Something Beautiful

Awesome video to make Monday beautiful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo_f8mV5khg

10

03 2014

The Brilliance of Bastiat on Government

This morning came across this gem from Bastiat on Government. Here, he mocks those who believe in the power of government because they expect it to be

…a beneficent and inexhaustible being, …which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, capital for all enterprises, credit for all projects, oil for all wounds, balm for all sufferings, advice for all perplexities, solutions for all doubts, truths for all intellects, diversions for all who want them, milk for infancy, and wine for old age – which can provide for all our wants, satisfy all our curiosity, correct all our errors, repair all our faults, and exempt us henceforth from the necessity for foresight, prudence, judgment, sagacity, experience, order, economy, temperance, and activity.

That is both a perfect description of the modern view of government and also a timeless description of humanity’s view of a Divine Being. In our genius, we have replaced a transcendent Divine Being with an earth-bound one. <facepalm>

You can read his essays online or load them onto your Kindle through the Magic Catalog for Project Gutenberg.

Tags:

03

03 2014

Bear-Stearns Plus 6 Years

We’re coming up on the six year anniversary of the Bear-Stearns sale to JPMorgan. That was the event that motivated me to dig into the realities of the financial world. I’m preparing a bigger anniversary post for March 16th, (the anniversary of the actual event),but in the meantime, here’s a video from the protest we conducted on Wall Street in April of that year.

27

02 2014

Libertarian Paternalism: A Response to P. Pilkington

Phillip Pilkington is a research assistant at Kingston University in London and recently penned an article on “Libertarian Paternalism”. It provoked me. This is my response.

libpat[1]

Phillip,

In your article, you said:

Look, the libertarian paradigm is ridiculous… 

And then went on to state that libertarians believe:

…people exist as atoms in a world where each atom has no effects on other atoms except through completely free contractual arrangements.

To put it plainly, you’re wrong.

Whatever else you may have right in your article, you are simply wrong about what it means to be a libertarian and what libertarians believe. I agree with you that conflating “libertarian” with “paternalism” is also wrong, but you portray libertarianism as a crackpot belief system disconnected from reality.

Contrary to what you suppose, I am not mentally insulated from the world around me. You misrepresent the libertarian impulse.

Libertarianism is first and foremost an ethic; it is a belief system about how to have moral interactions with one another. The first principle of libertarianism is a moral rule, not an economic rule: Non-Aggression. To be a libertarian means to believe that coercion itself is immoral. Now, if you prefer to keep morality out of the discussion, fine, but then you are no longer talking about libertarianism, you are talking about something else — perhaps utilitarianism.

To support your assertion, you posit a “massive speculative attack on (a country’s) currency” and state that currency controls would be the appropriate response. But your illustration is flawed. Fiat currencies are innately coercive. A massive speculative attack on a fiat currency is just a battle between two criminal classes. Both are engaging in immoral acts – theft through fraud.

The libertarian response to aggression is proportionate defense.  If libertarians are disconnected from reality, then this is where the disconnect occurs: at the point of responding to overwhelming force. The people who control the reins of power in the state can and do crush individuals with impunity. The people who control the levers of fiat currency likewise crush individuals with impunity. As a libertarian, I have to stand and shout “crushing people who have done you no harm is immoral!” and for that alone I am considered a crackpot. Fine. I am a crackpot for believing that treating one another morally is preferable to treating one another as tools to be used and disposed of without a second thought.

You seem to be a good guy with a questioning mind and I appreciate that. Furthermore, you might be right and I might be wrong. If so, you’re going to have to support your assertions. Until then, you’re just making noise.

Respectfully,

Jack Heald

22

01 2014

Proposed NFL Rule Change

In my unending quest to be of service to humanity, I bring the following proposed NFL rule change to your attention.  But first, a little background.

Righting a Slight Wrong

I love football; I’ve been watching it avidly since I was less than 10 years old. I consider it the greatest team sport in the world, and want to see it thrive. To that end, I think there is an inequity in the rules that should be rectified.

credit: n0cturbulous

First, the rule in question is Rule 14, Article 2, Section 1:

“If a distance penalty, enforced from a specific spot between the goal lines would place the ball more than half the distance to the offender’s goal line, the penalty shall be half the distance from that spot to their goal line.”

In other words, if you commit a 15 yard penalty within the boundaries of your own 30 yard line, it will actually cost you less than 15 yards. Thus, the offender is penalized less harshly than if the foul occurred outside their own 30 yard line.  In other words, the defense actually has less to fear from a penalty the closer the offense gets to scoring, and the offense has less to fear from a penalty the closer they are to their own goal line.

Over the years, the of football are changed to balance inequities. For example, once the forward pass became a formidable weapon, defenses routinely engaged in pass interference to avoid giving up big plays. In response, the NFL changed the penalty for defensive pass interference so that the ball was awarded to the offense at the spot of the foul, regardless of how many yards were involved.

I believe the “half-the-distance” clause creates an inequity that could be remedied in the following manner. We will keep the rule as it stands, but add the following qualifier:

If the “half the distance” rule is enforced, then the offended team, (the team against whom the foul was committed), is allowed to “bank” whatever yardage they would have been rewarded had they been farther from their own goal line. The banked yardage accrues throughout the game and may be used when the team has the ball one time in each half. Once a team has used their “banked” yardage in a half, they will no longer accrue excess penalty yardage.

So how would this be used? Let’s say Team A has accrued 16 yards in their yardage bank during the first half of a game. They are driving to score near the end of the half, and notify the referee that they wish to exercise their banked yardage. Before the next play is run, the referee advances the ball 16 yards. If the additional yardage gives the team a first down, then a first down is rewarded. The only thing the banked yardage cannot be used for is to directly score a touchdown. A team may use banked yardage to advance the ball as far as the defense’s 1-yard line, but no farther.

Other questions:

Q. Can the defense use the banked yardage to back up the offense?

A. No, it can only be used by the offensive team.

Q. When is yardage added to the bank? 

A. Immediately after the team that is supposed to benefit from a penalty is “short-changed” some amount of yards due to the “half-the-distance” rule.

Q. Can a team use part of their yardage bank during the 1st half and carry over the remainder to the 2nd half?

A. No, all accrued yardage must be used at one time. Any unused yardage is forfeited at the end of the half.

Expected Effects:

  • Teams will use their banked yardage to score more field goals at the end of each half. Knowing that accrued penalty yards will be used to help the other team score, teams that are better disciplined will benefit more by giving fewer accrued yards to their opponents and thus suffering less than more penalized teams.
  • Commentators will criticize coaches about their misuse of banked yardage as much as they criticize coaches for their misuse of timeouts.
  • There should be a slight decrease in major penalties inside a team’s own 30 yard line.

Let’s make this happen. I’m looking at you, Bill Simmons.

12

01 2014

It made me weep…

JudgyBitch wrote this on Father’s Day. I just found it. It’s probably better for me that Father’s Day is far off in the rear-view mirror. It likely would’ve destroyed me had I read it that day.

I’m posting this under the Borderline Personality Disorder, because it fits.

 

18

09 2013

Life is Short; Heaven? Hmmmm..

“Life’s Short. Heaven is Forever” - I saw these words on the back of a Hyundai as I drove back from lunch at Lobbys Burgers, (2 stars for food, 2 stars for atmosphere, 4 stars for the website). I rhetorically asked the driver, “How do you know?” And the answer is, “you don’t”. You just assume Eternal Rewards and Eternal Punishment and off you go, living your life to get as much of the former and as little of the latter as possible. 

So many of the decisions people make are based on the belief that “Heaven is Forever”, but there is absolutely no way to know whether or not that is true. No one has ever come back and reported it, (non-verifiable accounts notwithstanding.) There is just no way to prove it.

It leads me to ask myself a question, “how many silly, life-altering decisions have I made based on something I cannot prove?” For me, the answer would be “a lot.”

Fear is the prime motivator here, and control is the object. People quite naturally fear eternal punishment – and really, what could possibly be more dreadful than facing an eternity of torment – and will therefore do almost anything to avoid it. Convince a person that unless he eats/drinks/speaks/thinks/believes the way you command him to or he will face eternal torture, and you can completely control that person. Or at least control that part of them which is subject to their own internal control.

The part not subject to internal control is the biology of desire. You can control what you do. To a lesser extent you can control what you think. But no one can control what they desire. And this – to me – is where most religions fail the sniff test. To be sure, belief in eternal rewards and punishments is powerful motivation, but oftentimes the rewards and punishments are doled out based on the content of our desires. If in fact we actually desired the things that religion tells us we should desire, then doing the things we are told to do would be easier and the Rewards should pile up like frequent flyer miles. But our desires – which we cannot control – are at odds with The Commands.

The gods of some religions don’t care what you want or what you think; they only care what you do.  These gods are apparently far more interested in appearing to be good than in actually being good, a situation that calls into question what it actually means to be good. Other gods care more about your internal life than your external life, which is all well and good until you realize that your internal life is the place where the conflict rages and the only thing you really have control over is your actions. You can make yourself do the right thing, but you cannot make yourself want the right thing. That situation calls into question the sanity of the god who makes such demands.

We tend to desire what is forbidden, be it food, sex or control.

Yet the same people who tell us that God forbids what we desire, also tell us that God is the one who created us; that we are each and every one of us God’s Special Creation in whom He delights. It almost leads me to wonder if some Priest or King looked at the strength of biological desire and said, “we shall forbid these desires and thus plunge our subjects into shame and despair, and through their shame at their own humanity, exercise complete control over them.”

But that would be pretty cynical, wouldn’t it?

I recall the words of the Apostle John from his first epistle:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

And I wonder, why the maniacal obsession with eternal punishment?

I have no answers, just questions.

30

08 2013

Restaurant Review: Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

bluehoundlogo

Blue Hound Kitchen nails it on all fronts: Food, Atmosphere and Service.

The food is unique – I’ve never even seen most of these dishes on any other menu – and ranged from good to “Oh My Gawd This Is Amazing!” The bar is stocked with a terrific range of spirits with a particular emphasis on small batch American liquors.

The atmosphere is inviting with lots of comfortable seating and a good size bar to sit or stand around. The restaurant is located in the Palomar Hotel and – in keeping with the general vibe of an upscale/downtown hotel – has high ceilings, lots of wood and glass and a modern-but-not-too-trendy decor. It’s a very nice place for a date or an evening with friends.

The service was terrific. We sat at the bar and our bartender Jesse, who was quite knowledgeable, kept us hydrated without interjecting himself into our evening.

Good People, Good Location

Cheyenne – who is, I believe, the Food & Beverage Manager – dropped by and talked with us, sharing her experience in the food industry in Phoenix. Cheyenne has been at Blue Hound since its opening and has a great sense of downtown Phoenix history of the hotel/restaurant industry. She’s quite an asset to the Blue Hound.

We had the privilege of meeting Executive Chef Stephen Jones who personally delivered some of our menu items. This guy is good. He’s created a menu that’s a combo of southern-home cookin’ “Comfort food with a grown-up flavor palate” and Asian fusion that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the valley. Chef Jones is a kind, generous and wonderful host who is quick with a smile and knows how to entice your adventurous side, delivering on all aspects of a dish. Food should taste as good as it looks and it does so here at Blue Hound. Chef Jones does that and more; he’s got a flair for the unexpected and a terrific flavor sense. Tater tots are not just simply Tater tots. Deviled Eggs are not simply eggs and Cheddar Biscuits are not just biscuits.

Downtown Phoenix needs more places like this to elevate the flavor palate environment in order to become a “go to” destination, Blue Hound is doing it’s part, others need to join.

Juicy Details

The Food

If it seems like we ate a lot, we did. We were treated to the very best Blue Hound has to offer, The food was exceptional.

We tried everything on the “Snacks” menu except the cheese plate and enjoyed it all. There’s something here for every taste.

Shishito Peppers: This is a usually mild but sometimes hot small pepper, that’s blistered and served in miso & sesame seeds and seasoned with sel gris. I abso-freaking-lutely loved these things. The texture and flavor are perfection in an appetizer. The Miso is exceptional and the sel gris (salt) is the finishing balanced touch done right.

Caramel Popcorn: This was actually pretty darned amazing. The menu says “butterscotch with ancho chile” which sounded a little iffy to me, but the execution was flawless. They call this endless which means if you are like me, you could eat about 8 pounds of this stuff. Very good.

Deviled Eggs: This one is surprising. It’s “just” deviled eggs, but its garnished with brioche, smoked ham and dijon. The flavor is subtle and rich, and the eggs are so creamy it’s criminal. This is another dish you could easily eat waaaaaay too much of.

Tater Tots: Chef Stephen nails it on this little dish. The texture of the tots is fabulous, and the upfront initial flavor of potato and chive is oh so nice, lets not forget bacon too. These are tater tots for grown ups. You can use the dipping sauce that is served on the side but theses little babies don’t need anything added. They are dangerous mouth popping snacks.

Potato Fries: French fries are one of those ubiquitous dishes that can be really boring. Not here. These are sliced in wedges, steak fry size, and perfectly fried and seasoned. The outside was crispy and the inside soft and creamy. Seasoned with aromatic rosemary and a very nice parmegiano-reggiano cheese, and served with a not-too-spicy aioli, its just another unique twist on what’s normally an oh-so-common food.

Cheddar Scallion Biscuits: Oh My Gosh. Just try ‘em. Trust me.

All we had on the “Farm & Garden” section of the menu was the Roasted Cauliflower, but in typical Chef Jones fashion, he puts a unique twist on it with pistachios, capers and currants. However, everything else on that section of the menu looks absolutely fabulous and we are eager to try it all.

The “Sea & Ocean” section of the menu looks very appetizing. We tried two dishes which pretty much blew our minds: First, the Bay Scallop Ceviche. Chef Jones said “It’s not what you think” and he was 100% correct, it was uh-maz-ing! Second, the Jerk Cured Scottish Salmon: buttery and melt in your mouth. Both were utterly unique and ridiculously flavorful.

There’s more on the menu, but there’s just so much two people can eat in an evening. We cannot wait to get back.

23

08 2013

Pacific Rim: Way Better than the Trailer – and Superman

Unlike Superman, Pacific Rim Does Not Suck

Yes, the trailers for Pacific Rim look like “Godzilla vs. Megatron” with a $200 million budget. When I saw the trailers, I said to myself, (as selves are prone to do under such circumstances), “I won’t be seeing that idiotic waste of money.”

Then I spoke with Son Number One and he gave it the big Thumb’s Up. Since he and I share many of the same tastes in humor and movies, I figured it might not entirely, totally suck. And when The Stepson asked me to take it to him I figured, “what the hey…”

Man, talk about being pleasantly surprised! This is easily the best bang for your summer cinematic buck. Pacific-Rim-Movie-Poster-Gipsy-Danger1

Pacific Rim is the best summer blockbuster by far. Yes, it is indeed “godzilla vs megatron”, but they do the whole thing with such a great sense of humor and fun that it does NOT leave you rolling your eyes and saying “C’mon, man!” under your breath. IOW, they’re having a good time with giant monsters, a silly plot and a huge budget and – with a bit of a wink and a smile – are inviting us to play along. And it’s darned fun play.

Unlike the overwrought Superman, which was just too damn earnest for its own good, Pacific Rim doesn’t try to be anything other than 2 hours of just good old fashioned Good Guys Facing Overwhelming Odds fighting Bad Guys in Spite of the Hopelessness Of Their Cause. Think Star Wars with robots and alien dinosaurs instead of Droids and Death Stars. Just as much fun, just as ridiculous, just as entertaining.

See it. Without question – go see it in the theater with the surround sound and the high-back stadium seats and a bucket o’ popcorn. I promise, you’ll have fun.

 

Tags:

19

08 2013

Buy High Sell Low

Buy High Sell Low book cover image

Buy High Sell Low

Lessons and Warnings for Beginning Traders

You will lose money when you first start trading; it is unavoidable. But will you lose just a little or a lot? The lessons I share in this book cost me about $50,000, but they’ll cost you only the price of a book.

The book has no charts, no trading techniques, no special setups to recognize and no complicated patterns to learn.

It has only one formula.

Instead, what you will find here are the practical and simple – though not necessarily easy – things you must do to prepare yourself for successful trading.

You’ll learn:

  • How to pick the right security to trade, and how to avoid the wrong ones
  • How to pick a broker and how to avoid the wrong one for you
  • How to select your trading software
  • How to evaluate your risks and create plans to avoid or mitigate risk
  • How to develop your own trading strategy instead of depending on others for it
  • How to manage your money both in and out of trades
  • How to prepare for taxes and record keeping
  • How to think like a trader rather than an investor

Here’s what one beginning trader told me:

“It is worth buying this book for its brutal honesty, its focus on starting from scratch with a realistic voice of reason and not an encyclopedia of technical data. I see the benefit in this book when you state that a lot of the slow, painful, expensive work was not necessary to learn. It gives me practical step-by-step information on how to walk through the routines I need to practice to start gaining experience today.”

Nicholas Gehringer, Beginning Trader

In Buy High Sell Low you will learn expensive lessons on the cheap and thus avoid making the expensive ones yourself.

Introduction

Rethinking My Retirement Plan

The real estate and stock market crashes of the last few years damaged or destroyed the retirement plans of millions of people.

I was one of them.

A deadly disease, a dreadful divorce, and a soul-destroying job had led me to re-evaluate my life, but the economic environment made it unavoidable: I had to make drastic changes in my life if I was going to survive, let alone thrive.

I considered becoming independently wealthy, but since I had no wealthy relatives on the verge of death, that option was pretty much closed to me. (In fact, I had no wealthy relatives period – dying or otherwise.)

Through a process of elimination, I decided that trading stocks was the life for me. No boss, no customers, no employees, set my own hours, get disgustingly rich. What’s not to like?

Sound familiar?

***

When I first decided I would learn to trade, I took full advantage of the wonders of the Internet Age. I googled my brains out, read voraciously and promiscuously everything I could find. I researched until my eyes crossed. I signed up for every free newsletter, tried every free lesson, and queried everyone who might know anything about trading to try to glean from them whatever knowledge I could.

In spite of the breadth of my reading, the depth of my research and the overwhelming volume of stuff I was told, I still felt lost. I was wandering alone in the dark with no light, no map and no guide.

Yikes! If I’d have had any idea of how utterly ignorant I was, how much I had to learn, and how much money I was going to lose, I just might have gone back to my soul-crushing job. Fortunately, my ignorance saved me from making that particular mistake. Still, I had to figure it out all on my own.

I wrote this book so that you won’t have to figure it out all on your own.

***

I run a trader’s group that meets every month. At every meeting, I meet beginners, people who are just learning to trade, people just as naïve and innocent as I was when I started. Their queries are very much like mine were. They ask me questions such as:

  • “Which trading platform is best?”
  • “Which broker should I use?”
  • “Why do I need to pay for data?”
  • “What do you pay in commissions? How much should I pay?”
  • “What’s a futures contract?”
  • “I’m thinking about trading (stocks/forex/options/ futures); what do think about that?”
  • “I’m thinking about buying XYZ training program. What do you think of it?”
  • “How do you know what to buy?”
  • “How do you know when to buy?”
  • “How do you know when to sell?”

Over the years I’ve done my best to point these beginners in the right direction, partly because I get my jollies from being useful but also because I was there myself and know how confusing it can be trying to learn how to succeed in trading.

Everything in this book I had to learn the hard way: by slow, painful and expensive experience. But I later learned that a lot of that slow, painful, expensive work was just not necessary.

The book you are reading now is the guide I needed when I first started trading. I wrote it because it didn’t exist and it needed to exist. It will guide you, not only to the things you need to do, but also away from the things to avoid.

If I can save you a little time and a little unnecessary expense, then I will consider this book a success. I cannot do the work for you and I cannot make your decisions for you, but I can point you in the right direction, warn you about the big potholes ahead, and teach you what to do to become a successful and profitable trader.

What You Will Learn

To succeed in trading, you must learn to think, act and respond like a successful trader. That may seem so obvious I don’t need to say it, but sometimes what is most obvious is overlooked or ignored. That’s why I will repeat it:

You will not succeed without learning new ways of thinking and acting.

I describe these new patterns of thinking and acting in the chapter called The Methodology of Successful Trading. Developing those new habit patterns will require commitment and time and hard work from you.  You can also signup for my free newsletter at 38atoms.com if you need a bit of a kick start.

But first, you must face some elementary decisions and must take a number of simple but important steps. The steps are practical but not easy.  The decisions are simple yet vital to your success.

The bulk of this book is about those practical, simple steps.

You will need to do the following things to trade successfully, though not necessarily in this order. I will walk you through the each of the following steps:

  • Decide which particular security you want to trade and the market in which you wish to trade it. I describe the various types of securities and point out some things you should avoid at the beginning of your trading career.
  • Acquire a trading platform (software) which works with your chosen security and make sure you have the data feed you will need.
  • Select a broker who supports trading that security, (not all brokers support all types of securities), then open and fund a trading account with that broker.
  • Develop your Risk Response Plan.
  • Develop the first trading strategy you will use.
  • Manage your money both in and out of your trades.
  • Prepare for taxes and record keeping.
  • Improve yourself by following the Methodology of Successful Trading.

I make no effort to be objective in this manual. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way and as a result I have a lot of strong opinions. At the end of the day, you must take responsibility for your own decisions. I offer my opinions and experience to help you, but you have to make the decision whether or not to accept that help.

This book will not teach you how to make a trade. Making a trade is a simple skill that any reasonably intelligent 12-year-old can master.  But this book will help you move from ignorance and inexperience about trading success to knowledge and know-how about trading success.

Once you work through the lessons of this book, you will have become an informed and competent – if perhaps a bit inexperienced – trader. Absorb the lessons of this book and you will – by virtue of the behaviors you adopt, the patterns of thinking you use, the self-determination you possess and a little bit of good luck – seize control of your own future by succeeding as a trader.

Good trading.

31

07 2013