Archive for October 2017

More Thoughts On Idea Machines

I have started making daily lists of ten ideas a day per James Altucher‘s suggestion. I got Claudia’s book and I am reading it using the online Kindle reader. Hopefully it will lead to something better. (Claudia is James’ ex-wife.)

It sounds almost too good to be true. Just

  1. write down ten ideas,
  2. *** magic happens ***,
  3. profit.

I listed a few people who wrote about it in a previous post, and I have found a few more since then. Many people report the same effect. I think that perhaps helping develop and/or reinforce consistency might also be a factor.

A couple of things made me stop in the past. One is that I kept coming with idea lists about idea lists. It was getting too meta for me. I don’t want to make idea lists about making idea lists (process, results, lists of ideas for future lists), but it might not be a bad thing to do every once in a while to have a backlog of possible topics, like agile teams keeping a backlog.

Another is that since then I have gotten more serious about meditation. Wouldn’t quieting the mind and accelerating it be at odds with each other? Meditation seems to stop unnecessary thought. Becoming an idea machine seems to be about spawning thoughts. Is it possible to do this and meditation? According to Claudia, it is. Plus, some advanced meditators say that with meditation you can change the speed/volume of your thoughts. Granted, it takes a while to get to that point.

There were a few other reasons I kind of hesitated attempting the idea list practice and were arguments against. One is: Wouldn’t freelance writers be more successful than they are, or at least more quickly? Don’t they deal in ideas all the time?

Another is that James wrote his daily practice helped him turn his life around. But now he is divorced from Claudia. I guess I assumed he would stay together with her. It seemed like a sign of his success after a divorce and multiple bankruptcies. Making the same mistake AFTER you are doing the right thing is kind of an argument against what you are doing. But according to his blog, he seems to be bouncing back. (I still have not gotten to his podcasts; it’s on my to-do list.) It looks like Claudia is taking longer to bounce back. Or she just might be keeping a low profile. She want about a year without any blog posts or tweets, but it looks like she is starting to post more consistently.

One inspiration for starting is that James wrote a post in July about how he has lived off of his ideas for 20 years. He mentions that he might give an online/email course about becoming an idea machine. The outline looks pretty interesting. The response was overwhelmingly positive, but so far I do not think there are any updates. His big thing now is doing standup. He hints that one thing he would cover in this course is how he got started writing down 10 ideas a day. On one of his pages he implies he got it from somewhere else. In another post he implies he did it to get interviews.

Another inspiration to get started again is a story that I saw on Hacker News in August linking to a site called “Random Ideas“:  “The point is to get the brain thinking, to exercise the brain muscle.” That sounds like James Altucher. A few commenters also said they had started doing the same thing, or that the site inspired them. One commenter pointed out that coming up with 3650 ideas in a year would “be an amazing accomplischment [sic] of endurance”, although the guy stopped after a month. Random Ideas are usually lists with items that are not related, generally ten business ideas. I know Altucher says you should do ten ideas on a topic, and there is something to be said for being creative within contraints, but I had a hard time coming up with topics. To follow Altucher’s method, you really need eleven ideas: the first being the topic, then ten more for your list. Perhaps it might be okay to just make random lists to keep the momentum. (See Note 1 below.)

Another inspiration is that the project I am on at work is reducing staff in a couple of months. I work for a big, multinational consulting firm. I am on a team that makes an app for a state government, and while they are happy with us, the department is having to cut their budget. So I kind of need something that will make me a wild success. I asked about some training, but I was told that company policy states that the project would have to pay for it. The problem is that they are rolling a bunch of us off because they have no money. So there goes that idea. On the other hand, my manager is an Indian guy who not only has a thick accent, but also mumbles. It’s possible I completely misunderstood what he said.

I have no desire to be a manager. Right now I have to put up with decisions I do not like. If I were a manager, I would have to justify other peoples’ bad decisions to still more people. I have no desire to do that at all. So I need to change how I think and I need to change my life. For reasons I will not go into, getting on a project in Austin is highly unlikely.

So I am working through Claudia’s book. I started on October 1. So far it is okay. I might have stopped at nine once or twice, and sometimes my understanding of the question changed while I was coming up with my ten answers but I just kept going. One guy wrote somewhere that he did not like some of Claudia’s topics. One of them is to come up with ten yoga poses. It is a bit hard when you know nothing about yoga.

One thing I have found is there are more people than I thought who are doing this, in addition to the people I found online the last time I posted about this.

One is a site called that sent out idea list topics for about a year. They recently stopped. I subscribed, so I have a backlog to use if I need it. They have a facebook group. I am not into facebook, but I might log on to see if there are any success stories.

Another site is 10 Ideas A Day which will give you themes, lets you submit themes, and has a few links to other sites. Some of the links are out of date. Here is one of Claudia on a podcast talking about becoming an idea machine, one of someone on Claudia’s podcast, and someone sharing their lists as they go through Claudia’s book.

A guy named D.R. Fideler who moved to Sarejevo got the idea bug from James. He has a post and a PDF about it. It sounds like this guy goes into some detail with his lists. Some are “complete business plans”. Maybe I am not putting enough into my answers. Or maybe the magic will just take longer. Looking at James’ post “How To Have GREAT Ideas” my one-sentence ideas might be too short. Maybe each of the ideas should be lists themselves, like SMART goals.

Chris Remus wrote about it here,  which I think is a copy of this article. He gives you a list of ideas.

Let’s not forget this one and this one and this one.

I plan on emailing some of these people to get a bit more info on their daily idea list practice.

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Do you still do it?
  • Was there a gap?
  • When did you start seeing results?
  • What results have you seen?
  • How long does it take to come up with ten ideas?
  • How long/many sentences is each idea?
  • Where do you get your topics from?
  • Do you ever share your ideas? If so, how?


Note 1: He spelled dubious as “dubias” in a post bad-mouthing educators. The one time in life you want to have perfect spelling is when you are saying you are smarter than someone else. (“Dubias” is a species of cockroach; I am assuming he misspelled “dubious”.)

In all seriousness, I would love to know if this guy has read James’ blog and/or Claudia’s book. I looked up his domain on whois, but after a few steps his registrar uses a registrar that uses itself as its own registrar. Using the “Yo Dawg” trick to hide in plain sight.

Here are a couple of more posts from James Altucher’s website:

Fragment of a manuscript by Wang Zhideng (1535–1612) available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Tom Petty

There was an article on Bloomberg the day he died (but presumably before he actually did) that reports of his death were false. (I cannot find the article on the Bloomberg site.) Like Jackie Chan. Then a week later, I saw a cartoon about it on which inspired me to do some more searching.

So it was more Abe Vigoda than Jackie Chan.

I was a fan back in high school and into college. I had all the Heartbreakers records up through “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)”, and his first solo record. But eventually I got out of the loop. When I was younger, I did not want to become one of those older people who just listened to the same stuff from their youth. But that is kind what happened to me.

I used to listen to WXRT a lot in my car. But then I moved closer to the lake, and I took the CTA to work, so I spent a LOT less time driving. In addition, at some point I lost the antenna on my car. I think a car wash tore it off. I tried a few times to use a radio in my apartment to get WXRT, but for some reason the reception was terrible. I have fallen behind on Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan as well. And I have no idea who the new bands are in rock and roll. I will try to pick some of it up again. I was so out the loop on Tom Petty that I did not find out about the death of Howie Epstein and the departure of Stan Lynch until several years after both events happened.

One thing I did find odd about Tom Petty is: Why did he do solo records? He was the leader of the Heartbreakers, he sang, he wrote the songs. I don’t see what he was not getting from that arrangement. On the other hand, you could argue he never really did a solo record. Mike Campbell was on all his records (except the Traveling Wilburys, which obviously is not a solo project). I always felt that unless Petty worked on his own without Campbell, he wasn’t really going solo. Granted, Mike Campbell is an amazing guitar player, so I can see why Petty wanted him around. I guess I am using a pretty strict definition of “solo” here.

I know there is a documentary out about him, and an authorized biography of him by Warren Zanes. Apparently Petty felt he made some mistakes in his life there were not in the film, but were discussed in the book.

I did see them live with Bob Dylan on their “True Confessions” tour (June 29, 1986, to be precise).

I also had their live album “Pack Up The Plantation” and the concert film of the same name for their “Southern Accents” tour. I think I taped off of MTV. I think I watched that at least two dozen times. A couple of things that I remember from that is being impressed by both Mike Campbell and the drummer Stan Lynch. I was surprised to later learn that Stan Lynch was not confident in his drumming, but this may have been earlier than the “Southern Accents” tour. But on “Pack Up The Plantation”, he was pretty awesome. And the coolest Heartbreaker ever.

So in addition to looking into what Springsteen and Pearl Jam have been up to, and finding some bands that are more contemporary, I have to catch up on what Tom Petty with and without the Heartbreakers had been up to for more than a decade. Going forward, there may not be any more Tom Petty music that will be new to the world, but there is still some out there that will be new to me.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their final tour (but NOT the final show), available at Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Why Investing For Dividends Is Better Than Capital Gains

There are many ways to invest in the stock market.

There are a few I will not discuss here, such as options and other derivatives. I don’t have time to try to understand them, and I honestly think that a lot of the people that deal with these instruments on a daily basis do not understand them too well themselves.

I will discuss two ways in this piece. The first is investing for capital gains. This is done by trying to buy at a relatively low price and hoping to sell later at a higher price. The other is investing for cash flow. This is what I do by investing in stocks that increase their dividends every year.

Even when I was growing up, I would hear people say that the way to make money in the stock market is to buy low and sell high. The capital gains model is drilled into people, and most people never become aware of any alternative. I did not until stocks started going down in 2008. It was not until later that I learned that reinvesting dividends are responsible for at least half of the gains in the stock market in the 20th century. Until about the 1980s, investing for dividends was more common. It is a self-reinforcing cycle. Almost every financial site has charts for stock prices. Technical analysis is mostly about looking at charts of the stock price. But there are far fewer charts for dividends.

During the dot-com boom, prices were rising at an accelerating rate. Why invest for a 3% yield when your stock doubles every year? Because eventually it will stop doubling every year. We saw this again in 2008: Many stocks went down in price by a lot, even stocks that paid dividends. But many of those dividend paying stocks still increased their payouts.

I think that capital gains investing is no different than the Greater Fool Theory.

Granted, these are not entirely mutually exclusive. I have said on this site that “price doesn’t matter”. Actually, it does not matter as much to a dividend investor as it does to a capital gains investor. If one of my stocks goes to $0, then I will get no income out of it. (But it would probably have cut its dividend before that happens.) “Price doesn’t matter as much as you think it does” is more accurate, but has a bit less punch as a catchphrase.

You can only sell once. Dividend investing is like having an animal for its milk or eggs or wool. You can milk a cow, harvest a chicken’s eggs and shear a sheep multiple times throughout its life. But you can only get meat from them once. And you can only sell a share of stock once. If you are only owning something in order to sell it later, you only really get the benefit of owning it when you stop owning it. I think that is pretty strange.

I don’t think pigs produce any goods while they are alive, so perhaps pigs are a better analogy to stocks that do not pay dividends.

You can sell a stock that pays dividends for capital gains. That makes investing for dividends better than just investing for price appreciation. But relying solely on price can be more risky. You can only make money one way, and only at one time: when you sell.

And you are assuming that you will get the price you need when you need it. Liquidity dries up when people need it the most.

Captial gains investing is more like the fixed mindset, and dividend growth investing is more like the growth mindset.

Selling means you are dipping into principal. Eating your seed corn. Someone once compared selling shares for profit like sawing off a tree branch while you are sitting on the wrong side of the branch.

“Bahram Chubina Kills the Lion-Shaped Ape Monster”, Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) by Abu’l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020), available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

2017-09 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for September, 2017.

The monthly dividend income came out to $775.50. The yearly income total for 2017 through the end of the month was $4796.80.

The income for September, 2016 was $720.86, and the yearly income for 2016 through the end of September was $4260.70.

There is not a whole lot to report this month. Just rolling along and making money.

It looks like Exxon might get back to where it was a few months ago. I think eventually oil companies will either become more diverse energy companies or go out of business. Some of them are doing research into other forms of energy and/or funding other companies. They have gone back and forth on this a few times. I think eventually they will need to stick with funding/backing other forms of energy. Some are really backing offshore wind.

I can’t find it now, but I read an article about this energy transition (I think it was on Bloomberg) in which an executive at Royal Dutch Shell pointed out that the reason the Shell Oil Company is called the Shell Oil Company is because they started out in the 19th century importing sea shells into the UK. I guess people liked having shells in their living rooms. But shells have nothing to do with oil, and the founders were not named “Shell”, so it is kind of an odd name for an oil company. He said they survived the 20th century by becoming an oil company, and if they want to make it throught the 21st, they will have to do something in addition to and/or in place of being an oil company. So there is a transition going on.

If you are a startup fanboy who thinks that big companies never do anything right and small companies are never wrong (and always useful), you can pretend all of this is not happening if it makes you feel better.

I will have to look more into what Chevron and Exxon are doing.

Also on my to-do list: Look at water utilities and insurance companies. It would be nice if there were fit women who found this sort of thing exciting.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each September from 2011 through 2017:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2017-09 $4796.80 $775.50 $562.76 $551.05
2016-09 $4260.70 $720.86 $505.47 $499.02
2015-09 $3744.49 $659.59 $443.06 $432.46
2014-09 $2993.02 $536.75 $353.04 $335.39
2013-09 $2374.05 $395.65 $293.78 $294.44
2012-09 $2425.78 $315.21 $283.66 $283.00
2011-09 $2121.78 $243.26 $256.81 $233.01

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for September, 2017:

  • AFLAC Inc: $48.07
  • American States Water Co: $29.79
  • Black Hills Corp: $17.01
  • Bemis Co Inc: $32.40
  • Vectren Corp: $26.28
  • Aqua America: $35.00
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $39.28
  • Honeywell International: $68.66
  • Sonoco Products Co: $53.38
  • Chevron: $27.77
  • Emerson Electric Co: $53.30
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $93.42
  • Johnson & Johnson: $88.91
  • 3M Co: $16.67
  • Walgreen Co: $23.92
  • Dover Corp: $11.40
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $22.95
  • Kellogg Company: $59.25
  • RLI Corp: $28.04

Image of Spell For Not Letting Ani’s Heart Create Opposition Against Him from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, available at Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use (it dates from 1550 BCE, so I assume it’s public domain). The image may not be relevant to the contents.