Intimate Conversations for Couples

My father, who is a fairly accomplished writer and real estate investor, has come out with a new book on relationships that I felt was worth promoting. While I have no interest in reading about such a topic written by my father, for those that aren’t related to him, it is, as one reviewer put it, “a must read for couples” and “wonderfully insightful and validating.”

You can buy the book here

Or go to the website and read the first chapter for free here.

Here is my father’s description:

Are you getting all the romance, passion and joy you want in your relationship? Wouldn’t you like to… • Tell your partner how he or she can fully love you? • Be fully listened to and completely understood in the process? • Be nurtured and cherished in the unique way you feel loved? When it comes to the opposite sex, the intimacy rules are different! This book will help you understand and overcome those differences by sharing an ordinary couple’s extraordinary weekend of intimate conversations. Sarah and Matt get away from the house, the kids and their daily lives to listen to each other’s hearts, explore their differences and deepen their connection. Intimate Conversations enhances the lessons of their freewheeling dialogue with practical how-to sections inviting readers to explore their own hearts and those of their partners.

See more at www.IntimateConversations.com and buy it now at Amazon.com.

Live and Learn, Uncategorized

My Tip to Wake up Early (and Quickly)

There are all sorts of tips out there to wake up early and, what I think is more important, quickly. My entire family and I chronically get up late and often waste an hour or more pointlessly hitting the snooze button over and over again. Since this type of “rest” or “sleep” is useless and I don’t exactly accomplish anything in this time, I’m basically losing 5% of my life just trying to rouse myself.

I’ve read plenty of tips. Steve Pavlina recommends practicing waking up quickly to ingrain it in your subconscious mind, Mark Sisson recommends weaning yourself off the alarm clock, and some e-book I found on Amazon recommends repeating some odd chant while rubbing various body parts (like the arms and shoulders… jeez). And of course, everyone recommends getting enough sleep.

Well, I think I’ve finally found a way to do it. The key is to wake up to music, but instead of using music as an alternative alarm like most people do, use it as just the starting point. The thing I discovered was that for me at least, the problem with the alarm clock is that 1) it jolts you out of bed and 2) it gives you an either/or option. Either you get up, or you press snooze. When you’re groggy and tired and kinda want to murder your alarm clock, the getting up option will usually fail.

So the music starts and you no longer need to jump out of bed. You’ve taken the pressure off. You don’t have to get up right away! The alarm clock is no longer to be dreaded. And also, make sure, to use a playlist of music you really like that is not too heavy or too soft. That way you can almost sort of enjoy being woken up.

Once the music starts, all you need to do is two things: 1) leave the music on and 2) keep your eyes open. This is aided if you leave the blinds open so natural light gets in. One of the big things that keeps you tired is the fact your eyes are closed when you’re lying in bed. Light helps wake us up naturally, so just keep them open (easier said than done, but much easier than just hopping up right away).

After about five minutes you should be much more awake than before. At this point, turn on a reading lamp and then if you’re ready, sit up. If not, maybe shake your arms or roll your neck a bit to get the blood flowing. Or just stay there lying down for another couple more minutes with your eyes open. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be ready to get up soon enough. I should also note there are lights for sale that act as alarm clocks and gradually get brighter. Those  would fit in with this plan perfectly.

Once you’re ready, get up and immediately take a shower. That will finish the trick, especially if you’re willing to make it a cold shower, although that’s not required.

So if I were to formulate this into a step by step plan, it would be this:

1. Get to bed on time and get enough sleep (obviously)

2. Keep the blinds open and for that matter, lay your clothes for the next day out just to make it all the easier on you when you wake up

3. Wake up to a playlist of music you really like that is not too heavy or too soft nor too loud or too quiet

4. Unless you want to, don’t get up right away, just do not turn the music off (put the player far enough from your bed that you would have to get up to turn it off just in case)

5. Keep your eyes open

6. Once you feel a bit more awake, turn on your reading lamp and maybe shake your arms and roll your neck a little bit

7. Then sit up

8. Then get out of bed and take a shower

Each of these steps has come naturally to me. I don’t have to time them, I just start to wake up naturally and after about 5 to 15 minutes, I get out of bed. I set a backup alarm just in case I linger too long, but I have yet to need it. In the past, I have struggled to get out of bed with enough time to take a shower and inhale a quick breakfast before work. Now I have been consistently getting up at 6:00 am and getting my workouts in before work (which is a lot easier than afterwards when I’m tired and just want to relax).

Well that’s it. Let me know if it works for you as well.


Photo Credit: blogs.villagevoice.com

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Complete Whimsy, Uncategorized

DIY Disasters: Part 5

Apparently some do-it-yourselfers don’t do things perfectly each time… who woulda thought, ehh? Anyways, that’s what I’m here to document for all you lovely people:

Stairs to Nowhere:

1. Stairs to Nowhere

OK, this wasn’t a fix, this is just disgusting (no folks, that is not a yellow paint). Perhaps it’s not a good idea to smoke (a ridiculous amount) in your own home. Maybe this guy should have read a little Allen Carr.

1. Heavy Smoker

And I don’t know what they hell is going on here:

Ummm Thing

While I guess this next one would be more or less functional, there comes a time when using space efficiently just becomes a wee bit ridiculous.

wash + cook


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Complete Whimsy, Individual v. Collective, Liberty, Live and Learn, Uncategorized

Liberalism is Kinda Boring

Bored Cat

Liberalism has been called a lot of things. Some seem to think that the term is synonymous with good, others think it’s naive, Michael Savage called it a mental disorder, etc.

But the one thing I don’t hear it called very often is boring. And it many ways, it is just kinda boring.

There seems to be a formula with modern liberalism and whatever event comes up, just plug in the formula and, wala, you have the ‘correct’ way to think about it hand delivered with the utmost convenience, like they use to do with milk. And it seems that whoever is in the bigger victim category becomes the one who’s in the right. So for example, an employee sues the company, and the company might as well be named Enron.

Let’s take the George Zimmerman case. George was white and Trayvon was black, so obviously George was at fault. OK, George was actually Hispanic, but that isn’t as high as black on the victim list, which I think goes something like this:

1. Black

2. Jew

3. Middle Eastern

4. Hispanic

5. Asian

6. Pupppies

7. White

And so the headlines go, “White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman” and “Open Season on Unarmed Black Kids” and so on. Since when are ‘unarmed’ and ‘harmless’ synonyms for each other? And since when is a 17 year old teenager with a  history of fighting considered a ‘kid’?

It is certainly difficult to make out exactly what happened, and George Zimmerman is obviously not completely innocent. But it’s also quite apparent that Trayvon Martin assaulted Zimmerman. After all, Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose and two lacerations on the back of his head. Other than the bullet wound the only injury Trayvon Martin had was to his knuckles.

The whole Zimmerman thing is a distraction of course. After all, there were 532 people murdered in Chicago alone in 2012! And some 93% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Yet, one Hispanic who killed one black teenager who was assaulting him after said Hispanic followed him represents white supremacy because it was ruled self-defense?

I’m not even saying that everyone on the left thinks the same or even that George Zimmerman wasn’t guilty of something (although it certainly wasn’t first degree murder). But the left appears to be like a line. You may be liberal, or you may be really liberal, but with a few exceptions such as Glenn Greenwald and Thaddeus Russell, you’re pretty much just some shade of liberal. Something like this:

So a liberal will be against the war. A hardcore liberal will want to dismantle most of the American military and send reparations to Iraq and Afghanistan. A liberal will be for regulation, a hardcore liberal will be for nationalization, etc. Even leftwing communists and anarchists tend to blur.

Yes, the right can be similarly annoying. I’m a libertarian, more or less, and even roll my eyes a bit when everyone and everything is called a statist. But on the right, not only do you have different variations from moderate to extreme, but you have libertarians and neoconservatives and the religious right and white nationalists and survivalists and paleoconservatives and on and on and on. And from what I gather, the religious right has no problem throwing corporations under the bus, and neither do libertarians for that matter, as long as the corporation is somehow tied to the federal government. To paleoconservatives, free trade is bad, to libertarians it’s good. Drug legalization is good for libertarians, but bad for the religious right. White nationalists obviously oppose to civil rights legislation, neoconservatives (“liberals who were mugged by reality”) usually support at least most of what is currently on the books and libertarians split it on the private vs public grounds. All of these groups are on the ‘right.’ I see almost nothing like this kind of disagreement on the left.* So it looks something like this:

Left - Right Political Scale

This is likely why according to at least one study (and my experience), liberals don’t understand conservative beliefs as well as conservatives understand liberal beliefs. And that leads to such inane name calling as Matt Yglesias, who opened his recent column on Detroit as follows:

Detroit is everything that conservatives hate—labor unions, black people, pensions—so in some quarters there’s almost a kind of glee around this idea that Detroit is a preview of the American future.

Well, it came off to me as an olive branch of sorts.

Anyways, perhaps the ‘right’ became every political philosophy opposed to liberalism. And perhaps that’s to liberals benefit as they can accuse the right of being racist because of the white nationalists and theocratic because of the religious right and anti-labor because of libertarian views on unions. And perhaps that drives everyone but the white men (and the white women those white men enslave) into the Democratic party.

But that does come with some contradictions. After all, when it comes to gender, the victim chart looks like this I think:

1. Transsexuals

2. Hermaphrodites

3. Women

4. Kittens

5. Men

But the liberal reports on Trayvon Martin talked about how black males are stereotyped as being dangerous and thereby could be shot for “the crime of being black.” As President Obama said:

There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

But don’t black women come with the “double oppression” of being black and female?

How can men’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on male power (even while often overstated) and African American’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on white power (when not being distracted by things like the Martin/Zimmerman affair)? Then add in that male violence usually comes from the least powerful men and is usually directed at other men of their own race and the simple liberal dichotomy falls apart.

The one obvious exception to this is the government, which the left appears to view ambivalently. Namely, while the left pushes for the government to grow, the government can certainly be wrong if say, they launch a war on Iraq (but maybe not if they launch a war on Libya… it depends how far left on the line you are).  But if someone in one wing of the ‘right’ says maybe those high black crime rates have something to do with the welfare state and the incentives it creates, meh, they’re just racist or something.

While I’d like this to be taken as a warning for everyone (including libertarians and their rush to call people statists), the left is by far the worst offender here. The world is far too complicated to be boiled down to such simplicity. People, especially liberal people, please do not use a formula to figure out which side to be on on whatever issue! Otherwise, it’s just so… boring.


*I should note the one odd exception, which is prostitution. This is one where some hardcore liberals of the feminist variety tend to oppose it (and ironically lock hands with the religious right) and some of the more libertine liberals support its legalization.

Photo Credit: www.lifequestinc.net 

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook


Complete Whimsy, Deficits, Dubiously Free Trade, Trust

The Left Reaches Really, Really Far on Detroit Bankruptcy

So MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perr said the following about Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing (and general state of awfulness):

This is what it looks like when government is small enough to drown in your bathtub, and it is not a pretty picture

See for yourself:

I honestly don’t even know how to respond to someone who can’t see the difference between reducing taxes and having a reduced tax base. I just don’t know.

So I’ll give up and let Reason sum it up:

Detroit has been a “model city” for big-government! All Detroit’s mayors since 1962 were Democrats who were eager to micromanage. And spend. Detroit has the only utility tax in Michigan, and its income tax is the third-highest of any big city in America (only Philadelphia and Louisville take more, and they aren’t doing great, either).

… Home loan subsidies, public housing, stadium subsidies, a $350 million project called “Renaissance Center” (the city ended up selling it for just $50 million), an automated People Mover system that not many people feel moved to use (it moves people in only one direction), endless favors to unions — if a government idea has failed anywhere in America, there’s a good chance it failed in Detroit first.

But yeah, it was probably Ayn Randian libertarianism that brought Detroit down… I mean why not?


For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Complete Whimsy, Deficits, Dollar, Federal Reserve

Peter Schiff Does Stand Up

OK, so Peter Schiff has gotten a little too doom and gloom for me of late, but he’s still the man. And apparently he can do stand up comedy too:

 Not bad for a stock broker…


For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Live and Learn, Trust

Swift Reviews: The Easy Way to Stop Smoking

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking Cover

5 Stars

Allen Carr’s classic book is possibly the most important book I ever read. I hadn’t smoke that long and I would like to think I would have quit eventually anyway. But then again, I had “succeeded” a few times and had gone back every time. So the fact that this book helped me quit (or as Allen Carr describes it, escape) smoking for good says something in and of itself.

Indeed, at the time I bought the book about a year and half ago the book had over 1000 ratings on Amazon.com and still had a five star rating! That is something I have never seen for a book with that many ratings. It has since fallen to 4 1/2 stars with about 1300 ratings, but many of the negative reviews seem to have missed the mark.

For example, this one:

I wish this book were true. Unfortunately, it is wishful thinking. It does not take into account the actual physical symptoms of quitting smoking. It assumes that all physical ills are psychological, which they aren’t. I am so disappointed with both the book and the reviews.

This ignores one of the biggest revelations of the book; that the actual physical withdrawal pangs of nicotine withdrawal are extremely mild. As Allen Carr puts it:

There is no physical pain in the withdrawal from nicotine. It is merely a slightly empty, restless feeling, the feeling that something isn’t quite right, or that something is missing… (pg. 24)

… Most smokers go all night without a cigarette. The withdrawal “pangs” do not even wake them up. Many smokers will leave the bedroom before they light that first cigarette; many will have breakfast first. Increasingly people don’t smoke in their homes and won’t have that first cigarette until they are in the car on the way to work… These smokers have eight or maybe ten hours without a cigarettegoing through withdrawal all the while, but t doesn’t seem to bother them. (pg. 34)

Those really painful withdrawal pangs actually come from your own mind (after all, your mind, by itself, can make you physically ill). Many smokers go for long stretches, while they are distracted with a game or TV show or whatever and don’t smoke. It’s not like every smoker smokes on the hour ever hour. Often tiAllen Carrmes, it’s certain cues, like leaving the house to go to work or lunch time or when the plane you’re on lands that set off the craving.

As The Power of Habit demonstrated, habits can be strong and ingrained in the most primitive parts of the brain. So what’s necessary to stop smoking, since the withdrawal pangs are so slight, is to change our habits. And this involves becoming self aware of them. Specifically, asking the question; why do we smoke?

Everyone says we shouldn’t smoke because it’s unhealthy and gross and blah blah blah, but it has to provides some benefit, right? Well, no. And most of what this book does is prove that. He shows how smokers attribute contradictory benefits to smoking. For example, the excuses will be that cigarettes help with concentration and boredom as well as relaxation and stress. How could the possibly do both?

Obviously, they don’t. All the cigarette does is relieve the slight physical withdrawal pang. And the brainwashing, as Allen Carr refers to it, takes over. We think we need the cigarettes, so our mind makes us need them and induces the really bad pangs people talk about when they try quit with willpower. So Carr demolishes the brainwashing to leave us with only the slight, easily tolerable physical pangs.For example, one excuse for smoking is that we smoke because we’re bored. Well, what’s more boring than smoking a cigarette? Oh yeah, smoking is boring so it probably doesn’t help relieve boredom particularly well. He has a long list of these types of excuses.

So every habit has a cue, a routine and then a reward. By learning that there actually is no reward to smoking cigarettes, the cues become irrelevant very quickly. In essence, Allen Carr’s book doesn’t make it easier to quit smoking, it makes it so you don’t want to. It doesn’t take much willpower to not do something you don’t want to do.

Other forms of quitting don’t work very well (I certainly tried a few of them). For example, it’s correctly claimed that nicotine replacement therapy doubles the chance of success. But then again, it doubles your chances all the way to 7%. A study in the Internal Archives of Occupational Environmental Health showed Allen Carr’s seminars to have a 12 month success rate of 51.4%. And the book’s high rating on Amazon.com lend credibility that the book does similarly well This is especially true given how it seems the message flew over many of its detractors heads. How many of those that failed just didn’t take the book, or seminar, to heart?

So all in all, I highly recommend The Easy Way To Stop Smoking to anyone trying to quit, err, escape smoking.


Photo Credit: gamepasattic.ca and wikipedia.org

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook

Liberty, Live and Learn, Trust, Uncategorized

Swift Reviews: The Power of Habit


The Power of Habit cover

4 StarsCharles Duhigg certainly bit off a large bite for himself, and did a mostly very good job of chewing it.

The Power of Habit is a fascinating book that looks into how we develop habits and how those habits affect us at individual, organizational and societal level. The most interesting part is the beginning where he tells the story of Eugene Paulie, a man whose brain had been severely damaged by encephalitis and had lost all of his memories, including his ability to remember anything after more than a few minutes.

Yet the man could still speak and do all the tasks he had learned throughout his life. In fact, he could even walk around the block and find his way back home. Cues would tell him it was time to eat and if it weren’t for the intervention of his wife he would eat five or six meals a day.

What this helped lead scientists to was that habits are not memories. They are more similar to instincts, but instincts we learn or adopt. Basically, they are automatic processes that takeover when we receive whatever cue, and it culminates in some reward that solidifies the habit. While the processes are complicated, they mostly reside in the basal ganglia, the very center and most primitive part of the brain (the brain effectively evolved on top of itself with the most advanced parts on the outside, such as the prefrontal cortex).

This has all sorts of important implications especially with regards to addiction and how we judge individuals behaviors. How much of what people do is under their control? Unfortunately, Duhigg’s dicsussion of this is the weakest part of the book. He compares the case of a woman named Angie Bachmann who won the lottery and then became a gambling addict and gambled away her entire fortune, and then proceeded to gamble away her entire inheritance., with a man named Brian Thomas who accidentally murdered his wife while having a sleep terror.

Sleep terrors are quite different from sleep walking as sleep walking is usually just going through random habits, while sleep terrors involve going into a highly anxious, primitive neurological state. The night he killed his wife, they had seen some hoodlums causing trouble, so they moved their RV. That night he had a sleep terror and while dreaming that those hoodlums were attacking him, he strangled his wife to death while unconscious.

The woman was held responsible for her debts while the man was acquitted of murder. Duhigg sums up our society’s motives as follows:

… there is one critical distinction between the cases of Thomas and Bachmann: Thomas murdered an innocent person. He committed what has always been the gravest of crimes. Angie Bachmann lost money. The only victims were herself, her family and a $27 billion company [the casino she gambled at] that loaned her $125,000. 

Thomas was set free by society. Bachmann was held accountable for her deeds. (pg. 268-269)

There are a lot of interesting questions with regards to the legal and moral ramifications of neurological science, but this is a horrible comparison. Right off the bat, the difference between criminally punishing someone and civilly holding someone accountable for a debt they incurred is enormous.

Thomas was literally unconscious when he attacked his wife. And while he had had night terrors before, he had never done anything even remotely violent and there was no real reason to think that he would. The question with regards to Thomas is should someone be held liable for what they do while unconscious. Bachmann was conscious while she gambled. So the question for her is should someone be held liable for something they do while habitually addicted.

They’re two very different questions, and if we do drop Bachmann’s culpability because she was a gambling addict, do we thus drop the liability of someone who drives drunk and kills someone in a car crash because they were an alcoholic?

This is especially true since one of the important lessons of this bookwhich is touched on throughout and elaborated upon in a very good appendixis that habits can be changed.  Yes, we do things by habit without thinking about them in what is effectively an instinctual sort of way. And yes, changing them is difficult. But yes, they can be changed. Each habit is three steps: 1) Cue, 2) Routine and 3) Reward. The key is to isolate them. He describes the steps experts agree on taking:

– Isolate the routine

-Experiment with rewards

– Isolate the cue

– Have a plan (pg. 276)

What’s important is to change the reward to something positive (i.e. eating an apple) instead of something negative (i.e. eating a cookie). But of course, one has to figure out exactly what the reward really is. It may be the longing to have a break rather than eat something and the cookie is incidental. Thus, the experimentation.

In the book, Duhigg also goes into the habits of organizations and societies, particularly societal movements. This part is good too, but is more anecdotal than empirical. Still, the story of Starbucks and Alcoa almost obsessively emphasizing respectfulness and safety respectively, and the discipline and success that came from that, is quite compelling.

Despite some minor flaws, The Power of Habit is still a fascinating and well written book on an extremely important topic. Much of what we do is through habit, not conscious thought. The better we understand and thereby learn to control our habits, the better we will all be for it.


Photo Credit: blog.hpb.com

For more Swift Economics, subscribe now to our RSS Feed
Follow Swift Economics on Twitter
LIKE Swift Economics on Facebook