Sublety

I fail at being subtle. Fortunately, most people are oblivious. For some time now, I have been using this as my symbol. May I explain a small part?

When I designed this, I was making a figure/ground illusion. One can see with equal validity A blue Maltese cross, a white Maltese cross, a white Greek cross, or a blue Greek cross. There are equal numbers of blue and white pixels, and there is no preference of one image over the other, except in your mind. Most such illusions are fuzzy things and are highly dependent on orientation. This is clean, geometrical, and highly symmetrical. I was rather pleased to have designed a four in one figure/ground image. So I showed it to a good friend. Elizabeth saw a compass rose. Sigh. Five in one. There is a bit more to it, but that is enough.

Most figure/ground illusions are fuzzy things of no universality.

I am happy with this little design of mine, but never has anyone volunteered a comment on it. Do they not see or think on it? Or do they fear that it is an esoteric symbol of some strange group? I know of no other person or group which has used it.

Submitted for your consideration.

 

 

 

 

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A Year Later

Piano

By D. H. Lawrence
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

The ‘Dogs of the Dow’ strategy

 

I’ve been thinking about this:

The ‘Dogs of the Dow’ strategy.

The theory of this strategy is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average companies are among the best run companies in the world. Companies fight to get on this list. But even good companies have bad days. As a data point, such stocks pay dividends. This is a bribe to convince investors of their success. Like antlers on elk. For dividends to advertise success, they tend to be as stable as possible. This means that when the price drops, the dividend / price ratio rises. This is not only easy to calculate, it is a standard measure which is widely reported.

The basic strategy is to take a small group of highly selective stocks, such as the Dow, and every year invest in one third of them with the highest dividend / price ratio. Recalculate every year and repeat.

This is an attempt to be both objective and lazy. This assumes we live in a murky world where we will never have enough accurate data, but that the hard truths cannot be successfully hidden for long.

Immediately drop any stock which drops or greatly reduces its dividend. The whole point of an elk’s antlers is to advertise health and confidence. If it can not make the show, it cannot be presumed to be of great vitality. Note that this is the reason to favor the divided/price ratio over the price/earning ratio. Earnings can be jiggered and if a stock does not produce a dividend it is immediately brought to your attention.

This does not work for stocks such as Amazon which try not to pay dividends. One could make the case that not paying dividends is a way to hide information. That they are building a glamour, and so should be avoided. If dividends cease their role in the business milieu this will need to be changed. Perhaps to the price/earning method.

I do not recommend doing this with large indices such as the Standard and Poor 500 because they are not selective in the first place. There is little of a mean to revert to, and most of the companies have not established a reputation which may persist past the era of a charismatic founder.

The varieties of this strategy are endless: Once can use other red flags for failing performance than loss of dividend. One may use one’s own method of choosing a set of elite stocks. One may invest in two thirds of the stocks in a bull market and one third in a bear market. Just remember that you are using the wisdom of the market to hopscotch your own ignorance and emotion. As Feynman said,’The problem is you are the easiest one for you to fool.’

A dozen or so years ago two brothers who picked stocks came up with an extreme version of this strategy. They suggested buying your own stock and only investing in the four with the worst year. Of course it failed. The ‘Foolish Four’ was too few stocks and the occasional stock, such as GE, which would drop off of the list would certainly be among the stocks you chose. If a stock is dropped off the DJI once a decade, then you will both get the badly performing stock and miss the new one which was doing so well ast to get on the DJI.

If one believes the people who choose the new stocks for your index, then perhaps one should always hold the new stock for a year or two. Take advantage of their catabolism to establish their presence. Then again maybe just for a short period, then treat them as the others.

Well that’s about it. Do you have any comments?

Where Is the Joy?

I have been sad recently. Such tides occur. But where is the joy to help?

Where are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Cyd Charisse?

Where are the comedians who try to make us laugh? I see the humorless, lecturing comedians. But where are the happy, funny ones?

A twelve-year-old boy walks into a bar. He walks up to a waitress and asks for scotch.

‘You’re only twelve. Do you want to get me in trouble?’

‘Maybe later. Now I just want scotch.’

Tell me that is inferior in morals, construction, or any criterion to whatever divisive political pablum you hear tonight. I am sure there is a e-6 or e-12 aggression in there somewhere… The notion of forbidden comedy makes my head ache.

Cezanne and Van Gogh and Michelangelo produced works that swelled one’s heart with joy and beauty. Our modern art tries for an emotional response. But they try for anger and disgust. I presume an easier target. Else they emulate bad documentaries. And the skill. O tempores, O mores.

I have given up on much modern literature. Most mainstream literature is ipso facto, joyless. Genre fiction is walking on egg shells lest anyone be offended other than straight, white men who should be ostracised. I think this is why I followed the Sad Puppies fiasco. I wondered if the notion of rewarding good fiction could survive. Justice or social justice. I miss radio. We used to sing to artists without knowing their race or proclivities. Indeed, we sometimes couldn’t tell their sex. Tracy Chapman, anybody.

Dancing girls, and jesters and storytellers. Is that too much to ask?

Animal Crackers

 

For the sake of Helium-3

 

Let me dive into the fringes of science fiction.

Many people, including my brother, who are for pushing into outer space, use the temptation of cheap fusion power. They say that the moon has supplies of Helium-3 which would make fusion power cheap and effective until we learn how to better do fusion power with what we have on Earth. As I understand it, there are two arguments: That a shallower learning curve will enable us to weed out the bad ideas which currently stymie us. Or that it is economically feasible to import Helium-3.

Helium-3 is not found plentifully on the Earth. It is both inert and light. It just floats away. That Helium – of any sort – which we have is found with natural gas trapped under salt domes. We get it as a byproduct of natural gas production. The amount of Helium-3 is truly saddening.

However, it is found on the moon. One idea is that Helium-3 ions from the solar wind are embedded in the moon and persist there. Especially in dark areas. This is an area of potential conflict. The Chinese are especially interested at present.

I have a different idea. Years ago Robert W. Bussard suggested a way to make an interstellar ramjet. Let’s divide the idea into two halves. There is a fusion jet. And before that, there is a large funnel shaped collector – mostly a magnetic field – which collects and concentrates charged nuclei from interstellar space. We do not know how to build a sufficiently large and robust collector field. it would be shockingly useful if we could.

What if we bypass the whole Moon thing, and build a collector at the L4 point? Just take the He-4 from the solar wind? once we have a narrow jet of solar wind concentrated, in the vacuum of space, we run that stream by a magnet and the stream will be separated by mass into a spectrum of mass. Direct the stream of Helium-3 into a grounded container and we have reconstituted Helium-3. At other locations we have Technetium, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Neon, Magnesium, even Titanium.

We can farm these things, rather than having to mine them. We also have a shadow of very good vacuum. We don’t have to go down to the Moon and bring them back up.

Also, while we are learning how to make a decent fusion reactor, we can learn to make a Bussard Collector. At the end of this process we have not only the Helium-3 which motivated us, but also a source of the supples we need for life in outer space. And as a pearl on a cushion, we just might have both halves of the Bussard Ramjet which opens up access to the nearer stars.

Rather a neat solution, no?

A modern atheist is a clear-eyed viewer in the midst of a plain who, seeing to the horizon, believes that all there is lies under his gaze. A modern fundamentalist knows there is a world beyond the horizon, and that he knows everything about it without bothering to look and check his beliefs.
The glory of the Reconnaissance of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century was that people actually went beyond the horizon and learned.

A Functional Economy

Since over a generation has passed since the United States has had a properly functioning economy, does anyone remember what one looks like?

First, over time commodities drop in price. Assuming that people don’t just destroy wealth, it accumulates. As there is less scarcity when wealth accumulates, cause and effect lowers prices. Yet another good reason to avoid war. This can be negated if our culture turns to needless destruction. For example, Mr. Obama caused a great many perfectly serviceable power generation plants to be dynamited. The one in my county would take $6 to 8 e9 to replace. There were bombing missions of massed B-17’s that caused less damage. The ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program needlessly destroyed many functional automobiles across the entire nation. Is this not vandalism that steals wealth from those who follow us?

One commodity to watch is gold. A mental flaw causes most people to equate gold with money. Mass psychology causes many others to treat gold as money as the market demands. In a properly functioning economy, gold is a stupid investment. It just sits there without growing. Worse, in those eras when the economy grows, gold drops in value. When the price of gold rises, people are saying they don’t trust their government or the economy. Gold retains value as currency is devalued. It’s value is independent of any government. Gold can be smuggled. Rising gold prices are a sign that trouble is coming.

[ One of my favorite stores of the Second World War: The National Socialists came to Hungary in a nicer face. At first Jews could leave alive if they took nothing but their clothes. A clever chemist put his family fortune into platinum wire. He bent it into wire coat hangers and painted it with cheap paint. He put old clothes on the hangers and walked out of Hungary. Who steals cheap wire hangers? He passed through Britain and ended up in America. Somehow he ended up rich here. Many scientists knew the story, but they generally avoided telling the name. He broke the laws of Hungary, Germany, Britain, and America. But it worked.]

Inflation should be low to zero. A negative inflation rate means that money grows outside the market. It is an incentive to hoard money and not move it around in a functioning economy. High inflation rates are just a way to steal from the people. Look at Venezuela today for the ravages of high inflation. A sane person would convert Bolivars into anything durable rather than hold currency. Heck, convert it into anything that ages slower than green bananas.

There has to be a way to invest your money so that it values the world. And the greater the risk taken, the higher the rate of return should be. A bank’s CD rates should pay decent interest. Here are the CD rates today:

Here are the current average rates for the week of May 2:

  • 1-Year CD Rates: 0.59%
  • 5-Year CD Rates: 1.21%
  • 1-Year Jumbo CD Rates: 0.62%
  • 5-Year Jumbo CD Rates: 1.26%
  • Money Market Account Rates: 0.18%

Even the five year rates are below inflation. Who would give them money? If we do not invest, the economy suffers. If we invest at such a rate we prove ourselves fools. When an investment market does not deserve to exist, the money will flow elsewhere. Finding where is the hard job.

That is exactly what they do. If they don’t pay me, then they don’t get my money.

Enough. Comments?

 

 

Black Market Dreams

When my mother was dying of cancer a few months ago in another world, she was on an oxygen concentrator. She asked for more oxygen because she couldn’t breath. I turned up the knob a bit. An alarm sounded. The machine ceased functioning. We all ran around and got a compressed oxygen canister connected. When the repairman came, we were told that the knob was wrongly calibrated. Maximum should have been four liters per minute. We turned it up to what was four point one or two. One is not legally allowed four point two. So the machine was programmed to shut down and sound an alarm. There was no warning or even labeling on the machine. Just a black ball floating in a tube with three or four horizontal thin black lines.

The twenty-something repairman who berated me and hit the reset switch hidden inside the sealed case said, ‘That’s what you get for living in a capitalist society.’

No. In a capitalist society I would have just bought more oxygen. In a socialized and over-regulated society I was as the mercy of such sanctimonious idiots who deny air to a dying woman. And oxygen! Air to breathe.

I may have shaken. I did not strike the prig. Oxygen is a controlled substance? She would have needed a different doctor’s prescription for five liters per hour. He was also angry that the knob had been set wrong. At the maximum setting, I shouldn’t have known better. What next? Can I buy all the water I want, but not distilled water? Is there a high school chemistry student who couldn’t make oxygen two ways?

I try to abide by the law. Really, I do. But such things tempt me into crime. Had I time, I would have bought a second concentrator and hooked it in parallel. Had I more time I may have made my own oxygen concentrator. I looked it up. They are easy and cheap to make. The makers can only charge $1,500 because they are trading on the bereaved. I will leave out how they work for brevity, but someone ask me in the comments. It is easy and ellegant. I begin to fantasize about making and selling things on the black marked that have been taken away by prigs. I could make $1200 per unit making oxygen concentrators. The real Freon is easy to make. And thirty years ago small refrigerators worked better and were safer. We are about two steps from using propane as a refrigerant. Can you say fire hazard? Every time I see a story about bedbugs I am tempted to make DDT, It works well, and I can make it on the stove top. When pseudo-ephedrine was made psuedo-legal I swore I would go out in the hills here and plant some ephedra nevadasiensis in my back yard, It is hard to outlaw something in it’s natural range. I swear I should get some sassafras root and sell Filé powder [ not this new stuff from the leaves] and Root Beer that tastes like root beer.

What is so innocent that some sanctimonious prig will not outlaw it?