Archive for August 2012

Thoughts on ‘Willpower’

Here are a few thoughts on Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. (You can find reviews here, here and here.)

They talk a lot about the physical inputs of willpower. Being hungry can affect your decisions and self-control.

Roy F. Baumeister came up with the discovery that willpower is like a muscle: You can deplete it throughout the day.

There is not a lot of advice, until the last chapter.

They say you should make gradual changes, and to try to change one thing at a time. Trying to stop smoking while also trying to start exercising at the same time will be less successful than trying one or the other one at a time.

I will try to summarize some of the advice they give to increase willpower and self-control at the end of the book.

Since your supply of willpower is limited, you should

When your willpower becomes depleted, you will become more frustrated, and impulses will be harder to resist.

Make small changes over time instead of big changes right away.

Make a to-do list. It can relieve you from worrying about those decisions. But be aware that things make take longer than you plan.

You will be better off if you keep your life in order. If you expend less energy thinking about food, sleep, etc, you have more energy to do what you really want. I think I read that Einstein never changed the type of music he listened to, or the type of food he ate, so he could expend more energy for physics.

Look at the Nothing Alternative. An author profiled in the book would set time for writing. He did not have to write, but if he did not he could not do anything else productive.

They recommend monitoring your progress toward your goals. They also talk about the power of community to keep you on track to meet your goals.

A lot of the reviews were not too positive. I was not able to summarize it as well as I hoped to. I have to get it back to the library. It’s overdue. I reserved it a while back, and it came in right before I went to Austin. So I was not able to get to it (and a couple of other books) for about a week.

Update 2012-08-31_18.07.55: There was an article about this book on Business Insider on September 18, 2011.

I May Sell CINF

I am thinking about selling CINF. I starting thinking about this after reading an article on Dividend Growth Investor.

He mentions that CINF’s dividend payout ratio is pretty high, and their dividend increases have been pretty small. The most recent increase was only 1.2422%, from 40.25 cents to 40.75 cents. When a company measures dividends to one-hundredths of a cent, perhaps that is a sign that you should look at a different stock.

Selling at the current price would give me about $1700. With that, I could buy about 18 shares of MMM, 20 shares of APD, 28 shares of DOV, 23 shares of CB, 25 shares of JNJ, or 42 shares of WGL. Many of those stocks have gone up in price since I bought them, but so has CINF. But I might sell CINF soon and wait for some of the other stocks to go down.

I already have a few other insurance stocks, so it’s not like one less will hurt me. Those have lower payout ratios and higher rates of dividend increases.

Getting Things Done

Another book that I read recently is Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is a productivity classic.

There are a couple of chapter-by-chapter summaries here and here.

The basic idea is he sets up a system where you make a decision on everything that comes to your attention, prefereably within a couple of seconds. You should never let things pile up. He recommends taking some time once a week to get through any piles of stuff you have. Part of his consulting work involves helping people going through stuff that had been piling up for years.

The summaries on those links above are pretty good, so I won’t talk too much about the book.

Here are a few interesting quotes from the book:
Chaper 7, page 168: He talks about making lists. “You may also be surprised to find that some of the things you write on the list will actually come to pass, almost without your making any conscious effort to make them happen. If you acknowledge the power of the imagination to foster changes in perception and performance, it’s easy to see how having a “Someday/Maybe” list out in front of your conscious mind could potentially add many wonderful adventures to your life and work.” That sounds a bit woo-ish.

page 178: “The degree to which any of us needs to maintain checklists and external controls is directly related to our unfamiliarity with the are of responsibility…. Many times you’ll want some sort of checklist to help you maintain a focus until you’re more familiar with what you’re doing.” It is interesting that he thinks you should use checklists for things you are not familiar with. This goes against The Checklist Manifesto, which stated you could/should use checklists for routine tasks.

page 179: “Be open to creating any kind of checklist as the urge strikes you….Making lists, ad hoc, as they occur to you, is one of the most powerful yet subtlest and simplest procedures that you can install in your life….Get comfortable with checklists, both ad hoc and more permanent. Be ready to create and eliminate them as required. Appropriately used, they can be a tremendous asset in personal productivity.”

Page 189: Quote from David Kekich: Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work… while others party. If you’re not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking…then you’re giving in to laziness and no longer control your life.

Portland And Austin

I was in Texas recently for a few days. It was my fifth trip to Texas. I went in May 2010 to Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. I went in August 2011 to Dallas and Austin. I went in September 2011 to Dallas. I went in April 2012 to Austin, and lastly August 2012 to Austin. Every time I go it feels like a magic land of opportunity.

So why a picture of Oregon for this post? I am looking for a job, and I have been speaking with a firm in Portland. The technology they are using seems interesting, and they seem interested in me. (I am also talking to some people in Austin, but the Portland discussions are further along.)

Yet I am not too thrilled with the idea of going to Portland. I know this is kind of irrational. I need a job, Portland does not have a reputation for having a lot of religious nutcases, it has more water than Texas, and I know someone in Portland who said that I could stay with them for a while.

The negatives are that Oregon has fewer metro areas than Texas, and Portland is smaller than Austin. However, the Portland metro area is bigger than the Austin metro area. I have been reading a lot of articles and seeing news stories stating that Texas has good job growth. Oregon is not mentioned too often. Plus I have nobody I can stay with in Austin. I would have to get by completely on my savings, and to paraphrase Keynes, my job search could outlast my savings. My plan was to stay with my friends in Portland and find something there if nothing works out in Chicago or Austin. Is it smart to go directly to your backup plan?

Plus: I have been looking at and planning on moving to Austin for a while. If I move to Portland, it’s kind of like admitting defeat. I would not be doing what I want. Circumstances would be forcing me to do something that I was not planning. I am trying to get control over my life, and if I move to a city I was not planning on, am I in control?

Image from Wikipedia


August, 2012 Latino Atheists Meeting

The monthly Latino Atheists meeting was today. I did not make it. I woke up late. But Martha was there and gave me an update.

Jose is in Washington, DC for a month. Jaime was actually at a baptism. Apparently there are still religious people in his family.

It was her, Francisco and Margaret. Martha gave me the impression that it was mostly Francisco giving his usual speech: The world is going to !!!!!! because people are all a bunch of @@@@@@@@ idiots and we are all ########. Next month there will be a round of Francisco Mad Libs.  Bring an extra pencil for the kids.

Martha proved her atheist credentials: Last night she drove her son to Southern Illinois University. Then she slept for three hours, and then drove up here for the monthly meeting. She is a woman with the strength of 10,000 men (Peter Himmelman’s best song in my opinion).

I mentioned that I may be moving to Austin, Texas. I volunteered to be the Official Welcoming Committee For Incoming Young Mexican Female Atheist Gymnasts, Marathon Runners, Yoga Practitioners and Bikini Models, or OWCFIYMFAGMRYPABM for short (rolls right off the tongue). Somebody’s gotta do it. Martha said I shouldn’t get my hopes up, since most atheists in Mexico are better-educated than average, and better-educated Mexicans tend to stay in Mexico. She also recommended flying into Mexico City versus going over land.

Martha and I also discussed immigration: One topic was why immigrants from Mexico are the less-educated and immigrants from Asia are more-educated. All the immigrants in my family died a long time ago, so some of this is not too obvious to me. While there was a lot of discrimination against Irish in America in the 19th century, there were no laws against Irish coming here. For a long time there were laws restricting Asian immigration.

Martha wants to have a Skype meeting, and an Atheist Burning Man down in Central Illinois. When I was attending UIUC I went back and forth between campus and Chicago many many times. I saw all that farmland as something to suffer through. Now I like driving out in the country and spending some time down there. I don’t know if I could live there. But I do like it more than I used to. Perhaps the pressure of having to finish my degree influenced my perceptions.

You are not alone: usted no está solo

Image from Wikipedia page for Baja California Sur

2012-07 Dividend Income

It is time for the monthly dividend income report.

The total for July, 2012 was $219.72. The yearly income up until the end of July was $1794.53. All I have to do is increase that seven-fold and it could come close to handling my monthly expenses.

If I had 100 shares of each stock, I would have earned $459.00. That is also how much 100 shares would have earned three months ago. This is because there were no dividend increased this month. But the income from three months ago was $218.56. I have resumed having my broker reinvest the shares automatically.

In July, 2011, the numbers were: $1556.17 for 2011 through July, $204.83 in July, and $432.30 if I had 100 shares of each stock back then.

Here are the stocks:

  • Automatic Data Processing: $21.64
  • Coca-Cola Co: $26.08
  • MDU Resources Group Inc: $8.77
  • Kimberly-Clark: $38.27
  • Chubb Corp: $8.58
  • Illinois Tool Works: $18.33
  • Altria Group: $22.12
  • Family Dollar Stores Inc: $5.58
  • Piedmont Natural Gas Inc: $16.44
  • Cincinnati Financial Corp: $17.41
  • Valspar Corp: $11.24
  • Sysco Corp: $13.98
  • RPM International Inc.: $11.28

Image from Wikimedia

2012-08-02 Blog Title

New blog title: Teardrops In The Sky