Running – A hobby of mine

Recently I’ve had the idea to write a little about me, my hobbies and experiences with the hope of adding a more personal side to the blog. A hobby of mine, which has been rather persistent over the long term has been running. I started in about 2004 when I was 13 and the interest has continued, even with some big wanes when in patches of several years I ran little or did not run at all.

I believe that running is great for various reasons, although I don’t believe so much that mega-long runs are as necessary as I once thought. Positives for me include

  • Being able to explore some amazing routes and sights at various times of year (although I’ve usually found it best in spring/summer)
  • Increased physical health – through better mood especially after a run when ‘endorphins’ kick in… which is linked with
  • Increased mental health and wellbeing plus
  • Increased ability at other sports, and even in tests/work etc
  • Better self-discipline – seeing a long run or difficult intervals through to the end helped me mentally, especially in my mid-teens when I took it probably most seriously.

There have been years that, for various reasons I have done less or given it up altogether, but it seems to usually find it’s way back. There have been other times when, after gathering momentum with it I have entered races/competitions which has been a fun way to challenge myself, although if I take it too seriously it loses it’s enjoyment.

Anyways in short, how I got into it. I was about 13 and football mad at that age but had not been extremely fit – Although I wasn’t unfit either I had finished in the bottom half of my school cross country race. In the summer, school P.E. was athletics and I remember one of my classmates who was an amazing footballer then finishing miles ahead of everyone in the middle distance races (800, 1500m) and wondering how cool it’d be running that fast. Then the Athens Olympics started and I was sort of inspired. That was when I started going for jogs and increasing the distance bit by bit. I wasn’t great at first but I enjoyed doing it, especially reaching a milestone of running distance: 1 mile, then 2, then reaching 3 and then 4. I enjoyed the progressing so much so that I joined my local athletic club (Eastbourne Rovers) and by the start of the next academic year I found myself a lot fitter albeit a little thin and it went on from there.

Getting fitter, and somewhat faster over middle distance/cross country after doing it at school the year before really inspired me and I surprised myself by the distance milestones and how much that actually affected my athletic ability. I just thought how good it would be to run fast, and enjoyed doing it not necessarily striving to do it but I got the bug so to speak. By the next year, when I was 14/15 (2005) school athletics P.E. came around and my times had notably reduced. I had come second in the school in the 1500m at sports day and also second in the year in the school cross country race, which still makes me really proud with the improvement I had made (the classmate who had partly inspired me to run sadly had gone off the rails around this time and was suspended regularly so didn’t run.). I was just a tad behind the first place runner in both races and was now among the very quickest in the year, so at this time I was really inspired to see how far I could take it. I ran fairly competitively until the age of 16/17 (I even won a race, a local U15 cross country event) when I started getting a little lazy and rebellious and sadly gave it up practically altogether.

It was at Birmingham University in the end of my first year when I picked it up again (2010/11), and I was really slow at first but gradually improved again and stuck at it until I graduated getting more and more into it. Birmingham was a great place to explore on foot and is a top sports university, so again my inspiration increased the more I ran, and I’m really glad I rediscovered this hobby again there. I joined the running club and towards my final year there in 2013 I had got as fast if not faster than I had ran in my teens! It’s not just that though, I met some great people through running there and it was helpful for my confidence at university, not to mention I was fortunate enough to explore some amazing places and sights I never would have found in Birmingham (parks, reservoirs, the canals, old industry buildings and much of the central town).

Although this is a lengthy piece I have enjoyed sharing it and I hope you have enjoyed reading it, too!

Josh Zahangir

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Investing

I have made a decision to talk about another interest (passion, maybe?..) of mine which has remained consistent now for a number of years. That is the topic of investing – a more specific mindset and method of investing called ‘value investing’. It is likely that I will post more about this topic from now onwards.

So where did this interest come from?

When I was 18 me and my family rented a place in Worthing, (South Coast of England, near Brighton) and I got into a discussion with our landlord there. I had little going on that summer (of 2009) and, following on from my interest in Economics I had started watching snippets of financial TV – Bloomberg, CNBC etc. I was talking to the landlord, David his name was, about this and he referred me to a book which he said had served him well (he owned multiple properties) and is excellent if you have an interest in the stock-market. That book was ‘The Intelligent Investor’ by Benjamin Graham, updated as the 2003 version.

I bought the book not knowing what to expect and in honesty, it took me while to get round to reading it and I didn’t understand it too well at first. It wasn’t really until 2011 when I really picked it up and took a direct, personal interest and the philosophy of the book really resonated with me. That is ‘value investing’, a method popularlised by Warren Buffet – arguably the most successful investor who ever lived.

To those who don’t know I’ll try to explain ‘value investing’:

Many people who invest look to make very, very returns which can make them rich, from finding the next mini ‘Apple’ for instance or trading frantically on on-rushing news. Most who put money in the stock-market actually lose money, sometimes to a devastating extent mainly due to these behaviours which actually work well in other areas of life. Value investing is to invest cautiously so as to be safe against big losses and make a decent return, over a long term basis. Some value investors have in fact made among the highest returns in history over extended periods – see Warren Buffett (there are several more, too).

This is done by buying shares which have a stock-market value less than the value of the underlying business. The business is best in a strong, solid financial and industry position. And never put so much in one basket if a loss on one investment will hurt you big time. Then, be patient, sit back and don’t look at or think about your portfolio often – trust your convictions.

I decided in 2011 to try this out on a practice portfolio. Admittedly, things didn’t go too well at first but even through failure, simply reading wider from other materials and investors, and doing the research got me interested more. Honesty is the best policy and I admit that my first portfolio was 25% down from my very elementary methods. In 2012 I restarted my portfolio hopefully learning from my mistakes and since then things have been fairly solid going (I’ve kept with the same portfolio).

I look to continue this activity of mine which I have done in my spare time. Perhaps if things continue to go solidly in practice, and I have enough money I may start applying the investing method and philosophy I’ve built up for real 🙂

There’s something Zen about Value Investing. If you do it as it’s taught, a great amount of time you’re sitting around doing nothing but when you do ‘do’, it is with diligence, sensibility and conviction!

I should be writing more about this topic a little more. Value Investing has a fairly small audience (if it didn’t it wouldn’t work, so they say!) so it’d be awesome if I get a few, even a single reader who shares similar beliefs

If you’ve reached here, thank you and it may be interesting to hear from you

Josh Zahangir

Economics chat up lines memes

A light-hearted spin on what some call ‘The Dismal Science’? You bet. From my experiences at University and even A-Level, Economics chat up lines tend to get a lot of laughs and attention. I thought I’d publish some here, with memes (they’re all over the place these days) – most of these I’ve seen and heard elsewhere, a couple have been invented. Please, if you are to use these it’s best that the recipient is a fellow Economist (so they know what you’re talking about) and has the same warped sense of humour. Otherwise expect a strange, perplexed look and maybe a slap. You have been warned…

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Just for laughs during revision. Have anymore? Let me know!!

Josh

In order to predict human market behaviour…

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When revision gets hardcore…

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Austerity across Europe

In the 30th May edition of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and his guests contrast Iceland and Greece. The hosts points out that Iceland reneged on debt agreements, but despite that is still on track to grow, it goes without saying that the Icelanders rejected austerity. Greece by contrast… well, I hardly have to say anything, OK I’ll say one thing, 64% youth unemployment. Spain is hardly any better. A newly nationalised bank, ‘Bankia’, saw its share tumble a staggering 99% on issue.

 

So, to put it simply, Spain and Greece – countries that have committed to austerity – have done worse than Iceland, a country committed to a strong welfare state. Is there a connection between austerity and negative growth? Some economists seem to think so.

 

Max Keiser discusses economic issues, but beware, he is quite radical in his statements. His opinions attract interest from many sources, perhaps because they are quite entertaining.

An Economist’s view of Chomsky on Advertising & Management

Noam Chomsky writes, ‘the existence of the advertising industry is a sign of the unwillingness to let markets function. If you had markets, you wouldn’t have advertising. If somebody had something to sell, they would say what it is and you would buy it if you want it. But oligopolies want to stop price wars. They want product differentiation to give them market power’.

In other words, Chomsky argues that advertising – which increases the power of the brand – leads markets away from perfect competition to imperfect competition. It is true that the way the economy works differs substantially from the way that the economy is modelled, however product differentiation also comes about from genuinely changing the product from what the market offers. For instance chocolate-flavoured Weetabix costs a little bit more than regular Weetabix.

He writes that industrialists favour a disciplined work force over a creative work force. Letting managers run things instead of skilled machinists is the favoured strategy, even if this method was less profitable. This strategy was employed because it ensured that the workers were controlled. And worker control was needed to avoid a situation where the role of the boss is itself questioned, possibly leading to worker action, for instance strikes.

 So, to put it simply the managerial strata of big firms have an incentive to suppress trade unions and the like because it allows managers to profit from improvements in productivity, even if these improvements come from the workers and not from the managers.

Chomsky writes that the English working class of the 19th century may well have been more educated than the aristocrats, because high culture (including literature and classics) was such an important part of every day life of the common people.

 For an explanation of the economic terms used in the article, see the Concepts section.