Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Apocalypse Sync your Portfolio

I have been thinking about global warming recently. it is tough not to when one reads headlines proclaiming this past February as the warmest one recorded ever, anywhere this side of Venus. Along with concerns about increased temperature, there are predictions about extreme storms and wild weather. Wild those of us who have to walk from the house to the car are concerned, documentary film makers are salivating all around.

Now here's the thing. I don't know if global warming is real. I don't know if there are normal fluctuations of temperature and if climate is cyclical or if the yeti is left handed. But I do know this -- it is better to prepare for the worst case and, if possible, figure out how to make money off it. In that pursuit, I present some of my thoughts of how one can cash in on the impending increase in temperature.

First off, if the temperature goes up, people will need less of certain fossil fuels. Fact is, we won't have to heat our houses so much so oil will be in less demand. To a lesser degree, natural gas will also be used less, at least in terms of heating. But don't sell off gas yet -- natural gas grills and outdoor ranges will become more popular because the weather will be nice enough to grill for more of the year. No one grills over cooking oil, you know. Further in that regard, invest in sun tan lotion refineries. The lands sitting on sun tan lotion deposits, and those countries which have established SPF reserves will be in prime condition.

Sell stock in tanning salons and ancillary materials like those dumb looking goggles.

More short sleeved products (including the fashionable short-sleeved men's suit) means less fabric being used, and lighter fabric. Do not invest in sheep. If we aren't eating them, their wool will become less useful in hot weather. Lanolin, though, will probably still be important. You can keep the sheep. Animals with fur will be less of a draw because the fur won't be needed to keep us warm. Mink futures will plummet. Adjust your portfolio accordingly.

Next, there will still be a call for electricity, probably even more than now. Air Conditioners will be made wearable so portable, rechargeable batteries will be a must. Increased sunlight will make solar power a necessary accessory built into most clothing, water reclamation suits will move from sci-fi to just sci, and there will be an increase in products that keep us dry and smelling yummy. Extreme weather means higher waves and winds. So wind power and tidal power generation farms are a must, but for the latter, because of melting polar ice, start establishing the tidal farms in what is currently land locked. Not only will prices be lower but there will be less competition for shore front property in Pennsylvania if you buy now. Remember -- exploiting a cataclysm requires planning.

Also, there has to be some sort of way of turning ambient heat into energy. Heat makes air expand, right? So if you fill balloons with air and they expand, then the pressure they generate when expanding can move some sort of thing which could you do to make lightning which turns into nine volt batteries. Or something like that. The details are fuzzy but you get the idea: if there is more heat, then the energy burned to make the world hot has to be turned into another form of energy which we can use. Maybe we should make those "drinking birds" that keep bobbing up and down forever, except attach them to some sort of grid.

And why isn't there rain power? Those drops come down pretty good sometimes. Why isn't that force being harnessed to do some thing. Hey, science! Get on this.

Because of the heat, corn will start popping while still in the fields. There will be a reduced demand for microwave ovens, but people will notice a shortage of artificial butter, and that's a shortage you can take advantage of.

Cars will all be white so will everything, or at least the light colors of Bermuda. If you have a garage full of dark paint, you might as well just spill it all out into the nearest reservoir now because it is of no use to you. Ice cream will be the province of the rich and elite. Even eating it will be a rare treat -- owning any will be reserved for the 1% who can afford to keep it cool. I'm not sure how we make ice cream but, you know, that.

Penguins will need a place to live once the poles close so new "Cold Air B and B's" will need to open and whoever invents the tastiest Penguin Chow will corner the market. Same with Polar Bears but they might just eat the penguins.

More ugly people will wear less clothing. I can't do anything about this except advise you to buy lots of sunglasses or go blind. Either/or. There will be a lot more sand but with the increased temperature, it will often turn to glass spontaneously. Sand castles by the sea shore will all become glass houses, so develop a service which clears areas of stones so as to protect the new living quarters from throwing accidents. Volcanoes will stop being awesome as will hot springs. We will just call them "meltains" and "springs." Houses will stop having fireplaces but instead will have built in iceboxes where families will gather around and cool themselves by the crackling ice. Less mess, no smell.

People will stop caring about the rain forests because with more wild rain storms, every forest will become a rain forest. If you can find a company which monetizes the dank rot from between my toes, you are set for life.

A few prudent decisions regarding your current holdings can amount to an incredible windfall when things start to go sideways, like cows.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Making allowances

I think that one of the primary obligations I have as an "adult" is to question every single thing my parents did. I don't do this with the aim of discounting what they did, but only in the aim of understanding, predicated on the belief that everything was done for a good reason.

That practice bore fruit this morning. I was thinking about biblical sacrifice. Animals, grains, money...all of it given away by people on (to some degree) a daily basis. That must have been annoying. I can only imagine what things will be like when, in messianic days, we have to give of ourselves constantly. Why would God give me X amount of stuff if I have to turn around and give some of it right back? Why wouldn't God just hold on to it, or earmark it before it comes to me? The tithing and first born consecration makes some sense, but the random sacrifices every day? Isn't that weird?

When I was a boy I got an allowance. Want to guess what it was? I was given one dollar a week. A dollar. But don't think that that dollar was then put into my pocket as I headed out to Dom's to buy baseball cards. That dollar was broken into 3 sections:

50 cents for spending money
25 cents that get put away as savings
25 cents to be given to charity

Every week, that was how the money was apportioned. It never dawned on me how strange that was. Why didn't my parents just give me an allowance of 50 cents and put some money into a tzeddakah (box), themselves? Why not just tell me that they were giving money in my name (heck, why not just give me the whole dollar?) Why not contribute to my bank account and leave me out of the loop on that -- very few little kids truly appreciate the value of putting aside savings, so why make me have to go through the little performance each week of splitting the money up?

But it dawned on me that doing this is similar to the system of sacrifices. When someone gives a gift in your name or on your behalf, you can be happy about it but you don't feel it. It was never really yours, so you don't get the sense of "giving" when you donate it. When I had to be the one putting the quarter in the tzeddakah box I really understood that I was giving something that I might have wanted to keep. It was in my possession briefly and then I lost it. It was very real. The sacrifices have to be like that -- we have to know that we are giving up something that was ours because we have to be involved in that process. If it is only "on paper" then it has no real value.

It took a while, but now I understand it, and it is genius. So, thank you mom and dad. Sorry it took so long for me to get the message.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Choosing vs. Being

A more serious thought about my religion. Responses, sources and resources welcome.
Free will is a knotty problem in Judaism. The way I understand it, what people think of as “free will” is more a “freedom of choice.” I do not have absolute free will because I cannot will myself to fly, or defy other laws of the universe. But in a case where there are a number of alternatives laid out in front of me, I have the freedom to make a choice between them.

This, though, is tempered by the knowledge that God knows what I will eventually choose. I cannot but choose what he knows I will. Does that mean that I have no freedom of that choice? I think not, because, at the moment, I don’t know what I will choose and to my own understanding, at the time when I choose, as far as I know, I could choose any of the alternatives. So freedom of choice is maintained from my perspective.

The question which develops is how the fullest expression of my Judaism should be considered in the light of that freedom. It seems that there are contradictory positions.

On one side there is the idea that the Edenic (pre-fall) notion of closeness to God comes with a complete subsuming of individual will to the point where we are unaware that there is any other way to be. This Romantic notion aspires to be a one-sided coin, where we are “good” but not in contrast with any “evil”; we act morally simply because that’s what we are. Isn’t the goal the removal of the yetzer harah so completely that we don’t realize we are making choices, as we are simply existing in such a pure and refined state that no other way of “being” can even enter our minds? When I am in the middle of my Amidah and my email notification on my phone beeps, I don’t have to think about whether I should check it. It isn’t that I flinch and then remind myself that I should be focused on my prayers. The idea of breaking to look at my phone simply does not rise to the level of my awareness. When I see a cell phone sitting on a desk, I do not have to resist any temptation to take it. It is so automatic in my moral sense that it seems as if the ethical code is synonymous with who I am. Isn’t this the highest form?

Should we be wishing for a state where the Torah is “written on our hearts” and doesn’t have to be taught? Don’t we want to be like the angels, with no thought other than “I am being the only thing that I know how to be” and that “being” is driven completely by our Jewish identity? I recall when a student asked the rebbe in high school, “will there be basketball in Olam Haba” and the answer was “there will be, but you won’t want to play it.” The urge, the want, will be removed. I don’t think twice about cutting my own arm off when I am holding a knife. It just isn’t part of my thought process – not as a temptation I have to resist or even recognize exists. Shouldn’t that be how we want our religion to be? Don’t I want my freedom to choose be a foregone conclusion so that my devotion is untainted?

But on the other hand, we have the cheese burger argument.

I was taught that one should not say “I won’t eat that cheese burger because it is disgusting.” One should say “I would like to, but the religious laws of Judaism prohibit it.” We are supposed to acknowledge the temptation and embrace our resisting of it. We are supposed to be aware of each mitzvah we do as an expression of our religion in order to point out the potential for our not having performed it. We rise higher than the angels because we have that choice. So is this the most sought after form of Judaism: the tortured soul who is constantly struggling but perseveres? Evil exists and it tempts me, but I rise above, and at every moment, know and acknowledge that my rising is as a result of my adherence to an external moral code. Shouldn’t I be exercising that free will/freedom of choice so that I can get credit for having done the right thing?

So which is it? Do I want to have to choose so I can choose right, or do I want to have my religion etched into my being so that I can express my connection with God in a perfect way? Should I, by dint of my religious core, choose good, or simply be good?