Monday, August 27, 2018

I'm Only One Man!

A blogger is not an expert on anything!

I chuckle every time I hear the media refer to someone as a "blogger" as if it were some high-level job that requires years of training and expertise.   Let me tell you the truth - all it requires is a Gmail account and the ability to type.  And even the latter is not really that necessary.  Go to Blogger, set up an account, name your blog and... start bloviating!

I have never said I was an expert on anything from finances to politics.  Indeed, the older I get, the more I realize how little I know.  And over the years (nearly 10, as one reader points out) I have changed my mind on a number of things.  I started out this blog trying to figure out how I could "hang on" to all my toys and still keep my head above water.  Over the years, I have shed "things" and become wealthier, happier, and able to retire.

Having "stuff" and debt is just pain dumb.  The "stuff" depreciates in value every second you own it.  The debt stays around forever.   Seems kind of simple in retrospect, but when you are at ground-level, sometimes it is hard to see.

A reader writes:
1. A “Dutch uncle” does not mean a rich, generous person, but a very frank person who gives harsh, but still basically benevolent, advice. (Something like you to your readers.) Not sure where the phrase came from, but I have noticed that people from the Netherlands tend to be like that — basically nice and kind people, but speaking their minds even when what they have to say is not pleasant. 
And of course she is right.  Which is maybe where Mark gets his acerbic common-sense from, his Dutch ancestors.  But this illustrates how we all use phrases improperly, sometimes as malapropisms.   For example, when I was a kid, they had the "Art Linkletter Show" and he had a segment (which became a book and I think even a newspaper column) entitled "Kids say the darndest things!"  Bill Cosby later took it over.  I think it was discovered later on that kids say the darndest things that you tell them to say, because when you have to make a television show on schedule, you can't sit around and wait for the little darlings to come up with a bon mot on cue.

But one think I remember from the Linkletter book was a kid saying something along the lines of a famous person "spinning in their grave" which induced guffaws, as everyone knows the correct phrase is turning in their grave.

Fast-forward a few decades, and the phrase "spinning in their grave" is commonly heard, in the press, and indeed perhaps even by expert bloggers - maybe even myself!   What was once considered a gaffe, has entered the common lexicon.

Another reader corrected me on the use of "zero-sum game" (which would make a good title for a Bruce Willis action-adventure movie) which again, has sort of become bastardized in our culture - including by me.  It is akin to these rednecks who say "beau-koo bucks!" to describe a large sum of money, or talk about "intensive purposes".   It may sound stupid today, but in a decade, it will be part of our language.

The reader also writes:
2. The widely misunderstood Heisenberg uncertainty principle is not about the means of making measurements interfering with the measurements themselves. If you look at the equation for it, you will see that it is strongly scale-dependent. There is no uncertainty principle on the scale of galaxies, or even at the scale of humans. It is basically a statement that the universe has graininess and that below a certain scale of precision (the scale of subatomic particles), it is not only not possible to make a measurement, it is not even meaningful to talk about making the measurement.
And I publish that correction here.  But I think we are talking about the same thing.   Quantum theory, as I understand it, posits that you cannot measure some things, such as the position and velocity of an electron at any given moment, with precision, but rather you can only understand a probability of where that electron is (and again, I am probably mis-stating this).  The point is, we build our models of the universe, and then refine these models.  We do not understand the universe directly - on a grand or small scale, including our ordinary lives, but rather through perception of our world, as we view it through models created in our heads.

It is like vision - it does not take place in the eyes, but in the brain.  Our brains assemble images from the data from our eyes.  And in the field of image processing (such as image compression) you can use this neat feature to compress the crap out of a video image, as the brain doesn't "see" a lot of an image, but rather concentrates on portions of it, and "fills in the blanks" from what it remembers or expects to see (the latter being problematic in court, with "eye-witness" testimony).   We have a model of the world in our minds, and it is not always an accurate model.

This is not to say reality is perception-based, but rather is constant.  It is only our perception than can change, either for better or worse.

But getting back to blogging, what you are reading here is my perception of the world, right or wrong, often wrong, and always changing as my own models of how the world works are altered by experience - as my neural network is re-programmed and re-weighted by experiences over time.   I never claimed to be an expert on anything, so if you disagree with what I have to say, that is fine.  Maybe your model of the world is better and more accurate than mine is.

However, if what I have to say makes you angry or upset, maybe that is your brain's way of saying your model is inaccurate.   As I look back on life, the times when people say things that piss me off are often times when people say things I don't want to hear but should.   Often these are people telling me unpleasant truths, such as I am being foolish with money or acting stupid.

Just a thought.  It could be wrong, too.

But after ten years and nearly 4,000 posts (this will be 3,990!) maybe it is time to pack it in.  After all, I have accomplished much of what I set out to do - gotten my finances in order, cut back on my spending, and now have time to enjoy the fruits of 40 years of labor.

But then again, we'll see.  There is always a new chapter in life (although they get shorter and shorter!) and our next big financial adventure will probably be figuring out the end game - where to land for that last messy chapter in life.

Unless we are lucky, and like my neighbor just did, keel over dead without much fanfare.