Rage!

I don’t get incensed by a lot of things. Okay… I don’t get VERY incensed by a lot of things. But this sign outside the only decent coffee place in town makes me want to put a Molotov cocktail through your window!

Burn it down! Burn it ALL down.

8:30 and you’re still not open! I curse you Daily coffee!

More holiday stuff

I imagined my holidays going differently. Not that I’m complaining. I just imagined I’d have all this time to sit and do nothing. Maybe watch some cricket. The almost two year old obliterated that notion fairly early on with her tempest motion and general sense of defiance.

She’s having her afternoon nap. Which means I can read, blog and affect a supine position not unlike Homer Simpson for somewhere between 30 minutes and two hours. (Depending on the fickle nature of the sleep gods)

I’m attempting to multitask. (Blog and listen to music) I retrieved my Apple headphones from the washing machine earlier… amazingly they still work, I’m listening to ‘And justice for all’. How very old school. (Incidentally I got my wife the James Hetfield autobiography for Christmas)

Earlier I tried to swim in my rock pool. But it was an hour before high tide and the waves were coming in over the sea wall and churning up the water. Visibility was zero and I was getting smashed about, so after five minutes I called it quits.

We’ve done some touristy stuff the last couple of days.

Went to go visit the Penguins.

And we’ve been to the aquarium

Which the ‘hurricane’ loved. Eventually had to drag her out while she clawed at the linoleum with her fingernails. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad… but I saw some big heavy set interventionist types getting ready to tackle me because it looked like I was kidnapping this little blonde girl. Nothing like wrestling your child in public. (I briefly considered pulling guard)

Then we drank wine (and ate a metric-fuck-tonne of cheese) at Peter Falke’s wine farm. The sock guy. It’s very pretty there.

Wine farms aren’t really my thing, but I really enjoyed it. (Possibly because I was drunk tipsy) Bought some Sauvignon Blanc to take home. I’m usually quite dismissive of white wine. But this was really good.

The last couple of days will hopefully be spent in relative seclusion and away from people. The aquarium especially stoked my misanthropy to dangerously high levels. Need to come back down to a gentle simmer before engaging with the proletariat again.

More holidayness

For Christmas I ate my body weight in roast lamb and homemade custard ice cream. Then went for a swim in my freezing cold rock pool with my brother-in-law.

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The tiny blob on the left is me.

Was struggling to dive below two meters without a weight belt (considering how much food I’d eaten I should have theoretically sunk  quicker than the Lusitania)

Still, I managed to salvage some sea urchin shells off the bottom.

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I actually got eight. But broke two before I got home.

The first time did any free diving (in an abandoned water filled open cast mine) my instructor asked me how long I could hold my breath for. ‘Thirty seconds maybe’ I mumbled. He proceeded to prove me wrong by getting me in a headlock holding me underwater for more than a minute before my body started going limp.

Shallow water blackout kills free divers. His approach to teaching free diving was that you should learn this immediately through experience. This formative engagement was meant to demonstrate that you can push past your limitations… my take away was more that you pass out before you start taking on water. Which was both comforting and traumatic.

I like free diving in warm water where I can see coral and brightly colored fish. Eerie Kelp forests and dark murky water scares the hell out of me. Mostly because I’m scared of sharks. And leviathans. And kraken. And drowning. And accidentally getting shot by my dive buddy. I’m also claustrophobic which is kinda limiting.

Still… I like the concept. And so I try an attempt the ‘lite’ version of free diving whenever possible.

Otherwise I’ve just been relaxing.

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The view from my kitchen window.

Didn’t beach run. Will try again tomorrow. The soft sand murdered me. I feel like a noob. So I’ve been consulting a tide chart to make sure I have compact sand to jog on before I commit myself again. There is one particular muscle in each of my calves that clearly doesn’t get used when you road run. Definitely know all about it now.

Been reading on and off, alternating between Musashi (which I’m quite enjoying even if it is a 1000 page tome) and Ikigai (which so far feels like a mash up ‘Japanese’ stoicism and Victor Frankl Logotherapy). I like it!

I must admit generally I’m feeling quite good. I clearly needed a holiday and some separation from my other life. It’s given me something to think about.

 

 

Holiday stuff

So as it turns out I have LTE pretty much everywhere I go here. Progress I guess. (No uber eats yet though)

I didn’t set my alarm, but I was awake and making a ruckus before 5am. My wife was trying to sleep in and suggested I go take my vociferous self somewhere else.

So I chalked up my first run of the holidays. It was high tide so finding decent terra firma underfoot was tough. I’d forgotten how tiring barefoot beach running was.

Ran in one direction for 20 minutes until my calves started protesting and then turned around and ran back. Just over 5km in total.

Got chased by a vicious Pomeranian called Poppy who tried to ankle gouge me. But besides the questionable canis lupus familiaris and its elderly patron, the beach was spooky and deserted.

After breakfast I did laps in a rock pool. It’s at the base of a steep cliff and the stairs down are off the beaten track so not a lot of people know about it. Today we were the only ones. Its probably the size of an Olympic swimming pool ranging in depth from a couple of inches around the innermost edge to about three meters at its lowest point at the sea wall. I have to equalize to touch the bottom.

Shark cage diving is a big thing near here so they chum the water which means there are a lot of Great whites around, which makes me weary of open water swimming. Also in the next bay over the Great whites are world renowned for their breaching and airborne acrobatics. Which makes me even wearier. I’m not particularly brave when it comes to sharks.

ALSO… look what I found while rummaging around the old homestead.

to be combined later with this…

Exciting stuff.

Holiday-ness.

I’m leaving on jet-plane. Heading off to the Atlantic ocean for nine days, to a place where if you hold you cellphone up in the air at just the right angle, while balancing on one leg… you might… get signal. Then again you might not.

I have plans.

I plan on not wearing shoes (other than flip-flops). I plan to live in board-shorts and let my junk hang free. I plan on running (barefoot) on the beach and swimming in the ocean. I plan on eating prawns straight off the grill and drinking at least half a bottle of red wine* per day. I plan on kicking back on a reclining chair and catching up on my reading. But beyond that… I have no plans.

*possibly chased with a muscat or a Speyside and some non-tobacco plant variant.

In so far as I have these modest goals I am planning on taking almost nothing with me. No shoes. No socks. No button up shirts. No jeans. No Macbook.

I have made some allowances for technology in so far as I’m taking my iPad (Kindle app) with my digital library, although I may take some real books along too (if I have space in my backpack). I’m also taking some standard Apple headphones along for the ride. Oh and my phone, which will be able to take pictures… but not much else.

For the Yuletide feast I am cooking a leg of lamb in a Moroccan style with thyme and apricots. I find traditional Christmas faire to be quite grim and heavy. Unless there’s 30 inches of snow outside and you plan on hibernating afterwards.

I hope you have an awesome time, whatever it is that you’re up to. Be good.

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Peace out.

Collecting the set

Ow. My aching asshole.

Which, as opening lines go, occupies the same dubious realm as clickbait. However, my discomfort does not stem from any Leviticus censored activity, but rather from something more mundane. And self inflicted.

I uncoupled my mountain bike from its wall mount, scrubbed it down (it was still dirty and muddy from the last time I’d used it) [BAD MOUNTAIN BIKE OWNER] and then took it for a short 10mi* sojourn along the river to the farmers market and back.

*For some reason my apple watch measures my runs in km, but my bike rides in miles. A problem likely solvable through Google. But it doesn’t worry me, I am multi-mensurational.  (Which I initially wrote as menstruation…al which is a entirely different form of cycle) Joey takes a moment to laugh at his own joke 

At 6pm last night I took my bike out on the road. But came back after a brief and harrowing 5mi. Motor vehicle traffic was heavy and I wasn’t having a good time dodging cars and trying not to die. I’ve always been in awe of NYC bike commuters and couriers who manage to circumnavigate their way through traffic without injury or fatality. That sort of effortless motion is NOT me. In fact after my display (or rather lack thereof) of technical proficiency I’ve decided that perhaps I should rather stick to lonely, off-road trails where the chances of impacting a BMW at speed are less likely.

Today, I’m a bit saddle sore. I haven’t used my bike in about a year. Work, child rearing… insert other vaguely lame excuses here.

This sudden burst of activity all started last week… Wednesday (I think). When my Fitbit Surge decided to go spastic. I tried hard rebooting it (several times) but it just wouldn’t unfuck itself. I’ve been a long and loyal Fitbitter… since way back, when the only feature on an otherwise black piece of malleable plastic was five tiny blue lights. Unfortunately Fitbits  super unhelpful technical support riled me up to such a degree that I tramped off to the istore in a huff to go buy an Apple watch in protest of their indifference.

My wife convinced me to try her Apple watch for a week first, before committing myself to an Apple. Which is probably a good thing since initially I hated it. The app was stupid and felt super basic somehow when compared to Fitbits really stellar and much prettier app. And the battery life on the Apple was rubbish. And because it had to charge it didn’t measure my sleep patterns… and… it had an activity ring for standing up (really?)… and… it wanted me to take time out to breathe deeply…

Generally I was just immensely hostile to the whole process. But now I hated Fitbit… so I was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard-place. For about a half a day I went on this ‘I-don’t-need-to-empirically-track-all-the-things-I-do’ crusade. But it turns out I do. I REALLY do. In fact I started to feel anxious when staring down the barrel of a data-less, unmeasured future.

So I gritted my teeth and struggled through my first world problem. And then, weirdly, the Apple watch started growing on me. Am I really so shallow that I can be so easily swayed and entertained by completing little activity circles and getting little green activity dots?

Turns out… I am.

Also the achievements on the Apple watch are lame. And fugly. (Can’t remember if I mentioned that in my previous tirade of anti) But… as it turns out I am super susceptible to incredibly stupid achievement trophies. If you’re ever wondering what sort of moron would be motivated by these stupid awards… the answer, is me.

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You mean I get a play-play, pretend, little colored token for completing an eight day moving streak? I am there… like a bear. In fact, I am almost embarrassed by this sort of behaviour…. if it weren’t for my 200% calorie badge which I can now laude over people. I’m not entirely sure WHICH people exactly, but that seems like a problem for another blog post.

And so, because my Apple watch would give me a trophy for going on a bike ride… I went on a bike ride. And that is the long winded, round about story on why my ass is sore. Fucken Steve Jobs.

I also blame boy-scouts. And playstation. So Baden Powell and Ken Kutaragi. Since we’re blaming founders. Fuck you guys.

Arbor mortis

I wake up every day at 03H59.

Which is a stupid time (I know). But it is also a very considered time. Most importantly its thirty one minutes before Jocko Willink gets up. I have a this weird competitive thing (slash mental disorder).

I don’t actually roll out of bed and attack my day (unlike Jocko) and kill my enemies. It takes me a solid ten minutes to check my feeds and then to haul my (plus-size) carcass out of bed. Then I loiter around and lollygag for a bit. This morning I was trying to figure out how to hard-reboot my fitbit (which decided to commit suicide during the night), but there’s always something. Also… I thought it might stop raining if I waited.

At zero dark thirty it was still bucketing down. Decided to swap out my backpack for a poncho instead for my 5km tour de neighborhood. On my way back and probably 700mtrs from my house I suddenly hear a thunderous crack behind me. I turn, three or four meters away this huge tree comes down across the road, directly were I was a second ago.

Holy cow! I stop and stare. Death by tree. That would have been… so incredibly… uncool!

An hour later, dry, in the car and on my way to work I drive to where the tree fell in the hope of an instragramable photo. Alas, the crazy German whose tree it is, has already, rather diligently, taken a chainsaw to it. Looking at it in the light now, it turns out to be a much bigger tree than I had initially given it credit for.

I always imagined going out in blaze of glory, something akin to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid (1969) or the ending from Cowboy Bebop (1998). Or even something along the lines of the Battle of Camarón,

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Δ At the battle of Camarón, having run out ammunition the last five French Foreign Legionnaires mount a bayonet charge against the enemy. Two were immediately killed but the other three were captured. When brought before the Mexican Major, surprised that there are only three men left he exclaims, ‘These are not men! They are demons’. 65 Legionnaires outnumbered 46 to 1 inflicted 190 casualties and wounded over 300. 

Being killed by a falling tree seems quite passé in comparison.

Being of a stoic disposition (in so far as I like stoicism) death is supposed to be quite a blasé event (Look at me getting my é and ó on). Still, given the option to tick a box on checking out I’d obviously prefer dying… well… ‘well’. Trundling along and suddenly the world going dark because of a rapidly descending conifer is certainly not how I imagine it going.

Not that I would care, obviously. I’d be deader than a door-nail.

George S. Patton died stupidly. After defeating the Nazi’s he was driving along musing on how wasteful war was when the staff car he was driving in had to brake suddenly to avoid an army truck. While all the other passengers were only slightly injured, Patton hit his head on the glass partition that separated the driver from the rear passengers. He suffered a neck injury and was paralyzed. He died two weeks later.

Versus

Erwin Rommel who had two SS officers visit his house. ‘You can take this vial of poison and die with dignity, or we kill your family, and potentially everyone you know and love’. Rommel puts on his uniform says goodbye to his wife and son, drives to the outskirts of town and drinks the poison.

Given the choice I would choose the latter every time.

Anyways. I’m glad I avoided at least one ignominious end. Obviously I might not be so lucky next time. The only way to choose the way in which you will die is to kill yourself. The samurai might have been on to something. Although disemboweling myself seems like a tough ask.

Momento Mori. Motherfucker.

Gah!

God. Twitter sucked me right back in.

And then I tweeted something mean. In response to this shitty self absorbed article. But still. I should have been a better person and let it slide.

Sorry. I am filled with self loathing.

I plan to go off and flagellate myself now.

Bad Joey. No biscuit.

 

Growth forecasting. And other made up stuff.

Economists are never wrong, as the saying goes, but their predictions are sometimes subject to an unexpected asymmetrical shock which causes them to awry. 

I really like economics but ended up majoring in Industrial psychology (because I thought it was interesting) and finance (because I wanted to be a trader). Several years later I decided to have another crack at majoring in economics. But then got distracted by philosophy and political science (and the humanities in general). My enthusiasm for traditional and linear forms of education and the piece of cardboard they give you afterwards has waned somewhat over the years, so I don’t ever see myself progressing past economics 202 on any official platform.  Besides being an economist is a lot like being a horoscope writer, you dwell in a dim twilight realm bereft of light, peddling your own particular brand of bullshit to anyone who will listen to you. Some people even aggrandize their vocation with a prefix. Senior economist, which personally I think is hilarious that something so spurious should have a hierarchy. Still… I have a soft spot for economics, even if the practitioners thereof are mostly kooks and whack-jobs.

We all make predictions. Especially about the economy. We don’t need to be able to chart aggregates on a graph to do this. Just like economists we can make stuff up as we go. Sometimes we will be right. And sometimes we will be wrong. When we are right we get to croon on about it indefinitely. When we are wrong, we casually forget to mention it. (or delete our blog post)

Besides, really, its all Bismark. Which is a fantastic line from Dan Carlin I have decided to love (steal) and casually drop into as many conversations as possible.

James Burke – ‘… we don’t know whats going on. But we think that we do and that we have instruments that tell us we know and we run our systems based on the fact that we have a pretty good handle and more or less we manage to stumble along, the Fed drops the rate and to a certain extent the economy behaves the way it is expected to behave. The instruments we use are extremely crude so on a macro level we see things happening more or less the way we thought they ought to, what we don’t see are the levels, the more subtle levels at which the effects are less immediately visible, less easily understood on the front page of a newspaper, or more likely to have an outcome down the road, in which case, by that time of course we don’t know they are late effects, we see them as something else. I am not a conspiracy freak, but I have long believed that what we think is going on is nothing like what is going on, I’m talking about the way the political institutions work, I believe that Realpolitik has always been whats really happening and the flak, the blah, blah, is what the rest of us believe is going on and I think that’s the way the world works.

Dan Carlin- ‘Its all Bismark’. 

James Burke – ‘Its all Bismark’.

After that lengthy prologue I suppose I can move onto what I originally wanted to blog about. Which is growth forecasting. Which is probably the blandest most boring topic for a blog post in the history of the world. If only it wasn’t so damn important. We will all live or die by this annoying little term. 

Our governments borrow money (if you believe this) to improve our lives by building roads and hospitals and libraries and they assume (because economists tell them) that future growth in the economy will be able to outpace the interest that they need to pay on these loans. Our pension funds extrapolate data from previous decades to surmise how much money we will have when we retire. 

Since world war two, the growth rate in the world economy has, for all tense and purposes been, astronomical. Technological innovation has been the main driver behind this growth. 

What if we’re done growing?

I mean not completely. New technology is still being developed that will drive productivity and therefore growth. But what if the lofty single and double digits of growth are done? As soon as you mention this, people tend to switch off, label you cynical and shuffle off. 

Freakeconomics recently did a podcast on what essentially is the law of diminishing returns. 

The law of diminishing returns refers to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested

The example they use (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here because I’m relying on memory) is an acre of crops. Back in the day, the yield on an acre of corn (for example) wasn’t great. But as we’ve progressed (mostly in the last century) and we’ve developed fertilizers and pesticides. We have genetically modified the corn to be drought resistance, disease resistant and to produce as big cob as possible. We’ve almost maxed out the productivity for an acre of corn. Now we can do more R&D and eke out a tiny bit more productivity out of that corn… but that will cost of millions of dollars in research… and really, does that 1% increase in productivity out weigh the cost of research? Probably not.

I think assuming that we can continue to grow exponentially (Chip manufacturers for example are struggling to keep up with Moore law of semi-conductors) is super irresponsible of us as a species. Especially when we are making huge financial decisions based on guess work and extrapolation of past performance. 

What happens if the world economy only grows at 2% for the next three decades? 2% growth in 10BC was twenty times the annual growth rate for an ancient Roman. As I understand it up until the 19th century the world was ticking along at under 1% GDP growth per year. 

With the debt levels being what they are 2% growth would be catastrophic. 

I worry about technology. Especially the tech that is coming in the next couple of decades. Soon we will be able to print anything from houses to complex mechanical spares. What does that do to the building industry? The engineering industry? Self driving trucks, drone deliveries? What if we develop fusion and put all the coal industry out of work? There are hundreds of labor intensive industries staring down a barrel of gun. 

I think optimists will argue that we will muddle along and somehow it will all work out. I worry about all the mouths we will have to feed and the crazy political populism and ideology that comes with that with this drive to optimize.

Poor people eventually snap. Ask a French aristocrat. 

I generally dislike pessimism. But I also dislike continual and buoyant optimism. I suppose everyone is every era feels like they are on the cusp of some sort of disaster, and somehow we’ve gotten through as a species. Technology may save us. IBM couldn’t see the use for personal computer. And that wasn’t that long ago. Edison invented the lightbulb with virtually no R&D funding. There are countless counter arguments to techno-pessimism. 

Studying finance. I only ever learned one thing that I thought was valuable. Hedge your bets. Cover your short positions with long positions. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and assumption is the mother of all fuck ups. 

Headgames

I suffer from depression.

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My head-doc tells me I’m genetically disposed towards this kind of chemical imbalance. I try argue with her that depression is symptomatic of something else and that anti-depressants are simply treating the manifestation of the cause. She counters that seizures are symptomatic for an epileptic and that some people are genetically disposed towards epilepsy, would I therefore argue that an epileptic forgo his medication and reduce their stress levels as a form of treatment.

I slump back down into my high back wing chair, momentarily defeated. I point out that a real psychiatrist should have a chaise longue or a settee instead of wing chairs. She says settees are for psychologists. I laugh. I tried Cognitive behavioral therapy once. It didn’t do much for me. Well… that’s not entirely true. Cognitive behavioral therapy is actually a lot like stoicism actually. You re-frame your problems, changing the way you think about them. I don’t really have any ‘real’ problems… other than I think life is pointless. (some might call that a biggie) That is to say I appreciate our complete and utter insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe. I find that annoying.

I decided (on my own volition) to go off my meds. And had a massive relapse as a result. Which is why I’m back at the head-doc. Even though I think life is generally futile I prefer to be functional while I’m acting out my futility. The drugs don’t change your subjective feelings about the world, but you don’t mind it so much.

I used to judge people who were ‘depressed’. Toughen up. Or get over it. But if you’ve never experienced the crushing lethargy your brain can inflict on you its a difficult thing to appreciate.

Interestingly whenever they change your medication they ask you if you’re having suicidal thoughts or think about death. As a stoic I find I have to answer that question carefully. Eventually I went with, ‘Academically I think about death ALL the time’. But no, I don’t think about suicide, ever.

Except for the poisoned cupcake. Which is really more about euthanasia than suicide.

You should keep a poisoned cupcake in your fridge. The day you forget that the cupcake is poisoned and eat the cupcake is indicative that dementia or Alzheimer’s is now firmly entrenched in your mind… and things are going downhill from there anyway. Might as well end it (by accident).

I obviously don’t mention my poisoned cupcake theory. Most people I mention this to tend to look at me askance. I don’t really have a poisoned cupcake in my fridge. Probably because cupcakes don’t last very long in the domicile of the Jo. Poisoned or otherwise.

I ask how long before I can try go off my meds again. ‘Two years’ she says. I stare at her unconvinced. That’s a really long time I mumble. But the alternative is just barely utilitarian life where I struggle with the most basic tasks. So for the time being I will stick with the program. Annoying.

Unspecified whine

I fumbled and dropped my Tupperware on the way to the kitchen this morning, which resulted in my chicken being distributed in a large circumference around my personage. I briefly considering eating it anyway. But the questionable hygiene of the office firma and the judgmental stares of my co-workers swayed me away from this endeavor.

This, as it turns out, has been indicative for my Monday so far – basically fubar. I’m trying to take it my stride with stoic resolve and fortitude. But I’m hungry and entering the realm of the ravenous hostility that comes from not eating for three hours.

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I’m wallowing, (mostly) in self pity but also achieving some more general type wallowing that comes from privilege. I’ve tried to infuse a modicum of imperturbability into my psyche by looking at pictures of suffering. I have a folder on Pinterest for just such occasions, aptly named, ‘Pictures to make you sad’.

Its not doing anything for me today. As an aside, Kevin Carter (who took this picture, that won the 1994 Pulitzer prizes for photography) killed himself in a park near my house. As a child I used to catch tadpoles and crabs in the river there. Unfortunately these days as an unsupervised minor undertaking such a venture you are more likely to catch Diphtheria, experience unbidden sodomy and then have your organs harvested in room lit by single flickering light bulb. Which as I understand it, is less amusing than keeping river creatures in a glass jar until they belly up and die after a few days. I’m glad I got to kill larval stage animals without compromising my sphincter integrity or losing a kidney. It doesn’t seem like a good trade off.

Speaking of creepy crawlies (after reading Caroline Paul – Fighting Fire) my wife and I have become very cognizant of not letting my twenty month old daughter develop irrational fears. Ie. We have been super careful not to unfairly demonize snakes, spiders and other hexapodal invertebrates… its cute when she says ‘hello’ to the Daddy-long-legs or the Christmas beetle. But obviously less endearing when she tries to offer salutations to a Black Widow or tries to high five hornets. My mother muses out loud that her grandchild is a Hindu. I think she means a Jain… but I don’t really want to get into it with her. To my mother all Indians are Hindu. In any event I have become this weird black-helicopter parent*. Which in invalidates 90% of the concepts I imagined about being a parent. It certainly wasn’t how I was raised…

* which is basically like a regular helicopter parent, but supposedly working in the background in stealth mode (with varying degrees of success) and only intervening under dire circumstances. Sometimes I wonder if I’m coddling her.

In other news I had this idea that I would start this week by cutting down on my caffeine intake. It hasn’t really worked out for me so far today. I’ve also taken four Tramadol (not all at once) in an effort to rid myself of this throbbing headache. So I’ve been pumping myself full stimulants and opioids since I woke up. I marking today down as a failure for cleaning living. Just thought I would mention it.