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.

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Thoughts On Political Machines

In his testimony last week, Brett Kavanaugh went on about shadowy left-wing forces trying to take him down.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy“. A conspiracy implies secrecy, and frankly the right wing was never too quiet about their hatred of the Clintons. It was more of a vast right-wing machine or network.

There are the Koch Brothers, who fund many think tanks and advocacy groups, including the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Institute and ALEC. There is Richard Mellon Scaife, who, like the Kochs, got his start as a hardscrabble newborn in a rich family. One of the largest banks in the country is The Bank of New York Mellon; he is part of the Mellon family. (Seriously, what is it with conservatives who are born into wealthy families, and then turn around and lecture the rest of the world about self-reliance?) And there is Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. (She has a very large forehead; I guess her head needs to be bigger to contain all the resentment she feels for having a wealthy father.)

Brett Kavanaugh himself spent a large part of his career as a right-wing operative. He worked with Ken Starr. He was part of the Florida mis-count. He drafted many of George W Bush’s signing statements (also see here). Like debt, signing statements are one of those things conservatives are only bothered about when a Democrat does them.

I think that Kavanaugh is committing a fallacy that a lot of conservatives commit: Because there is a right-wing machine, there MUST be a left-wing machine; because conservatives are willing to lie to get power, liberals MUST be doing the same thing. Kind of like how many drunks like Kavanaugh think that because they can’t function without a lot of booze that everybody else must need it as much as they do.

A lot of conservatives honestly think that nobody ever really disagrees with them. Anybody expressing a contrary view must be paid off. George Soros seems to be a favorite. It was funny after all the marches last year that a lot of people were joking that they never got their check.

Kavanaugh said the allegations against him are all lies and are motivated by anger about the 2016 election. It’s funny how there were no allegations about Neil Gorsuch. I guess George Soros was on vacation that month. If there was any nomination that people would go to any lengths to stop, it would be Gorsuch’s. His seat was stolen from Merrick Garland. You could say it was stolen from all the people who voted for Obama. Some people vote for President because of the judicial branch.

So there is no left-wing machine to match the one on the right. But what if there were? They spend billions to spread their lies, they gerrymander, they accept help from the Russians; all that effort, yet they still don’t get the percentage of votes commensurate with the disparity in funding. Trump won by 85,000 votes in about three states.

Maybe we the people should build a left-wing machine. I think we would crush them.


Postscript:
Kavanaugh complained that the Ford charges were sprung on him at the last minute. Kavanaugh was nominated by a president who did not receive a majority vote, but acts like he is god-emperor. Most people did not vote for Trump. Most people do not like him. Most people do not want him to be president. Kavanaugh was sprung on us.

Big Jim doesn’t like whiners who think they are big tough guys.

 “Two angels and two devils” by Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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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.

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2018-09 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for September, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $506.44. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $3476.52.

The income for September, 2017 was $775.50, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of September was $4796.80.

I did not buy the iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF. I think that because it is a commodities fund, I have to sign my life away before my broker will let me buy it. I would like to talk to someone at my broker about it, but their office hours are while I am at work.

Only a few of my non-bond ETFs paid out this month. Most of them are spilling over into next month. That should help my averages.

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 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-09 $3476.52 $506.44 $430.49 $518.06
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, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $38.23
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $10.35
  • RLI Corp: $30.67
  • Vanguard REIT ETF: $236.59
  • Vanguard Utilities ETF: $190.60

Big Jim’s path to riches sometimes feels very slow.

Le chat angora”  by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (4 April 1732 – 22 August 1806) , assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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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.

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“Both Sides” On Steroids

I know Driftglass has the market cornered on pointing out the “both sides” nonsense. But Tyler Cowen has a column on Bloomberg that takes it to the next level.

The title is “Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It“. The subtitle is “Global warming will be expensive, and humanity’s irrational reaction may make it even more so”.

Humanity has not had an irrational reaction to climate change. Conservatives have manipulated people, distorted the debate, and have been standing in the way of action for decades. James Hansen testified in front of Congress about climate change in 1988. That means that all the free-marketeers who don’t want the government telling them what to do have had three decades to come up with solutions. To this day, conservatives like to make jokes about Al Gore, a guy who has not been in office since January, 2001, more than 17 years ago.

He talks about Brexit, which was brought to us by conservatives. They lied about how easy it would be, and they have been mucking up the negotiations since the vote. He writes, “It would have been better if the British had responded to their country’s problems in a less extreme way, or simply learned to live with the problems they had.” No, it would have been better if conservatives did not lie as easy as they breathe. “The British” do not all want Brexit. Even many who voted to leave now realize they were lied to and that it will be a disaster.

He mentions Trump, and then goes on to write about how our discourse “has become less rational and technocratic”, and “the harsh, non-sympathetic tone of the debate will further corrode American politics”.

Then he wraps up complaining about how much it will cost to do something about climate change. It would cost less if there was not a network of groups devoted to denying climate change and lying to people about the strength of the scientific consensus. Those groups are funded by conservatives, the Koch Brothers in particular.

One of the organizations funded by the Koch Brothers in the Mercatus Center, a think tank at George Mason University run by Tyler Cowen. They claim that they do not let their funding dictate their findings, but they did agree the Koch organization have a say in academic appointments at George Mason University. Mercatus likes to go back and forth about whether or not they are part of George Mason University depending on what they want. When they want some prestige, they are part of GMU, which is a public university. But if you file a state freedom of information request, then they are not.

Their annual reports simply list who is in charge, and give no information on who funds them.

This is “both sides” in steroids. It’s not the GOP that is causing problems; it’s “we”, “the world”. I guess Upton Sinclair was right: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary and donations from his inherited-wealth benefactors depend upon his not understanding it.

That version of the quote is The Tyler Cowen Special Edition.

Big Jim knows that while both sides spin, one side is far worse than the other.

“Chaos” by Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Idea For a Science Podcast

Preface: I only have time to go over a few podcasts, so it is possible that what I am suggesting already exists.

I think there should be a science podcast that focuses on one study a small number of related experiments/papers/studies to help teach people more about the scientific method.

There are plenty of podcasts that run through a bunch of unrelated studies, talking about recent discoveries. I think this is important, but I think that someone should go into what underlies all of this. Someone should talk about the scientific process and way of thinking.

Many scientists talk about how science is not just a collection of facts, but a method, a process, a viewpoint, a way of thinking. Many people are ignorant about both the facts and the principles. Many scientists touch upon these ideas, but only tangentially. One of the reasons this needs to be addressed is that today science is misunderstood, misrepresented and under attack.

In junior high school, I was told the basic steps are: Observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion.

Some podcasts do talk about some of the mechanics of science: the process of getting a degree, being a postdoc, getting funding.

I am proposing talking more about the scientific method and scientific thinking. One way would be to focus on one paper, or one study, talking to just the professors that were involved. (I know some physics papers can have a few hundred credited authors, so just a few will have to suffice.) Why did they do that experiment? Did they get the result they wanted? Did the experiment have to be halted? Was the paper accepted or rejected? How did they gather the data?

Perhaps a guest could be on to talk about a sequence of experiments they performed. Experiment A answered Question A, but that raised Question B, and answering that led to Question C, etc, etc.

The podcast could use each experiment to discuss themes such as: What makes an experiment a good experiment? What leads to success or failure? Why are some studies later retracted? Why do some stand the test of time?

We keep hearing that we need to get more young people interested in STEM and STEM careers, especially women and minorities. Talking about experiments in detail might give people a better idea of what it means to do science and what it means to be a scientist. When a lot of people think about what a scientist does, they think of someone in a lab wearing a white coat. A lot of scientists actually do work in labs and wear white coats (I think chemists and some biologists), but a lot do work in other settings (some biologists, geologists, climate scientists). And sometimes they are not very glamorous. There was a scientist on “Science Friday” who studied bats (I think it was Laura Kloepper; check her Twitter feed) and she said that when she goes into caves, she needs to wear a body suit because there are bats and bugs flying through the air and there are bugs and bat guano on the ground, and it’s loud, and you get hot in the suit. It does not sound like fun. There are many scientists on Antarctica. While Antarctica has a stark, austere beauty in photos, from what I have heard just being takes a lot out of you.

One part that could be covered is: what is “peer review”? (This might fit better with a paper that did not get published.) Once there was a guest on Science Friday who had done some peer reviews for a scientific journal. The first time he was given a paper to review, he asked the editor how to do a peer review, and the editor said that he didn’t know and the guest should just do a review. There are articles about it (see here and here),  so maybe that one guy just had a bad experience.

I prefer when science podcasts talk about the natural sciences. I am never interested in stories about social media, and while online privacy is important, I think that should be on a security podcast and not a science podcast.

Some people might say these things are covered by skeptic podcasts. I think the skeptical movement has not done a good job of explaining the concept of skepticism. Many people conflate it with cynicism. Granted, since the skeptical movement is using the term correctly, I do not have an answer for this.

And there are a lot of people who misuse the word “skeptic” intentionally, like the so-called “climate change skeptics“. They are not skeptics, they are deniers. The scientific consensus has only gotten stronger over time. The climate change deniers are ignoring or distorting the evidence, which is the opposite of skepticism. Some are against it because most of the solutions involve government involvement. Their worldview cannot offer a solution to a problem, so instead of admitting it, they pretend there is no problem. Given that scientists have been warning about climate change for years, there has been plenty of time for the private sector to come up with a solution.

One thing the climate change deniers have in common with the anti-evolution crowd is that they have misled the general public about what a “controversy” is in science. A scientific controversy is when scientists have a disagreement amongst themselves; I think the viability of string theory would count as a scientific controversy. If a scientific finding contradicts your religion, your ideology or your business model, it is not a scientific controversy. The problem is that you don’t like what reality is telling us.

Another issue is that the skeptical movement encompasses science, it can also include other topics, like religion, vaccination, alternative medicine, paranormal, New Age, the Law of Attraction, homeopathy, a large percentage of the guests on Oprah.

On the other hand, people generally have a positive attitude towards science. (At least until it tells them something they do not like.)

So I am suggesting looking at science at the micro level (a single paper, study or experiment, or a small, related group of experiments) to explain science at a macro level; to help explain the scientific method and the steps of the scientific process.

Big Jim knows if society was more rational, we could accomplish big things.

“Maternity” by Joan Miro (20 April 1893 – 25 December 1983), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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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.

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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.

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Quotes About Idea Lists

Here are some miscellaneous quotes about Idea Lists from a few posts and comments on James Altucher’s site. None of this is original to me; I am simply gathering it in one place for my convenience.

From The Idea Matrix – What Changed Everyone’s Life After “Choose Yourself”:
Comment from James (responding to someone else) about ideal lists:
I will add one more thing to your list, and you even refer to it above, but it’s “Come up with Ideas for Others” , even if you don’t know them. Even if you never share them. It’s good practice. Antoher thing is: “10 things you’ve learned from XYZ” where XYZ could be another person, a book, or an event in your life. Because if you can find 10 things you learned from that person then chances are at least one is a good thing.

From How To Become An Idea Machine: Write down ten ideas. About anything. It doesn’t matter if they are business ideas, book ideas, ideas for surprising your spouse in bed, ideas for what you should do if you are arrested for shoplifting, ideas for how to make a better tennis racquet, anything you want. The key is that it has to be ten or more.
One possibility right now is to list ten ideas that are “too big for me” and what the next steps might be.

Check out Ideas For Ten Ideas A Day.

From The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine: IDEA SEX. Combine two ideas to come up with a better idea. Don’t forget that idea evolution works much faster than human evolution. You will ALWAYS come up with better ideas after generations of idea sex. This is the DNA of all idea generation.
OLD TO NEW: 10 old ideas I can make new. (Dorothy, Wall Street, etc). Similar to idea sex.
10 ridiculous things I would invent (the smart toilet, etc).
10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
10 business ideas for Google / Amazon / Twitter / you
10 people I can send ideas to
10 podcast ideas I can do. Or videos I can shoot. (“Lunch with James”, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat).
10 industries I can remove the middleman.
10 Things I Disagree With that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors). Or, for any one of those ideas. 10 ideas why!
10 ways to make old posts of mine and make books out of them
10 ways I can surprise Claudia. (Actually, more like 100 ways. That’s hard work!)
10 items I can put on my “10 list ideas I usually write” list
10 people I want to be friends with and I figure out what the next steps are to contact them (Azaelia Banks, I’m coming after you! Larry Page better watch out also.)
10 things I learned yesterday.
10 things I can do differently today. Right down my entire routine from beginning to end as detailed as possible and change one thing and make it better.
10 chapters for my next book
10 ways I can save time. For instance, don’t watch TV, drink, have stupid business calls, don’t play chess during the day, don’t have dinner (I definitely will not starve), don’t go into the city to meet one person for coffee, don’t waste time being angry at that person who did X, Y, and Z to you, and so on.
10 Things I Learned from X. Where X is someone I’ve spoke to recently or read a book by recently. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
Random: 10 Things Women Totally Don’t Know About Men. (that turned into a list of 100 and Claudia said to me, “uhhh, I don’t think you should publish this”).
Today’s list: 10 More Alternative to College I can Add to my book: “40 Alternatives to College”.
10 Things I’m Interested in Getting Better At (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one).
10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now. (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas).
A problem I have and ten ways I might try and solve it. This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my super powers.
10 ways I can release more endorphins into my body
10 ways I can help people build their idea machine
10 Ways I can turn my next book into a webinar for Oprah
10 things I can talk about in my next talk on May 3
SCAMPER is a mnemonic that stands for:
Substitute.
Combine.
Adapt.
Modify.
Put to another use.
Eliminate.
Reverse.

Big Jim has some big ideas to change the world.

Obłok by Ferdynand Ruszczyc (1870-1936), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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