Archive for December 2012

Thoughts on To-Do Lists

There was an article a while back on Business Insider about the problems with to-do lists. It originally appeared on a site called I Done This which has some interesting productivity artcles.

They seem to subscribe to Marc Andreessen’s idea of listing tasks after you have done them.

I will stick with to-do lists for the time being. I don’t always get all the tasks done. Sometimes I don’t get to any of them. But I like to make one every day if I can. If I do not make one, then I never get anything done. I surf the web, or I pace in my apartment and worry about things. I do not regard not completing every task as a failure. I do regard getting absolutely nothing done a failure.

Maybe at some point I will try making “Done” lists, but for now I will stick with to-do lists. They are not great, but for me they are better than nothing.

Sidenote: It is starting to look like Marc Andreessen is the source of a lot of the issues HP is having. Will this affect his reputation?

First 2012-12 Dividend Income Report

This is the preliminary dividend income report for December, 2012. I am doing a preliminary report because some companies that usually pay dividends in January have pushed them forward to late December. The companies that have paid so far are companies thay usually pay in December.

Here are the companies that I own stock in that have moved up their January payouts to late December: Family Dollar Stores Inc, Valspar Corp, Caterpillar, Illinois Tool Works, MDU Resources Group Inc. and Piedmont Natural Gas Inc.

The stocks that are still paying in January are Automatic Data Processing, Kimberly-Clark, Altria Group and Sysco Corp. It is interesting that both Altria and Philip Morris International, Inc, two conservative corporations, are both sticking with their normal schedule and paying in January. It looks like January will be pretty lean.

In December, RLI Corp paid a regular dividend of $0.32 and a special dividend of $5.00. So there will be a few more stats than usual.

Here are the stats without the special dividend. The income in December was $345.99. The income in September, 2012 was $315.21. The income in December, 2011 was $272.30. The yearly income for 2012 was $3244.90. The yearly income for 2011 was $2849.35. If I had 100 shares of each stock, the income would have been $810.00. For September, if I owned 100 shares, my income would have been $780,50.

With the special dividend, the December, 2012 income so far is $591.98, with the yearly income at $3490.89. The income for December, 2011 was $514.94, with yearly income of $3091.99.

Here are the stocks:

  • American States Water Co: $18.45
  • Black Hills Corp: $12.18
  • Intel: $10.72
  • AFLAC Inc: $17.89
  • Bemis Co Inc: $15.47
  • ConocoPhillips: $33.39
  • Vectren Corp: $18.67
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $10.81
  • Chevron    CVX: $19.24
  • Emerson Electric Co: $20.94
  • Sonoco Products Co: $18.80
  • Questar Corp: $8.79
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $32.15
  • Johnson & Johnson: $19.66
  • 3M Co: $7.45
  • Walgreen Co: $14.97
  • Dover Corp: $7.66
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $16.58
  • Coca-Cola Co: $26.43
  • RLI Corp: $15.74
  • RLI Corp: $245.99

Image from Wikimedia

New Category and New Energy Pages

I will start a new category for the blog called “Ambient Echo”. Sometimes I read something that mirrors something that I wrote, and I would like to occasionally publish links to those pages. One reason I am doing this is I have a text file with notes for posts that is getting very long. This might help clean it out.

I am also going to change the “Energy” page, and make it multiple pages. I have been bookmarking a lot of energy sites, and I have not put all of them on the “Energy” page here. I think I could split them into multiple pages instead of having one page.


2012-12-22 Blog Title

New blog titleDachshund Revival

Or Dachshund Renaissance if you want to impress the SAT crowd.

Update 2013-01-13_23.24.36:

This occurred to me because someone said that due to World War I and World War II, Dachshunds became very unpopular in the USA because the breed originated in Germany. The Dachshund population shrank dramatically, and did not rebound until the late 1970s or so. In the UK owners started calling them “Liberty Hounds” to disassociate them from Germany.

And I thought “Freedom Fries” was a low point.

Mas Oyama and Meditation

I found a site recently called Badass of the Week. One of the featured badasses was Mas Oyama. After WWII, he spent months in the mountains and trained intensely the entire time.

For a time in my life, that was what I wanted to do: go off into the middle of nowhere and practice martial arts all the time. And meditation. Lately I have felt that I have been getting lazy and lacking focus. I am trying to meditate more often.

I used to meditate frequently. I stopped several years ago. Looking back, I was less unhappy then. (I don’t know if I can ever say that I was happy.)

My watch beeps every hour on the hour. So now I start about half an hour before and wait until the beep. When I start timing, I keep looking at the watch to see if I have gone 20 minutes.

I am not too sure if I want to do martial arts anymore. Hitting people was nice, but people hitting me is not so nice.

Quotes From Illinois Alumni Magazine

From Illinois Alumni, July/August 2006, page 28
William Maxwell: A Literary Life
By Barbara Burkhardt
On the power of the prairie:
A memory from [Maxwell’s] early days on the East Coast makes plain the psychological hold of the Illinois topography on his imagination: While in residence one summer at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, he took a day trip to Lake George with another colonist, violinist Sol Cohen. Cohen, who was behind the wheel, got lost on the return, and the two found themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory at dusk. “All around us were mountains, and I felt threatened by them,” Maxwell remembered. “Only a flat landscape is reeassuring to my unconscious mind. A landscape where you can see the horizon in all directions.” This affinity for illimitable vistas, for the sense of total exposure on the plains, plays an integral role in the aesthetic unity and effect of his work. In essence, the prairie’s physical presence forms the tenor of characters’ lives. Maxwell’s spare, graceful prose echoes the unadorned beauty of the prairiescape, the stark symmetry of uninterruped soil and sky.

Don’t be afraid of mountains. They are useless and all look the same.

From Illinois Alumni, May/June 2008
The grand sweep of the Illinois prairie came as an unexpected thrill to Jane. She had had misgivings about the move from New Jersey, as scientists’ wives had complained about the Midwest’s endless fields upon fields of corn and soybeans and the lack of cultural attractions. But as the family drove into Champaign-Urbana in June 1951, Jane “gasped because it was so glorious.” She loved the sense of space and freedom expressed by the plains, set against the wide skies of the region. John felt immediately comfortable in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, which in some ways resembled the Madison of his youth. He experienced the move to Illinois like coming home.

Dividends and Taxes

So we are hearing a lot about the fiscal cliff these days. Part of it all is that we see Republicans telling us we must cut taxes for the wealthy, the “job creators“.

Let’s look at the results so far.

Bush 41 and Clinton raised taxes. Republicans told us that this would lead to the collapse of civlization. But I remember the economy being pretty good in the 1990s. Maybe it was the telecom bill, maybe it was the money spent on Y2K. But higher taxes did not cause us to be the United States of Chaos.

Then Bush 43 cut taxes. (You could say that he just postponed them.) Republicans told us that it would cause the USA to become a free market paradise. They said we would pay off the national debt. Republicans like to say the 1990s was just a bubble. The Aughts gave us a bigger bubble, and a bigger recession.

And now taxes must be cut for the “job creators”, who so far do not seem to want to create jobs, but have no problem spending money on elections. Lower taxes is great. But it is not a Magic Red Button that you can push to the exclusion of everything else. I really do not get why some people think it is the solution to all our problems. It certainly does not make the government spend less money.

It is the same people, the same ideology, the same predictions. I don’t want to go to the rates of the Eisenhower Administration, when they were 90%. But I think that taxes are not the Prime Mover Republicans seem to think it is. When their predictions do not come true, they complain that things are complicated, but somehow they should still be listened to. Then they turn around and make the same simplistic prediction.

Some people spend so much time and money complaining, lobbying, minimizing and lowering their taxes that I wonder how much money they could make if they spend all that time running their companies. Or teaching other people how to improve their lives.

So what does this have to do with dividends?

I am not too sure that higher taxes matter too much for dividend investors. First off, it’s passive income. It’s earned by someboy else. Complaining about something that is free can be unseemly. Spend that time spreading the good news of dividends. Plus mine are in IRA accounts, both rollover and Roth. I am not a lawyer or an accountant, but I think that money taken out of a rollover IRA or 401(k), then the money is taxed as regular income, regardless of what the asset is (stock, bond, mutual fund, cash). So this won’t affect me too much.

Capital gains taxes will be lower than dividend taxes. If different types of income are going to be taxed at different rates, I think that dividends should always be taxed at a rate lower than capital gains. We had two asset bubbles in a decade. Prices crashed, yet many stocks kept paying (and in some cases increased) their dividends. If you are counting on capital gains, you only get the benefit of owning stocks when you stop owning them. That’s kind of dumb.

I have noticed that a lot of companies are paying special dividends just in case. One of those companies is WalMart. This is making me think twice about investing in WMT. Some of these companies are incurring debt to pay these dividends. But it raises a question: if they can pay dividends before the new year, why weren’t they paying them before? They obviously do not need the money.

I do not think a lot of companies that have been increasing their dividends will cut them just because of taxes. Many companies have been paying dividends for over 100 years. Some have been increasing them for 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. They were doing this throught depression, wars, political turmoil, inflation, and higher taxes. So if a company was increasing their dividend in the 1990s, do you really think they are going to cut their dividends because they are going back to those rates? If they could raise their dividends then, they can raise them now.

Personally, I think we should look at whether or not different types of income should be taxed at other rates. Why not just have a progressive, bracketed flat tax?

Anyway, I do not know why some people are still pushing this line that simply cutting taxes are the answer to all our problems. Are they Lying For Feudalism, or are they just stupid?

The Petraeus Scandal Has Arms

Much has been written about the Petraeus scandal.

Much will be revealed.

Much will be revealed more than it already has. Like the fact that Petraeus is a Dominionist.  Many in the military think that his reputation was inflated, that he was better at PR than waging wars. He trumpeted the surge, and said little about paying off Sunni warlords. Remember the MoveOn brouhaha? Perhaps now people will look at it differently.

Many things are mysteries. Who are these twins that have driven a general and an FBI agent batty? Is Paula Broadwell the incarnation of a James Bond femme fatale? Is Holly Petraeus really Holly Petraeus, or Phil Hartman in the Witness Protection Program?

So much for “Duty, Honor, Country.” A lot of conservatives think if you just repeat some ideal that means you are living it. I heard that slogan (DHC) all the time growing up. It did not prevent my dad from treating my mom like crap. I never bought into the military worship we see today.

But let’s take another look at Paula Broadwell. A lot of people have commented on her arms. Yowza. What amazing arms she has. The whole body is amazing. People have also commented on Michelle Obama’s arms.

Paula Broadwell is a triathelete. I don’t know if that was enough to get her arms that way, or if she did some weight training as well.

I think that arms are a good measure of a woman’s fitness. Nobody ever compliments obese women on their arms. And there are a lot of fit women who do not have great arms. Jill Biden runs, but does not get compliments for her arms. I just did a bit of Googling, and her arms look good, but not as striking as Michelle Obama’s or Paula Broadwell’s.

A lot of men will work on their arms to the exclusion of everything else. You still see guys who have large arms, and legs that could be used to mix drinks. Any boxer or martial artist will tell you that big arms are nice, but to generate real power you need to use your legs.

Women, on the other hand, seem to leave the arms for last. Which in a way might be better than doing arms first. I think that if a woman has great looking arms, that is a sign that she is really really fit.

A Few Good Quotes

Here are a couple of good quotes I have found on the web lately.

The first is from the comments on Paul Krugman’s blog, posted when Marco Rubio talked about the age of the earth, man:

I think we’re missing an important point here. Conservatives present evolution/geology and creationism/earth age as different “theories’ when they’re nothing of the sort. Creationism, earth age, and a whole series of other phenomena are beliefs, i.e., they are completely unverifiable and irrefutable. Science is something else: it’s a method of inquiry that relies on hypothesis testing, the collection of verifiable data, and replicability. Its results are joined in theories that rely on and must conform to the results of inquiry. Scientific theories are tested against the accumulated data of multiple investigations and, while scientists may develop competing theories, those theories compete on the basis of which best describes the data. One does not “believe” in science, one demonstrates the veracity and applicability of the evidence or contests one or the other (did the CERN electron really travel faster than the speed of light?).

Religion in whatever form is a ritual and belief system–science is not. The conservative strategy thus attempts to equate the two very different ways of viewing the world, elevating their belief system to the status of scientific investigation. It’s a subtle trick, but a trick nonetheless.

Here is another from Crooks And Liars (also from the comments):

One of the recurrent memes among conservatives is that they’re the grownups, the ones who realize that bills must be paid, that you can’t coast on credit card debt forever, and that liberals just want free stuff, without ever having to pay for it. And yet it’s conservatives who—apparently—think that the cheap-energy-and-abundant-resources party will last forever, without the bills ever coming due. It’s conservatives who constantly invoke magical thinking and who simply deny any “inconvenient truth” they don’t want to accept—evolution, overpopulation, peak oil, peak metals, climate change, desertification, vanishing water tables… Hell, conservatives denied for decades that cigarettes are bad for you (did Rush Limbaugh ever come around on that?). How have they gotten away with this for so long?



2012-12-11 Blog Title

New blog title: Puppies In the Wood Chipper

I was hoping we could take care of this right here in Fargo.