with the use of technology to price structured credit risk.Seasoned, sector specific PMs analyse and interpret model output, but also add significant value by sourcing, trading, and managing downside risk to our portfolio.

EH: From managing funds that invest in forward contracts on MBS and interest rate swaps to those geared towards the relatively less liquid residential assets and mezzanine lending, how do you identify, capture and allocate capital to these diverse opportunities?

We are trying to be opportunistic across all of our investment offerings.Frankly, there is a tremendous amount of interdependency in the pricing of these risk assets, and having high connectivity and transparency in one area gives us insight to the expected behaviour of others.As an example, we noticed deteriorating momentum and value signals in our systematic agency mortgage strategy in May of 2013, which indicated a potential widening in both the agency and non agency MBS markets.We initiated a short biased position in our credit strategy, which contributed significantly to our hedging P in June and July. The allocation of capital amongst strategies is an ongoing conversation that largely concerns relative value and opportunity driven considerations. We have both informal and more formal discussions that get PMs in different sectors to engage in this sort of comparative analysis.

EH: Further to the above, could you explain the rationale behind this breadth of investment? Is it plain diversification or a natural outcome given the strains on liquidity arising from exposure to structure products?

Our view is that the entire paradigm has shifted in housing and securitisation finance.The shift was initially brought on by massive deterioration in housing fundamentals and a significant loss of capital across homeowner equity, bank balance sheets and RMBS, CMBS, CLOs, and CDOs.As assets re priced through the de leveraging cycle we saw the opportunity to exploit inefficiencies through many sources of risk.Clearly, legacy non agency bonds were a great place to position ourselves in 2009.Today, we still see opportunities in legacy securities, but we are also focused on newer opportunities in mortgage servicing, commercial mortgage loan origination, CLO, agency derivatives, and the REO to rental business. We think it unlikely these credit markets revert to the pre crisis framework for pricing and transferring risk and by being thoughtful and opportunistic in our diversified approach, not only will we be in a position to make money, but we may also be in a position to affect policy outcomes.

EH: Was Axonic’s launch timed to coincide with specific market opportunities? Please share with us a bit about the firm’s trading style and the key factors/themes leading to its successes.

I wish we could attribute our timing all to skill, but the fact is that luck in the timing of our capital commitments played a large role in our early timing success.We have developed a skill set around pricing mortgage credit risk and this skill set was originally developed to buy vastly mispriced assets and reap the benefits through natural monthly amortisation. In other words, we built a strategy where asset selection was the primary source of alpha and I thought we would hold assets to maturity, or certainly a very long time.

We quickly realised that assets were significantly mispriced due to the massive deleveraging cycle and that the market for trading these assets was highly inefficient.With our sell side backgrounds we found the trading component of our strategy as an additional source of generating alpha.We trade bonds where prices and yields do not have to be negatively correlated.Prepayment and default assumptions can vary wildly based on other investorsknowledge or macro bias which leads to interesting pricing inefficiencies.

EH: One of the strengths of the Axonic is its in house research on asset backed securities, the xonic Credit Vision and Mortgage Model How has your proprietary technology enhanced your portfolio selection process and helped to differentiate you in the midst of other credit arbitrage/fixed income hedge funds in the industry?

Early in our history, we spent a tremendous amount of resources on building a dynamic, path dependent and scalable credit model incorporating many of the factors we found most important to the predictability of a borrower propensity to pay, prepay or default.Building a dynamic and path dependent model which adjusts probabilistic outcomes through the time series feedback loop gives us a much more robust insight to credit.Most credit models initially had data at origination to generate probabilistic outcomes, but we try to value the asset in time series, the borrower in time series, and most importantly, the borrower actions given the time series.Specifically,
ugg classic The Billion Dollar Interview with Axonic Capital
we can learn a lot about borrowers and their propensity to prepay or default based on how they have behaved in their payment history.

When we continue to think about how the mortgage market continues to evolve I think one theme we will see emerge is the ultimate holder of structured credit risk will also be the price setter of that risk.Meaning, hedge funds, money managers, or REITs will be responsible for the risk based pricing of loan level mortgage credit for newly originated loans.The models we built are not just valuable in pricing legacy assets, but will also prove valuable to risk based pricing of the burgeoning new issues loan market.

EH: Could you share with us your main tenets for the firm’s impressive downside protection? How do you construct your portfolio to hedge out cash flow, price and regulatory risksin order minimize portfolio volatility?

We specifically focus on the cashflow components of risk and in structured credit space they are Libor, prepayments, defaults, recoveries, modifications, and servicer behaviour.Some of these risks we can mitigate simply by portfolio construction. As an example, we may own a non agency Alt A mezzanine bond with a coupon indexed to Libor, and we may also own an Agency inverse interest only (IIO) bond, with a coupon negatively indexed to LIBOR.If we limited our sector focus on one asset class or the other, we would need to consider hedging the interest rate risk, but because we take a much broader approach to the space, we can own both assets with positive yields and offsetting LIBOR risk.This makes a lot of sense to us, and we can find other offsetting risks to prepayments or defaults in the same way. Regulatory risk is perhaps the most difficult to mitigate, but in general we are expressing a view where the government involvement in the mortgage market gets reduced over time, and private capital involvement increases.

EH: Your fund has seen tremendous asset growth since its inception and now sits comfortably in the billion dollar hedge fund club. pension funds, HNWI, etc) and which of these have been most aggressive in their allocations to your fund? Do you anticipate these strong inflows to continue into 2014?

We have a mix of family offices, institutions, fund of funds and high net worth clients. The funds of funds were most aggressive when the fund was smaller. Today wee seeing more interest from larger family offices, pensions and high net worth investors. Wee been successful thus far in 2014 fundraising and expect interest throughout the year. We think that many clients struggle with their fixed income allocation in a low rate/low spread environment, but this is a strategy that still offers an attractive opportunity set.

EH: In an environment of higher asset prices and tighter spreads, how have improved terms of financing helped you to post solid returns whilst keeping costs down? Can you tell our readers how ourcing short duration, higher coupon riskplays a part in this?

We have not seen any significant compression of leverage terms given the tighter spreads on the assets. There still remains some uncertainty in how off balance sheet repo affects leverage ratios for US banks, and so we have not seen significant competition for repo business.We have, however, been able to diversify and extend the terms of our leverage.The pricing curve for repo remains fairly flat and we have a preference to diversify the maturity of our liabilities.

To answer your second question, however, this will never be a strategy where cheap sources of funding drive returns.We have no intentions of taking leverage ratios back to pre crisis levels, even with many spreads now at pre crisis levels.Our strategy, in turn, will focus on sourcing risk assets where we can generate an acceptable return without taking on excess leverage.We can add these sources of risk today, primarily due to the regulatory environment for banks.An example is short term loan to a private equity backed servicer sponsor to aggregate MSR (mortgage servicing rights) assets. We think this risk yields about 10% with negligible duration.

EH: Lastly, what is your outlook on the future of the housing market in the US? Dr. Shiller has hinted towards a reeping bubblein the US housing market while the Fed has already trimmed its stimulus twice is the housing price recovery all set to stall? What would your strategy be when housing prices go south?

Our outlook on the US housing market is cautious to mildly positive. On one hand we have forces such as household formation and affordability in the face of limited new supply. We also observe tighter underwriting standards and an increased regulatory environment for lenders. Our current home price assumptions include an increase of 5% in 2014 followed by 2 3% in the following years. We think that ubblesin housing would exist if prices ran away from affordability, but right now houses remain affordable and in line with comparable rental rates in most areas of the country.

Remember, wee established a multi strategy approach to the structured credit markets by investing in US and European RMBS, CMBS and CRE loans, CLOs, agency derivatives and TBA pass throughs. Our diversified approach coupled with our ability to allocate capital accordingly based on risk/return profiles mitigates the reliance on housing fundamentals as the significant driver of returns. That said,
ugg classic The Billion Dollar Interview with Axonic Capital
we have suitable hedge to protect our RMBS portfolio from severe home price declines in addition to the myriad of credit and rate duration hedges we employ.

uggs leather The big school shoe question

australian ugg The big school shoe question

I detest the idea of buying new shoes that will only be worn for a short space of time and then, knowing my luck, the shoes will be too small by the start of the new school year another six weeks down the track.

My 11 year old school shoes started falling apart a few weeks ago, but seeing as it was so close to the end of the year, we tried gluing them in the hope they last.

Unfortunately, the glue is only holding the toe together her shoe can “talk” anymore, but the glue can do anything about a few small holes in the sole.

So, it be a trip to the shops for a new pair, but the big question is: do you buy a cheap pair and not be too fussed about how long they last or do you invest in a more expensive pair?

My previous experiences with cheap vs expensive shoes has been varied.

My girls have had $25 shoes from one of the chain stores that lasted more than six months.

And then we had shoes in the $70 80 vicinity that started falling apart in less than three months.

They were replaced by the store,
uggs leather The big school shoe question
but I pretty much lost all faith in my previous assumption that the more expensive shoes would last longer.

But surely this isn an unrealistic expectation?

I know if I buying a pair of shoes for myself, I expect that more expensive, leather upper shoes are going to last a fair while longer than the synthetic cheaper pair.

That the whole reason why we are prepared to pay more for shoes the materials are better quality and the craftsmanship should be better.

Then again, you might have a child who never looks after their shoes.

You know the type of kid I talking about.

They either scuff the toe of the shoe beyond repair or they jam their foot into their shoe without undoing the shoelaces properly, so the heel of the shoe gets mangled.

Meanwhile, the rest of the shoe is fine, but it still means you up for a new pair.

Based on our past track record, I think I be prepared to fork out for two pairs of cheaper shoes throughout the school year.

At least that way I won get annoyed when the expensive shoes break or get trashed within a few months.

You never know, I could be pleasantly surprised and my kids might actually take care of something.

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uggs leather The big school shoe question

ugg boots online shop The big Birkenstock question

pink ugg slippers The big Birkenstock question

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Should I buy Birkenstocks? On the one hand, it’s a no brainer.

Birkenstocks are the ugliest shoes around. Dumpy and squat, the shape of a squashed footprint, with those dips at the front, in case you’re too stupid to know where your toes go.

They’re said to be comfortable, but shoot me the day comfort becomes a factor when I’m choosing footwear. Just because I haven’t worn heels of late doesn’t mean I lack the fortitude required to do so. Not like the people who wear famously comfortable German sandals. Birkenstocks are for feet that have given up, basically.

Alas, Phoebe Philo does not think so. A few seasons ago, she sent her models down the runway in white Birkenstocks. It’s another thing still, to present the original stumpy sandal in all its unlovely glory.

Out came her models in their two strap Arizonas; next thing you know,
ugg boots online shop The big Birkenstock question
Birks are featuring in Vogue editorials. This is the genius of Philo. Just like those laundry bag checks she did a few years ago, she’s taken Birkenstocks, the very apotheosis of ordinary, and made us look at them differently.

Differently enough to buy a pair though? That is the question. It wouldn’t be that big an investment, they’re only 50.

I could go low key with a pair of white Arizonas. Better still, I could accesorise with a pair of bright socks like fashion blogger Ari Seth Cohen did in Auckland recently, I see from photos. Or wear them with long black socks like designer Georgia Alice does?

Maybe it’s the state of the world, or the state of my outlook, but I’m craving simplicity when getting dressed in the morning. It’s hard to get simpler than a straightforward old clodhopper. I don’t quite understand how it is I’ve developed the desire to wear something the aesthetics of which have long appalled me but, suddenly, the idea of a long silk dress and a sturdy flat sandal is appealing.
ugg boots online shop The big Birkenstock question

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