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Boring but useful investment advice from an idiot

Full disclosure: I am invested in nothing. I have no debt and few assets. Hopefully my well-vested public-sector pension will meet my relatively modest retirement ambitions.

With that said, I had a conversation recently. It was with a smart person who had a comfortably middle-class amount of money to invest. Never mind about time horizons, risk profiles, or whatever, here's the world's most boring and generic investment advice.


Do you have a guess about currency movement? Do you think you can pick stocks? Are you listening to people who claim either of those abilities? There are two important classes of investment advisors in the world: the first group has a personal net worth, on average, of some billions. The second group, on average, are charlatans.

Notes on a Unified Film Theory

What follows is not likely to be novel. It is surely naive.

The most interesting question to ask about a film is "IS IT AWESOME?"

Comic films are underrated compared to dramas. Or to put it another way, dramas are overrated. Great dramas are fine, but Good dramas are often mediocre, and sometimes bad. Compensate by assuming that critical opinion is tilted against comedy and toward drama, and act accordingly.

Film is a visual medium. Based on that fact alone, the Wachowskis' "Speed Racer" is a minor classic. More generally, there seems to be a sort of high art (what I think of "photos composed by a cinematographer") that are praised excessively, while visually creative films often end up regarded as somehow lower forms of art.

Movies about movies are the laziest of lazy settings. But I cannot deny the greatness to be found in the subject. "The Player" and "Sunset Boulevard" nearly justify the genre all by themselves.

Amateur Futurism

Thanks to my availability and willingness to identify as a futurist, I was invited to be on Technotopia, Episode 5.

First, I'd like to thank John Biggs and Stefan Etienne for having me on as a guest. To be clear, the sound problems were all mine: I should have checked my audio better before showtime, and using a setup where you have no local audio feedback is a rookie mistake. Technotopia is a fun podcast, and I'm a subscriber now. If they're willing to have me, I'll do it again.

About the content: I regret everything. No, not really.

Mancrafted: a quick and foolish guide to crochet

Those of you who follow me on feeds I still update may have noticed that I've been knotting some yarn.

For just over a year, I've been dabbling in crochet, a deliberate attempt to take up a hobby that was, unlike my first love (car maintenance) and my dream (welding and brazing), doable inside a small house, that would occupy my hands, and would keep me away from a video screen.

What follows is two things: a guide to some things I've learned about crochet that may help you learn it faster than me, and a brag collection of stuff I've made.

The Basics

"The Nightmare Before Christmas," and some kind of Star Wars movie

The new Star Wars (Episode VII: The Force Awakens) needs no review from me, but I might as well get a few things on the record: it's the best Star Wars movie in 30 years, and it's about nothing, and it's probably good enough.

I read a claim in the last few days that at least The Phantom Menace had a coherent argument, however bad it was, but I'll suggest that when a poleconomic theory is as bad as the one expressed in TPM, it's better to have no argument at all. TFA is the best fanfic ever put on a big screen, which is its blessing and curse. It won't have its long-term reputation made until we see if it sets up interesting subsequent movies.

To be sure, I don't regret seeing it in the theatre one bit, and I'll watch it again on my TV at some point, but "Mad Max: Fury Road" was in almost all ways a better action movie.

Tour de France jersey protocol, a small but interesting minor detail

So, you all know about the Four jersey competitions in the Tour de France right?

There's also a protocol for which jersey you wear if you're entitled to more than one of them, laid out on page 29 and 30 in Article 10 of the Tour de France rules (document is fun throughout for a certain kind of nerd). The rules are simple: the order of precedence is Yellow, Green (points race), Polka Dots (mountains competition), White (best young rider). If a rider is entitled to two jerseys, he wears the most senior jersey, and the second-place rider in that competition wears the jersey.

On the last day of the 2015, the jersey assignments got weird.

An interesting thing about getting old

Sad cookie! "You don't like Indian food, do you?"

"No, I like it, it's just that you like it enough that I never feel the need to pick it."

That was the substance of a conversation between TLO and myself, not so long ago.

I'm in my early forties. And just in the last year or so, I've gone from craving novelty in many areas to being satisfied with old favourites.

This isn't a small thing, and it's most obvious with food.

And oh, why not, a review of "Debt" that's four years old

[This came up because a certain professor invited me to read Graeber's article "Debt: The first 5000 years". I had done so in 2011; the article was published in 2009. I think my critique from 2011 holds up, so I'm publishing it here, lightly edited. I hope you will all look forward to my upcoming article, "Decorative Gardening: The First 5000 Years"]:

It's an interesting take, but I think the author suffers from Moore-Klein Syndrome: find coincidences, name them correlations, assume causation. And while an anthropologist's analysis of debt could be fascinating, I think this one is burdened by being written by an anthropologist.

More particularly, he seems to ignore that the Slavery Question is whether anyone can be regarded as someone else's personal property, and that slavery doesn't generate shocking property institutions, but rather that those institutions are shocking when used on a person.

Recent events in Greece, explained by an ignoramus

Let's lay out my credentials up front: I have few. I'm not an economist, or good at monetary theory, international finance, or Greece. I married into a Greek family, and I've spent numerous vacations there in the last 15 years. I don't really speak the language. Therefore, you can ignore me, if that saves time.

So what just happened?

Let's talk about some reference materials, in particular this interview of Piketty, (published in German, so we're trusting this translation and the second-hand analysis to some degree) regarding Greece.

Thinking hard about action movies: "Mad Max: Fury Road"

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