Best of Dummy Spots

For those of you just visiting the site for the first time, sorry I killed it. To you, and to others who may be looking for an old article, here are some of my favorites from over the years. There’s much more, of course, if you care to browse through the archives month by month.

Cheers, and best wishes to you.

Subprime With Good Credit, It’s Still Just Good Old-Fashioned Greed

Both my main man Barry Ritholtz and my Atlanta hero Trader Mike have linked to this Wall Street Journal Article about people with high credit scores getting into subprime loans.

The WSJ describes these Poor Victims as being “caught in the subprime trap.”

I call bullshit. These people are caught in the greedy yuppie peer pressure materialism, keep up with the Joneses, entitled but not responsible trap.

Easy credit opened the gap between what we could afford and what we could qualify for. Even easier credit expanded that gap. Zero interest for 60 months on that new car (go ahead and get the leather and navigation system now). Six percent for 360 months on the new house, or better yet, four percent interest-only with nothing down so you can get into a house you can’t afford. Whether someone takes the bait is their decision.

But the consequences are theirs also. Well, should be theirs. Actually, now they’re becoming mine. Those poor victims.

My credit score is over 800. The house I’m sitting in right now is cheap, and paid for. The house I bought in October cost less than I make in one year. I don’t have to rush as I remodel it. I plan to pay it off before most people would pay off a new car. And then, thanks to these “unforeseen” developments in real estate, I might just buy myself a larger house for half of what its previous owners mortgaged. Those poor victims.

I can grill ribeye steaks for my girls anytime they want, while my friends’ kids are home alone on MySpace chatting with a pedophile because their parents are working second jobs to make the note on the mansion, only to come home and eat Ramen noodles, or else eat out with the Joneses and put it all on the credit card. Those poor victims. (The kids, I mean).

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can let alone - HD Thoreau.

The American Dream has run amok. I wrote a post about that, and real estate, almost 2 years ago. But this is all a recent development, a surprise, right? Here’s that post.

We’re all grown up. People should make their grown-up decisions, and take the consequences. Or try to dump them on responsible dummies like me. Whatever. But Jesus, stop all this crying and whining- it’s pathetic.

And as for Alan Greenspan and John Maynard Keynes: Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your experiment?

The Unlived Life

Jung said that the greatest burden of a child is that of carrying “the unlived life of the parent,” that is, the myths, the fantasies, and especially the regrets which the parents project, and which the child observes, and absorbs.

We obediently and unconsciously attempt to live out the myths and fantasies for those who placed them into us, and try to compensate for their regrets. We follow our programming. Likewise, our children are conditioned by us, by what they observe in the way we live our lives. What is important, what is acceptable, what we value, what we could have been, what we are missing out on, what we regret.

Would you be able to take out a sheet of paper and write about the “unlived lives” of your parents? Would you then be able to look over that paper and see how you, throughout your own life, have been repeating their patterns, or perhaps living in perpetual compensation for them, which, as James Hollis says, “though it may be productive for me and others, shackles me to the consequences of someone else’s life”?

If you do see these influences at work in your life, you may be at that stage where you begin to question all the dogma, all the “shoulds” and “oughts”, the “rights” and “wrongs” recorded in your Book of Rules throughout your upbringing (or your domestication, as Miguel Ruiz calls it). This awakening usually occurs somewhere between one’s late 20s and mid 50s, and is often associated with what is commonly called the “midlife crisis.”

It is during this period that we begin to see the life we’ve lived up to that point as having been guided by an unconscious script, and we become aware that Who We Really Are may in reality have little to do with the character who has been following that script. We begin to feel the tremors of our own unlived life.

The width of the gap between What You Portray and Who You Really Are is the distance to your own authenticity, and is what Jung would associate with the depth of your neurosis and depression. Neurosis, he said, is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. And to risk the known in order to explore the possible is to embrace the anxiety and suffering that such a decision is bound to bring.

When, or whether, one begins the journey to authenticity, to the They who They Really Are, is entirely personal, and optional. This is not a contest to be won. We may want to spend another year, or the rest of our lives, attempting to “make it work” as prescribed in our Book of Rules. And there’s no shame in that. We may “make it work” quite well indeed, and can go to sleep at night knowing that our parents would be proud.

Or else we may continue to hear the calling to strike out on that Personal Journey, that painful, terrifying, exciting journey, until whether our parents would be proud, or whether the world understands or approves matters very little any more.

Again, this is from Hollis (from the book Creating a Life):

Where is the unlived life which haunts, or summons, or intimidates you?

We have all been called to spiritual greatness. Not the greatness of worldly standard, but the largeness of individuation, the vocation to be who we are, in the peculiar fashion the psyche demands, at whatever cost may be exacted by the collective.

Somewhere, deep inside of each of us, is the knowing which knows us, that mystery which seeks us, desires realization through us. What a defilement of our calling it is to live the lesser life.

We may be frightened by the scope of such calling, but it is even more frightening to have stayed stuck in a life of no consequence.

Kurt Vonnegut and Johnny Cougar

Since he died, Kurt Vonnegut has become one of my favorite authors.

Tonight, I got home from the extra-long shift I had to work because someone else called in, and I’ve been drinking beer and reading Vonnegut.

Deadeye Dick, to be precise.

This book was written in 1982, and perhaps it was during a time when Vonnegut needed money for a new house, or something. Not his best work. Rides the coattails of Slaughterhouse Five and especially Breakfast of Champions with a little Cat’s Cradle thrown in. Its protagonist is a 50 year-old pharmacist.

I am a 40 year-old pharmacist.

There are some memorable lines. This one just caught my eye:

If a person survives an ordinary span of sixty years or more, there is every chance that his or her life as a shapely story has ended, and all that remains to be experienced is epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.

Curiously enough, I was just explaining today to one of our newer employees, a young lady who is a twenty-something year-old pharmacist, that the song playing on the radio was by a man who was at the time known as “Johnny Cougar.”

I explained to her how the hand claps in that song were from a clap machine loaned to Johnny by some guys in the next studio who had more money and equipment than he did. Those were the Bee Gees. Barry, the musical genius of the group, thought the hand claps would sound good in Johnny’s song. And Jack and Diane as we know it was born.

Jack and Diane was a hit in 1982, the same year Vonnegut’s book was published and his pharmacist turned 50.

Its most memorable lyrics are as follows:

Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.
Oh yeah they say life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.

The Musician

Just got back from the Blues Jam. Early night tonight.

I was thinking of a friend of mine who’s a musician. He lives in a constant dilemma.

You see, he wants to play his own, original music for others, but they don’t show up to hear his music. They show up to hear the old familiar tunes, the ones they know and can sing along with.

He knows exactly how to bring in the crowds- he can play the cover songs like ringin’ a bell, as they say. He can drive the traffic if he wants to.

Here’s his dilemma: Does he ignore his own music, his passion, and cater to the crowds? Does he play his own songs for whoever drops by, and hope that one day the crowds come to him? Does he stop playing in public altogether?

Or does he continue to play covers, strategically inserting an original of his own now and then once the audience is in the house, so that they have to listen (much like throwing green leaves on a fire once it’s started, hoping it will be hot enough that they will ignite)?

If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck
But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself
(Ricky Nelson, “Garden Party”, 1972)

How to Spot the Recession Before They Do

If deflation caused by the credit market collapse overtakes the easing Fed and the falling dollar (leading us into a painful recession), we’ll hear about it from CNBC and FoxNews about nine months too late. Is there any way for the astute individual (who knows what shows up in the “news” is always past-tense) to spot the breakdown as it’s happening?

There is- watch the commodities, they react first.

Gold and Oil

Keep an eye on the charts of Oil and Gold for a top, see the dollar find a bottom against… everything, and when you’re comfortable we’ve rolled over into the spiral, plan your trades accordingly. What worked brilliantly the last year or so may suddenly stop working, and you’ll find your trades hitting stops instead of profit targets.

That will mean it’s time to get out the old playbook and mix things up, because we’ll be on the field with an entirely different opponent.

Related Links

A Great Zen Poem: “When I Am Old” by Ray Nargis

I just heard Garrison Keillor reading a poem on Writer’s Almanac, after the news and before the music on NPR. It made my day. Thought you might enjoy it as well. It’s a poem called “When I Am Old” by Ray Nargis from Almost Tomorrow. The link I’ve inserted is the NPR affiliate link to Amazon, so they get the two cents if you buy it.

Here are some excerpts:

When I am old I’ll drink whiskey in the morning
And coffee at night
And laugh and spit and swear wherever I want.
When I am old I’ll help Girl Scouts across the street
Even if they don’t want to go
And I won’t have a car
And I won’t have a bike
And I’ll walk everywhere.

When I am old I’ll tell people exactly what I think of them
And surprisingly, most of the time it really will be good stuff.
When I am old I won’t have a TV
And I won’t have a radio
And I won’t have a computer or a clock or a phone in the house.
I won’t read books and I won’t read magazines
And I won’t read newspapers and maybe, finally
I’ll learn something just watching the birds and the weather.

Long Entry on the SPYders, and A True Coffee Pot

In an email exchange with LP yesterday morning, I’d said that I was not looking forward to entering a trade before what amounts to a 5-day weekend, but that I may have to if we got anything other than another down day-

If we can get a light down day on SPY today then a positive close tomorrow, I’m in (grade of B). A gap down and reversal this morning (grade of A), or light drop today and OGRe tomorrow (grade of A+) and I’m in. Spike down to new lows, then positive close (A). Or just a plain positive close today (B-).

Well, we did get one of those, and I’m in:

Long Entry on SPY based on spike down and positive close

The alternative to developing a method and then strictly sticking to it would be to enter and exit “by the seat of my pants,” and I still have a full-time job (which I’m ICK! about to leave for) to prove how well that works.

Coffee Pot Crisis

A little entertainment for this Thanksgiving Eve. My coffee maker is about a decade old, was maybe $20 new, but makes (made) the best-tasting coffee on earth. I’ve even bought newer, more expensive ones, then reverted back to Old Faithful.

Yesterday morning I shattered the decanter. Is it me, or do they make those things out of the most brittle, breaks- into- fatal- shards kind of glass on earth? Anyway, I don’t usually have panic attacks (often), but I did then. Mister, I have GOT to have my coffee!.

Here’s my rather inelegant, but amazingly functional solution (had to tear the no-drip valve out of the basket, but it’s one big coaster anyway now):

Coffee Pot
“Coffee Pot”

« Previous entries