Graded PSA 10 Gem Mint

Ever wonder how big the gap is between something being in perfect condition & being graded as perfect condition?

To appreciate the subjective nature of grading, check out the following front and back images of a PSA 10 Barry Bonds 1986 Topps Traded rookie card.

On the front left edge, notice the white marks on the black just below the P in Pirates.

On the back the left edge of the red card stock has at least a couple fairly large white marks. And then the lower left corner looks quite trashed too. This stuff is easily visible to the naked eye.

For many cards the difference in price between a grade 9 or 10 can be a factor of 5x, 10x, or even 20x. And yet there are likely many 10s graded as 9s and 9s graded as 10s.

The PSA price guide lists the above card as $38 in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, but only $9 for PSA 9 Mint.

To further appreciate the difference in the price gap, as of typing this COMC has a version of the ungraded card for $3.50…

1986 Topps Traded #11T - Barry Bonds - Courtesy of

…and if you submit 100 cards at a time to PSA for grading the bulk price is $7 per card & a 45 business day turn around time. So if the above card grades at anything other than a 10 you lost money getting it graded, and if it grades at a 10 you maybe make a couple hundred percent profit on selling it (presuming you were able to buy an ungraded version in gem mint condition for say $5 or $6).

Here’s the thing though … getting a couple hundred percent profit on a 10 rating only works if you can get more than 1 in 3 to be rated as a 10.

As of writing this, 43,766 copies of the above card have been graded by PSA. Of those cards, only 3,523 (8%) were rated a 10. That means that at current prices 92% of people who would send in a version of that card for grading would lose money.

And you have to join PSA to get your cards graded, which is another $110 to $189 annually. That only further skews the economics.

Sometimes PSA runs specials where they might grade cards for $5.75 each, but even still you are paying for the cards + shipping + there is a roughly 50 business day turn around.

You really have to be selective with what you send in for grading and do it in bulk for it to back out.


Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-Kun Special 3DS Walkthrough


Here’s a playlist video walkthrough of this game.

If I were more clever I would have realized the need to buy a Japanese Nintendo 3DS to play this game (熱血硬派くにおくん すぺしゃる) was a hint that I could have put it off buying it until later, hoping for a translation.

The joy of beat em up games is not in Final Fantasy styled text heavy quests, but in just the repetitive battles & finding ways to cheese the opponents.

It is somewhat masochistic to play foreign language games in languages you don’t know how to read, where you need to talk to random characters in order to unlock events elsewhere in the game. My River City Ransom nostalgia was strong, so I couldn’t help myself. 😉

Most of the missions in mission mode was fairly easy, the battle royal mode was fun & simple, and the arcade mode wasn’t too bad other than having to get used to knowing if you attack the direction you are facing it will punch & if you hit the other button it will kick in the opposite direction (so the direction you are facing controls what is a kick vs punch rather than one button always being for punch & the other for kick). The one hard part with the arcade mode was where there were one-hit knife guys who would stab you to death in a single blow. Sometimes when you are moving closer to a character it will engage in a grapple, leaving you immobile for the back stab instant death. My solution to that was to rely heavily on the jump kick & try not to press over when doing the jump kicks. I think I tried beating those guys dozens of times to no avail, but when I adopted the strategy of minimizing walking while attacking I was able to beat the arcade game without dying & beat it 3 times on the continue.

Where I ran into a bit of a trouble (leading me to incorrectly spend/waste a few hours grinding) was after exiting to the right of the Shinjuku Station in the story mode.

In the story mode where I got stuck was to the right of Shinjuku Station. When you exit Shinjuku Station and head right, the first screen should have the girl’s missing dog in it. When I played it didn’t. And not only was the dog missing, but that area to the right there is tricky in terms of loops. For instance, you can get different screens depending the order of your directions. Like if you go down then right then down then right you come out at another town (and in the middle of that process there is a guy with a sign offering for you to play mini baseball where you try to hit homeruns). Or if you go up twice then right twice you can see the guy with the white outfit on in that same screen instead.

How I got hosed there is by seeing the different variations in those screens I thought it was sort of like the original Zelda (left, down, left, up, left in the secret woods), but nope my problem was the dog wasn’t on the initial screen. I had already talked to the girl who told me her dog was missing, but apparently my character also needed to speak to someone on the ground floor inside the school (a boy who is just left of the rows of lockers). Then after I spoke to him as well, when I went to the right of Shinjuku Station the dog was there & the game was pretty close to over given how over powered my character was. After you fight the guy who was kicking the dog, you then go back to tell the girl about her dog & the dog runs up to greet her. You then have to head back over to the same area the dog was at, but then you go right twice, up, left, right (this screen has the guy with white on who you talk to), then after talking to him you go down & it is to an arcade.

A couple of the “secret shop” locations…

  • roof top of school, to the far left in the front
  • where there are two rows of screens for you to go back and fourth between on the overview screen (the high school is at the left end of the top row), the right side of the bottom row has an area you can walk up into to have a redish clay ground & a couple pipes to the upper left corner of the screen. you can walk into the right edge of those pipes.
  • when you are at the Shinjuku Station, go to the far left of the screen and then go up

And for lovers of dragon feet or stone hands, perhaps more important than the secret shops is where you find those rapid attack moves. In the overview screen where there is the school in the top row, the town in the bottom row has a bookstore in it. the top 2 books cost 3000 yen each. the first one is stone hands & the second is dragon feet. Many of the books require you to go into your inventory list to activate them.

The vending machines located in the school and around the town can be walked up to like you are awlking into store. Those vending machines have a food item in them which give you 16 health for 300 yen.

The English language search results for walkthroughs on this game are absolutely atrocious, because they are either walkthroughs for other games from the series, or they are empty holder pages on authority websites.

The one site which had a decent walkthrough was YouTube, but there was a sea of noise there. Here’s a playlist of the videos from that solid walkthrough. The end of video 8 & beginning of video 9 show the dog at the beginning of the screen to the right of the train station. If you are stuck at any other point in the game those videos are a great starting point.

And the Kunio Kun hits keep coming as the River City Ransom Underground KickStarter project from Conatus Creative was funded & there are a number of other Kunio-Kun games on 3DS to check out. I already have Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-Kun SP: Rantou Kyousoukyoku. If I can figure out how to buy from the Japan Nintendo DS eShop I might also give Nekketsu Mahou Monogatari & Riki Densetsu a try.

FIX: Windows Store App Tile Won’t Work to Download Free Windows 8.1 Update

Now that the free upgrade to Windows 8.1 came out, I decided to test it to see how it integrates Bing search more into the core of the operating system.

One problem though, to install the free upgrade you need to be able to launch the Windows Store App. Lots of advice here & elsewhere on how to fix that problem (verify time settings, disable firewalls & proxies, update antispyware / web security software, etc), but none of that worked for me.

What finally worked was when I created another local Windows user account (tip here), elevated that account’s permissions to administrator, then I was able to use that account to open the Windows Store & download the new operating system. I downloaded the Windows 8.1 OS & installed it, restarted the computer & the OS was upgraded across all users. I was able to open up the live panels that previously didn’t open.

Highways and Byways

The glass is half ___.

The stories we tell about ourselves, they’re almost like our infrastructure – like railroads or highways. We can build them almost any way we want to, but once they are in place this whole inner landscape grows up around them. So maybe the point here is to be careful about how you tell your story, or at least conscience of it, because once you’ve told it, once you’ve built the highway, it’s just  very hard to move it. Even if your story is about an angel who came out of nowhere and saved your life. Even then, not even the angel herself can change it.

– Michael Lewis on Emir Kamenica’s Story from This American Life

The railroads & highways bit in the above reminds me a bit of…

  • The Eraser by Thom Yorke “the more you try to erase me, the more that I appear”
  • Lucky by Radiohead “I’m on a roll this time. I feel my luck could change”
  • There, There by Radiohead “just cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there”
  • Runaway by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs “highways flew by”
  • Runaway Train by Soul Asylum
  • Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Open Porsche Hood With a Dead Battery

With cars parked one in front of the other, the sports car is on the inside because it isn’t used too much. After resting unused for a month and a half, the battery in it died to the point that even the hood release wouldn’t work & the hood release is electronic.

Reading online, some folks mentioned about taking out a headlight or reaching up near a wheel well and trying to find the cable to yank on. Another popular solution was to buy a smaller 12 volt jumper battery and apply the charge on the C3 fuse.

Some of the locations described were slightly different depending on if it was a Boxter, or 996 911 Turbo, or so on…so I didn’t want to hose it up with my “mechanical know how of a gnat.” 😉

Yesterday we went to the local O’Reilly Auto Parts (they were open until 8PM on a Sunday) to look for a small battery & there was an even easier solution for getting enough charge to get the hood open. There are chargers you can use that connect from car battery outlet to car battery outlet & slowly charge the battery from that. It took about 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually the Porsche battery was charged enough to open the hood. Once the hood is open one could do a normal jump start or replace the battery if it wouldn’t take charge.

The smaller 12 volt charging packs ranged around $60 to $100 locally, but the battery plug charger via cigarette lighter was only $29.99 plus tax. Here are front & back pictures of the product box


If one has an Amazon Prime membership & is willing to wait a day or two, there are some other versions that are around $20, $15 or only $10 even.

Sony Vaio Laptop Windows 8 Screen Brightness Dim

In Windows 8 there is a featured called “adaptive brightness” which is often blamed for screen brightness settings going astray.

However, with Sony Vaio laptops the disaster that causes the automated screen dimming is a setting withing the Vaio control panel.

Put your finger to the right side of the laptop’s display & swipe it across the screen to the left slightly. Click on the “search” option & put “Vaio control center” in there. Then from that result list click on the Vaio Control Center listing.

Once it opens, you should see “image quality” in the left menu. Click on that.

There is an on – off slider for Display Brightness that controls this evil feature. It says “Set whether to sense the brightness and automatically adjust the display brightness accordingly.” … set that feature to off & your monitor darkness problems should be solved.

Once that is off, if the screen is still dark, you can hold down the function key & hit F7 a half dozen times or so to brighten it up.

At that point you should be all set with that brightening your screen. If it for some reason dims again, then you  might have to go into your “power options” (by clicking on the battery icon in the lower right) to adjust the brightness of your screen under it’s current settings. There are multiple plan options for “balanced” vs “high performance” vs “power saver” … set your plan to high performance & verify it’s screen sliders are set to full bright when plugged in.

The unusably dark screen problem should be conquered at this point.

How To Set Up a Replacement Fitbit Tracker With Your Current Account

If you search around the web for information on how to replace a lost Fitbit pedometer it seems information is pretty scarce. There are complaints about getting one that is cracked & then some other random ecommerce websites that sell Fitbits that want to sell you another, but no real advice on how to set up your new fit bit while keeping it tied to your old account. My mom ended up calling me & we used TeamViewer to help her set it up remotely.

The trick for setting up a replacement Fitbit & connecting it to your old account is to start up the process just like you are registering a brand new Fitbit & account.

So visit  then click the start button

then download the install file

then Run it

go through the start up wizard like it is a brand new bit

click finish go to “Proceed to account setup…”

here is where you highlight that you are setting up a replacement device

and then you just login to your old account & set up the fitbit like normal

go through the last few steps of the set up process.

and if you want to verify everything works, you can then walk a few dozen steps (so that some register on the bit) then come back to the computer and wait a couple minutes & the data should then sync to your online account.

one last tip here in terms of losing fit bits … it is very easy to wash them or have them fall off clothing or some such. I had a pedometer that went in my pocket & even if I remembered to pull it out 98% of the time, the 1 in 50 chance of forgetting means you are washing a pedometer every other month. likewise it is easy to have them fall off.

the way I solved that problem with my old pedometer was tying a shoelace around it & then tying that through to my wallet (or even keys). the only issue with that strategy is that it means you have to have the keys with you, which isn’t always ideal when working out.

given the shape of fitbit, a great solution to this sort of problem is ordering a simply & low-cost necklace like this one, which currently costs $20. (I just sent my mom one too :D)

you want something with a nice solid clasp so it won’t fall apart, but you also need to be the chain part to be at most maybe 5 or 6mm around so that the loop part of the bit easily fits over it…the above is 4 & works quite well.

the benefit of a necklace is you can leave it on all the time & only take the bit off when you are bathing. the only real opportunity to screw things up is when going to the shower, but since one is naked it is pretty easy to remember to take it off. 🙂 so long as you set it somewhere elevated off the ground (beyond the reach of a pet) and not near a trash can then generally speaking the worst that can happen is you forget to put it on right away & maybe you don’t count a hundred steps while walking around drying off. but at least you are not buying another pedometer 😉

One last issue some people might have is forgetting to charge their Fitbit and/or dealing with rusting contacts. The solution to rusting contacts if you are a serious sweater is to use a Fitbit Zip instead of a Fitbit Ultra. It requires you to change the battery every few months or such, but there are no exposed metal contacts to rust out. I believe the Fitbit One (which replaces the Ultra) also comes with a silicon jacket, so you don’t have exposed metal contacts which get corroded by your sweat.


The Hidden Life of Dogs

Reading a book on dog psychology might qualify one as a genuine escentric. However writing a book on it is taking things to the next level. 🙂

In writing this great book Elisabeth Marshall Thomas logged over 100,000 hours of research watching dogs. She even went so far as going up north to observe a wolf family during days with 24 hours of sunlight.

Here were some of the notes I took based on the book.

Emotions, decisions & customs

  • dogs have emotions just like humans do. they also frequently decide between choices & make trade offs.
  • dogs have imaginations & lonely dogs may make up fantasy and pretend to have friends or foes they are playing with or chasing around
  • the need for belonging is important with dogs. if a dog is far away from a group and wet it will usually wait until catching up before shaking off
  • dogs develop unique customs that continue to spread downward from the alpha dog, however a custom learned from an alpha dog can become unlearned if environment changes & the dog is around other dogs with other customs
  • dogs can also adopt mannerisms from humans, like sharing food back and forth. or they can try to make their smiles look more like a human smile
  • when a dog growls at you while eating a bone it assumes you want it. dogs cast their values onto others too & evaluate other species through empathetic observations.
  • I don’t believe it was mentioned in this book, but some online sources mentioned that when reading human faces dogs have a left-gaze bias. this book does mention that dogs are great at readubg human emotions & can read them from afar.
  • when dogs show their bellies they are saying “do as you will with us, since we are helpless puppies in your presence.”
  • a husky from a native american tribe in alaska was afraid of things that sounded like whips or the sound of alchohol in a person’s voice
  • dogs may dream & just before giving birth one dog appeared to have dreamed of her own childhood (based on a unique tongue pattern)


  • some dogs are bad at navigation while others are good at it, having a range of hundreds of square miles without getting lost very often. some homeless dogs that are much more weak might only have a range of a small portion of a square mile.
  • if a dog really loves another dog sometimes it will follow it even if it is heading astray. eventually it might try to catch up and push to turn the dog. if a dog gets too lost it might go sit on someone’s porch and wait to have you come pick it up.
  • a dog that is dropped off in the country somewhere will be less likely to be able to find their way than a dog that traveled to and fro on paw.
  • dogs learn to avoid areas with heavy traffic congestion in both directions, instead opting to go around them. if a dog must go on a highway it may use diplomacy and tact & does not try to challenge their authority.when cars become fewer the dog becomes more confident.
  • where there are sidewalks dogs will use them like humans, except for when they cross over streets they will move like 20 feet in from the intersection, so that they only have cars coming from 2 directions.
  • on more residential roads a dog is more likely to run down the middle of the road with eyes front & use its ears to hear if there are cars coming from side streets, without having to adjust pace or use its eyes for that task.
  • dogs who chase cars see them as unruly animals in need of sheparding.
  • after moving away for many years they moved back to a town they lived at prior (in a different part of the town) and their dog quickly headed out to scout the old neighborhood.

Hierarchy & it’s a dog eat dog world out there…

  • part of the purpose of travel is to meet other dogs & circle them to show the superiority & another part was completely marking territory that has been overmarked by other dogs. dogs may aim upward & mark their pee spots like 3 feet or more off the ground, so as to appear larger to other dogs. when sizing up dogs in person, some dogs will ignore dogs much larger than them & only compare themselves against dogs of a similar or smaller size, such that they can “win” the status comparison
  • males of high rank are more desirable to females for mating purposes, as it can mean life & death for her pups
  • dogs inside a house establish rank almost immediately, but then they tend to try to avoid conflict beyond playing (an exception would be when a female dog is in heat & the boy dogs fight)


  • some wolf dens might be 1,000 or more years old, with the wolves living there long enough that they cut grooves into rocks with their walk, located near rivers for drinking water & to fence in pups & be near migratory paths for caribou, passed down from generation to generation. artic winter is a big killer & thus wolves have to dig out a den before winter, mate in feb & birth in march so that their pups are large enough to survive the first winter.
  • to feed the babies, wolves would eat the kill, return & regurgitate it.
  • wolves would travel singularly or in pairs with one staying to guard the den & pups.
  • the hierarchy of the pack was established based on family role, thus they didn’t spend much time/effort focusing on it.
  • the hunting process for wolves is so challenging that it may help to explain why they want an orderly simplicity elsewhere
  • after spotting humans where they are rare wolves may call together an assembly and howl in unison

Dogs & Wolves

  • wolves are the ancestors of dogs
  • domesticated wolves might sing duets to emphasize their togetherness. dogs generally won’t, but when a lover dog was took away for surgery for a few days one did. when another dog passed away at a vet the dogs also howled throughout the night
  •  when dogs sleep at night they might turn away from you, like look outs looking in another direction.

Family life

  • while male dogs in love tend to let a female dog get away with things, if it goes too far such a dog may block the dog it is smitten for from doing an act it does not like.
  • some dogs wait until finding the perfect mate and then have exclusive romance with that dog
  • when a dog has pups it holds them tightly with its thighs. when the father dog sees the mother it may puke, in a suggestion offering food for the mother and pups
  • father dogs might like to be elevated above younger dogs (eg: furniture vs floor)
  • when a father dog starts to take a pup voyaging it won’t go as fast, as far, or to some of the more dangerous areas. the pup who went on the young trips retained his navigation skills 18 years later when he had Alzheimer’s disease.
  • when dog lovers are separated they can tell something is wrong on the final visit. after separation a dog may become unhappy & depressed.
  • dogs tend to synchronize going into heat
  • when a dog comes back other dogs investigate the scent of its legs, reproductive organs & mouth to learn about the trip. when people come back they are often investigated as well for scent from the knee down.
  • a female coyote mated with one of her male dogs. not many coydogs live on though because it is hard for a single coyote to raise pups.

Anti-family life

  • male dogs can “rape” an unsuspecting female dog
  • father-daughter incest among dogs is not uncommon, but mother-sun is also not common. an alpha female can also coerce the other females with a “just say no” stare
  • when 2 dogs give birth around the same time, a higher status dog may kill the liter of a lower status dog. if neither of those dogs is the lead alpha dog & a pup survives then the lead alpha dog might adopt the remaining pup. a dog that kills one litter (when both had fresh pups) may opt to adopt the next liter. If a dog is adopted it is more likely to take after its adopted parent than its biological one
  • while dogs rarely bite adults they more commonly bite children, who in some cases they believe are stepping out of bounds in terms of status. many such bites are disciplinary reminders of status, rather than attempts to harm.
  • dogs that might like infant animals (like possums) may later view them as prey as they grow a bit larger
  • some owners who cloak a dog in clothes & perfume may trick other dogs into not realizing their pet is a dog, and try to attack it. but a lower status dog that identifies itself by yelping and shows its lower status by rolling on its back generally won’t get bit.


  • when dogs permanently move they might set up some sort of a den so they know where to meet up if they separate at all. in this case the dogs tried to keep the den a secret & built out a large one that was fairly well camouflaged. as the dogs took more to nature they became less concerned with people.
  • “Primates feel pure, flat immobility as boredom, but dogs feel it as peace.”
  • sometimes dogs will go bathroom with the lowest status dog first, then on up the chain, with the highest status dog leaving the last mark.

Death & protection

  • flat faced dogs have trouble breathing when excited due to how many organs are smooshed into a small space. some of them hurt themselves by getting too excited.
  • dogs want to belong & a loss of a member of their firm social system is significant.
  • some dogs want to go where it is quiet & dark & lonely to die. others desire to be near the pack when they pass.
  • a dog that had diabetes learned to nudge its owners for an insulin shot, even though it took about an hour to kick in

The Psychopath Test

I was introduced to this book by a show on This American Life (not sure if it was that show or this one) & a friend recommended it as well.

General background notes:

  • Psychopaths tend to lack empathy & remorse, and are very good at hiding madness through a facade of normalcy.
  • a bit under 1% of the population are psychopaths. about 25% of prison population is psychopaths & they account for about 60% to 70% of violent crimes in jail (much of our falling “violent crime rate” in the United States is driven by more of it happening behind bars, where it is ignored). about 3.9% of 203 corporate professionals in a study scored at least a 30 on the PCL-R.
  • psychopaths rarely dream & if they do dream it is in black & white
  • Emmanuel Constant (also known as Toto) founded a Hatian death squad named FRAPH stated that it was important that people liked him so that they were easier to manipulate.
  • they like to be in control & like to be gatekeepers
  • they find it easy to justify that victims have no right to complain

Fear & the Amygdala:

  • when psychopaths see grotesque images they are absorbed rather than horrified.
  • on a countdown from 10 to 1 with a shock at 1 most non-psychopaths get scared as the numbers get lower, whereas psychopaths have little to no reaction in anticipation of the pain. their amygdala didn’t send a warning response. even after going through the pain when they do the cycle over again they still don’t anticipate the pain & so parole threats are meaningless to them. they have short memories.

CEOs & Psychopathy:

  • “psychopaths tend to gravitate toward the bright lights”
  • “I should have never done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well. Serial killers ruin families. Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.” – Bob Hare, who later went on to co-author Snakes in Suits
  • Albert Dunlap drove Sunbeam stock from $12.50 in 1996 to $51 in 1998 by slashing jobs & shutting down plants. the stock increased in price in spite of the fact that margins did not improve (even before accounting for restructuring costs). companies like goldman sachs cheered the move in their research, but the company was driven into bankruptcy in 2001.

The rise of Psychology & Psychiatry:

  •  Psychopathy was first identified in Hervey Cleckley’s book The Mask of Sanity in 1941
  • Elliott Barker attempted being overly open with psychopaths & even using drug-based naked discovery counseling, but it only led to a greater % of the released psychopaths to commit further crime (an increase from 60% to 80%) as they better learned how to fake empathy.
  • 1973 David Rosenhan conducted an experiment. He sent 8 people to 8 different hospitals, with each complaining that they heard an empty hollow thud & from then on acted normal. 7 were diagnosed schizophrenia & 1 manic depression. It took an average of 19 days to get out & some took a couple months to get out. Each was given powerful psychotropic drugs. They first had to admit they were insane before they could admit they were better. A mental hospital challenged him to send more fakes & they reported catching 41 when he sent none.
  • The criminal psychologist Paul Britton was built up and then ultimately knocked down when Colin Stagg was entrapped by under cover police who sent him sexually suggestive messages to try to get him to confess & suggested that he killed Rachel Nickell, when it was in fact Robert Napper who did it.
  • Robert Spitzer had a psychotic mom who lived a unhappy life. he edited the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) & aimed to remove human judgement from the analysis process by creating concrete checklists. many disorders got their official names from this work. many people began using the book for self-diagnosis, which created significant demand for professional psychiatry and drugs to treat these new disorders. shady pharma salesmen had a boon.
  • Every 20 seconds a child is diagnosed with autism. “It’s very easy to set off a false epidemic in psychiatry. And we inadvertently contributed to three that are ongoing now. Autism, attention deficit & childhood bipolar.” – Allen Frances
  • “The way diagnosis is being made in America was not something we intended. Kids with extreme irritability and moodiness and temper tantrums are being called bipolar. The drug companies and the advocacy groups have a tremendous influence in propagating the epidemic.”
  • “Psychiatric diagnoses are getting closer and closer to the boundary of normal. … There’s a societal push for conformity.” With that, having a label gives a person a sense of hope & commonality, something to connect with others.
  • The NYT published a document where Dr. Joseph Biederman promised to try to “move forward with the commercial goals of J&J,” which was then promoting the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. His unit received funding from Johnson & Johnson.
  • Bob Hare mentioned that when a drug for psychopathy is approved pharma companies might get the threshold to go down from 30 to 25 or 20.

Psychiatry & Popular Culture

  • If a person is a bit crazy they are a marketable commodity. If they are too crazy they no longer are.
  • David Shayler believe in 7/7, 9-11 without planes (holograms), and that he later became Jesus. He went from well covered to seen as being toxic for being too crazy.
  • For a reality TV show producer, a shortcut for seeing who to have on is what sort of medications they were on. Lithium & such would be too crazy, but something like Prozac was a good cue. If a person was not on any drugs they probably were not mad enough to make for great white trash reality TV.
  • On one Extreme Makeover reality TV show they coached family members of an unattractive girl to state how ugly she was (& she heard what they said), but they canceled the show before going live with procedure. The girl’s bipolar sister,  Kellie McGee, felt so bad about it committed suicide, leading to an eventual lawsuit.
  • Not mentioned in the book, but Chris Hedges gave a great speech about plastic culture’s destructive impact on society (& how the spectacle of Michael Jackson’s life and death is a representation of the sickness in society, with over 12 million Americans getting plastic surgery each year).

Components of the PCL-R Checklist:

Robert Hare‘s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised consists of:

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Pathological lying
  • Conning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavior controls
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Early behavior problems
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

Bob Hare is afraid the checklist is sometimes misused by the US prison system. Some people might go in using poor analysis, which in turn makes it much harder to be seen as sane.

In 2007 the LA Times reported that 1/3 of Coalinga State Hospital inmates would serve no risk to society if released.

Bob Hare met Jon Ronson numerous times while he was writing The Psychopath Test, but thought the treatment of psychopathy in the book unfortunately trivialized it.

More Reviews:


The Power of Habit

This book came recommended by a couple of our customers & only took a couple days to read. It has a rich narrative to it which helps reinforce the concepts, but these are my personal notes I saved to help remember key points of Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. 🙂

What are habits?

  • Habits are formed out of our brain’s quest for efficiency. To some degree we do them automatically & without requiring thought or significant mental effort. As they become stronger the brain works less while going through the process, relying on shortcuts coded in the basal ganglia.
  • Habits consist of a cue, a routine & a reward mechanism and are reinforced  we come to crave a reward mechanism.
  • Once we understand habits that lead to rewards, we often light up as though we have received the reward just by seeing the cue. “eg: ring a bell & I’ll salivate.”

Reprogramming habits

  • Belief (in literally anything) makes it easier to believe in being able to stick to change.
  • We never really forget (or eradicate) habits. Though they can be replaced/reprogrammed if we have a deep understanding of the craving & reward.
  • If you want to reprogram a habit, you can change the process so long as you keep the cue & feed into the same reward mechanism & believe the change is possible.
  • To get rid of bad habits make them require more effort to do.
  • Groups make it easier to establish belief & keep change in place.
  • With diet people like to eat what is familiar & prepared in familiar ways.
    • In the 1940s US consumers began eating animal organs (because much of the meat was shipped off in the war effort). People would not eat animal organs often until they became familiar.
    • If you put vegetables in other dishes & cook them in ways that have a familiar presentation you are more likely to eat them.

Stress & Belief

  •  We never really forget (or eradicate) habits.
  • Many good habits fall apart (or bad habits reemerge) when we are under heavy stress.
  • To keep habits in place make them easy to do & create concrete rewards to focus on.

Keystone Habits

  • Forcing too much change at once is almost certain to lead to failure, as there are too many different things to focus on to create habits & if we fall short on any of them then we have an excuse to justify messing up the others.
  • Keystone habits start with small wins that allow change in one place to have cascading effects elsewhere in life. Most people who exercise also eat healthier. Small wins allow us to believe that bigger wins are possible.
  • One way to lower stress & allow habit to take over in a stressful situation is to create routine around it, such that the actual event is just one more step in a successful routine.
  • Simply by writing down behaviors we become more aware of them, which makes it easier to fix problem habits we may have been unaware of.
  • Self-discipline is typically far more important than IQ. Willpower & the ability to deny cravings can be turned into a habit. However willpower is still a finite resource like strength, which once expended makes it harder to have willpower during a subsequent test. Thus it makes sense to put in place good habits earlier in the day to get started on the right foot. Strengthening willpower in one aspect of your life can carry over into other unrelated aspects.
  • Writing specific goals makes it easier to see them through & recover from injuries, in part due to anticipating pain points & planning on how to respond to them. The same is true for issues at work or in other environments.

Reprogramming Organizational Routines

  • In large organizations momentum makes routines hard to change unless you can find a parallel goal which mimics desired outcomes.
    • At ALCOA Paul O’Neil was able to get unions and management to agree on concessions by creating a strong safety goal. The focus on safety allowed more precise measurement of employee efficiency, improvement of machines & processes that were causing issues, and created a better bottom’s up feedback network from employees to executives. Safety was such an effective keystone habit because anyone who argued against it sounded idiotic & the focus on safety led to other operational efficiency gains.
    • By using keystone habits it makes it easier to make tough choices as the shared culture dictates them.
    • Many issues are symptoms, but by consistently asking why you can dig deeper on the issues.
    • Organizations can also keep individuals more engaged & build their willpower, make them more efficient, lift spirits & give them a greater sense of purpose by giving a greater sense of autonomy & control. Statements like “if I wanted your damn opinion I will give it to you” do the opposite. 😉
    • Once an open channel of communication exists for one issue, people will use it for other issues as well, driving additional efficiency.
  • Fear, rivalries & momentum
    • Unless institutional habits are deliberately designed they will emerge from internal politics, fear & rivalries.
    • Rather than being driven by deliberate decisions, many sustained routines are heavily informed by past momentum within an organization & a collecting of supportive evidence. These allow organizations to maintain some level of efficiency & truce to achieve longterm goals in spite of internal politics & short term opportunism.
  • Crisis & opportunity
    • Organizational truces which prevent the cross-pollination of knowledge & define responsibilities too strictly become fragile & set themselves up for large catastrophes due to poor communications. This risk is only further enhanced if there are not priorities established in advance for handling catastrophes.
    • When such failures do occur they make the organizational habits more malleable. People are more receptive to a re-balancing of power after such issues. If internal people are still not receptive to change, one can create a media circus as a further forcing function.
    • Describing nearly adverted issues internally can help prevent the problems from re-emerging.

Tracking Consumers

  • Old school consumer psychology relied on general patterns to increase revenues.
    • Even people who shop with a list buy over 50% of their purchases out of habit rather than based on what’s on the list.
    • The reason grocery stores put fruits & vegetables near the entrance is they figure we will feel good about buying them & be more willing to load up on junk food.
    • Grocery stores put some of the most profitable items near the right-front of a store because many people turn right when entering.
    • Cereal isles are intentionally not tightly organized so that you linger longer & buy more varieties.
    • Febreze nearly failed as a product when it was marketed as a solution to bad odors (many people do not realize their own odors & it is hard to remind them of them), but succeeded wildly when scent was added to it & it was pushed as a reward at the end of the process of cleaning.
  • Now companies have far more specific individual tracking capabilities.
    • They can use email address, past purchases (& periodicity of purchase), items you put in your cart but didn’t buy, other web analytics data like the pages you view, retargeting ads, IP address, cookies, mailing address, wish lists, & baby shower registries online.
    • Offline they can use what you buy, how you respond to coupons, credit cards (with zip code) & loyalty/rewards cards to track user behavior.
    • There was a popular article about Target on this front in the NYT. Target can look at what you purchase & predict what is going on in your life (eg: certain items might be associated with a new home & other items a pregnancy.)
    • Harrah’s Casino was also quite aggressive on this front & would even offer various perks for big losers.
    • Offline & online data can be tied together as well, & this data is tied together with demographics data purchased from third party firms like InfiniGraph, RapLeaf, Axciom or Blue Kai (offering data points like age, ethnicity, education level, marriage status, where they lived, how much they made, what other websites they visit, what credit cards they have, home ownership, bankruptcy declaration, etc.)
    • There is also a conference
  • Consumers are more likely to change their brand preferences & buying patterns when they are going through a major life change (eg: marriage, moving, having kids, changing jobs, etc.)
    • Having a child is the most profitable life change to target.
    • Rather than making it obvious that they were targeting pregnant women with ads specifically for them, they also mixed in other random items in coupon mailers to camouflage the specific offers and make the selection feel more random.
  • Music has the same sort of profiling.
    • Companies like Polyphonic HMI attempt to estimate the likelihood that a song would become a hit.
    • Companies like Arbitron try to figure out how many people listen to a radio station at a particular moment.
    •  On the radio people tend to like bland/vanilla music that sounds familiar (like nondescript bath rock & the horror that is Celine Dion), rather than anything that sounds distinctive/different/new/unique.
    • If you play something new on the radio it helps to sandwich the new song with trusted hits on either side in order to provide the payoff to make people less likely to switch.
  • “To market a new habit – be it groceries or aerobics – you must understand how to make the novel seem familiar.”

Social Movements

  • Insignificant seeming groundwork is often laid in advance of mass movements, which later proves to become a key driver of future momentum (either by establishing small wins that build hope, or by reframing an issue in a way that provides another angle of attack).
  • Most successful social movements are defined by the habit loop. They start because of strong ties between friends, they spread due to weak ties in neighborhoods & endure because leaders give new habits that create & instill a sense of identity & ownership.
  • Rosa Parks was deeply respected & had a large, diverse group of friends. That led to the existence of a strong initial support & many weak ties.
  • To spread religious movements & get people to participate it helps to speak more directly as it relates to the problems people face each day, target groups of people rather than individuals, create self-reinforcing clusters within the larger group & install habits related to the desired outcomes.
  • Rick Warren’s the Purpose-Driven Life has sold thirty million copies & he grew Saddleback from nothing to a size that could drive that many book sales.

Free Will

  •  A more scary version of sleepwalking is called sleep terrors. During sleep terrors the most primitive bits of the brain responding to anxiety in a fight or flight response, with the prefrontal cortex deactivated. “The parts of your brain that monitors your behavior are asleep, but the parts capable of very complex activities are awake” – Mark Mahowald.
  • Those who understand our flaws & develop them into habits can target them.
    • Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment) assigns customers a predicted lifetime customer value based on a Target-like tracking service.
    •  Angie Bachmann developed a blackjack addiction/habit in part out of wanting to be good at something. It drove her to bankruptcy & she stayed away from casinos for years. After her parents died she had a panic attack & went to a casino, where they figured out she had money to burn & started offering her free trips and chips to suck her back in. Once she began to slow down again one person called her & even stated that they would get fired if she didn’t come in. They ended up helping drive her to bankruptcy again.
    • Slot machines are not only designed so that you have a good chance of hitting the wrong button & bidding more than intended, but psychologists also discovered that on near misses gambling addicts minds would light up similarly to as if they had won, whereas in social gamblers a loss would still be seen as a loss. Since this discovery, slot machines were altered to show more near hits to provide more of a rush to gambling addicts. The near miss behavior has been added to other forms of gambling, like state lotto scratch off tickets.
  • Some pharmaceutical drugs that are tied to managing Parkinson’s disease target the basal ganglia and the brain stem. Some of these drugs have turned otherwise normal people into gambling addicts.
  • “Once you know habits exist you have the responsibility to change it.” Though one must decide to & put forth significant effort.
    • The book suggests a 4-step framework for fixing bad habits & implementing new ones: identify the routine, experiment with the rewards, isolate the cue & have a plan.
      • When experimenting with the reward, consider it a scientific expedition & add substitutions into the routine. Write down what you were thinking right after the routine (or routine replacement) has ended & then set an alarm for 15 minutes to track the status of the reward mechanism’s solution or if a craving still remains.
      • When trying to discover the cue, if you can’t easily figure it out, consider in advance limiting yourself to consciously analyzing a limited number of variables at a time (location, time, other people, emotional state, immediately preceding action) to see if that helps you figure it out.