Saturday, January 21, 2017

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

He's not my leader................


In a funny way, and as insane as it sounds to say out loud, Zuckerberg is one of the few people for whom becoming president of the United States might be a step down. As the chief of Facebook, he is already the true leader of the free world. Zuckerberg commands a company that touches a quarter of the Earth’s population, some 1.8 billion monthly active users. There is no one alive who can affect more people with the touch of a button. 

-Nick Bilton, as found in this article, Will Mark Zuckerberg Be Our Next President?  Just love the sub-title.

all of which brings back my favorite facebook cartoon:



Rating this............................


................................................................................true:

Human beings do not do well with decisions.  Whether we’re wrestling with who to start in fantasy football, which line to get on at the store, which stock to buy, or even what to choose from on a dinner menu, there are certain glitches in our brain that are really hard to avoid. 

-Michael Batnick, as cut and pasted from here

Pretty sure.........................


..............................................his list is too short, but still:

“Three causes especially have excited the discontent of mankind; and, by impelling us to seek remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and the ignorance of the future”

-Charles Mackay, as quoted here

via

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


Felix Pappalardi................................As The Years Go Passing By

On prayer.......................

Underneath the variety of questions and concerns are some basic Christian questions about prayer: when I pray for our leaders, why am I doing so?  Should I pray for a leader I disagree with? When I pray what do I think I am accomplishing? 
On one level these questions seem inconsequential and innocuous. But real prayer is not innocuous. It is powerful. That question can become poignant and even painful as it is for many in this moment, given that some of the values that many of us heard expressed over the past year have seemed to be in contradiction to deeply-held Christian convictions of love, compassion, and human dignity.
-Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, as excerpted from this read-worthy letter

Opportunity........................


     I think one of the greatest disgraces in this county is the fact that in a lot of inner-city schools, 50 percent of the kids don't graduate high school.  And even those kids who graduate are not necessarily job-ready.  That's a crime.  That's America at its absolute worst.  We are allowing that to happen, and these kids don't have the opportunity we all had at one point in life.  We have to fix it.  It's not whether something's free.  It whether it ends up where you're properly trained for a job.

-Jamie Dimon, as culled from this interview

People acting like they know..........


..........................................what they are writing about:





The news article, as clipped from here, seems to suggest there is a proper "balance" between supply and demand.  Is there?  Says who?  One assumes their measure would be price per barrel, but at what price?  Who is smart enough to figure all this out?  The tone of the article suggests the smart people have it all figured out.  Color me doubtful.

A national consciousness................


“Economic development is something much wider and deeper than economics, let alone econometrics. Its roots lie outside the economic sphere, in education, organisation, discipline and, beyond that, in political independence and a national consciousness of self-reliance.” 
 

-Ernst F. SchumacherSmall Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

A systematic problem...............


"I believe that our society's 'mistake-phobia' is crippling, a problem that begins in most elementary schools, where we learn to learn what we are taught rather than to form our own goals and to figure out how to achieve them. We are fed with facts and tested and those who make the fewest mistakes are considered to be the smart ones, so we learn that it is embarrassing to not know and to make mistakes. Our education system spends virtually no time on how to learn from mistakes, yet this is critical to real learning."

-attributed to Ray Dalio

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


The Rolling Stones................................................Ruby Tuesday

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Theories, in their proper place.......


     In the spring of 1969, at least, Amos wasn't overtly hostile to the reigning theories in social science.  Unlike Danny, he wasn't dismissive of theory.  Theories for Amos were like mental pockets or briefcases, places to put the ideas you wanted to keep.  Until you could replace a theory with a better theory - a theory that better predicted what actually happened - you didn't chuck a theory out.  Theories ordered knowledge, and allowed for better prediction.  The best working theory in social science just then was that people were rational - or, at the very least, decent intuitive statisticians.  They were good a interpreting new information, and judging probabilities.  They of course made mistakes, but their mistakes were a product of emotions, and the emotions were random, and so could be safely ignored.
     But that day something shifted inside Amos.  He left Danny's seminar in a state of mind unusual for him:  doubt.  After the seminar, he treated theories that he had more or less accepted as sound and plausible as objects of suspicion.

-Michael Lewis, detailing the continuing adventures of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

On better theory..........................


"I could see that I was not going to cope as well as I wished with life unless I could acquire a better theory-structure on which to hang my observations and experiences. By then, my craving for more theory had a long history. Partly, I had always loved theory as an aid in puzzle solving and as a means of satisfying my monkey-like-curiosity. And, partly, I had found that theory-structure was a superpower in helping one get what one wanted. As I had early discovered in school wherein I had excelled without labor, guided by theory, while many others, without mastery of theory failed despite monstrous effort. Better theory I thought had always worked for me and, if now available could make me acquire capital and independence faster and better assist everything I loved." 

-attributed to Charlie Munger

On being careful theorizing.......


“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” 

-Sherlock Holmes, as channeled by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in A Scandal in Bohemia


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


Harry Chapin.......................................................................Taxi

As the arc bends.............................


"We're not pawns if we choose not to be."

-Seth Godin, as extracted from here

Models................................


He had listened to an American economist talk about how so-and-so was stupid and so-in-so was a fool, then said, "All your economic models are premised on people being smart and rational, and yet all the people you know are idiots."

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

On what is important.......................


     At Colonial that year, I was in a playoff with Johnny Pott, and at the ninth hole I found myself in a greenside bunker.  I led by a stroke and desperately wanted to get down in two for a par to keep my lead.  As I was standing over the ball ready to play the shot, I heard the voice of a small boy behind me.  I backed off the shot and laughed as his mother shushed him.  Then the boy began crying, so I backed off again.  When I settled over the ball a third time, I heard the boy's muffled cry, and when I turned around, there was this little boy turning red because his mother had clamped her hand over his mouth to keep him quiet.
     Finally I said the the mother, "Hey, it's okay.  Don't choke him.  This isn't that important."  Then I went back to the ball, blasted out, saved par, and went on to win the tournament.

-Arnold Palmer,  A Life Well Played:  My Stories

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


Arthur Conley....................................................Sweet Soul Music

Configurations out of chaos................




“There are no forms in nature. Nature is a vast, chaotic collection of shapes. You as an artist create configurations out of chaos. You make a formal statement where there was none to begin with. All art is a combination of an external event and an internal event… I make a photograph to give you the equivalent of what I felt. Equivalent is still the best word.” 
-Ansel Adams


thanks david