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Did you see the story about the Brazilian soccer fan that threw a toilet from the stands and killed another fan? As the article says, there are "many questions to be answered." I'd like to get the ball rolling with a few questions of my own.

For starters, did the perpetrator bring his own toilet to the game or did he run into the restroom and rip a toilet out of the floor when the situation called for it? If it's the former, I have a lot of respect for his time management. If it's the latter, I'd like to know what herbal supplements he's taking. Some mornings I can barely dislodge a few sheets of toilet paper from the mother roll. If that guy ripped a toilet out of the floor with his bare hands, I need to start eating whatever he's eating. I'm thinking spinach and quinoa, but that's just a guess.

I wonder if the perpetrator considered and rejected other ideas before settling on throwing the toilet. I only ask because one of my rules of thumb is that whenever my best idea is murder-by-toilet, I take that as a sign that I should keep thinking of options. For example, before I created Dilbert, the only idea I could come up with involved killing a stranger with a toilet. Now I'm glad I stuck with my brainstorming a little longer.

The news report didn't include details, so we don't know if anyone was on the toilet when it was thrown. You might be thinking that no one could throw a toilet with a person on it. But you probably thought no one could rip a toilet out of the floor or carry one to a game and get it through security? Maybe it's time to admit that you don't know as much about toilet throwing as you think you do.

This toilet murder hits close to home for me because my greatest fear as a cartoonist is dying in a way that makes it easy to write an ironic headline. For example, I don't want to be stabbed to death by a clown. And when I see a banana peel on the sidewalk I cross the street. But that's a risky strategy too because if I get hit by a car the headlines will be "Why did the cartoonist cross the street?"

I don't think I'm alone in this fear. I'll bet Prince William worries about being killed by a toilet. The tabloid headlines would be:  "Royal Flush!" Or "Harry, You're in!" or "Future Monarch Killed by Poop and Circumstance." I could go on, but I think you'll agree there's a downside to being killed by a toilet.

-----

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book.

 



 

 

 
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Every famous person has an idiot picture. That's the picture that the news trots out to illustrate any story in which they want to make you look like an idiot. And when you are famous, that story always happens. I was reminded of that by seeing Jack Welch's idiot picture on Business Insider.

I'm not picking on Jack. Every famous person has an idiot picture. Here's my idiot picture that appears all over the Internet whenever I am quoted out of context to look like an idiot or a douchebag.

The story behind my idiot picture is that years ago a photographer for Playboy told me to "act" as if I were talking to someone in an animated way. They needed four pictures of that sort to put in series at the bottom of the first page of my interview. I was still a rookie at the publicity game and I played along, making exaggerated faces while gesticulating wildly. Little did I know I was inadvertently posing for my idiot picture that would live on the Internet until the end of time.

Eventually I got smarter about how I allow myself to be photographed. Now when I'm asked to do something that will make me look playful in the right context but a douche bag in the wrong context, I decline the offer.

The key to picking a good idiot picture to accompany a celebrity hit piece is that you need to mismatch the photo to the content. In the Jack Welch photo he was obviously having a good laugh about something, and if you imagine that to be the context he just looks like a fun guy who enjoys people. But if you pair that picture with a story of how he made a probably-wrong-but-not-ridiculous assumption about some job statistics, the same picture makes him look like a wild-eyed loon.

My idiot picture usually gets paired with manufactured stories that use my words out of context to show that I must be a secret creationist, a secret holocaust denier, or a secret hater of all women. I say secret because most of those stories can be summarized this way:

"He didn't say anything we disagree with. But the way he says the things that we totally agree with leads us to believe he has bad thoughts in his head."

On its own, that sort of argument would fall flat. But humans are visual animals, so pairing my idiot picture with a report that I must be thinking idiot thoughts is quite compelling. There can't be that much smoke without fire! If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck!

I worry that when I complain about the news industry manufacturing celebrity news that you think I am imagining it. You might not realize how systematic it is. The idiot picture is one of the most important elements of manufactured celebrity news. Start looking for it and you'll find yourself laughing at those stories from now on instead of believing them at face value.

I'm a big fan of Business Insider and I don't think they got the story wrong about Jack Welch. The story was worth reporting. But was that the fairest picture to accompany it?

------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the second-best graduation gift ever.

 

 

 




 
It's never a good idea to get investment ideas from cartoonists. Nothing you hear from me should be construed as advice. And more generally, it's a bad idea for small investors to buy individual stocks or to attempt timing the market.

You have been warned.

I started testing an investment strategy a few years ago that is producing positive results. Yes, I am aware that my small sample is meaningless. And the numbers I present aren't annualized or compared to their same-industry cousins that did even better. But I want you to hear the strategy just so you can keep an eye on it going forward.

The investment idea is that the news always exaggerates risks. This is an extension of the Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters that says humans generally figure out how to avoid big disasters when they see them coming.

So, for example, when BP stock was in the toilet, and the news media kept telling us the Gulf would be ruined for decades, I loaded up on BP stock because I predicted the opposite: a better-than-expected clean-up. That prediction turned out right. So far, that investment has paid about a 5% dividend in recent years and the stock itself is up 19%. (You should interpret that as just "up" because I haven't compared the performance to the market in general that is also up.)

When the news was reporting that Iranian leaders were on a suicide mission to develop a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel and their own country, I assumed it would all work out peacefully and I invested heavily in a beaten-down EFT of Israeli stocks. It's the biggest single investment I've ever made. That's up 26%.

When the news indicated that the government of Turkey was circling the drain and disaster was near, Turkish stocks crashed. I predicted that Turkey would work things out and get back to business in due time. So I loaded up on the biggest cell phone company in Turkey. As bad luck would have it, that company also has a big position in Ukraine, so it took a hit after I bought it, but now it's up 10%.

To reiterate, I'm not annualizing the gains or comparing them to anything relevant that would tell you how those investments did compared to other investments over the same period. The market in general is up over this same period so it makes almost any strategy look like a winner.

And one must compare investments that have similar risks. Some of you will say I got a meager return betting on high risk stocks. An economist would call that losing. But no one can accurately assign risks for the stocks I mentioned. My investments looked high-risk to the world and low-risk to me. So when I look at the returns for the three investments I mentioned, I compare them to low-risk alternatives and they look fairly good. I would expect most of you to compare them to high-risk alternatives and conclude that they underperformed that class. That difference in risk-assessment is what makes my investment strategy a strategy.

I don't recommend that you invest your own money this way. History is littered with crackpot investment ideas of this type. And my best investment gains over that period were in a diversified ETF. But keep an eye on the strategy just for fun.

I wonder if anyone has ever lost money betting against the news industry's predictions of doom.

-------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 
Today I wrote two blog posts about events in the news. That writing is some of my best work. You won't see either post. And for that you can thank Jezebel.com, Gawker.com, and Salon.com.

Unfortunately, both of my posts have content that could too easily be taken out of context by the bottom-feeding parts of the media and special interest groups looking to bolster their causes. Even my standard disclaimer wouldn't be enough in these two cases. My opinions in the two posts aren't the least bit offensive, but out of context they would look so.

The law in my country allows free speech, but horrible people who live among us have learned to use the words of well-known folks out of context to weaponize the ignorant masses. It's a real limit on free discussion.

An individual can sue for slander when something is taken out of context, but you can't win unless you prove intent. For a writer at Jezebel or Salon, for example, stupidity is going to be an ironclad defense against slander. "Your honor, I thought the celebrity was saying he ate a baby for lunch. I didn't see the word carrot. It was an honest mistake."

In my defense, I'll bet half of the writers in this country censored themselves the same way this week. The other half will do it next week.

I just wanted you to know I put in the work. I didn't realize my writing wouldn't be safe for the public until I wrestled with it for a few hours. Then I ran out of time. Sorry about that.

---

Regarding yesterday's post, disturbingly motivated reader bubbaJones found a reference to the exact quote "You don't know what you don't know" that is documented about one year before I recall saying it for the first time. So I release on my claim of authorship. Based on the various sources bubbajones helpfully provided, the quote probably evolved from more than one author who said something similar and it got shortened to its best form over time.

----------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 
Egos are dangerous things. On one hand it's probably good to have confidence in your abilities. Confidence helps your performance in a wide range of endeavors. Studies seem to support that notion.

On the other hand, if you let anyone see your big ego, you're a giant douchebag. So there's that.

I used to think people either have big egos or they don't. But since I adopted a moist robot view of my body, I noticed I can manipulate my ego by manipulating my body chemistry. When my testosterone is high, my ego expands with it. It's simple biology.

I know what spikes my testosterone. It happens primarily through a healthy lifestyle, including sleep, diet, winning and exercise. And you can feel the changes during the day depending on what you're doing. At this point I'll bet I could tell you my relative testosterone levels at any point in my day. When my levels are down, I feel weak and tired and easily defeated. When my levels are high, I think I can do pretty much anything. And I've seen my confidence and self-image completely transform in less than an hour when I intentionally adjust my testosterone levels via my actions.

I long ago abandoned the juvenile idea that people have immutable good and bad traits. The moist robot view is that we can manipulate our traits within surprisingly wide boundaries. And our personalities are fluid during any given day. The angry Scott is nothing like the happy and creative Scott. The horny me is nothing like the satisfied me. So I reject the concept of "me" as some sort of static thing. Instead I see my moist robot container as something I can manipulate to engineer my mood to the situation. There are times when having more ego is useful. There are times when it is better to be humble. I jack my body chemistry as needed.

I have an advantage over most of you because I don't feel embarrassment like a normal human. I couldn't do this job if I did. Today will be a case in point. What follows would be embarrassing for a typical human with normal thresholds of embarrassment. But for a moist robot, it's just an exercise in chemistry adjustment.

Here's my story.

Have you ever heard the saying "You don't know what you don't know"? It's something you sometimes hear in the American business world but it isn't overly common.

I was about to use the saying in a comic and wondered if I was the original author of it. (Ego alert!) So I Googled to see if anyone else had been given credit for it. There's a Socrates quote on a similar theme, but quite different. And at least one other person was wondering about the source of the quote too, which led to a public question on Yahoo. No one else seemed to know the source of the quote either.

So I decided to take credit for it.

This is the sort of thing you do not do when you have socially acceptable levels of humility and the capacity for embarrassment. But moist robots like me are not burdened by such things. To me it was just a button I could push to boost my testosterone. So I did. You can see my claim-grabbing ways here.

I am fully aware that some of you just labelled me an egomaniacal douchebag for claiming authorship of the quote. But doing so jacked up my testosterone. I'm okay with that tradeoff. This moist robot is feeling good and ready to take on the day.

  ---------------------------------------

Scott Adams


In other news, now you can add your favorite pro sports schedule to your personal calendar with a few clicks at CalendarTree.com.  (I'm co-founder.) So far we have:

Formula 1

NASCAR

Major League Baseball

FIFA World Cup - Brazil


More on the way...

 
It's easy to forget that the concept of money was an important invention at some point in history. With the advantage of hindsight we know it was a great idea, but one can imagine the how hard it was for the inventor of money to sell the idea to his friends.

Inventor: I have a great idea. Let's assign arbitrary value to shiny rocks. We'll call it money.

Friend: Why would we do that?

Inventor: Well, for starters, I could trade my shiny rocks for your cow and we'd both be happy.

Friend: Can I get milk from those shiny rocks?

Inventor: No, no. You'd use the money to buy goods from other people who think small shiny objects are worth as much as a cow.

Friend: How many idiots like that are there in the world?

Inventor: I'm hoping you'll be the first.

Somehow, despite all odds, the concept of money went on to be a big success. And because money exists, so does the modern economy.

But the problem with money is that every system devised by humans eventually results in the top 1% having most of the money. No one has figured out how to fix income equality without making something else worse.

My solution to income inequality is to invent a new type of money called the "ute" which is short for "utility." There will be no physical bills or coins involved. It's just a digital store of value. You can only earn utes by being useful to your fellow humans. And unlike regular wealth, your ute value would be public.

The hard part of the ute system is assigning objective values to subjective things such as usefulness. But regular money has the same problem and that is solved by the marketplace, supply and demand, and some government control. I think the same could be true of utes.

Utes would not replace regular money and would not be used for direct purchasing. Utes would only be a way of knowing who is contributing to the well-being of others and who is not. Utes would be a measure of prestige, respect, and general worthiness. And I could imagine society providing special privileges and rights to people who have high ute value.

Perhaps the high ute folks get preferred parking spots. Maybe they board airplanes first. Maybe they can use the carpool lanes all by themselves. Maybe they get two votes instead of one. Maybe every business starts treating high ute folks as priority customers. Perhaps employers would start checking the ute value of job applicants. One could imagine lots of privileges that don't directly involve purchasing goods and services. And the best privilege of all might be the respect of your peers.

The benefit of the ute system is that it grants respect to the folks who are doing the right things for society. But more importantly it gives the rich a more useful purpose for their money. If you're a billionaire with low ute, and everyone knows it, eventually that will make you uncomfortable. It's not as much fun to be a billionaire if everyone thinks you're a selfish tool and they have the ute statistics to prove it. The media would report your ute value with every story. It would never go away.

So I can see the ute system encouraging the rich to focus their excess wealth in areas that generate high ute return. For some that might mean investing in ways that create lots of employment. If you create a job for someone, you get a lot of utes. And if you go full-Bill-Gates-charity you get more utes than anyone. But a standard rich person would have to try hard to beat the ute value of a nurse, for example.

One need not have a paying job to accrue utes. A stay-at-home parent would have plenty of utes. Charity volunteers would have plenty too.

We humans tend to focus on whatever can be measured. As things stand, we can measure traditional wealth but we can't measure an individual's total contribution to the world. By creating a more general measure of a person's contribution -inaccuracies and all - it will cause people to think harder about their value to the world. And that will change how people act.

I think the ute system would contribute to social mobility. Under our current system a poor person with a sub-standard education has a huge challenge. But if that person could build a high ute value by being of service to others, employers would take notice. That person is a team player, a person of character, and a person of action. And perhaps you can earn utes by mentoring someone, so it's a win-win.

Humans act on the things they can measure. If we want people to do more useful and respectable things, we need to measure their progress.

You will be tempted to quibble about how hard it would be to compare the ute value of, for example, a lawyer versus a plastic surgeon. But keep in mind that we have lots of useful systems with the same degree of flaws and inaccuracies. Case in point, my credit score is bad because some of my minor bills once went to an old address and I didn't know of them until a collections agency called me. So in my case, credit reporting is totally broken, yet the world is better because of credit reporting. It's a terribly inaccurate system that is still better than none. The ute system would be similarly full of terrible inaccuracies while still being useful overall.

Or not. How much do you hate this idea?

----------------------------------------------
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 

 
Do you remember my blog post about building a giant canal system in the U.S. as a way to create jobs in our robot-driven future?

It was officially the worst idea I've ever had, according to most of you.

Technically, it was just the worst idea I've ever shared. You wouldn't believe the crap that swirls around inside my skull and never gets out. But that's another story.

One of the biggest objections to my canal plan was that there are too many mountains in the way. But it turns out there's a natural network of connected rivers that go from the Pacific to the Atlantic already. That's a start.

Clearly we'd need a lot of dredging. But plotting the path for the first major leg of the canal might be done.

Okay, I know you still don't like the canal idea. But this is a reminder that it's never safe to assume something is impossible or impractical. I'm having flashbacks to the time I was putting together my sample comics to try and become a syndicated cartoonist. Most of my friends imagined that plan to be impossible for the obvious reason that I wasn't good at drawing. I got more looks of sympathy than support.

It's always a good idea to let reality be your only obstacle. Your imagination shouldn't be the limit on your success.

----------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

 

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 

 



 
The common view of human behavior is that thinking causes doing.

In recent years science has discovered this situation to be more of a bi-directional thing. For example, studies show that forcing a smile can lead to greater happiness. Most of you already knew that factoid. And obviously you understand that events in your environment and various sensations in your body can influence your mood and your thinking.

But I'll bet most of you hold the view that for the most part your thoughts lead to actions and that's 95% of the story of you. Lately I've come to the opposing view. I think our actions are the things that matter and our so-called minds are nothing but some executive control and a chemistry experiment.

I've been experimenting in the past year with the idea that I can control my thoughts by what I do with my body. Obviously my mind has to get the ball rolling to make me act in the first place. But instead of acting based on how I feel, I act based on how I WANT to feel. In other words, I use my body to control my future thoughts.

Yeah, yeah, you all do the same thing. I know. But it's a matter of degree. And it's a matter of how you THINK about your choices. A subtle shift in thinking can be a big deal.

For example, when feeling down, many people will curl up with some junk food and watch bad television shows until the feeling passes or some other duty calls. That's an example of letting your mind control your actions.

What I do in that situation is ask myself what is likely to cause a chemical improvement in my brain. Then I do that thing.

An hour ago I was in a funk. These days I recognize that situation as being no more than my brain chemistry being temporarily out of whack. In my younger years I would have cursed the world for serving up so much crappy luck, even if my luck was perfectly normal. Today I went and hit some tennis balls for an hour. Now I feel just fine. My body fixed my brain.

There's a tendency to think of the brain as the decision-making master of your person while the rest of your body is a slave. I see my body as an experience collector and my brain as the central depository of the experiences. When my brain chemistry is out of whack I use my body to collect the types of experiences that will correct the situation.

My observation of other people is that what I am describing (the moist robot view) is far from a universal approach. I think most people feel that their emotions and thoughts are somehow spontaneously generated, almost like magic, thanks to our souls and our free will and other things that aren't real.

The problem with that view of your own mind is that when things go bad you don't have a tool to fix things. Bad moods cause you to do self-destructive things which make your life worse which in turn keeps you in a bad mood. And repeat.

Now when I feel the world has conspired against me with a torrent of bad luck I keep in mind two thoughts that always help.

1. If this is truly a random cluster of bad luck, my luck will surely return to the mean in due time. In other words, the universe owes me big time. No one can be unlucky all the time. It's not an option the universe typically offers. 

2. I'm probably imagining the bad luck, or investing too much emotion in whatever is going wrong. I can reprogram my mind to happier thoughts by manipulating my body. 

So the next time you're not feeling the way you would like, ask yourself what you could do with your body to change your brain chemistry for the better. Then do it. You might be surprised how well it works.

----------------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

  ------
The New York Times reports that negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have been productive. The article makes a point of noting that Russia is playing nice. Here's the full quote. "There is no doubt that the negotiations between the major powers and Iran over its nuclear program have been productive. All the nations involved - the United States, Britain, France, China, Germany, Iran, even Russia - appear committed to reaching a deal that will go beyond November's interim agreement and produce a permanent one."

Meanwhile, the United States is offering only token resistance to Putin's ambitions in Ukraine. And while the economy of Russia will take a temporary hit because of recent events, Putin's approval rating in his own country is way up. That's the sort of tradeoff Putin would take any day of the week.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that the United States is getting what it wants most (a less-nuclear Iran) at the same time Russia is getting what it wants most (token financial resistance while absorbing its neighbors).

If you don't believe in coincidences you might imagine that Obama and Putin made a deal that is best for both countries so long as it is never made public.

Obama and Putin both strike me as pragmatists. If an Iran-for-Ukraine deal were on the table, I believe both leaders would take it. The big question for me is whether Russia has the leverage to reign in Iran.

Obviously Israel would be happy with an Iran-for-Ukraine deal. And Israel has clout in American politics. So that has to be factored in.

Vice President Biden said recently about Ukraine (and I can't find the quote now) that he never tells people what their interests are. He says people know their interests. And here he's talking about Russian-speaking people who may or may not prefer being part of Russia. The writer in me calls that foreshadowing.

I'll close with a reminder that everything I write in this blog is wrong and ridiculous. I just love a good conspiracy theory.


------------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

I'm one step closer to getting my Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

 



 

 

 
You probably heard about a recent study that the media interpreted as showing evidence that the United States is sort of an oligarchy.

Cue ominous music.

The authors of the study in question didn't use the word oligarchy because the study doesn't support that conclusion. But the media sounded the oligarchy sirens anyway because that's how one creates news where there is none.

MSNBC, a skilled manufacturer of artificial news, led with this headline: "U.S. more oligarchy than democracy, study suggests."

The first bit of context that MSNBC and others in the news removed from the story is that the United States isn't, and never was, a democracy. The founders of the country created a republic that is designed to be more like an oligarchy than a democracy. The founders surely assumed that rich, educated landowners would be the ones getting elected, for the most part, and they preferred that. A poor(ish) person could get elected but the odds were low.

So the headline could have been "Study shows that the U.S. government is working exactly as the founders hoped."

The next bit of context omitted from the story is the compared-to-what. Has anyone studied how well off the poor and middle class are under our current system compared to how they would be under a pure democracy? How would we know if the alternative is better or worse? No modern country has ever tried a pure democracy.

Clearly the wealthy have more clout in creating legislation and so they tilt laws in their favor. But are those oligarchy-favoring laws 2% of the total laws on the books or 98%? And if the answer is 2%, are those few laws the ones that matter the most in some way? And how much better or worse would the country be if we were less of an oligarchy/republic and more of a pure democracy with laws created by folks who, on average, had trouble getting through high school?

I'm not defending oligarchies, or even republics. I just want some data that is useful for forming an opinion. But all I get is the news media saying rainfall is bad for your hair while ignoring the context that we're in a drought.

In a perfect world, the most well-informed and intelligent among us would be leading the government and creating unselfish legislation. But human nature makes that option literally impossible. So why compare our current government to one that is impossible? We might as well compare our government to the system at Hogwarts in which the best wizard is in charge. That's just as impossible as a fair government run by elites.

As citizens, our only protection from the abuse of government power is the skill and objectivity of the watchdog press. How's that working out so far?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree

I'm one step closer to getting my much deserved Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

 



 
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