Monday, January 23, 2017

Gone, but not forgotten.................


Solomon Burke................................................................Cry To Me

News you can use..........................


..........................deciphering the financial news headlines.

We should pay close attention to............


....................................anyone who self-identifies as a "feral teacher."  

via

Our power..............................


     No dark fate determines the future.  We do.  Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.  This is the power we wield.
     Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement.  It does not reside in fortune or fame.  It resides only in the human mind and heart, and it is here that we hope you will find it.

-Tenzin Gyatso and Desmond Tutu, from their Introduction to The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness In A Changing World

Subtle...........................


Why scurry about looking for the truth?
It vibrates in every thing and every
not-thing, right off the 
tip of your nose.
Can you be still and see it in the
mountain?  the pine tree?  yourself?

Don't imagine that you'll discover it by
accumulating more knowledge.
Knowledge creates doubt, and
doubt makes you ravenous
for more knowledge.
You can't get full eating this way.
The wise person dines on something
more subtle:
He eats the understanding that the named
was born from the unnamed, that
all being flows from non-being,
that the describable world emanates
from an indescribable source.
He finds this subtle truth inside his own
self, and becomes completely content.

So who can be still and watch the
chess game of the world?
The foolish are always making impulsive
moves, but the wise know that victory
and defeat are decided by something
more subtle.
They see that something perfect exists
before any move is made.

This subtle perfection deteriorates when
artificial actions are taken, so be
content not to disturb the peace.
Remain quiet.
Discover harmony in your own being.
Embrace it.

If you can do this, you will gain
everything, and the world will
become healthy again.
If you can't, you will be lost in the
shadows forever.

-Hua Hu Ching:  The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu
Verse 38
as channeled by Brian Brown Walker

On finishing..........................





     If I was what you might call a "fast finisher," it was because I was always mentally receptive to a fast finish;  I was receptive to the idea that there was always time to make up some ground right to the very last hole.  I played to win even when common sense dictated that I no longer had a realistic chance.  Even when I was playing my worst or when all the breaks seemed to be going against me, I approached each shot as an opportunity to get going again.  That was my golfing personality.

-Arnold Palmer,  A Life Well Played:  My Stories

Fifty years ago......................


Frank and Nancy Sinatra.....................................Somethin' Stupid

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Learn........................



















“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” 
-Benjamin Franklin


cartoon via

Gone, but not forgotten.................


Tommy Caldwell of MTB...........................................Melody Ann

Can I get an............................


.........................................................................................Amen?

Further proof............................


..........................(as if you needed any) that life is not fair:

Blessed with the instinct to chase squirrels, zero ability to climb trees.





On misreading history.................

.........................even when it occurred just a few months ago:
For much of the rest of the world, and even in the minds of many people in Britain, the result of last June’s referendum and the outcome of last November’s presidential election are part of the same phenomenon: a revolt against globalisation by a forgotten, provincial, working class.
I think this is misleading. While it is true that both revolutions saw the intellectual and financial elites given a bloody nose by the forgotten provinces, nonetheless Brexit and Trumpit have crucial differences. For a start, one was an unprecedented constitutional earthquake that resulted in the installation of a thoroughly normal prime minister. The other was a constitutionally routine democratic transfer of power that installed a highly unconventional president.
So writes my favorite optimist.   As they say, read the whole thing.

On creeping determinism..............


     In his talk to the historians, Amos described their occupational hazard:  the tendency to take whatever facts they had observed (neglecting the many facts that they did not or could not observe) and make them fit neatly into a confident-sounding story:

          All too often, we find ourselves unable to predict what will
          happen; yet after the fact we explain what did happen with
          a great deal of confidence.  This "ability" to explain that
          which we cannot predict, even in the absence of any addi-
          tional information, represents an important, though subtle,
          flaw in our reasoning.  It leads us to believe that there is a
          less uncertain world than there actually is, and that we are
          less bright than we actually might be.  For if we can explain
          tomorrow what we cannot predict today, without any added
          information except the actual knowledge of the actual out-
          come, then this outcome must have been determined in
          advance and we should have been able to predict it.  The
          fact that we couldn't is taken as an indication of our limited
          intelligence rather than of the uncertainty that is in the world.
          All too often, we feel like kicking ourselves for failing to
          foresee that which later appears inevitable.  For all we know,
          the handwriting might have been on the wall all along.  The
          question is:  was the ink visible?

     It wasn't just sports announcers and political pundits who radically revised their narratives, or shifted focus, so that their stories seemed to fit whatever had just happened in a game or an election.  Historians imposed false order upon random events, too, probably without even realizing what they were doing.  Amos had a phrase for this.  "Creeping determinism," he called it - and jotted in his notes one of its many costs:  "He who sees the past as surprise-free is bound to have a future full of surprises."

-Michael Lewis, as culled from The Undoing Project


Recommended...................




"The brain is limited.  There are gaps in our attention.  The mind contrives to make those gaps invisible to us.  We think we know things we don't.  We think we are safe when we are not."

-Michael Lewis, channeling Amos Tversky in The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two really, really bright guys, had this mental partnership - a mind meld if you will - working.   Thinking out loud together, they combined psychology and economics in way that had never been done before - essentially creating what we now know as "behavioral economics."  It is difficult to imagine, but they were the first academics to notice, in a scientific way, that us humans are not always rational actors.  Assuming we are can lead to some faulty models (image that) and enormous errors in judgment.

Lewis is one of my favorite writers.  I hope he is one of yours, too.

Recommending this book.

On vision.........................................


"A part of good science is to see what everyone else can see but think what no one else has ever said."

"It is sometimes easier to make the world a better place than to prove you have made the world a better place."

"A theory of vision cannot be faulted for predicting optical illusions.  Similarly, a descriptive theory of choice cannot be rejected on the grounds that it predicts 'irrational behavior" if the behavior in question is, in fact, observed."

Amos Tversky, as quoted in The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

Fifty years ago......................


The Monkees..........................................................I'm A Believer

Saturday, January 21, 2017

On sustainability.....................




"It is  hard to be against sustainability.  In fact, the less you know about it, the better it sounds. That is true of lots of ideas"

-Robert M Solow,  Sustainability:  An Economist's Perspective

     As Solow points out in his lecture "Sustainability:  An Economist's Perspective," the term 'sustainability' is subject to varying interpretations.  Depending on which interpretation one chooses, sustainability could be congruent with a market economy, or it could rule out economic activity altogether.
     Human economic activity alters the environment.  We nurture some species of plants and animals, and we hamper others.  We transform plants, animal products, and minerals into different forms.  We use chemical reactions to change matter from one form to another.  Some of those chemical reactions provide us with energy in useful forms.
     Suppose we were to define sustainability as leaving the natural environment exactly as we found it.  That definition is appropriate for a society of hunters and gatherers.  If you want to hunt and gather sustainably, you cannot kill game or gather plants at a higher rate that they are naturally replenished.  However, such a strict definition will not accommodate more advance economic activity characterized by specialization.  Living by such a definition would in fact require that we revert to hunting and gathering.

-Arnold Kling,  Specialization And Trade:  A Re-Introduction To Economics

Gone, but not forgotten......................


Toy Caldwell (with the  MTB)...............................Can't You See

I don't usually quote Nate Silver.....


...................but when I do, he writes stuff like this:

Why, then, had so many people who covered the campaign been so confident of Clinton’s chances? This is the question I’ve spent the past two to three months thinking about. It turns out to have some complicated answers, which is why it’s taken some time to put this article together (and this is actually the introduction to a long series of articles on this question that we’ll publish over the next few weeks). But the answers are potentially a lot more instructive for how to cover Trump’s White House and future elections than the ones you’d get by simply blaming the polls for the failure to foresee the outcome. They also suggest there are real shortcomings in how American politics are covered, including pervasive groupthink among media elites, an unhealthy obsession with the insider’s view of politics, a lack of analytical rigor, a failure to appreciate uncertainty, a sluggishness to self-correct when new evidence contradicts pre-existing beliefs, and a narrow viewpoint that lacks perspective from the longer arc of American history. Call me a curmudgeon, but I think we journalists ought to spend a few more moments thinking about these things before we endorse the cutely contrarian idea that Trump’s presidency might somehow be a good thing for the media.

-full post is here

A seer...........................


In January of 2016, Walter Russell Mead penned this essay, Andrew Jackson, Revenant. Read the whole thing, but here are four quick excerpts:

 Jacksonian populism, the sense of honor-driven egalitarianism and fiery nationalism that drove American politics for many years, has never been hated and reviled as often as it is today, and many American academics and intellectuals (to say nothing of Hollywood icons) are close to demanding that Jacksonian sentiment be redefined as a hate crime.

It is hard for Jacksonians to mobilize politically. Neither party really embraces a Jacksonian agenda. Combining a suspicion of Wall Street, a hatred of the cultural left, a love of middle class entitlement programs, and a fear of free trade, Jacksonian America has problems with both Republican and Democratic agendas. 

Donald Trump, for now, is serving as a kind of blank screen on which Jacksonians project their hopes.

The biggest story in American politics today is this: Andrew Jackson is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.

a joyous impossible lesson..............


















There’s always a lesson to be learned
whether in a hotel bar
or over tea in a teahouse,
no matter which way it goes,
for you or against,
what you want to hear or what you don’t.


Seeing Roland Kirk, for example,
with two then three saxophones
in his mouth at once
and a kazoo, no less,
hanging from his neck at the ready.

Even in my youth I saw this
not as a lesson in keeping busy
with one thing or another,
but as a joyous impossible lesson
in how to do it all at once,

pleasing and displeasing yourself
with harmony here and discord there.
But what else did I know
as the waitress lit the candle
on my round table in the dark?
What did I know about anything?

-Billly Collins, "The Five Spot, 1964" from his collection of poems, The Rain In Portugal


wiki on Roland Kirk here

Remember that....................


...........surviving the evolutionary battle is fairly important:

"The greater sensitivity to negative rather than positive changes is not specific to monetary outcomes," wrote Amos and Danny.  "It reflects a general property of the human organism as a pleasure machine.  For most people, the happiness involved in receiving a desirable object is smaller than the unhappiness involved in losing the same object."
     It wasn't hard to imagine what this might be - a heightened sensitivity to pain was helpful to survival.  "Happy species endowed with infinite appreciation of pleasures and low sensitivity to pain would probably not survive the evolutionary battle," they wrote.

-Michael Lewis,  The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

On changing one's mind..............


No truer words have ever been spoken than John Kenneth Galbraith’s line “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

-Michael Batnick, from his conclusion to this post

Fifty years ago................................


Martha and The Vandellas..........................................Jimmy Mack

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Present......................


Much has been said about being in the present.
It's the place to be, according to the gurus,
like the latest club on the downtown scene,
but no one, it seems, is able to give you directions.

It doesn't seem desirable or even possible
to wake up every morning and begin
leaping from one second into the next
until you fall exhausted back into bed.

Plus, there'd be no past
with so many scenes to savor and regret,
and no future, the place you will die
but not before flying around with a jet-pack.

The trouble with the present is
that it's always in a state of vanishing.
Take the second it takes to end 
this sentence with a period - already gone.

What about the moment that exists
between banging your thumb
with a hammer and realizing
you are in a whole lot of pain?

What about the one that occurs
after you hear the punch line
but before you get the joke?
Is that where the wise men want us to live

in that intervening tick, the tiny slot
that occurs after you have spent hours
searching downtown for that new club
and just before you give up and head back home?

-Billy Collins, from his collection of poems in The Rain In Portugal

Hey, here is some good news............................



..........after a half-year sabbatical, John E. Smith is blogging again!

Gone, but not forgotten..............


Mary Wells.........................................................................My Guy

Suspecting this is a majority..............


These people are neither Republicans nor Democrats, liberals nor conservatives—they’re “leave me alone and do your job” voters.

-Joe Bob Briggs, as culled from this essay on "angry" people


On Ted Williams's eyesight.............


Deliberate practice is necessary for success, but it is not sufficient. The people at the top of any competitive field are both well-suited and well-trained. To maximize your potential, you need to not only engage in consistent and purposeful practice, but also to align your ambitions with your natural abilities.

-James Clear, as excerpted from this article about matching genetic advantages with deliberate practice.

Fifty years ago.........................


Ed Ames.....................................................My Cup Runneth Over

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Homo imbibens............................

 

.......................................................a love affair as old as time:

“Our ape ancestors started eating fermented fruits on the forest floor, and that made all the difference,” says Nathaniel Dominy, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth College. “We’re preadapted for consuming alcohol.”

-from the National Geographic.  Man's 9,000 (+/-) year relationship with alcohol

The magic of compounding.........


The most powerful force in the universe, as Einstein referred to it, is something that eludes many of us for two main reasons. One, most people just don’t understand how it works. For instance, 10% growth for 25 years is not 250%, it’s 985%! The second reason why many fail to take advantage of compounding is because it takes time. Like, a lot of time. Buffett has been rich forever, but 95% of his net worth was earned after his 60th birthday.

-Michael Batnick, as borrowed from here

I was going to comment that it is a sin that our schools don't teach about the magic of compounding, but then the realization that I haven't done a very good job teaching my own kids about it set in, so, nevermind.

Gone, but not forgotten..................


David Ruffin............................I'm Gonna Walk Away From Love

God, I wish this wasn't so true.......


    But these stories people told themselves were biased by the availability of material used to construct them.  "Images of the future are shaped by the experience of the past," they wrote, turning on its head Santayana's famous lines about the importance of history:  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  What people remember about the past, they suggested, is likely to warp their judgment of the future.  "We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible, because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that would cause it to occur.  The defect, often, is in our imagination."

-Michael Lewis, quoting a paper by Kahneman and Tversky in The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

My business partner and I started our investment real estate company in 1982.  Interest rates, for those who were not paying attention back then, were atmospheric between 1980 and 1982.  Making sense of a real estate investment when you are borrowing money at 16%, is a difficult (not impossible, but very difficult) proposition.  Anyway, that high rate environment is what we grew up with.  Not unlike our parents, who learned to fear debt during the depression, and lived with that fear for the rest of their lives, we learned to fear variable interest rates.

"What people remember about the past, they suggested, is likely to warp their judgment of the future."

For the past twenty years, every time we were offered the choice between a variable rate or a fixed rate loan, we opted for the fixed rate.  Mind you the fixed rate variety carries the penalty of a higher interest rate, sometimes several percentage points higher.  In our minds, though, all we could do was see rates rising.  Nevermind that for the past twenty years they have, for the most part, steadily fallen.

While it is easy to rationalize and say we slept better at night having fixed rate financing, our inability to throw off our past cost us a significant number of dollars.  And we never even got a thank you note from our bankers.




Fifty years ago.......................


The Tremeloes.................................................Silence Is Golden