Friday, October 31, 2014

Party In Tokyo!

First, a trip to the liquor store.
(T)he BOJ (Bank of Japan) said it would expand its annual asset purchases—its main tool to spur higher inflation—to ¥80 trillion from the previous target range of ¥60 trillion to ¥70 trillion. The central bank aims to achieve the new target mostly by buying more Japanese government bonds, cementing its status as the single largest investor in JGBs. The BOJ also said it would triple the pace of its purchases of stock and property funds.
Then, the wild binge at the BOJ's house.

Japan Mega-Pension Shifts to Stocks
Government Makes Bold Bet on Inflation, Higher Equity Returns
Afterwards, a really bad hangover.
TOKYO— Sony Corp. reported a hefty net loss of ¥136.0 billion ($1.2 billion) for the July-September period as it wrote down the ¥180 billion book value of its struggling smartphone business.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mistaking Cuba For Japan

Continuing along with my reading of Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus:

Columbus was not looking for India as most people think. He was looking for Japan and China.

The essence of Columbus' view of the world. "Cippangu" is Japan.
That map represents what Columbus derived from the stories of Marco Polo and others. The errors in distances came from two primary sources.
  • Columbus used too small a value for the number of miles in a degree of longitude, making his version of the globe too small.
  • Marco Polo overestimated the size of Asia, the Sea of Japan and Japan itself, effectively merging the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Note that the map above is more pessimistic than the one Columbus used. His distances were shorter because of the smaller value he had for the number of miles per longitudinal degree.

What's interesting is that Columbus reached the Caribbean near enough to where he thought Japan lay to reinforce his incorrect notions of geography.

Cuba and Haiti could easily have been mistaken for Japan at first.
It's worth remembering that everything Columbus saw was from the deck of a small ship. His horizon was on the order of 10 miles. A sailor of that time could miss something as large as China or Japan by 30 miles, a tiny distance in a vast ocean, and never even know it. Columbus was well aware of this and it gave him hope that Japan and China lay just out of sight even as he came up empty on one island after another.

More later. I've got some Linux to play with now, so I've run out of time here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Much Water Does A Shower Use?

... about 5 gallons in my case. I can do it in 4, but give me 5 and I'm happy.

This weekend, I managed to wreck my tankless hot water heater. I flushed it with vinegar as per the manufacturer's directions and managed to cause a leak. San Diego water is more like chunks of limestone than an actual fluid. It causes all kinds of corrosion and calcium buildups.

As far as I can tell, the pipes in the heat exchanger had corroded and sprung leaks. Water didn't leave because calcium deposits had plugged the holes. When I flushed the system with vinegar, I managed to unplug the holes. Turning the water back on led to drip-drip-drip-drip-drip. Since I did this exercise on the Saturday when plumbers were not available, we had nearly two full days without hot water.

I've now taken two showers by heating a large pot on the stove and using it to heat up a 5-gallon bucket of water. I then stand outside with my bathing suit on or stand in the shower and dump bowls of water over my head to shower.

It's like going back to the 1800s. We're very retro here in the Catican Compound.

In any case, the 5 gallon bucket was plenty of water for me. Now I know.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

One Of The Best Photos

... I've ever taken. I don't know why, but this one, a spur-of-the-moment hipshot taken this morning just to have something to post on the blog speaks to me. I left it really big and I think it's worth a click.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fetishizing Incompetence And Ignorance

These days, I'm making my way through Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus. I'm listening to it rather than reading it and it's one of those books that I wish I could memorize. It's chock-full of wonderful anecdotes, analysis and captures the drama of Columbus' life.

I try not to read history books written after 1960. It's an arbitrary date, but it represents the transition from history books as history to social justice advocacy essays. Admiral of the Ocean Sea was written in the late 1930s and early 1940s by a fellow who sailed Columbus' route. He knows from whence he speaks and he works very hard to be as historically accurate as possible. In contrast, my daughter's high school history textbooks were practically free of information and instead focused on social justice narratives.

As I listen to this and after listening to others such as The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Stanley's accounts of his travels in Africa, it struck me how very weird it is to have come up with the Europeans-as-oppressors narrative. The Africans were enslaving each other and fighting wars of conquest, the Aztecs were committing acts of sadism on an industrial scale and the German tribes were warlike and vicious. What differentiated them from their conquerors was their ignorance and incompetence. The worst you can say of the Europeans is that they were just better at behaving according to the standards of the time.

If the Africans, Aztecs and Germans had been as studious and industrious as the Europeans and Romans, they certainly would have been perpetrating precisely the crimes against humanity that we all love to blame on the Europeans. In fact, they probably would have been much, much worse.

I would argue that the assessments of the natives made at the time by the conquerors themselves were more accurate than the misty-eyed romantic ideals of them we embrace today. As Dennis Green might say, the Aztecs / Africans / Germans were who we thought they were and we've let them off the hook.

Update: Make no mistake, the author does not pull any punches about the behavior of the Spaniards and the Portuguese, but he doesn't turn the natives into the noble primitives, either.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Solar Power In Germany

... is succinctly summarized by this comment from this blog post.
Did you know that the most southerly point in Germany is at the same latitude as Bemidji, Minnesota? Right now the day is only about 10 hours long in Berlin. Two months from now it will be 7:40 long and the sun will not rise above 15° above the horizon. Not much solar energy, Klaus.
As the Germans and the rest of the morally preening, European, socialist greens struggle to find ways to keep from freezing to death this winter, they'll discover that solar power needs, you know, the sun.

Advantage: Putin.

Ach du lieber! Wo ist die Sonne?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yes On 83!

I love election season. I love all of the ads that tell you absolutely nothing in a breathless, urgent tone. I never know what any of the initiatives are about, but I know that if I vote yes on 42, illegal alien children will be killed because they'll eat bread with gluten and if I vote no on 37, we'll continue to be bombarded by cosmic rays.

Or something like that.

I've always wanted to put a sign up in my yard, supporting a proposition that doesn't exist with a tagline that makes you go, "Huh?" I never find the time for it, so instead, I've created an image you can use to make your very own bumper stickers.

And please, if you value freedom for sparrows and other small birds, vote yes on 83.

Yes on 83. It's time for a change!
You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Racial Animus Is Way Overstated

I work in a racially integrated group. We don't ever have disagreements along racial lines.

When I serve at Catholic Charities, it's quite common to see inter-racial support. My favorite of these was watching a young, black man make sure an elderly, Chinese woman, who spoke no English, was served when it was her turn.

Today, the Washington Post has a long article about the shooting in Ferguson. Here's the key tidbit for me:
Because Wilson is white and Brown was black, the case has ignited intense debate over how police interact with African American men. But more than a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses have provided testimony to a St. Louis County grand jury that largely supports (Police officer) Wilson’s account of events of Aug. 9, according to several people familiar with the investigation who spoke with The Washington Post.
The witnesses cared more about the truth than skin color. They cared more about justice and making sure Officer Wilson wasn't railroaded than whatever race loyalty the media and political leaders expect from them.

Hmmm. It's almost like our media and political leaders want us to form up into racial groups. It's like there's something in it for them when we do.

I wonder what that is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The World Hasn't Come To An End

Fear not

There have been no new cases of Ebola in the US. It appears to be just as difficult to transmit as the experts told us.

It looks like Kobani is turning into ISIS' Stalingrad. Thanks to stepped-up American air power and the grit and determination of the Kurds, ISIS might be stalled there. Neither they nor their colleagues in Al Qaeda have figured out the value in going after the soft American infrastructure like power and water.

Russia is content for now with digesting Eastern Ukraine. There's a limit to what you can do with only a handful of combat-ready brigades. You may have a bigger army than your neighbors, but if you're going to launch Barbarossa, you need the Wehrmacht. Russia ain't got it.

The recent US stock market decline was just that, a decline and not a crash. The American Fascist Party, err, Democrats, have strangled the US economy with regulations, but it's a slow asphyxiation, not an ISIS-style beheading. We're not in crisis, we're just stagnating.

Despite what people like me say about President Obama and the wild predictions we make, the world hasn't come to an end.

And yet...

I'm still betting on Japan to be the crisis point of the decade. They continue to find ways to wriggle off the hook and live a few more months, but their doom is out there, circling like a shark in the form of mountains and mountains of debt.

Me, I'm doomed, too. Doomed to mix metaphors. Fishing, sharks, mountains. Oh yeah. Those went together real well.

One year in the Nikkei. Look at it wriggle off the mountains and avoid the fishing sharks!

Monday, October 20, 2014

How Central Banks Printing Money Turns Into Stock Bubbles

From Bloomberg:
Japan’s $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund will increase its allocation target for local shares to about 25 percent from 12 percent, the Nikkei newspaper reported without attribution. GPIF will also boost its holdings of foreign bonds and stocks to about a combined 30 percent from 23 percent, while reducing domestic debt to the 40 percent level from 60 percent, the Nikkei said Oct. 18.
  1. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) prints money. 
  2. It uses the money to buy government bonds (domestic debt, above). 
  3. The Government Pension Investment Fund sells its government bonds to the BoJ.
  4. The Government Pension Investment Fund uses that money to buy Japanese stocks. 
  5. Stock prices rise and everyone feels wealthier. 
  6. Yay!
Printed money has become real wealth. Well, it's real only so long as you can get yours out of the market and run away to some place where they don't print money out of thin air to inflate stock prices.

Is there such a place any more?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Janet Yellin Visits Chicago's South Side

Janet Yellin, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently visited the violent, disadvantaged, pathology-laced south side of Chicago. After spending quite a bit of time with the residents, discovering just why economic mobility is so difficult for them, she released a statement and a video.

Here's the statement:
“The extent and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Ms. Yellen said to a conference on economic opportunity and inequality sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”
Here's the video:

I mean, I think that was her shooting the video. She's a Really Smart Person. She went to Yale and Brown, both Ivy League universities. I can't imagine she'd make firm pronouncements about the underclass from inside of a government-academic bubble.

Would she?

Update: OK, I'm sold. Janet Yellin had to be the one shooting that video. Another Really Smart Person who went to an Ivy League School had this to say (emphasis mine):
“I think she broke new ground in terms of a Fed chair looking at such a serious socioeconomic issue with that degree of rigor,” said Karim Basta, chief economist at III Associates, an investment adviser, who attended the conference.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola Is About Race

... because everything is about race.

Up to now, I've not been able to figure out why we don't have a travel ban on flights from infected countries and why we're not taking steps to close our borders. While it won't stop the spread, it will certainly slow it down. I'd rather fight the disease inside the country with 5-10 initial cases than 500-1,000.

Peggy Noonan today shows what gobbledygook the Administration response is to questions about travel bans. It's clearly lies, but why? Up to now, I'd thought it was the traditional Democrat fetishization of race. Africans are black and any restrictions on blacks is racist. A travel ban is racist and therefore religious apostasy to the Administration.

Jonathon Last disabused me of this notion. It is indeed about race, but, being more precise, it's about racial politics.
Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.” ...

Ebola has the potential to reshuffle American attitudes to immigration. If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, you’re implicitly rejecting the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are cases in which government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. Some people on the left admit to seeing this as the thin end of the wedge. Writing in the New Yorker, Michael Specter lamented, “Several politicians, like Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, have turned the epidemic into fodder for their campaign to halt immigration.” And that sort of thing just can’t be allowed.

What would happen in the event of an Ebola outbreak in Latin America? Then America would have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border—not to mention carriers of the virus. And if we had decided it was okay to cut off flights from West Africa, would we decide it was okay to try to seal the Southern border too? You can see how the entire immigration project might start to come apart.
And there you have it. If Democrat leaders become pro-border-security, the party loses its key wedge issue with Hispanics. Since the Democrats live and die with racial-block voting, they can't give up this issue. If Hispanics ever divided their votes 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, the progressive era would be over, o-v-e-r.

On the plus side, an Ebola outbreak would make it easier for the Democrats to vote the graveyard.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Link Of The Day

... comes from the level-headed Calafia Beach Pundit. Here's a tidbit.
Might I suggest that if indeed the world population were to collapse in short order, most of those who managed to survive would face bleak prospects at best; the machinery of the global economy would be effectively broken, and modern civilizations would be hard-pressed to survive. What good would it do to sell everything you own today? Investing in anticipation of the "end of the world as we know it" is a questionable exercise at best. If you are convinced we are faced with an inevitable global catastrophe, then buying plenty of guns, ammunition, food, and a private, isolated island is probably your best strategy.
Read the whole thing.

I've pondered taking some of my S&P 500 money off the table and move it into safe bonds, but I think the time for that has come and gone. I wanted to pull the trigger at 2000, but I didn't. I can't imagine there will be too much more downside before the Fed contracts fiscal Ebola and begins to spray money out every orifice to stop whatever business cycle is causing them to wet their pants.

If things get too dire in the market, the Fed will save us from ourselves by manufacturing money out of thin air. Well, it will hand out free money until it can't do that any more because printed money has no value, but that looks like it's a ways off.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Infantry Against Ebola?

One more thought on Ebola. For the life of me, I can't figure out why we sent Army soldiers to Africa to do something about Ebola. It seems to me that they're just going to become disease vectors. Allegedly they're there to set up testing and treatment labs.
Eventually, up to 4,000 military personnel are expected to be deployed to West African countries battling the Ebola outbreak
It seems like a force that size will be devoured by both the country and the virus.

Do we keep them in quarantine before we let them back in the country?

The Ultimate Lean Six Sigma Success Story

As long-time readers know, I'm a huge fan of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) and other process improvement techniques. There's nothing I love more than ignoring the purpose of my work to spend endless hours focusing on how I can shave thirteen cents off the cost of purchasing a pencil. It's freakin' Paradise, man.

Yesterday I was in a meeting at work where we were discussing how one of our sister organizations could save tens of thousands of dollars by discarding their subscriptions to some electronic journals and instead accessing those same journals through our system. Had they taken the deal, they would have saved about $25,000 in the first four months and picked up access to about six times as many journals as they currently had.

Forunately, their LSS guru put a stop to it.

The dude was amazing. He forced the entire decision process to stop dead in its tracks so they could do a full-on LSS process improvement effort. Tollgates, voice of the customer, problem definitions, the full treatment. It was awesomeness squared. I sat there, playing Bejeweled on my Droid, marvelling at the way he enforced our organization's rigid orthodoxy of Continuous Process Improvement on a group that would have otherwise run off and saved money while picking up more benefits.

Lean Six Sigma. Is there anything more beautiful in the world?

Lean Six Sigma is just one success story after another.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Thought About Ebola And Quarantines

I'm sure that as soon as Health and Human Services can break someone free from their Birth Control Enforcement Division they'll be all over this with a wonderful solution. In the meantime, I'm thinking that if Ebola ever gets loose in, say, the migrant worker camps of California, the back hills of West Virginia or New Orleans' 9th Ward, we're pretty much screwed.

It sure would be nice to close off the border right now and ban flights from Africa. If you can't control it once it gets loose inside the country, your best bet is to stop it while it's still outside.

Naahhhhhh. Closing the border is racist. I'd rather die from Ebola than risk being called a racist.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Small Talk With A Homeless Dude

... is pretty tough.

Yesterday, my wife and I were having lunch after Mass on an outdoor patio at a local Mexican place. We saw a homeless fellow walk by, take a look in the trash and then wander around. My wife got up and offered to buy him lunch. He sat down at the table next to ours while she went inside to order. It was then that I realized how hard it was to chat with him.

His name was Dwight. Dwight looked like he'd spent the night in the bushes. He was pretty baked as well, only marginally able to hold a conversation. Beer or cheap wine was my guess. We talked about the weather and he told me about the ocean temperature and what that meant and I asked if he was from San Diego and he pointed in the direction of where he was born.

And then the conversation stopped.

What do you ask? Where do you live? How are things in the bushes? What's the foraging like these days?

After an awkward silence, I asked if he'd lived anywhere else. That was a good line as it gave him his chance to spin a yarn about having traveled the world. He was pretty drunk or maybe his brain had been fried from bouts of drinking, so his speech was difficult to understand. I was able to pick out the word "Shanghai" and that led me to ask if he'd been in the Navy. Jackpot again. He launched into another unintelligible story about serving on the Enterprise and something or other. It wasn't important that the stories were true or even whether or not I understood them, it was just a chance to show him some affection.

When I work downtown, the conversations start themselves. It's a customer-clerk relationship. The business end of the deal keeps the conversation going and everything flows from that. In this case, there was no such anchor and keeping it going was much, much harder.

We left Dwight with a hearty lunch and he was shoveling it into his mouth almost with the palms of his hands when we left. From the looks of things, he'd been drinking whatever money he had found and food had been cut from the budget.

I'm still not quite sure where I should have gone with our confab.

Here's a site with suggested conversation starters. It's decent, but I feel like I'd tried those. The housed-homeless cultural gap can be tough to bridge, I guess.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Abortion Is Darwinian

I've always loved the smug, condescending characterizations of religion as some kind of psychological pacifier, concocted by savages to calm their mortality-worried minds. I'm also a big fan of evolutionary biology where scientists explain species and sub-species differences by noting competitive advantages. When Darwinian advantage analyses are applied to humans, it's particularly fun. After all, Darwin himself suggested the "inferior" races would vanish from the earth and we'd be left with the "superior" humans, a gap and then the apes in the whole ESPN Evolution Power Poll.

This weekend, I came across this tweet.

The story at the link is fascinating, like the diary of a Einsatzgruppen field officer describing how he helped cleanse Grossdeutsches Reich of subhumans, making room for a future influx of the Volk. After all, let's face it, there's no Sky Fairy and we're all just animals, DNA strands trying to propagate down the misty corridors of time in robotic fashion. Everything we do is governed by biology and natural selection.

Once you discard the primitive superstitions created by confused and hysterical minds, you can embrace the world as it is and realize that abortionists are merely carrying out their programming - destroying competitors to their own progeny. It's all so simple. The pro-choice crowd is naturally following their Darwinian impulses.

Instead of pro-choice, we should call it pro-natural-selection. We're not exercising reproductive rights, we're weeding out the inferior members of the species.

Baboons do this. When a new male defeats the old alpha, he will slay all the nursing babies so their mothers will come into heat sooner and he can mate with them. It's natural, it happens all the time in the wild and best of all, it's understood by science.


I felt weird posting this after coming home from a retreat, but it jumped out at me while reading my Twitter stream and I thought it worth posting. The subject is a bit harsh, but there you have it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spiritual Positioning

This weekend, I'm working a men's retreat. I posted this on Thursday, scheduling it to come out today. Instead of blogging, I'll be in the kitchen chopping veggies, doing dishes and serving others. For a variety of unavoidable, small but cumulative reasons, I've been spiritually and psychically tired lately. It's been difficult to be thoughtful or creative.

When I took kung fu a few years back, my instructors taught me about "positioning." While you can learn how to protect yourself, you'd be far better off not to put yourself into a situation where you're called to do it.

Positioning is what this weekend is all about for me. I'm not very enthused by the prospect (writing on Thursday right before I drive up), but I know that at the very least, I won't be doing something stupid or sinful. By hanging out with a bunch of great guys who are also there to serve and share their love, chances are really good that I'll gain strength and energy from them and bring it home with me.

Sometimes it's hard to push yourself to do the things you ought to do. When that happens it's best to position yourself so that's all you can do.

I'm bringing my camera with me. I hope to get some decent photos to share when I come back. I'll be sure to pray for all my blog readers, too. You give me strength even when you don't realize it.

God bless you all.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Scratch Beginnings

For various reasons, just a short post today.

I recently finished Adam Shepard's excellent Scratch Beginnings. It's the story of a college graduate who decides to find out if the American Dream of making it from nothing is dead or not. He moves to Charleston, SC with $25 in his pocket, the clothes on his back, an empty backpack and a sleeping bag. He doesn't trade on his social or family connections nor his college degree. His goal is to have $2500 in the bank, a working vehicle and a place to live after one year.

Scratch Beginnings is the story of the homeless and the underprivileged. I loved it for that reason. When I work downtown at Catholic Charities, I've often wondered what my customers' lives are like. Where do they go and what do they do? Is their situation totally hopeless? This book helped me understand their lives a lot better. There are opportunities and escape routes, but it's not easy to stick to what you need to do to make it out.

If you've got a few hours, I'd definitely read it. It might put you in contact with a world you would otherwise never experience.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Snarling Less In Your Marriage

Here's another tidbit from the Brian Tracy book I've been reading.

To improve your self-confidence, set goals and every day, tell yourself, "I have (already accomplished my goal)!" If your specific goal is to become the top salesman at IBM, you tell yourself, "I am the top salesman at my IBM!" It sounds wacky, but I think I understand how it works.

Let's try a different example as an illustration. Say you want to have a great relationship with your wife. Every day you would tell yourself, "I really love my wife. I love being around her and I'm going to look for ways to make her happy today!" You say that even if you've been fighting like two cats in a bag for the last couple of years. It works because it changes your expectations and perspective on your relationship.

When things are going great in your marriage, there are still days when your wife snaps at you. She's had a bad day at work or the car broke down or maybe the weather is really beastly and everyone's tempers are short. When she snarls, you don't snarl back because you know that it's just a passing thing and you can shrug it off. It's not part of an ongoing war. You know if you let it slide, the rest of the day is going to be great because pretty soon you'll be happily cooperating on something.

When things are going badly and you've been fighting a lot, a snarl is the bugle sounding, "Charge!" and you go over the top with fixed bayonets to counter attack your wife. You do that because the mood in the house is combative. You counter attack so she mobilizes reinforcements and attempts a flanking maneuver. You bring up artillery and lay down a barrage. Pretty soon, you're stringing barbed wire across the bedroom and setting up machine gun nests in the kitchen.

In both cases, she's provoked you by snarling. Your reaction depends on what you expect out of the future. If the future is happy, you're not going to screw that up by snarling right back. That's the key to why telling yourself you've already accomplished your goals works.

In the IBM salesman example, you approach your sales relaxed and confident. You know that if you don't get this one, you'll get the next one because, after all, you're the top salesman at IBM. It's a lot easier to sell when you're relaxed and confident.

7, now 8 paragraphs without a picture. That won't do. I'm out of time for this blog post, so here's a picture to wrap things up.

A surfer, two swimmers and two fishermen at Sunset Cliffs. Yes, I know, it has nothing to do with the rest of the post. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Fantastic Photography

... can be found at Tim's blog, The Backyard Arthropod Project. Here's a sample.

Tim has inspired me, educated me and amazed me with his terrific blog. Pop on over and see one more reason why he's a great example of what makes the Internet such a wonderful invention.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Red Bugs

While out on maneuvers with the Catican Guards on Fiesta Island, we saw zillions of these little, red bugs. It turns out they're called ... red bugs. They're invasive, but I can't see that they're doing all that much damage. Here's the scoop on that front.

Here are the photos, taken with my new Galaxy S5. I think the photos came out quite well. Enjoy!

They liked to gather in big piles in the shade amongst dried vegetation.

Here's one racing across open ground looking for a pile to join.

This was my favorite. A dog an dug a hole in the sand and these guys must have been drawn to the cool shadows.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Power Of Righteousness

... is a key to self-confidence.

Continuing with lessons learned from my latest Brian Tracy book, one of my favorites is this: a lot of self-confidence comes from aligning your decisions with your values.

One of the first exercises in the book is to work out your values and goals. It's a straight lift from his excellent book, Goals, but with a different purpose. Having already iterated that process several times, I could coast past this one and get to the payoff. While Brian chattered away about how to determine your values and goals, I decided to mentally adopt the Catholic Catechism wholesale as my values. That shorthand allowed me to concentrate on subsequent lessons. Here's the essence of those lessons:

When you make a decision or take a position based on your deeply-held values, you gain a strength that comes from without. Criticism is partially defanged because you can correctly claim you are pursuing something higher than yourself. It encourages courage, too. To not defend your decision is to betray your higher calling.

Yesterday, my wife and I encountered Beverly, a crippled, homeless woman on a street corner. Before the light changed, I gave her $10 and chatted with her. Had my wife objected, I would have been more confident to disagree as I felt I was doing Christ's work. It wasn't that I was doing it for me, I was doing that which I had been called to do. My self-confidence would have been greater as I was borrowing strength from external values.

Good stuff, that.

Odds and ends:
  • Brian Tracy, I love you, but could you get someone else to read your book next time? This one sounds like it was recorded in your kitchen.
  • Beverly asked us to pray for her. If you joined in, I'd appreciate it.
  • My wife object to Beverly's gift? Ha! That's a laugh. My wife is kinder and more giving than I am.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Working Too Hard At Leadership And Planning

Listening to my new Brian Tracy book, I've been forced to confront some failings at work. I know where I want to take my team and product line and I know the steps to get there, but I don't use that to govern my daily actions.

Both Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy recommend making a daily list of prioritized tasks. What needs to get done today? Once in a while, I work on this and try to make a detailed, structured road map to go from where we are to where we want to go. I use that road map to figure out what to do today.

Unfortunately, the road map very quickly becomes useless - overcome by events. Pretty soon, I've got no plan and am going in to work and playing whack-a-mole with random tasks. Days become weeks become months and while important things have been done and there are no complaints from customers, we're not achieving the big, revolutionary goals I've set.

The problem is not in the individual road maps, it's their existence in the first place.

A flow chart for building a house. I argue that this is overkill.
Who cares what's on the road map 3 months from now? All you really need is to know what to do next. What should you be working on today?

In the case of building a house, as illustrated above, there are dependencies that require lots of planning, but in the case of my team at work, such things are obvious just from making a list of things that need to be done to achieve our goals.

Instead of taking the time to draw out complicated Gantt charts that show every phase of the project, I think it would be much better to make an unordered list of all the things that need to be done to achieve our goals. From that list, pick out the very few things you need to do right now. Once you've completed those things, you delete them from the list and pick out the next things that need to be done right now. If you discover new tasks to get to your desired end state, throw them on the list and don't worry about when they need to be done.

Since identifying what has to be done immediately is almost always the easiest part of drawing any road map, you've dramatically simplified the planning process and can knock out your daily list of tasks with minimal effort and time. When you go in to work, your daily task list is trivial to prepare.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Inverse Paranoia

I'm listening to a Brian Tracy motivation / sales / goals book right now and he presented a pretty cool concept: inverse paranoia.

With paranoia, you believe that everything and everyone around you are conspiring to make your life worse. With inverse paranoia, you believe that everything and everyone around you are conspiring to teach you life lessons.

I like it! It's a neat mental model for dealing with setbacks.

Friday, October 03, 2014

I'll Bet The Latvians Are Feeling Pretty Secure Right Now

Dig this.
Technical problems with Germany’s military aircraft have left 150 troops stranded in Afghanistan and forced commanders to consider using Chancellor Angela Merkel’s jet to fly the soldiers home...The equipment breakdown was the fourth consecutive German military aircraft failure in recent weeks and comes as aid destined to help fight Ebola in west Africa was left stranded after another plane malfunction...The breakdown comes as a further embarrassment for German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has admitted that the military is facing severe equipment shortages which are hampering Germany’s efforts to meet its NATO commitments.
This is Germany, Europe's wealthiest country. Just imagine what the Latvians could expect in the way of help from, say, Italy, should Putin turn his eyes to the Baltic states.

Not to worry. Military aggression is so 19th Century. No self-respecting world leader would want to be caught behaving like Otto Von Bismark. They'd never be invited to a poetry recital at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop ever again!

It's not quite the same Luftwaffe as the one that thought it could conquer England.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Best Thing About My New Samsung Galaxy S5 Is ...

... its battery life.

I just upgraded from a Galaxy S3 to an S5. Oh sure, the screen is bigger, the processor is faster, the camera is better and it instantly knows precisely where it is with speed and accuracy unheard of in the S3, but the best part of all is how long it lasts. I don't have any hard data as I've never let it drain to zero, but both my wife and I agree that our S5s best feature is the battery life.

That was unexpected, to be sure.