Fourteen years ago, when I moved to Bellevue, I became a fan of Wayne Dyer. The man died earlier this year, a successful businessman and…I don’t know, what would you call him? Motivator? Psychologist? Self-helper?

My experience consisted of listening to motivational tapes. They were okay I guess; intentionally repetitive, reassuring, comforting. The lingering doubt with which they left me is: Just how powerful is it to say I am good or smart or able to do it? Do affirmations make a difference?

When James Cook departed on three voyages of discovery, would he have benefited from some upbeat self-talk? Do entrepreneurs build enterprises based on belief? Can record-breaking athletes reach new pinnacles with a mantra?

Sure, being positive might be a contributing factor in individual lives, but the evidence is far from clear-cut. Doggedness might be a more important quality, or attention to detail, or even a certain cynicism so as to prevent unwarranted optimism. So complicated are both human psychology and the road to success that mere positivity can only be a smallish contributory factor.

Achievement comes in all kinds of forms, to all kinds of people. Control what you can, stretch yourself and know when to quit – these might be more useful ideas than “Yeah! You can do it! You’re worth it!”

Ride to Nowhere

Engraving Money

Saturday night. Birthday gathering. (I don’t say party any more, because parties are for youngsters.) All up the convivial.

I chat to an acquaintance about his boat. This man is a lifelong civil servant, an alumnus of the US State Department. He has a pension for life, after spending decades spending money on people not of this country. Which leads me to wonder just precisely whom was he serving?

He has seen the world. And yet he has seen nothing. His suggestion for the pending disasters looming before us, namely distorted markets, illiquidity, statistical idiocy, “data dependency”, zirp, TBTF et al, is for the Fed to print more money. My MOCKING suggestion was to engage Helicopter Ben’s philosophy of dropping cash from the air upon the citizenry.

To which this complete tool added, “Oh, for sure. Bring back Bernanke.”

This is the person, multiplied by hundreds of thousands, to whom we entrust the smooth running of the “system”.

Helicopter this, Keynesian dunce.

To Insure or Not?


Ah, the dentist. My guy is a good one, or is as much as I can tell. He recently added his son to his practice, moving to a larger office with more chairs to accommodate what I imagine he thinks will be more business.

Sidebar: Do we call a dentist’s surgery an office? Or is it a dental surgery?

You can see the thinking here. Senior is a well-loved man with a loyal clientele. I count myself as one of them. When he retires, Junior will smoothly take over without the stress of finding his own people. In the meantime they get to have some time together, and we customers can accept the new man. It’s a smart move.

My respect began when, back in 2010, I had a cracked molar that suddenly gave me grief. Even as a first-time patient, Senior tried to save the dopey thing. Eventually it came out, but not before valiant effort. Importantly, he only charged me for the extraction, and not for all the rest. In short, he did the right thing by me.

One shouldn’t forget such kindness.

Cash is the question here, and whether paying out of pocket is smarter than ponying up for insurance. Insurance is the way we mortals pass on risk to others. In this case, we hand the problem of (oftentimes large and lumpy) dental bills to the insurance company in exchange for smaller, less lumpen “premiums”. I think of them as small pre-paid risk mitigators.

Let’s set out the choice. We can either accept all the risk for every dental bill with which we will be faced, including cosmetic work. Or we can insure against such bills. The choice comes down to one question: can you afford the worst possible case?

Defining disaster is entirely personal. With my current budget horizon, even a smallish dental disaster would be a blow. Obviously, insurance is the way to go. The problem is that our human bias toward optimism – the best-case scenario – creates reluctance to pre-spend in the face of a 100% chance of a future requirement. I. Will. Need. Dental. Work. In. The. Future. So the choice to insure should be an obvious one.

The only question is how much it will cost. And whether I can overcome that urge to ignore the risk. Ahem.

Micro Vacation


In a small step towards leaving the job, I am not at work this week. Yay me.

The plan was to ramp up my post-employment activities – nice and cryptic eh? – and grab a handful of confidence. At the beginning of next year, after our two-week holiday lay-off, I plan to be done with working for the man. And this week was to be a kind of staging towards that.

It hasn’t panned out as planned. For one thing I am sleeping a lot. For another I am gradually disposing of long-held items on my to-do list. These things take the time and energy that I just don’t have when working six nights a week.

Tomorrow I shall meet with my dentist to replace the crown I over-flossed and flipped off. Along with that is the cleaning I have avoided for months. Check, check.

But the small pleasures of time off are the best. Like wandering the aisles at Staples or Office Depot. Yesterday I passed an ambrosial hour at Staples, immersed in the hope and optimism only a full-service stationery store can offer. How I love that nose-ful of new paper and erasers.

The real secret of successful office supply store visits is to buy stuff without wrecking your budget. I needed a couple of items, but the prize was the micro binder I bought, shown above. For 50 cents, how could I go wrong?

DVD shown for scale. Ah, vacations.