can you point to the spot?

breathe in
air streaming through
nose, throat, lungs, bloodstream, cells, energy
when does it become me?
can you point to the spot?

take a bite
food slowly squishing through
mouth, throat, stomach, intestines, bloodstream, cells, energy
when does it become me?
can you point to the spot?

energy concentrating
sex, sperm, egg, embryo, womb, birth
when do I start being me?
can you point to the spot?

energy dissolving
aging, dying, body stops, decomposing, earth, grass
when do I stop being me?
can you point to the spot?



everything familiar is temporary


all the forms, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes of this world.

[Siddartha] felt that he now regarded Vasudeva as the people regarded the gods and that this could not last. Inwardly, he began to take leave of Vasudeva.

everything familiar is temporary.


is it time to start taking leave of everything familiar?
detaching, inwardly
saying goodbye?


is it time
to say


life is like a game of ddr

it's best when you
connect and flow
letting go of the results
connecting directly to the game
until the distinctions melt away
leaving pure energy

sometimes patterns lull you to sleep
and then
you are jolted awake
because the pattern has changed
and will never return to the previous pattern

sometimes you screw up
the faster you let go of your mistakes
the more you can focus on the present
and the immediate future

and the song goes on
it never waits for you
you can't stop the waves
but you can learn to surf!

the song ends
and there's nothing
only a vague echo


product placement

When will a major movie producer take the plunge, and release a blockbuster movie completely free on the internet, using product placement alone to pay all the bills?

With file sharing such a perceived problem by the industry, it seems an obvious approach. Share all you want--the more people that see the movie, the happier your advertisers.


hang on a sec

we're out on the town
playing around
having the most wonderful time

it's almost midnight
on saturday night
and we are all feeling so fine

with a bunch of friends
the fun never ends
this night will go on for ever!

we're all here and now
there is no past or future


having an experience to remember.

but hang on a sec!
this is my bank
and there's an ATM
you see
I don't mean to disturb the mood


interest rates are high
and that is why
I'm asking a quick favor:

hang on a sec!
while I deposit a check.


something for you

It's all I could think of. I hope you like it!




get up!

We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, Lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our rights!

- Bob Marley


Paradise, part seven of seven

VII. The drunk.
"Care for a drink?" He smells. He's slouching on a couch, next to a liqour cabinet. It's mid-morning.

"Oh, I see you're not interested.. hmm.. well." He turns his attention to his mostly-empty glass of whiskey, turning it in his hand. Then he looks at the bottle in his other hand. Suddenly he perks up.

"Ah! I have just the thing." He downs the remainder of his glass and opens the cabinet. "Nothing beats this one. An old classic." The bottle is another whiskey, which he promptly pours into his glass and a fresh one.

"Let me let you in on a little secret," his voice lowers. "This bottle never runs out. And it never gives you a hangover! I don't always drink it, because.. I don't know.. it just seems too good to be true. But I always drink it on special occasions, or around special people."

He brightens and speaks loudly again. "Here ya go. Drink up!" He belches, drinks, belches again. "Whew! Nothing beats it. This is paradise, you know. It doesn't get any better than this."

He takes another swig and smiles. "No really. This. Is. Paradise. Really! This is it."

"Don't you see?"


Paradise, part six of seven

VI. The social butterfly.

A group of women are gathered around a round table. They are drinking tea and eating cake. They are dressed up.

One of the women is telling a story to the others: "--and *he* was wearing his bathrobe, right there at the party! Oh, how funny! And his poor wife was so embarassed that she--" she continues on, making small-talk which seems to entertain her and the others to no end.

"What could be more wonderful than to be always surrounded by friends? And there are always parties to go to!" She beams at the other women. They respond with picture-perfect smiles of adoration and jealousy.

She whispers: "It's always been like this, and I just know it always will be! Everyone wishes they were me. That's because I'm so beautiful, and social. And it all comes naturally to me, I have never had to try!"


Paradise, part five of seven

V. The Yogi.

He is sitting on the floor, cross-legged, meditating. His breath is slow, deep, even, and controlled. His body is lean, hard, yet relaxed.

Suddenly his eyes flash open. "Hello," he says calmly.

"I have studied from all the masters. I know how to breathe correctly. I know how to stand and sit correctly. I know how to stretch my body, and I am extremely limber. See?"

He pauses for a moment, then launches slowly into a headstand and lets his legs fall into a split. From this position, he continues talking.

"I began studying when I was a young man to become a great yogi. I have spent my entire life dedicated to this task. And what a payout for my efforts! Look at the things I can do!"

He demonstrates.


Paradise, part four of seven

IV. The Academics.

An old man and a young man are huddled in a small study, surrounded by books. There are shelves from floor to ceiling on all sides, filled with books. Smoke wafts throughout the room from the old man's pipe.

"Knowledge. So much. All the things you could ever want to know," says the younger man.

The older man chimes in. "And don't you forget it! Knowledge is power. Knowledge is everything. Whenever I have a question, I look it up in a book. Or, if I'm down, I read a book to cheer me up. Or, if I'm bored, I read a book to give me something to do. This young whippersnapper here, though, all he needs is his iPoo whatever, and he doesn't even read any books! Kids these days. Whew! Well, anyways.." he trails off as he loses his attention back into his book.

"Whenever *I* need to know something, it's right here at my fingertips. The young man says proudly.. Look--just that easy! What do you want to know--I know it! C'mon, ask away!" then something on his iPod takes his attention and he trails off: "..everything! I.. know everything.. isn't it wonderful?"


Paradise, part three of seven

III. The Provider.
A man and a woman are sitting at a table together. The woman is enormously fat. The man looks at the clock on the wall, then gets up to go to the window. He skulkily reaches through and picks up a basket from the flower bed outside, which he brings in and sets on the table. The basket contains a hearty meal.

The woman looks at him blankly for a moment, then turns her attention to the food, which she begins devouring rapidly.

"We don't know where it comes from," he says. "It is provided. Before it started, we had to go out and work to grow our own food. I had a lovely garden!" For a brief moment a light brightened in his face, then it flickered and went out as he continued. "One day, the basket showed up. We ate it all. The next day we only ate some of it, and we noticed that an hour after it appeared, the basket disappeared again." The woman glances up as he starts talking, then back down to her food.

"That was when I began to suspect.." he is whispering now, and the woman is not paying attention to anything but her meal. Loud smacks emanate from her side of the table. "..that the food is not for us. The provider puts it there, but it is for someone else. Whatever we leave, goes to the others. If we take it all, they get nothing."

"At first, I decided we'd better not take it all. But then, we were so hungry. And she.." he nods down the table at the woman who is still munching away "..she is always hungry. Now I bring the whole basket in and we eat all the food, though I leave most of it for her. She eats almost all of it, but always leaves a little for me.

"We never leave any for the others anymore. But there is always enough for us. Always. It's all we could ask for, really."


Paradise, part two of seven

II. Sex.
"Isn't it great?! There are women here you can do anything you like with! All the time! You wouldn't *believe* all the crazy things I've done with them. I've had sex with hundreds of women. I've had sex in hundreds of positions. With mutiple women at once! And they all love it, no matter what perversion I subject them to--they can't get enough! Whenever I'm not having sex, all I can think about is what I'm going to try next. Wow!"


Paradise, part one of seven

I. Chocolate.
Three teenagers are sitting in a courtyard. They are all eating chocolate. There are shelves surrounding them, filled with more chocolate bars. They are all slim.

"Isn't.. mmph.. this.. mmph.. wonderful?" the youngest one says between mouthfuls. "When I started eating the chocolate, I was worried that I would get sick or it would make me fat. But then they told me it was special chocolate that doesn't have any side effects." He gestures at the older two. "So we can eat as much as we like! Now it's all I want to do! It's all I want to do. MMmph.."

The next oldest one agrees emphatically as he licks his fingers. "All I want! Yummmm...."

The oldest has a glazed look in his eyes and mumbles something incoherent through mouthfuls.


fresh dose of truth

Ron Paul tellin' it like it is.



Everything is interconnected.
Flowing, dancing, all around us.

This We must remember. It is our duty to One Another.
We must strive to annhilate ourselves, as such:
our selfishness
our egos
our self-serving instincts.

When Everyone is doing their part--
doing their best
giving their all, to All
--We are all happier, We are all better off.


if We diminish ourselves--
cheat ourselves
lie to ourselves
destroy ourselves
--we diminish Everyone.
if we destroy our own potential,
we diminish the potential of All.

each of us knows what we need
each of us must honor our needs
in order to cultivate our potential
so that we can best serve All.

each of us must work;
trusting in ourselves,
to eliminate fear.
giving to ourselves,
to grow stronger.
so that we can give more
and yet more.

nobody else can tell us what we need
we must each learn that for ourselves
and insist that we get it
and accept no substitute.

for the good of All, we each must be...




what I need
what I want

all I care about is My own experience.
nothing else matters to Me.

I will take orders from nobody but Myself.
I will make all of My own decisions.
And I will make them with exactly one goal:
increasing My own happiness.

I want My life to be plentiful, beautiful, long.
I want more of things that I like.
I like many things,
material things
pretty things
even people.

I like Myself. I like other people too.
I want to be happy. I want other people to be happy with me.

I can make Myself happier by giving myself what I need, what I want.
I can help other people to be happier by being kind to them.

I will never sacrifice Myself for another.
but I am happier--
happier for Myself,
by My own standard, and nobody else's!
--when I am kind, and generous, to others;
when I fit smoothly into the world;
when my song harmonizes with all of existence's orchestra;

not needy, angry, forceful, clinging
but giving, gentle, friendly, loving...



walls, part 2

sometimes, there is shrapnel.



walls abound.

kindness is heavy artillery.


key gold statistics

I've been doing some reading about gold this evening, and I thought I'd put my notes up here in case anyone else was interested.

  • There's about 150000 tonnes of gold above-ground in the world. At current dollar market prices (about $28.5 million), that's about $4.3 trillion worth of gold. That's a number that's kind of interesting to compare to things like bailouts and stimulus packages.

  • Most of the world's gold is in the form of jewelry. 60%-ish. The rest is divided pretty evenly between central banks, companies that use it to do stuff (electronics, dental), and private investors hanging on for a rainy day.

  • In terms of central bank holdings, the US has way more gold than everyone else. (Well, it's not as extreme an imbalance as our defense spending.) At about 8000 tonnes, that's $228 billion worth of gold -- more value than Wal-Mart ($198 billion), but less than Exxon Mobil ($345 billion). Also, note that the 8000 tonnes represents more than 3 quarters of the Fed's foreign currency reserves. These numbers are also interesting to compare to things like bailouts and stimulus packages (oh, and note the annual defense budget is more than twice our gold reserves).

  • About 2500 tonnes of gold (~$70 billion) are mined every year. This represents about a 1.7% annual increase in the total quantity of above-ground gold. 66% of the world's gold has been mined since 1950, and production has been flat to declining over the past 10 years.

Most of this information comes from the World Gold Council (made up of a bunch of mining companies).


Harry Reid doublespeak

"The fact of the matter is, our taxation system is a voluntary system."

This is completely absurd, and just goes to show how twisted round in circles, blind, and out of touch with reality our political leaders have become.

This is the Senate majority leader we're talking about here, not some crackpot nobody. The fact that he can't see that taxation is backed by force is very disturbing. I don't understand how he can sleep at night!



Found on the street in downtown manhattan:



401-Keg Plan

From a recent Daily Reckoning article:

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.

“But… If you had purchased $1000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you would have received $214.00.

“Based on the above statements, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle. It’s called the 401-Keg Plan.”

ethical conundrum

I heard something similar to this at a quaker meeting a while back. What would you do in the following situation?

You're standing at the bottom of a mountain, by a railroad track. The track comes down off the mountain to a fork. One branch of the fork goes directly off a cliff into a deep ravine. The other glides smoothly off into the distance. Suddenly you see a runaway rail car careening down the mountain towards the fork, with at least two people sticking their heads out the windows waving and yelling for help. You look at the tracks of the fork and see it's headed for the ravine. Thinking fast, you look around and notice a lever by the fork which appears to switch the tracks to the other branch. However, at the same time you notice a man tied to the tracks of the safe branch. The man is fat. What do you do?

Here are a couple variations:

  • Replace the fat man with a member of your family.

  • The fat man is not tied to the tracks, but rather is standing on it purposefully, trying to commit suicide [I personally find this one rather easy -- run him over!]

  • You can't tell that there's anyone inside the train car. It looks like a passenger car, but it's moving too fast to see inside the windows and nobody is hanging their heads out. Still, there could easily be people inside.


tax day 2009: who do you work for?

As tax season rolls around again, it's a great opportunity for principled libertarians to carefully consider their relationship to taxes. I like to compute the percentage of my income that goes to taxes. For most working people, that's somewhere between 25 and 40 percent or more (not including sales taxes). When you get on up close to where you're paying 50% in taxes, it starts to raise some interesting ethical considerations.

  • Supporting the enemy. If I believe the government is primarily engaged in evil, destructive activities such as war and welfare, and I'm spending more than half of my effort supporting the government, aren't I a net subtraction from the world? Most people believe some of what the government is doing is good and some bad, so maybe you want to calculate how much of the budget goes to things you oppose, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bailouts, or whatever it may be, and then multiply this percentage by your tax percentage to see how much of your time goes towards supporting your enemy.

  • Non-financial aspects of your work. Is your job rewarding in non-financial ways? For example, a therapist or a teacher might feel they are affecting the world in a positive way that is hard to measure in dollar terms. If your job is one of these types, maybe you aren't so concerned that a large percentage of your income supports the enemy, because you're fighting back more effectively in other ways. For those of us in the financial industry, it's generally harder to measure our positive effect any way other than in dollars.

  • What are you doing with it? Are you giving all of your after-tax after-living-expenses money to the cause of liberty, to offset your support for the government? If you're working, say, 25% for the enemy, are you working at least 25% for the good guys too? If not, should you be?

  • The future. Higher taxes seem likely in the not-too distant future. If you're already paying 40% or more, it might not be long until you're paying 50% or more. In historical terms, we're pretty low right now. In the 50s, top rates were over 90% and in the 70s, they were 70%. Once I'm clearly working 9 months out of the year directly for that which I oppose, it puts me in a very sticky ethical situation.

An interesting question that I haven't thought about much yet is how the inflation tax plays in here. If you're knowingly sitting on a pile of cash that the government inflates away to support the empire, have you essentially just handed that wealth over to the government?

Ron Paul has pointed out that if we simply changed our foreign policy from one of offense to one of defense, we would save nearly enough money to eliminate the individual income tax (which provides less than half the revenue for the federal government). There's also the fairtax.


"free country"

Just in case you need another reason to become a libertarian:

(I know some of my family with slow tubers reads this blog, so here's an article covering the issue.)


conclusions from a month of giving

I am often approached by people and organizations asking for money. Sometimes as I walk down the street, sometimes in my mailbox, and sometimes by the Ronald McDonald jar next to the cash register. I often wonder whether I want to give or not, and how I would feel afterwards in various situations.

So, for the month of March, I decided to try giving whenever I was asked, to experience it first hand. Every time a bum on the street asked for a handout, I gave something. Every time I went to the store and there was a jar by the register, I gave something. Every time I got a piece of mail from a random charity, I mailed a check. I even responded to emails asking for money (e.g. from political groups).

Before I started, I thought maybe this would be a real eye-opener, and I'd want to either give a lot more going forward, or give none at all. In fact, it didn't turn out to be so clear. My experiences were roughly case-by-case. Indeed, sometimes I was surprised at the joy of giving. I would get very sincere thank-yous, or do a lot of research about who/what I was giving to and come away with a real feeling of having made a good decision. Other times, I was unexcited about giving to the person who was asking based on judgments of my own, and indeed after giving I felt roughly nothing. But, a few times I was surprised as my prejudice had clearly been wrong---I went in thinking this is not the right thing to do, I'm only doing it because I agreed with myself that I would but came out feeling good about the giving. This was the exception rather than the rule, most of the time I didn't learn much.

One other thing I learned is that giving feels the best when it's personal. Either I'm face to face with the person and talk about it to get a good understanding of the need, or I do my own research and come to my own conclusions that this is a good spot to spend some of my efforts.

Now that the month is over, I will go back to a case-by-case consideration, though I suspect I will generally be more generous now that I've done this---especially in cases that are not familiar.

And a random link on the subject: giving anonymously online.


from dust

from dust I came
and to dust I shall return

but that will not stop me
from reveling in the interim!

childlike I tumble with joy
childlike I cry when I'm sad

I play when I can
accepting the chance that
has been given to me

I am all things
all things are me
yet I am small, insignificant, nothing
a quantum instant
an infinitesimal flare
on the timeline of the universe

I don't own any of it
and yet, it is all mine
mine to enjoy, to play and to tinker
to build and destroy
and just leave be, and watch

I can make it whatever
I want it to be.

So what do I want today?


today's reading

I'll warn you up front: I don't have anything useful to write today, but I'm writing anyway. There, now it's not my fault if you keep reading.

Here are the highlights from a few of the articles I read today.

From Money and Our Future, by Lew Rockwell:

The government today is marshaling every resource and every means at its disposal to prop up a failing system of the past. Meanwhile, we live in completely new times. These new times are characterized by an international division of labor, global capital flows, digital information delivery, and the slow but systematic destruction of the establishment in media, banking, and finances. What is emerging to replace them is something that no government on the planet can stop. Markets will not be crushed and they resist control as never before.

This quote harkens back to my last post in that Lew seems to be agreeing that the whole system is due for an overhaul. He's even so optimistic as to say that it's going to get one. Forward the robots!

But here's a bit of a tempering view, from Bill Bonner over at the Daily Reckoning, in response to an FT claim that the moment is not far when machines "will solve problems including energy scarcity, climate change and hunger":

Machines can help build safer bridges. They can help cure diseases. They can play chess and tell you where you left your car keys. But they can't solve social and political problems...at least not directly. A smart computer could help build a more energy efficient automobile, but it can't solve the problem of energy scarcity. Because there isn't really an energy scarcity problem. Engineers, technicians and businessmen produce and sell energy---just like they produce and sell diamonds or custard pies. Stuff---including energy---is always 'scarce.' Even sand is scarce. The Sahara may be full of it; but when you want some for your backyard, it won't be free. Machines---as smart as they are---can't solve this 'problem.' Resources are allocated either by the invisible hand---the give and take of free people---or by the heavy hand of whoever is in power. Smart machines aren't going to change that.

Come on Bill, haven't you heard of replicators a la Star Trek? Have some faith in the robots of the future!

Next up we have a random graph from mises.org which serves, I think, as one important indication of what's been going on in our economy lately:

Top 10 Countries by Military Expenditure, 2007:
military expenditure

And finally, some Mogambo Guru to keep things lively:

So, naturally, I yearn for "Restoring Sound Money in America" with a fervor that is incomprehensible to my wife and kids, family, neighbors, elected officials and random passersby that I accost on the street by demanding "Do you know that you are a moron for voting into office worthless socialist/communist/fascist trash like Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Harry Reid, and then compound you stupidity by NOT buying gold, silver, and oil to protect yourself from the inevitable inflation in prices?"

I could never have said it better.


good riddance to the financial sector

I had the pleasure of seeing James Grant of Grant's Publication give a talk over the summer, where he stated something to the effect of "banking will still be profitable in the future." His point was, bank stocks have been getting sold like crazy, and at some point they'll probably be oversold and undervalued, so it's a good spot to look for opportunites.

I want to present a bit of a contrarian view, because I'm not so sure.

The NY times has a neat picture of the shrinkage of the financial sector. In about a year it went from 20.4% of the market to 16.9%, meanwhile losing about half of its total value.

The thing I keep wondering about is not when will the industry bottom out and begin to grow again, but why should banking be 20% of the market to begin with? What does that industry actually do, other than push numbers around on pieces of paper? Paper.. not so much anymore! It's digital now, baby, and maybe that's why the end is neigh.

You see, computers (I actually prefer the term "robots," it's more fun to think of it that way) are way better at pushing numbers around than people with pens and paper. Let's break down a few things that banks do:

  • Lend money - just before the meltdown, you saw the emergence of direct person-to-person lending on the internet via sites like Prosper and Zopa. Investors can get better rates, and so can borrowers, if you eliminate (or at least reduce) the big chunky margin that traditional banks like to take.

  • Consumer banking - I use an internet bank. I get awesome perks like interest on my checking account and completely free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in the country (hmm.. ATMs.. robots..). Meanwhile, I cost the bank nearly nothing because I've never been to a branch (they only have three, and they're all in California), and I do all of my banking robotically on the internet. Oh, and pretty much everyone uses ACH to move money around these days, right? That's pure robots too.

  • Trading - Some of the bigger financial firms historically made money trading. Over the past few years, technologically savvy trading firms have stepped in and taken much of the business away from the pen-pushers. Using robots that are designed to pick up pennies, where people used to have to get paid much more to do the same thing.

So if robots can move money around almost instantly and at almost zero marginal cost, why does this need to be 20% of the economy anymore? I say good riddance, financial sector, may you become 5%.. or less!