Thoughts On Embracing Failure

I think I realized part of the reason I don’t get too much stuff done during the weekends. I think I am afraid of failure.

I try to learn new software skills on my free time (because I frankly hate my job). Everybody says practice makes perfect. But when I get a lot of stack traces and error messages it is hard to believe that I am making progress.

Especially when I realize I am making a mistake that I should not have made. Today I tried to use a closure to iterate through a map in Groovy, but instead of typing “mymap.each” before the closure, I typed “mymap”, and for several minutes I could not figure out why it was not working.

I know we should all be open to learning, but my employer does not pay me to learn. They pay me to get stuff done, and frankly that frequently takes me longer than it should.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use


2015-04 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for April, 2015.

The monthly dividend income came out to $261.30. The yearly income total for 2015 through the end of the month was $1441.12.

The income for April, 2014 was $196.43, and the yearly income for 2014 through the end of April was $1130.58.

There is not really a whole lot to report. I have not been able to devote as much time to my stocks as I would like. My plan was to listen to conference calls more. I am looking at buying shares in water utilities. I am also thinking about putting some of my savings into a taxable account, and either buying more stocks or perhaps some ETFs. I did buy some ADM in early April. My goal at the beginning of the year was to buy something once a month. So far I have only made three purchases in four months. Hopefully the adage “Sell in May and go away” will hold true this year, and some stocks will be selling for lower prices.

I notice that PE ratios are still going upward. Perhaps there is some difference in the economy that I cannot articulate that is pushing the media PE ratios up for some valid reason, and the rising ratios is not a sign of some sort of bubble or excess. I know the gold bugs, inflationistas and austerians say rising stock prices is a sign that the economy is a sham and it will all collapse any day now. They have been saying this for at least five years. Some have said it their whole lives, regardless of what is going on. I have been saying for a year now that I hope/think that PE ratios will stop climbing, but that does not seem to be happening. I might just start buying and hope for the best. I plan on holding everything I buy for a few decades, if not the rest of my life, so while I don’t like the idea of paying more than necessary, it is not quite the disaster it would be for someone who relies solely on price.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each April from 2011 through 2015:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
April 2015 1441.12 261.30 409.21 395.68
April 2014 1130.58 196.43 323.64 303.18
April 2013 898.59 179.23 262.82 289.40
April 2012 1010.82 218.56 274.05 271.21
April 2011 848.29 203.10 216.30 179.46

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for April, 2015:

  • Automatic Data Processing: $28.60
  • Chubb Corp: $58.13
  • Coca-Cola Co: $36.48
  • MDU Resources Group Inc.: $10.29
  • Kimberly-Clark: $49.76
  • Illinois Tool Works: $26.28
  • Piedmont Natural Gas Inc: $20.10
  • Sysco Corp: $17.00
  • RPM International Inc.: $14.66

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use


Language: The word “diet”

I want to look at how people use the word “diet”.

When I was younger, people would use the word “diet” to refer to something temporary. The word was mostly used as a noun. They would “go on a diet”, usually before some event, such as a wedding or a reunion. The main idea was to reduce the amount they ate, or to radically change what they ate. This would be done temporarily. After the big event and they impressed their old friends, people would go back to their old patterns of eating behavior.

Today we call this behavior a “fad diet”: A short-term change or reduction. This is why some people say “diets don’t work; you just go back to your old way of doing things.” Many of the screenshots on the fatlogic subreddit are from people in the fat acceptance/health at every size movements who use the word “diet” in this way.

The word “diet” was used to refer to the short-term change. But the normal, regular eating habits and patterns were never given a label.

If you talk to a biologist who studies another species, they will talk about the diet of that species. The biologist uses it to mean that species’ patterns of eating behavior: what they eat, when they eay, in some cases where and/or how they eat. They do not use the word “diet” to refer to a temporary change or restriction.

Over the past decade, people’s use of the word has been changing. More and more people are starting to use it in the second sense of the word. People talk about “low carb diets”, or “the paleo diet”, or the “Mediterranean diet”. I read and hear people talk about changing their diet, not “going on a diet”.

Now, people use the word “diet” to refer to their normal, common, consistent eating behaviors.

This is a good change. The fact is, everybody is always “on a diet”. Even Elvis was on a diet. It seemed to be fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, with lots and lots of pills. It was a terrible diet, but it was still a diet.

Maybe this is why many of the people in the screenshots on fatlogic can’t lost weight, and why they think “diets don’t work.” They are using the word to refer to something temporary, something that will get them towards some distant goal, and once they reach that goal, they will go of the “diet”. Stop using the definite and indefinite articles when using the word “diet”. Use pronouns. Do not go on “a diet”. Think about “your diet”.

As I get older, I am finding out that intense exercise is not as helpful to keeping in good shape and preventing myself from getting fat as it used to be. Now I need to pay attention to my diet.

I don’t need to go on a diet. But I do need to change my diet.

Image from My World, assumed allowed under Fair Use


Language: Big Words

As someone with a degree in exercise physiology, spends more time than I should in the bowels of Reddit and Craig’s Lust, and a guy who tries in general to pay attention, I have noticed a few things about the use of language by some of the larger members of our society.

It is interesting that a lot of fat people like to say they have “a lot of meat on my bones”. You might have some meat, but frankly you also have a lot of fat on your bones, and that’s the turn-off.

Fit women never call themselves “curvy”, yet they themselves are not rectangular.

A lot of fat women describe themselves as “sassy”, and say they are “queens”. I don’t hear these words from fit women.

Fat people think they are “normal”, and everybody smaller than they are is “skinny”, as if being “skinny” is some sort of condition. Thin people seem to describe themselves as “thin”. As far as fat people calling themselves “normal”, it implies that fit people are abnormal. Then again, maybe few fat people have friends that exercise.

Usually when a woman calls herself or another woman “a real woman”, it is someone who is fat. Has any women pointed to a women who runs marathons and called those women “real women”?

Another observation: How can you tell if you are fat? Here is a little test. If you have no problems saying you would not date a fat person, but you get upset if you hear a fit person say they would not date a fat person, then you are fat.

Image from University Of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, assumed allowed under Fair Use


Thoughts On Illinois and Voter Turnout

I saw an article recently stating the new governor in Illinois has a very low approval rating.

I wonder why this guy was elected in the first place.

Part of me thinks I know why: Most people do not vote. So I guess the real question is: Why don’t more people vote? Why do they let snakes like Rauner into office? I know people would rather vote for someone they like than vote against someone they do not like, but some people deserve being voted against.

He seems like a typical conservative: It seems the answer to the world’s problems is to give the wealthy free reign, and trust me, the crumbs for the rest of you will be wonderful.

From what I could tell, his campaign’s main message was that Illinois is not very friendly to business. He made about $50 million in 2013, and his net worth is about $900 million. He owns serveral homes. In one year he paid more in property tax on one home than most people in Illinois earn. He spent about $24 million on his own campaign. If Illinois is so bad for business, how did he get so rich? And why did people fall for it?

He is engaging in some short-sighted job poaching targeting Indiana. As Richard C. Longworth writes, American states need to realize that their competition is not each other, but Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Now he wants to decrease the minimum wage, and pay highway construction workers less money. Why is it that rich people think that a prosperous society requires everybody else to be poor? And why do people fall for it? I paid some attention to the campaign from here in Texas. I wonder if he tried to paint himself as a different kind of conservative, or saying that he has new, fresh ideas. It sounds like the same old conservative feudalism to me.

According to Wikipedia, 3,627,690 people in Illinois voted in the 2014 election. According to the US census, in 2014 the population of Illinois was 12,880,580. 23.5% were under the age of 18. So there are about 9,853,643 eligible voters in Illinois. So only about 36% of the eligible voters took part in this last election. What the heckflame and darnation is wrong with people?

In all seriousness, why don’t people vote? Non-voters that I talk to seem think they are too smart to vote, they are not fooled by the system, that the two parties are the same. It is hard to take these people seriously. They think they are beyond the two party system, they are smarter than the general electorate, yet I think they are the ones being taken for a ride. If you are not willing to press a button once a year, is it rational to expect society to be something that you approve of?

If voting did not matter, why is the GOP trying to limit people’s access to voting? If voting did not matter, why are the Koch brothers planning on spending almost $1 billion to influence the 2016 election? A few hedge fund billionaires in Chicago gave a LOT of money to Bruce Rauner. I am guessing they voted.

Over time, as turnout decreases, distrust in government increases (I know this shows the numbers for federal government, but I think the point is valid).  So many people are cynical about government and think that government will try to restrict our freedoms. Perhaps people need to realize that the real threat is some parts of the private sector encroaching on other parts of the private sector.

What we are stuck with is more bitterness, and more people souring on “both sides”. I was happy to see some pushback on Little Green Footballs against the “both sides” fallacy: “Both parties not measuring up to desired standards doesn’t mean that both parties are the same.” Another commenter pushed back on some “both sides” nonsense to tell someone that if they REALLY did not like the two main parties, then look into third parties

Every election, turnout decreases, people are more unhappy with government, and nobody makes the connection.

Someone on Little Green Footballs wrote We get the government we deserve.

I am NOT getting the government I deserve. I am stuck with the government other people deserve.

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use


2015-03 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for March, 2015.

The monthly dividend income came out to $612.48. The yearly income total for 2015 through the end of the month was $1179.82.

The income for March, 2014 was $437.87, and the yearly income for 2014 through the end of March was $934.15.

For the first time, the monthly income was over $600 without any special dividends. The moving averages are almost at $400. Granted, most of this money is in a traditional IRA, so I will have to pay taxes when I take it out. But still, $400/month would pay quite a few bills.

There were a few stocks that increased their dividends. I also bought more JNJ. I might buy even more soon to get up to 100 shares. I also bought more ADM, so in June there will be another increase. So the Mar/Jun/Sep/Dec haul will get even bigger than the other months.

I think the drop in oil prices has not hurt my portfolio too much. As much as we need to do something about climate change, the fact is that people will not stop using oil for transportation any time soon. I don’t think the major oil companies will have too many issues. It seems like most of the drama is in smaller companies. The big oil stocks that I own have gone down in price, but I am still higher than my cost basis. I think that using the dividends to re-invest in more shares has actually lowered my cost basis. At least, that what I gather from my broker’s web site. Maybe I don’t need to worry too much about basis; the plan is to live off the dividends and not sell the shares.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each March from 2012 through 2015:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
Mar 2015 1179.82 612.48 393.27 390.27
Mar 2014 934.15 437.87 311.38 301.75
Mar 2013 719.36 360.85 239.79 292.68
Mar 2012 792.26 294.68 264.09 269.92


Here are the stocks and the income amounts for March, 2015:

  • AFLAC Inc: $40.95
  • American States Water Co: $23.56
  • Black Hills Corp: $14.32
  • Bemis Co Inc: $28.48
  • ConocoPhillips: $79.11
  • Vectren Corp: $21.87
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $18.16
  • Chevron: $24.68
  • Emerson Electric Co: $25.55
  • Johnson & Johnson: $45.10
  • Sonoco Products Co: $21.60
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $76.62
  • 3M Co: $13.64
  • Walgreen Co: $19.33
  • Valspar Corp: $17.53
  • Dover Corp: $9.13
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $19.64
  • Questar Corp: $11.66
  • Kellogg Company: $50.08
  • RLI Corp: $21.81
  • Eaton Corporation: $29.66

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use


Amazon Prime

I finally got a trial for Amazon Prime.

I did it so I could watch the rest of Star Trek that I had not seen.

I had gotten through most of the fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine and Voyager while there were episodes on the Star Trek site. For the past six months or so, they had only 11 episodes of Voyager. A couple of them were sixth season, so I skipped ahead to get my fix.

Then a few months ago, the put up 10 episodes of The Original Series. This past week, I was on You Tube, and I found a channel that was putting up full episodes of Enterprise. The only problem was part of the image was cut-0ff. So after a little hemming and hawing and searching, I signed up for the 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I hope that the free trial is really free, and that all the videos on Amazon Prime are included in the price. Otherwise I will be paying Amazon a lot of money in a couple of months.

(Sidebar: “Amazon Prime” sounds like it could be the title of an episode from almost any one of the series. Except perhaps The Next Generation; they seemed to prefer one word titles.)

So this has been eating up my weekend. I watched the four episodes of Enterprise that were never on the Star Trek site, as well as a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager from earlier seasons that were never on the site. I promised to give a presentation to a local technology group on Wednesday. I was planning to get it done this weekend, but I will have to whip it up on Monday. I also thought I would listen to a conference call for ADM this weekend.

Perhaps I will see Firefly, or Battlestar Galactica, or other stuff. Who knows? I have to watch it on my Windows laptop. For some reason the videos don’t load on my Linux laptop. I have no idea why videos on Amazon won’t load but videos on the Star Trek site will. I have never owned a television, which many people found surprising. One person told me I was the only person they knew without one. Now computers and televisions are merging.

Two of the Enterprise episodes that were never on the Star Trek site were parts 1 and 2 of “In a Mirror Darkly”. I can hear T’Pol’s voice saying, “Perhaps if Ms. Blalock had long hair in every episode, Enterprise would have been more successful.”

I also watched a couple of my favorite Enterprise episodes. “Future Tense” is still my favorite Star Trek episode ever, but I do have to make one quibble: If they assembled the warhead outside the launch bay, they could have made it work.

Two of the Enterprise episodes that were never on the Star Trek site were parts 1 and 2 of “In a Mirror Darkly”. I can hear T’Pol’s voice saying, “Perhaps if Ms. Blalock had long hair in every episode, Enterprise would have been more successful.”

I also watched a couple of my favorite Enterprise episodes. “Future Tense” is still my favorite Star Trek episode ever, but I do have to make one quibble: If they assembled the warhead outside the launch bay, they could have made it work.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use. If you watch “Future Tense”, you will understand why the last two paragraphs were repeated.

This website is dangerous to you. dflhas@089f0’Pauj_ph Temporal radiation.


Language: Thoughts On The Word Public

I am a regular listener of Freethought Radio, which is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of their activities is to prevent or stop government endorsement or support of religion.

When they talk about this, they will sometimes use the word “public” to describe the activities in question.

Usually it is something like prayer at city council meetings, or a city or county giving money to a church. They will describe it as “public support” or “public endorsement” of religion. This is the same use of the word “public” that we use when we say that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a “public” university.

Many of the opponents of the FFRF will use the word “public” differently when they attack the FFRF. They say that the FFRF wants to eliminate “public expression” of religion, or they want to “take religion out of the public square”. Here, I think the word “public” has a slightly different meaning. Here “public” means being a part of society, and does not refer to government support. Sort of like when parents tell their children to behave in public.

I wonder whether some critics of the FFRF are intentionally misleading people by this use of the word “public”. The FFRF does not have a problem with the “public expression” of religion, or of religion being in the public square. There are a lot of billboards put up by churches and religious organizations, and the FFRF does not try to have them taken down. The FFRF does put up its own billboards as well. They have no problem with religion existing in society. They simply do not think it should be supported by our government. And for the most part the courts agree with the FFRF.

The word “public” can also be a bit confusing in the business world. The “public sector” refers to the government. Many people in this country work for various levels of government, and are said to work in the “public sector”.

However, a “public company” is a company that is not owned by the government. It is owned by people and institutions in the private sector, but it is called a “public company” because shares of ownership in that company are sold on stock exchanges. A “private company” is a company whose ownership is not traded on an exchange. So a company in the private sector can go public, trade for years on an exchange, and then go private, staying in the private sector the entire time.

There are some government entities in the United States that do own shares in public companies. These tend to be the retirement funds for workers in the public sector, usually at the state, county or city level. Many people in the US do not like the idea of governments owning a company, yet public retirement funds is not considered a problem. These funds are generally given some independence from the governments whose workers’ money they are managing. Some of these funds (such as CalPERS) have been activist shareholders, but their goals are no different than other activist shareholders. Some retirement funds invest largely in index funds. But these retirement funds never get a majority stake in companies. At least not in the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use


Nobody Seems To Care About Apple Owning The World

Back about 10 or fifteen years ago, many people in technology pushed open source because they distrusted Microsoft. There were other reasons, but it seemed to me that was a major motivation. When the world runs on software, the idea of one company having oversized influence on the software industry scared people.

Now, I go to technology meetups, and I am usually the only one using a non-Apple laptop. Yet everyone thinks they are edgy, cool and an independent thinker simply because they use Apple products. Sometimes I am reminded of that scene in Life Of Brian: Yes, we’re all individuals.

As Microsoft got bigger and more powerful, people fear and hated them more, and trusted them less. As Apple gets bigger and bigger, people seem to love them more. Yes, their products look better. But does “shiny object” really change everyone’s opinions on things? Is it really enough to remove objections about market power? It seems to.

I once saw Jim Cramer on Mad Money rave about what a great company Apple is. He mentioned they had changed the music industry through iTunes and the phone industry with the iPhone, in addition to influencing their original lines of business. He pointed out they displaced a lot of companies (and a lot of jobs) in those industries.

Now there is an Apple watch. The co-inventor of the Swatch thinks the Apple watch could displace a lot of people in the Swiss watch industry. Now there are rumors that Apple might make a car (but some people don’t think they can pull it off).

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Sure, the free market is great. Yes, things change. Yes, there is creative destruction, and people find new work. But we are talking about one company doing a lot of displacement in multiple industries. If a web site forced you to use IE years ago, people complained. If a service is only available on iPhone, nobody seems to complain. Unless they are mistreating Chinese workers, people seem okay with Apple eating the world.

I really don’t get it. People seem to want Apple to get bigger. I went to a meetup with the Austin Internet of Things group, and a few people expressed concern about what Google and Nest are doing with peoples’ information. Yet I rarely hear about this concern with Apple.

Am I the only one who thinks the standards have changed? Am I the only one who thinks it might be a bad thing if one company changes one industry after another?

A gilded cage is still a cage.

Image from the 19th century, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


Thoughts On Synchronicity and Conservative Logic

I know many say the concept of synchronicity is BS, but I did notice an interesting sring of coincidences over the past couple of weeks.

Paul Krugman wrote a piece about Stephen Moore, a right-wing hack. He pointed out that a lot of these conservative hacks keep making predictions that are not true. Yet they never seem to suffer any negative consequences for constantly being wrong. The basic thrust of the piece is questioning why these “pundits” are not forced to find other work.

One of the commenters wrote something that explains it:

Ah but they’re not “predictions.” They’re simply statements about the world works couched in predictive language. You’ve got to remember, these people are deductive not inductive reasoners. They don’t build a model from observations and refine the model to reflect new observations. They know what they know and that’s that. Everything follows from first principles. You don’t *need* to make predictions if you have faith. After all, what’s a better demonstration of “faith” then believing something when all evidence points against it?

I supposed we could see if it’s turtles all the way down, and ask why they think that way. But it does seem to answer the immediate question.

Then there was a post on the Meditation subreddit in which the poster noted that of all the religions, the Buddhists seem to get more things right than everybody else, and asked why that is. Again, there was an interesting comment:

Generally I could say though that one camp is “sky religions”, prophetic.. and the other is “earth religions”, born out of observation and contemplation instead of prophecy. If you make conclusions based on observations you have a good chance of being right..

Then on March 7, CFI Austin had an event with Ryan Bella Seventh-day Adventist preacher who decided to go “a year without god,” and then decided to make it permanent (his website is here). He said becoming an atheist was a long process for him. A big part of it was that he had a hard time believing that people who believed differently than he did would go to hell, even if they were moral people.  He felt that way about people in other denominations, other religions, no religion, gay people. He could not accept that someone who treats others well will go to hell simply because they have the “wrong” belief.

At one point he made an observation about conservative Christians and liberal Christians.  Conservative Christians see the Bible as inviolable, revealed text, and that the world must be shaped around that. Liberal Christians look at how the world is, and try to interpret the Bible to conform to what they see.

If I had to choose one of his categories of Christianity, I would go with the liberal camp. But I think (and he seemed to agree) that eventually you keep interpreting the Bible so much that there is nothing left.

I also read a couple of articles recently that kind of hit upon this with regard to taxes. Minnesota increased taxes on the wealthy and increased the minimum wage, and things are going pretty well there. A column in Bloomberg pointed out that California is also doing pretty well since Jerry Brown raised taxes on the wealthy. I am sure that taxes can go too high, but a lot of conservatives always seem to think that raising taxes is always bad and cutting taxes is always good. Minnesota and California have not reached the breaking point. Cutting taxes has not worked out too well in Kansas (see here, here, here). And Scott Walker has not gotten the job creation he said he would either. Conservatives usually want to move everything to the right. The Laffer Curve is the only thing they want to move to the left.

The article on Minnesota was in HuffPo. The commenters there generally acknowledged reality. There was a bit more conservative distortion on the Bloomberg site. Some of the people there basically espoused the right-wing doctrine: If Plan A does not work, keep trying Plan A.

I would like to live in a world without tax. But I like having roads, being surrounded by educated people, and have some confidence that food at the grocery store has a good chance of not killing me. It would be nice to get all that for free, but just because I want it all for free does not mean I can get it for free. You can try to look at the world as it is and then try to make your way within that, or you can only think about what you want and then spend your life complaining about the price.

Image from source unknown, assumed allowed under Fair Use. I wanted an image of people synchronizing watches, and I found one of George Harrison. How cool is that?