Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category.

Notes On Idea Lists

I have been doing the idea list again, since about May. I really do not feel any different, or that my life is about to change.

Overall, it has been going well, but I have been losing some momentum in the past couple of weeks. Coming up with topics is still pretty hard. I kind of feel I am at the same place I was the last two times I tried it, it just took me longer to get here.

The main issue is topics for the idea list. JA never mentions that is the hardest part. In one post he does give tips (reading a lot, see here) and I have to admit I have not followed all of them.

Some of the idea lists that I come up with are kind of dumb, like I’m a bad comedy writer. But sometimes when I get to number 9 I come up with something interesting. (And when I do, I agonize over whether or not I can quit, or if I should do a tenth).

I make idea lists about why to do something, and sometimes why not to do something. Sometimes coming with reasons not to do something might be a good way to anticipate counterarguments to a suggestion at work, or a way to anticipate obstacles.
Sometimes I will see someone doing something, or who just looks interesting, or something that irritates me, and I will come up with ten or so ideas about that person’s history, or why they are doing whatever they are doing.

Sometimes I will combine things. Or I will get words from a passphrase generator, and come up with how they are related. That is not always very fruitful.

I try to keep a list of possible topics. I try to work on it once a week. Sometimes a possible topic will occur to me and I will write it down. It may be changing how I observe things, but I don’t feel like my list is on the cusp of a big change.

A couple of months back, I was thinking about giving up. I went to Whataburger for lunch, and I saw a car that had been painted over several times. In the layer under the top, someone spray-painted “Elvis” several times all over the car. The top layer was gold. And there was a mannequin in the backseat. I thought, “I can use this.”

If I lived in Florida, I could just follow Florida Man.

I know James wrote that his idea lists have gotten him invites to speak from companies, but I have found that sometimes people do not want suggestions. People do not want things to change. I work on a large Java app for a state government. The base application is about ten years old. Java has changed a lot in ten years. It is less verbose and less painful to work with. At least, that is what I have heard. Would re-writing the app be a pain? Yes, but then it is a pain to use. What does this have to do with idea list? Management is not open to the best solution (and I am not the only one who thinks starting over might be the best solution). But writing more, smaller apps, tools, and utilities to manage the main application they are okay with. The problem is this adds more complexity. They are okay with adding more apps and processes to what we do than actually change what we are doing. The sunk cost fallacy is a stronger force than compound interest.

While it is frustrating, on another level I can understand it. People generally do not like someone dropping out of the sky and giving unsolicited advice. It makes you look like a jerk, not an enlightened person.

Maybe I should spend more time on actual issues in my life. Unless that leads to frustration.

I took a creative writing course when I was at WIU. She once mentioned that in one of her classes, she had to make links between different topics in her life. If she had learned something in a physics class, and she was in love with “someone” (her word, not mine), she had to think of a way they related to one another.

Another issue is that I think in order to have new ideas, you need to expose yourself to new things. But I want more control over my life, and the way I see it, that means more discipline, more routine.

Big Jim’s idea machine might be running out of steam.

Painting of the Nativity by Guido of Siena (13th Century), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Startups And Cisco

I know a couple of guys at Cisco who were brought in as part of an acquisition. They are members of a couple of meetups I attend. Their ranting about corporate culture sparked some thoughts about corporations and startups. I think there are a lot of things about the world that are the result of choices that were made before us, and not immutable laws of nature. Innovation can only happen in startups and corporations must be inflexible behemoths are two of those ideas.

This made me think of an article on Wolf Street: Cisco Buys 45th Company in 5 Years, Revenues Still Stagnate.  The title gives the basic idea of the article. From 2012 to 2017, Cisco bought 45 companies. Cisco has not disclosed the prices for all of those acquisitions. For 19 of them, it spent $18.2 billion.

We do not have an alternative reality to compare to ours. Perhaps the acquisitions are the only thing that prevented Cisco’s revenue from declining. Nevertheless, here is a table with revenue and income from 2010 to 2019 (in millions):

FY Revenue Net Income
2019 51,904 11,621
2018 49,330 110
2017 48,005 9,609
2016 49,247 10,739
2015 49,161 8,981
2014 47,142 7,853
2013 48,607 9,983
2012 46,061 8,041
2011 43,218 6,490
2010 40,040 7,767

I don’t know why income took a dive in 2018. It has gone up over the decade. But as the Wolf man says, it does not look like they got a great rate of return on their investments in acquisitions. Cisco spent billions on startups, and really has nothing to show for it.

Why not just hire people to expand? It might have cost less.

In my understanding of the VC world, not every investment makes a profit. An exit must cover the cost of the failed startups as well as cost of successful startups, in addition to a profit. And a new car or boat for the jackass VCs. Maybe the cost of the failed companies is not a line item in an acquisition agreement or IPO prospectus, but those costs are still embedded in an exit.

Instead of a big corporation acquiring one profitable startup from a VC that also has to make up for nine failed startups, why can’t big corporations start a dozen or so project teams, and shift people into the ones that are successful? When a corporation acquires a startup or a startup has an IPO, a lot of the upside has already happened. Why not keep some for yourself?

I think that like needing a car outside of a big city in the USA (and even in some big cities), a lot of people think that this is some immutable law of nature. I think this is the result of many, many choices, even some that were made for us that we do not know about. Maybe changing it would be next to impossible. Maybe Texas will never get mass transit. (Because nothing says “freedom!!” like spending an hour every day going 10 MPH when the speed limit is 60.) Just because things are this way does not mean things have to be this way. I think this is an example of the Is-ought fallacy.

My Meetup acquaintance have said things like, “Cisco would not have let us do this in language X or with library Y if the project started there.” If that were true, then that would be a choice. There is no reason that an internal team cannot try something in a new programming language. There might be people in the company who would like to try new technology. If a corporation is willing to buy a team that uses a new language, they should be willing to let internal teams have the same freedom.

Except Scala. It really is vile.

Some big corporations used to have research labs: PARC is still a part of Xerox. It may not be much now, but Xerox was one of the biggest companies in the world. (Carl Icahn got a hold of Xerox, so things are not going too well.)  Bell Labs is now part of Nokia. A lot of groundbreaking technology came out of those organizations. Real innovation, not the bogus innovation we get from Silicon Valley today, like Uber (combining taxis, phones and indentured servitude) or WeWork (“We are the middleman, and do NOT pass the saving on to you, because frankly we are losing money”). All Silicon Valley has given us in the past decade is advertising, mass surveillance, and more ways of losing money.

And who pushes the line that innovation can only come from startups and VCs? People in the startup/VC ecosystem. Ecosystem and “echo chamber” are synonymous here.

Big Jim wants us to make great things again.

Image  from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting of the Annunciation by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255–1260 – c. 1318–1319), aka “The Duce”. Finally, this site takes a Duce.

Thoughts On Recent Events

Here are a few thoughts about some recent political events.

First off, James Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense.

He has been lauded as the “adult in the room.” I think this is bad. There are a few issues with Mattis. Just as there were with John McCain, and George HW Bush. We need to stop letting people off the hook (even for minor infractions) just because they are not as bad as Donald Trump or anyone else in his orbit.

For one thing, I do not think he should have been defense secretary. He has not been out of the military long enough . If civilian control of the military is that important, there should not be any waivers. Granted, nobody else wanted the job. And he is not as crazy as John Bolton. But being more sane that Bolton is like being younger than dirt: That is a broad range.

At least Mattis is not a total tool like John Kelly. He lied about a speech given by representative Frederica Wilson, even after a video surfaced proving she was right and he was wrong. Nothing says you are part of a cult like doubling down on a lie even when the evidence is there for all to see. I don’t think Mattis looks down upon people who were never in the military, like Kelly seems to, or spout nonsense like, “In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and -women do.” Does John Kelly have any idea who he was working for? Has anyone in the Trump family ever cared about anyone but themselves? And if Kelly took not just one, but two jobs from Trump, then what does that say about him and his feelings about service? Enjoy your retirement in Virginia, jackass. But again, not getting sucked into Neo-Confederate BS is a low bar to clear.

Mattis was involved in Theranos, both during his time in the military, and was on the board afterwards. So he is a bit swampy.  And he seems too eager to go after Iran, even though a lot of Saudis have done some shady things in the US and gotten help from the Saudi government getting out on several occasions and they are spreading Wahhabism through out the Middle East. And let’s not forget our good friend Mohammad Bone Saw.

Working for Trump has been a black mark for everyone else who has done it. Why should Mattis get a pass? He is not some 18-year old out of boot camp who probably only knows the chain of command a few levels up from his sergeant. When you are offered a Cabinet-level position, you know who is offering it to you.

His resignation letter contrasted the US to Russia and China. Did he just realize that he is working for the new POTUS? (These days, “POTUS” does not mean “President of the United States”, but “Putin’s Operative in the United States.) Trump bad mouths Democrats, half of his constituents, many foreign leaders, but gives dictators a pass. Trump has a presumption of guilt for most Americans, and a presumption of innocence for foreign authoritarians. I don’t know what those geniuses at the Hoover Institute talk about all day, but roughly 65,853,514 people could have told him how this was going to work out.

The Trump administration is a disaster. He lost the popular vote, but acts like he is god-emperor. Let’s not use Mattis or anyone else as a contrast. Let’s not let people off the hook for their own misdeeds simply because they are not the worse person in the world (that would be Donald Trump). The President should not need an adult in the room. The room should be full of adults. Seriously, Mr Smarty Pants General, what did you think was going to happen?

In other news, Elizabeth Warren has started an exploratory committee to run for President in 2020 (the old kind of POTUS, not the Russian kind we have now). And, predictable, Trump called her “Pocahontas”. Again. For a guy who is supposed to be soooo smart, he doesn’t display much capacity for thought.

Elizabeth Warren thought she was part Native American because her grandmother told her she was. When you grow up in Oklahoma, and your grandmother tells you that you are part Native American, that is a good reason for thinking you are Native American. DNA was first discovered in 1953. Elizabeth Warren was born in 1949. So all these conservative wack-jobs insisting she take a DNA test are a bit unfair. DNA was not a household term when Elizabeth Warren was growing up. Heck, her grandmother was probably born in the 1800s. Using DNA in court is a recent thing. To expect Elizabeth Warren’s grandmother to have known things about DNA then that we know now is just sloppy thinking. Pro tip: When you challenge someone for evidence, and the evidence gives you an answer you do not like, admit you were wrong. Don’t reject the test as fake like the MAGA crowd did. Just admit you don’t like her and leave it at that. And seriously, is that all you got?

Interesting fact: The current Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation is only about 3% Cherokee.

And finally, there is the shutdown. The Trump Shutdown. Let’s stop blaming both sides. This is the Trump Shutdown. Make America grind to a halt.

He had a GOP House and a GOP Senate for two years to get this wall started. If it such an important campaign promise to his base, why did he wait until he knew he was going to get a Democratic House that would not give him everything that he wants? He made these threats while the GOP still had the House. Why wait? They had no problem getting a bunch of corporate judges in, or tax cuts for the wealthy that do not do anything for anybody else. I guess the wall is just like repealing the ACA: They can’t really do it because then they can’t use it to score points with voters.

I have read a few articles that some conservatives are hoping to use this to permanently shrink the government. If so, then why was this not mentioned during the campaign? I do not think Trump started this shutdown with any long-term plan. People may not like the idea, but I think the government is a bigger part of our lives than people think, and before too long, this shutdown will start to hurt a lot of people. The feds are involved in things like air traffic control and food inspection. I didn’t sign up to spend every day putting my life in the hands of fate and acting like the past 5,000 years never happened. A lot of economic data comes from the Department of Commerce, which is currently shut down. I think big business is going to want to see all that data keep coming in. IPOs are on hold. I wonder if dividends will still come through since the SEC is shut down.

Another thing that the federal government funds is scientific research. So while China is growing plants on the far side of the moon, our government is run by a carnival barker who kills everything he touches. I think one of the Founding Fathers said the USA was more likely to be destroyed from within that from without. That is what we are seeing.

Big Jim is starting to think that some people actually want to be taken advantage of.

“The Immaculate Conception”, one of many by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) at the El Paso Museum of Art; assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Dogs In Stores

I am adding an item to my list of “Signs That Someone is an Asshole“: Bringing a dog into a store.

I have been seeing more people bringing dogs into stores and even restaurants. I always thought that was a violation of health codes. I have blogged about this before. Airlines are cracking down on “emotional support animals“.

Most of the times that I have seen people bring dogs into businesses, they have been women. Usually low class women. Low class, high crass and total trash. Sometimes they are older women who wear too much makeup, tight pants that might have looked okay on them decades ago, or leopard print. Sometimes all three. Call it the trash-fecta.

If they are younger, usually they are fat, with blue hair and tattoos. Three bad things that do not add up to a good thing.

I don’t think any of these people are actually suffering from PTSD. Like I wrote before, some people are allergic to dogs. If you really cannot leave home without your dog, solve your problems on your own. Or stay home.

Big Jim is against class discrimination, unless you act like trash, or put people at risk.

“Female Nude with a Dog (Portrait of Leotine Renaude)” by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) , at Musee d’Orsay, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Organizations I Could Donate To

I realized I should probably start supporting some of the free stuff that I use. So here is a list of organizations that I will start donating some money to. I might do one of these a month.

  1. AdoptOpenJDK
  2. CFI Austin
  3. Freedom From Religion Foundation
  4. Maraposa Sangha
  5. Poetry In Translation
  6. RationalWiki
  7. Science Friday
  8. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  9. Wikipedia

Big Jim like helping others who help others.

“The Adoration of the Shepherds” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use. According to Wikimedia, there are other paintings by El Greco about this topic.

Some Prompted Writing

Recently I went to a Meetup group called Just This: Zen Writing. It took place at the Austin Zen Center.

There was a few minutes of meditation, then there was a prompt, then we all wrote something based on the prompt, then we took turns reading out loud what we wrote and commenting on each others’ writing.

The prompt was from the Diamond Sutra:

All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;
Like drops of dew, or like flashes of lightning;
Thusly should they be contemplated.

The leader played a few minutes of some monks chanting the Diamond Sutra.

One thing I found interesting is that a few people wrote quite a bit, but a couple of people only wrote a few sentences.

Here is what I wrote:

Chanting, marching, motion.

Driving. Highways. Night. Sunrise.

Things are more fleeting for me that they really are. I speed by, they remain in place. Someone may see me speed by in a second. We exist only for a second to each other. The motionless destination gets closer, yet too slow for me.

Mountains, rivers, oceans sometimes visible for a few seconds before obscured by trees and distance, or the setting of the sun. Horses and trains in Alabama are replaced by horses and trains in Illinois. Georgia pines blend into Arkansas pines. Trucks and truck stops, unique yet interchangeable across state lines and times of day.

Machines, cars, tractors arise and pass away as do deer, horses and hills. Crossing Maryland for 12 minutes, crossing Tennessee for eight hours. Engines drone as sun shines and rain falls. People live and die, birds land and rise. North, south, east, west. Job, school, family, wandering, reunion, escape, new life. Everything arises in the horizon in front of me and passes away in the horizon behind. And to them you are someone roaring by to be seen same time next year, or never again.

Big Jim prefers Theravadan suttas, but he went with the program.

Dame Autumn has a mournful face” by John Atkinson Grimshaw (6 September 1836 – 13 October 1893),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Photographing The Ladies

I don’t seem to get anywhere with women, but sometimes I have fantasized about photographing women.

It would probably be a great way to meet women and see lots of naked women. On the other hand, it would also be very expensive. I would need an actual camera, and a studio, and some lights.

When I was living in Chicago, I knew a guy who did a lot of photography, including women. A lot of the women were models who were glad he charged very little money. He may even have done it for free. Some of the women were a bit on the skanky side in my opinion. I do not find tattoos attractive at all. From what I could tell, his wife did not seem to mind him photographing all these other women.

He would also photograph Renaissance fairs and air shows. I do not know if he went to any air shows in Illinois, but he did go to a few in Wisconsin. Maybe he was at the Janesville Warbird Weekend (also see here). People really seem to like WWII aircraft. Is it because it was the last war we had no doubts about?

Instead of only taking pictures of women standing around, I would need to give them something to do. Using the famous “idea list” technique, here are a few possibilities:

  • Walking on a treadmill
  • Cleaning
  • Hanging clothes on a clothesline
  • Folding clothes (ironic, I know)
  • Changing a light bulb over and over and over again
  • Rearranging books on a shelf
  • Cleaning and shooting guns
  • Jumping rope
  • Yoga
  • Painting (art or painting a wall)
  • Cooking
  • Stuffing envelopes
  • Trying on different hats and boots
  • Writing on a white board
  • Cutting cake slices
  • Cleaning a glass door
  • Practicing with a sword
  • Adjusting her hair

Yes, a lot of these are “domestic” tasks. But I thought it would be nice to have some more variety that just a woman bending over while working on a spreadsheet.

Big Jim hates alcohol and loves women. He is the opposite of Brett Kavanaugh.

Eve” by Pantaleon Szyndler (26 July 1846, – 31 January 1905),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Things You Never Hear

A list of things you never hear, with a few I wish I did hear.

  1. Daddy didn’t mean those harsh things he said. That was the meditation talking.
  2. I only wrapped my car around the tree because I was concentrating on my driving.
  3. I only had sex with that person because I was aware of what I was doing.
  4. I only lost my job because I was following the Five Precepts.
  5. My wife left me due to my skillfulness.
  6. I got into that fight due to right speech.
  7. I heard about this sangha with a lot of hot women. (I do wish this was more common.)
  8. I want a man who is serious about meditation. (I wish more women felt this way.)
  9. I am going to become an alcoholic because Buddhism ruined my life.
  10. I want a guy who meditates and wants lots of sex. (Again, I wish more women felt this way.)

Big Jim wishes more women were interested in meditation than alcohol.

 “Welcoming Descent of Amida Buddha” at the Metropolitan Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Geoengineering

I listen to a lot of podcasts that have talked about geoengineering, or climate engineering.

It has been mentioned on Radio Ecoshock, Quirks and Quarks, Sea Change Radio, Science Friday, and probably a few others.

I think geoengineering is either not going to work as well as we need it to, or is a bad idea. We should focus on emitting less carbon.

Geoengineering strategies fall into two categories: solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal.

I think the carbon dioxide removal methods are good ideas, but they are not as advanced as a lot of people think, and will probably not be enough to save us. We would have to plant a LOT of trees to make up for our emissions.

I think solar radiation management is a really bad idea. Putting chemicals in the atmosphere is what got us to this point in the first place. Maybe SRM should be called “counter-geoengineering” since climate change itself is the result of geoengineering. Granted, carbon emissions have allowed us to have nice things, but if nothing changes it will be the end of us. Not the end of the planet, not the end of life on earth, just the end of us. Or at least the end of most of us.

But instead of putting a second set of chemicals into the atmosphere to counteract the first set of chemicals we put into the atmosphere, let’s just put less of the first set in.

Big Jim wants to make the world a better place.

“Landscape Under A Stormy Sky” by Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29, 1890), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

When The Pushing Is A Problem

Here is an idea list that I had.

A few days ago I was in the bathroom/restroom at work. I could hear someone grunting in the next stall while doing their business. I guess whatever they were pushing out was pushing back.

As I am a man of action, when I force it out, it comes out. No grunting, no struggling, no pushing back, no questions asked.

What made me really uncomfortable is that I could recognize who it was. I thought, “I really do not need to know this about you.”

So when it was time to do the daily idea list, I thought about what I should do.

  • Ask them to confess their sins
  • Play porn on my phone to compensate
  • Threaten to record and blackmail
  • Record it so if I hear them again in the future, I can hear it in stereo
  • Get all drill sergeant on their ass
  • Support them, talk them through it, tell them that together we will get through this
  • Grunt in support, or pretend you are grunting in code
  • Or make it a competition
  • When you see them later, look them in the eye and say: “I know what you did last summer”
  • Start preaching: Can I get an amen from somebody!

Big Jim is always there when you need him.

Ocean Greyness” by Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956), assumed allowed under Fair Use.