10/2/08-Thurs.-Set off this morning for Taos, NM. Had lunch in Llano, TX.
Austin and central TX remain in a severe drought. Despite a lot of watering, much of our already stressed backyard grass has dried up and disappeared, replaced by bare patches of dry dirt or mud.
As I leave, our country, the rest of the world, and of course Fran's and my hard won portfolio are at risk from severe recession or worse. Experts (including even Warren Buffett) are universally saying this may be a once in a lifetime event, the inevitable severe contraction after a binge of greed with excessively leveraged borrowing and spending that had gone on for decades and has even far outstripped the happy times' froth of the 1920s, just before the 1929 crash and subsequent 1932 drop in the stock market to only 10-20% of its bloated, pre-Depression levels.
Since our equities as well as our real estate markets have in recent years risen to unsustainably speculative heights, they are both now subject to profound and prolonged reductions in market value as sentiment and momentum have turned against them. To reach a hypothetical "fair value," both likely need to fall another 25-30% or so. But because swings seldom stop right at the mean, it appears far more probable the two markets will crash right on through that "deleveraging" marker, plummeting to as yet unknown depths, perhaps 40, 50, or 60% below their highs.
Meanwhile, though, the major intent for this "getaway" trip is a period of diversion, relaxation, and meditation. If I am so inclined, there will be lots of opportunity to worry about preserving what remains of our portfolio once I get back. Before departing, I had paid off all our margin debt, raised our reserves to their highest level in years, and assured that most of our equities are in good price-to-value securities. Short of locking in losses by selling all our stocks, I can do no better now to protect our financial prospects than has already been done.
Later. I reached the western outskirts of Lubbock, TX, by a little after 6 PM and checked in at a good quality, moderately priced motel (Tech Inn), partially unloaded the car, went shopping for vittles at a nearby Wal-Mart, took a shower, had a snack, and put on fresh clothes by 8:00, in time to watch tonight's vice-presidential debate. While the debate was on, I checked on road directions for the trip tomorrow, worked out with barbell weights I had brought, and tallied up today's expenses (gas, food, and motel room): $113.
Several times today, the car's transmission locked in the parked position for awhile. Hopefully this will not prove seriously problematic for the trip. I checked the transmission fluid level and it appeared sufficient.
I did my meditation for the day, including while driving. Of course, my usual meditation style is with eyes closed. It did not take long trying this behind the wheel to prove that, just as with catching up on sleep at such times, it detracts from both activities when there is too much multi-tasking.
This motel is close to a busy freight train track. Another train goes by, each time with loud warning horn blasts, about once each half-hour through the night. Besides this distraction, there was a drunk who kept coming to my door and trying to get in.
Having fun reading my latest novel: Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris.
10/3/08-Fri.-I must have gotten used to the trains, drunks, and sleeping arrangements (no couch, that I'm used to sleeping at an incline on, for acid reflux), for I slept straight through after waking often earlier, not getting up then till 8:30, when "The Weather Channel" said that in our area it was clear sunny, and cool, 56°F. Alright! (Mine was by then almost the only vehicle in the parking lot.)
We lost more paper value money from our nest egg yesterday and are now down about 13% from a year ago. This is less than half the S&P 500 Index decline in the same period, but that seems cold comfort since we have "lost" about $105,000. Of course, if I do not sell at a net loss, we may get much of that back eventually. Our portfolio's total equity book value has increased in that period. Thus, on a positive and glass half-full note, the price to book value is improving (now 0.89). This is one reason, no doubt, that we have suffered less loss than average.
Later. On the road for about an hour this morning. This area is almost totally flat. But I am passing through a stretch of grass- and small shrub-covered dunes in all directions, to the horizon. A little way back, I passed an exit for "Earth," which made me wonder where I am now!
We live out our lives on a thin line twixt high and low. The inner realm is unrestricted, a region of multidimensional vastness.
I stopped for lunch in Clovis, NM, just after 11 AM, local (Mountain) time. The temperature was still just in the 70s.
To assure lower risk in our portfolio, I shall gradually replace low book value assets and financial stocks with high book value non-financial holdings, aiming to keep total book value increasing by 12.5% a year without much net decrease in our low-risk bond and reserves assets.
If all goes well, I shall be sleeping in the mountains tonight.
Still later. Stopped for the night at a cheap motel ($39, that is) in a no-name town here in NM, not too far from Taos. As I was stopping, the sky looked interesting, with lightning and dark clouds. The latter soon dissipated, however, and we were left with a big wind and a dust storm bad enough in seconds to cover my face and fill the scalp with grit.
My motel room is special, arranged to accommodate folks who are wheelchair bound. The bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom but has no tub or even lip (or water barrier) for the shower.
Today's total outlay: $85.
10/4/08-Sat.-Have stopped for breakfast at Cline Corners (elevation 7200 feet) at the junction of Hwy. 285 (which will take me up to Santa Fe, about an hour or two from Taos) and I.H.40.
Continued this informal meditation retreat with sittings in my room yesterday evening. They proved productive. Settled on a rather firm schedule of further meditation over the next fortnight. To have more time for an intense meditation exploration, have decided after all not to go to CO this trip but instead to cut travel time and stick around Taos before returning more or less the way I came. Also, this won't be so much a photographic vacation, as when I went to Yellowstone or the Pacific Northwest. I shall take my share of scenic shots, but the main focus will be on the meditation.
Later. Arrived in Taos about 2:30 PM, Mountain time. Temperature highs here were in the low 60s, lows barely in the 40s. Mostly sunny, chance of showers.
My gear shift is locking more frequently, now almost every time I turn off the engine, and then it is taking longer to unlock afterward. Becoming a worrisome nuisance.
Much later. I have located a cheap (for this area) motel that is reasonably convenient and checked in here in Taos. I think I'll reserve the room for the rest of my stay. Stopped at the library, sent an e-mail to Frances, picked up a to-go meal, and settled into my room once back. Then got a call from Fran, and we chatted about half an hour. Did my meditation, 5 hours today, including meditation practice while driving, concentrating on the moment to moment mental focus that (fortunately) included attending to operation of the vehicle.
The total trip meditation tally so far: 13 hours. The intention is to complete 100 hours of meditation from 10/2 through 10/19. This is to take precedence over TV, travel, hiking, photography, and all other diversions.
I checked today's photos on Fran's backup laptop, brought for this purpose, and was pleased that a few came out looking reasonably good.
It rained here tonight. Maybe the higher surrounding elevations got some snow!
Total expenses today: $101.
10/5/08-Sun.-I lost a book yesterday. Disappointing. Bother.
This morning, based on at least a one-week stay, I negotiated a lower rate on my room: $275 (including tax) for 7 days. So I just paid the balance of that over the $52 I paid for the 1st night yesterday, a savings off the per night rate for a week of $89, or a $12.71 per night discount.
Since a small continental breakfast is also free here, it is like saving at least another $3 a day, as if, all things considered, even with taxes, my room rate is $36/night. Not bad.
Have also decided to leave on 10/11, heading back toward Austin, but may stay a night or two in another attractive location such as Durango, CO, Alpine, TX, or...
Including the extra $223 paid this morning, today's tally of expenses comes to: $269, since I did shopping for transmission fluid and groceries too.
Later. I completed lots of meditation today, some as dreary as dishwater and some quite rewarding. I also added transmission fluid to the car, got some extra food (for meals in the room), drove out to one of the surrounding hills, followed a hiking trail, and took pictures.
Expect, after my week is up here, I'll drive up to Taos Ski Valley, stay there a couple nights, and do some hiking in that higher elevation area as well, then head back to Austin over the 10/13 through 10/15 period.
As a minimum base target, I shall keep our equities' level at 25% of our grand total assets (including the principal required, conservatively invested and yielding 6%, to generate all sources of our income, besides our nest egg), plus our reserves, ballast assets, stocks or stock mutual funds, and bonds or bond mutual funds, Social Security benefits, etc. In addition, I shall assure our total book value (or intrinsic value for BRK) increases a minimum of 12.5% each year over its level at the end of the prior year, regardless of the market's downs or ups and its temporary effect on our portfolio. However, rebalancing for plus or minus 5% from this 25% base shall be done no more often than monthly.
10/6/08-Mon.-As I begin my day here, the domestic markets now open only an hour or so, the Dow, S&P 500 Index, and Nasdaq are essentially in free fall, plummeting faster apparently than even in the 1987 crash. Obviously, the average investor does not think the Paulson rescue will be nearly adequate and that now we are in for at best a prolonged, severe, and global recession. If this is John Q. Investor's assessment, I agree.
I checked e-mails at the library. Found and looked at a couple bookstores for the book title I am missing. No luck.
An A.I.M. program shall be employed to take advantage of the trader's market prevailing now. The target equities and book values levels shall be maintained at least within a 5% tolerance. When assets fall below those thresholds, the difference in securities, to raise our nest egg stocks to that minimum (5% below target) level, shall be invested in extremely solid, low risk assets, like BRK/B and other classic value picks that meet stringent tests.
In addition, the portfolio shall be streamlined. Whenever a portfolio A.I.M. sell signal occurs, the then lowest in book value (highest in price to book value) holdings shall be sold off. But when there is a new buy signal, there shall be further investment in some of the most solid assets, thus gradually concentrating the nest egg in the best 5-10 assets.
TIPS and precious metals category assets, however, shall each just be maintained at a minimum 5% of total liquid assets level, to be held forever.
And NYUA or NYUA-2 assets shall only be sold as they meet their category sell criteria. They too shall be maintained at a minimum 5% of total liquid assets level.
Evening. Have stopped at Rita's, a Mexican food restaurant about half a block from the motel. It must be authentic Mexican food. The man taking my order knows little English. The menu items are in pictures (with English subtitles). I expect to eat a little here and take most back to my room. I am, at 6:15, the only customer. Yet the place is clean and pleasant. Maybe it will fill up later tonight.
A Mexican or Mexican-American man just came in with a bunch of big, freshly dug up green onions to sell. He and the man behind the counter talk in Spanish for quite awhile. He makes the sale.
When the food comes, it is delicious! I wonder if what we usually eat at Mexican restaurants is "watered down" for Anglo tastes or if most cooks just do not know how to prepare it.
The market's gyrations, up or down several percent per day lately, make me think this may be a fruitful time for day trading. I could simply buy some of the best non-financial stocks when they are down 5% or more for the day, then sell when they are up at least 5% from my purchase price a few days later, continuing such "5% trades" for good annualized gains. Likely candidates for such an approach: BRK/B, GE, Intel, Wal-Mart, Google, Schwab, Coca-Cola, railroad stocks, etc. I could research them online and through "Value Line," looking for companies with above average volatility yet superior profitability and prospects. I could pick out maybe 50 candidates, the best of the best, then put in buy orders whenever they are down 5% or more.
Later, I could just hold till they are up a nice amount and sell, wait again till they are down, etc. It would be a reasonably safe way to capitalize on a market that seems unlikely to reward the "buy and hold" investor. And it would give me something to do while waiting, perhaps years, for our economy and equity markets to turn around.
Too many buildings in the way here for photography, but there was a stunningly beautiful sunset tonight.
Today's total trip expenses: $14.
No. On second thought I do not need the extra hassle and risk, even as small a risk as it ultimately would be, of "5% trading" using individual securities and their 5-10% variations, not at this time. The problem is that we are now in real jeopardy of having a new depression or great depression. So I do not want to have any more than the minimum funds tied up in stocks, in case they might be lost forever rather than being available for buying up once-in-a-lifetime bargains a little later on. So, for now, and perhaps up till five years from now, we shall simply play it very safely, just not so conservatively that we lock in our current (paper) losses and get out of equities entirely.
10/7/08-Tues.-Today's expenses total: $29 (gasoline).
This morning, I drove out to Eagle Nest, Eagle Nest Lake, and Eagle Nest State Park, along the way stopping and hiking a trail in Carson National Forest. I also saw snowy Wheeler Peak and three eagles.
Also, as usual here, did a lot of meditating, some of it seeming productive.
Am now leaning toward staying on here for one or two additional nights and doing further hiking in this general vicinity, before heading home starting next Monday.
10/8/08-Wed.-On the news, the reports of the financial meltdown grow more ominous each day. Already some indications are the stock market in this country might have the worst performance since 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression. Overnight, news of foreign markets' global crisis of confidence (or lack of it) and of credit (or lack of it) is even worse than in our country. Our averages are down about 10-12% in only the past couple days. Some Asian markets were down that much in Wednesday's (today's) trading alone. The Russian stock market fell about a third in one day recently and then was shut down by authorities.
Bank of America (where we have our checking account) was greedy (or shrewd?) in buying up distressed companies lately, but now it too is having trouble raising enough money to stay financially secure and cannot sell off some of its assets fast enough.
It is probably just as well I am far from easy computer access and not able to follow directly what is happening to our nest egg, or be tempted on a daily basis to "do something" as its market value plummets.
But it would be quite inconvenient if Bank of America goes under and we cannot get to our funds from there soon. Still, if that were the worst thing to happen to our assets in this debacle, I'd be grateful. No such luck, I am afraid.
Looks like I won't get my wish of a snowfall here before I need to leave, but at least the lows will be down in the 30s (F) the next few nights.
One thing about the huge drops in stocks: by definition they are also creating huge bargains for people who, like us, have cash on the sidelines. Who knows where he got the wisdom - and perhaps he just lucked out - by my paternal grandfather stayed invested and kept investing through the Great Depression and, as a result, through he never earned more than $200 a month (!) he wound up a millionaire. The seeds of that kind of transformation are in the global equity market now. Many really big name companies are already down 50% so far this year. And it is not unlikely they still have farther to fall.
Why meditate? One answer is to be accepting of whatever happens, not as a realizable goal but an ideal to approach. (In spiritual terms, it is the equivalent of that state in which, under any and all inevitable, unavoidable circumstances, one is able to say: "So be it. Thy will be done." [See Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Koko Beck.]) But also I meditate for a breakthrough, if not a sudden one then a gradual increase in insight and awareness.
Today's trip expenses total: $101 (extension of room rent; lunch).
10/9/08-Thurs.-Today's trip expenses: $0.00.
The Dow is down (as of 9 AM, Mountain Time) about 35% in the past 12 months. The financial sector appears to be down much more.
Today, am experiencing severely painful emotions, anger, anxiety, and depression, typical of both my attempts previously to meditate intensely in isolation and, perhaps for similar reasons, of my prior long solo vacations. It is important to remember this is exactly what needs to be felt and dealt with in a meditative regimen. How else can I deal with the personal demons? So, it is vital not to seek ways of bringing the pain to an early end, but instead to stay with it in a consistent meditative discipline.
Warren Buffett has called our country's current crisis our "financial Pearl Harbor." Hope we deal with it as well as after the first Pearl Harbor event. The indications so far are not very good.
After market close, the Dow is now down over 40% (!) in the last year, much of it in just the last week. No end is definitely in sight. Only twice before in history has there been equivalent selling: 1974 and 2002. Well, I thought 1929 and 1932 were similar, but evidently not for the rapidity and depth seen here. However, of course 80-90% losses in market averages were eventually seen by the end of 1933. We could see drops rivaling those before this is over. And there has never been a U.S. money market crisis that involves so many "perfect storm" calamities at once, including a falling dollar, rising foreclosures, falling home prices, threats to pensions and annuities, equity losses, doubling or more of the national debt, credit card default risk, rising unemployment, falling credit, massive loss of liquidity, etc. The factors are in place for a potential meltdown worldwide even worse than the Great Depression. It is also possible things will begin to turn around soon and that, seemingly against the odds, we shall claw our way out of this in the next few years.
Fran called tonight, and we had a pleasant chat.
Yesterday, I drove over to the Orilla Verde Rio Grande Gorge Recreation Area, hiked a trail, and took photos in the gorge and of the river.
As usual, I also did several hours of meditation, some of which seemed productive, though likely, in the theory of this practice, all of it was useful regardless of my subjective experience.
Today, I drove to a ski area (Sipapu) and hiked a couple short trails there, followed of course by more meditation.
10/10/08-Fri.-I think it will not be long before folks are comparing what is happening now to capitalist democracies around the world with the collapse of the Soviet Union almost a generation ago. The moralists as well as historians on all sides may justifiably point out that, just as was true for the Soviet system, so for unfettered, or at least under-regulated, capitalism, the seeds of the catastrophe were sown and nurtured by those who were the greatest extollers of each about-to-crumble political and economic philosophy.
Meanwhile, in trying to fix our broken system by pouring more and more money into it, our government may only be prolonging the conflagration and bankrupting itself. Our nation could well wind up like Russia after the Soviet Union collapse or Britain after World War II, dependent on others to assist our failing social and military networks, but a shadow of the country's formerly robust and viable international presence.
Western observers were amazed how quickly and easily the Soviet Union disintegrated. Till then they had been sure it was a great superpower. And so now too, foreign observers are astounded at how easily our seemingly great state is being brought to its financial knees, though in fact we had ceased the policies that had made us so powerful and influential some time ago. There are no longer any superpowers, and attempts to still act like one will but put off awhile longer the necessary adjustments to reality, either here or in Russia, and so will delay our partial recoveries.
Went out this morning to the library for an e-mail check, then to Albertson's for a few more grocery items. Also looked for a park near Wal-Mart. Pulled into a small church's parking lot to turn around, and there in its garden was a super ground squirrel creature. It looked like a little marmot chewing away, completely unperturbed by my car a few feet away.
Total trip expenses today: $29 (Albertson's).
In a larger monetary context, the Dow, as of the close of trading today, has never before had as bad a week as was just experienced. And the last time the S&P 500 was down this much in a relatively short period was the summer of 1933. Ours is not the worst market affected. Russia's remains closed after horrendous losses. The Japanese market is down 53% since a year ago. Other Asian markets are down more.
The meditation today is going relatively well. While its results may not qualify as "breakthrough," they are at least more productive than has been usual.
Fran and I have often speculated on the retail establishments and other commercial enterprises that would be seen as redundant if not for all the excessive indebtedness and spending beyond people's means. We imagined, for instance, that whole housing developments, shopping malls, even cities (such as Detroit) might prove unnecessary and, in fact, no longer cost effective but for the huge bubble it appeared we were in. There must be, for instance, 4-5 fitness-exercise business outlets for each one that could possibly be realistically required, especially since folks instead could workout in the homes, bicycle, jog, or walk around their neighborhoods, or exercising through a local, non-profit "Y." Now we shall see if our fantasies of abandoned houses and businesses in all directions were realistic. But of this there is no longer doubt: the bubble is obviously bursting!
10/11/08-Sat.-Total trip expenses today: $5 (Burger King meal).
There are a few recurrent, dramatic, and tempestuous themes in my recent meditational productivity: anger, sex, fear, and death.
A sunny, windy day in the Taos area, with highs in the low 60s (F).
I headed up this morning to the Taos Ski Valley for hiking and photography. As I got closer to the mountains surrounding Taos, the sky grew more overcast and the wind picked up, with regular buffets of, I would guess, around 30-40 MPH.
Have now completed 65 hours of meditation since this vacation retreat began. I do not know if it has done much good, but suspect it may at least be a good beginning.
10/12/08-Sun.-The intention is to complete at least 35 more hours of meditation by the end of next weekend, a total of 100 or more from 10/2 through 10/19.
Total trip expenses today: $21 (gasoline).
This is my final full day, this trip at least, in Taos. Tomorrow I check out of the motel and, if things go as expected, leave fairly early on a leisurely three-day homeward trek, anticipating as well doing more meditation each day.
The last few nights here, temperatures have been in the low to mid-30s (F). But last night it was quite a bit warmer, about 46°F, I believe. We also had rain and an intense wind, sounding the way it sometimes used to, as I was growing up and living in colder states, when we were having a blizzard. The weather forecasters had even said gusts of 60 MPH were possible, and it sounded as though they might have gotten it right. In any case, the sounds were dramatic!
Today was another gorgeous one, though, with magnificent clouds across the huge sky canopy and over the mountains. While hiking, I passed a couple lying together on their backs on the ground, absorbed in looking up. "A bit early for star-gazing," I said. But, no, they said they were cloud gazing. And, indeed, those on display here are magnificent.
I had planned for today a fairly short hike in the Carson National Forest, off U.S. Hwy 64 and just east of Taos. However, the trail I picked was supposed to go "to the top" of one of the lesser mountains here and seemed to have an easy grade path. I was sort of seduced, as Fran and I have been more than once before, into thinking I could in a couple hours claim to have reached a modest summit. Little matter that I am many years older than when she and I had done such things together before, nor that I had left my liquid refreshment back in the car, nor even that I might get too much higher elevation solar radiation at the height of the sun's radiation intensity.
At what I thought was close to the end of this quixotic effort, I passed a couple of grandparents coming back down. I know they were grandparents because they said they had laid out some sticks at the top to spell their granddaughter's name, so she might see it if she went up soon too. So I asked them if it was much farther. "No," they had assured me. The woman seemed alright, but the man looked like it had taken a toll getting up and this far back. But I arrogantly figured I was in better shape than he, even if I was older. He said there was a rugged, rocky stretch up ahead, but that after that it was "no sweat." She agreed with him. Thus encouraged, I renewed my struggles upward, figuring it was a good meditation exercise, seeing how well I could stay focused on the here and now as my heart was racing, my legs were getting tired, and I was pretty thirsty. I remembered too late that people who have suffered heat exhaustion are more susceptible to future episodes.
As I looked up, I kept being optimistic, the way one is in climbing a mountain, that just over the next rise I would at last achieve the summit. I had long ago passed the rocky patch the couple had mentioned.
After at least another hour of harder climbing, I wondered how they could have possibly told me I was almost there! In fact, it now appeared that, a bit further up, the path led not to the top of this little peak but instead, after a dip, up toward the summit of a higher adjoining peak instead. I was also concerned to see there were no longer any shoe prints in the muddy parts of the narrowing path. There had not been, I now realized, for quite a distance. All the "prints" I could see were mountain bike tire tracks here and there between more rocky sections.
The good news is I got much higher than the "top" my grandparent acquaintances achieved, which I did discover on my way back down, an area that I missed because I had turned right rather than left at a "Y" in the course. The reason for my confusion at that decision point was that the little trail to the left was on level ground, while that to the right continued the upward slope.
It turned out the "top" the others referred to was simply a lookout point, though impressive in its own right, giving a nice view out over several miles that included the town of Taos and some surrounding elevations.
But it was actually far from being the top. I did get close, I think, to the true summit (of the adjoining peak) and got the benefit of still better long distance views.
However, the bad news was that I was now terribly thirsty, exhausted, and increasingly sore as my leg joints dealt with the unaccustomed stress of a lengthy, hazardous descent.
All ended well, though, and after a hot bath tonight, my sore muscles are in a less rebellious attitude, able to sustain me upright in forward motion.
Undaunted by the above adventure, I next headed, still on U.S. Hwy 64, to the Rio Grand Gorge Bridge, on the other side and a bit north of the city.
I am glad I went "the extra mile" (actually several miles) and added this second outing, the last one for which I had time this vacation, for experiencing that bridge and its expanse over the deep Rio Grande Gorge was more thrilling and memorable than a high, fast roller-coaster ride.
The gorge, at the point where the bridge crosses it, is hundreds of feet deep. The Rio Grande in this stretch grinds and churns through the bedrock with enough force to cause rapids and a yellowish hue to the water. A gale-force wind threatens to blow away people's hats anywhere near or on the bridge. In fact, I did not feel at all stable there without leaning on or grasping a railing. At times it was as if a gust would at any moment blow me off and drop me into the abyss. The bridge would also tremble with each passing car. But the scenery was great. While the gorge must be but a fraction that of the Grand Canyon, it is awesome in its own right. Naturally, I snapped photos as rapidly and often as I could till having (I hoped) captured as much as I reasonably could with my little point-and-shoot camera. A couple asked me to take their picture, and after I took two of the pair, near the middle and on the north side of the bridge, they took (with my camera) a couple of me as well.
This evening, after supper, I wrote this entry, did more meditation, and had a bath. I now am packing up for tomorrow's trip.
10/13/08-Mon.-A hard freeze in Taos last night, but the frost had melted off my car windows by the time I left, homeward bound, about 9:15 AM.
First serious pain this trip began this morning as I somehow hurt my back. It is severe enough that normal walking, getting into or out of the car, or carrying things makes the condition wincingly worse. I dare not try to lift the auto's hood to check the oil, etc., and so am just hoping for the best.
Total trip expenses today: $57.
I stopped for the night in Clovis, NM.
I watched TV, did some meditation, and went to bed early.
10/14/08-Tues.-Getting underway from Clovis about 9:15 this morning. Aiming to make Abilene (or south of there) plus do several more hours of meditation today. The back pain is still bad, but at least is a little less than most of yesterday.
Today's total trip expenses: $104.
1:30 PM-Have stopped for lunch in Post, TX, a little over half the distance intend to go today.
The lower back difficulties persist, worse in fact than early this morning, evidently exacerbated by the car seat and driving.
Road conditions have been a mixed blessing today: very light traffic, but almost constant rain and/or thick fog are extra hazards.
The mind tends to exaggerate or dramatize our actual circumstances. For example, during the drive I had a recurrent thought that it was pointless to be concerned over Horace's possible jealous lack of cooperation or interference with executor duties, once Mom dies, since 1. He may die first (heart attack or traffic accident?); 2. I may die first; 3. Other unforeseen developments may render the matter moot; 4. Horace might surprise me and be quite cooperative; and 5. In any case, we can only live this very moment, so either concerns over a future we cannot control or regrets about a long gone past are futile.
Another random thought or intuition, equally bizarre: my sister, Alice, who believes herself to be psychic, may have had a "vision" of me dying on this trip but, if so, the "event" she saw may have been catalyzed by the almost certain death from a head-on accident yesterday that nearly occurred when an 18-wheeler truck veered out of its right of way into mine (on a two-lane mountain road) as it came 'round a curve too fast, forcing me to swerve, which I managed just barely, missing the truck as well as avoiding the steep drop-off to my right.
Or Alice might have been "seeing" the death of my ego, replaced (hopefully) by a more functional one following significant recent meditation efforts.
10/15/08-Wed.-I stayed the night in a cheap ($40) motel south of Abilene. I think I was one of two staying there then. The motel management had promised a breakfast snack but did not provide one, and in fact the office did not open till about ten minutes before I left (after 9 AM).
The weather has turned cooler in TX since I had left a couple weeks ago. It was misty, and temperatures were in the 50s or 60s (F) on the drive this morning.
I stopped in Brady for a breakfast snack.
My back was briefly better by early this morning, but a couple hours in the car seat left me once again suffering from even minor movements.
I checked our portfolio on a computer at the motel Monday evening and was surprised how low it had fallen, despite the record market surge on Columbus Day. Earlier in the year, I was still hoping we might have net assets worth $1,000,000 by the end of December. Now I would be happy just to have $800,000 again, and it may take a year or more to achieve that. Currently, our total assets are around $690,000, already down 22% from the end of 2007, most of those losses just in the past few weeks.
Still, on a price-to-book-value basis, our overall equities are now at bargain levels and almost certain to be headed up later. I shall be enhancing this trend by purchasing more assets at steep discounts to their values.
Total trip expenses today: $11.
10/22/08-Wed.-It has been a busy time since returning to Austin. Processed a number of the better photos from the trip. With Fran's help, I made them available to friends and family online. We also got out our monthly online newsletter.
The back problems were quite painful for a few days, but by now the pain is only mild.
On Sunday, 10/19, as intended I completed the 100 hours of meditation begun on 10/2. Now am still doing several hours of daily meditation, intending 25 or more a week. Am getting it done, but not without some emotional pain. Am more in touch, it seems, with my anger. In that sense the meditation is productive, but it is usually not fun these days.
Have had a couple good book group meetings since I returned, the latest one last night. Dream group meeting attendance is on hold, and I am not sure when or if I shall return. I hardly am even having dreams that I remember now. The last one, with just a fragment recalled, was on 10/18.
A pleasant cool front came through Austin late this afternoon. It brought with it a brief shower. Temperatures dropped almost at once by 10-20 degrees (F). It made for rather comfortable walking with the pooch this evening.
I did my early voting today. The line was longer than I have ever seen it for voting before the official, national date. Things were well organized at my voting location, though, and I reached the front of the line fairly quickly.
I bought Frances and me a couple fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw to-go lunches before coming home from the early voting location, a Randall's near us. The vittles may not be best for us nutritionally, but they surely tasted good, and we both enjoyed them.
10/23/08-Wed.-The cool weather here feels great after all those hot months! It was in the low 50s (F) as I awoke today. I even turned on the space heater in my bathroom. Reports indicate that in parts of the nearby Hill Country the temperature fell into the 20s last night. Lower temperatures are to be with us another day and night or two. Then things get warmer again for a little while.
I got a haircut this afternoon.
We went out to eat at Tien Jin today for a Chinese buffet lunch, partly in honor of my upcoming 65th birthday (Sunday, the 26th). I am permanently a Medicare recipient now. Groan.
How about this? Anything possible (consistent with any aspect of reality, physics, whatever you wish to call the underlying principles of that which is) exists. There is no objective time, but instead a coexistence of almost infinite, dynamic, mutually interactive states encompassing all possible conditions at once. Because our vision is constrained, we have a subjective functional awareness, believing we move along an illusion of time from past, through present, and into future. But for the limits of each person's unique universe of experience, all possible potentialities prevail, have always done, and always will. There exist(s) not parallel universes, but one absolutely unified cloud of potentiality representing all temporal, spatial, and event states at once.
Ah, if only things were so straightforward and simple that an amateur like myself, with only a vague understanding of mathematics or physics, could intuitively come up with insight into the nature of existence as profound as what the smartest scientists can develop. Realistically, the best I can say is that I believe a poetic vision may be as meaningful as that of a consensus of scientists, and that the perspective above has more relevance for me personally than what I know from theoretical physicists.
Total expenses for my just completed trip were $838, of which I estimate about 75% or $629 were costs I would not have had during this period here at home.
10/28/08-Tues.-Had my 65th birthday anniversary Sunday. Fran is getting me a gift befitting my age, helping me find or make a "wedge pillow," so my head and shoulders are raised higher than the rest of me when I sleep, a partial remedy for acid reflux. She also gave me a nice card, and we went out for a buffet meal at a favorite restaurant, Indian Palace.
Am appreciating the current cool spell in Austin, the weather here now more like what I experienced in Taos a couple or three weeks ago.
The lady manager of this Laundromat does everything, making change, noting broken machines, cleaning the floor, etc., with a cell phone perpetually stuck between her shoulder and ear, or else holds it with the left hand while pushing a mop or doing other activities with her right, meanwhile chattering loudly and continuously in rapid-fire Spanish. Personal cell phones not only make for less safe and less efficient driving, but must also decrease the productivity of most workers who use them on the job.
We are hopeful a market rebound in Asia and Europe overnight (our time) will carry over to our stocks today. On paper, we have now lost about 28%, most of it just in the past six weeks.
Am continuing the meditation regimen started before the Taos trip, meditating at least 25 hours weekly.