Archive for June 2018

Getting Back Into A Routine

Over the past year and a half I have fallen off the wagon (for lack of a better phrase) with regards to fitness, meditation, discipline and general self-improvement.

I track workouts and meditation on a spreadsheet that I started back in September of 2009. Throughout 2017 there are a lot of red boxes in the column for exercise. For some reason I cut back, but not intentionally. Around late October 2017 I also cut back on meditation. I was working through Claudia’s book on becoming an idea machine, and I stopped that too.

I don’t know why I started exercising less, but for meditation I tried using sound as an anchor. It went okay, but for some reason I stopped.

I did not get much done in December because I moved to another apartment in the complex. There was a leaky pipe they could not fix in my old apartment; other than that I was happy with things, so I asked them if there were any alternatives. Now I am on the second floor.

I started to get back into working out by doing squat thrusts on my balcony. I could not do as many, and I think my balcony is crooked. I do not have the luxury of doing it late at night on my balcony. I had toyed with the idea of finding an unused section of the parking lot early in the morning and working out there. But that would involve waking up a lot earlier, so that is not practical for me. Plus it would probably be really hard on my joints. There is a small gym here; frankly it’s not very good, but there is enough room to do some squat thrusts. I used it a couple of times.

The final time I tried it, I go in and turn on the lights. I heard music, which is odd because there is no sound system in there. I walk towards one of the cardio machines, and I see a small radio. Then I turned around, and there was a guy who was sitting next to the door. He asked me if I needed the lights on. I said I did if he was going to be in there. I tried a couple of times to ask him how long he was going to be (thinking I could just come back when he was done). I rephrased it, but I could not get a straight answer either time. I decided it was time to look into a gym.

I liked Lifetime Fitness, and I really liked the saleswoman from Sweden. She did not have much of an accent at all, but she pronounced the “R” sound in “Saturday” oddly, so I asked her where she was from. That club was $90/month. Planet Fitness did not have much to offer. 24 Hour Fitness was a decent price. The one closest to me has a pool, and when you walk in you get hit with a nasty chlorine smell. Other than that it is not too bad.

I got a free session with a trainer. At first I was not intending to buy the package, but towards the end he had me do some HIIT/functional fitness stuff. I thought to myself, “Why not see what he has to offer?” I can get myself back into a routine if I am not interested in what he shows me, and maybe he will show me something that I want to continue.

Well, it turns out, the only thing that interested me really is HIIT. Lifting is a bit boring to me (which I know sounds odd since I think nothing of doing sets of squat thrusts for 30 minutes). For a lot of the lifts, he wanted me to do a fast concentric contraction and a slow eccentric contraction.

Looking into HIIT brought me to the Jump Rope Dudes. My favorite video is the one with the woman from Australia, yeah. Frankly I wish all women spoke with Australian accents. In all seriousness, if a genie gave me three wishes, that would be one of them. It is taking longer than I thought for my body to adjust. I have found I can actually last longer when I count jumps than when I just try to last a set amount of time (generally 30 seconds; usually me feet need a rest at 20 when I go for time). I am also looking at squat jumps, or jump squats. I did some jumping lunges. They seems to exacerbate my inner thigh issues.

I have also used some kettlebells. Tim Ferriss put the kettlebell swing on the map  According to this page, “most women should start with a 35lb (16kg) or 44lb (20kg) kettlebell and most men should start with 44lb (20kg) or 53lb (24kg) kettlebell.” The gym I go to has some with standard freedom measurements, and some with communist metric measurements. Make up your mind kettlebell makers! Are you with us, or against us?

The gym closest to me has a track. I was thinking of trying sprinting. My last six months in Chicago, I lived in a house with a driveway out back. I did some sets of shuttle sprints up and down the driveway, and I liked how it affected me. I did not like doing it. Getting up to my top speed was harder than I thought. I have done shuttle runs a few times in the studio at the gym. I was hoping to do some sprinting on the indoor track, but just jogging on the track is hard on my knees. I thought the cushioning would help, but it does not. The odd thing is that shuttle runs in the studio are not a problem. Someone at work suggested I try Dr. Scholl’s inserts. He said they helped him.

Anyway, I have gotten pretty fat. Hopefully I will be able to do longer, more intense sets on the jump rope and become a stud that women desire. I will be in Florida in a few weeks for my nephew’s birthday, so unfortunately the next round of family pictures will feture me as a landwhale.

Why I stopped with the Idea Machine I am not too clear. Claudia Azula (James’ second ex-wife) did not handle their divorce as well as he did. She blogged that she was diagnosed as bi-polar and at least once thought of killing herself. Can a stressful life event like divorce trigger an underlying problem? Or is it all genetic? Anyway, lately she has been tweeting about ping-pong in New York City. What could be a clearer sign of contentment than making jokes about smacking people’s balls? I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I cannot articulate exactly why, but for some reason the fact that she had a hard time getting on with her life makes me doubt James’ methods. She followed the advice in his article. And he seems to have a lot of wack jobs on his podcast, like Dr Oz and Jordan Peterson, and he sends a lot of shady emails about getting rich trading penny stocks and Bitcoin. Now it seems like he is on a cannabis kick.

Still, I think there is something to the idea machine. In my other idea machine posts I linked to testimonials. I keep reading that mindset is more important than technical skills. Some people even push learning the humanities and Great Books to stay ahead of the curve. I like the idea of my mind being more agile. Plus, I realized I do not have to agree with everything he says or does. I don’t agree with my own family all the time. Take what you want and leave the rest.

If I try, I might start with making lists of 5 ideas. I know James says to go for ten, but since this is a new habit I would be trying to do two things at once. Developing consistency is important.

Back in January, I was a new meetup group, and the whole time was brainstorming about topics. I realized it might be a good idea to due “field reports” on idea lists in the wild. I could make idea lists about problems or issues, either in my life or in society in general. For the general problems, I could make two lists: Things I can do (if any), and things society can do. I think James sent an idea list to Amazon, and they flew him out there to speak. I could make lists about my ideal job, ideal house, ideal mate. Perhaps the ideal lists could be periodically repeated to see if there are any changes.

At one point, James suggested that you could list chapters in a potential book, or lists of things about or that have happened to a character in a possible novel. I have thought about a potential “Star Trek” show (not that I think it would ever get made). That could give some ideas.

Getting back into meditation has been a bit more difficult.

I started using sound as an anchor by listening to some videos on YouTube on a channel called Meditative Mind and a few other channels. Some worked out better than others, but the general result is that for some reason things got derailed. I kept having trouble staying awake and then my frequency dropped.

I started getting back into it after I was done moving. I tried going back to sitting on the floor, but I think it hurt my knees. At first I thought that increasing my exercise frequency was hurting my knees, so I rotating different exercises out, but nothing seemed to help. Then I realized that it might be my meditation posture, so I went back to the chair. Since then, my knees have been fine. I am still stretching so hopefully one day I can go back to sitting on the floor again.

One issue is that I kept trying to control my breathing. I think that I might have this preconception that I should do “Taoist” breathing while meditating (in through the nose, expanding the abdomen, long deep breaths, ideally 15 seconds or more). Now I do some deep, qigong breaths for a few minutes before I start and it seems to be helping.

Big Jim still likes the Swedish ladies.

 “Mount Sinai” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), housed at The Historical Museum of Crete, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On The North Korea Summit

So Trump is in Singapore to talk to Kim Jong Un. He acted like a jerk at the G7 meeting, and left the leaders of countries that have been our allies for decades so he can get his photo-op with a fellow dictator.

(Hasn’t it occurred to Trump’s supporters that there would have been less bad blood at G7 if he had showed up on time and not left early? All the people who claim to hate “snowflakes” and “political correctness” would probably get upset if someone overturned THEIR apple cart.)

Trump seems to display a “fixed” mindset. He says he is good with people, yet he made a bad impression at the G7 and acts like a toddler. He thinks he only hires the best people and is good at sizing people up, yet there has been a LOT of turnover on his staff. Why does a guy who loves to brag about how he knows so much about business and hiring the right people need a SECOND chief of staff to put his house in order? He thinks he is great at business, yet his casinos went bankrupt. How can you lose in an industry that inspired the phrase, “Never bet against the house”?

I don’t think the Kim Il Sung dynasty is stupid. And I think they might be more stable than people think. We have been hearing for years that the people are starving and the KIS dynasty was going to collapse any day now. We are starting the second decade of “any day now”. Perhaps the welfare of the average North Korean and the viability of the KIS regime are not as strongly correlated as people think. This is a government with few friends and little money, yet for decades they have been making progress on developing rockets and nuclear warheads, some of the most advanced technology known to man. These are not people to be underestimated. Or sized up by “feelings” in less than a minute.

I don’t think NK will give up their nukes. They have put a lot of time and effort into them. Their nukes are all they really have going for them. Saddam had no nukes, Gaddafi agreed to stop making them. Both of them are no longer with us. If I were Kim Jong Un, I would go for a third option: Keep the nukes. Nuclear weapons give a country prestige and respect. And they make you less vulnerable to invasion.

Agreeing to stop testing is not much of a concession, since the mountain that they use to test their weapons has collapsed (see here and here).

KJU has already stated he will not give up his nukes. I think he just wants a photo-op; to be seen as an equal and a peer to a US President. This is just speculation on my part, but I think he might not want or need anything else. Or honestly expect anything else. Trump just took a dump on the G7, he has complained about NAFTA, he did not pledge support for NATO, he backed out of the Paris climate accord, he is trying to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and he has flip-flopped on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I think KJU knows any promise out of Trump’s mouth will be null and void the minute the wind blowing through Trump’s empty head changes direction.

Even if something substantive between Trump and KJU comes out of this, so what? South Korea, Japan and China will have to deal with any literal or metaphorical fallout from NK more than the USA. What if they do not like any agreement Trump and KJU come to (assuming they do)? Plus, this is a guy who has ruined relations with Japan and the countries of NATO, countries the USA has gotten along with for decades. If Trump were such a great dealmaker, a skilled genius and as good with people as he thinks, he should be able to make new friends while keeping the old ones. I will be impressed at Trump’s finesse with dictators when he can talk to the Prime Minister of Australia for longer than 30 minutes without hanging up.

There was an article in Politico recenly about how the reality of Trump’s dealmaking skills is worse than his professed image. I am leery of guys who go on and on about how great they are at negotiating or sales or making deals. They are usually obtuse jerks. I knew a guy in Chicago like that who asked me to do something for him. About 30 times. For at least two dozen, he repeated the question verbatim less than a second after I said no. I really hate it when people disregard what I say. Being persistent is not the same as being obtuse. There is a certain type of moron who thinks that being a jerk makes them look tough. Do they think they are impressing people? That they inspire fear?

If someone thinks you are a jerk, then you are just a jerk. Not a jerk who is tough, not a jerk who is clever, not a jerk who is a wise master teaching life lessons. Just a jerk.

Trump has been doing some of this with NK. It’s on. It’s off. It’s on and let’s pretend I never said it’s off. I know some MBA jerks love that stuff, but to most people it makes you look insane and out of control. Would you take a job from someone who was on-again off-again like that? Would you date or marry someone like that? They think people will be intimidated or impressed by these antics, but they are too obtuse to see that they just turn people off.

I think a lot of countries will avoid dealing with Trump and the USA. Not because they are afraid of him, but just because they are tired of his stupid games.

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post with a quote from The Art of the Deal about not wanting to seem too desperate to make a deal. I think Trump is pretty desperate for a deal. He does not have his border wall, he could not get Obamacare repealed, and as Richard N. Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out, Trump cannot mess up the second summit in a row, lest he make it obvious that he is the problem.

Trump brags that he does not need to prepare (even though he does). I bet that the NK delegation has been studying Trump intently. I always got the impression that a godo strategy in negotiation is to keep your cards close to your vest. KJU is a lot better at that than Trump. NK is a black box, and maybe the sanctions are hurting a lot, but KJU seems like a methodical guy. Trump is like a toddler in a china shop (no pun intended).

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

A guy who brags that he never prepares and is oblivious to the effects he has on other people is going to sit across a table from a guy who has accomplished a task that the world has tried to prevent him from doing. Who do you think will come out ahead in this?

Big Jim does not like people who have no curiosity about themselves or the world.

Passage from The Art of War by Sun Tzu translated by Lionel Giles.

“Carnival of Mexican Life. Dictatorship” by Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (08 December 1886 -24 November 1957); image from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

2018-05 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for May, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $44.66. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $1321.55.

The income for May, 2017 was $531.68, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of May was $2346.62.

Once again, the only income came from bond funds. The stock ETFs only pay on “C” months. So far the twelve-month moving average is still doing okay. Still, I have moments where I wonder if I did the right thing.

Looking at the past payouts on Vanguard’s site, some of the international funds should have some big payouts soon. They might not pay out until July. I might also buy more shares in VYM in my rollover. I might go up to 1000 shares. That might work out to about 25 shares a year.

My employment situation is up in the air. I might be leaving my company in a few months. Obviously this has a downside of no more income. But I will have a lot of money to put into my rollover. And more time for meditation.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each May from 2011 through 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-05 $1321.55 $44.66 $398.51 $542.66
2017-05 $2346.62 $531.68 $553.90 $530.30
2016-05 $2059.52 $436.85 $479.79 $477.37
2015-05 $1803.11 $361.99 $411.92 $402.51
2014-05 $1411.19 $280.01 $304.77 $306.30
2013-05 $1141.24 $242.65 $260.91 $288.11
2012-05 $1268.97 $258.15 $257.13 $270.51
2011-05 $1114.84 $266.55 $233.03 $194.61

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for May, 2018:

Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $36.01
Vanguard Total International Bond: $8.65

Big Jim likes bond funds.

“The Valley of the Nervia” by Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926); image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.