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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Buddhism from non-Buddhists

This page will collect quotes that I come across that (in my opinion) express thoughts related to Buddhism by people or authors that I think are/were not Buddhist.

This page will be updated on an irregular basis as I encounter more quotes.

She has an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.

– The Keeper, Star Trek: The Cage, after restoring Vina’s beauty (as well as creating an illusory Christopher Pike to keep her company)

 

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim…
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

– lines from Rudyard Kipling’s If

 

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.

― Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

 

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone

– Blaise Pascal

 

Too many people dream of places they’ll never go, wish for things they’ll never have, instead of paying adequate attention to their real lives.

– Odo, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “If Wishes Were Horses”

 

Big Jim wants all people to be enlightened.

Standing Bodhisattva Maitreya (Buddha of the Future), ca. 3rd–4th century Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara) at the Metropolitan Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-08 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for August, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $48.14. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $2970.08.

The income for August, 2017 was $581.69, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of August was $4021.30.

There is not much to report. The only funds that paid out were the bond funds. I did go through the prospectus for the iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF. I have not pulled the trigger yet, but I think I will buy some shares.

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

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-08 $2970.08 $48.14 $549.51 $540.48
2017-08 $4021.30 $581.69 $558.23 $546.50
2016-08 $3539.84 $522.20 $493.44 $493.92
2015-08 $3084.90 $406.45 $427.26 $422.22
2014-08 $2456.27 $323.94 $348.41 $323.64
2013-08 $1978.40 $305.11 $279.05 $287.74
2012-08 $2110.57 $316.04 $280.53 $277.00
2011-08 $1878.52 $322.35 $254.56 $225.45

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

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $37.98
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $10.16

Big Jim likes bond funds.

“The Archangel, study for the Grounding of Faith” by Γύζης Νικόλαος (Nikolaos Gyzis) (1842 -1901), on exhibit at the National Gallery in Athens, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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With Each and Every Breath

I recently read a book that is on the recommended reading list of the StreamEntry sub-reddit: Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s With Each and Every Breath. I thought it had some good things to say about meditation and is a good guide.

There are a lot of references to “breath energy” and many calls to “follow the energy”. That sounds a bit like woo to me.

It has a lot of good tips on dealing with problems you can encounter in meditation.

One tip that helped me is that when your mind wanders, just ask yourself if continuing to think about something other than your breath is helpful. The word he uses is “skillful”. I have used this tip to deal with other problems. A couple of issues that I have had are trying to control the breath (which sometimes leads to me being out of breath or getting dizzy), and falling asleep. I tell myself to “focus on observing the natural, awakening breath.” Over the past couple of months, it has helped quite a bit.

A few other tips to deal with drowsiness are: to change the meditation object (such as going to a mantra, or focusing on death), to change the length of the breath, to change the posture, to open your eyes for a few seconds, even to stand up. He also recommends walking meditation, but I do not like walking meditation.

When you have a comfortable focus on the breath, he recommends expanding awareness to different parts of the body. To me this sounds like body scan.

I have also found a way to deal with itches. I just tell myself that I can inhale and exhale one time without scratching. I do this two or three times. Sometimes, the itch goes away. If not, I just scratch the itch. Sometimes I don’t really have to scratch; I just put a finger on the spot that itches and that takes care of it. I know some people say you should not scratch an itch since it will make things worse, but this works for me.

Another thing that I do is I usually “warm up” with a few minutes of deep breathing/qigong exercises. This helps me settle a bit faster, and makes me less likely to try to control my breath.

Big Jim is focusing on the breath to improve his life.

“Pilgrim’s Visiting Album” from 18th century Japan; image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Signs Somebody Is An Asshole

Signs that someone is an asshole:

  • They say “Laugh! It’s a joke!” or some variation thereof.
  • They ask checkout clerks to break a $100 bill.
  • They drive a Lexus.
  • They vote Republican.
  • They think they walk their dog with a retractable leash, but let the dog go wherever it wants.
  • They are a head of state who picks a fight with Canada (Cool And Nice And Dang Awesome).
  • They say or do something to shock people (as Ed Brayton said, “If you spend a great deal of your time pretending to be an asshole to get a reaction from people…you aren’t pretending. You are an asshole.”)
  • They put their phone on speaker when they are in public.
  • They use “virtue signalling” as an insult (but never against Susan Collins; she is independent up until the moment she votes).

Other items will be added to the list as they reveal themselves.

Big Jim does not like assholes.

“Wheatfield with Crows” (1887) by Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29, 1890), at the Van Gogh Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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I Am Looking Into a Commodities Fund

I am thinking about buying shares in a commodity fund. I am looking at the iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF.

I was inspired to look at this fund after an episode of one of the podcasts I listen to called The Index Investing Show with Ron DeLegge. He also runs a couple of other sites: Portfolio Report Card and ETF Guide.

Ron DeLegge thinks everyone’s portfolio should have three parts to it. The first is the Margin of Safety. This is money that does not lose value and that you cannot afford to lose. He never calls it an FDIC-insured savings account, but that is what it sounds like. The second is your Core Portfolio, which should be at least 51% of your portfolio. It should be in low-cost index ETFs covering all the major asset classes: Stocks (domestic and international), bonds (domestic, international, government, corporate), commodities, real estate and cash. Whether the Margin of Safety can count as the cash part is a bit unclear to me, but I think it should be cash in your brokerage account. The final part is the Non-Core Portfolio. This can be individual stocks, futures, day trading, currencies, venture capital and private equity, or a fund that only covers part of the commodity sector.

He liks to criticize Jim Cramer, but that is similar to what Cramer says: You should put most of your money in indexes and only play with any “Mad Money” left over. At least, that is what I got out of his books [Note 1].

Ron also does Portfolio Report Cards. He grades people on risk (whether your portfolio’s risk level matches your self-description), cost, taxes, performance and diversification. He judges diversification based on whether or not you have split your portfolio into the three sections above, and if your Core Portfolio has all the major asset classes covered.

One thing that he has noticed is that a lot of people have no or too little exposure to commodities, and he says he does not understand why this is. I cannot speak for all investors, but I can tell you why I have not had any commodity exposure until now.

One reason is that a lot of commodity funds do not pay dividends. If a stock or fund does not pay, then I do not play.

Another reason is that a lot of commodity funds send a K-1 for tax purposes. I do not want to deal with a K-1. 1099s are just simpler. I know MLPs are going out of style, but I have read that if your have income above a certain threshold from an MLP in a Roth IRA, you could still pay taxes on it. I think that is true of any partnership and anything that uses a K-1 if the asset is held in a Roth IRA. Partnerships do not pay tax because they just send the profits to the partners. (This is why I do not think the “double taxation” of dividends is a bad thing: Corporations exist to shield their members from liability.) But if an investment in a Roth uses a 1099, then you are in the clear. The ETF that Ron uses as his reference, GCC, violates both of my criteria.

When I sold my stocks and got into ETFs, I put my money into dividend stock ETFs, bond ETFs, and for the first time I got into real estate ETFs. For all three of these, I got both domestic and international ETFs. I also got a utilities ETF for a bit more juice. But all the commodities funds were either K-1 funds or had no payout.

A caller asked about GMOM (Cambria Global Momentum ETF) and Ron recommended GAL, the SPDR SSgA Global Allocation ETF. They are multi-asset funds. I think the caller wanted to be in one fund that could cover the Core Portfolio. I was inspired to look at multi-asset ETFs from the top three issuers (Vanguard, State Street and BlackRock’s iShares). This led me to COMT.

COMT is in all the commodities sectors, it uses a 1099, and it pays a dividend. I am going through the prospectus and reports. I am leaning towards buying it.

I might not get an A if I get a Portfolio Report Card, but Ron DeLegge has influenced my thinking. But he is a bit too crypto-friendly for me. I really do not think crypto will amount to anything. People who hate the government used to be happy just complain and shake their fists at the cloud. Now they use enough electricity to power an entire country.

Ron DeLegge does not really make predictions. Unlike gold bugs and inflation bears, he helps you to prepare for any market scenario.

Note 1: There was a trader who went by the handle Airelon who (if I remember correctly) had a similar idea. He tried a few times to trade, and kept losing everything. Then he came across the idea of trading buckets, and put each bucket into different types of assets, depending on risk. If his riskiest trade lost money, he did not use his “safe” money to bail the bad investment out. He had a podcast for a while, as well as a blog. He was on Seeking Alpha. He left to be part of some company called Sharpe Trade, but the website is gone and the Twitter account was rebooted and is now all crypto. (I think Airelon might have some crypto, but would be skeptical of the “Cryptocurrency will save civilization!!” claims going around.) His YouTube channel is empty, but somehow a few people have preserved them in playlists: Airelon Trading and Psychology – Aileron Trading.  He moved to Mexico and got off of social media. I did have a brief chat with him on Twitter in 2014, but he seems to have disappeared from Twitter. He does have a private Instagram account, but since it’s private, I have no idea when he last posted. He has a Google Plus account with posts up to mid-2016.

Big Jim is looking into commodities because he is a down to earth guy.

“Dormition of the Virgin” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Stock Buying Rules

As I was going through my stuff, I found a list of rule for buying stocks. I assume I wrote them while watching Jim Cramer.

  1. Never buy on margin.
  2. Never use market orders.
  3. Know what you own.
  4. Do not own too many low-priced stocks.
  5. Be diversified.
  6. Own dividend stocks.

I have bought with market orders. I plan on owning stocks/ETFs for a long time, so I don’t think that paying a bit more is that big of a deal. Plus, many times when I put in limit orders, they sit unfilled for weeks, so I just bite the bullet and buy. So far it has worked out.

Big Jim knows the way to succeed in the stock market is to have a plan.

First vision of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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