Precipitation. And other things that will get you wet.

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Sometimes I succeed at passing myself off as having some semblance of stoicism… the point on the philosophy spectrum I’d ideally like to occupy. But really, I likely seesaw between cynicism and epicureanism, teetering back and forth, in a very uncommitted fashion. Not actual epicureanism mind you, which was quite a serious philosophy and not nearly as frivolous, or indeed gluttonous as the modern incantation of the word has come to mean. Although I tend to channel the more contemporary hedonistic definition thereof. *Joey takes another sip of wine* (which I stole appropriated from my parents house earlier today)

In my defence, it looks like a bottle that I may have gifted them at some point in time previously, the wine in question being woefully out of place in their otherwise… eh… dim collection. In so far as it is has (according to the description) intense black berries and cloves with hints of dried herbs and vanilla on the nose. A combination of blue berries and black cherries with a firm, juicy tannin with a long finish. 

Wine comes with its own particular brand of bullshit. In my humble opinion anyway. Although maybe I’m just challenged in the olfactory and taste bud department* since I  never experience ANY of that. Maybe I need drop acid and then drink wine… because well, I hate to think I’m missing out.

*which might potentially explain my mad cunnilingus skilz. I jest. I’m probably completely average… well I assume I am having never asked for rating on services rendered. Ego however prevents me imagining myself lagging too far behind my peers on the bell curve.

In true Dionysian fashion I’m combining my wine with Easter eggs. I went snuffling around the study cupboard earlier and found my wife’s stash. After my best puppy dog eyes routine (and then when that didn’t work making a high pitched mewling noise) she acquiesced and said that I might as well just eat them, if only I would shut up. This is how I roll. Sad and pathetic. And then pivoting into annoying (depending on results).

And on that noteworthy stratagem on how to succeed in life I will wish you all good night, Godspeed and an auspicious bowel movement.

Irreverent Easter post

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Nice thing about Christianity and christians generally is that you can post irreverent stuff about them and, for the most part, they won’t find out where you live and mail you a pressure cooker filled with gunpowder and dry wall screws. If you’re lucky they’ll even pray for you. Which, personally, I find quite nice and certainly wouldn’t object to.

They’re not quite at the point of Mormons, who, in my opinion, occupy the very pinnacle of the tolerance spire, but pretty damn close. If this sort of thing was a competition where you could win something (like a microwave oven) I mean. Of course this wasn’t always so. Lampooning Christianity used to be considered in quite a dim light… remedied with all manner of invasive (and sometimes heated) instruments you wouldn’t necessarily like inserted up your rectum. Not even some saucy pillow talk before hand to get you in the mood. And then eventually, on the sweet release of death, your soul would be taking the express elevator to damnation anyway. Which kinda makes the mortal realm torture thing seem a little superfluous. But maybe they were just warming you up for things to come, a little orientation week taster.

In any event I’m scared to say who I think the least tolerant religion (right now) is, because well… I’m scared. I know what happens to those people who are inclined to express an opinion on such a taboo… eh… leitmotif.  Mean stuff gets said about you on twitter and enraged agitators post your home address on their feed and incite their followers to do you harm. And thats just the actors and comedians.

In any event, I think we need to remember that Easter is all about chocolate… and that chocolate is basically love. And that love is good. Spread the chocolate, if not on the bosom of your significant other in the sanctity of your bedroom, then in foil wrapped bunny form among your fellow sapiens. Show someone you care. Preferably with Lindt.

Dying for an idea

Tribe by Sebastian Junger is one of my favorite books. A couple of years ago Mr. Junger was on the podcast circuit as a guest, an interviewee I devoured. It was during one of these, I think they were discussing fatalism (its been a while and my memory these days is mostly shot) that Mr. Junger posits the following question, ‘What would you die for, what ideas would you die for?’

On the surface (I think) everyone can rattle off a couple of things they can imagine they could or would die for. Family, close friends, maybe. Whether this is true or not, it’s difficult to judge intent until faced with circumstances in which you are forced to act. Interestingly, I seem to remember the discussion… or maybe this is in the book (or maybe I’m completely misattributing this, I’m too lazy to go look it up right now) about a statistical happenstance that occurs when people fall (or get pushed) onto subway tracks and that people that jump onto the tracks to save them, in cases where they are saved, the rescuer is almost always a young male. (something crazy like 99%)Subway.jpgIn any event, I can think my way through saving actual, individual people with faces. That part of the question never really bothered me, since I could imagine myself dying to save my children for example. Thats an easy one because I feel some deep mammalian instinct there.

Where it becomes murkier, for me at least, is the ideas part. What idea would you be willing to give up your life for?

On the surface of it we are taught (or at least I was) that the American civil war was about the economics of slavery. I’m not going to go into the minutiae of it (and indeed the conspiracy theory aspect). For the sake of my post let us assume this to be true and the only concept. People on the North were against it and the south was for it. A war over an idea as it were.

Only it turned out, that northerners we less inclined to die for this idea (on some muddy field in Virginia) than originally anticipated. Sure some of them were, but the government for lack of enough volunteers to fight for their ideology had to implement a draft (and so forced people to die for this idea).

It’s generally at this point that my libertarian-ness gets all hot and bothered, ie that a government can implement a law that can force you to go off and fight and die for something. Otherwise people with guns will come and arrest you, deprive you of your liberty and if your actions are found treasonable enough, kill you. Just because you don’t want to do something.

Also, as an interesting aside, Theodore Roosevelts father, a wealthy New York businessman didn’t want go off and line up on a field to invite musket balls and grapeshot into his personage. His wife was also a hardcore southern belle whose family were wealthy slave owning Georgians. Theodore Senior hired a ‘body-double’ to fight on his behalf, something wealthy people could afford to do and wasn’t necessarily frowned upon by the upper class elites. Theodore Jr, the later president, took huge umbrage that his father had been (in his mind) so cowardly. It is theorised that this episode influenced Teddy to take on above average risk and adventurism with which to prove his personal honor and valor.

Would I die to oppose slavery somewhere far away? Or fascism? Lots of people fought, died or were injured for that relatively recently. Including my relatives who were on the wrong side of that particular conflict.

The truth is I don’t really know. And I’m finding myself leaning towards probably not. Dying for an idea I mean. Can’t we oppose things we find onerous with facebook activism and blogposts? Maybe product boycotts?

I mean suicide bombers die for ideas that they find troublesome after all… although maybe we need to consider intent there, people going off to fight a war might die, but I imagine that is not their intention, where as suicide bombers mean to die. And therein lies the rub I suppose. Might die in the process versus definitely dying.

For some reason this makes me think of Idmon, the seer that joined Jason and his Argonauts on the voyage for the golden fleece. Being a seer, he knew ‘stuff’ about the future and it was revealed to him that he would die relatively early on in the journey. (I think he was either the first or second casualty) Tough when your party loose their seer early on. I think he got gored to death by a boar… in any event, even armed with this knowledge he was still an eager participant and volunteer because it was revealed that his name would never be forgotten.

Maybe this is the sort of death I can get behind.

Business books

Dear twenty year old me.

Given the shortness of life, there are two types of books you shouldn’t waste your time with. Business books. Also known as books that should have been a nine hundred word blog post but weren’t.

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche*

*I sometimes get the feeling Nietzsche didn’t follow his own advice…

The other is ‘Life advice’ books, or really any book some person feels compelled to write to ‘help’ you sort your life out. *Joey makes a horrible gurgling sound, before pointing a finger at his head and figuratively blowing his brains out*

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Chances are your life is not shit. Its just marketed to you that way. Stop letting these fuckers profiteer from their optimal morning routines, nutrition efficient smoothies, meditation rituals and personal hygiene habits. Don’t let anyone ever suggest that what you are doing is sub-optimal or inefficient. Fuck them.

If you must read a book about entrepreneurship … these are the three that you should read. They are short, punch above their weight and are loaded with goodness that you can mull over in the bath. (or on the toilet, or really wherever your do your philosophising/entrepreneurshipping)

 

  1. REWORK (by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried)

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2. Anything you want (by Derek Sivers)

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3. The War of Art (by Steven Pressfield)

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In my experience (so far)… Pretty much everything else… read a summary. Or a blogpost

Dividends

I remember the first time I got a dividend payment. It was from Compagnie Financière Richemont. One day in the mail (actual real life mail) I got a thick wad of super-complicated foreign exchange forms (the dividend was in Swiss Francs) and a thick glossy catalog which also doubled as the company financials. Shiny! Before then I’d only ever traded commodities (which gives you nothing, except sadness and acid reflux). I’d perused the forms, briefly. And then decided it was waaaaay too much work for the paltry amount they were giving me, unpaused my game and went back to killing stuff on Playstation.

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The second time I got a dividend it was infinitely more exciting than the first. Post event I decided that maybe I liked this dividend thing after all. Money sorta just appeared in my account and I didn’t have to do anything. Who doesn’t like free money?

Wait… what exactly is a dividend?

A dividend happens when a company makes sooooooooo much f’ing money that they don’t actually know what to do with it. Like when they sell a pair of shoes that cost them 20 rupees and a small government kickback imposition to make but what they’re actually selling is a fictional narrative for $165.  At some point during the year the head honchos all get together and, after strippers, blow and some self-congratulatory back slapping, they ink out a corporate strategy on the back of a napkin and then decide to distribute that money to shareholders. 

I jest. Sometimes they do this in a smoky walnut paneled room at a country club. 

I suppose it depends on what sort of investor you are. Or maybe how you feel about how you make your money. If you even care. I tend to flip-flop between liking dividends and then (usually by the end of the day) not liking them anymore.

Declaring a dividend, for me at least, is often either a sign of a late stage business with nowhere left to go, or of a poor management team. I use the term poor quite loosely. I mostly mean people so devoid of imagination or work ethic that instead of reinvesting that money in the company they would rather just give it away. It underscores a huge problem in the higher echelons of the corporation. Generally speaking when you’re at the pinnacle point in a management environment you are also nearing your expiry date. You need to make hay while the sun shines and don’t necessarily want to rock the boat with adventurism and entrepreneurship. Also you don’t really care about what the minority stockholders want.

And so, companies pay dividends. It’s a double edged sword. Sure I like that ‘free’ money. But I would also like it if the company I owned a share in took that money and did something constructive with it. Ie. Diversified its income streams to be a more robust earner, bought back some of its shares, bought a competitor or even just saved so of that money for a rainy day. But that’s just me. Ultimately we as stakeholders live for the day and we would much rather eat the cupcake now than have the promise of two cupcakes later.

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As with all things, be suspicious of anyone advising you how to invest your money. Even advice that seems free (like a podcast, twitter feed or indeed a blog) is fraught with personal preference, survivorship bias and perhaps most importantly colored by the ego of the dispenser. (Yes, even me, I am inclined to believe in my own infallible awesomeness) Besides the only person who can understand your risk appetite and personal circumstances is you, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Take some responsibility for understanding what you’re doing with your money. And if its too complicated… walk away!

Personally I like (at this point in my in life) to have several pokers in the fire. And one of those is boring companies that pay regular dividends. In an ideal circumstance you bought these guys before they developed into these late stage behemoth corporations as part of your buy-and-hold-until-you-die strategy. I tend to be quite wary of getting into companies that pay regular dividends later on in their lifespan (because… well… they tend to be expensive). Unless of course there is a market correction and they go on sale. The bigger the overall the drop, generally, the more cheerful I get. These guys are robust and have survived this long for a reason… usually there is less risk picking them up at a discount… than say more recent entries into the market. The trick is to have money that is not in the market so you can buy the stocks during the fire sale. But that is likely another another blog-post for another time.

 

This a series of posts I’m doing for my kids. In case I die (ie. Go Darke) and am not around to to teach them (personal) finance when the time comes. Its mostly stuff I wish someone had taught me when I was sixteen. 

Back to my personal finance page