Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No signs of global warming, but rather Ice Age

This week Kerstin, Sandra and Heidi were supposed to visit Katrin and Dipak in Gran Canaria for an autumn break. Unfortunately though Heidi was not able to fly and after several days of wrestling for a decision the two sisters decided to do the trip anyway and so they flew out to Spain on Sunday morning. They seem to enjoy the time in relatively warm temperatures and sunshine Heidi in the meantime checked into hospital and luckily is on the way of improvement again. Not the ideal way to spend your holidays, but we are glad to see you getting better again, Heidi!

Markus used the situation "home alone" to spend some spare time with his PS3 playing the newly released NBA 2K9. Better don't ask if he improved his skills. The frustration level at certain points was very high. At least in real life his team, the Oberwart Gunners, managed take revenge for last season's heartbreak final for the championship with a strong 93-82 victory against the Fuerstenfeld Panthers on Monday evening in the second round of the ABL.

The weather forecast: Freezy!

On Wednesday evening Markus flew over to London for a two day business trip. He was too late by a few hours for the premiere of the new James Bond movie - Quantum of Solace - which was partially shot in Bregenz on the floating stage (approx. 10% of the movie!!). He also missed the first snow in London on Tuesday. This was the first time in over 70 years that London had snow in October. London presented itself still crispy cold but snow-free. But not only are the temperatures close to the 0 degree mark, also business climate is almost at the freezing point. Credit crunch, falling house prices, massive lay-offs and doomsday scenarios in the media. In Austria we do not feel this chilly wind and we do not see this extent of the economic crisis. But there are chances/risks that it might haunt us there as well. We definitely hope not!

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, October 20, 2008

When I grow up, I will run away from home and join the circus!

What a week! The rollercoaster ride on the equity markets is nothing for the faint-hearted. You must have a good stomach for that. If not, a gastric ulcer can be developed very quickly. Whether the worst is yet to come is a very tough call. Markus somehow feels that volatility and bad news will persist for a while, but we are not seeing the end of the world. Let's hope he is right!

The past weekend was absolutely gorgeous and it was crispy cold both Saturday and Sunday morning, but there were hardly any clouds and sunshine all day long. Ideal to relax, go for runs in the Prater Hauptallee and enjoy the sunshine. The perfect peak of the weekend was the Cirque du Soleil with its show "Varekai". Kerstin's present for Markus' birthday were two tickets for this amazing "circus" which is back again after quite a long time in Vienna. Quite conveniently the Grand Chapitaeu, that's the name of the tent, is situated 15 minutes walking from home on the other side of the Prater.

The Grand Chapiteau - not far from home

We were both really excited about the show as we have seen also "Allegria" and "Quidam" in the past (we are not sure if we also saw "Saltimbanco"… seems like not, as the shows are memorable!) and we have not been disappointed at all. Cirque du Soleil is not a common circus but much more a mixture of carnival and perfect body control & artistic peak-performances! The costumes of the actors were colourful and amazing, the music yet again perfectly fitting the performances of the artists and kind of mystique. But the breathtaking part of the show was, what the artists are able to do. Whether it was the girl on the Aerial Hoops or two guys on the aerial straps, whether it was the performance on crutches or the juggler who handled among other things 4 ping-pong balls in his mouth (!!). It almost hurt us watching the girl hand-balancing on tiny pillars and bending herself to the extreme and the Russian swings, which catapulted the guys meters high through the Grand Chapiteau did enthuse the whole crowd. Both of us were though most amazed by the Icarian Games which are very hard to describe as it was so unbelievable to see. Basically one guy was juggling his partners (one at a time) with his feed lying on the back. The partners were flying through the air doing somersaults and other moves. It was jaw-dropping and the ultimate body control.

Truly amazing what these artists are doing!

Whenever Cirque du Soleil stops by near you or whenever you have a chance to go to a show, please do so. It is worth every Euro-Cent. Go for it!!

Kerstin & Markus

Friday, October 10, 2008

Closer to the gutter than to the stars (??)

Whenever you believe it can not really get worse, you can be quite sure that you are proven wrong. The events on the global stock markets this week are one good example for that wisdom. The meltdown of asset prices is not really something unprecedented, but clearly the scale and even more so the fact that markets globally are affected is quite a while back.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Russian financial crisis in 1998 and did not manage to trip over global markets, the Swedish real estate crisis in the early 1990ies reshuffled the whole banking industry in Scandinavia, but the rest of the world was marginally shocked and the burst of the internet bubble at the beginning of this century had only limited impact on the industrial and commodity markets which helped us stand up again. The Wall Street Crash in 1929 resulting in the Great Depression seems to be the most suitable comparative event as it also had massive influence on global equity markets, global economies and the personal wealth of the population. The fact that US car maker General Motors (GM), whose share price last night closed down 30% in New York has now the a lower market capitalization (2,8bn USD!) than in 1929 is anecdotal!

The market believes GM is now worth less than 1929. Is he right?

It feels very much like a Black Friday today, the mood in a dungeon can not be worse and most of the people Markus was speaking to were fed up and hoping they would not be working in that industry. Some are thinking already what they could do instead, either because they expecte to be sacked or because they consider withdrawing from the investment arena. This smells very much of capitulation, which is what we need. But whether we are seeing the lows today, we would not want to bet a lot of money on.

No matter whether the G7 meeting over the weekend will come up with a magical solution for the crisis or not one drought will come to an end for sure: Finally this coming weekend the Austrian Basketball season is getting underway again. Tomorrow, Saturday last season's cup-winner Allianz Swans Gmunden take on the 2007/08 champion Raiffeisen Fuerstenfeld Panthers and one weeks later the regular season kicks off. Judging by the transfers, team changes and pre-season performances one can expect a very tight and interesting season as there are five teams which are expected to be able to beat each other: The two above mentioned plus the Kapfenberg Bulls, WBC Kraftwerk Wels and Markus's team, the Oberwart Gunners. On top of that with UBM Arkadia Traiskirchen, kelag Woerthersee Piraten and xion Dukes Klosterneuburg there are three contestants which could easily suprise. With Admiral Sportwetten the league has received a new main sponsor and the fact that Premiere continues to broadcast up to 45 league games live should enable more presence for the sport and help Markus to stay close the the events. The target to see more games of the Oberwart Gunners live should not be difficult as last year he saw only 3 games all season long live in an arena.

Let's go Gunners!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The attempt to run away from the horrible markets.

Yet another turbulent week on the stock markets in which everyone focused on the ONE event on Friday: the second voting in the US congress on the bailout package. The expectation was that the bill will be passed this time and so the trading session did start off positively. Unfortunately market participant's reaction to the positive voting was a classic: as the structure and amount of the 700bn USD package was seen as not sufficient the markets sold off. The news on Saturday, that the support package for Hypo Real Estate collapsed as up to 100bn EUR are needed spilled some oil into the fire burning these days on equity markets. It’s probably best to keep your cash at home under your pillow!

Friday night, while the congress casted its votes we were driving to Vorarlberg where Markus was participating in the Sparkasse Marathon over the half-marathon distance. The cold temperatures paired with rain on Saturday were scary, but the weather forecast for Sunday was somewhat better. Especially the news that it’s supposed to be dry was heard with joy.

Sunday morning the weather was just perfect: crispy cold in morning, but no cloud and sunshine. After breakfast at Sandra and Flo's we boarded the MS Vorarlberg which brought us to Lindau, where the start of the run was. After warm-up routine and additional motivation with the right play list on Markus' iPod the run was started at 11:11 with ca 18 degrees in the sun and 9 degrees in the shadow.

Warm-up is key. The right music for it helpful

Markus, who had an "official" target of 1:45 for his race and was hoping for a time below 1:40, started off moderately with ca 4'15/km over the first few kilometers. After ca. 15 minutes he started though to feel horrible stitches and he had to slow down to an avg. 5'10/km, but the pain was persistent. When Kerstin saw him at km 7 Markus looked like not making it very far and indeed he was considering to turn in at the 1/4-marathon.

Along the pipeline he got the pain under control, managed to speed up again and the 21,0975 km were back in play! What followed was in all of his past half marathons unseen: he made up time vs. his target in the second half of the race, could mark strong last 3kms and reached the finishing line as 31st in his category and as 288th man after 1:39:30. This is ca. 1,5 minutes slower than his personal best (1:38:10 set in October 2004), but within the time he hoped for and clearly good considering the problems at the beginning!

It was a "happy finish". Different to a Thai massage though.

As a first reaction Markus was happy with seeing the finishing line and the time, but pretty soon also some annoyance about the problems in the first third of the race came up. The positive takeaway is clearly the fact that the speed in the second half was kept stable at ca 4'45/km and that Markus was running with an average heart rate of 178 bpm rather than ca 185 in previous races what usually resulted in much slower times towards the finish.

As we have taken Monday off we are planning a small late birthday dinner with Sandra, Flo and Werner and tomorrow morning we are driving back to Vienna.

Kerstin & Markus