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Speaking statistically

I have touched on this topic in a number of blogs recently, but the issue keeps coming up every time there is a terrorist strike somewhere in the world or another mass shooting somewhere.  People start to think that if they go to that place they will be exposed to a new danger whereas they take driving on the roads, which is truly one of the most dangerous activities you can do, to be something that is fine and even if it is not that “I am a good driver, so it will not happen to me”.  

The only way to compare things truthfully is to look at the death toll in any country by any type of death per 100,000 per year.  That will give you the true comparison of one country to another.  So, for example, we may always hear in the news about the mass shootings in America forgetting that with a population of 330 million and 51 different States, it is really pretty much the size of Europe, and of course there is going to be a sensational story coming out of one of the 51 States every day of the week in one way or another, if it is not Donald Trump we are hearing about!

But what one should ask, before saying how terrible things are somewhere else, is how many people per 100,000 are killed in mass shootings, for example, in America each year?  When you add up all the mass shootings you hear about in a year, the 50 here, the 30 there and the 12 somewhere else (and this is not to trivialise them), but what do they total?  Then compare that to other types of deaths.  

Let’s take that to the one we always talk about that we say is so unlikely – to be struck by lightning.  Did you know that more than 100 people die a year in South Africa from being struck by lightning?  If you wanted to equate that to America, because their population is 6 times bigger than ours, it would be the equivalent of saying 600 people die a year from lightning strikes – which is probably more people than are killed in mass shootings in America in any given year.  Doesn’t that make you think?  In other words, before you would ever say you would not visit, let’s say Germany, because of the terrorist attacks going on there, how would you feel if somebody told you they are not going to visit South Africa, not because of the extremely high death toll on our roads, not because of the extremely high death toll from violence and one of the highest homicide rates in the world, but because of the likelihood of being struck by lightning?  Wouldn’t you laugh?  Well, your chance of being killed by a terrorist act or a mass shooting in most of those countries is lower than that of being struck by lightning in South Africa.  Does that mean you should all no longer go outside or does it mean that whenever we talk about things, and it does not mean we cannot sensationalise them as well, because like the media we like to have excitement in our lives, that we should still at least bear in mind what the statistical probabilities of things are.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 31-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  11 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Pokemon Go

As everybody by now knows, this is the latest sensation sweeping the world.  I must say I did not find the game particularly stimulating myself, but then I am really not very good at computer games anymore.  I have not played for years until I recently got an X-Box, but sadly I found that game like Halo and Gears of War are impossible for me.  I do like the way people collaborate and play online these days, and I think it is going to lead to more than just games in the future.  

Where Pokemon is quite clever is where it requires one to walk around, and uses your geographical location allowing you to find different types of Pokemon.  Cleverly, the application, which is free, encourages you to buy poke balls and so it generates income in that way.  

The game is so popular that you will see people walking around in all sorts of areas, and I have even been stopped on a golf course when I was walking with my phone on speaker phone to ask if I have found any Pokemon!  With the frequent services outages due to extreme use of the application using Pokemon on your phone also uses an incredible amount of battery, so much so that portable battery rechargers are selling out in various shops.  By 26 July, the game had been downloaded 75 million times worldwide and from iOS users alone was earning $1,6 million a day in revenue.  Have you played it?  Have you tried it?

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 29-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  32 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Things are so much worse than they used to be

I don’t believe that things are always so much worse than they used to be.  One must always look at statistics before making statements and generally statistics don’t bear that out.  For example, we read more and more now about violence, mass shootings, terrorist attacks and think that the world is not the safe place it used to be.  That is certainly what grandparents invariably tell us, but they conveniently leave out two World Wars in the last 100 years where 20 million people at a time died! 

I read an excellent book on this topic many years ago, “The Better Angels of our Nature : Why Violence has declined”, which basically debunked all of this.  There is no doubt that there is more reporting now of what goes on than ever before, and with media sensationalism, and I am not blaming the media for reporting on what happens, but there is no real interest in positive stories, one cannot blame anyone for believing that they live in the most dangerous times.  The reality of the matter is that you don’t.  People in South Africa and most of the countries in the world, with a few exceptions, are living in far more peaceful times than they ever had in all history.  That does not mean that one cannot make things better, but it is amazing how politicians throughout the world, and Donald Trump in America in particular, manage to appeal to so many people with the same theme, which is that things are much worse now, that they will make things better, etc when statistically invariably it is not actually true that things are much worse.  It is also interesting, and it is something that all of us must bear in mind as we get older, how older people invariably believe that times are much worse, that things are not the way it used to be, etc.  Let’s just take South Africa for example – was it really safer, when grandparents talk about it, for people living in the townships 40 years ago? (Lets leave aside the human rights violations and everything else appalling about the apartheid regime).  Was it really safer for those white men who were forced to go to the border to fight the apartheid war?  No, it was not, but it is amazing how often people do believe that things used to be so much better.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 26-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  20 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Sundance Film Festival

Every now and then we will see on a movie, and it is normally what is considered an “arty” movie, the fact that it was featured at the Sundance Film Festival or won an award there.

Before you think it is just some freaky independent Film Festival somewhere, let me tell you a little bit about my research!  Firstly, it is held in Park City, Utah.  It is the number one ski resort in America and hotel rooms during the peak season, over Christmas for example, typically go at $1600 a day.  The Sundance Film Festival, held in the last 10 days of January, sees the same hotel charging $2000 and that is approximately a 4-star hotel.  

That pretty much puts it out of reach for all of us straightaway, but I was stunned to see the cost of the actual tickets.  You cannot get tickets for the individual movies – you have to take a package either for the last 5 days or so of the festival for $3000 or for the first 5 or 6 days of the festival for $3500!  If you are on a budget package, which is hard once you booked the hotels but presumably you can stay 45 minutes away for $200 a night, you can for “just” $450 see movies that show only before 11am in the morning or after 10pm at night.  It makes it pretty hard to get value for money because you will be going to bed after midnight and be expected to get up at the crack of dawn to watch your next movie.  That will only set you back $450 – now multiply that by R14,50 and the next time you see that a movie was at the Sundance Film Festival don’t think it was just a bunch of hippies watching weird movies!  If nothing else, and if they are hippies, they must be extremely wealthy hippies because 5 or 6 days of watching the movies at the normal time is going to set you back approximately R50 000,00.  That of course is not going to include your transport, your food or your accommodation.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 24-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  20 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Durban controls the dunes

I was quite impressed with some of the efforts that have been made on the Durban beachfront recently.  In particular, plants have been planted in quite a few areas to try and recreate the dunes.  The dune plants control the sand at the back of the beach and so a beach which has not had any plants on it for many years now has quite a bit of vegetation as this particular picture displays.  

I was also interested to read about the reconstruction of the Durban Bay of Plenty Pier.  It appears closed at the moment while they replaced it with a new wider concrete deck and geo-textile bags are going to be used to restore the design rock levels within the pier so as to change the current.  Research shows that the rip currents will alter the sandbanks and because they have been going through the piers, which are not normal, the sandbanks have changed. Sandbanks in turn relate directly to the waves, so the real purpose of much of this is to restore the normal rip current and thus bring back better and bigger waves to the Durban beachfront.  

In short, it appears that Durban is taking a lot of steps to make sure that the beachfront is modernised in an environmentally friendly way.  The plants that would have grown along the sand dunes many years before the city was more commercially developed, are replanted and that the wave patterns are restored to what they were.  I think it is to be applauded and hopefully it will lead to some of the big surfing events coming back to Durban.  I was quite shocked to see what I have always known to be the Gunston 500, which subsequently became the Mr Price Pro, is now called The Ballito Pro, and presented by Billabong.  I played golf with the former President of Billabong fairly recently, and quite honestly I had no idea as to the actual size of the company which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.  In any event, I digress, what surprised me the most was that the event is now held in Ballito and perhaps the wave conditions had something to do with it. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 22-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  33 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Pure intimidation

I notice that one of the tactics of those who try to intimidate is always to bring litigation where they sue for high amounts in an attempt to intimidate those that speak out against them.  In South Africa we had the case of Wraypex, led by developer Robbie Wray who developed the Blair Atholl golf estate and where the Judge said that the case brought against the members of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy was vexatious.  

I see that Donald Trump is bringing a $10 million damages claim against one of his former campaign managers, accusing him of leaking confidential information.  Everybody who woks for Donald Trump on his campaign has to sign a non-disclosure agreement – which is quite strange in politics one would imagine, to be forced to agree that when you are not working for the person anymore, you cannot disclose anything what is going on behind the scenes.  One can understand such agreements in a commercial context, where companies obviously do not want their secrets made known, but it is worrying that political candidates may want their “secrets” kept that way.  It makes you automatically wonder what exactly those “secrets” are.  Are there more things about the candidate that the candidate would not like us to know?   Is the candidate not really in favour of some of the policies that he or she advocates?  When you stand for public office it is meant to be about more than just you – it is about what you can do for your country and it really should not be comparable to running a business, even if obviously in some respects you are running an organisation.  People are entitled to know what you stand for and what you represent and there should not be any need for you to intimidate all your current staff by bringing a $10 million court case against a previous staff member.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 19-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  16 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Birth order

I think one of the theories I believe in, and I have certainly written about it before, is the birth order in which people are born and the role it plays with who they marry, and how they get on with others.  

Without going into it in great detail, essentially, and there are exceptions, an oldest child generally will get on better with a youngest child, in terms of marriage, and for example, two oldest children, if they are married, would normally have a lot of conflict.  The exceptions happen when there are gaps that are so big between the birth of children that a child may be the last born, but essentially brought up almost as an only child or eldest child, because of the huge age gaps.

I think of this quite a bit when I deal with my family because I resented it a lot, when I was small, that as an oldest child you are forever blamed by your parents as to anything that your siblings do wrong.  If they speak cheekily to the parents, the parents claim that they learnt it from you.  When they do something right of course, it was never learnt from you and as a result, and from an oldest child’s perspective, you are always to blame for something and almost never ever get credit.  

I thought about that when I spoke to my daughter the other day telling her that she must not just sit back while one of my other daughters does something naughty and she must do something about it and she said to me that they then reply to her, “You are not the boss of me”.  It just reminded me how many of the messages we give as parents are so contradictory, because I certainly do tell my children that nobody is in charge of anybody else and they must all speak up themselves, but then one sends a contradictory message of telling the oldest child that he/she must look out for the others.  I guess I sort of accepted that these contradictions are just completely normal and you have to tell children that they have to look after each other and at the same time that they are responsible for what they do themselves.  I guess older children will always come in for the most criticism, but in some ways they often get the best upbringing and the most attention from parents in their early years which often assists them in leadership roles.  

I am sure by now I have said enough things to irritate those who are not oldest children and I would love to know where you were born in your family’s sequence – in other words, are you a middle child, an oldest child or a youngest child – and what your perspective is as a result – How do you see oldest children typically, how do you see youngest children and how do you see middle children?

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 17-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  43 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Border control  OR Tambo

I fly a reasonable amount and have to say that leaving South Africa is one of the hardest things to do.  Not because it is a wonderful country, but because the immigration officials simply cannot process the people in time.  I recently spent more than 1 hour 20 minutes to go through security and immigration control and it was not because of security!  

There are never enough officials to deal with all the international flights in the evening, particularly not on a Sunday night and everybody has their own excuse.  The immigration officials struggle so much to cope that they even stopped the security people from scanning people until they can clear the queues.  The supervisor I spoke to claimed it was a new system that was causing the problems.  The actual immigration official I spoke to said that was nonsense and they are not on a new system, they are back on the old system and that he cannot be to blame if he came to work – suggesting that there were people who were meant to be at work, but who did not come.  I asked him why they did not hire more staff or deal with those and he pointed me to the supervisor, being the man that just told me it was due to the new system and so I should ask him.  

The security officials then told me the problem was that they had a staff shortage.  The bottom line is it creates a very poor impression on people that visit the country and you don’t want people to have to stand in queues for 1 hour 20 minutes before they leave (or for that matter enter), because apart from creating a poor impression you will force one or two of them to miss their flight and have to stay overnight in an hotel.  That is the best way to convince people that we live in an inefficient and poorly administered country and when we want to encourage them to invest in our country, to visit our country and to promote our country, we don’t need to create a poor impression on their way out!  When people walk in through the door to your house, your office or your country you need to look good and be friendly and efficient!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 15-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Automatic birthday wishes

I must say that the automatic birthday wishes that one now gets from a variety of companies are unnecessary and meaningless.  To get an automated e-mail from a company, wishing one happy birthday, seems to me to be a bit meaningless.  I received a whole series of automatic e-mails from a variety of companies recently, all wishing me happy birthday and the only ones that had any meaning to me were those that were written to me either by staff members, family or friends.  I don’t want to receive an e-mail from my mobile phone company, wishing me happy birthday, unless it is coming with a nice free phone and I don’t want to receive the same sort of e-mails from insurance companies, brokers, etc because they are not telling me anything that is of any relevance to me about my account with them and it is not in any way personal.  

I think before one has computers simply sending out e-mails to a whole batch of clients you need to make sure that it is informative and relevant to them or contains something of interest to them.  To simply have a computer at a mobile phone company or at a cellular provider wishing me happy birthday is not a thrill.  Maybe I am just too grumpy – do you get happy when you receive those automated e-mails?  I would certainly be a lot happier if there was some sort of incentive or little token attached to it – a R100,00 off a birthday month account, for example or maybe even something less by R20,00, but to just get an automated e-mail does not come across as anything sincere.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 12-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Tesla Autopilot

There have been a lot of media about the Tesla Autopilot, just so as there is with everything involving Elon Musk.  Cars being driven by an Autopilot are of course something right out of science fiction movies and no doubt part of our future.  In the early days there is no doubt going to be many horrific stories, enquiries, investigations and the usual fuss.  I like what somebody wrote about the Tesla Autopilot review online, which another website picked up, where he said, “I actually think there are a lot of crap drivers out there, and I think this is probably better than a lot of people.

That quote probably best illustrates what this story is about because around the world there is approximately one fatality for every 96 million km that are driven.  The Tesla Autopilot has already been driven for 210 million km before the first reported incident, so on pure statistics alone that is safer than most cars driven by human beings.  

The reality of the matter is of course there are going to be problems, of course there are going to be software issues and while the systems are in their infancy, people must play with these toys with care.  Don’t engage the Autopilot facility if you don’t have confidence in it and don’t get an Autopilot facility in your car until such time as they have been around for a few years.  The media loves to sensationalise stories and it is much more exciting to announce that somebody has been killed, while leaving out that he was watching a movie, while his car drove on Autopilot, than it is to just mention every minute of the day somebody else in the world was run over by a driver or two people collided at an intersection and due to human error another 2 or 3 people died.  It is something to bear in mind whenever you are watching the news – much of what you see is sensationalised and the unusual is picked up and reported.  In our firm’s experience, for example, we had a client who was on the back of a donkey cart when the donkey cart was hit by a car.  That of course made the media because it is different, it is weird and it made a much more interesting story.  

The media are looking either for a sensational award or an attorney who stole the money or some sort of freak accident.  They are not interested in the run-of-the-mill case where an attorney gets his client R1 million and the client walks away with R750 000,00 and the attorney has not stolen all the money.  That is boring, because that is considered normal and normal does not make the news.  So, the news will always be filled with the abnormal – a lightning strike, the alligator killing someone, the lions in the Lion Park killing someone, etc.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 10-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  29 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
ANC becomes the party of rural voters

There are so many examples and lessons we can learn from having a neighbour like Zimbabwe.  Firstly, the government there has given an ideal model for every other government as what not to do.  Very few people would want to copy the disastrous mistakes of Zimbabwe.  If ever we want a lesson as to how certain policies work, like taking away people’s farms, or nationalization, we only have to look to Zimbabwe and one certainly hopes that the ruling ANC elite do from time to time.  Sadly, Julius Malema idolises much of what has happened in Zimbabwe.  

Zimbabwe also shows us, and a pattern that is essentially being copied in South Africa, that gradually but surely a liberation party becomes a rural party and we have now seen the rejection of the ANC by a majority of the population in the major cities in South Africa, in particular Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.  There is no doubt that this trend will continue, but just like Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the rural people, who sadly get the least out of the new South Africa, because they live in appalling conditions, get a poor education and are not much better off than they were say 10 or 15 years ago, will continue to support the ruling party.  Yes, elections are rigged in Zimbabwe, but there is no doubt that a lot of the rural people still vote for Mugabe and accept whatever excuses they are told, because generally they are less educated than those who live in the more urban areas and cities.  In fact, in a strange parallel, the kind of people that vote for Donald Trump in America, and of course there are exceptions amongst the wealthy whose interests he has at heart, are largely more rural or uneducated people.  He does not win in major, sophisticated cities such as New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle and I don’t think we will even see him campaigning much there at all, because he already knows that all of those cities are lost causes for him.  The ANC is going to manage to cling to power for many years yet, because of the rural masses supporting them, but gradually they will lose more and more cities of any importance, having already lost all the cities of any importance in South Africa.  Cities first won by the DA, like Cape Town, have voted more and more in favour of the DA as the years have gone by, and one has to be honest and say quite frankly, they are better run than most ANC controlled cities.  

It is fascinating how in South Africa, as in Zimbabwe, those who get the least are the most loyal to the liberation party.  The more sophisticated city dwellers don’t take that long before they gradually abandon the liberation party and one has to hope, in years ahead, that the IEC is kept independent because the one thing that does start to happen, in a number of countries when the liberation party starts losing and it really starts getting close, which has not happened yet in South Africa, but is probably about 5 to 10 years away, is that elections start getting rigged.  I do hope that we never go down the Zimbabwe route in that regard. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 08-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Sport as business

I was impressed to hear about the sale of UFC.  In fact, when I first heard the words UFC I had no idea that it stood for Ultimate Fighting Championship.  That is the mixed martial arts sport, where they fight in cages, and the owners of the sport, because most sports that you see are actually businesses, although we often don’t realise that, recently sold it for $4 billion.  It is the richest sale in the history of professional sports, because whole sports are not invariably bought and sold, it is normally just the teams.  A number of basket ball teams have been sold in the $2 billion range, but that is just of course one team.  

The founders and owners of the UFC have done particularly well.  It was founded in 1993 and casino operators bought it for just $2 million in 2001.  By selling it for $4 billion in 2016 they have made a 72% per year annual return!  That is fantastic in a day and age when inflation is below 2% in the US and it just shows you how big a sport can become if properly promoted, once it gets onto TV and sponsors are found.  There is a lot of money to be made in sports, and it is time all of us stop looking at each sporting franchise as just a team that you support or don’t support, and start appreciating that in fact each and every one of them is in reality a business, and have their ups and downs and if the business is well managed, it can be sold for a huge profit by the team owner.  As the teams and the owners make more money invariably the players and participants also get paid more.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 05-Aug-16   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
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