Sunday, October 18, 2020

Start your day like a dog. Start your day with a dog (or three).

I recently read about a study done in 2012 and 2015.  

The bottom line 

"Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy."

Here's the link to the full study.

Here is a picture of our dog Bailey. 

Bailey is now nine years old. She has had two knee surgeries. Her joint pop when she gets up and down. 

But look at the picture. The tail is out of focus. Almost every picture we take of Bailey standing up has a tail out of focus. Because she's always happy, and always wagging her tail.

Here is a picture of Maisy.

Maisy is one year old - still a puppy. Every morning (after her breakfast) she jumps up on the couch and sits on my lap for around ten minutes.

And this is Jesse. Jesse is almost four years old, and more of a cow than a dog. But he still likes having lap time. And I like it too. 

When you start your day with bad news, you are 27% more likely to have a bad day. I haven't done an experiment to validate this, but I believe that you get an additional 27% by starting your day happy (like Bailey). For me that involves letting a dog (even a big one) jump up on my lap for a few minutes.

When you start your day holding a dog, even a huge one, 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The return of the Sunday project

Last year at this time I was well into my Sunday afternoon project list. 

And here's why I did it.

Basically I threw a fit because the Browns blew their first game. But the fit worked out really well for three reasons: 

  1. Beth and I got a lot done (see also posts). 
  2. The Browns were terrible, especially in light of the heightened expectations for the season. 
  3. Thanks to those expectations they were on Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night, so I didn't have to give up watching the Browns entirely. (Even though I probably should have).
This year the Browns opened with a 38-6 embarrassment in Baltimore. So I swore off Sunday afternoon football. 

Five games in to the season that looks like a bad choice. The Browns are 4-1. 

That said, even without reasons two and three we are enjoying Sunday afternoon projects.

Okay Phil - why aren't you posting them on Social Media?

Because we bit off really BIG projects to start. Neither are completely finished. Both will be great posts when they are done.

Project One: The church pew.

Several years ago (more than I care to admit) we bought a pew at the Catholic church rummage sale. It's likely from the 1800s. It needed re-finishing. And sanding. And staining. And more straining. 
Current status: It's done and airing out in the garage. It will soon be moved into its permanent home, and all the before and after pictures will be posted. PLUS: I will post all the things I learned (the hard way) on this project.

Project Two: The basement reorganization.

I love board games. I have collected a lot over the years. More than 400. They have been stored in the basement in various areas. 

This project has two phases:

  1. Go through all games and decide what stays and what goes.
  2. Box them up accordingly.
We worked one Sunday on this so far.

Here is the four week summary of the Sunday projects to date:

Week 2 (Browns beat Bengals on Thursday night) - Pew project.
Week 3 (Browns beat Washington) - Pew project.
Week 4 (Browns beat Dallas) - Games project.
Week 5 (Browns beat Indianapolis) - Weekend in Indiana, hiking and shopping.
Week 6 (Browns are playing and hopefully beating Pittsburgh) - Town cleanup project with Boy Scouts followed by family dinner.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The tale of the snake

The COVID lockdown was a total excuse killer. “Hey you promised to clean the garage.” “Yeah, but I have to… well – I got no excuses now”.
It’s Monday. I figure I can come up with something. Some sort of excuse. I have the rest of the week.
Saturday I’m cleaning out the garage.
There’s a box on the shelf. It’s been there a while. It houses my wife’s Four Seasons plate collection. Each plate has a scene representing one of the four seasons.
Many years ago – at least seven – we wife boxed up the set of plates. Each plate was wrapped in paper. In addition one or more pieces of foam was placed between each.
About a year later I was getting something out of the garage and I couldn’t help but notice that there was part of a black rat snake on a shelf. The rest of the snake was disappearing into the plates box. I also noticed that there were stains on the box. I assumed it to be the blood of its rivals.
I have mixed emotions about snakes. On the one hand, they eat mice. Mice are destructive little buggers. Over the past ten years we have spent around $500 on mouse related car and garage damage.
Having a snake in the garage – for free – is a solid investment.
On the other hand snakes give me the heebie jeebies. Especially when I stumble on one in the garage.
In either case, I decided the snake was just fine where it was, for the time being.
Six years later I figured it was time to open the box, move the plates to a new box and burn the box.
I figured the snake had moved out. But I wasn’t sure.
So I took a metal pole and beat the hell out of the side of the box. Nothing.
I turned the box around and beat the snot out of the other side of the box. Again, nothing.
The box being a rectangle, I decided to beat the two other sides. No response.
I then took the box and placed it near the floor. I opened it and removed things as follows: Padding, plate, padding plate.
Before we go any further let me just say that I am not given to using a lot of “adult” language.
That’s kind of like saying that Jeff Bezos doesn’t have a lot of money… Especially when we I see a snake.
(You’ve been warned).
I opened the box and there was carnage. Shredded paper. And stains.
The detective in me realized that mice had moved in and then the snake slid in. It was like Golden Corral. Pre-COVID.
I haven’t been to Golden Corral since the big heart attack of 2015, but I do remember this: Every time I went, after I finished eating… I left.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the opening of this box was NOTHING like the Geraldo Rivera Al Capone vault special.
So I grabbed the padding, Looked in and saw the first plate. Set it aside, removed more padding and the second plate. Set it aside, removed more padding and another plate. Three down, one to go. Removed more padding and hello black rat snake.
I looked again and the snake wasn’t moving. I figure – well, it’s dead. I mean snakes aren’t immortal, right?
I went back inside and said “Honey. We have a dead snake in a box in the garage.”
“Does it stink?”
“Huh. You’d think a dead snake would stink, but no, it did not.”
We went back out to the garage. I touched something next to the snake, and it moved – a little.
(One of the first things I learned about myself is this: I cannot watch a snake move unexpectedly and NOT say “Shit.” Or worse.)
We took a walk and talked about it - we weren't sure if the movement was because of what else I moved in the box... so it was Schrödinger's snake.
But when I went out to the garage (much) later, it was gone.
That’s good, but it’s also bad.
At this point I’m thinking it’s out of the box. But I’m also thinking out of the box myself – in that I’m not BELIEVING it’s out of the box. This is why I employed my wife’s advice.
“You could use fireplace tongs.”  Notice the pronoun used – YOU, not me, not I, not we… YOU.
“On the snake? What am I supposed to do? Grab it and fling it to the woods? What if snakes have boomerang ability?”
Beth sighed and said “No! Use the tongs on the plate and then let the snake out of the box.”
“The snake would crawl around the garage floor once it got out. I don’t like that idea.”
“You could put it out in the woods”
“No. I’m not picking up that box.”
I know the snake didn’t move the last time when I beat on the box. When I picked the box up, when I moved the box. Of course we all know that, because the plates inside weren’t smashed!
If that snake had so much as moved when I was carrying the box I would have dropped it like a hot coal and ran like Usain Bolt.
Later I looked it up. Snakes are sluggish at 60 or below. At the time the adventure started the temperature was, in fact, 60 degrees. Had I just went in and grabbed the plate the adventure would have ended.
It was 80 when I read that fact, so it didn’t qualify as useful information.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Go Long!

I wrote this for an article on long term investing - full disclosure: I am long the stocks I wrote about. And happy as hell that I am.

Now is the time to start LONG TERM investing in stocks. But before you can do it - you need to understand the company. 

1. Assume the crisis will last a year and the recovery will take five years. It probably won't play out like that, but you have to have a long term focus. If you need the money before then, don't buy stocks.

2. Make a list of industries that may not survive, or will certainly be hurt for the long term. That is the start of your do not buy list. For me that list was some Airlines, some (maybe a lot) Cruise lines, some retail brick and mortar stores, some restaurant chains and Hotels. Not all companies within those industries will be hurt - but I don't want to spend time figuring out who will survive.

3. Make a list of industries that will survive, and likely thrive in the long term. That is the list that will have your targets. Companies on this list will benefit from the above collapses - the money has to go somewhere. For me that was grocery stores (especially those with delivery), online retailers and computers / phones / online entertainment.

4. Pick the strongest companies within those categories. Who has the most cash to survive this? Who are YOU doing business with right now? More importantly - who do you ENJOY doing business with? Who will you stay with after the crisis? For me that was Kroger, Amazon and Apple. (Note - I already held Kroger. Their stock price went up when this started, so I didn't buy any more.)

5. Take a look at their finances - I don't get hung up on this one. I read a really good book on the subject (Phil Town, Rule #1) - it's a simple approach to investing (I further simplified it). For the sake of today's analysis, I asked one question: Who has enough cash to survive this crisis? Amazon and Apple have around $100 billion each. They're okay.

6. Buy on dips. Amazon and Apple both had significant price dips during this crisis. Sure I'm in it for the long term, but I still like to get things on sale.

7. Don't follow the prices every day. That will mess up your strategy.

8. Diversify. I've been really really right on two stock picks (Apple and Amazon). And I've been really really wrong on way more than two picks (like the time I bought BP just before the tanker spill). And I've been somewhere between right and wrong on a bunch of picks. The two winners have more than made up for all the missteps. There's always the temptation to say "Damn - if I had put all the money in Apple..." But there's also the idea that "Damn - if I had put all the money in BP." 

A final note: If you don't understand it, don't buy. I don't understand banks, oil stocks (as I proved many years ago with the BP purchase) or medical stocks. They might do fine in this crisis but they're not for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

12 thoughts on May 12.

(This post was going to be originally titled 11 thoughts on May 11, but I had a social distancing / baby bird photo post for that date. I also had other ideas for today's post, but I'm not sure I want to keep kicking the can down the road, because 31 thoughts on May 31 would be really tough).

  1. My in-laws homemade raspberry wine is the best tasting wine on the planet.
  2. Especially when I drink it with my father-in-law.
  3. If I judged potential pets entirely by what they ate I would like rat snakes a lot more.
  4. And dogs a lot less.
  5. Almost all of the productivity enhancing tools I have in my arsenal cost less than $100. Like really good four color pens or fine point magnetic white board markers.
  6. Know the problem before jumping to the conclusion. I thought I needed a big desk in my home office area. Beth said "What you're describing sounds more like a table than a desk." She was 100% right. A six foot table solved it (see also #3).
  7. Another way to say #6 is this: Listen to your wife, Phil.
  8. It doesn't happen every day, but some days when I read I see something that blows my mind:  That happened this morning when I read (somehow for the first time) about the 64/4 rule - which is a nice extension of the 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle). (The link isn't where I first read about it, but it does a great job of explaining it. Bottom line: 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. 4% of the effort produces 64% of the results. (There is also a 50/1 extension of the rule, but I haven't gotten my head around that yet).
  9. When it comes to a garden, tomatoes are a great example of the 64/4 rule. Plant three plants, water them when needed, get a ton of tomatoes.
  10. Green beans are a good example of the 20/80 rule. (80% of the effort produces 20% of your crop). That's one of the reasons we don't grow them. 
  11. The other reason is because they're green beans.
  12. The wild raspberries we grow are a great example of the 50/1 rule. They grow. I spend about five hours, total, in June picking them. And they miraculously turn into my in-laws homemade wine.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mothers Day Social Distancing Style

We wanted to get together with Beth's mom and dad for Mother's Day, but we also wanted to keep them safe.

Beth figured out the answer: She would make dirt dessert and we would sit on one end of the garage. Beth's mom and dad would sit on the other end.

Beth's dad volunteered a bottle of wine for the proceedings. And it was their homemade Raspberry wine - the best that they make. The others are good, but raspberry is the best.

We set a table in the middle of the garage for the wine and dessert. We sat on one side

The weather wasn't great, but the company was
and Beth's parents sat on the other.

As you can guess by the picture, the bottle of raspberry wine did not survive the proceedings.

It was a fun party. We laughed and told stories (as usual).

I've had my share of wine and desserts during the shelter at home order. But this wine and this dessert tasted the best.

Speaking of Mothers Day - the bird that built a nest in our garage is now a mother:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Day of RE

Yesterday I did my usual "Name your day". But instead of focusing on what I needed to do, I focused on what I wanted to do.

I named it the Day of RE:


Now that I think of it, I would argue I needed a day of rest anyway, so it was also what I needed to do.

I read a little over half of the book "The Walk" by Richard Paul Evans. It's a good book. (Started out depressing as hell though).

Here's the problem. The guy is walking from Seattle to Key West. I'm 80% of the way through the book and he hasn't made it to Spokane yet. Either he's going to have to walk onto a jet, or it's a series.

I looked it up. Sure enough, it's a series.

I'll likely get in line for the next one. It's pretty decent fiction so far.

I also started reading (via Audible) the book "Finish" by Jon Acuff. Highly recommend that and anything written by him.

I also spent some time working logic puzzles in my Games Logic and Mystery magazine.

Side note: When I picked it up, I noticed the back had an add for More Menthol filter cigarettes. Yeah, the magazine is pretty old.

Games magazine used a three star rating for their puzzles.

One star - Smooth sailing (my favorite kind)
Two stars - Uphill climb (I do them, sometimes successfully).
Three stars - Proceed at your own risk.

Yesterday I finished a three star puzzle. It took an hour, but that's what you do on the day of RE.

Today I was REfreshed. I woke up and had some breakfast (egg whites, black beans and salsa, thanks to Tim Ferriss via Jon Acuff for the idea), and I'm ready to kick some butt.

Good thing because today is the Day of Home Projects.