Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

Archive for the ‘Everyday Stuff’ Category

Free Kittens for Sale

Not really, I only have one cat and he is part-time. He comes here on weekends and sometimes evenings, when the office next door is closed. That office is occupied, during business hours, by my son and my animal-loving daughter-in-law.

The title is more of a philosophical statement than an advertisement. You may have to think about that for a moment. To me it’s reminiscent of everyday adages and familiar clichés such as: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thinking further you can even conjure up other saws that are applicable to everyday situations, e.g., the purchase price is only a down payment. That’s particularly true of pets. A blank check is limited by the amount in the account. And even unconditional love ultimately has conditions.

To me it’s an important reminder that I should diligently think through all the circumstances before I invest money or, more importantly, life energy in exceptional situations whether these are perceived as opportunities or problems.

When considering opportunities I find that I tend to not only rationalize the expenditure but sometimes do a lot of wishful thinking about the expected results. For example, I might forget a kitten too soon becomes a cat who, depending on gender, either odorously marks his (and my) territory and prowls or periodically generates numerous other cats.

 Problems are a different matter because there are so many different kinds. I often think of obstacles that prevent me from being right or having my own way as problems. I know that my moral compass should rule in these cases but its bezel is often clouded with stubborn selfishness and pride. The clouds usually go away with time, a little pouting and giving or pretending to get an apology.

Sometimes fate deals us a hand we can’t see beyond. The problem attacks us on several fronts, questions worthless to even think about, spring up. Why? What did I do to cause this? I could’ve. I, we, they should’ve. Thinking through requires the realization that answering these questions and mulling over possible missteps will not change the situation one iota and will drain away valuable energy that should be directed toward finding solutions, carrying out those that are possible and living hopefully.

There are two things I sometimes forget when I’m thinking things through. The first is that I’m not alone and my reactions to opportunities and problems will impact, to some extent, my friends and loved ones. These deserve consideration. And the other is: Everything in life, good or bad is temporary. –CP

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Everything I Know About Investing I Learned at Happy Hour

Well that’s almost true. Most of my success in investing has been due to ignorance. For example, part of my incentive pay was once from stock options. At the time I didn’t know what to do with them. Fortunately they were good for five or so years. I felt a little foolish thinking about them from time to time but because of the complications and my low tolerance for confusion I just let them sit. Over time the options increased in value, the stock split several times and continued to grow in price. Before the first batch expired I had to do something. I got up enough nerve to ask a few questions of my friends at happy hour. I learned that you didn’t really have to have the cash to buy the options to start with. You could sell them short and then pay for them from the proceeds. It worked out well I made it a good piece of change by being ignorant of the process.

I had learned another valuable lesson, which was that I could ask a few questions at happy hour while everybody was happy, without appearing too ignorant. So I asked how day-trading works. The know-it-all from Finance said, “That’s easy, here’s the deal. You select the stocks you will buy somewhere in the $10 to $15 or $20 range and set aside $20,000, or there about, to play with. You buy 1000 shares of a stock near the close or the next morning. Then you watch it for a one dollar uptick in price, then sell it. Don’t get greedy waiting for a higher price and don’t fall in love with your selections. If it hasn’t gone up a dollar within a week sell it anyway and pick another stock. You could make $1000 to $2000 a week without much effort or a lot of risk.”

I picked some stocks and pretended to buy them just to check out the system. It worked! I made and imaginary $28,000 in less than a month. Lost some too, also imaginary thank goodness. It was obvious that I needed to know a great deal about the companies I selected and the businesses they were in if day-trading was to become a major income stream. I put my Happy Hour University Diploma away in my Someday Pouch along with all the fun things I was saving for someday. I think of it from time to time . . .  between fun things.  –CP

Stumpset’n

Claude Parker, a Navy comrade of many years ago once told me that he could just sit around and think and learn stuff. He said he tapped into the universe for new knowledge and could assimilate facts from his memory. I thought the idea was preposterous.

I was wrong. Through this process he noted that elements of fundamental truths among unrelated things often correspond. For example: while thinking about questions on an intelligence test, he noted as fact that Paper is to pen as chalkboard is to chalk ;therefore, many of the characteristics of paper might apply to chalkboards and the same for pen and chalk – new facts to consider and assimilate.

A simple example yes, but it illustrates the underlying process of Stump Sitting (pronounced Stumpset’n). Stumpset’n involves clearing out those ingrained notions, attitudes, and prejudices that are queues for the repetitious sequence of everyday thoughts. Once the sequence is broken new facts can be observed.

Why is so much effort involved in solving everyday problems?

We don’t usually carry around problems looking for solutions but we carry a bag of solutions with us at all times. When a problem is encountered we reach into our bag for the solution. If we can’t find a solution that fits the problem, we lapse into a quandary and launch a sequence of thought to redefine the problem to match a solution in our bag. The path is set, redefinition follows redefinition and is not likely to lead to an effective solution.

Frustration is added as a new ingredient to the process. Further mental effort is demanded, intensifying the repetitious sequence. Our thoughts diverge further and further from the needed solution. It’s not until the sequence is broken that an optimum solution is reached.

Stumpset’n is not for solving specific problems but for practice in clearing the obstacles to unencumbered thought. It adds to your bag of solutions by creating new solutions, variations of old solutions, adding options, smoothing out and filling in details.

Find a stump in a quiet spot (physical or mental) where there is just you and God. Relax to the point your shoulders are no longer touching your ears. Observe nature, relive happy and triumphant events, savor the moment, and follow the threads of random thoughts until they become obscure or excite you to the point of action. Now you’re Stumpset’n.    –CP

 

My Friend Finis

Although some would say he was a sissy, having Finis as a friend was advantageous; he lived nearby, was usually available for an adventure of some sort and best of all, he had a brother-in-law. Having a brother-in-law was always an asset if you were 13 or 14 years old. It gave you access to all sorts of information about sex and girls and women and more or less made you an authority to all your other friends on these and other grown-up subjects.

Finis was not particularly creative but had an unusual imagination. For example, when someone asked why his brother-in-law put an envelope instead of money in the plate when it was passed around at church each Sunday, he said it was because he and his sister were married in the church and had to write on the envelope the number of times they did it each week.

“Everyone who puts their offering in an envelope is reporting the same thing. Even the old people that were thirty or thirty-five,” he said. “These were read by the preacher and the deacons to make sure that the marriage was going okay.”

You would be surprised at the number of his friends who actually believed he was telling the truth. Of course, he was speaking from the authority of having a brother-in-law, so no one could dispute him.

Finis and I used to camp out in the woods or in a field nearby. I don’t believe we ever stayed out all night because Finis had large and very sensitive ears. He was good at hearing scary but imaginary sounds no one else could hear. He would get scared of some monster, often a panther he heard in the woods and we would break camp and go home.

I remember his mother as being an older woman who suffered from some nervous disorders. She was not like my mother or the mothers of our other friends. I always wondered why she named him Finis. Of course Finis does mean the end and he was the last of her children.

I have some fond memories of Finis and some of the things we talked about during our adventures together. He always had cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco and could make a nice campfire. We told jokes that we both had heard before and always laughed when hearing them again.

The last I heard anything about Finis he had passed away. I had a moment of silence out of respect and thought of the bicycle accident we had riding in tandem down Dennison Hill.

Rest in Piece my old friend.

The End (No pun intended)

Dancing in the Rain

I have come to the conclusion that good fortune is allocated to this planet daily. The allocation is relatively small compared to the population. Only a few of us will have good fortune on any particular day. The absence of good fortune is not necessarily misfortune; it could just be indifference. That’s because misfortune is allocated the same way as good fortune except with a smaller portion. It’s a lot like yawns which, as you know, hang around the room probably no more than two at a time; these are simply passed from person to person and back and forth in random order. Yawns do seem to congregate and linger in places where speakers are speaking to a group. Sometimes there are more than two in the room depending on the speaker, the subject and whether it is before or after dinner.

Again, good fortune is allocated daily, probably on a random basis. In ancient times it was thought that the charms and spells of a sorcerer could influence where good fortune settled. Nowadays we credit ourselves when we have good fortune and find someone else to blame when we don’t.

Some still cling to the ancient rituals of charms and spells. There’s the guy that confidently twirls his keys that are tethered to a rabbit’s foot which clearly represents misfortune for the rabbit. And there is the young lady who meditates in a painful yogic position to rid herself of bad karma she picked up in a past life through some misdeed she can’t remember.

I’m not sure that charms make any sense at all. I usually lose mine in the laundry or they simply vanish like the mate to the single sock remaining from my once favorite pair. And what is bad karma anyway but baggage from poor choices that will eventually catch up with you anyway. No, good fortune distribution is either random or some cosmic joke, else someone would have figured it out scientifically and bottled it. Maybe they have and are keeping it a secret; how is that for a conspiracy theory?

Perhaps the best we can do it take the bumps as they come and avoid blaming those receiving the day’s ration of good fortunate. I remember a quote by someone about weathering the storm that in essence says “don’t wait for the storm to pass, instead, learn to dance in the rain.”–CP

Karo Nut Pie

When I was a kid mom used to make pecan pies as a special treat. In those days we called them Karo nut pies because Karo syrup was used in the recipe. That was about the only place Karo syrup was used. It wasn’t very good on pancakes, or a buttered biscuit where sorghum molasses heated and poured on was preferred.

Making Karo nut pies was a big deal. The syrup was store-bought and because of sugar rationing during the war, was in short supply. The nuts had to be cracked and the goodies picked out. Pecans were used most often but black walnuts or even hickory nuts could be used. Even as a kid I helped with the nut cracking and goodie picking. We would sit under a shade tree and crack the nuts with a claw hammer on a big flat rock. I had to crack a lot of nuts because I ate about every other goodie. I remember that when we were cracking walnuts our hands would be stained black and look dirty for about a week afterwards. The pies made with walnuts were especially good but for digestive reasons you shouldn’t eat but one piece.

Years later during Navy boot camp, a bunch of us were sitting around talking about what we missed from back home, I mentioned that I sure would enjoy a big slice of Karo nut pie. A recruit from New Jersey asked, “What’s a Karo nut?”

There were giggles from some of my Arkansas buddies. Then one of them said “they’re nuts that come from Karo trees.”

“I never heard of a Karo tree,” he said.

“That’s understandable; they only grow on the side of the mountains in Arkansas.” The buddy responded. The others nodded in agreement and no one laughed.

I have a habit of looking at license plates as I drive about and especially on trips. When I see a car with New Jersey plates I always smile and wonder if the occupants have ever heard of a Karo tree. –CP

 

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” –Anonymous

Not Chicken Little

Along with birds, some small wild animals, and one old, arrogant, and defiant squirrel, we live with a pet cat named Catalina. A few months ago, we were awarded custody of a baby duck and two baby chicks that were leftovers from a show-and-tell school project.

The duck and one of the chicks passed on while they were still cute but before there was any emotional attachment. Lucy, the toughest of the trio has survived past prime fryer stage in spite of her fleeting cuteness. We named her Lucy because of the possibility of having to change it to Luther if our gender assessment proved inaccurate.

Early on, Catalina wanted to stalk, kill, and eat the chick. She endured substantial stress as we humans quelled each of her attempts to capture the young chicken. Catalina’s efforts were relegated to catching grasshoppers and stalking but never catching the blue birds nesting nearby.

As Lucy reached the pullet stage, less and less human intervention was needed to assure her safety.

One day Catalina was stalking Lucy. Instead of avoiding contact, Lucy charged pecking the cat on the nose and chasing her up a tree. The blue birds noticed that the cat on the limb was too close to the nest and attacked her running her back down the tree where Lucy chased her around the yard until she lost interest.

They say that humans are the only animals that blush, but I know Catalina was blushing that day. In accordance with her nature, Catalina was simply exercising her rights when confronted with brutal intolerance. I think I know how she feels. There must be a life lesson in there somewhere.–CP

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