Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Empathy vs. Sympathy

“I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him... The land of tears is so mysterious.” 

Yes, the land of tears is mysterious, whoever you are.  The land of tears is mysterious.  If you do not believe that ancient idea, consider one more current ...

“The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 

Take that, millennials. That's the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Most of you probably don't know.  You can sympathize with someone with whom you have not shared similar experiences, but you can only empathize with someone with whom you have shared similar experiences with.  And, therein lies the problem - at least as it is with this.

Most of you cannot empathize with me because you have either (a) been with someone for several years or (2) had a relationship with someone over the past five years.  If neither of those circumstances apply to you, then you can only sympathize.  It's simple fact.

And so, telling me to "grin and bear it" or find some other outlet for my grief is nice, it does nothing for the overall issue at hand.  
The other one who said "how come you think that people who live in a relationship have a) found the partner of their dreams, b) are not lonely, and c) haven't given up? Go figure."

Apparently, my struggles are nothing compared to people who have supposedly found their soul mate, and I'm supposed to belive that my loneliness is nothing compared to theirs.  Go figure.
Well, yeah - so, go fuck yourself "go figure."  In plain English.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Win

If this wasn't an honest appraisal of my life, then it's worthless - and I don't want this to be worthless.

Whether I'm recommending investments or letting you in on my otherwise private thoughts, there is a sense that this is an opening of my mind, such as it is, and hence, the title.

I'll stand by my investment recommendations, DelTaco and Extreme Networks among them, and so let's move beyond that and delve into the inner workings of my (egad) mind.

Love has eluded me over the years, and it continues to do so.  I find it oddly interesting that so many have found it so easily, while it betrays me at every turn.  It's at the point now where I see someone and think, "Oh well, that's never going to happen."  The sense of doom is paramount. 

Lately, I thought that the soul mate that I so desperately seeked was in Alabama, of all places.  As it turned out, she was there physically, but not there in form or spirit.  I don't mind telling you because it doesn't seem to matter now, as she has surreptitiously disappeared from my life.  One is left to "go figure."  It would appear that she has gone back to the future ex-whatever who has mistreated her over the years, and my best efforts to reconcile that situation have fallen on both deaf ears and mind.

I'm taking a big chance in going public with this, but I have not "named names" or otherwise implicated anyone who doesn't already know whom she is.  Plus, the fact is that I've gone all "Larry David" and no longer care who finds what I say or think, so I'm going to say what I think and - as it were - fuck you if you're offended.  So, go ahead and be offended.

I am nearly 60 years old now, and as a mature adult, I have come across situations that require attention and at this point in my life, I will not bow to social pressure or succumb to what society thinks is acceptable.  
The fact that I am nearly 60 weighs on me, and it causes me to think about the goals that I had when I was 40 years younger, and naive enough to think that those goals would come to fruition.

I'm not asking for help.  I am giving up.  It has been over 40 years of searching and wanting, and frankly - it's exhausting. Emotionally and physically exhausting. For those of you who have found your so-called "soul mate," Congratulations.  I'm done. You win life's lottery.  The rest of us are stuck buying tickets.

I thought it might be a ticket to Alabama, but they don't have a state lottery, so I suppose I was duped again.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Finding the Value in Crap

It’s been a while since I have opined on the stock market.  Mostly because I have had other more important things to say.  Nevertheless, I still pay attention, and I think you should, too.  

Recently, Morningstar rated 20 stocks as “Undervalued and Sustainable,” which appeals to me because I hate overpaying for things, and want whatever I buy to be around in a decade or so - since I plan on that, too.

I went over the list (as you should, too) and found five that appear to be attractive in today's environment, and have some risk involved, with the requisite reward at the end of the supposed rainbow.

Mattel (MAT) looks like a disaster now, but their capital-allocation program has committed an incremental $250 million-$300 million to business improvements in 2017, potentially helping speed up the profit turnaround. So, if you are confident in their ability to turn the existing portfolio into a profitable enterprise, you could find a bargain here.  

HanesBrands (HBI). They aren't in the strict retail environment that is killing the likes of Macy's and Nordstrom.  Instead, they are selling products to them, and without a pure retail outlet, they may be able to make it work.  Free cash flow is still positive, and the company is buying back shares, which is a confident approach, and should attribute to earnings going forward.  Besides, who doesn't need underwear?

CapitalOne Financial (COF) This is a bit of a personal preference, since they are my bank and my credit card company.  While other companies like Visa (V) and MasterCard (MAS) have skyrocketed, CapitalOne has been left in the dust.  There is still value here. They continue to acquire assets, and our beloved Millennials continue to embrace debt and credit cards in particular, and Capital One is one of the underrated leaders in this space.

Starbucks (SBUX) Oh God, is it Starbucks?  I realize it's a retailer, and all, but despite ambitious growth aspirations, Morningstar believes Starbucks can sustain a 45%-50% dividend payout ratio over the next decade , implying mid-teens average annual dividend growth. It's hard to argue with that.

Kroger (KR) There's just something about this company that appeals to me.  I can't imagine that Amazon (AMZN) is going to kill retail altogether, so I figure that one or more has to sustain - and I think Kroger will be one of them.  If you're going to hold me responsible for any of these choices, then hold me responsible for Kroger, because I believe in the company and think that they will survive the onslaught of Amazon and the E-commerce of the 21st Century.

if you are a young investor, or have a young investor in mind, you could do worse than any of these five, or some others on the Morningstar list.  Take a look at all of them, but - in my opinion - for what that's worth, your money is best spent in these areas.

As usual, do your due diligence.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

More Dribble-Drabble

Eighteen hundred and some-odd posts on this worn-out site.  Sometimes, I think I've covered it all - and other times, I think I haven't covered anything at all.  Or maybe it's both?  So, there's that.  Meanwhile, my fascination with how people connect lingers.

There's this story about the Las Vegas lunatic that shot-up a concert.  
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The girlfriend of the Las Vegas gunman said Wednesday that she had no inkling of the massacre he was plotting when he sent her on a trip abroad to see her family.   Marilou Danley issued the statement after returning from her native Philippines and being questioned for much of the day by FBI agents still trying to figure out what drove Stephen Paddock to open fire on 22,000 fans at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite.
"He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen," Danley said in a statement read by her lawyer outside FBI headquarters in Los Angeles.
Well gee - no kidding.  What is fascinating about it to me is not that she had no idea, it's that he had a girlfriend to begin with.   I suppose I should be reassured, and think "Well, if a lunatic like that can have a girlfriend, then there's hope for me."  But, it's really the opposite.  If a lunatic like him can have a girlfriend, what's wrong with me?  That's the real question.
No inkling.  OK, then. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Thank you, Julie - you beautiful soul.

Oh hell - we knew that, right? Aren't we all?

Sometimes we think we aren't worthy, even though we know we are flawed. And it makes me wonder ...

How some couples get along with being flawed and arguing over things, and others (me) can't make it through one disagreement without separating and parting ways for a lifetime.

Perhaps I watch too much TV - or not enough - that I believe couples can argue over things and still exist as a couple.  Or, perhaps I think that couples can form to begin with, which seems to be a problem, so why am I concerned with keeping something together that isn't together to begin with?

There is supposed to be a lid for every pot, but I wonder if some pots are English and some lids are metric?  It doesn't seem as simple as the lid/pot analogy makes it out to be.  I'd guess that somehow, the lids and pots that fit each other go undiscovered and their owners go a lifetime without knowing that there was indeed one of them for each of them.  It's not that difficult to comprehend.

And so, we are flawed - indeed. That is how we are made.  It is the flaws that makes the acceptance worthwhile.  After all, if we found that ideal "soul mate" that the TV ads tell us exists somewhere, then it would be easy to accept the flaws, right?  The issue comes in knowing that there are flaws and still accepting and - oh yeah - loving that person because you know that there is a soul within.  

If you are looking for someone that fits your mold, then you are playing a fools game.  We know we are flawed...
...and those of us who know that can accept the flaws in our partners - but, if the partner doesn't accept it, then we are left on our own ... and that's how it usually ends up.

Our true soul mates in life realize that we have flaws and yet - we are still worthy of love.  It's not about some earthly value.  It is about the love within us. The loyalty, and faith that we place in us that leads us toward each other.
Sadly, I have not found that yet.  I still have time, but the hourglass is running out of sand.

I feel like I am still worthy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Curb My Enthusiasm

"You have to move on," they say.  

That would be easy if there was something to move on to.  The moving part is not the issue.  It's the "on" part that is difficult.  It's not like picking up another book or watching another movie. There's a human element that makes the moving difficult, and the on worse.

Once I get my sights set on something, it is difficult to re-focus.  Mostly because there is nothing else to focus on.  Things come one at a time in my world.  I'm not a social animal (quite the contrary) and the sights are few and far between.

Now, I find myself staring down the gunsight at the horrible four months from November to February, where the world's focus shifts from the mundane to the holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day - a marketer's dream and a lonely man's dread.  I realize that 95% of America has something to do on most of those days, and I can't begrudge someone their pleasure, but still ... nobody wants to hear about the struggle, so I persevere.  That is to say, I struggle.

I used to hold out hope, because the saying goes, "There's a lid for every pot."  I have come to realize that I'm a metric system lid for an English system pot, and they just don't match-up somehow. It's OK, I tell myself; but in my heart I dread the coming days.

I don't know what it is.  I see people who have no redeeming qualities (at least to me) and they have families and seem happy.  I don't know their innermost thoughts, but at least on the outside they seem like their lives have some meaning.  Kids, wife, job ... whatever it is that glues them to the earth.

Me?  I go on day after day, mostly out of habit, putting one foot in front of the other.  There are moments of glee and times when I feel like I belong to something, but those moments are followed by hours and days of regret, uselessness, and wishing that there was some purpose to it all.

I guess the thing of it was that she didn't love me like I loved her?  That's what I'll tell myself until I hear otherwise, which doesn't seem possible.  That's the general theme of the past 40-or-so years - the unrequited love issue.  It's probably why I love animals so much.  They don't ask questions and just return the love you give them without question.  I haven't experienced that.  Somebody tell me what it's like, because I'd like to know.

But, I forget.  I forget the last disappointment and the latest time that my hopes were dashed, and I return to hope which, as we know - sucks.   I say that I won't let it happen again, but it does because hope springs eternal, as they say.

They are stupid, ignorant asses.  Stop listening to them, it says here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Curse of Hope

As I said in a previous post, I recently returned from 11 days in Alabama.  Now that I have had significant time to reflect on that experience, allow me to share some of my thoughts on the trip and the indelible impression it has left on me.

The more desperate we are, the more we tend to lean on hope. When sentences start with "I hope ..." rational thought takes a back seat to chance and irrational ideals. It's a suckers game, and rarely does hope work for the betterment of those who hope.  Hope goes hand in hand with faith.  It relies too heavily upon someone or something else, and that has no place in the needs and desires that we all have.  If you have hope and faith, you will almost certainly be disappointed.  As it turned out, I cannot depend on hope, because hope relies on someone or something else.  I read that somewhere.  I will leave that between me and the one on whom my hope rested.

Would this be the eventual home in my retirement years? While it's true that the cost of living is lower there than anywhere - OK, second lowest - ANYWHERE - I began to find fault with my goals as they related to money.
Is it worth the lower expense to live in a place where the only major shopping outlet is Walmart, and the only entertainment is your television?  Perhaps not.
And, as a subtext to you Walmart haters out there:  Realize that, here in the northeast, Walmart is just one of many outlets for groceries and essentials.  In the Deep South, it is the only place.  They are not displacing "mom and pop," they ARE mom and pop.  I would suggest that the protesters take a trip now and then to see how the other three-quarters lives.  We are truly spoiled.
I could live in Tuscaloosa, Athens, or Huntsville; given their metropolitan style and the mere idea that there is something to do that doesn't involve driving an hour to another town.  That said, I'd still be an hour away from another place, which is certainly not the case here in southern New Jersey.

You have no idea of the expanse.  If you ever start to complain about how crowded America is, and how you'd like to do away with the constant expansion and population explosion - spend 11 days driving around Alabama.  You'll wonder, "Where are the people?"  Make sure you have reliable transportation and a full tank of gas, because you might not have cell service, know where you are, or where the next gasoline station is.
Roads go on for miles, undulating, with trees on either side, and the occasional dwelling.  Even the interstate highways are vast wastelands.  The exit cloverleafs have maybe one filling station, and if you're lucky, you'll find a Huddle House or a Love's truck stop somewhere between the three-hour drive from Birmingham to Tupelo, Mississippi.
The off-ramps are regularly populated with tractor-trailers parked on the shoulder because they have nowhere else to sleep.  Just sitting there - nobody in the driver's seat - sleeping in the cab.

I should also mention (for my fellow alcoholics) that in the parts of Alabama that I visited, alcohol sales are prohibited on Sunday, and furthermore, I did not see one - ONE - bar other than a chain like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, or Buffalo Wild Wings in my entire 1,400 miles of driving around the northwest part of the state.  Here in New Jersey, you can't go ten minutes without passing a bar and/or a liquor store.  In retrospect, it might be good for my internal organs, but I digress.

I may be biased in my opinion of the people.  The only people I met were service people - wait staff, bartenders, and hotel employees whose job it is to say "yes, sir" to whatever stupid thing I bring up.  Perhaps, if I lived there, I would encounter as many jackasses as I encounter on a daily basis here in New Jersey?  That is a question that I could only answer later.
I travel (and spend significant time) alone, so the attitude I get from people differs from what I would get if I lived in a place or had a companion.  I'm still not sure if outsiders think I'm a shill for corporate or just a poor schmuck traveling alone.  Either way, I win.  I leave big tips because I feel responsible for having them wait on me.  It's a curse.

Central Time.  That's nice.  Big-time athletic events start at 7:30pm.  Late-night TV starts at 10:30pm,  and while I realize that's a specious argument for living somewhere, it's a big deal if you like that stuff and have a problem staying up until after midnight.  Of course, one could make the same argument for Mountain time, but who wants to live in Nebraska?  People in Nebraska probably say the same thing about living in Alabama, so ...
Is it worth uprooting to save an hour?  Probably not, but it's nice not to have to fake "set the alarm" for an hour later and not feel guilty about it.  I maintained Eastern Time for the duration, and felt like I was in some sort of clock heaven.  Still, it was hot as Hell.

The fucking heat.  The temperature was 80, and the "real feel" was 104.  What the fuck? I didn't get to experience a tornado, but they have them regularly. There are signs for shelters along the highways everywhere.  Perhaps I could adapt, but I couldn't say for sure.  I'd have an easier time adapting to the no alcohol sales on Sunday thing than the constant heat.

In spite of the idea that I thought I was going to spend time with the future Mrs. Me (no story there, as it turns out) in my fishing around for potential retirement locations, I'm putting Alabama on my list, but mostly because it's not cold and the time zone is cool.  Otherwise, be careful where you settle down, because it's a long way to civilization from most of those places, and I'm a city boy at heart, and I need to be able to walk to the drug store, not drive an hour.

It's a deeply red state, and that I cannot change. My so-called liberal viewpoints would go in the hate box, and I'd probably be known as "that Yankee" in short order, if I moved there.  I saw a few Confederate flags, and wondered how the President did not Tweet about that, and instead, chose to occupy his time with some football players making a peaceful demonstration ... but I digress.

I will continue my quest to Escape from New Jersey, and may re-center my priority on the Fells Point area of Baltimore, where it began.
Sometimes, experience is the best teacher.

Love ya, Alabama - but it may be just a great place to visit.  Unless she comes calling - but I suspect that is a pipe dream, and I don't own a pipe.