Home
I know a woman who "feels" words. To her, some words are ugly to the point of discomfort. Others are beautiful. Not coincidentally, she is verbally gifted. It made me wonder if genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience.

For example, most people feel something when they listen to music. But I suspect gifted musicians feel it in an entirely different way than I do. I could never memorize all the notes in a song because for me it would be an exercise in rote memorization. For someone gifted in music, memorizing a song is easier because such a person would remember how each part felt. Feelings create memories more easily than intellectual experiences. The stronger the feeling, the easier the memory.

Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. Think about the field in which you excel the most, then ask yourself if you operate by feel more in that area than in others.

I was thinking of this the other day when I heard a new song by Kanye West, called Love Lockdown. I have never been a big fan of his music. I thought he was a bit of a manufactured celebrity. That changed when I heard this song, after I confirmed that he wrote it. The performance itself is brilliant in about five different ways. I especially like the heartbeat-beat. Perhaps he had help with the music and performance parts of the song. But the words: Genius.

Now I realize I am going to get lots of howls about this post. If you don't like this genre of music, fine. But try to suspend that for a minute to listen to the song then look at the lyrics, in that order. (Links below.)

The genius of the lyrics is how they feel as words themselves, second as a flow, and third for their meaning. In my opinion, this is the work of genius.

Song


http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcjkkBtXgIc


Lyrics


http://www.metrolyrics.com/love-lockdown-lyrics-kanye-west.html


 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
A biomedical startup down the road from me was developing something called HDL Selective Delipidation. It's a process that passed the FDA safety tests, and effectively reduced coronary plaque in a small test group. It might never get to wider trials because their sources of funding dried up, thanks to our crippled economy, and they had to close their doors. This is after putting about $60 million into the business.

Since you are probably not a doctor, allow me to explain the importance of "reduced coronary plaque." Doctors prescribe drugs called statins for people who are predisposed to cardiovascular events. Statins slow the progression of atherosclerosis (plaque in the coronary arteries). Slowing it down is good enough to substantially reduce the rate of cardiovascular problems in this country. But even with statins, people who are predisposed to cardiovascular problems are still more likely than not to have a problem down the road.

Unlike statins, HDL Selective Delipidation actually reversed the progression of coronary plaque, in just seven weeks, at least with the small test group. If the company had funding for larger trials, the process might someday be combined with statins to be a powerful one-two punch.

How many lives could it save?  Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, killing about 450,000 people per year. There are about 1.2 million new and recurrent cases of coronary attacks per year, of which 38% will die.  If this new treatment could reduce the mortality rate by 10% (which I'm told is conservative), it would save 46,000 people a year.  It could also significantly reduce healthcare expenditures and improve patients' quality of life.

As it stands now, perhaps 46,000 people will die per year because the company just entered bankruptcy. The key employees are still available and eager to make this process work. If you know anyone who invests in this sort of company (at a ridiculously low cost), such as venture capitalists or biotech companies, pass them a link to this post and see if you can save some lives, including maybe your own.

The company's website is still live at http://www.lipidsciences.com/ .  For more information about the product or investing in it, contact Tim Perlman at tperlman@lipidsciences.com.


[Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company. When I asked my friend Tim how many people might die because the company couldn't get funding, I felt it was important to blog about it.]

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
I was expecting stocks to rally sharply ahead of the election, and pull back when the results were announced. It looks like that prediction came true.

I based my prediction on the conspiracy theory that the market is controlled by a relatively small group of ultra rich people who preferred McCain for president. A phony surge in stocks ahead of the election might have convinced some people that the economic downturn was already on the mend, so no need for a change.

I have long suspected that all major movements in the markets are manipulated by billionaires who would like to become trillionaires. They know in advance which way the market will move, because they cause the movement, so they sell high and buy low while the unwashed masses are doing the opposite.

If you based your investing on the conspiracy theory that markets are manipulated by the rich, you would do very well, even if that theory is wrong. For example, you would have bought stocks every time the media told you the economy was doomed, and sold stocks whenever the market was testing new bubble highs, because you cynically believed all financial news was intentionally misleading.

Unfortunately it's psychologically hard to buy stocks when the economy is circling the drain (according to the media) and even harder to avoid investing when things look bubble-iscous. The way to get past that is to convince yourself the billionaires are manipulating all information about the economy in order to fool you. When the media says sell, it's time to buy. (Disclaimer: Do not get your investment advice from cartoonists.)
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Signs
Nov 4, 2008 | General Nonsense | Permalink
There are many election-related signs in my town. Some signs are in lawns, or along public roads. Others are waved by small groups of enthusiasts at major intersections. These signs make me a little bit sad, because there are only two explanations for their existence:

1. Voters are so dumb they can be swayed by signs.

Or

2. Signs make no difference whatsoever but the people running for office and supporting various ballot propositions are too dumb to realize it.

Either way, it's not a good thing.

Down the road from my house a guy has been spending hours a day standing at an intersection vigorously waving an Obama sign. I don't mean to be unkind, but my story demands that you know this fellow looks like a bit of a douche bag. The only information he is conveying is that if you vote for Obama you can belong to a group that includes at least one douche bag, guaranteed. (I have not ruled out the possibility that he secretly supports McCain and this is some sort of dirty trick.)

If you are a registered voter in the United States, today you must choose between the Antichrist and the only guy that scares the piss out of the Antichrist. My strategy involves buying a wheelbarrow and waiting for the rapture. I understand there will be a lot of gold fillings and diamond earrings left for me and my homeys.
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
I wonder if today will be remembered as the last day of the Republic. If Obama gets elected, lots of McCain supporters will be displeased, but I would expect an orderly transition of power. That's one possibility.

The other possibility is that McCain is elected and there is widespread suspicion, founded or not, that the election was rigged. That, for all practical purposes, will be end of the Republic. Citizens will take to the streets, the lame duck administration will declare martial law, half the country will stop paying taxes, and we will begin the long slide toward a Mad Max economy.

That means we still have all of today and a good part of tomorrow to enjoy ourselves before all Hell breaks loose. So send me links to photos of any good Halloween costumes you saw this weekend. Those are always good for a laugh.

On Friday I found myself without a costume just two hours before a party at my restaurant. So I put on a pair of pajamas that were a foot too long, hiked them up to my nipples, donned my free Motley Fool hat that simply says "FOOL" on the front, and I was good to go.

How about you?
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
 Yesterday I was talking to some McCain supporters about how they arrived at their preference. We don't see many McCain supporters in my neighborhood, so I always take time to hear their views. Admittedly my sample is not large, but of the dozen or so McCain supporters I have spoken with, there is a common thread: Obama gives them a vague feeling of discomfort that they can't quite identify.

When I ask about this vague feeling of discomfort, the answer has something to do with how his views got formed, his past associations, how quickly he rose to prominence, and how charismatic (slick) he is.

The risk, as I understand it, is that once in office Obama would start sporting a turban and begin each speech with WAHLALALALALALAL!!!! He would appoint Supreme Court justices who favor a redistribution of wealth to unborn gay babies, and he'd legalize crack. It would all be part of his master plan to destroy America. I might have the details wrong, but it goes something like that.

It's hard to argue against someone's vague feeling of discomfort. After all, studies have shown that people are actually quite good at determining character and intelligence from nothing more than photographs. I just found it interesting that the people I spoke with described a vague feeling of discomfort in forming their preference. That is not something I ever heard in other elections.
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
The first time I ever tried to get a cartoon published, it was a submission to New Yorker magazine, around 1987. New Yorker is considered the most prestigious publication on Earth for a cartoonist. They rejected me with a form letter. But I never released on the goal of getting a comic in that publication. This week I finally achieved my goal. Well, sort of:

http://www.newyorker.com/services/referral?messageKey=ef1f47a74daa0ebb224178d474ae0e40

I never really let go of a goal. That's not always a good thing, since all of my unfulfilled goals gnaw on me from within. But it sure feels delicious when one of them wanders in from the wilderness.

Three and a half years ago, when I lost my voice to spasmodic dysphonia, I set my goal on not just beating this incurable condition but ending up with a voice that was better than it had been before I got the problem. My original voice was a bit nasal, and I had a habit of mumbling. If you're going to have a goal of defeating an incurable condition, you might as well add some extras. I wanted my next voice to be better than it had ever been.

As I have written before, I had surgery in July with Dr. Berke at UCLA, who pioneered a procedure to fix this sort of voice problem. It was supposed to take 3-4 months from the day of the operation before a good voice returned. Sure enough, right on cue, this is the 3.5 month mark, and my voice is about 90% functional for most purposes. (I can't shout yet, and by the end of the day it is a bit hoarse.) Still, it's frickin' amazing.

Over the next year, my voice is expected to improve further. But that's not good enough. I'm going to put some serious work into making my new voice better than it ever was. It might take me twenty years, but I'll get there.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
In yesterday's post I said that investing in the right basket of 20 or so individual stocks could give you the same performance and diversification as owning an S&P Index fund but without the fees. Many of you thought that was a bad idea. Allow me to acknowledge those criticisms and suggest a modification to the plan that addresses them.

Criticism 1: Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) mimic the S&P 500 (see ticker symbol SPY), and their fees are trivial, so forget the basket of 20 stocks and invest that way. (Full disclosure: That's mostly how I invest in stocks.)

Answer: If you had $350,000 in stocks, your annual fee for an ETF would be in the range of $1,000 a year. That is small compared to a managed fund which might charge you $5,000 per year, but it is still real money. If you could save $1,000 per year and give up nothing, you would do it.

Criticism 2: Most of the historical gains of the S&P 500 came from a handful of hot stocks, such as Dell. Your basket of 20 stocks has a good chance of missing the hot stocks that make all the difference.

Answer: Good point. Let's modify my plan to say that each time you put money into the market you pick a company from the S&P 500 that meets two criteria:

The stock has one of the highest ratings of the stocks you don't already own, according to a source with no conflict of interest, such as Charles Schwab. This increases your odds of getting a hot stock, since those would be rated high.


The stock improves your diversification compared to the stocks you already own.
 

Criticism 3: If you buy stocks every month, as you earn money to invest, the transaction fees can get expensive.

Answer: That's true, so don't buy stocks every month. Do it once or twice a year. Each stock you buy or sell will cost about $9 once. Or if you have lots of patience and discipline, invest only when the market drops from its high by ten or twenty percent.

Criticism 4: The S&P 500 changes composition over time, weeding out the weaker companies in a crude way. Your basket of 20 stocks wouldn't get that benefit.

Answer: After you own twenty stocks, sell off the lowest rated stock and replace it each time you add money to your investment, once or twice a year. This prunes the laggard stocks in a crude way similar to how an ETF would rebalance its position.

The most important element of this revised investment plan involves ignoring the advice of pundits and columnists, and especially ignoring your own gut feelings about stocks.

I hope it is obvious that you shouldn't get your financial advice from cartoonists. And feel free to tell me why this modified approach is defective. That's always the point of anything you see on this blog.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Experts tell us that a small number of carefully selected stocks - fewer than twenty - would nearly mimic the S&P 500 in terms of diversification and performance. That means you could buy just those stocks and never have to pay a fee for fund management.

Avoiding fees is a huge deal when it comes to lifetime earnings. Managed mutual funds have substantial annual fees. Even an index fund has a management fee. So does a SPDR. If you buy your twenty stocks and just sit on them, you avoid all of the fees while enjoying the same performance and diversification as managed index funds.

It wouldn't be hard for experts to tell you which stocks to buy, and how much of each, in order to mimic the S&P 500. But you will have a hard time finding that sort of information because no expert has an incentive to produce it. Perhaps an author of some sort has produced it, but I haven't seen it.

Obviously everyone can't buy the same twenty stocks because they would quickly become overpriced. But there are many combinations of stocks that would give you the same performance and diversification as the S&P 500. All you need is a computer program that randomly spits out a different basket of stocks for each investor, so the buying gets spread around.

For the lack of that simple information, and the false believe that managed funds have some magic advantage, investors spend billions each year. Arguably, that makes it the most valuable information in the world.
 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Every now and then you read about a Civil War reenactment where someone gets shot with a live round. I would like to be the sort of person who doesn't find that funny, but some dreams are destined to be unfulfilled. I give you...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27372438/?GT1=43001


You might wonder how real ammo gets into a Civil War reenactment. The funny part is that there are so many ways it could happen. Allow me to list the first several theories that pop into my head.


  • One of the participants is a Method Actor.
  • In any large group of people, one of them will not know the definition of "reenactment." That person is likely to own ammunition.
  • One of the participants secretly hates Civil War Reenactments.
  • One of the participants is from the South and is a sore loser.
  • Someone had a plan to commit the perfect murder.
  • One word: Taliban

My favorite theory is that some goober spent the entire weekend hunting for turkeys with his Civil War reenactment blanks and didn't realize it. Later, when he discovered what he had done, he didn't want to face the embarrassment of telling his fellow bearded dorks that he used up all of his blanks. So he figured he'd do the reenactment with live rounds and just shoot over the heads of the other actors. No one would be the wiser. It was a good plan until he stepped in a woodchuck hole and accidentally shot some guy in the shoulder.

The wound wasn't fatal, but the Civil War reenactment medics sawed off the victim's legs anyway, just to err on the cautious side.

 
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
 
 
Showing 951-960 of total 1069 entries
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog