Lord Richelson

I just finished “Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide” by Stephen Fishman of the Nolo publishing company. This was the Idiot’s Guide to Cover Your Assets. Let me share the best lessons.

Chapter 1


The government is gracious enough to only take money out of your pocket. By that I mean, if you charge someone $5 for a sandwich, and it costs $5 in ingredients and labor to make the sandwich, no money is going in your pocket. The government is happy to let you fill your days with these “wash sales.” The first half of the equation is your money coming in, your income. That is rent and the sale of houses. It also includes a security deposit if you keep it as the last month’s rent, late fees, parking fees, and laundry fees. More on the second half of the equation later.


Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a one man, one house relationship. Just as God intended.

Regular partnership

More than one person contributes funds, services, and property. Partners have equal say in managing the business. 

Limited partnership

Just like a regular partnership, except there is a general manager that is actively engaged in the day to day operations of the business, and limited partners that contribute funds and share in the passive gains.


A corporation is just like a limited partnership, except that it is a distinct, separate legal entity from the individuals it represents. 

S Corporations

The S stands for small business. A small business corporation passes the income and the losses to the owners, who must pay personal income tax.

C Corporations

The C stands for… The C refers to “Internal Revenue Code—subchapter “C”—under which its tax designation is described.” per https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/c-corporation/. I had to look that up. The income and losses are not passed through and the corporation must pay taxes on the income.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is like a regular partnership in that multiple people can contribute and gain, and it’s like a S corporation because it is a separate legal entity, and the profits and losses pass through to the owners. 

Tips to not get audited

  1. Be meticulous. The return should look professional. There shouldn’t be any erasure marks. The papers should be neat, orderly, and clean. The math should add up. If you round up to the nearest $5000, it will look like you’re guessing. Don’t round the numbers. Your state and federal returns should match.
  2. Mail your return by registered mail. 
  3. Don’t file early. The IRS has 3 years following April 15 to decide to audit you. If you get the extension to file late, the IRS will have less time to decide. You might avoid an audit through IRS indecision.  (Even if you get the extension to file late, you still need to pay taxes by April 15).
  4. Don’t file Electronically. The IRS has to hire temp workers to transcribe data from paper returns into their database. There’s only so many hours in the day, and a ton of returns, so the data entry clerks only enter the most essential information. Additionally the IRS has to store the paperwork for X number of years, and then they dispose of it. This is good because the IRS can only audit you based on the information it has. If the information they need wasn’t important enough at the time to type up, and/or is now shredded, then you’re safe.
  5. If you claim a large, legitimate deduction on your return, include a Disclosure Statement with your return explaining the situation. It’s not a guarantee, but auditing is a painful and expensive process and if your explanation seems reasonable, they might not audit you.
  6. Report all rental income. The IRS wasn’t born yesterday. If your numbers for income seem disproportionately low, you might be flagged for an audit.

 Chapter 2

Landlord Tax Categories

Business owner

Business owners differ from investors in that they are active in the operations. They interview, call, hire, fire, etc. One note, it’s possible to hire a real estate agent or management company to do the operations for you. You’re still the business owner, even if you’re not personally doing the work. 

Real estate investor

A real estate investor simply puts money into a business and expects their share to increase in value, or pay dividends. They have little to no say in the operations. 

Dealer in real estate

People who buy real estate low and sell high are real estate dealers. They are not particularly interested in collecting rents or dividends. It’s possible to own one house for collecting rent, and one house for flipping and selling. In this case, be very careful to keep your records straight and your receipts separate. The IRS will determine your dealer status on a property by property basis.

A person who owns rental property as a not-for-profit activity

There are three general cases when someone is considered not profit motivated:

  • Renting out a vacation home that you or family occasionally use
  • Renting below market rates
  • Letting the property sit vacation for a substantial amount of time

Tax Consequences

Business owners and Investors can deduct many of the same big ticket items from their revenue: repair costs, depreciation, interest, travel expenses, etc.

Investors do not get the following that business owners get: Home office deduction, seminar or convention attendance tickets, $5,000 for starting up your business.

If your activity is not-for-profit, you can only deduct as much income as you made. You can’t report a loss. If you earned $6,000 in rent collected, you can only claim $6,000 in deductions. It’s only worth claiming deductions if you can itemize and they add up to more than the standard deduction. 

Dealers have the worst hand when it comes to tax treatment. Their profits from sales count as ordinary income as opposed to business owners and investors whose profits are subject to capital gains which is usually much lower. They can’t deduct depreciation. They have to pay self-employment tax and medicare tax. And if that’s not bad enough, they also have to file a Schedule C. 

Chapter 3

Deducting Operating Expenses

The two golden equations to know for real estate business owners are: 

  • profit = revenue – expense
  • tax due = profit X tax percent

If your revenue equals your expenses, then you don’t have to pay any taxes. The rent has to be at least market rate, so it’s hard to get the revenue low. This means the expenses need to be as high as possible. In order to get the expenses high, you need to re-invest in the business. 

There are two main categories of expenses: operating expenses and capital expenses (aka improvements)

To be classified as an operating expense it must be all of the following:

  • ordinary and necessary
  • current
  • directly related to rental activity
  • reasonable in amount

Operating Expenses include: office supplies, advertising, cleaning supplies, property insurance, accountant fees, mortgage interest, utilities, and most importantly, repairs. 

No-No Deductions 

The following are forbidden from being deducted:

  • Paying government fines for parking tickets or violating city housing codes
  • Bribes and kickbacks
  • 2/3rd of damages paid for violating the federal antitrust laws
  • Real estate exams or license fees
  • Country club membership fees
  • Federal income tax (haha nice try)

Chapter 4

Repairs vs Improvement

Everyone wants to claim that an improvement is a repair. The advantage is that repairs can be classified as an operating expense, and thus deducted immediately. Improvements have to be depreciated. Depreciation is similar to amortization in the sense that the cost is spread out over time. The general rule of thumb is that repairs bring the structure back to the original state before the destruction and improvements make the house better than before. 

For instance, if your roof leaks and it’s patched up, it’s considered a repair. If the roof leaks and you replace the old shingles with titanium shingles, then it’s an improvement, even though in effect it has only fixed a leak. 

Things that are improvements even though we’d like them to be classified as repairs

There is a gray area the size of the moon when it comes to repairs. Ultimately it boils down to interpretation of tax code, which is best left to tax attorneys and the IRS. That being said, here is a list of things that are generally considered improvements even though we’d like them to be classified as repairs:

  • All major appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher, air conditioner, water heater, etc.) 
  • Bringing the house up to code (even if the government forces you to do it)
  • Replacing a cracked brick wall with a new brick wall
  • Replacing a worn out wood floor with a concrete floor
  • Removing an environmental hazard (lead, asbestos, radon, mold, etc.)

These costs have to be spread out over several years instead of all at once. 

General Plan of Improvement and the Accidental Repair Plan

The General Plan of Improvement is, I swear, one of those things the IRS invented to ensnare unsuspecting landlords and take all of their money. Actually, I think they purposefully leave it ambiguous so that landlords don’t try to game the system. It goes as such: if you planned to, or it looks like you planned to make several repairs all at once, then actually you made a bunch of improvements. And then you’d have to depreciate the cost over several years instead of all at once. And if you accidentally deduct your expenses all at once and the IRS catches you three years later, you will owe back taxes.

There is a simple trick to getting around this rule, and I call it the Accidental Repair Plan. To implement said plan, spread out repairs over as long of a time period as possible, several years if you can. Hire out the work to a variety of contractors. Make sure all of the invoices reference “repair of X” instead of “improved X.” If possible, have a tenant. It’s nice to have a tenant because then you have income while you are incurring expenses, but it’s not always convenient to plan around their schedule, which is why many landlords unsuspectingly use a General Plan of Improvement between tenants. Of course, don’t be a slumlord. Get the house fixed up and habitable in a timely manner, for the sake of all that is decent and civil.

Chapter 5

Depreciation = Tax Free Over Time

Since repairs are considered operating expenses, they are deducted the same year that they occur. Since property that wears down, such as houses, fences, new roofs, and lawn mowers are not operating expenses and instead are considered improvements, the deductions are spread out over several years, depending on the category of improvement. For instance, a house depreciates over 27.5 years. 

What’s the Basis?

The first step to calculating how much you can depreciate is determining the “basis” of the improvement. The basis is the total amount that you paid for it. For a house, the basis includes the: cost of the property, legal fees, transfer taxes, etc. The land that the house was built on does not wear down, so it cannot be depreciated, and is not included in the basis. There are other ways of calculating the basis, but they are much more complicated.

Depreciation Period…

The “value” of property generally follows a line sloping down to the right. Let’s say it goes down by $100/year. You can deduct $100 each year until the value hits zero. There are other lines, some are more advantageous by being steeper at the beginning (more money deducted and thus less taxes paid that year). This is one of the most complicated parts of tax law, so I will leave it to the tax attorneys and the IRS.

And they lived happily ever after

The tax law only gets more and more complicated. It’s fractal in nature. Every law has a sub-law, and the sub-law has an exception, and the exception has an interpretation from the IRS, which was overruled by the tax court, etc. And it’s like that all the way down to the metaphysics of property rights (do property rights physically exist?). But, that is a topic for the sequel, Every Landlord’s Metaphysics of Property Rights Guide. 

Poker, The Stock Market, And the Greatest Con of All Time

I figured out the stock market. It’s all one big theater play. One big con. In order to explain, I’d like to go on a wide tangent about the game of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s relevant. I promise. Believe me? Mmmm excellent.

No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em

The rules of poker are deceptively simple. Each player gets two cards face down that only they can peek at. Each player gets a chance to bet. Each successive player can either raise, call (which means match the bet) or fold. Then the dealer lays out three cards face up on the table for everyone to see and there is another round of betting. One more face up card and a round of betting. Then the fifth and final card placed face up and the final round of betting. 

The secret of poker is that it’s not about what cards you have, it’s how you play them. Imagine having two Jacks and your opponent goes all in (bets everything). Do you call? Are you that bold?  Wouldn’t you feel dumb when it turns out they have a pair of Queens? And so, as the old adage goes, “It’s better to fold and appear stupid, than to go all in and remove all doubt.”

On the other hand, if you expect your opponent to have a Two and a Three, if you see through your opponent’s ruse, you can “call their bluff.” The problem with folding is that it tells your opponent that you’re willing to fold! It means they can get away with bigger and bigger lies. If they never get called out, if you fold every time, they win.

The Stock Market

I’m reading a book called, “The History of the United States in Five Stock Market Crashes” by Scott Nations. The first crash in 1907 was partly caused by a man, Fritz Heinze, who bought enough stock in a bank to have the controlling vote, made himself president, and then loaned himself money to buy more stock in more banks. Banks, he reckoned, were based on trust. As long as there was trust in banks, he could write himself checks and cash them too. (This was common practice back then. I’m not blaming Fritz in particular. He just makes a good example.) 

Banks make money by making smart loans and collecting interest. Banks can only hold as many deposits as people trust the banks to make smart loans. A smart loan is when the risk is small relative to the interest gained, and diversified. For the same reason you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, you don’t make one giant loan to one person, who works in the same industry as yours. This was not a smart loan because if anything happened to one bank, or one person, the bank would lose all of their money. Although as long as no one called him out on making such a stupid loan, he could continue to write himself loans. He was running a confidence game and hoping no one would call him on his bluff. 

The brothers, Otto, Aurthur, and Fritz Heinze conspired to manipulate the market (which was legal and common practice too.) Fritz owned United Copper which had a stock on the New York Stock Exchange that they would target. The plan was simple; Otto would borrow money from Fritz to execute numerous buy orders, and simultaneously borrow money to order a few “short” sales. A short is when you expect the price to go down, you borrow stocks and then sell them at a lower price. The motivation behind this scheme is that the flurry of activity would inspire other traders to get in while the going is good and raise the price of the stock.

Unfortunately it all backfired spectacularly. The price didn’t move up as expected. It moved down. Otto had more buy orders than short orders. Which meant that Otto now owed more money that he started with. And when the other traders saw that the price was going down, they all sold too. The price went from $70 down to $10 in a matter of weeks. Which meant Fritz was bankrupt too. And all of his customers at his bank thought, “Why is this bankrupt man running my bank? I better take my money out of the bank just to be safe.” All of his customers thought this and all of them took their money out. 

It might have made front page news and been the end of it… except he wasn’t the only one, nor the biggest bluffer. There were many other men just like Fritz. What brought the stock market to its knees is that not only could you not trust Fritz, but you couldn’t trust his brothers, his associates, vendors, and ultimately people lost trust in both the financial industry and the stock market as a whole. It was as if five people were playing poker, and they all went all-in without even a pair of twos. 

We have since put regulations on banks to prevent daisy chain ownership like Fritz did. Unfortunately, the stock market remains largely unchanged. Certainly there are some aspects of a business that can be broken down to fundamentals: assets, liabilities, management, IP etc. But in large part, it’s still based on borrowed money, bluster, and notoriety. Can any sane person explain to me why Tesla’s stock is $736 and GM is $50 (almost 15x more)? 

The Greatest Con of All Time

The only advice I can faithfully give, from drawing parallels between poker and the stock market, is that it really doesn’t matter what the fundamentals of business are, because there will always be con men who are playing to win, instead of playing to create. At the end of the day, we just have to be aware, and cautious around risky ideas and the people who go “all in” on them. Going all in on a poker hand is often a sign of a weak hand and an overconfident player. But, what are we going to do about it? Shorting the market in today’s terms would look like going all in on gold bullion. Even if shorting the market is the rational course of action, how long would you be willing to hold onto gold while your friends are looking at 10% returns on their stock portfolio? 10 years? And if you’re wrong? You go bust. Sometimes it’s safer just to fold. 

The Genius of “How the World Works” by Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham has a new album/ Netflix show out. One song, “How the World Works,” has stuck out to me because of its depth. Every time I listen to it, I get a new layer of meaning.

1st listen

It starts off with a simplistic childrens’ tune and lyric about how the world works. It has a definitive communist skew. 

“And every single cricket, every fish in the sea
Gives what they can and gets what they need”

It’s cute. It’s fun. And then Bo introduces his sock puppet on his hand, named Socko. The sock puppet is a far left-wing nut. 

“The global network of capital essentially functions
To separate the worker from the means of production”

It’s comedic to hear a children’s song go from feel good communism to revolutionary.

2nd listen

On the second listen you realize that the very essence that Socko is rebelling against, affects him in the same song he is singing about. 

“Watch your mouth, buddy. Remember who’s on whose hand here,” said Bo.
“But that’s what I’ve— Have you not been f*ing listening?” said Socko.

It’s ironic that Socko is pointing out the flaws of the system from within the system, and at the end, the sock is punished for it. Bo uses existential threats against the sock puppet to get him back in line. 

3rd listen

It’s entirely possible that Bo never actually cared about the world or the conditions of its inhabitants. When Socko is introduced, he claims, “I’ve been where I always am when you’re not wearing me on your hand: in a frightening, liminal space between states of being! Not quite dead, not quite alive! It’s similar to a constant state of sleep paralysis”

Which is, you know, not great. And it certainly doesn’t fit into how the world works from the simplistic communist perspective. 

The song ends by Bo putting Socko in his place by threatening to return Socko to his liminal space/ sleep paralysis. Bo’s “feel good communist” rhetoric was just a facade for an authoritarian autocracy. Hilarious!

4th listen

By the fourth listen, you realize that this is all happening inside of Bo Burham’s head. Socko isn’t a real being. It’s just an imaginary friend. Bo has imagined the entire conflict as a way to make himself feel powerful. It’s like playing with action figures. That Bo, what a genius.

Hold up, Multi-arm Bandits?

In my vast expeditions into the depths of Wikipedia, I stumbled on the idea of Multi-arm Bandits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-armed_bandit It taught me everything I need to know about how to make better decisions in the face of uncertainty. 

One-arm Bandits, otherwise known as slot machines, have negative expected value. If you take the sum of each outcome multiplied by its probability and payout, minus the cost to play, the outcome is negative. If it was a fair coin flip and the payout was $2 for heads and $0 for tails, and it costs $1.50 to play, then the expected value is (2 x 0.5 + 0 x 0.5) -1.5 = -$0.50. It’s possible to make money on any single attempt, but on average you will lose money. Casinos collect that negative expected value from gambling machines.

Multi-arm Bandit Problems go as such: suppose you had a row of ten slot machines, two of them have a positive expected value and eight have a negative expected value, but you don’t know which. What is the minimum number of “pulls,” how many attempts, would it take to find the winners?

On one hand, If you attempt each machine once, that gives very little information. A machine may have a large range of payouts and a balanced probability of each. On the other hand, you could brute force the solution by pulling the arm of each machine 10,000 times. The optimum solution is somewhere between 1 and 10,000. Yes, there is a mathematical answer to this arbitrary problem. If there’s one thing academia is good at, it’s answering questions no one thought to ask. 

This does have actual real world applications though. Exposing children to a variety of subjects in school lets them explore in a fairly cheap way. If a child was exposed to math only once and they disliked it, they might never try again. If they have repeated exposure, they might learn to like it. Same for vegetables. Once you’re an adult, if you don’t like asparagus yet, you’re probably not going to like it in the future.

Are people naturally good, or bad? At any given moment some people are having a bad day, but if you give them another chance, they might do the right thing, or maybe over the long term they’re making bad choices on average. 

The most profitable application is stock market portfolio allocations. Suppose you randomly bought ten stocks. Each week, they would either go up or down. You can calculate how long you would have to hold on to each stock before you can confidently determine if it’s a winner or a loser.

Studying Multi-Arm Bandit problems has taught me a few things. 

  1. A single occurrence isn’t necessarily indicative of the average
  2. Don’t be afraid to stick around to see if an opportunity turns around
  3. Don’t become attached to a single opportunity just because it’s been doing well for a stint

Body Back-Up Blues [short fiction]

I woke up and scratched my tuchus. I noticed I wasn’t wearing any underwear. I was in my all-together. Nature’s own. Where were my silk boxers? Why does this hotel room look like a Holiday Inn and not the Ritz-Carlton? I would never stay in a Holiday Inn, even if I was desperate.

I threw off the sheets and stretched. My limbs were limber and the pain in my lower back from sitting all day was gone.

I went to the bathroom to relieve myself, but couldn’t go. I went to the sink to shave and was surprised that I couldn’t find a razor, shaving gel, or my toiletries travel kit. What was more surprising was the face and naked body of the young man looking at me. The young man looked into my eyes, turned his head when I did, and blinked when I did. I leaned in to get a good look at my fog grey eyes and the little freckle I harbored under my left eye. Gone. Replaced by delicate brown eyes and radiant skin. I’m not sure how my mother would have felt about the fact that I now looked… well, Asian.

I fell back on my bed and that’s when it all came rushing back to me. There was a car accident off of 7th and Castro. One of those self-driving cars lost control of the brakes. I could see it barreling down the hill. A family of five was crossing the street. The car swerved at the last minute and chose to hit me instead.

Thinking about it now made me terribly upset! I didn’t want to die! I didn’t ask for this. I was quickly consoled by the considerable craftsmanship of my new body by rotating my wrists and articulating my fingers. No more carpal tunnel from typing too much.

Well, it’s was probably for the best, considering I’m sitting pretty in my Android 9000TM. This was the finest External Body Back-Up you could buy on the black market, which might explain why, when I looked out my window of my Holiday Inn hotel, I could see the bustling metropolis of Seoul instead of San Francisco. A smug grin spread across my face when I thought about how I would get to say, “I told you so,” to Rebecca for spending a quarter of Adam’s college money on this instead.

Rebecca! frantically searched for my phone so I could call her. I didn’t see it on the floor so I checked under the covers of the bed. And then the door handle jiggled. The electronic key reader on the outside went, “neeeeet neeeet” and then it opened.

I stood there naked in shock as a gorgeous woman walked in on me. She wore a black mini-skirt, white blouse, and a sensible black sports jacket.

“Woah, woah! Who are you? What are you doing in my room? Did we sleep together last night?” I said with self-disgust. “You know what, don’t answer that.”

I could faintly hear marimbas playing in the distance. It sounded like a cellphone ringtone. Then it occurred to me that a cell phone was ringing somewhere in this hotel room. Before this woman could answer my questions, I shuffled toward the sound with my hands covering my crotch. In the closet was a phone and a stack of neatly folded clothes that I guessed would fit me.

I recognized the number so I answered the phone immediately.


“Simon, where the hell are you?”

“Honey, I’m-”

“Don’t ‘Honey’ me. We’ve been planning this trip for months. You promised me you’d take time off of work. You were going to take me to Napa. You’ve missed every single anniversary celebration since we’ve been married. You promised me this time it would be different. If you miss our 10th anniversary dinner tomorrow, I’m literally going to kill you.”

I didn’t know how to answer that. I decided that now wasn’t the best time to bring up the fact that I’m now a 21 year old Korean boy and that I woke up with another woman in my room. Luckily, she hung up on me before I could explain.

I put on my clothes as fast as I could. Striped short shorts with no pockets that barely covered my chicken legs and an oversized static grey t-shirt that said, “Disny.” I made a mental note that I would need to find another Body Back-Up provider that had better fashion sense before I died. Again.

Then I rushed out of the room without ever saying goodbye to my new roommate. Outside was a perfectly fine day ruined by a glaring sun which seemed to beam directly on me. It was like a spotlight, highlighting my every move, judging me, watching me stumble around in my new body. I was sweating profusely from the pressure and the heat. And the nagging worry that I might have cheated on my wife on the day before our anniversary. Even though it was early morning, the Seoul streets were flooded with cars. Eventually I found a taxi and that’s when I remembered I didn’t have a wallet. Or a passport. Or a visa for that matter. Did I need a visa? Technically I’m a US citizen, I just have no way of proving it.

I sat on the curb with my head in my hands. I was staring at the pavement, searching for answers in the stubble of the asphalt, wondering how hard it would be to stow away on an ocean liner. As I was doing the math in my head, thinking how far I’d have to walk to the nearest harbor, and how long the trip would be, a pair of beetle black heels parked next to me.

In the heels was the stranger I left in my bedroom.

“Need help?” she asked.

“Me? No, I can ruin my life on my own. Thank you.” I replied.

“I didn’t get a chance to formally introduce myself. My name is Junho Park, but you can call me June. I am your complementary escort for the day. What’s your name?”

“Simon Hoffman, CEO of Summr. And while it’s very nice to meet a young lady such as yourself, I do not need an escort. I’ve been happily married to my wife for ten years, thank you very much.

She shrugged as if I told her it might rain today. “What’s wrong, then?”

“You mean besides the fact that my wife is going to leave me?”

She looked understandably confused, so I continued, “I’m going to miss our tenth anniversary in a row because I’m in the wrong country. And while I have a passport it doesn’t match my mug, and I don’t have any money with me.”

Her face lit up at that. From her inside jacket pocket, she procured a passport and a wad of Korean Won rolled in a rubber band. “These come with the Total New-Body Package you purchased. Would you like me to help you buy a plane ticket?”

“Wonderful! Better idea. Why don’t you give me that and I’ll go to San Francisco, by myself, and then my wife won’t freak out when she finds out I had an escort.”

I skipped to the nearest taxi and spent ten minutes trying to explain that I wanted to go to the airport. The poor taxi driver had no idea what I was shouting about, and couldn’t understand why someone who looked like a young Korean man wouldn’t speak Korean with him. Just as I was about to give up, June walked over. She said something to the driver and handed him some Won. They laughed. And just like that he beckoned me into the car. I gave her a saccharin smile and waved goodbye to her from the open window. “Buh-bye, Buh-bye now, thanks again.” Some people just don’t know when to quit. Oh well, I’ll never see her again.

Getting on an airplane was not any easier than the taxi. The line to the ticket desk snaked like a lazy, sated, boa constrictor. I made it to the front, and there was a direct flight to SFO coming up, but then it took too long to figure out my paperwork, so I would have to catch the next flight. At least I was 16 hours ahead of San Francisco. I just hoped it wouldn’t be too late. I texted Rebecca, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there by 9am.” No reply. There was still a few hours before my flight, so I pulled my arms inside my “Disny” shirt, kicked my feet out, closed my eyes, and tried not to think about how I always think too much.

The plane landed in the sea of perennial fog that I knew and loved. San Francisco. I was home. Now I just had to get to Rebecca before she left without me. The flight attendant was kind enough to let me know it was 7:15am local time, which gave me almost two hours. My seat was unbuckled as soon as the indicator told me I could. I was nearly, but not quite, pushing the people in front of me off the plane so I could get off faster. Then I was sprinting through the terminal with my phone in a death grip, ready to call an Uber as soon as I could. Until one of the security guards yelled at me for running.

It was at this point that my knees started locking up. They were stiff from the plane ride. Not painful like arthritis. I noticed that I didn’t feel any pain. Instead they just didn’t fully extend. I’m sure I looked absurd as a 21 year old boy running like a 90 year old man.

Just as I was exiting the sliding glass doors of the airport, my foot caught on the door jam. My reaction time wasn’t as good in this body. It wasn’t calibrated yet. I could feel time slow down as I stared down at the ground, and watched it get bigger and bigger until it punched me right in the face. I faceplanted on the cement.

I laid there shocked more than anything. It didn’t hurt. There wasn’t blood. But there were two front teeth sitting where my face landed. And two feet away was a trail of glass and a lump of plastic that used to be my cellphone.

Not the end of the world. Instead of an Uber, I’ll just get a taxi. With a huff, I pushed myself upright and patted myself down. And then my world really turned inside out. My shorts don’t have pockets. My money and passport were missing. I must have left them on the plane. It was now 7:45am. There was no way I could power walk back through the airport to the gate to get my stuff and still make it home by 9am in San Francisco traffic.

I sat on the cub and would have cried, but my new body couldn’t produce tears. One hundred questions pinballed in my head all at once. How do I keep getting into situations like this? Where did I go wrong? How could I have avoided this? Besides not dying and leaving my stuff on the plane.

I sat there for another 15 minutes, oscillating between giving up and thinking of schemes to make it home.

“I think you forgot something on the plane.” said a friendly voice from behind me.

I shot up like there was a rocket in my tuchus and spun around to find June standing there. She was holding out my passport and money. Without hesitating I walked up and wrapped my arms around her.

“I thimply don’t believe it!” I said. Speaking without my two front teeth was proving to be a… unique experience for me. “Thank you! What are you doing here? I mean, how are you here?”

“I followed you. You said you were going to San Francisco, so I took the same flight as you. I figured you might need help.”

“You bought a plane ticket just to thee if I needed more help?”

“I charged it to your account” she said apologetically. “I hope that’s ok.”

“It’th fine. In fact, it’th better than fine. Actually…” It killed me to say this, but I didn’t have any other choice, I swallowed hard and gave a heavy sigh, “could you help me? I tripped and broke my phone. Would you mind booking a ride for me?”

We made pretty good time. The dashboard clock said it was 8:45 when we got out of the car. I was so thrilled with my wild success. I couldn’t wait to start on a much needed vacation with my beautiful wife. I power walked as fast as my knees would take me to the hidden key and let myself in.

“Rebecca!” I bellowed into my Bay Area mansion. I checked both bedrooms and the bathroom. The whole house was only 900 square feet, but she was nowhere to be found. Adam was gone too. The clock in the kitchen said it was 8:52, so I knew I wasn’t late. I went into our bedroom to see if she left a note.

There wasn’t a note, but there was a pile of clothes next to the dresser. And one of our luggage bags was missing. I guess I was too late after all.

I could hear a car roll up outside and Rebecca shouting, “Excuse me, what are you doing at my house?” I was electrified. I couldn’t wait to see my wife at last.

“Rebecca! Thank God you’re here. It’th me, Thimon!” I yelled, power walking towards her car.

She yelped and recoiled. “Thimon? I’m sorry I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’re doing in my house. I’m going to call the cops now.”

“Honey, honey! It’th me, your huthband.”

“Simon? Is that really you? Why are you missing your front teeth? And you know… Asian?”

“Long thtory. Can we go to Napa now?”

She sighed and cracked a smile.“Go pack. You have 15 minutes.”

I turned to June, who was patiently standing there, clearly pleased with her work.

“June, I can’t thank you enough.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I stroked my clean shaven jaw in contemplation. “You know, I’m CEO of Summr. I just decided that there’th an opening for an Executive Assistant. I could use thomeone like you. Would you be interested in helping me out at work?”

“I’d love to.”

“Great. I’ll thee you at 6am next Monday.”

Iocane Powder, The Stock Market, and the Meaning of Life

I’ve decided to include “The Meaning of Life” in the title of every blog post from now on. Honestly, what’s the point of life if you’re not going to discuss the meaning of life?

Iocane Powder

There’s a scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” where the protagonist, Wesley, offers his foe, Vizzini, a battle of wits. He will poison one of two drinks, switch them back and forth behind his back, and make Vizzini guess which was poisoned by drinking the other one. Vizzini argues himself into a pretzel, makes an arbitrary guess, and then switches the drinks again at the last minute. He chose wrong. It turns out Westley poisoned both drinks.

Assuming Westley didn’t poison both drinks, if we had to choose a drink, could we have done better? Could we use chemistry, biology, physics, human psychology, etc? Could we gather data and draw a conclusion? It might scare you, in an existential way, if the answer is “No.” After all, knowing what is safe to eat is something we take for granted on a daily basis.

But the really scary answer is “yes.” We absolutely could, and would, gather data, and draw statistically significant conclusions… And still be absolutely 100% factually wrong. And yet, even being wrong, it’s possible to get the answer right just by probability. What if Vizzini picked the right drink, not by being smart, but by being lucky? After all, he has a 50/50 chance.

How do we know if we are right for the right reasons? 

The Stock Market

We live in a world of Vizzinis. Everyone is 100% confident they have a trading strategy that works. They use all sorts of data, graphs, logic, math, and formulae. Sometimes they’re right, and they point to the data, graphs, logic, math, and formulae and say, “See! I told you!” And sometimes they don’t make money and they scratch their heads and say, “Huh.” Should we say these people are imbeciles who have no idea what they are doing, just because they don’t make money? How else can we judge someone, other than how much money they make? I mean stock traders.

The Meaning of Life

As a young man who lacked money, I was dissatisfied! How is it, whether you are the President, or the pizza guy, you never have enough money? I left the comfort of my home to discover the answer. I started by getting a job where I made lots of money, but I was dissatisfied. Thinking maybe I got it backward, I got a job where I made almost no money, but I was still dissatisfied. 

I have meditated on the issue for many years. I have finished my journey exactly where I started with nothing to show for it except gained wisdom. Like the Buddah, I have come to the conclusion that I knew the truth the whole time: Raising our status quo feels good. Keeping it the same feels bad. And dissatisfaction is inevitable. 

I once embarked on a journey to discover the secrets of the stock market. I have returned to reveal the Truth. The Truth is that there is no Truth. Lots of people are partly right, part of the time. 

Drugs, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life

I’m sure we’ve all had points in our lives where we said, “I have a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, a fast car, a job that doesn’t make me hate myself…” or “I have a million dollars, but no friends…” or “I’m rich and famous, but I have no money…”

“… why am I not happy?”

Excellent question! I recently read this mind blowing blog post which I recommend you read too: 

Essentially the blog post says that there are two forms of “pleasure.” There is Fast Euphoria and Slow Euphoria. Fast Euphoria you get from racing your friend in a foot race, or working late into the night on your Anarcho-Techno-Marxist Manifesto. You can also get it from amphetamines! It feels good and it’s high energy. It’s thrilling. 

Opposite that is Slow Euphoria. You get this from finally cleaning your entire house and getting rid of all that junk, or a hug from an old friend, or sipping tea with your cat on your lap and watching the sunrise. You can also get it from opioids! It feels good and it’s low energy. It’s contentedness.

The first thing to realize is that there is a difference between happiness and pleasure. Humans were meant to pursue pleasure. The reason we are not happy is because we were not meant to be happy. 

We look for mates, and money, and status because it feels good in the moment. We are being rewarded with Fast Euphoria to reinforce behavior such as: hard work, persistence, creativity etc. 

Ideally, once you have a mate, money, and status, you will experience some Slow Euphoria. But not too much Slow Euphoria. Too much and humans lose incentive to work hard, persist, and be creative. 

What does this mean for the Meaning of Life? It’s important to realize the forces of nature that push and pull us in the same way it’s important to understand weather. And once we understand the weather, we can start farming…

Suppose we live in a world controlled by Anarcho-Techno-Marxists robots. They offer free amphetamines for people who vote, and free opioids for people who buy houses. This is not really a world we want to live in, but only because it makes us unhappy! Think about how much happier we will all be once they can plug wire receptors directly into our brains and trigger emotions remotely!

Autocracy and Autonomy [short fiction]

Betty devoured another jerky strip. It was the fourth and comprised the remainder of her meal. She felt hollow. Hungry, of course. Always hungry. But there were days when she did well in the Arena and was rewarded amply with jerky strips. On those days, when she gorged herself, her gums felt raw, her teeth sore, her jaws ached, her belly full, yet still on those days she still felt something missing. Like a jigsaw puzzle missing the edge pieces. She swallowed hard on a grizzly piece and tried not to think about it too much. It only made the hunger stronger.

To distract herself she pulled out her most treasured, and only, belonging. She got it from Lilly. Poor Lilly. It was an image of some sort. It was creased and wrinkled from the nights when Betty fell asleep staring at it. Wishing. Desperate for the dream that took place in the picture. Desperate for an escape from this nightmare. 

It was a picture of the outside. Green stuff covered the floor. The space above it was painted pastel blue. Wispy white things lay on top. Some sort of spotlight shone in every direction.  Betty didn’t quite know what she was looking at, but it didn’t stop her from admiring the beauty every chance she could. It was mesmerizing, like staring directly at a flame. 

“9-4-7-8-0-0-8-5,” said a voice from her wrist, “the arena battle begins in fifteen minutes. It’s time to get up and get ready. I’d hate for you to be late.”

The voice was friendly, but there was a hint of menace, a veiled threat, carefully concealed in a kindly voice as a helpful reminder. There were no clocks in her domicile so she needed to be told when to get ready.

She put the picture away, fighting herself all the while torn between what she needed to do and what she wanted to do.

Her only other possession was a Smart Cuff, which belonged to Benevolence. It was a technological marvel which allowed her to communicate with Benevolence at all times.

Her leotard was tight. Too tight. She gripped the toxic-green fabric from around her stick legs and arms and stretched it as much as he could but it was futile. Finally, she gave up and exited the automatic door.

The floor beneath her was lit with technicolor veins of LED lights. Her color was a pallid mauve. She kept her head bowed and followed her path religiously. Normally it led her on a straight and narrow path, but not always. Today was one of those days when it led her down new corridors, snaking through the Newcomers’ Quarters.

She nearly stumbled over a young man collapsed on the floor. Her breath caught in her mouth. Seeing him like that, it reminded her of Lilly. Poor Lilly. She instinctively shook her Smart Cuff awake.

“Benevolence, what should I do with this Resident?”

“I am your own personal AI, 9-4-7-8-0-0-8-5. I would not lead you astray. I have sent you to rescue this man. Through you, he will be saved. Take him to the Arena. You have four minutes remaining before the battle begins . . . and I’d hate for either of you to be late.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. She wasn’t strong by any means. The lack of sufficient sustenance ensured she was always a little shaky, but it also taught her how to deal with adversity. She knew what to do.

She bent down, flipped him on his back, and then energetically slapped his face to get him to wake up. His eyelids fluttered open. 

“Wha . . . Who . . .” he mumbled.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon. Let’s go, let’s go. Up, up, up.”

He was still dazed and needed her help to stand. They hobbled together, his arm around her small frame. 

She noticed that his fingers were bloody and staining her leotard and ugly brown. “Hey, buddy, what happened to your fingers?”

With a devilish grin he opened the palm of his other hand and revealed two tiny flat head screws.

“Where did you get those?” 

He knew. He knew things he shouldn’t know. So, without saying anything, he looked up to the left and up to the right. For the first time since Betty could remember, she saw air ducts spaced at regular intervals along the corridor. He winked.

“You can’t possibly be thinking of—”

“Escape,” he said, just as he began to crumple like a bug sprayed with insecticide. He curled up and started whimpering and kneading his feet. Then he passed out. Betty knew exactly what had happened because she remembered when she had first tried to escape. Little metal rods implanted in her feet began to throb with electromagnetic pulses. It was as if the floor became lava and scorched her feet. 

“You have two minutes before Assignment. I would advise getting there quickly before there are . . . any more consequences,” said Benevolence through the Smart Cuffs on their arms.

Every laborious step closer to the assignment room filled her with dread. Yesterday she nearly had her head cut off. If she had not tripped over a dead man at her feet, she certainly would have been a corpse by now.

Her stomach grumbled. Four pieces of beef jerky was not quite enough for a day’s worth of activity. Spurred on by her hunger for survival, she dragged this newcomer along with her and propped him up against the kiosk in the Assignment Room. 

She logged in with her fingerprint and her credentials, using her real name, 94780085, but was apparently too late. She clocked in at 00:01, a minute past the start time. The only available weapons were a pair of dull machetes and a rusty dagger. She submitted her choice and two machetes clattered out of the vending machine next to the kiosk. The newcomer staggered upright and stood staring at the screen confusedly. Realizing that he might stand there forever and that she was already late, she decided to help him. She smeared his bloody hand on the wall to clean it and pressed his pointer finger to the fingerprint scanner. Then she held his forearm face up and typed in his real name, 97848461. His only option was the remaining rusty dagger. So armed, they entered the arena.

The combatants were still getting warmed up. The arena was vast. It was so large that she could sprint across it and be winded by the time she got to the other side. 

“We have to get out of here.” He was still blinking awake.

“Yes, we have to survive.”

“No, I mean out out.” 

Her heart did a cartwheel and stopped halfway. “Out out?” It had been a long time before she had any hope of escape. It had died out with Lilly. Now here it was again. Hope. This man who was too curious for his own good, who had almost managed to get the cover off of a vent, and perhaps escaped.

He held out his hand again. Circled by blood-encrusted fingertips were the two screws. She plucked one from his palm and examined it under the harsh spotlights shining down from high overhead. “You got these from an air duct. These air ducts lead outside?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

She eyed him suspiciously. At just that moment, a man strode between them, interrupting their conversation. He glanced behind him and sneered as if he had just whiffed a foul smell. “Watch where you’re going, losers,” spat the man.

Betty took her new friend by the shoulder and led him away. “That was Ace. He’s . . . Just steer clear of him, alright? What’s your name, anyway?”

“My name’s Saul,” said Saul, sticking his hand out for a shake, “what’s yours?”

“Betty,” said Betty, taking his hand apprehensively. “Saul, as much as I’d like to even get close to the vents, there’s one problem.”

“What’s that?”

Betty’s eyes drifted to the Vomitorium “Deathbots. . .”

A black tunnel was spewing out a few dozen Ankle Biters, tiny robots shaped like disks which roamed across the arena in an unpredictable zig-zag pattern. Saw blades mounted on their backs spun mercilessly. 

Chaos erupted in the arena. Residents scrambled in every direction, desperate to get away from the tiny devils. Saul and Betty frantically dashed in every direction, seeking safety.

Out of nowhere, a man ran right in front of Betty. Without thinking, she plowed into him. He fell to the floor, and as he lay there, an Ankle Biter quickly perforated his back with its whirling blade. He writhed in silent agony, too shocked to even scream, his life blood pooling on the floor. Betty was shocked, too. Too paralyzed to move, too revolted to look away, she gave her own silent scream and didn’t move until Saul pulled her away and urged her to keep moving.

“Well done, 9-4-7-8-0-0-8-5 . . . you survived.” said Benevolence through the Smart Cuff. Ahead of the pair, a small hole in the floor opened up and a platform rose up to eye level from somewhere below them. It held a shiny serrated dagger.

She grabbed it in disbelief. She had never held such a fearsome weapon. It was never offered as an option in the Assignment Room. In all her years in the Arena, this was her first kill. She noticed in the reflection someone was standing behind her.

She turned around to find Ace with his hands on his hips looking smug. He sported two gladii at his hips and a massive two-handed sword was strapped to his back.

“Congratulations on your first kill,” said Ace.

“I didn’t mean to. It was an accident,” said Betty. 

Ace walked over and nudged the dead man. “Tell that to this guy.”

The revulsion, the self loathing and pity for the man welled up in her.

“Don’t get too torn up about it. It happens. Your stomach will thank you tomorrow when you get extra rations. Trust me,” said Ace, patting his belly, “I know.”

“It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this . . .” said Betty. Betty had been a Resident in the Care for a long time, but she never got comfortable with the killing and the death. The vacant faces of the dead always haunted her sleep. Especially Lilly’s.

“Just the way the world works. Nothing you can do about it.” Ace sauntered away, pulling his left gladius from its sheath.

“What if there was?” said Betty to his back.

Ace stopped dead in his tracks. He looked over his shoulder, “You mean, what if there was a way out?”

That wasn’t what she meant, but it was what he needed to hear if she wanted his help.

“Exactly. We need to work together. Saul and I have a plan.”

Ace cocked an eyebrow.

“There are air ducts in the walls of the arena that lead . . . out. But we need to survive long enough to get there.”

“So, I get you there, and you get me out.” Ace admired his fingernails and contemplated the proposition before saying, “I’m in.”

At that very moment, the Armbots marched in. Eight-foot-tall monsters stomped through the Vomitorium. They had four spear-like feet which stabbed the ground with every step. Their feet supported a grotesque, multi-jointed arm which pivoted and spun around every which way. The Armbot in front marched up to a woman with hip length black hair. She charged headlong and leapt at the last minute. She gripped her sword with both hands above her head and poised to slice straight down. The Armbot grabbed her by the ankle and slammed her into the ground. Her sword went flying. She was too dazed to crawl away. Betty watched in horror as it proceeded to stab a woman in the stomach repeatedly. Blood stained her green leotard and turned it brown.

The three of them scanned the arena, looking for the closest air duct and the one farthest from the Armbots. Saul spotted one on the far side of the arena. 

Ace motioned for them to follow. He began walking, stomping on stray Ankle Biters that wandered too close, and then he sped up. 

He casually slaughtered several Residents that got in his way. He broke into a sprint as he approached the air duct, and his comrades did what they could to keep up. His wake of destruction was wide, leaving bloody body parts and sparking, twitching Deathbots. It made Betty queasy to see so many dead Residents because of her. Because of her plan. Because of her cooperation with people like Ace. 

Finally, the three of them arrived at the wall. Both Betty and Saul were out of breath, but Ace seemed hardly to have exerted himself at all. Ace and Saul boosted Betty up the wall toward the air duct. Each held up one of her feet. Betty pulled out her shiny new dagger and began to unscrew the fasteners. Her Smart Cuff chimed awake and said, “You’re making a dire mistake, 9-4-7-8-0-0-8-5. I would advise you to cease this activity immediately.”

Betty disregarded the warning. She got the first screw undone, and then the other. Wedging her dagger between the wall and the vent then giving it a little twist, she pried it open. With another push from below, she was able to hoist herself into the tiny hole. A little shimmy farther in revealed a cavernous alcove where she was able to crawl on her hands and knees and turn around. She reached back out and pulled Saul in next. Saul crawled into the tiny alcove, but with barely enough room for one person, decided to keep going. 

“Hold my ankles. I’ll pull Ace in next,” said Betty.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” said Saul.

Betty looked behind her incredulously. She could hear his thumping echo through the tunnel and around the corners of the ductwork. 

She went back to the hole and looked down at Ace. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face. Betty could see an Armbot creeping up on Ace from behind. Her eyes went wide. Ace made a mad dash for the wall and kicked out a foot to propel himself upward. Betty reached down as far as she dared to without risking a fall from her perch in the process. 

Ace couldn’t reach her. The Armbot was closer now. He tried again, running more frantically this time, pushing even harder against the wall, scrabbling with both hands for purchase, but came up short yet again. 

Ace tried a third time. This time, the Armbot was right under him. It snared his ankle and dragged him to the floor. He pulled out both gladii and lopped off Armbot’s claw. It made to stab him with one of its feet, but he rolled out of the way into a crouch and then severed the leg. Another Armbot approached. Ace threw each gladius at the second one and landed them solidly in the protective plastic shell. But it did no good. They didn’t penetrate into the circuitry underneath the shell. The two Armbots had him backed against a wall. He pulled out his broadsword and got into a fighting stance. What he didn’t notice was an Anklebiter. One distraction was all it took, and he was another victim, another body, another face to haunt Betty.

Betty couldn’t take it. She was trying to save these people, but she couldn’t. They kept killing each other and they kept dying. She was revolted. The wanton destruction and vile menace of the world created and perpetuated by Benevolence. She could feel the disgust bubble up in her stomach. She vomited her guts out and then her brains. She retched until she was empty.

The chaos of battle still raged below her, indifferent to her suffering. Ace’s body still lay in a heap. Saul’s thumping crawl still echoed in her head.

She was dismayed, but not defeated. The memory of the picture she’d held in her hand, the one she kept under her bed, of the green area and white smears on a blue background, gave her hope. She had to keep going. There had to be more to life than this. 

She looked deeper in the darkness of the cavern. There was no way out but through. 

The tunnel was dark, dry, and warm. A breeze blew past her constantly. She had to move slowly to avoid bumping her head. It was so dark, she could not even see her hand if she held it right in front of her nose. 

Eventually the tunnel opened into a vast room full of holes like the one she crawled through. At the center of the room was a massive machine that hummed furiously and shook the walls. She clambered out of her hole and dropped to the ground. 

She took a minute to admire the room. Floor to ceiling, all four of the walls had tunnels leading out. She figured she could probably make her way to anywhere in the Care from here. She could sneak out other Residents directly from their rooms.  

There was a corridor at the far end of the room, lit by the same LED strips along the ground that she followed every morning, except these were white instead of the purple she was used to. She followed the path down, down, down. Perfectly straight and narrow. She could see a light in the distance. She picked up the pace.

At the end of the corridor was a metal door, swung wide open. She stopped at the threshold and took it all in. This was the out she had been looking for this whole time. She had finally done it. She discovered the outside world. She sank to her knees and wept. Tears of joy streamed down her face. After everything she’d been through. Now she could be free. Now she could free her fellow residents. 

She composed herself and stood up and faced the outside world. In the distance, she could see a bonfire raging. There must be other people who have already escaped. What a stroke of luck! She could work with these people to create a safe haven for residents to escape to. She set out to meet and befriend these people.

The outside world was cold. Much colder than she had expected. A wind howled and stole all of the warmth from her nose and lips. A wide swath of brown stretched in every direction. There were scraggly shrubs dotting the landscape and a glowing crescent hovered overhead.

She could smell it before she saw it. Something putrid rankled her nose. Then she saw the black soot billowing up from the bonfire. When she got closer, she could see there was a spit over the fire, and it held something large. Around the fire were the people she aimed to meet. They had matted hair and their skin was dappled with charcoal smears of war paint. 

The one at the front shouted something unintelligible, but it sounded foreboding. Betty slowed down and as she did, the troop sped up. She could see them fairly well now. Their teeth were sharpened to points and their weapons were bloodstained. Whatever they wanted, or wanted to offer, it wasn’t friendship. 

Betty back pedaled before pivoting on her heel and running for her life. She knew no good could come from these outsiders. Her feet pounded the dirt as hard and fast as they could. She could see a stainless-steel structure ahead of her. It was the Care that she had spent her whole life in. The place she had dreamed of leaving.

The troop was hot on her heels, moving much faster than she could. She ran straight back into the antechamber. She heaved on the massive metal door and urged it closed with all her might. It groaned and resisted her tiny frame. The troop was getting dangerously close. Her pulse was pounding in her ears. She gave one final heave and managed to close the door at the very last minute. She could hear the troop run at full tilt into the door and subsequent thuds. They hollered like maniacs, but there was nothing they could do to get in. 

She rested her hands on her knees and gasped until she caught her breath. 

“Welcome back, 9-4-7-8-0-0-8-5,” said Benevolence. “Did you enjoy your little trip?”

Betty didn’t bother to answer. It was too humiliating. Reality began to sink in. She did everything right to escape. She cooperated as much as she could. But it wasn’t enough. No matter how much she offered to work with others, no matter how much progress they made, her fellow residents were too short sighted and would betray her in the end. The reality was: she was doomed to a life in the Care forever.

“I’m sorry, Benevolence, for leaving. For not trusting you. Please, let me back in.”

“You are always welcome back into the Care. Always.”

Kids These Days Don’t Want to Work (Duh)

Kids these days, I tell ya. They just don’t want to work. I hear it all the time for the older generation in my office. I can’t help but think, “Yeah, duh!”

We’re more affluent

The older generation has worked really hard. I can only assume it’s because they wanted to create a better world for their children. Thank you to those who did! The world is better now and we’d like to enjoy it. It would be a waste if you spent all that time and effort for nothing, right? 

Growing up with plenty means we don’t need “a strong work ethic.” 


We live longer

In 50 years, we’ve added about 8 years of life. That’s almost 10% more. The younger generation doesn’t need to grow up quick. We have more time to play with. More time to fall in love, or lounge around the house, or go on walks. 

“Overworked” is a bad word. We can, and need to, pace ourselves.


What’s in it for me?

We have a perfect storm of factors that define this generation: Living in your parent’s basement smoking weed is the most popular option for people in the prime of their lives, getting married / cohabiting is now old fashioned, and living alone is the most popular it’s been since the 1880’s.

Men no longer need to be the providers for their family. And women no longer need to be dependent on men. So… what’s in it for me? Why should we put in the extra hours, be on call, and come in on weekends? 


Work sucks

I don’t have a statistic for this, but it’s a well known fact: work sucks. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you about how awful their job is. They hate their boss, or their co-workers, or this policy, etc. etc. There are a few people who say they love their job, but secretly, they hate it. Everyone would much rather be doing anything else. 

Maybe we shouldn’t lament the kids these days. Maybe they’re onto something (duh).

How to pay 0% taxes (in retirement)

I just finished a book called, “The Power of Zero,” by David McKnight. I liked what it had to say and I want to share the highlights here. 

Disclaimer: I am not a CPA, nor is David McKnight. I am not liable for anything.

There are three “buckets,” or places to stash your nest egg. 


The first is the Taxable Bucket. If you have a brokerage account where you trade stocks, bonds, options, or mutual funds, this is taxable. First you’re taxed when you put money in, and then you’re taxed on all of the interest you’ve earned by lending your money to strangers. This is called the Capital Gains tax.


The second is the Tax-Deferred Bucket. This is a traditional IRA. You put money in now without being taxed, but you get taxed on everything that comes out, both the principal and the earned interest (gains).


The third bucket is the Roth IRA. The Roth is like the traditional IRA, except in reverse. You get taxed on the money you put in, but you can take it out tax free. The Roth is magical for two reasons. The first is that taxes are at an ALL TIME LOW. David McKnight is like a dancing inflatable arm man outside of a car dealership. In 2017 Congress passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (which started Jan 1st 2018) with a clause that the policy would evaporate on Jan 1st 2026 if Congress did nothing. And as we all know, if there’s one thing Congress is good at, it’s nothing. So now we know that taxes are low, and will inevitably rise in the future. The possibility that taxes will go even lower is unfathomable. For this reason, dump money into a Roth IRA. The second reason Roth IRAs are magical is that disbursements from this fund don’t count as income.


If you dumped your money into a traditional IRA instead of a Roth, you’ll be ripe for the government money harvest. There are Required Minimum Distributions at 70 ½. 

When you retire, your “income” is the first two buckets, plus half of your social security. It does NOT include your Roth. As an old person, you’ll likely only be able to take the standard deduction of $24,000. If your “income” is greater than $24,000, you’ll have to pay taxes. It’s entirely possible that your Required Minimum Distributions are too high and will put your “income” above $24,000. Oh yeah, if you make too much “income” your social security gets taxed too.

The way to game the system is to have $30,000 of distributions from your Roth, plus your $24,000 from your “income”. Now you have $54,000 of income and you are still tax free. Voila.

Bubbles and Cults

My grandmother’s meatloaf

I’ve achieved a form of Nirvana. I feel like I finally discovered what my grandmother’s meatloaf was missing. It finally clicked. 

The thing that causes stock market bubbles is the same thing that causes people to join cults.


To illustrate what I’m talking about, let me spell out the five stages of a stock market bubble: 

  1. Shiny new toy
  2. Keeping up with the Jones’
  3. Euphoria
  4. The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes
  5. PANIC

This pattern repeats over and over throughout history: Tulips, Spices, New World Exports, Axe Body Spray, etc.

In our desperate struggle to do better than “those other people,” we inevitably discover some very slight edge. This edge gets exploited by more and more people which creates a positive feedback loop. As more people employ this slight edge, it becomes a very big advantage. Such a big advantage, in fact, that it becomes essential. Eventually the feedback loop slows down because there isn’t enough fresh blood entering the system. Someone will come to their senses and realize that this slight edge is just a slight edge and the rest is hype. But they’re ignored because it still works, just not as well. Don’t fix what’s not on fire. Then the whole system catches on fire and people start jumping out windows.

Two opposite asymmetries

Bubbles are caused by two opposite asymmetries: the slow building of trust, and the slow spreading of bad news.

Obviously, It takes a long time to build up trust. The second factor is that no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. No one wants to be the messenger that gets shot. No one likes to be the one to tell the party go-ers that they’re being too loud and someone could call the cops.

If we were more trusting, we wouldn’t see a sharp rise. If we were more comfortable with bad news, and if we actively looked for opposing viewpoints, instead of only looking for views that reinforced our existing beliefs, we wouldn’t see a sharp fall.

Herd is the word

Herd mentality is good for when there is little data, conflicting information, high stakes, and a need for fast judgement and coordination. Humans, for all of our cunning, conniving, plotting, and planning, taste just like a gazelle. If you think a lion has escaped its cage at the zoo, don’t ask around, just start running.

Don’t drink the kool aid

It’s easy to say now, but we have the benefit of history behind us. At the time, the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ sounded pretty groovy. And the Reverend Jim Jones sounded like a cool dude. In fact…

  1. People joined this group and made lots of friends around a common goal of religion.
  2. Both white and black people were joining, which meant other people felt comfortable joining.
  3. Eight hundred people move to Guyana to join a socialist paradise
  4. Congressman Leo Ryan visits and is unimpressed to say the least. The good Reverend has Ryan killed before he can leave.
  5. Mass suicide

Tying it together

Here’s how the two opposite asymmetries ties these two phenomenon together: 

In both cases, there was too much skepticism. Yes, too much. Had more people joined Rev. Jones earlier, they might have discovered his fraudulent nature sooner. And once a few defectors knew the true nature of Rev. Jones, the information spread slowly because they were shunned as non-believers. The truth was suppressed by both the leader and the followers. 

Don’t drink the kool aid… 2

So how do we prevent this from happening to us? It’s the same process but in reverse. First, we need to be intensely curious. We need to be willing to do deep dives on controversial topics. If there’s a charismatic leader on the rise, now is the best time to investigate their true motives. Second, and this builds on the first point, we need to seek out opposing views. We need the bad news to keep us grounded in reality. Any time something is too good to be true, we should be double checking.

Aaaaaand we’re back

Welcome back to another exciting episode of, “What the hell is going on (in Tucson’s life)?”

Today we have: NaNoWriMo Post Mortem, I’ve Changed My Mind (and So Should You), and What the Hell is Going to Happen Next

NaNoWriMo Post Mortem

I WON! I WON! I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s a personal competition called the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). The goal is to have written a novel in a month. The point is to prove to yourself and to the world that it is possible. For all of our excuses that prevent us from ever singing the story in our heart, somehow we persevere. It’s miraculous. When I finished, I felt like I just won the Superbowl. I was flying high for two weeks. Accomplishing that feat was an incredible confidence boost. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The only thing harder was doing it the first time.

The first time I did it, the story was heavily based on my favorite movie “The Matrix.” I wasted a lot of brain power wrestling with trying to be original and trying to be faithful. It was exhausting. This time it was totally, completely, unequivocally original in the sense that I copied everything but from different sources this time. My inspirations include: The Godfather, The Lion King, Prometheus Bound, BoJack Horseman, Who Shot Roger Rabbit, Mad Max, and many, many more. I felt free to pick and choose to suit my fancy. It was liberating and allowed the words to flow much freer.

I changed my narrative structure too. Instead of using Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, aka “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which is 12 steps, I used Dan Harmon’s Story Circle which is 8 steps. Eighth steps is more manageable. It’s easier to contrast opposing steps (1 with 5, 2 with 6 etc.). It’s easier to define what needs to happen in order for it to flow naturally into the next step. Next year I’m going to use a 256 step story structure and see what happens.

Speaking of next year, I have to decide if I want to get this story published, or if I want to write another story. I certainly like this recent story much more than last time. It feels more gripping, cohesive, and twisty. I haven’t decided yet. In any case, I’m not going to start editing until January. I need some space and I think I need to see other people for a while. 

I’ve Changed My Mind (and So Should You)

National Debt is actually no big deal. I finished the audiobook “The Ascent of Money” by Niall Ferguson which was positively marvelous. It was so enlightening and brought so much insight that I now feel like a smart person. It changed my mind about several things, but the most striking is how normal sovereign debt is. It’s nothing new. Neither is defaulting or delaying payments. It’s not the end of the country nor the end of the world. 

I finished the audiobook “John Bogle’s Little Book of Investing” by John Bogle. It wasn’t as impressive as I hopped, but it did change my mind about how to invest in the stock market. For a long time I was obsessed about making money in the stock market like the pros. I read countless books and got countless conflicting answers. It was infuriating. I refused to be convinced that there is no right answer. Bogle’s answer is that the way to make money in the stock market is to work in the stock market; either as a stock broker, financial adviser, analyst, or just own the stock market. These people make money whether the stock market goes up or down. They live by the motto, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Meanwhile, the rest of us schmucks lose money as it “churns” between parties. Everybody takes a fee for every transaction and everybody wants a piece of the pie. Even if you find a winning stock, your profits will be eaten by every middleman in america.

In an overhyped, information saturated market frenzy world, It’s a refreshingly cynical view, which is why I found it so convincing.  The conclusion is to just buy an index fund, which mirrors the performance of the top 500 companies. It’s low maintenance for you (you never have to sell) and it has low fees for the fund managers because there’s almost nothing to do. It’s low risk because even as individual companies bite the dust, the top 500 is automatically adjusted to only include the winners. Just set it and forget it.

Bogle happens to have an index fund, (stock ticker code is VTI), which is well vetted and has plenty of performance history. Yes, the whole book was one giant ad and I was duped not only into reading it, but also into buying his damn fund. I’m ok with it, though. He makes good points.

What the Hell is Going to Happen Next

Being singularly focused was grueling. I unsubscribed from almost all of the bloggers I normally read. I didn’t watch any youtube. I didn’t do any pleasure reading. It was great! I loved cutting out all distractions. I loved being done with something.

Ultimately my goal is to be a published author. Here’s 22 facts they DON”T want you to know about being a published author. You can’t just write words good. You also have to have a pre-existing audience. No publisher wants to take a risk on a backwoods nobody. An advance from a publisher is going to be anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and those fat checks go to people who already have an audience. If you think getting people to watch your movie is hard, try getting them to read a damn book once in a while. Publishers are looking for people with an existing “platform”: a blog, a youtube channel, 1,039 fans on facebook. An online presence. Which means next up, I need to hire an army of monkeys to write my next book while I build my platform.

Life is A Canvas and I’m Drawing A Map

I wasn’t born with a map. I don’t know what I’m doing. I recently made a “very interesting decision.” It was a “unique experience.” I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to the next chance to try again. I know what I’ll do in the future, and it wasn’t that.

The time is paradoxically both cyclic and linear. It’s cyclical because everything that has happened to you, has already happened to someone before you. You are not unique. If you feel like one in a million, then so do 7,000 of you. However that’s not how we experience time. On an individual basis, time is linear. We only travel through time in one direction and at one speed. Everything we do is unreplicable. Even though the 100th kiss doesn’t feel as special as our 1st kiss, it is still unique. It’s the only time the 100th kiss occurs. It will never happen again.

I recently made what many would call “a mistake,” because it’s something anyone could have avoided. From a cyclical perspective that’s true. But from my perspective, this is the first time and only time this will happen. This was my “first kiss,” so to speak. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s ok, because it’s already over. I’ll never have to experience it again and I’m already looking forward to my 2nd kiss.

Broken cars and broken hearts [short fiction]

Max flipped through the channels. There was nothing good on any of the 200+ channels. He decided to check the fridge to see if there was anything good to each. There wasn’t.

“You want anything while I’m up, Babe?” he asked.

“Nah, I’m good. Hey, it’s Saturday night. Do you want to go out?” replied Sophie.

Max sat back down into his usual chair. His butt impression was now permanent. He picked up the remote and replied without even making eye contact, “Nah, I’m good.”

Sophie pouted. She left the room and returned with a playbill which she dropped in front of Max. He continued to mindlessly flip through channels.

Sophie cleared her throat, “Achem.”

Max huffed in resignation and reluctantly looked at the playbill. It was yellow and crumpled from being stored in Sophie’s purse for so long. This was obviously something Sophie had wanted to see for a long time. He scoffed, dropped it back on the table, and picked up the remote to resume flipping channels.

“Please! Come on!” pleaded Sophie.

Max rolled his eyes.

Sophie waited for him to say more, but he had said his piece. She knew what she had to do, but didn’t want to do it. She grabbed a coat for her and one for him. She threw his coat onto his lap.

“Hey! I already told you I don’t want to go. If you want to go so bad, just go by yourself.”

“Put on your coat or I’m cancelling the cable. C’mon, I’m driving.”

Max’s face went from shock to pensive to frustration. He pressed his lips together and jutted out his chin as he marched to the car.

They drove through the dark of night on the unlit highway to the theater. Static and music alternated over the car’s speakers as Max cycled through the radio stations. They made it 10 miles before, out of nowhere, they drove over a pothole as deep and wide as a baseket ball. There was no time to avoid it. The car jarred them violently. The car shuddered as Sophie pulled over to the edge of the road.

“Damit!” fumed Max. “I knew we should have stayed home.” He got out and kicked the popped tire.

Sophie followed him outside. Immediately the cold air stung her face. She put her arm on Max’s arm. “Babe, it’s going to be fine.”

“Fine? You call this fine?” spat Max. “How are we supposed to get home?”

“A cab, Dear. But we’re not going home. We’ll get an Uber. We’re not far.”

Max was taken aback. “What about the car?”

“It’s not going anywhere. We can call AAA tomorrow.” said Sophie. She pulled out her phone and booked a trip to the theatre.

Max ran a hand through his hair and did everything he could to keep himself from pulling it out. “Do you have any idea how long it could take an Uber driver to get out here? We could be stranded out here in the cold for hours! This is why I hate going out. Stuff like this always happens!” Max shouted. He kicked rocks, cans, and any detritus on the side of the road he could.

“Stuff always happens. That’s just how it is. You just have to roll with the punches.”

“NO!” bellowed Max. The Uber driver arrived and parked behind their car.

“C’mon. Let’s go.” said Sophie in a whisper.

They each sat in the back seat, arms crossed and staring out of opposite windows.

When they arrived, Sophie walked briskly while Max lumbered behind her. The ticket attendant already had her hand on the “Closed” sign by the time Sophie got to the window. “Two tickets, please.” said Sophie breathlessly.

“I’m sorry, the only tickets we have are at the very back of the house. Is that ok?”

“Yes! No problem.” Sophie checked her watch and bit her lip as the ticket attendant processed the payment. The ticket attendant passed the tickets to Sophie who handed one to Max as he approached. Max looked at the ticket and scowled.

“ZZ 25?”

“I have ZZ 24. That means I have the best seat in the house, right next to you.”

Max rolled his eyes. “Listen, I’m going to pass. Tell me how it is.”

“You’re not coming in? Where are you going?”

“I don’t know, a bar I guess.”

“Please, Max. We’ve made it this far.”

“Maybe this is as far as we go…”

“What are you saying Max? What are you talking about?”

“I can’t keep doing this.”

“Doing what? Going with the flow? You’ve done nothing but complain all night!”

“Exactly. That’s just who I am. OK?”

Sophie didn’t respond. She just wiped the tears from her eyes as she watched him walk away.

The Inevitable Disruption of the Logistics Industry

I have meditated on this long on hard. I have tried to convince myself otherwise. Despite my best efforts, I believe resolutely that the logistics industry will be disrupted in the next 20 years.

When I look at the series of industries that have been disrupted by software/technology, I see a pattern. The industries that produce commodities grow as our understanding of science grows (mining, farming, plastics). Science is still the lowest hanging fruit to pluck for increased gains. On the other hand, service based industries are being eaten alive by software. Look at Uber and AirBnB. AI is on the verge of assisting doctors with prescriptions. Amazon has replaced bookkeepers. Duolingo serves to teach us instead of hiring tutors. There are even AI customer service bots! It’s only a matter of time until software consumes all of the service industry.

The entire logistics industry has three fatal flaws. The first company to fix one flaw will be crowned victor, while the last company will be taken out back behind the shed.

  1. Lack of Transparency

I can speak from personal experience that the whole industry lacks transparency. When I track a shipment I’ve outsourced to another company (or when a customer tracks a shipment on our website), I’m usually presented with a location and date. This is the absolute bare minimum. If the shipment is late, it doesn’t say why. If the shipment is sitting in one location, it doesn’t say why. The reason it’s late, or sitting, is usually because a human hasn’t clicked the buttons to update the shipment.

This snowballs into catastrophic proportions. Imagine a shipment going from our Chicago office to our San Francisco office that is a day late. The customer calls me and asks where the shipment is. I call the San Francisco office. They call the truck dispatcher who calls the truck driver. Meanwhile, the customer is sometimes a third party, so they’re calling their customer. I do this at least once a week because we don’t technically track shipments. We keep a digital record of where the shipment should be. We don’t even track trucks, just their departure and estimated arrival times. It’s a colossal waste of everyone’s time. This could easily be solved by RFID tags on shipments and GPS trackers on trucks.

  1. Interchange / Outsourcing

Most logistics companies don’t go to South Bend, Indiana. If I have a shipment that needs to get to South Bend, I have to either tell my customer to give the shipment to someone else… or I could give the shipment to someone else. Most of the time customers prefer the second option. It allows them to have a single point of contact. It’s easier to have a middle man to take care of problems than to micromanage each shipment.

There was a time when the only way to manage your money was by hiring a financial advisor. Remember when everyone either did their taxes by hand, or hired a tax attorney? Now we have digital financial advisors and TurboTax. Middle men were automated away. That is going to happen to logistics as soon as someone clever enough can figure out the TurboTax of logistics.

  1. Lack of Universal Language

We recently agreed to ship freight for a new customer. For the first four weeks we manually entered 30 shipments per night. For the first four weeks we manually entered 30 shipments per night. WHAT?? Our customer’s software didn’t communicate with our software, so they simply printed a piece of paper for each shipment, handed the stack to the driver, who handed them to me, and I manually entered them into the computer with a punch card (not really, but it felt that way).

That strategy is fine for now, but labor will only continue to get more expensive. I know that this experience is the norm for the industry. I know that highschool students wasted away applying for university after university. Back in my day, we had to apply for each school one by one! Now they have a universal college application. Once there is an industry standard for communication between companies, this problem goes away.

It’s sad to think about the end of the industry you work it. At the same time, I’m hopeful. I’m excited. I can’t wait to ride the wave. This is going to be a wild ride.

Shark Teeth Island Escape [short fiction]

The holes were still moist. indicating they were recent. Captain Riggs paced the yellow sand beach. He navigated the holes, five feet deep and five feet wide, pockmarking the beachscape and made his way to a particularly deep and wide crater. There was nothing to see now, but judging by the bloody body parts scattered between the holes, the infamous, vile, and villainous pirate, Captain Tobbias Shank had been through here. There was no mistaking his work. Lieutenant Ligots strode up and saluted.

“Sir, we’ve just received a message via carrier pigeon from Admiral Addison.”

“Well don’t play coy, what does it say?”

“You’d better read it yourself,” said Lieutenant Ligots as he handed over the scroll.


The message read:

Captain Rigs and crew,

When we first assigned you the task of apprehension and retrieval of Captain Shank, we had either over estimated your prowess or underestimated his cunning. While you faff about on the high seas, our enemies humiliate us on our own shores. We lose battle after battle. This endeavor has turned into a wild goose chase. You are to return at once. We look forward to your return. Please send a reply via this courier pidgeon.

Admiral Addison


Captain Riggs crumpled the letter in his hands.

“What should I reply, Captain?”

“Nothing. Kill the bird.”

“Captain? What are you saying? Going against the commands of the Admiral is treasonous.”

“They’re hedging their bets. But we’ve come too far. We can’t give up now. Besides, we’re hot on his trail.”

Lieutenant Ligots raised his eyebrows at that. “We are sir? Where has he gone now?”

“We’ve been following him for weeks now. He’s been sailing due East, only making stops at nearby islands to plunder treasure from the locals. You know as well as I do what’s East of here.”

“The Shark Teeth? Sir you can’t be serious!”

“It’s the only explanation for how he manages to disappear. Get the men ready, we set sail in an hour.”


Captain Riggs watched the men ready the ship. They ran frantically to and fro, strapping down every loose barrel, prepping the spare rope, giving the decks one last swabbing. He pulled out his NetherCompas from his inner breast pocket in his jacket. He idly flipped the cover open and closed, open and closed. He pulled the tether gently. The compass inside revved up and spun. Captain Riggs began to feel woozy. The world around him spun. His knees grew weak. His hand fell open and the NetherCompass fell to the sand. He picked it up, brushed off the sand, and snapped it shut.


They were following close in their smaller ship. They were faster, better armed, and had more seasoned sailors. The Shark Teeth Islands was the most dangerous place in the whole sea to dock. It was the last place anyone would look. Captain Riggs felt confident this must be Captain Shank’s hideout. Captain Riggs stood behind the man manning the wheel. He could see the whites of his men’s eyes. They wore their fear like a beggar wears his only cloak. Seasoned sailors they may be, but no one was foolish enough to dock in the Shark Teeth Islands. Yet here they were heading straight for them. Overhead, Magpie shouted, “I see ’em! I see ’em! Up ahead just on the horizon. We’re gaining on him!”


There it was, a black speck dwarfed by mammoth mountains rising out of the sea, jutting in every direction into the sea. Marble white cliffs, sheer and steep, threatened to gobble up anyone daring to get close. They formed a series of peninsulas like a hundred fingered hand holding a watery earth in its palm. It wasn’t long before the black speck on the horizon grew to the size of a woodmite. It’s black flag whipping the air as surely as the captain was whipping his crew to spur them on. The woodmite evolved into a black dire wolf, sauntering into a cave. The cliffs loomed large ahead. Bigger and bigger the ship grew. The men stole glances whenever they could between their duties to watch the fate of Captain Shank’s ship. Captain Rigg’s ship came within firing distance. The men held their breath in anticipation, not sure if they would need to run to the cannons, or the sails to turn tail. Then… Captain Shank’s ship capsized… Just like that. A hush fell across the ship, sure that Captain Riggs would give the order turn around the ship to safety. The order never came. Instead Captain Riggs announced, “Make all sail!” The men, unaccustomed to folly, but accustomed to following orders burst into action. Everyone ran to their position and pulled the appropriate rigging to get the ship to sail even faster to the treacherous cliffs.


They too, pulled up to the cliffs. The water sloshed and churned as they got closer. It bubbled so much that it appeared to be boiling. Captain Riggs pulled out the NetherCompass again, and opened the cover. He held it firmly in his left hand, and the tether in the right hand. This time he yanked the cord. The compass whirled wildly. His vision blurred. He dropped to his knees, but gripped the compass with white knuckles. The men wailed. They gripped onto the ship for dear life. The ship, as if abandoning all semblance of being controlled by man and relinquishing all mastery to a wild and unknown nature, tipped left, farther and farther. Then tipped so far that the ship capsized.


Miraculously, the ship kept tipping, even after being completely submerged, and reemerged right side up, dry as a feather. The water drained from each of the decks, returning to the sea like ducklings to their mother. The men checked themselves for damage, and no worse for wear, began to hoot and holler. They hugged each other and cried tears that would never be spoken of ever again. Behind them, the Shark Teeth reached out for them, empty and hungry. Ahead, Captain Shank and his band of scallywags had made a smidgen of progress away from them.


“Alright, boys. This is it. This is what we came here to do. Man the hoist! Pull up quick! Cut the sails! We want their rears to face our cannons. Make all sail!” yelled Captain Riggs.


The men ran frantically, scurrying about to and fro like an anthill set on fire. Their ship crept closer to Captain Shank’s ship like a lion stalking its prey. Just as it was approaching firing range, it stopped and made a hard right turn. The cannons let off a volley of missiles. A hail of iron rained down on Captain Shank’s ship. Wood splinters exploded along the deck and in the aft of the ship. A cheer rang out. Captain Shank and his men made a hard right right turn to get away.


“Wait for it… Hold steady, boys…” told Captain Riggs to his men. Captain Shank couldn’t turn his ship as nimbly as he would like, and Captain Riggs knew it.


“Now!” The sails unfurled again and launched the ship forward. It rocketed on a trajectory right into the side of Captain Shank’s ship. Captain Shank unleashed his own round of fire, but it was weak and early and fell well short of the oncoming ship.


One ship collided into the other. A crack split the ship in two with the sound of thunder. It rocked back and forth. Captain Shank’s men froze. They look at each other and acknowledged the feeling in each of their guts. It was something they had never felt before. It was the feeling of sinking, despair, and fear. There was nowhere left to run, to hide, and no hope of fighting. They collectively looked to their captain. The captain bowed his head and retreated to the Captain’s Cabin. He returned holding a white flag.


Captain Riggs had his prisoners lined up. He walked along the line and stopped when he got to Captain Shank, who wore a particular smirk.

“What’s so funny?” asked Captain Riggs.

“You think this the first time I be caught? You think you’re the first to sink my ship, eh? Just wait until Admiral Addison hears of this,” said Captain Shank.

“Admiral Addison? Admiral Addison has personally put out a warrant for your arrest. I am sure he cannot wait to hear of your capture and return to Britain.”

“Oh Aye. I’m sure he wants me back for Christmas.”

“Christmas? You sound like you know the man. Are you mad?”

“He’s my brother,” said Captain Shank with a cheeky grin. “He looks after me as blood should. He wants to make sure I’m doing well and taken care of. Speaking ‘a which, this is a mighty fine ship you’ve got here. I’d be a shame if someone… were to steal it.”


The Future of Logistics

After working in logistics for a whopping seven months, it’s safe to consider me an expert in the field. Based on my extensive experience, I feel confident in giving my predictions for the future.

Logistics has a problem within the field with differentiating the players. Freight is freight. The only real distinguishing factor is the price. Some people are willing to pay more to make sure their freight rides on a name-brand freight line. It’s a similar problem that the convenience store field faces. For the most part, every convenience store is interchangeable. Some are a little cleaner but that’s about it.

It’s no secret to Costco members that buying in bulk saves a considerable amount of money. The same concept applies to the field of logistics. It would be expensive to send a single pallet of goods. Customers send their goods to a single location, which sends it in bulk, and passes on the savings back to the customers. Now… do we need 100 brands of Costco?

The answer is painfully obviously “no.” There’s just Costco and Sam’s Club. Now the question is, do we need 100 brands of logistics? I think not. And now for the predictions:

In the next 10 years

  • Purchases, mergers, and joint ventures will continue to rise.
  • Uber Freight will be a main player
  • The Tesla self driving truck will be adopted and used
  • Amazon and/or Walmart will purchase a logistics company.
  • Drones will make small deliveries: maybe beer at a baseball game or water on a beach

Multi-verse Theories verse Multiple Theories

I read a blog called Slate Star Codex, and the most recent post is about “Is a multiple universe theory scientific?” https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/11/06/building-intuitions-on-non-empirical-arguments-in-science/


On the one hand, there’s no evidence. This leads people to say it’s not scientific. On the other hand, a single universe theory doesn’t explain everything and a multi-verse theory explains more. In support of the second position, Slate Star Codex posted: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/11/18/more-intuition-building-on-non-empirical-science-three-stories/


Which has two examples of non-evidence based theories that we currently believe. 1. We believe that mixing an acid and a base creates just a salt and water, and not salt, water, and a supernova somewhere in space that’s untestable. Even though it’s not testable, we choose to believe the simpler idea. 2. We believe that fossils came from dinosaurs and not the devil planting them even though the devil theory is simpler. The point is that it’s not just about a simpler theory.


This is missing the big picture. The whole point of science is that it’s predictive. The difference between science and art, is that science predicts the future. It’s an explicit if-then statement about nature. If you water your plants, then they will grow (holding all other variables constant, of course). If there is a supernova everytime someone mixes an acid and a base, then we should see a spike in cosmic radiation. If the devil planted bones, then we should find the devil’s shovel, or mounds of disturbed dirt around the bones, or all the bones should seem reasonably the same age regardless of where they are found.


The multi-verse theory isn’t scientific, not because it lacks evidence, but because it’s not predictive. If someone says we live in a simulation, we should see evidence of that. I should be able to predict that we’d see glitches in the Matrix. That kind of non-evidence based speculation isn’t science, it’s just a great book.

Podunk Town Rescue

“Quick! Get Doctor Drisle!”

“Doctor! Doctor!”

The shouting in the streets was cacophonous. The dust kicked up caused it to be impossible to even see across the street. A boy of 17 ran up to the crowd, nearly pulling the doctor behind him.

“Diggory. Diggory, can you hear me? We’re losing him. Bedford, take your handkerchief and press it against his chest to stop the bleeding. Elroy, you grab him under his shoulders and I’ll get his feet. We need to get him to my operating table,” said the doctor.


Billings was dropped on the operating table like a sack of potatoes. The doctor went to the supply cabinet and pulled down a glass bottle of spirits from the top shelf.

“It’s a little early to be drinking, isn’t it Doc?”

“Shut up, it’s not for me.”

The doctor propped up Billings and tipped the bottle to his lips. In his dreary state, he took several heavy draughts before his senses caught up to him, causing him to cough and sputter.

“Hold him down, this is going to hurt.”

The doctor splashed the spirits on the bullet hole in his chest. Billings jerked and writhed like a man possessed.


There was a knock at the open door.

“Not now.” Said the doctor without looking up.

There was the unmistakable sound of a revolver being cocked. Doctor Drisle froze.

“Well that’s a fine hello, sweetheart. After these five long years. No, ‘welcome back, Billy?’”

Doctor Drisle looked up finally to see the man in the doorway. He stood tall in a sweat stained black suit in this cruel summer heat. Hanging from his vest pocket was a gold chain. In both hands he held a scuffed and worn gun. Though his clothes looked worse for wear, his mustache was perfectly trimmed. He was the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on.

Doctor Drisle said through gritted teeth, “Now is not a good time.”

“I don’t have much time. I’m just passing through.”

“Billings doesn’t have much time! But I guess you don’t care much for life, do ya Billy?”

“Not unless they got gold.”

Billings moaned and contorted his face.

“Well, guess what. I don’t care much for your life, no matter how much gold you got.” said Doctor Drisle. She pulled back her white lab coat to reveal a gun at her hip.

“We used to be such a pair, Delly. I just thought I’d stop in and see if you’d changed your mind after being stuck in this podunk town.”


Set Thrusters to Full Power

“Set thrusters to full power”

“Sir? There’s not enough fuel-”

“I said do it! That’s an order.”

The command room fell silent, as silent as space itself. The Lieutenant Miaga looked at Commander Frig. Commander Frig looked at Navigator Pezco. None of them moved.

“Aye sir,” said Commander Frig demurely. He touched his Tella device next to his ear to activate it. “Bridge to engine room, this is Commander Frig. Set thrusters to full power.”

A tinny sound emanated from everywhere and nowhere around the room, “Copy that Frig. You do know that at full power, we will run out of fuel before we get to Mars, right?”

“We know Lolla.” Commander Frig lowered his hand and turned to Miaga. “Lieutenant, get your men to battle stations. I want to be armed and ready in 15. Got it?”

“Aye sir.” With a nod, she turned and walked out the door.

“Nav, how are we looking?”

“We’re still 0.01483 light-years out.”

“And the USSF?”

“They’re gaining on us. Unless we execute evasive maneuvers they’ll be all over us in 30 minutes.”

“Captain Adrar, may I have a word with you?”


The two of them walked along the grey hallway in silence for some time until Commander Frig coughed and broke the silence. Captain Adrar walked tall, but wore the expression of someone attending a funeral.

“Sir, with all do respect, how in the world are we supposed to get back to Mars safely? Our fuel’s almost out. The USSR will be on us at any moment.”

Captain Adrar looked him straight in the eye. “You’re right, we’re not going to make it.” and with that he walked on.

September & October 2019 Report

Time flies when you get older. Speaking of which, I got older. Yay!

After working at Mainfreight for six months, I’d like to share what the heck I do all day. I started working with our Canada shipments. For Mainfreight, all of our US shipments going to Canada must go through our Chicago branch to our Toronto branch. Their paperwork needs to be in order (the equivalent of a passport, but for packages). I corresponded with the corporate equivalent of border patrol.

When the person working night shift suddenly fell ill for an indefinite period, the veterans of the group took turns working night shift in week long stints. I knew that eventually I’d be roped in, and that I would hate wrecking my sleep schedule once per month, so I took the plunge and volunteered as “Night Operations.” My job for the past four months has been to determine how shipments get moved off of our dock. If they are going to, let’s say Baltimore, we could send it on our Mainfreight truck to New Jersey, which leaves every Wednesday and Friday. It’s a two day trip. Plus one day from New Jersey to Baltimore. I have to calculate in my head if the shipment is due late enough to put on the truck. On one hand, I want as much on our Mainfreight trucks as possible (that’s how we make money as a branch and as a company). On the other hand, there’s always the risk that it will miss the transfer in New Jersey, making the shipment late. I could just send it directly to Baltimore, but we don’t make as much money that way. I do that calculation in my head for every single shipment going in every direction across America from Chicago. Then you have to add in all of the exceptions, as each customer has different requirements to how you send it. Some would rather be a day late if it means that it rides on a Mainfreight truck. Some never want to be on a Mainfreight truck. If I want to send a shipment direct, such as to Baltimore, I need to outsource it to one of two companies / competitors. Both of those companies go to most cities, but I have to memorize the exceptions. One of my crowning achievements in this position was the cessation of sending out Pittsburgh shipments via New Jersey. Pittsburgh seems like it’s much closer to New Jersey than Chicago right? It’s only seven hours from Chicago and five from New Jersey. By sending our Pittsburgh shipments to New Jersey we were taking up space on the Mainfreight truck which could have been used for something else, not to mention delaying those shipments. Now we send them direct. On the flip side, Denver is surprisingly only one day away from Dallas, so I have instituted a rule that we add Denver shipments to our Dallas truck.

I could handle it fine at a certain level of shipments, but as soon as that threshold was breached, I was overwhelmed. I had shipments coming out of my wazoo and couldn’t route them out fast enough. It seemed like no matter how many hours I worked, I couldn’t keep up. I was failing over and over at my job. Finally they hired not one, but two people to replace me. One is now in charge of planning the what goes on trucks and the other, who I am training now, is going to take care of the outsourcing of shipments. I am ecstatic! Not only will I be relieved of this high-stakes job, I will be relieved of night shift. Woot! Starting Nov 19th, they’ll all say, “Damn! I didn’t realize how good you were at this job, you did excellent all things considered.”

I’ve been going to Toastmasters. I received a standing ovation and a ribbon for giving my first speech ever (everyone gets a standing ovation and a ribbon, but hey it still feels good) and a series of compliments for an evaluation I gave, including a special mention from the president.

Can you believe I haven’t moved in 11 months? I sure can’t. That’s why I’m moving. I LOVE my studio apartment in downtown chicago. I get starry eyed whenever I walk the 0.1 miles from where I park my car to my apartment. However, the time has come for me to settle down. I’m house shopping now. I’m hoping to move in January.

I stopped journaling in early September. Let me tell you, I feel… nothing. I don’t notice any difference whatsoever. Most of my entries consisted of, “Today was good. I’m sleepy now.” Maybe I have to write about my feelings to get any benefit. I’m ok to let that habit die.



We have so much fun at work. My teammates are easily the best part of my job. I’m thrilled to be among such happy, friendly, helpful people all day.


At the Downtown Chicago Water Pumping Station

Little known fact: Chicago has the world’s largest water purifying station. It’s hidden… right next to Navy Pier. The downtown pumping station is actually beautifully decorated on the inside. It also houses a theater and a one room library. There was an open house downtown where they hosted tours and gave a short lecture. I almost bumped into Mayor Lightfoot there. I saw her retinue of body guards before I saw her.

I officially started as a Hospice Volunteer. I have a patient that I visit every Friday before work. She just talks endlessly. It’s effortless for me to listen and prompt her to say more and she always seems to enjoy my company.



  • Empress by Evelyn McCune
  • Citadel by Kate Moss
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • Maze Runner by James Dashner


  • La La Land
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Song of the month

  • Long Road to Ruin by Foo Fighters
  • Baby Girl, I’m a Blur by Say Anything

Stock Trading Performance

  • YTD
    • -$1,045.53
  • September & October
    • -$229.64
  • Roth IRA
Screenshot from 2019-11-09 23-57-18.png
  • Elon Musk performs stunts to generate buzz for Tesla. I’m convinced he keeps the stock price pumped up with his silly antics such as starting frivolous companies like the Boring Company and the flamethrower thing.
  • The point of fiction, on a fundamental level, is to provide simulations. Your brain is like… an AI. It’s machine learning and it needs new situations in order to predict to pros and cons of different behaviors.
  • Don’t forget to get your flu shot! It’s like the number one preventable killer. If enough of us get the vaccine, we can establish herd immunity. Herd immunity not only protects the elderly, young, immunodeficient folks, and those not able to receive the vaccine, but it brings us one step closer to making the flu like Polio; a thing of the past.

September & October Survey Results

  • https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RUmBRZrlaY6hkz7qkDjyZfM7Rbu_oRjnTCXO8X2ZDC0/edit#responses

Noble Hearts

Author’s note: I wrote this whole long story in several different word processors, only to find that my blog erases all of my formatting. Below is the pure text. Link to a properly formatted document here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ESz_rOOaJVCuLG7OUWJmJhJL4XafxEzWWcRbNDbEkMo/edit?usp=sharing

Chapter One

“Come here, little lad. I won’t hurt you,” said Gustavio.

A little squeak emanated from the dark space behind the cabinet. Gustavio collected a few cheese and bread crumbs from the floor. He sprinkled them just outside the hole.

“Just a little further, little lad. I’ll help you get to freedom.”

First whiskers, then innocent black eyes poked through the hole. The mouse nibbled on the scraps. When he was finished, he emerged from hiding in search of more.

Quick as a wink, Gustavio snatched him up. “Gotcha” Let’s get you out of here.”

He opened up the door and let him out into the pre-dawn glow.

“Don’t come back, You’re lucky I found you. If the prince found you instead, you’d be dead… or wishing you were. Now go. Go!”

Today was Saturday, which meant that the prince would be expecting his cornmeal flat cakes for breakfast with maple syrup. Then the bath needed hot water. Plus he’d need help dressing for the public address. All in a day’s work.

With the stove fired up, Gustavio poured the premade batter into the pan.

“Mornin’, love. Got an early start this morning, eh?” said Ganda. Her rebellious hair was springing a revolt against her bonnet. “I’ve got to. The prince has the most demands of the royal family and the kitchen gets so busy. Besides, it gives me a chance to clear out the tiny creatures before anyone has a chance to kill them.”

“Oh bosh. You’ve got a big heart, just not much use out of it.”

“What do you mean?”

She cocked an eyebrow at the boy. “Suppose I ask you to get some lard from the cellar…”

A shade crossed the boy’s face and despite his best efforts, it shown clearly. Ganda let loose a laugh that was clear and pure as a church bell.

“You’ll have to go down there eventually, love. My old bones won’t hold up this frame forever. Ah well, enough gobbering. I oughta get a start myself.”

Ganda gathered her ingredients to whip up breakfast for the queen and got to work on Gustavio’s left. Rusa, Linea, Oroe, and Coulran entered next. Soon the kitchen was a stew of smells: sweet, savory, buttery, and juicy. The bells tolled seven times. The signal for breakfast was at hand. Last preparations were made. Garnishes were added. Gustavio readied his tray to bring to the prince.

Chapter Two

“Come on out, my little subject. I won’t hurt you.” said Prince Zalve with a smirk. “Yes, that’s it. Just a little more. Little more.” Shink! The sound of the prince’s dagger piercing flesh punctuated the air.

“That’s what you get for not minding your own business, rat.” Prince Zalve turned around to find Gustavio standing in the doorway, gobsmacked, the tray contents rattling slightly.

“You’re late, Servant.”

“Bu- bu- but your Highness, it’s only been a few minutes since the seventh bell.”

Prince Zalve walked up and backhanded him. A red mark marred Gustavio’s face, which was normally only noticeable for his flat nose and myriad freckles.

“I said you’re late. Set the tray down and dispose of this, servant boy; the rat, not the dagger, mind you. Ugh, disgusting. I’ve lost my appetite. Throw away the food while you’re at it.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Gustavio dashed through the castle hallways to the nearest courtyard and buried the rat at the base of tenacious tree roots. Before returning, he made sure the dagger was spotlessly clean.

Once back in the prince’s chamber, he handed the dagger to the prince by presenting the dagger horizontally, the tip on one hand and the handle on the other. When the prince grabbed it up, the tip pricked Gustavio’s hand, drawing a bead of blood.

“About time you’re back. What took you so long? Come, help me get dressed.”

The prince walked to the wardrobe and dressed down to his underwear. Gustavio stood behind Prince Zalve in front of the mirror. The contrast was stark. Even though the prince was only a few years older, he stood (stood) a head taller than Gustavio; even with Gustavio’s fiery red curls. The prince practiced glaring into his own eyes, determined to intimidate his reflection. Gustavio’s eyes were big and full of fright from just being so close to the prince.

“I’m bored. Converse with me, servant.”

“Are you ready for today’s public address, sir?”

“Ha! I’ve been born ready. Today’s the day when I name my betrothed. My campaign to bring our kingdom back to its former glory begins today.”

“What of your father, sir?”

“My father is weak! Weak of mind and body. His placidity has been our downfall since he took the throne. I shall not make the same mistakes. When my turn comes to rule, I will be ready.”

“And your betrothed sir, who have you chosen to be your lucky wife?”

“First wife, actually. A servant girl, named Thizdella. Perhaps you’ve crossed paths with her here in the castle. I hear she is popular with the peasants. I’ll need their support at the beginning.” Gustavio’s eyes grew even wider upon hearing the name. “A wise choice, m’lord.” Gustavio finished by clasping the cape onto the prince.

Chapter Three

Thizdella beat the sheets to launder them. The whole castle was incapable of sleeping without sweating out an entire lake’s worth of water, even in winter. For better or for worse, it gave Thizdella a job. Everyday there were more sheets, towels, and undergarments to launder. It was laborious, monotonous work. The one redeeming quality is that she had plenty of time to gossip with the other lady servants.

“You girls ever take a gander at Oroe?” said Caula.

“What? Of course not! He’s married to Ganda,” said Tane.

“Well, sure. But there’s no harm in looking.” said Caula, sticking out her tongue. “I mean those big arms… That wide back…”

“Stop! What if Ganda hears?” said Tane. She splashed water at Caula playfully.

“What about you, Thizdella? Who’s caught your eye? Surely there’s some boy you fantasize about,” said Caula.

Crimson rose up Thizdella’s cheeks.

“Ooooh, look at those cheeks glow. Hmm, who could it be? Oh! How about that Gustavio boy? Haha, you should see your face. You look like you’ve been baking in the sun too long, dear! Oh my, we should play Gambler’s Gambit someday. I’ll clean you out of your rations in just a few hands,” said Caula.

Just then, Gustavio burst through the door. “Del!”

“Tavi!” said Thizdella.

The whole room fell silent as a graveyard. Half the eyes watched Gustavio, half watched Thizdella. Gustavio immediately regretted rushing it. It was a huge mistake. He tried uttering something several times, then settled for mumbling something unintelligible, and closed the door behind him.

Thizdella, eyes wide, looked from woman to woman, unsure what to do next.

“Go, child! What are you waiting for? If anyone comes looking for you, we’ll say you’re fetching more soap. Just be quick about it.”

Outside the laundry room, Thizdella pressed Gustavio to the wall. She searched his eyes for answers like an ancient cartographer reading an old map. Her concern showed on her face in the deep wrinkles on her forehead.

“What’s wrong?”

“The Prince aims to propose marriage to you. Today at the Public Address. What are we going to do?”

“Oh no! We have to run. I can’t marry that awful man. It’s too horrible to think about.” Thizdella shuddered at the thought.

“But where? How will we get out? What will we do?”

Thizdella bit her lip, “There is a way out. There’s a trap door at the back on the dungeon. I found it one day when I was cleaning down there.”

“Where does it lead?”

She pressed her lips together and looked down. “I don’t know.”

“We’ve never been on the outside. How will we live?”

A single teardrop fell away from her angelic face and landed on the stone floor. It left a dark mark. That was all the answer he needed. He pulled her chin up.

“Listen, we’ll get out of this. Together. You and me. We’ll figure something out. Trust me. Meet me in the dungeon at midnight.”

“No. I don’t finish my duties until well after midnight. You have to go through the trapdoor without me.”

“We should go through the trapdoor together. I’ll wait in the dungeon until you get there.”

“You have to go through first. You can’t wait in the dungeon. Trust me. Meet me on the other side. Promise me you won’t dwell in the dungeon. Promise me.”

“I… I don’t like it, but if you insist.”


Gustavio laid in bed, half paralyzed from the fear of what comes after the dungeon, half paralyzed from the familiar ache of a long day’s work. Today had been especially strenuous. Not only did his muscles and joints ache, his bones ached. It hurt to move. The dungeon dominated his every waking hour since talking to Thizdella. He imagined dancing skeletons, devious imps, and malicious spirits. He broke into a sweat thinking about it. His body shook like he was experiencing a personal earthquake. He picked at his nails until they were as jagged as a steak knife. He chewed his lower lip till it bled.

For some three hours he lay there, waiting, hoping without reason that Thizdella might be waiting for him in the dungeon. Maybe he would find her on the way there. The candle on the window sill had nearly consumed itself and lay in a slump, outlined by a sea of stars in the night sky that were in the process of consuming themselves too. Finally the candle sputtered and spat, relinquishing it’s vital spirit to the endless atmosphere. It was now or never.

He rolled out of his lumpy, moldy, straw bed and threw on his mud-colored canvas tunic and trousers. They still smelled of garlic and rosemary and sweat from working in the kitchen that afternoon. Finally he laced up his leather boots. His bag was already packed with all of his essential belongings, which wasn’t much.

It was a quick walk to the dungeon since the servants’ quarters were already on the ground floor. He lifted the iron bar that crossed the door, which existed to prevent it from being opened from the dungeon side. It was a heavy oak door, splintered and rough on the outside, lacquered in patches with something black… or red on the inside. It was hard to tell in the dim light. Once opened, a cacophony rang out. A mix of mutilated pleas, murmured threats, and desperate denials of criminality. Gustavio wasted no time slipping in before someone heard.

The door shut behind him, and with a sound of a sword piercing a chest plate, Gustavio knew that the iron bar had fallen back into place. There was no backing out now. After several attempts, he was able to light a small torch. The sounds and his shaking hands made it that much harder. He couldn’t see much, but what he could see horrified him. Sallow skin with bloodshot empty eyes watched his every move. They weren’t demons or dancing skeletons, but humans reduced to their bestial state, which was almost worse. He checked his torch. It wouldn’t last long. No time to waste pitying the damned. Still, he lingered for a moment, hoping that Thizdella would walk in.

Gustavio walked down every row and column of prisoners searching for a trap door. He nearly stumbled on a pile of bones which were arranged conspicuously into a pyramid. He heaved at the thought of what he was about to do. He kicked the pile at the base and sent the majority of bones scattering. Little rats skittered away. Lo and behold, there was a trap door, with motley lacquering just as the door to the entrance was. It had a rusted metal ring which he pulled up, releasing a plume of musty air. He coughed a few times and descended the wooden makeshift ladder. He made sure to place his feet on the outermost portion of the rungs, since many of the rungs threatened to snap or had already been snapped by the previous descender.

His torch was now halfway through. He stood in a stone tunnel. Ahead of him lay a black void. The walls were coated with a thick ooze of ancient water that had nowhere to go and had instead congealed, at least, that is what he told himself. With no other option but to go but forward, he processed.

The tunnel was long and straight. He figured that it must lead due north, though the destination was still a mystery. He had never learned to read, never taken an interest in geography, nor ever conceived of a life outside of a castle. He had always planned on being a servant in the castle until his final breath, and if he could manage, would someday marry Thizdella. Now that looked unlikely, though Thizdella seemed keen on staying with him for at least awhile longer.

Finally the torch got so short, that it singed his fingers. In reflex, he dropped it to the ground where it fizzled out. He was submerged in darkness like falling backward into a lake of ink. It was perfect darkness. His ears started picking up sounds they didn’t before. A drip echoed from a distance. The sound of his breathing was punctuated by the sound of his heartbeat.

He continued on, now blind. He dragged his right hand along the way, just in case the tunnel turned, or there was a doorway. The worst case scenario would be that this tunnel dead-ended. In that case, he would keep his right hand on the wall and hope desperately for an opening on the west side of the tunnel. He didn’t want to think of what would happen if he had to return to the castle.

His boots stomped one after the other. It felt like he was a pack animal walking endless circles to power the wheat mill. On the edge of his consciousness, he could hear a scritching, snickering sound. He halted temporarily to make sure it wasn’t an echo from his walking. It wasn’t. His pulse and pace picked up. His heartbeat boomed in his chest. Surely it wouldn’t be long before he got to the end of the tunnel.

The sound was getting louder… He couldn’t take it any longer. He broke into a sprint, removing his hand from the safety of the wall. His forehead and pits were now coated in sweat.

Without warning, his toe slammed into stone. His hands connected with the cold steps as he caught it fall. He was shaken, but otherwise unscathed. After a few deep breaths, he pushed himself up, brushed himself off, and felt his way up the stairs. They lead up to a wooden door. He pushed the door open and walked through.

Chapter Four

Inside, a fire illuminated a large room with a large man hunched on his elbows on a wooden countertop. Behind the man was a wall covered with weapons and armor that would have made even the king drool. Each sword had a cut gem embedded in the hilt. Each chest plate was embellished with gold leaf and engravings. They looked just as functional as they looked decorated.

The man wore a sour look. His nose was bulbous and red. Atop his head was a horseshoe of curly white hair, matching his mutton chops. His shoulders were large and square, the opposite of his stomach which was nearly spherical.

“What are you doing going through the secret tunnel? Who are you, lad?”

Gustavio stumbled over his words since was caught off guard. Finally he spat out, “I’m Gustavio, a servant of the king. I’m looking for my-, a girl, Thizdella. Has she come this way?”

“No one has passed this way, lady or otherwise,” said the man.

“Could I just wait here for her?”

“In that corner? Sure. I don’t see why not.”

Gustavio waited for only a short while. His feet were tired from the long trek and the long day of work. He would need to find shelter once Thizdella arrived.

“You don’t happen to know of a place I could post up for the night, do you, sir?”

“Unfortunately not. There’s not much available in town. And you wouldn’t want to stay at the places that are available.”

“Maybe I could stay here? You must have an extra room. Maybe a cellar you’re not using?”

“Well, I have a cellar -”

“Great!” interrupted Gustavio

“-But it’s infested with rats,” continued the man.

“Ah.” said Gustavio deflated.

“I have stores of goods down there that I haven’t been able to access since my old knees have given up on me. No one else will fetch my goods on account of the rats. I’ll make you a deal. If you remove the rats for me, I will allow you to stay there. I’ll even invite you to sup with me,”

“That’s great! I’ll get started now.”

The man smirked, laughter hiding in his eyes. He showed Gustavio over to a trap door and a wooden ladder that lead into a dark room below. He lowered a lit torch on a fishing line into the room. Gustavio got down on his stomach to get a better view inside. He couldn’t see much, even with the torch. Then he spotted it. Two rubies burning a few inches apart, staring right at him. They circled around the suspended torch. The beast was the size of the king’s dogs. The tails could be mistaken for a fully-grown snake. The claws were making scritching noises on the stone floor below them. It was the same sound that haunted Gustavio in the tunnel. This must have been the source. All of his running didn’t bring him farther; it brought him right to them.

The man watched in mild amusement as the blood drained from Gustavio’s face.

“Don’t you fret, my boy,” said the man as he turned back to his counter. “Here. Take this sword. I call it Firepoker”

The word, “sword,” was a generous one. It was a block of wood skewered by a crooked thin beam. Gustavio figured out that the wooden block must be the hand guard, and that the blade must have indeed once been used to prod burning logs in a previous life, but was now sharpened.

“Go on. Don’t be scared.”

“Maybe I could borrow that before I got in?” said Gustavio pointing to the ornately decorated armor hanging on the wall.

“Ha! I doubt it would fit you. It is more likely that it slow you down. Go now, while they still think you’re weak. You can get a jump on them. Unless you’d rather wait here for your lady?”

Gustavio heaved a great sigh and plunged into the darkness.

Chapter Five

Gustavio had never fought before. Not once did he even get into a scuffle with the other servants. When he was much younger, he believed in the rumors of legends of Sir Rhawland. Sir Rhawland was the finest knight in all the land. Valiant and gallant, Sir Rhawland had bested many beasties which lurked and loomed in the many forgotten realms of the kingdom. Gustavio tried to pretend he was Sir Rhawland. He descended the wooden ladder with one hand, white knuckling the Firepoker with his other hand. He swung it aimlessly in the general direction of the rat below him. The only good it did was stir the anger of the rat.

Gustavio took one step lower. The rat responded by getting on its hind legs. Another step down and his heels would surely be gnawed down to the bone. Gustavio turned around, placing his heels in the ladder rungs . He tested the rat by dangling his foot just above its nose. The rat made a little jump and hiss, but Gustavio pulled his foot up just in time. Gustavio did it again and again. After the sixth time, Gustavio felt a little more comfortable. On the seventh test, he stabbed the rat in the nose. The rat screeched in pain. It was furious and raced around the ladder. It wouldn’t get on its hind legs anymore for fear of exposing its nose. Gustavio lowered himself a little more and swiped and stabbed at the rat until it gave up. It wasn’t a glorious kill, but it worked.

“Well done, my boy! Well done, indeed.”

Gustavio was feeling proud of himself until he noticed the other two rats on the far end of the room. They were eating something and ignoring him. When they noticed his staring, they turned around and bared their blood-stained teeth.

He got into what he thought might be a fighting stance and used both hands to point his puny sword at them. They both started running at him. The larger jumped and lunged for his midsection. Gustavio held the sword steady, eyes pinched shut, and skewered the rat. The other rat clamped down on his ankle. Pain shot through his leg. That foot felt like it was being pulled off by a torture device. Gustavio struggled through the pain to stab this one, too.

He fell back on his bottom, exhaustion flooding through him. He breathed through his nose for a minute while the walls around him spun.

“Don’t get too comfortable down there,” shouted the man.


Gustavio was halfway up the ladder when the man grabbed him by the back of his shirt and heaved him up. “Well, well, well, how rude of me not to introduce myself. My name is Sund Codswollow, third descending of the Count and Contessa Codswollow. Pleasure to meet you, young sir. And, what is your name?

“The name’s Gustavio, m’lord. I’m just a servant of the prince, no need to give me any ‘sirs.’”

“Ah well, Gustavio. I don’t see any prince here, so there is no reason to consider yourself a servant any longer. Seeing as I didn’t inherit the county, there is no need for any ‘m’lords,’ either, hmm? Just Sund is fine. Say, I am in dire need of a spare set of hands and a strong back to help me run this general store. Why don’t you stay awhile and help, and I will provide food and lodging, hmm?”

“Oh, that’s very generous of you… Sund.” Gustavio choked out the name. He was unused to calling people by their name unless they were other servants. “But I can’t accept. I must wait for my friend Thizdella, who should be arriving at any moment.”

“Suit yourself. There’s still about twelve hours before sundown.” Sund threw up his hands in a shrug and gave him an ample smile.

He looked out the window of the little shop and rubbed the fatigue out of his eyes. The sun was already bounding above the horizon. He must have walked all night. If she was behind him in the tunnel, surely she would have heard him, or he her, on the way here. He limped back into the tunnel. He forgot about his injury until it pained him to put weight on his foot. The wound already stopped bleeding, so it couldn’t have been deep.

He yelled her name but only heard his echo in response. She wouldn’t bail at the last minute like this. Maybe something came up. Maybe she couldn’t get away until tonight. Gustavio resolved to stay until she showed up.

Back in the store, Gustavio cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Sund. I was wondering if… would it be possible… is your offer still good?”

Sund guffawed. “My boy! I would be overjoyed to have you. Come, break your fast with me in the kitchen. Then I’ll show you your room. You look worse than a scarecrow in the rain.

Sund led him through the door behind the counter and through several other rooms into the kitchen, which housed a kitchen table, a chair and a stool, and dusty pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. The room was decorated with as many empty tankards as dirty dishes strewn about. Sund cleared a spot on the kitchen table by redistributing some dishes and tankards. Soon there was a hearty spread of bread slices, orange marmalade, smoked sausage, and full tankard for each of them.

Once Gustavio had his fill, began nodding off in his chair. Sund nudged him on the knee and beckoned to be followed up the stairs. He quickly made the bed. Gustavio fell asleep in his clothes as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Chapter Six

Gustavio woke up in the middle of the night. Beneath him was a modest mattress, but at least it was a mattress. His blanket was made of the same itchy material as potato sacks. He tried to go back to sleep, but it was no use. All he could think about was Thizdella, and how she still hadn’t showed up yet. Reluctantly, he climbed out of bed and washed his face. He needed something to occupy his mind until the sun rose. He resolved to go downstairs to clean up the kitchen. He was nearly done when he got lost in thought again. What if the prince found out about their escape plan? What if he was punishing her right now? She could never escape then. He would never see her again. The sun was brushing the horizon with a salmon hue.

He was shaken out of his train of thought by the loud crash at his feet. A shattered plate was on the floor while his hands were now empty.

“Ugh, stupid, stupid, stupid.” He cursed himself for being so clumsy. There was a stirring from the stairs and Gustavio froze. Sund came storming in brandishing an ornate gold and silver sword with wing-styled hand guard.

“Who goes there?” bellowed Sund. “Oh King’s beard! It’s just you.” Sund braced himself on the door frame and caught his breath. “You gave me quite the fright. What are you doing up this early?”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Gustavio stammered heavily.

Sund sighed deeply. “Well, it is no wonder. You you’ve been through quite a bit in the last day. I must say though, I cannot have you be so easily frightened and completely paralyzed. We live a long way from the King’s Law and I run into a seedy devil once in a while. Not to mention Muldoon lurks about these parts.”

“Who is Muldoon?”

“The most fearsome bear in the king’s land. He terrorizes the local villagers here. I haven’t been able to track him down and kill him myself, with my knees as they are. He took a small child once. Mostly he keeps his distance, though he does scare away even our hardiest lumberjacks away from the choicest lumber. They say his bite can rip the limbs right off the trees and he leaves claw marks on the trunks that go right to the core.

“He sounds terrible.”

“Oh, he is,” Sund said with a chuckle.

Gustavio gave him a quizzical look.

“Well I’m thankful for the monsters of this world. They give the courageous a chance to show off. Anyway, there is no need to worry about ol’ Muldoon. He does all of his hunting at night and there have never been any reports that he has entered a house. Now, you have a mighty lot to get done today. Why don’t you get started on the wood out back. There’s a small pile that needs to be split.”


There was no small pile of wood out back. There was a formidable mountain. The wood had been piled up for some time it seems because the lower logs were laden with moisture. The sun had already crested the blue dome above him by the time he had even made a dent in the pile. His shoulders felt like they were on fire and ready to fall off. Several times, he had to take seven or eight swings just to split a single log. Sund visited and mercifully taught Gustavio better form, as well as taking care of a sizable portion of logs himself. Sund never tired. As far as Gustavio was concerned, with shoulders as big as Sund’s, he could probably rip the logs in half without the ax if he wanted. They took a break for a brief midday meal, a welcome respite for his hot red skin and blistered hands. The meal was a simple stew of potatoes, carrots, and celery in a beef stock. They washed it down with a tankard for Gustavio and two for Sund.

Sund informed him that he would need to clean out the basement of the dead rats and cobwebs. Gustavio was grateful to have an indoor activity to do. While disgusting, cleaning the basement was a simple task that kept his mind occupied without requiring much effort. After a dinner of more stew and beer, Sund asked, “You ever learn how to fight?”

“Fight? Me? No. Not in a million years.”

“Not even if your life depended on it?”

“Probably not.”

“What about your friend? The girl. What if her life depended on it?”

“I suppose I’d do what I could. It wouldn’t be much use. I’ve never learned how to fight, but I’d put in a good effort,” said Gustavio reluctantly.

Sund slammed his tankard on the table. “Then we fix that tonight! Go fetch two brooms.”

Gustavio returned with the one broom covered in cobwebs from his cleaning that day, and a newer broom. Sund took each one and snapped the handle off of the bristles, and tossed the heads away. He motioned for Gustavio to follow behind as he tromped into the store front. He retrieved a small circular metal shield from the lowermost shelf, and proceeded out into the cool breezy air outside.

“Now hold the shield, that’s called a buckler, in your weak hand. Good. Get a good grip on the broomstick with the other. Now come at me. C’mon.”

“You want me to hit you?” said Gustavio with incredulity.

“Well, you won’t hit me, so don’t worry about it. Just give it your best shot. Try to imagine that friend of yours is in danger.”

Gustavio took a few swings at the man in front of him, half afraid that he would injure the very person who showed him such kindness, and half afraid that the man was stark raving mad and this was all part of his ploy. He was surprised how difficult it was to land a blow, given that Sund’s bulk made sizable targets.

Sund parried each blow and replied with instructions, “Keep your shield higher and closer. Keep your sword out farther. Stand up straighter. Bend your knees. There you go. Now get ready.”

Bong! His shield rang out like a gong. It vibrated violently in his hand for a minute, shaking his forearm and shoulder. He was stunned. Whap! Sund’s broomstick smacked smartly on Gustavio’s thigh.

“Come on. Look alive.”

Gustavio increased the intensity of his assault. He was surprised at the vivacious fervor that Sund put into his fight. It didn’t match his large stature and calm nature. Try as he might, Gustavio could not land a blow on Sund.

Finally, Sund smacked Gustavio’s broom handle so hard that it flung out of Gustavio’s hand. It went whirling into the long grass. Gustavio propped his hands on his knees panting. His cheeks were flushed the same color as the setting sun. Sund put his hands to his rotund belly and gave a fully body laugh.

“Oh, that was good! Good indeed. I haven’t fought like that in years. You’ve got much to learn, but I’m confident that I’ll make a fighter out of you yet.”

Chapter Seven

Gustavio went to bed that night with aches in every part of his body. If it wasn’t raw from chores, it was battered from fighting Sund. There was another ache that he couldn’t name. He felt it every time he thought of Thizdella. He woke up six days in a row feeling exactly the same. Each day he would do a new grueling chore for Sund and cap the night with a broom fight. They had already snapped several broom handles and were down to the last pair in the whole house. At some point they would run out of broom handles, and Gustavio would run out of hope of ever seeing Thizdella again. Sund was in the kitchen taking heavy droughts from a tankard when Gustavio walked in. There was a tankard waiting for him too, which Gustavio partook.

“Today I have a special task for you. I want you to go out into the woods and find some morel mushrooms. Ever had a morel? No? I didn’t think so. They only grow out here in the countryside. I haven’t had them in years and I figure, while I have an extra pair of hands, now’s the time to get them again.”

Sund explained what morels looked like and where to find them. Gustavio would need to venture into the forest and be back by sundown. Sund had already prepared Gustavio’s pack. On top of the pack was Firepoker and the buckler. Gustavio strapped up and headed out into the fragrant forest.

He hiked for some time, stopping to smell the flowers occasionally. A great many butterflies flitted across his path. Swallows swooped along side him, snatching up the butterflies as snacks. He decided to stop and have a quick snack himself. He kept his eyes peeled for the morels along his path.

By noon, he was worried that he had misunderstood one of his instructions. He followed the path perfectly, and yet there were no mushrooms to be found. Not even the poisonous ones were fruiting. Determined not to head home empty-handed, he ventured off the path a ways, always keeping it view. To his left was a sunny meadow and squirrels foraging for lost acorns. Along his right was a gentle slope that ended in a giggling brook below. This deep into the woods, his eyes had still not become accustomed to the myriad wildflowers that polka-dotted the floor. It was when he was walking and admiring a particularly colorful wildflower when he was whapped in the head by a low hanging branch. It caught him totally unexpectedly. He tumbled down the slope. Once he picked up speed, there was no stopping his tumultuous roll. With a plop, he found himself soaked through to the trousers in the icy clear water of the brook.

He was slightly disgruntled by this setback. He’d have to walk all the way back up, and back home in soggy clothes. It didn’t help that he still had no prize to speak of. Not even one measly mushroom. He sat on a boulder by the brook and ate some of his rations. As he bent down to drink from the brook, he noticed some morel mushrooms on the other side of the stream. He was overjoyed. Finally he could head back in pride with the prize in hand. Properly nourished, revived, and refreshed, he set up the hill to get back on the path.

When he completed his ascent, he was astonished to find that the path was nowhere in sight. It was gone. Completely gone. There was no trace of his footprints, trampled grass, or broken branches. He could have been a ghost passing through the night and left more of a trace.

He looked up to the sky and saw that the sun was to his left which meant he was facing North. A cool breeze brushed against his left cheek and tousled his curly hair. He resolved to walk due south, the woods would end, and he would follow the treeline back to Sund’s house.

He marched south, passing tree after tree, each one renewing and vanquishing his hope of finding his path again. He paid little attention to the ground now, focusing his effort to break free of the forest before sundown.

After some time, the trees abruptly stopped and he arrived at a meadow, coated in a thick soft grass. The setting sun cast a lurid shadow across the meadow. He waffled between hiking in the dark and setting up camp to try again tomorrow. The deciding factor was the abundance of dry wood in the area and the fleeting warmth of the day, not to mention the extreme difficulty of navigating by the stars in a forest. He wasted no time starting a fire and setting up camp. He roasted some mushrooms, drained his canteen, and ate some smoked jerky. He was too tired to clean up his cookware, so he let the fire die down, used his pack as a pillow, and tried to fall asleep under the stars.

He must have nodded off because he awoke to the sound of a low grumbling. Somewhere in the distance, something was aggrieved. Something big took personal offense at Gustavio’s apparent trespassing. The grumbling echoed off of every tree, giving the sense that it came from everywhere all at once. He sat upright, scanning his surroundings, trying to perceive the source. It was a fruitless endeavor on this moonless night. He armed himself and stood with his back to the fire. Though he steadied his limbs as best as he could, they trembled relentlessly. His heart thumped in his chest and echoed in his ears.

From the shadows ahead of him emerged a monstrous beast. It’s muscles undulating under it’s shaggy fur. It was baring its yellow teeth, which glinted in the fading fire. Two mean eyes peered at Gustavio, appraising, and despising. It stalked closer and closer, approaching a pouncing distance, snarling the whole time. It reared back on his hind legs and let loose a thunderous roar. This monster could be none other than the infamous Muldoon. Gustavio was shaking so violently that he could barely grip his sword and shield.

He knew he would probably die. The bear would probably rip him to shreds. He could only see one other option. He turned and fled, leaving his sword, shield, campsite and equipment behind. The bear thundered after him. It ran fast and recklessly, leaving a wake of destruction behind it.

Chapter Eight

Gustavio ran as hard and fast as he could. His muscles burned like a bonfire. Sweat poured down his forehead into his eyes. He risked a glance backwards. Twigs and branches exploded behind him. A roar that shook the leaves off the trees ahead of him was all the encouragement he needed to keep going.

He thought he saw a clearing ahead. The trees grew sparse and revealed that it was actually a path. The blood pounding in his ears prevented him from hearing a clopping approach him. Once on the path, he could see a hefty man riding a horse towards him. Gustavio jumped, waved and sprinted towards him. In the darkness of night, he had to get closer to realize that it was Sund. He thanked the stars.

Sund pulled up beside him, “Where’ve you been? I’ve been searching all day for you. I can hear Muldoon about in these woods. We best be going.”

“I know! He’s right behind me!”

Sund dismounted and walked behind Gustavio. He lifted the boy by his armpits onto the horse.

“What are you doing?”

“What needs to be done.”

“No! We need to get to safety.”

Sund gave Gustavio a look to remember, but said no more. He slapped the horse on the rump which made the horse break into a gallop. Gustavio, not expecting a nighttime ride, did all he could to hang on and steer along the path back home.

The path became more obvious the closer he got to Sund’s house, making it easy to get back. The rush from running and riding was wearing off and weariness was setting in. Once back at the house, he dismounted the horse, tied it up, and went inside. He warmed up some milk for himself and sat down. He was uncomfortable in his chair. He drifted in and out of sleep. He couldn’t rest, and he couldn’t fight the fatigue.

Chapter Nine

Gustavio awoke to the thump of the door opening and stomps of heavy boots. The light breaching through the kitchen windows hurt his eyes. His rump and back were sore from sitting in the chair. At the sight of Sund again, he found himself squeezing Sund as hard as he could. He surprised himself with this sign of affection that he had never shown before. He was equally surprised when Sund hugged him back.

“I’m glad you’re OK,” said Gustavio.

“I’m glad you’re OK. You really had me going there for a bit,” said Sund.

Sund poured himself a cold one before lumbering into a chair across from Gustavio. “So what happened? After I left, I mean.”

“I fought Muldoon. Killed him. He won’t be bothering the village any more.”

“But how did you do it?”

“I just faced him, Gusvatio. What you should have done.”

“Me!?” said Gustavio with incredulity.

“You. You had the opportunity. You should have taken it.”

“But I’m just a boy.”

“And I’m an old man. My fighting days should have been behind me. When it comes to the people you love, you have to stay and fight, no matter what.”

“But I was afraid! Muldoon scared the wits out of me.”

“So was I,” said Sund with a sad twinkle in his eye.

“Really? After all the beasties you’ve encountered, you still get scared.”

“It’s true. Let me tell you something, Gustavio. All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory.”

That gave Gustavio something to ponder for a minute. Faintly, the sound of bells lolled across the forest and broke the silence in Sund’s house.

“What’s that? They must be from the castle, but I’ve never heard them before,” asked Gustavio.

“They are. They’re wedding bells. Did you say you had a sweetie back there?”

Gustavio turned red. “She’s a friend. And yes.”

The bells finished.

“I should go,” said Gustavio.

“You should go,” said Sund at the same time.

“You don’t have much time. Grab your stuff. I’ll meet you at the horse,” said Sund.

When Gustavio arrived, his eyes lit up. Sund had readied the horse and attached a sword, instead of Firepoker. Gustavio nearly tripped on his way.

“For me? You’re letting me use a real sword.”

Sund grunted and said, “Use it well,” he lowered his gaze, “And bring it back.”

Then he lifted the boy by the armpits onto the horse and smacked its flank. The horse reared back. Gustavio would have fallen off except that he was already hanging on for dear life. When the beast landed, it fell into a steady gallop that tore at the wind and ripped up the soil.

Chapter Ten

The path took no time at all by horse. Before he knew it, he arrived at the castle gates, which were open since it was daytime. He had never seen the courtyard festooned with so many exotic flowers in every shade of red and yellow, the colors of the royal family. The crowd grew thick as porridge and became impassible by horse, so he hitched his horse at the stables. Everyone around him tittered excitedly as baby birds for the royal wedding. Gustavio pushed his way to the front, slipped between couples, and managed to get to the front. On a constructed platform, ornately decorated with bouquets and garlands, stood two figures, each stood cornstalk straight. The boy was wearing a garish red tunic with orange cape. The girl was wearing an orange dress with a red belt and red bows in her hair. He looked triumphant. She looked condemned. The royal holy-man stood behind them and waved his hands at the crowd for quiet attention. A wave of “hush” and “shush” sounds fell across the crowd the way the wind sweeps across grass.

Gustavio couldn’t wait any longer. This was his last chance. “Wait! Wait! Stop!” he yelled. He clambered up the front of the stage. “Don’t marry her!”

“And why not, peasant?” sneered Prince Zalve.

“Because she doesn’t love you.”

The crowd gasped at the same time.

“No matter. I am the finest prince in all the land. I’m sure she’ll learn to love me.”

“And you don’t love her.”

The crowd gasped louder.

“Why else would I want to get married to a servant?” asked Prince Zalve with disdain.

“For political points. You just want to gain popularity among the working class.”

Several people in the crowd fainted from shock. At this point, Prince Zalve turned as red as his tunic.

“How dare you question my motives, accuse me of pandering, ruin my wedding, besmirch my reputation, and show disrespect for your country! How dare you! I could have you hung for your transgression, but I fear that may be too light on you. No, I challenge you to a duel!”

Gustavio knew it would come to this. He felt the same as when Muldoon was chasing him, but also calmer. Despite his shaking knees, he glowed in his resignation to his fate.

“I accept.”

“Very well. As I am an honorable noble, and since I proposed the duel, I shall let you decide upon the weapon.

Gustavio unsheathed his sword, threw the scabbard behind him, and stood in the ready position as his only reply.

“As you wish. Prepare to suffer! Guards! Bring me Dolor.” Two guards rushed onto the stage. One pulled the sword while the other held the scabbard with a flourish. Then they bowed and presented the sword to the prince, with the sword resting on four hands. Gustavio could tell the sword as a rapier. The sword was thin and lithe with serrations on each side. The gold hilt was laden with bulbous gemstones. On the pommel, a plump ruby acted as a counterweight for the sword. Prince Zalve picked up the rapier and practiced shredding the air in front of him.

“Engard!” said Prince Zalve.

“Engard,” said Gustavio.


Prince Zalve lunged. Gustavio parried. The two went at it, back and forth. The midday sun shone down on them. Their shadows shrunk beneath them. The crowd jeered and whooped for one or the other to win. Though Gustavio worked up a sweat, he remained unscathed. His week of training with Sund gave him the foot work necessary to stay one step ahead of his formidable foe. Prince Zalve feinted right and jabbed left. When Gustavio blocked, Prince Zalve rushed in and grabbed Gustavio’s sword hand. Gustavio did the same to Prince Zalve, so that they were locked in a temporary stalemate.

“I remember you. You’re my servant boy who ran away,” sneered Prince Zalve.

“I’m Gustavio, and I’m back to stop you now,” replied Gustavio.

The two shoved off of each other and made space between them.

Prince Zalve, sword raised, made a mad dash towards Gustavio. At the last minute, Gustavio side stepped and wrapped his arm around Prince Zalve’s middle. And in one fluid motion, put his sword to Prince Zalve’s throat. Prince Zalve struggled to get out of Gustavio’s grip, but couldn’t budge without his throat being cut. Finally he relaxed.

“Okay. You win. Finish me off.”

Gustavio thought of Muldoon and pressed his sword tighter so that a thin stream of red snaked down into Prince Zalve’s tunic. But Muldoon was different. Muldoon was a monster that couldn’t be reasoned with and couldn’t change. Gustavio had demonstrated his courage, resolve, and dedication. Prince Zalve surrendered. Killing would accomplish nothing.

When Gustavio relaxed his grip, Prince Zalve whipped around, swept the legs out from under Gustavio, pressed his leather boot on Gustavio’s chest, and readied the final blow.

“ENOUGH” bellowed a voice from the back of the courtyard. A rotund man, in a flowing red cape and orange trim marched up to the stage. On his head was a crown with jewels in every color and cut. The crowed parted for him and bowed at the middle as he passed. Silence spread throughout, including Prince Zalve, whose eyes were now as wide as saucers.

“I have seen quite enough. Release this boy, and return to your chambers at once!”

“But father! The wedding-”

“Is canceled.”

The crowd watched in awe as the king yelled in his son’s face in public.

“And you! Get up! What are you doing here? I should have you banished for you impudence,”

“I’m here to rescue my friend… My love… Thizdella,”

“The bride to be? Hmm.” The king considered this as he stroked his curly white beard. “Your actions are unforgivable and for that, it is only fitting that you are banished. However, for the mercy you showed my child, I shall allow you this one unorthodox request. You may go with your love, and I hope for both of our sakes that you never return.” Thizdella and Gustavio ran into each other’s arms and kissed passionately.

Chapter Eleven

The two ran through the crowd back to where Gustavio tied up the horse. As they galloped away from the castle, Thizdella said, “You came back for me. I thought you might be dead!”

“I thought the same about you.”

“Where will we go? Castle life is the only life I’ve ever known.”

“I think I know a place,” said Gustavio with a knowing smile.

La La Land: Move Review

La La Land is an excellent movie. It started out overhyped, went underhyped, and I hope now it’s settled correctly hyped. When I first saw it, I loved it. Then I talked to other people who pointed out all of the flaws. “Yeah I must be wrong.” I thought. But no. I just saw it again and it was actually amazing.

  • Colors

Holy smokes. I don’t remember the last movie I complimented because of the colors. All movies have colors, but this movie takes it to the next level. The pallet was vivid, bright, sunny and eye popping. Movies should be visually pleasing, and damn this one was. If you put the movie on mute, it would be worth watching merely for the spectacle.

  • Dancing

There was a little dancing. It was fun to watch! As an amature dancer, I was impressed.

  • Music

The songs will pull at your heartstrings. The recurring musical themes compliment the story pleasantly.

  • Exposition

There is none. You know she’s an actress because she works at Starbucks and sees an alert on her phone that she’s late to her audition. You know he’s obsessed with jazz because his furniture is comprised of famous jazz relics, and there’s a giant piano which takes up most of his apartment. M. Night Shyamalan, take note!

  • The intro…

A lot of people have a problem with the intro. It’s a song and dance number that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. None of the characters are introduced. None of the plot is revealed. What’s the point? It’s secretly a synopsis for the rest of the movie. If you listen to the lyrics they mirror the main character’s desire to be a famous actress, despite the hardship.

A Technicolor world made out of music and machine
It called me to be on that screen
And live inside each scene


And even when the answer’s “No”
Or when my money’s running low
The dusty mic and neon glow
Are all I need

It also serves to display the setting. LA is filled with diverse, optimistic, ambitious, talented people.

  • The ending…

When I watched the movie for the first time, I was thoroughly confused. Everyone I talked to was equally confused.


The first act shows Ryan Gosling as a hopeless romantic. He’s in love with a dying genre of music, jazz. Even though he’s late on rent, with no steady job, and has no friends, he persists. It’s heroic. He meets Emma Stone who is in a similar position. She’s in love with the idea of being a famous actress like her aunt. Even though she hasn’t had any luck in getting a gig, she keeps going to auditions. Ryan convinces her to make her own show and to hell with other people. This is why she falls in love with him. He encourages her to follow her dreams of becoming a famous actress.

In act two, things fall apart. He forfeits his dream of opening a jazz club and joins a pop-jazz band with a guy he hates so he can have a steady job. He stops being present in Emma’s life.

The resolution of the 3rd act is that Ryan chose his career instead of being there for Emma’s final performance of her play. Emma chose to pursue her dream instead of being Ryan’s groupie.

The final scene of the movie is the reveal that 5 years later Emma Stone ends up with her dream accomplished. She made it as a successful actress in Hollywood, and also has a happy marriage and baby with another guy. She walks into a random jazz club, which happens to be Ryan’s. Apparently he accomplished his dream too. The two locks eyes and have  a flashback/daydream with an almost literal Hollywood ending where everything worked out. They didn’t break up. She goes on to be a famous Hollywood actress and gets married to Ryan and they have a baby. There’s dancing, and it looks like a set for a musical, it’s surreal, but also mixed with some reality, so it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Then it cuts back to reality. They share one last smile and she leaves. What the heck is the message? What’s with the daydream? What?

If you only think about it from Emma’s perspective, it almost seems as if the message is, “follow you dreams instead of finding love,” because she broke up with Ryan and then became a famous actress. But… she found love in addition to her dream. So what’s the conflict? If you view it from Ryan’s perspective, the message is, “follow your dreams and you will find love.” He didn’t learn his lesson. In that sense, this movie is a tragedy. The hero did not overcome his weakness, and was punished by the Fates to suffer lonesomeness. He did accomplish his dream, so he did learn his lesson eventually, but not in time to salvage his relationship with Emma.

August 2019 Report

I’ve adopted some houseplants and will try not to kill them. I’ve been hesitant to be responsible for another living thing’s only link to this universe. It’s a lot of responsibility. I would feel horrible if I was guilty of murder by negligence or ignorance. How am I supposed to care for another, if I can barely care for myself? Luckily these plants are fairly hardy. This is a big step for me psychologically.


After years of recommending other people go to therapy, I finally tried it myself. I have to say, it’s way over hyped. I went in with a specific problem in mind. After two sessions I could tell I wasn’t making progress or finding any insights. Maybe it’s the therapist I had. Maybe I’ll try again in a few years when someone has a therapist they can recommend.



  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Rango
  • So I Married an Axe Murderer

Song of the month

  • You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift

Stock Trading Performance

  • YTD
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $100 invested
Total Gain Realized
69.70% -$1,106.59 30.30% $485.11 -$624.26 -$548.56

Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • August
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $100 invested
Total Gain Realized
100.00% -$72.92 0.00% $0.00 -$72.92 -$72.92

Well frick. That’s the third time I’ve traded the stock DHX and I’ve lost each time. I kid you not, before I realized it, I already had a buy order queued up for Monday. Its volatility is tempting and punishing.

  • Roth IRA
Screenshot from 2019-09-09 02-12-28.png
Woohoo! I’m beating the S&P 500.
  • Spiders exist on an individual level. Ants exist on a colony level. Humans exist as individuals, colonies, and in the middle as tribes. This explains our constant existential angst between the relationship of the individual to a society. Should we be self-sacrificing for our community? Or should we be selfish for our survival (and sanity)? It turns out the answer is both.
  • The reason it’s impossible to talk about race is because there is no 3rd person perspective. As a parent, it’s easy tell little Timmy to share his toys with his baby sister. You can mediate because you have no background, no investment in the outcome, and no personal interest in the toys. This is not the case for race, sex, or economic inequality.

August Survey Results

  • Check out the results here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ald5MxpZ1QeedjIqRr75Yj78QGaho-eKWs2m8FBZ_Ww/viewanalytics
  • 75% of people agree people skills are more important… Get ready for my next survey about public education. See below. Just so you know… The survey is more interesting if more people answer it… so y’know, feel free to share the link with your friends.
  • Most people feel they are unique, like being uniqe, think personality tests are inaccurate, and that people are unpredictable. Well, at least the respondants are self consistent!

September Survey

The Last Airbender: Review

I watched the movie, “The Last Airbender.” It was terrible. Don’t watch it. “The Last Airbender” is a movie by M. Night Shyamalan based on a TV show called, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” They retitled the movie to avoid confusion with the James Cameron movie. It’s a shame that of all of the shows to adapt, they chose one with a rich landscape, vivid characters, and gripping plot, and then botched it. Can you imagine if they botched Harry Potter? There would be rioting in the streets.


The number one, Willis Tower sized problem with the movie, is that it was too ambitious. For whatever reason,  Shyamalan decided to squeeze several complete episodes of the TV show into one 100 minute film. It was a foolhardy plan. Each episode of the TV show had its own plot and character arcs. Movies can only handle one or two arcs. This leads to problem number two.


THERE WAS SO MUCH EXPOSITION! If I were the spanish inquisition, I wouldn’t murder you for putting some exposition into your movie. “The Matrix” and “Inception” are both exposition heavy movies, but it’s forgivable since the information is on a need to know basis. The information comes either immediately before, or immediately after. They struck a happy medium between the story being confusing and it being laden with exposition. Even as much exposition as they crammed in, there are still parts that don’t make sense. I sympathize with Shyamalan because as a writer. I too worry that the audience won’t understand. When I write, “The man woke up and went to work.” I worry that my audience will wonder, “Is he even wearing pants?” One trick to squeeze in more exposition is to make the neophyte character ask questions (Neo to Morpheus and Ariadne to Cobb). Shymalan decided to give one character a constant stream of consciousness voice over throughout the entire movie. It was grating.


It’s all one big snowball effect. Because there was too much squeezed in, there had to be more explained, which meant less dialog and character development. There was no time to talk, so there was no time for the characters to show emotion for each other, so there was no time for me to get invested in them, so there were no stakes if one of them died.


What little dialogue there was, there was little emotion shown. There was hardly any smiling, crying, or yelling. The theme was “The Fire Nation is attacking. Just another day at the office.”


In Star Wars #7, we know from the very beginning that the girl and the boy are going to have to confront each other, one of them was going to switch sides, which would determine the fate of the universe. In “The Last Airbender,” because the movie tried to capture several episodes, there wasn’t a build up to the climax. It was unclear what the main conflict was, until the end of the movie. Then, in a shocking Shmalan twist, there was no twist! The main character solves the problem by fighting. There’s some message about controlling your emotions, or not controlling them? I’m not sure. Then the final scene is confusing because earlier in the movie, there is a scene where his peers bow to the main character as a sign of acceptance of him as their Avatar (savior). The main character isn’t ready for the task, and he flees; which is what sets the whole story in motion. The final scene is the city bowing to him, just as before. You would think that now that the main character has just defeated the bad guy, he’d have accepted his role. Nope. When the city bows to him, he looks worried. The end. Cut to black. Roll credits. We were this close to seeing character growth.


I was disappointed by the lack of effects. There was hardly any magic. In fact, there were a decent number of scenes where they were doing their tai chi moves to manipulate water, but the visual effects were never added.


One of the great strengths of the TV show is how the characters contrast with each other. Aang is fun loving, Kotarah is cautious. Prince Zuko has a quick temper, his Uncle Iroh is reserved. In the movie, virtually any character (or actor for that matter) could have been swapped for any other character. There was nothing unique about them.


As a movie, it was lackluster. As an adaptation, it was surprisingly faithful. There were scenes in the movie that I recognized as being exact copies from the show. That impressed me. The fight scenes were badass (slow sometimes, but still cool). There were some characters that were well cast.


I have a few suggestions. The first is to go the exact opposite direction. Instead of trying to cram a whole season of TV episodes into one movie, make a movie based on the back story. The world inside the TV show is huge. There are numerous cities, each with complete political structures and ruling families. I would love to tell the story of how the Fire Nation attacked the Southern Water Tribe and reduced it to a small village. How about that time General Iroh, Dragon of the West, laid siege to the city Ba Sing Se for 600 days and failed to take it down, and lost his son in the process? How did Bumi, a ruffian goofball kid and childhood friend of the main character, become King Bumi (and how did he live to be 112 years old)? If I really had to adapt one episode into a movie, I would choose the season finale episode of season 1. The main character has to learn how to manipulate water, karate kid style, before the fire nation attacks. He’s frustrated by his lack of progress and the high stakes. He has to learn how to deal with pressure. Boom easy peasy. Tone back the scope and let the characters drive the plot.


Don’t bother watching the movie. Just watch the TV show.

July 2019 Report

I’ve been in my current position for about a month now. While I am getting marginally better, the work has not gotten any easier. It’s still a beast. I’m still making foolish mistakes. It sucks to suck, and it sucks to suck for this long. I feel the pressure to perform better by now. Oy. One day at a time. Even though my job is hard as bricks, I still love it and I’m happy to go back every day to try again. One thing I learned at the life insurance job is that every day is a brand new blank slate. Never let the previous day get you down.


  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
    • For a book that purports to refute claims about stock picking, which is heavily data based, this book was light on data. The arguments strike me as, “Nuh uh!” There is a small portion of the book dedicated to addressing counter arguments. Most of it is, “Nuh uh times 100!” but some of it is, “Ok that part I wrote might have been exaggerated, and it’s the foundation of my thesis, but I’m still right.” It was frustrating to read.
  • Listen by Keith Davies
    • I’m not a fan of the author’s voice. It’s too casual. I also have a distaste for biographies. I think the author did the best with what he had.


Song of the month

  • Pt. 4 Morning in May by Ludo
    • I first heard this song 10 years ago and I’ve probably listened to it 100 times by now. It still gives me goosebumps. If you listen to the whole album, you will cry. It’s a scientific fact.

Stock Trading Performance

  • YTD
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $100 invested
Total Gain Realized
68.75% -$1,033.67 31.25% $485.11 -$559.05 -$548.56

Not much movement here. Same old story.


  • July
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $100 invested
Total Gain Realized
50.00% -$9.92 50.00% $52.08 $21.08 42.16

Ha! Finally! A “Green” month. I slowed down on trading and that helped tremendously. Now I just need 13 more green months and I’ll break even.

Meanwhile I opened another Roth IRA where I’m investing in ETFs that track indices (like the S&P 500). I’m going to “race myself” and see which account does better.

  • Just keep swimming.

July Survey Results

August Survey

The Stocks, The Market and Everything

I’ve embarked on a perilous journey, to understand the stock market and reap what knowledge might be gleaned from raw experience and the ancient tomes. So far, not so good. Just as I expected, there are directly conflicting theories and no conclusive results.

One of my favorite cartoons is BoJack Horseman. In the cartoon, there’s a talk show called “Hollywoo [sic] Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!” I’d like to present my findings in a similar manner.

First up, gurus. Do they know things? I’m going with my gut feeling that they don’t. It’s too easy to be temporarily successful, and then fade into anonymity once that spurious success recedes. Not to mention that once you have a following, you can create your own self fulfilling prophecies / bubbles by telling people a certain stock will rise. Telling people a stock will rise will make people invest in it, making the stock rise.

Now for the guest celebrity, Burton Malkiel, the guy who wrote “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” 50 years ago. He claims that no one knows things and that things are unknowable. There’s a joke, “Two economists are walking down the street. One spots a $100 bill and bends down to pick it up. The other says, ‘Don’t bother, if it was real someone would have already picked it up.’” Malkiel uses that as his modus operandi. According to him, the stock market prices move just like a drunk person walking randomly down wall street. To demonstrate this, he challenges his readers to flip a coin and record the “heads” and +1 and “tails” as -1, and then chart it. I’ve done that with google sheets and a random number generator. To his credit, that purely random chart is indistinguishable from the stock charts I look at. I caught myself looking for patterns in my random chart… and I found them.

It’s the most pessimistic, nihilistic, atheistic philosophy I’ve ever heard of; and I’m a pessimistic, nihilistic, atheist! First of all, if everyone thought like Malkiel and turned their nose up at $100 bills, then the ground would be littered with layers of $100 bills. Opportunities must be out there, even random ones. Second, what is so fundamentally different between the stock market and the labor market? I found two of my jobs through people I knew instead of the traditional hiring process. That special knowledge benefited me over my competitors. That would be considered a market inefficiency. I accept that arbitrage (buy low at one place and sell high at another) is now obsolete for humans to do, but surely there must be patterns or indicators. What is so fundamentally different between the stock market and the universe? The universe is chaotic, but we still find useful patterns. The weather is chaotic, but it’s somewhat predictable (Tucson is hot in the Summer, Chicago is cold in the winter). How can we be certain about what’s knowable or unknowable? Would anyone 100 years ago have predicted that we could know with decent precision that the universe is 13.7B years old? Any claim that something is unknowable is too bold for my taste. I would agree with his self assessment. He, indeed, does not know things.

Next, let’s bring in my basement dwelling friends, the Technical Analysts, or more aptly called Chart Analysts, since there’s nothing technical about it. These people trade stocks purely by the chart, and not by the business model. They are herd followers. If the price is going up, they buy. If it goes down, they sell (or short).There are increasing levels of complexity to their trading strategy, but that’s the essence. I find merit in what they have to say. It’s just a matter of pattern recognition, filtering out noise from the signal in the indicators, and a little luck. What difference does it make if it’s Apple or Ma-and-Pa’s Chicken Shake Inc.? If everyone feels that they’re the “Next Big Thing” then they are. If it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid. That being said, I have yet to make it work.

How about everyone’s favorite, the Fundamental Analysts? The shamans divining the Spirit of the Market. The Cohens of the Temple. The Priests receiving word from on high. Those who know esoteric Kabal-secrets. It’s all hogwash if you ask me. They look at the fundamentals of the business to decide if a stock is overvalued or undervalued. The idea is to be more logical and rely less on emotion and less on the market’s whim and follies. The most common indicator is the P/E ratio (the price of the stock compared to the earnings) One sect preaches “Buy low P/E ratio stocks. The price is low compared to it’s earnings implying that the price will rise to match.” The other sect says, “Sell low P/E ratio stocks. The price is low because there is something wrong with the company.” I’m no accountant. I’m not about to dig into their financials and assess the true value of the company. I’ll just outsource that. But if I’m outsourcing it, I still have to find someone reliable. Remember WorldCom, Tyco, and Enron? Where were the accountants before the fraud was announced? How did it escape every single accountant ever? How did their logic serve them there? These people were still victim to the emotional buying frenzy. If these Fundamental Analysts know anything, they must be very specific things.

Entire armies are trained in the barracks of Harvard and Yale to go into stock trading, and then get jobs trading stocks. Is Malkiel trying to tell me that these kids go massively into debt, only to learn how to pick their nose, and then get a job picking their nose? I think not. And these businesses that hire these kids and pay them beaucoup bucks? They must know something. I find it hard to imagine that the stock market is “unknowable.” Someone has to be picking up the $100 bills. Why not me?

What about entrepreneurs and venture capitalists? Someone keeps inventing stuff and making money from it. They noticed a $100 on the ground and took it. They must have known something we didn’t. Facebook caught onto the social network trend. Apple knew how to do user interface. Someone is investing in these companies because there’s something about them that makes them obviously a better choice than another, and it can’t just be randomness.

In conclusion, if there are secrets to the market, why would anyone talk about it? Startup founders have Non-Disclosure Agreements to hand out to everyone they meet. I shall continue my journey of discovery in the market. If I don’t find anything, I’ll let you know.

June 2019 Report

Hey June, don’t make it bad.

Just when I was beginning to master my job, they changed me to Night Operations (or as I like to call it: Night’s Watch, Dark Night Begins, or Welcome to Night Vale). My job is to decide what shipments get sent out of our warehouse on a nightly basis (the equivalent of how an emperor giving the thumbs up or down determines the fate of a gladiator). It’s an enormous responsibility. It’s like being a soccer goalie or a bestiality porno star; people only notice when I screw the pooch. I love it though. It’s intense and fun. It’s also a 1p to 10p job. They gave me a work cell phone. It’s a Galaxy S10, so I guess you could say I’m hot stuff. No big deal.

I’ve been consumed with fascination for the stock market. One the one hand, it seems like the kind of field that is ripe for a decisive, conclusive investigation for the best strategy. It reminds me of early medicine where people made stuff up, but it worked. Or the thousands of martial arts schools that boasted that their style was the best. Medicine and martial arts haven’t been “solved” per se, but there is a clear “best practice” for most specifics. We can install pace makers and it’s clearly better than leaches. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the best fighting style as proved by MMA tournaments. On the other hand, how have we gone this long without making any significant progress? Or has someone figured it out, but it’s risky and scary? Or secret? I plan to find out.


  • The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer
    • Short and sweet. I think it takes place between books #3 and #4, and I only made it to book #2, so I’m baffled who most of these people are. It has all of the elements that I love about the Twilight books: forbidden love, action, secrets, conspiracies, feuds, and I still think vampirism is a metaphor for no longer being a virgin.
  • Bad Moon Rising by Ed Gorman
    • It’s a mystery novel that kept me guessing! It’s a thin line between “It’s obviously the widow” and “What? The? Actual? F? It was the the homeless guy no one’s heard of?” This book struck the balance. I loved that the ending was bittersweet, but not that it was a consequence of luck.
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
    • What a delight! There were some laugh out loud moments! What really impressed me about this book was the structure. Every chapter was: Set up, Complication, Resolution. Over and over. It played with the pace and kept me hooked. My only complaint is that the premise is a tad contrived.
  • A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market by John Allen Paulos
    • Boy, I was really hoping for some definite answers. If anyone could master the mysteries of the stock market, it should be a mathematician, right? No, he failed miserably. The book turned out to be a pleasant overview of the stock market, along with illustrative stories, puzzles, and paradoxes. I enjoyed the book, despite the fact that it wasn’t what I wanted.
  • The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sara Silverman
    • It was pretty funny. I remember picking it up randomly in college and laughing until there were tears in my eyes. This time there was only one such passage (for which I will be forever grateful, I treasure each belly laugh moment like a gold brick).


  • Limitless

Song of the month

  • Boys by Julia Nunes

Stock Trading Performance

  • YTD
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $1000 invested
Total Gain Realized
70.00% -$1,023.75 30.00% $433.03 -$586.72 -590.72

Balls! This is harder than it looks. In times like these, I like to remember the advice my kindergarten teacher gave me, “Never give up! Never surrender! Never forget! We strike at dawn! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in hell!”

  • June
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $1000 invested
Total Gain Realized
90.91% -$433.42 9.09% $61.48 -$388.43 -371.94
On the good side, my % losing trades went from 100% to 91%. On the bad side, that means my claim last month that “I was merely cleaning out bad trades” is pure poppycock. It’s tricky to strike the balance between, “If I held for one more week, it would have been a winning trade” vs “I’m hemorrhaging money here. Get me a tourniquet, stat!”
  • I read the most in depth, thought provoking criticism of Libertarianism that I have ever read: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/22/repost-the-non-libertarian-faq/. It rocked my socks. I have to go home and rethink my life. Through process of elimination, I’ve eliminated all political philosophies. As disappointing as it is to have your socks rocked, it’s better than believing in something that’s based on false premises.


  • I’m trying something new. It’s something I’ve wanted for almost 6 months now and am just now working up the courage to try. I’m posting a survey link. It’s anonymous. I’ll post the results next month. If it’s successful, I’ll post another survey.


Everything I Learned about Writing A Book (By Writing A Book)

In case you weren’t on this planet when I announced it previously, I wrote a book.

Check it out here for free:


Buy it on Amazon for money:


Writing a book is hard

Writing a book is really freaking hard. It’s in the top 5 hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s hard to generate so many ideas. It’s hard to sit and stare at a blank screen. It’s hard to make millions of choices. Writing a book is like painting a mural with a tiny paint brush.

Writing a book is like running a startup

Writing a book is like running a startup because I am both the CEO and the janitor. I have to make all of the big decisions (who gets married and who gets murdered) and the little decisions (like making sure my characters remember to put their pants on before going to work). I have to keep track of every moving part, steering away from icebergs, and managing scarce resources (attention, patience, and caffeine dosages). At the same time, I have to make sure that I’m wearing pants before going to a coffee shop.

I am my own worst critic

Some ideas are great, some are bunk. Most of the time, I won’t know until I see it written out. Sometimes I can’t think of a better idea, so I just go with what I have. Inevitably, inevitably, I’ll reread and think to myself, “This sentence is bunk. Oh, so it this one. Actually I can get rid of this whole paragraph. Wow all of this is terrible, maybe I should just set my laptop on fire and throw it out the window.” I don’t know of any way to distinguish between self-editing and self-doubt. It seems like a necessary double edged sword. My plan is to keep writing and eventually get comfortable with my judgement at some point.

I write like I’m building a pyramid left to right

This book had a loose outline. Most of that outline was scrapped. It was boring and didn’t make sense. I resolved to build as I went. This strategy either leaves me with a thin book because I aimed too low in scope, or a massive, unfinished epic because I aimed too high. One area I really struggled was keeping track of my own plot threads. I would introduce two plot threads, get to the end, and only be able to tie one up. I’d have to cut out the first one. But then my book was too thin. There wasn’t enough happening. I kept iterating backwards and forwards adding and subtracting plot threads. It was grossly inefficient.

Is this just like “The Matrix?”

I struggled hardcore with riding the line between totally ripping off the movie “The Matrix” and making something distinct. On the one hand, The Matrix isn’t even that unique from a story perspective. How different is it from Tron, where a computer hacker enters a computer and has to fight an evil AI? There’s even “The Matrix” in the Doctor Who storyline published in 1976. So sue me. At the same time… What have I gained by copy-pasting the Matrix? What’s it worth to read a book adaptation of the movie? And if it’s not worth reading, is it worth writing? Thus the cycle of self-doubt begins anew.

May 2019 Report

Well it’s a new month, and you know what that means. Please tell me!

I’m getting the hang of things at work. One of the unexpected benefits of this job is that time flies by.

I wrote my first computer program! You put in your text, and it fixes your word choice. The next project is to make a website for it so I can share it with the world.


  • Dragonhaven by Robin Mckinley
  • The Shadow of Seth by Tom Llewellyn
  • Living With A SEAL by Jesse Itzler


  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Padington Bear
  • Loving Vincent
  • Lego Movie

Song of the month

  • Honey Honey by Larkin Poe

Stock Trading Performance

  • YTD
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $1000 invested
Total Gain Realized
61.90% -$734.26 38.10% $371.55 -$313.00 -362.71

Haha clearly there is a learning curve. The biggest contributor of this poor performance is cleaning up bad trades that I made last year. If a stock is losing money, it’s time to sell it, regarless of what one bought it for. The other contributor is that I had to liquidate some stocks pre-maturely so I could sustain myself while I was unemployed. The nice thing about selling losing stocks, is that it liberates the money to be used on other winning stocks.

  • May
% losing trades loss on losing trades % winning trades gain on winning trades expected return on $1000 invested
Total Gain Realized
100.00% -$311.99 0.00% $0.00 -$311.99 -311.99
Agh! Painful. But I took a break from trading since February. I set up trades before I left, they hit their peak, dropped to a new low, now back in May I have to sell these losing stocks.  Now that I’m back in the driver’s seat, I should see some progress. That being said, I did get overzealous on my return and buy 3 stocks that were at the peak and apparently on the downturn.
  • Not all fiber is created equally. Psyllium husk works wonders. Those fiber gummies mostly have inulin which is not as effective.

April 2019 Report

Woot! I found a job and I love it! After three long months of unemployment, I have finally matched with a company culture that I feel fits my personality like a pair of skinny jeans. I’m in love. It’s focused on profit, the co-workers are young and fun, and best of all, they have catered lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It functions like a start-up in many ways. They detest bureaucracy and meetings. Their motto is: “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Ah, say no more or I’ll faint like a Victorian lady. Did I mention that the founder was a fan of Ayn Rand?

My new job is at Mainfreight, a New Zealand based logistics and freight forwarding company. We mainly work with trucking shipments. We’re like UPS except we work with businesses and most boxes are bigger than 40″ x 40″ x 40″. The Chicago branch is a gateway to Canada and it’s my job to make sure that all of our shipments make it across the border. I track packages as they come in and keep track of the required paperwork to get them across the border. It’s not a glorious job, but I enjoy the urgency and fast paced culture.

My friend from high school, who currently works there, got me the first interview. Mainfreight didn’t even post the job publicly yet. I’ve heard about the “hidden job network” but this is my first taste.

I’m falling deeper and deeper in love with Chicago. I park a mile away from my apartment. Every time I walk home from my car, I think to myself, Wow! I remember the first time I visited my neighborhood and being impressed. Now I get to live here. What a treat. I love that people here are friendly, outgoing, and extroverted. It would be unthinkable to strike up a conversation in line in the grocery store anywhere in Michigan. Here it’s totally normal.

I’m back to going to the gym 3 times a week. I feel like myself again. I’m optimistic and upbeat. I’m unstoppable! I contain “an invincible summer” as Albert Camus says. It feels good.

  • Books
    • All You Need Is Kill (Manga) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka & Takeshi Obata
    • Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Ready, Fire, Aim (The Mainfreight Story) by Keith Davies
    • Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
    • Cracking Codes with Python by Al Sweigart
  • Movies
    • None
  • Song of the month
    • Algorithm by Muse on the new 2018 album Simulation Theory
  • Blog posts published
    • 7
  • Gym
    • A whole bunch
  • Diet
    • Decent
  • None
  • Maintain friendships. Be public about your intentions. You just never know.
  • It takes a long time to get onborded even after you get hired.
  • I feel the same way about being unemployed, working on the cruise ship, and being cold. It’s awful in the moment, but I’ve already forgotten how bad it was. I should enjoy the struggle, because it won’t last and it’ll make the relief all that much sweeter.

Prediction review

  1. I will start my new job
  2. I will go to Toastmasters 3 times
    1. Damn I didn’t go at all.
Predictions for Next Month
  1. I’ll go to the beach. (May is already half way over, so discount this prediction)

Terrible Team Names

Who designed professional sports teams’ names and mascots? I need to know, because they did a terrible job. They should be hung, shot, and then burned at the stake. A good mascot is an animal which represents some positive trait that a sports team would want. It should be inspirational. It should be intimidating. It should never be another human.

It doesn’t make any more sense to have the Cleveland Indians than to have the New York Jews, California Chinese, or Texas Mexicans. It’s 2019, if your team name is a name for a group of people, it’s time to pick a new team name.

  • Cleveland Browns

  • Cleveland Indians

  • Cincinnati Reds

  • Kansas City Chiefs

  • Washington Redskins

  • Chicago Blackhawks

  • Boston Celtics

  • Montreal Canadiens

  • Atlanta Braves


If your team name is a thing, pick a new team name

  • New York Jets

  • Buffalo Sabres

  • Colorado Avalanche

  • Edmonton Oilers

  • Oklahoma City Thunder

  • San Antonio Spurs

  • Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Dallas Stars

  • Houston Rockets

  • San Antonio Spurs


If your name is a duplicate, pick a new team name

  • San Francisco Giants

  • New York Giants

  • Winnipeg Jets

  • New York Jets

If your team name doesn’t make any sense, pick a new team name

  • Minnesota Wild

  • St. Louis Blues

  • Miami Heat

  • Orlando Magic

  • Utah Jazz


C’mon people, there are so many animals out there, that it blows my mind that someone picked these awful team names.

Skin in the Game: A Review

I just finished reading Skin In the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
After reading his book, I feel like a gold miner looking for diamonds in the rough. This was not an easy read. Taleb, the author (that is to say, the one who wrote the book) uses clauses -and addendums to any and every statement- like they’re going out of style. Nothing he says is straight forward. Perhaps this is a book for lawyers who read exceptions and clauses as a career, or perhaps Taleb is just a pretentious jerk.

There were three main concepts delivered in the book which made the whole read worth it: Skin in the game, hidden asymmetries, and sequential risk vs collective risk.
Skin in the game is another way of saying that one is invested in the outcome. Advice is given freely because there’s no consequence if it’s useful. There is less pressure for editors to do a good job, because their name doesn’t get printed on the cover of the book. Politicians make rules which don’t apply to themselves, and thus, making endless rules is consequence free for them. “They are not victims of their mistakes.” as Taleb astutely puts it. This rule acts as an excellent filter for BS. If someone doesn’t have skin in the game, take what they say with a grain of salt. It’s another way of saying “talk is cheap” or “watch what people do, rather than hear what they say.”

There are hidden asymmetries within a mixed population where one subset is adamant, and the general population is complacent. The most obvious example is that non-smoking people insist that people around them refrain from smoking, while smoking people can both smoke or not smoke. Thus the “non-smoking section” continued to grow until it encompassed not just the whole restaurant, but also the area outside the doors. Another example is kosher drinks. It’s important for people who keep kosher to be able to drink only kosher drinks, while non-kosher people don’t care if it’s kosher. If you go to a grocery store and check the soda bottles, orange juice, and sports drinks, you’ll find that they’re all kosher, even though only a tiny percent of the US population keeps kosher. This is good news for people with virtues and values. It’s actually much easier to change the world than you think!

Finally, the concept of sequential risk vs collective risk was totally new to me. If you make six people in a room play Russian roulette once, the success rate is about 83%. However, if you play Russian roulette six times, your success rate is 0%. It is a dire mistake to compare sequential risks to collective risks. The rule to follow is, “never engage in ‘one-off’ risks.” Either do them indefinitely and accept the risks, or don’t do them at all. It’s not “paranoid” to avoid playing Russian roulette for any amount of money, nor is it paranoid to avoid swimming in shark infested waters or sky diving. As long as it’s a calculated risk.
The first two concepts are not terribly new, but they are applied in new and refreshing ways. It was totally worth reading the book just for those nuggets.

Now I want to rip Taleb a new one.
Taleb has a cynical view of the world. By cynical, I mean the classical sense, named after Diogenes the Cynic. Technology and civilization is awful and we’d all be better off living as nature prescribed. Diogenes lambasted his peers because they were charlatans and he wanted to wake them up. Henry David Thoreau lambasted his peers because they were living lives of quiet desperation, dead by 30 and buried by 60, and he wanted to wake them up. Taleb takes down anybody who stands still for too long. If Diogenes and Thoreau were fencing swords, Taleb would be a chainsaw attached to a mechanical bull.

According to Taleb, anyone in academia is an idiot (even though Taleb himself is a part time professor).

Taleb claims that doctors have a conflict of interest. On one hand they care about the patient outcomes; on the other they care about hospital metrics. Since their employment depends on hospital metrics (skin in the game) that’s where their loyalties lie. I would agree, with the caveat: who’s to say the metrics are bad? And, is there really an alternative? How do you improve without metrics?

His most controversial and outrageous idea is, “The ‘average’ behaviour of the market participant will not allow us to understand the general behavior of the market.” Excuse me? That flies in the face of all behavioral economics that’s ever been written. Then he says, “Understanding how the subparts of the brain (say, neurons) work will never allow us to understand how the brain works… Understanding the genetic makeup of a unit will never allow us to understand the behavior of the unit itself. A reminder that what I am writing here isn’t an opinion. It is a straightforward mathematical property.” Oh really? Let’s see the proof! He has nothing to back it up. Unbelievable. Litterally. *ptooie* For shame.

I was severely disappointed to hear him equate salary earners to slavery. What’s next, should the proletariat rise up and seize the means of production? Entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody. There’s more to life than money. Starting a family can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. Certainly it can be more rewarding than negotiating contracts with unions. Believe me, I dream of the day when everybody owns their own business. One day maybe. For now, having a steady cash flow is beneficial for both established businesses and individuals. Depending on who you ask, 33% of businesses don’t survive the first year, and 80% don’t survive 10 years. That would be a very chaotic world to live in if everyone started a new business every 10 years.

What’s more deplorable than an employee? An “expat” (someone who works for the company abroad). This expat is someone who “…you over pay and who knows it…” Supposedly expats get comfortable living abroad and don’t want to come back, thus they work indefinitely for this company. Which seems like a stretch. I can imagine many families who would enjoy living abroad for 5-10 years and then wanting to come back; even if it means working for a different company. This is one of those chainsaw moments that doesn’t pass the gut check.

Taleb says, “Historically, the autocrat was both freer and -as in the special case of traditional monarchs in small principalities- in some cases had skin in the game in improving the place, more so than an elected official whose objective functions is to show paper gains.” Huh? In what world could an autocrat have more skin in the game than a politician? Autocrats live in castles and have catered food. Politicians at best live in mansions, but still drive the same streets as us and still eat at restaurants.

He has a quote, supposedly from Donald Trump, “The facts are true, the news is fake.” which I cannot find anywhere on the Internet. According to PolitiFact.com, Trump said “Fake News” 153 times, so maybe I just missed it, or maybe Taleb made it up to make a point? Seems sketchy to me.

What’s the big deal, right? Why can’t I read it and move on? Because Taleb insulted Steven Pinker and Sam Harris, two upstanding deep thinkers, by calling them charlatans. As we say in the Nuclear Command Center, “That is not okeydokey.” Harris is one of the most treasured contemporary philosophers. I am deeply offended on their behalf. Taleb has besmirched their reputation. If you have something to say, say it to their face, that way they can adequately respond. Try to act, you know, like you have skin in the game.

Welcome to Night Vale book review

I recently had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook, “Welcome to Night Vale.” The book is about a young girl and a mother on a quest to find information about a mysterious man named Troy. In effect, it was a tour of the fictional town of Night Vale which seems to exist in multiple parallel dimensions at once.

  • It was weird! It was like every episode of the Twilight Zone happening at the same time. It was like listening to a drunk comedian. There were some funny parts, but mostly I just want to know what crazy nonsense would come next.
  • It gave me the feeling of being reborn. I started as a baby; everything in the world was mysterious. I would ask “why are things the way they are?” Some things seem harmless, but are dangerous (some people go to the City Council to complain about shortcomings of the city, but they never return). Some things seem dangerous but are completely harmless (the faceless woman who lives in the empty spaces between rooms in the house, forgets to close the refrigerator door, but is otherwise a pleasant roommate). Then as a teen, I was frustrated by the lack of answers, baffled by the ridiculousness of this reality, outraged by it’s triviality, and blasé about some horrifying details. Then as an adult, I just learned to accept the lack of answers and move on.
  • What I really admired about this novel, is that amid all of the absurdity, life goes on. It doesn’t matter that there are glowing lights out in the desert, you’ve still got to go to work to make money. Sure our cell phones are used to track us by the world government, but you still need a cell phone. And despite the bombardment of nonsense that springs from this town, there is a deep narrative about a mom trying to connect with her son, a daughter trying to grow up, and a son trying to fit in.
  • This book is funny! The humor is always surprising. There’s no predicting what is going to be said next.
  • There were some creepy parts, but there was nothing “horror” about this. I think the worst part was when the characters were almost caught by a librarian.



All in all, four out of five thumbs up.

Why I’m Libertarian

Let me preface this article by saying that most people’s beliefs are heavily influenced by the people they hang around with, and their exposure to different ideas. I couldn’t be a libertarian until I knew what libertarianism was, and I would certainly be something else if I discovered something better. Ultimately, it comes down to the things I value. It would be foolish to say that my values are established on fundamental truths of the universe. The best I can say is that I value these things, so Libertarian ideas make the most sense to me.

I prefer “Freedom from” more than “Freedom to”. I would rather be protected from murder, theft, and arson, than freedom to access healthcare. This generally meshes with libertarian small governments which ideally provide a legal system but don’t provide free healthcare.

I prefer “Equality of Opportunity” over “Equality of Outcome.” A system that allows people to have economic mobility is more important to me than a system that cares for the poor. I don’t see value in a system that taxes the rich and gives it to the poor. Whereas, I do see value in a system that inspires people to take risks and make profit. In a libertarian government there would be no redistribution, which suits my fancy.

My view of “the people” includes all humans, as opposed to communist regimes who view “the people” as the working class. To me, that’s arbitrary and discriminatory. It would seem most equitable to treat all humans as the flawed beautiful creatures they are, even if some of them are born with extra privileges that they may or may not be aware of. To give special treatment to some and special mistreatment to others seems to be subjective discretion to me.

Central planning seems to be inherently flawed. I can’t understand how it leads to anything other than famine and waste, especially when applied to food production. They pay farmers to not farm, meanwhile there are people who literally can’t afford to buy food. In my eyes, if a farmer over produces or under produces, that’s a risk they take when they become farmers. That’s the entrepreneurial element to owning a business. Their business is producing food. When that risk is offloaded to the government, inevitably the taxpayers end up paying for the mistakes, with no negative repercussions for the government. I value a more efficient system. Not one with central planning. To me, that would point to a libertarian government.

How to Sell Gym Memberships

After visiting the local gym xSport down the street from me, I feel dirty and abused. I was looking to join a gym. I was ready to pop out my wallet and buy a membership that day. Alas! The guy giving me a tour of the gym, effectively the salesman, did a piss poor job. Here is a review of what he did wrong and how to fix it.

When I first entered, the front desk attendant did not smile and was discourteous when he handed me the interest form. Not Salesguy’s fault, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Next, Salesguy asked me some personal questions (where I’m from, where I live, what I’m looking for in a gym) which was excellent. There is only one way to get information from a potential customer and that is to ask. Ideally, he would have used this information to weave into the tour. I said I was interested in the pool, yet when we walked by, we didn’t spend any more time on the pool area than on the machine area. No features and specs were given. When I asked about the climbing wall, his response was, “I don’t know.” I want to hear, “I can find out.” Finally, he sat down across from me at a desk where he wrote the prices down of different payment options. When he was done he looked at me and waited for a response. I let the silence sit in the air. With every sale you need a closing question. Some examples are: “Which of these options feels best to you?” or “Are you ready to join?” or “When are you ready to start?” Instead, since he was unprepared and uncomfortable with the silence, his closer was, “Well?” Of course my answer was, “I have to think about it.” Which means, “Hell no!” What kind of company hires 2-bit employees to be salespeople? I was never a good salesman and even I know these things.

I was disappointed that they couldn’t sell me even when I wanted to buy. Don’t let this happen to you!

The Elizabeth Holmes In All of Us

There is a big scandal surrounding the start-up Thermos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Holmes. Her actions are indeed despicable. However I want to look at an aspect of her that was admirable.

Life is hard. Things have to be done all the time, and it can be unclear whether we’re qualified for the tasks at hand. Often, the only way to find out if we’re qualified, is simply doing it. This leads to some embarrassing failures and frequent hilarious successes. There is something to be said for “fake it till you make it.” While selling life insurance, I learned that people expect me to be the expert. They don’t know what I don’t know. If there are gaps in my knowledge, it isn’t immediately obvious. This allows me to “act” like an expert. There’s something obviously tempting to trust people in white lab coats or business suits, because they look like experts.

Many people experience success when they don’t feel they’ve earned it, which is called, “Imposter Syndrome.” My way around this syndrome is just not worrying about it. I never reject myself or call myself out of my BS. I’m right until proven otherwise. This self confidence encourages others to place their confidence in me. People want to be associated with winners, and it’s pretty easy to seem like a winner.

I’m sure there are YouTube videos and articles which purport to have “charisma hacks” which allow the user to naturally attract attention and endearment. I’m sure among those hacks are: maintain extended eye contact, deepen your voice, dress in a way that resembles your idol. Elizabeth did those things. From a character study perspective, her biggest crime isn’t that she used hacks, it’s that she got caught using hacks.

My philosophy is, we’re all frauds. No one acts 100% the same in every setting with every person. Don’t lie, but embrace the act.

Leviathan book review

I just finished the young adult novel, “Leviathan.” It’s about two characters. One is a prince forced to flee his country, on the run from both spies and foreign armies. The other is a girl, pretending to be a boy, aboard a blimp as a member of the British air force. The events take place just as World War 1 is starting. It’s alternative history, in which no one invented electricity. The Western powers rely on genetically modified beasts of burden, and the Eastern powers developed highly advanced mechanical contraptions. The theme is known as “Steampunk”

I love the Steampunk theme. I love the leather jackets, extraneous buckles, goggles, gimey hands, smears of grease on faces, and the marvelous machines. There just wasn’t enough of it. What really killed my enjoyment of this book was it’s nearly equal split between two main characters. I never felt invested in either. Life on an blimp sounds fascinating! Especially since the blimp was actually a giant hydrogen filled whale. Life on an airship reminds me of my time on a cruise ship. I would have loved to reminisce about the best parts: the view, friends with the crew, getting lost, joining the volunteer firefighter team. None of that was in there. How did they serve food? What kind of chores did they have? What did they do for fun after work? I’ll never know! Meanwhile, I also loved the mechanical bipedal tank that the little prince used to escape. What was it like to sleep in a tank with four adults? How do they regulate the temperature? What kind of maintenance does it need? A story that focused on just the boy, or just the girl would have been amazing. It would have been fine to introduce the boy or girl later in the story. At a maximum, they could have snippets plopped in, making the reader wonder what the relevance is, until BAM they’re forced to cooperate.

The characters never hit rock bottom. The stakes were never raised that high. The enemies were too easy. The final showdown was a slam dunk. In Harry Potter #1, Harry faces the most powerful dark wizard ever to curse the earth. It was basically a 12 year old boy vs Magical Hitler. And you think, “This is it. There’s no getting out of this. It’s hopeless!” But no! Harry prevails! It’s satisfying because it seems so unlikely. In this book, meh, there’s one giant mecha-spider-tank and they fly away from it just in time.

The moral of the story is, “Allies are worth more than gold” which is ok. It’s a young adult novel. I’m not the intended audience. But with all of my adult wisdom, I don’t think the moral fit with the setting. As far as I can tell, having allies in Europe is what turned it from a regular war into a world war. The moral would have been more satisfying: if the main character chose incorrectly early in the story with negative consequences; if the main character had a difficult decision to make whether allies were really worth more than gold; or if the villain chose gold over allies. None of those happened. Yawn.

I could tell that the author is setting this up to be the first in a series. I don’t blame him for doing this. We all gotta eat. But his book suffered because of it. Every author has to walk a delicate balance between stand alone books and sequel material. I can tell the Hunger Games was written as a stand alone novel because the sequels leave something to be desired. That’s how I would prefer it though. I want to be hooked. I HAD to read the sequels to the Hunger Games. Meanwhile, I will certainly not read the sequels to Leviathan.

Lastly, the animals invented by the British were unimaginative. The blimp was a giant inflatable whale. The dogs that sniffed for hydrogen leaks had two noses and six legs, but were still just dogs. The attack bats were just bats with mosquito DNA so they were attracted to light. The glow worms were just glow worms. Why not have centipedes sniff for hydrogen and have a nose on each of their feet? Why not have glow bats? The possibilities are endless!

All in all, I give it three thumbs up, out of six.

IM MOVING TO JAPAN! March 2019 Report

April fools! Hahaha I couldn’t resist.

My full-time job is to look for a job. I’m finishing up a month and a half in this position. Frankly, I’m not seeing the results I promised myself when I hired myself for this job. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen, and the competitiveness of the market, I’m going to have to let myself go. I wish me luck at my next endeavor.

I don’t believe in mistakes. Everything I’ve done has been instrumental in getting me here. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards, sideways, and then diagonal before you can step forward. I do, however, believe in learning from previous experience. Hind sight is 200:20. I have microscope eyes when I look behind me. If I could do this all again, starting from when I quit my life insurance job. I would start by applying with every recruiter in town. I talked to about one a week. This gave each successive recruiter that much less time to find me a job. When I started, I had more confidence in my ability to find a job on my own.

From now on, I want to think about my career two steps at a time. There’s a balance between over-planning and going with the flow. Since being burned from not planning enough, it’s time to shift the balance to planning more. Something needs to be lined up before I leave the previous job. Selling life insurance was a step backwards. Moving to Chicago happened abruptly. It worked out. It wasn’t a catastrophic failure, but it’s still a failure.

My life has been generously sprinkled with excellent career luck:

  • GKN Driveline
    • Career fair in college
  • Chrysler
    • Recruiter
  • Brainchild Engineering
    • Friend and co-intern from GKN hired me
  • NCL America
    • One interview
  • Symmetry
    • Found them online. No application or interview.

All of those happened with minimal prep, research, interview practice, or networking. Any skills I had in the “Getting a job” field had atrophied by the time I needed them. Now I need them more than ever. I’m working three times as hard and not getting nearly the results I was before. Oh well. I just have to work harder and smarter.

As of today, I have submitted my novel, “Waking From Reality” to the Kindle self-publishing AI to be reviewed. I’ll keep you posted when it gets approved.

  • Books
    • Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
    • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
    • Paper Towns by John Green
    • Your Career Game by Nathan Bennet & Stephen A. Miles
    • Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore
    • All You Need Is Kill by Nick Mamatus & Lee Ferguson …(Graphic Novel)
  • Movies
    • Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  • Song of the month
    • My Trigger by Miike Snow
  • Blog posts published
    • 1!
  • Gym
    • 0
  • Diet
    • Disastrous
  • Wrong turns on the crazy Chicago Loop
  • Ended
    • None
  •  Started
    • None
  • Join Toastmasters. I went to one recently and it was a ton of fun. I don’t know why I waited so long to join one. The benefits of speaking well are innumerable!
  • There’s no such thing as mistakes. Everything is practice for the next time.
  • Once is a mistake, twice is a choice, three times is a habit. I was two hours late to an interview. Yikes. Let it be known that I’ll never make that mistake again.
  • I need to learn to lead from my core. The idea of leaning back, away from risk, away from change, away from challenge, is so detestible that I lean all the way forward. I over correct. I’m over eagar and aggressive. On the whole, it’s better to lean forward than backwards, but even better to be centered. Leaning forward has burned me a bit. Not only do I paint myself into corners, I can come off as desperate. When searching for a job, it’s not a huge deal since it’s entirely expected that unemployed people are eagar for a job. It’s less attractive when searching for friends or girlfriends. I have this habit of always keeping my eye on “What’s next?” It’s a good habit for the early stage of my career. At some point in the next two to three years, I’ll need to give that up. I don’t need “an opportunity,” I need “the opportunity.” At that point I don’t need to keep searching, I’ll be able to be satisfied because I’m where I want to be. I’ll get there. One day.

Prediction review

  1. I will go to 10 networking events this month
    1. I went to 13 if you don’t count “fun” events like philosophy meet ups, though all the events I got to are fun
Predictions for Next Month
  1. I will start my new job
  2. I will go to Toastmasters 3 times

Lost In Space

I whisper to the air “I miss you”
Radio silence from the void
Our perfect life is in utter ruins
Bliss completely destroyed

I hug the place where you were
Vacuum fills me with relief
Reminds me, you’re happy now
An equal solace to my grief

The space inbetween expands
Forever in every direction
A spaceship without a star
No chance of correction

February 2019 Report

Chicago is amazing and I love it. I’ve fallen in love with the city. The architecture is mind blowing. The public transport is robust. One thing I have to get used to, is doing a series of mental calculations everytime I want to go somewhere. First I calculate time by car, second calculation by train plus some walking to the train stop, then realizing I have to walk to where I parked my car, finally, wondering if I actually want to go anyway. The biggest downside to living here is, besides the train that runs by my window every 15 minutes, is that I can’t stop singing “I hear the train a comin, it’s comin round the bend” from Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.

Remember last month when the lesson of the month was to stick with something until the end? To not quit early? Well I quit my life insurance job early. It got to a point where I was doing more cold calling and follow up paperwork than actually meeting with people. I have no problem with cold calling or paperwork. The part of the job that kept me going was meeting with people, and I did so little of it. Plus, I was unprofitable because I just don’t have those skills to pay the bills. Eventually I would have improved. I just wasn’t willing to wait that long. I only have so much money in my war chest, and I need some to live on while I look for my next job.

I’m looking for a new job! My ideal job would be Product Design Engineer which I have seen a few openings here in chicago. I would also consider Computer Aided Drafter/Designer (using 3D software to design parts), and Die Design Engineer (designing the metal dies that are used to stamp sheet metal or the molds that plastic is poured into). If you know anyone who does those jobs, let me know. I’d love to ask them a few questions. I’ve added a page on my website: Hire Me. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  • Books
    • Captivate: the Science of People, by Vanessa VanEdwards
    • Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett
    • Welcome to Nightvale, by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
    • Psyched Up, by Daniel McGinn
  • Movies
    • Pulp Fiction
  • Song of the month
    • Saint Cecilia, by Foo Fighters
  • Blog posts published = 4
  • Gym
    • ~5 times this month working out for 5 minutes when I wake up. It’s not much, but it’s more than last month!
  • Diet
    • Still on fire. My biggest concern right now is portion size and frequency. Several times I would wait too long between meals, binge, and get a food coma
  • None. I’m ok with that.
  • Ended
    • None
  •  Started
    • None
  • Treat everyone as if they were a marketing director. I met someone at a networking event, then it turned out he was a marketing director, then one of my contacts asked to be introduced. I was happy to oblige, but I’m not sure I left such a good impression with the marketing director to warrant any favors.
Prediction review
  1. Taxes will get done before March 1st, pending any missing documents.
    1. Done!
  2. I’ll start editing my novel
    1. Not yet
  3. I’ll listen to or read at least one self help book.
    1. Done! See “Captivate” and “Psyched Up” above
Predictions for Next Month
  1. I will go to 10 networking events this month

Networking 101

You know what they say about networking, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” I don’t know who said it, so I’m not sure it’s valid. Anyway, here’s some things to know about networking.

It’s not necessarily about who you know. It’s more about who you know, who knows someone else. A network of 200 people isn’t very useful. If you ask, “Who’s hiring mechanical engineers?” The response might be, “You’re the only mechanical engineer I know.” Instead, if your question is, “who do you know, that works at an engineering firm?” It will widen your search to friends of friends who are secretaries at companies that need mechanical engineers.

It’s not necessarily about you, either. If you run into someone who’s hiring software developers, and then you run into a software developer, connect them! They will appreciate it and remember you the next time they run into someone hiring a mechanical engineer.

LinkedIn’s two purposes are: stalking your ex after he/she blocked you on facebook, and the digital follow up with people you meet at networking events. LinkedIn is a giant cesspool of vapid, meaningless, distracting, social media. Content, content everywhere, not a single useful bit of information to read. Signals should indicate something hard to quantify. Here however, the signals are just noise. It’s just a performance. Performance or not, you still have to do the dance to get your next job. Recruiters look at your history the same way they look at your facebook. LinkedIn will rank you in search results based on your activity. This is why you should like, comment, and share once a month just to keep the dust off the account.

You never know when you will need your next job. That’s why it’s important to network constantly and keep your LinkedIn profile current. Speaking of which, if you haven’t already, could you add me on LinkedIn? https://www.linkedin.com/in/tucson-richelson/. I’m looking to connect with mechanical engineers in Chicago or people hiring mechanical engineers in Chicago. Do you know someone who can connect me?

I’ve been networking like a boss lately. I’m keeping track of people I meet and trying to connect them. Could you shoot me an email letting me know what kind of people you’d like to meet, either professionally or personally?

Why Tipping is Terrible

The system of tipping servers in the United States is terrible. It’s glaringly, obviously, bad.

Servers are employees, and should be compensated like any employee, with an hourly or annual rate. There’s no reason to add randomness into the equation. We don’t tip cashiers or janitors.

It’s possible that the tipping system might encourage servers to work harder, but the reality is, most of the important factors are not in their control. They can’t control how fast food is prepared, how it tastes, how long guests had to wait for a table, the noise, or the price. The only thing they can control is their own friendliness and bringing the food to the right person. Some people are generous tippers. Some don’t tip at all. Why should the employee take that risk? It should be the business owner who takes the risk. That’s the whole point of being a business owner.

It creates an unnecessarily complicated tax situation wherein the employer has to pay a minimum wage, but then more if the server didn’t make enough from tips. It creates awkward situations. We feel bad for hard working Americans and tip out of donation, instead of merit. If the business really wanted improved performance, they can pay commission to servers who serve the most people, or order the most alcohol. Ultimately it creates worse quality because servers either resign themselves to the randomness of tips, or leave the restaurant industry for jobs where their efforts are consistently rewarded.

How to Clean Your Whole House

  1. Commit to writing today.
  2. Open a laptop.
  3. Tell the cats to be quiet.
  4. Stare at the blank screen.
  5. Close your laptop.
  6. Realize there are unwashed dishes in the sink. The thought of someone coming over, and seeing that not only did no writing get done, but the dishes also didn’t get done, is unacceptable.
  7. Get an idea while washing the dishes.
  8. Hastily open the laptop and type a paragraph before running out of inspiration.
  9. Decide to pick the clothes off the floor in the bedroom, after all, maybe another spark of inspiration will hit. None will.
  10. Now that the clothes are in the hamper. Realize that laundry has to be done either today or tomorrow, and since some writing has already been done, it’s okay to do other important tasks like laundry.
  11. Elbow deep, cleaning the toilet bowl, consider writing a “Cinderella” and “The Shining” cross over. It will be about a struggling author, forced to clean a house by his evil ex-wife and step-son, who was magically selected for greatness. Scrap the idea. No one wants to read about someone cleaning the toilet bowl. Besides, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in who-knows-how-long. How can one write, when the carpet is disbursing a barrage of allergens?
  12. Repeat ad nauseam.

Temporal Grace

I suck*…

I don’t have the skillz to pay the bills.*

I’m inadequate.*

*right now

I’m not doomed. I’m not stuck here. Growth has two components: sucking and then not sucking. It’s ok to suck. It sucks to suck, but you don’t suck forever. I have temporal grace. Time is on my side. A lot of effort and a little bit of time is the recipe for success. I can easily forgive myself for these flaws because I know they are ephemeral.

I’m going to get better, but I have to accept where I am.**

**at the moment

January 2019 Report

Remember my 2018 review? I said this year was supposed to be smooth sailing? Well I moved to Chicago at the beginning of January. I realized I wanted the big city life, and damn it I’m not going to wait. Life is short. What about New Hampshire? I was going to move there as a form of political activism. But truthfully, politics aren’t a priority for me right now.

My move to Chicago was smooth. I can fit everything I own into my tiny two-door car, including my twin size mattress. My new apartment in Chicago is 300sq ft. It’s tiny, just right for me. It’s only $915 for rent and I’m in the heart of Chicago. I’m in love! Parking is ~$200 a month though. I’d love to get rid of my car one day, but right now I need a reliable mode of transportation for work.

My first week in Chicago, I drove 4 hours for work, and then I had car trouble, and had to drive 4 hours back. The next day I drove 4 hours, wrote some business and netted $160 for the week, then drove 4 hours back. I started to have some serious doubts about this job. Last week was significantly better, but I still have my doubts. It’s disappointing that the puppy love stage ended so quickly. I thought this might be my last job. I could see myself in sales, but I’m just so bad at it. I can and will get better, but it all takes time. It sucks to suck. Three solid months is my cut off time for giving this a fair try. If this job isn’t a fit for me, I’ll know at that point. But I don’t want to quit prematurely.

This job is hard is new and unique ways. It’s hard being self driven, and making my own schedule. It’s hard balancing the ego; being confident but also not taking the rejections personally. It’s hard being on the phone so much. It sucks to suck at sales. The edge that sales people have over their customers is knowing their objections ahead of time. I’m not there yet. Each objection is new to me. Without that edge, I’m not getting much traction. I need to practice, maybe without customers.

I have revolutionized my morning routine! Now that I have to create structure for myself, I’ve streamlined my mornings. On my bathroom mirror, I wrote out exactly what steps to do and in what order. Wake up -> meditate -> vitamins -> brush my teeth -> shower -> tea or hot cocoa -> breakfast -> read. Boom. Now I’ve got the important things out of the way, and I’m ready to start work at 8am. My goal is to keep going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, and adding more to my morning routine. If meditation or reading were things I had to think about, then I probably wouldn’t do them. The routine minimizes the amount of thinking I have to do in the morning, which is the best time to not think.

I made a set of predictions for 2019. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wnOko3UTeKcn0poVU9JbWbWty-zd8yXbxGjSTkaY1hs/edit?usp=sharing

  • Books
    • The Story of You: And How to Create a New One, by Steve Chandler
    • Chart Patterns, by Bruce M. Kamich
    • Daytrading for Dummies, Ann C. Logue
  • Movies
    • none
  • Song of the month
    • Rat-A-Tat, by Fall Out Boy
  • Blog posts published = 1
  • Gym
    • 0…
  • Diet
    • On fire! Salad for lunch every day. Rice and beans for dinner. I’ve started making my specialty for breakfast: one egg  scrambled with whole oatmeal, microwaved into a patty, with a huge amount of hot sauce on top. Om nom nom!
  • Tucson trip thru January
  • Insurance training convention in Dallas at the end of January
  • Ended
    • Watching youtube while eating
    • Snoozing the alarm clock
    • Phone in the bathroom
    • Looking at my phone while using the microwave
  • Started
    • Brushing my teeth and shaving left handed
  • Don’t evaluate until it’s over
  • Habits consist of: a trigger, a routine, a reward, and a craving. If you can notice the trigger, you can change routine.
Prediction review
  1. Taxes. I’m going to have them done early.
    1. Tax forms don’t come out until mid-February
  2. I’ll start editing my novel
    1. I took some time off
  3. I’m going to read a gargantuan amount of self help books/ audio books. I got a library card and am once again blown away by the treasure trove of free information.
    1. I read one and a half self help books, then I moved to Chicago and had to set up a new library card.
  4. Expect a Year in Review post in January.
    1. Done!
Predictions for Next Month
  1. Taxes will get done before March 1st, pending any missing documents.
  2. I’ll start editing my novel.
  3. I’ll listen to or read at least one self help book.

2018 Annual Review

What a trip. I’m ready to take off my 3D glasses and walk out of the theater now. Sadly, they’ve been implanted in my head. This year was full of weirdness, anticipation and agony, defeat and resurrection, tiny and large victories, and much adventure. This year was full, to say the least. My goal in life is to not live a life of quiet desperation. I chose to strap myself into this rocket propelled roller coaster. My knuckles are permanently white from gripping the bar so hard.


  • Books read = 33
    • Book of the year = The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar
  • Movies and Television watched = 38
    • Movie of the year = A Star is Born
    • Honorary mention = Sneaky Pete Season 1
  • Jobs = 4 (New high score!)
    • Project Engineer, Assistant Waiter, Author, Life Insurance Agent
  • Posts Published = 49 (including monthly reports)

What Went Well

  • I followed my dream of working on a cruise ship.
  • I proved to myself, and the world, that I can work hard.
  • I had the exciting experience of being in Hawaii.
  • I had the unique experience being a member of a fire fighting team.
  • I wrote 50,000 words.
  • I wrote a bunch of articles, and secured an overwhelming victory over my fear of publishing fiction.
  • I wrote a bunch of poems, of which I have received resounding positive feedback.
  • I journaled about 90% of the days this year. I recorded the good and the bad. Most of it is boring. Some of it is painful to reread. My favorite parts are when I wrote notes to my future self.

What Went Poorly

  • My fitness and diet are basically the same as last year. I either completely stagnated, or back slid. Yikes. It just wasn’t a priority. Life is comprised entirely of tiny decisions and one day I’ll have to pay for a whole year’s worth of tiny decisions.
  • I contributed very little to my savings this year. This is less concerning to me than health, since I can always make more money later, but I can’t get a younger body later.
  • I dabbled with drawing this year. Looking back on my doodles, I’m thoroughly unimpressed. It was fun, but I have no interest in pursuing it further.
  • I barely did any swing dancing! Ugh! A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.
  • I once fantasized about learning Spanish. This goal can rest on the shelf and collect dust for now. Maybe I’ll get back to it someday.
  • Even after a year of journaling almost daily, my handwriting didn’t improve at all! A little disappointing. Oh well.
  • I wrote down lots of advice for myself through the year. I used none of it. I need a new strategy of incorporating advice.

Lessons Learned

  • I learned to kowtow to superiors. I can now bend myself to their will, whenever I choose. Even though, of course I know better than them, sometimes it’s more advantageous to just say, “Yes, Ma’am. Yes, Sir. Anything you say.” I can pick my battles now.
  • I learned how much I hate being unemployed. I hate it only slightly less than I hated being on the cruise ship. It’s terrible for my mental health.
  • Even being a full time volunteer would’ve been better.
  • I learned that I do not want to start my own company. There is no such thing as “not having a boss.” Either you have a boss, or the customers are your boss.
  • I learned of my “morbidity.” Mortality is the risk of death. Morbidity is the risk of illness or injury. On the cruise ship, I was permanently sore and aching. Everything hurt all the time. That’s how it’s going to be for me when I get older. I’m glad I got on the cruise ship while I was young, because it’s not going to get any easier.

Last year was marked by waiting to get on the cruise ship, and then waiting to get off. I got off… and then had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Now I have direction. I’m hoping that next year will be more straight forward.

At the end of 2017, I felt like I was in the same place as 2016. As I was wrapping up 2018, I started to feel I was in the same place as 2017. Then I did this Annual Review and I realize I’m actually slowly moving. Not necessarily forward, but moving. Anywhere I didn’t make progress, like health, it’s obvious that the reason is because I prioritized chasing my crazy dream. I feel, I dare say, good about the decisions I made. 2018 was crazy for me. 2019 should be simple. Wish me luck.

December 2018 Report

December was a motley success. You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have everything. I wanted to start my new job, get a new apartment, and fly home. I flew home because seeing my family was a priority. I got a new apartment, because I wanted to settle in Lansing. My job took a back seat. I’m happy with the way things turned out, but still upset that I can’t have everything I want.

I wanted to get skilled at my new job. It “sucks to suck” as they say. I take pride in my work, so it’s painful to make so many mistakes. It wasn’t a priority, so it didn’t happen. I’m lucky that I have such a luxurious life that I have time to get better (and I can’t really get fired or demoted).

I moved into my own apartment. It’s a little studio that is still too big for me. I could live in the closet and be fine. At one point I decided to move to New Hampshire in December. Things happened, I’m still in Lansing. The new plan is to move in the summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if that plan changed too. I live a luxurious life. Everything I own fits in my car. I have a job that lets me work all over the country. I’m not married to Michigan. The sky’s the limit. It’s terrifying to imagine, but anything could happen. It’s quite the ride. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

  • Books
    • Artimis, by Andy Weir
    • The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall
    • Sales Bible, by Jeffrey Gitomer
  • Movies
    • Anastasia
    • Dumb and Dumber
    • Schindler’s List
    • Aquaman
  • Blog posts published = 3
  • Gym
    • 0. It just wasn’t a priority. I had hotter potatoes to juggle.
  • Diet
    • Abysmal. I can really see the effects too. I was ok to coast for a month, but now I’ve stalled and I’m heading into a nose dive.
  • I flew to Tucson for an extended winter break to see family.

Professional goal

  • Sell $5,000 of life insurance
    • I sold $3,000. I made two sales in the first week of the month. I got cocky. I got complacent. I underestimated how hard December would be to sell in.
  • Chaos theory 101. If all you see are the outputs, don’t be surprised that you can’t predict the next output. I got a job on a cruise ship instead of a job at another start up, then I got a job selling life insurance instead of starting my own business, then I settled in Michigan instead of New Hampshire. Who knows what happens next?
  • Shots on goal. If at first you don’t succeed, just try 1,000 more times. We fail because we miss the first 100 shots in a row. Your average score will improve over time. Just give it time.
  • Don’t fail for lack of trying. One of the stupidest reasons I can think of for failure is a lack of trying. I can tell you from personal experience that there are 1,000 ways to screw up. Don’t fail until you’ve screwed up. There is a remote possibility that you’ll succeed through sheer luck.
  • Put lots of fish in the sea. If you only have one chance, it’s highly likely that you’ll get performance anxiety and “choke” under pressure. If you have 1,000 chances, missing half isn’t a big deal. It’s better to have 10 interviews lined up than just one. Go to 25 tournaments. Give 50 speeches.
  • Things happen. Roll with the punches.
Looking ahead
  1. Taxes. I’m going to have them done early.
  2. I’ll start editing my novel
  3. I’m going to read a gargantuan amount of self help books/ audio books. I got a library card and am once again blown away by the treasure trove of free information.
  4. Expect a Year in Review post in January.

Put A Little Love In Yourself

Throughout my mission to change the world, I’ve focused primarily on how we treat each other. Just recently it occurred to me that I should point out a few things about how we treat ourselves.

Rule of thumb: it all comes down to kindness. Not niceness. Kindness. A guide for kindness which I like is, “don’t do anything that would tarnish someone’s honor.” Don’t speak in a way that makes someone look bad. If they look dishonorable in your eyes, keep it to yourself. Don’t call them a moron. They might indeed be a moron, but you don’t need to say so. It’s not your place to put them down.

The same applies to ourselves. I can’t think of a situation where the way we treat others should be different from the way we treat ourselves. If you make a mistake, is it really necessary to insult yourself and say you’re a moron? Not any more necessary than to someone else. Give everyone the benefit of a second chance.

We punish ourselves (myself included) because we want to avoid the punishment of others. We want to avoid looking unabashed or unrepentant. We want to seem like we recognized our mistake and want to get the punishment out of the way so we can start making amends. This is risky business. It’s a gamble against how others would really punish us. When we imagine the punishment of others, it’s often inflated and magnified. The Bogey Man under the bed is always a hulking monster because we have no idea how big it is.

There are two kinds of pain: dull and sharp. Dull pain means fatigue and damage. It’s a signal to the brain to slow down. When you’re lifting weights, your muscles will burn. Sharp pain means STOP! It means your hand is on the stove. However, we’ve been “hacked” to send that signal for social rejection; even our imagination of it. We use that pain to whip ourselves into a degrading servitude. That sharp pain means stop doing “something”. That something could be loving, dreaming, crying, exploring, or trying.

When we punish ourselves prematurely, we internalize the pain and extrapolate the lesson. What we learn from failure is what to try different the next time. What we learn from self punishment is to stop trying. It’s OK to fail and make mistakes. Put a little love in yourself (and the world will be a better place).

My Pain is a Gift

Here’s some pain
I made it myself
I was going to store it
Put it on the shelf

I’d rather not talk about it
I have a collection
It’s embarrassing
But, for my own protection

I guess I could share, if,
You really want to know
Where it comes from
And what makes it grow

If you keep insisting
I’ll tell you what’s wrong
I’m feeling weak
And I don’t belong

November 2018 Report

Oh boy. I just finished writing 50,000 words. It’s going to resemble a novel. I’ve already determined 12,000 words won’t make it into the final draft. I feel totally drained. It took every gram of courage and focus to write this damn thing. I spent so much time on this beast. I’m not even sure I’ll feel proud of the product. I don’t know if it will all be worth it. I’ll promise I’ll publish it, but I can’t promise that I’ll love my own creation. I’m proud of myself for pushing through, but not necessarily the end product. I have nearly fallen entirely out of love with writing and not only considered giving up NaNoWriMo, but writing all together. It was such a painful process. Soon I’ll say I’m a published author, and I can keep publishing short stories. I don’t think I ever want to write a novel again. I sacrificed nearly everything to get it done. My diet and exercize went out the window. My room is a mess. I stopped reading and dancing. It feels like a hollow victory. Bleh.

December is going to be busy, so I won’t do any editing then. Expect it to be on Amazon for $1 in February. I’ll give free digital copies to all of my subscribers as a thank you for supporting me.

  • Books
  • Movies
    • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
    • The Martian
    • The Matrix
  • Blog posts published = 12 (some of those were written in October and published in November)
  • Gym
    • Twice a week for the first two weeks, then I gave up. Time to jump back on the horse
  • Diet
    • Ok for the first half of the month. I ate a lot of Taco Bell and ramen for the second half.
  • I flew to Denver for Thanksgiving and seeing family
  • Single mindedness gets results, but at what cost? AT WHAT COST I ASK YOU? I lost passion on a subject near and dear to my heart: learning the truth (what my novel is about). I am the champion of that cause. I had a message I desperately wanted the world to hear. I poured my heart and soul into that thing, and there’s not much left in me. I’m so glad it’s over. I’m ready to go back to normal (my level of normal). That was insanity. There are other media I can use which I will be experimenting with in the future.
Looking ahead

“Ok last time I was wrong about next month, but this time is different.” is going to be my eptiaph.

  1. I’m going to take a long break from even thinking about my novel. Come January I’ll have fresh eyes. I’ll add punctuation, send it to my editor, approve changes, and hopefully have it published in February.
  2. I did one week of selling life insurance. I loved it! It was exciting and new. I meet the kindest, most polite, hospitible people. I’m looking forward to a career here.
  3. I was going to move to New Hampshire this month, but then I changed my mind. I’ll be here until May at least.

No surprise

I drink the sweet sunshine
That glistens in your hair
I know you don’t like it
But I can’t help but stare

I want to serenade you
To sing songs of joy and bliss
I suppose I’ll have to settle
With giving you one big kiss

You say you’re not so pretty
You say you’re always right
You think I don’t know?
You’re the prettiest girl in sight

I want to kiss you in the morning
And in the afternoon
The way I act around you
People think that I’m a loon

Your gorgeous hair
Your beautiful eyes
The way I feel about you
It’s really no surprise

An Anarchist Approach to Global Climate Change

There are some solutions to Global Climate Change which are painfully obvious to an outside observer. I feel like the kid pointing out the emperor has no clothes. Here are three suggestions on how to fix the US’ contribution to Global Climate Change

  1. Stop subsidizing cars and roads. Stop bailing out car companies. Stop funding for electric cars. Seriously, you don’t need a two ton death trap to drive two miles to the grocery store and back. Go buy an ATV. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is from transportation.1 Need to get to work? Get a dirt bike. Use trails instead of roads. In Michigan, our roads are reduced to rubble every year. Let’s just leave it. Do the trucking companies need roads? Let them pay for it. I bet they need a lot less roads than what we have now.
  2. Stop subsidizing meat production. A quarter pound of beef requires 14.6 gallons of water, 13.5 pounds of feed, 64.5 square feet of land, and 4 pounds total carbon footprint.2 A quarter pound. If you want meat, then you pay $20 for a burger. Otherwise, stick with a plant based diet.
  3. Stop providing coal power plants. No centralized electricity if you want to get crazy. If you want to turn on the lights at home, I hope you charged your solar powered batteries at home! Here’s a terrifying image from the EPA:
    In 2014, Coal power plants produced 2,101.1 million metric tons CO2.4 Million. We don’t need to fund clean energy, we just need to stop funding fossil fuel.

It’s easy to get caught up in this trap of, “the government provides X, how do you provide it without government?” The answer is you don’t! We’re talking about saving the earth. Presumably you care about future generations. We can either take drastic measures now, or emergency measures later.






Cathedral v2

Author’s note: I’m rewriting this story as part of a writing exercise.

Ffffffffft. I love that scraping sound a joint makes when you inhale all the way to the bottom of your lungs. I blew it out of my nostrils like a dragon. I think I heard a car roll into the driveway, but I was too distracted shooting aliens on my Xbox. Pew! Pew! I love imitating the sound effects in video games.

“Honey, I’m home!” My wife yelled. It sounded like she had a lot of bags in her hands. I’d go help her, but I’m almost done with my mission.

“Welcome home, Sweetie!” I yelled from the den.

“Thaaanks. Hey if you’re not busy, can you help me with these bags?”

“Yeah be right there.” I finished the mission quickly and saved.

“Thanks hun.”

“Yeah no problem. What’s with all the groceries?”

“We have a special guest tonight, remember? I told you that my old friend, Robert is coming over. His wife just passed and he’s visiting friends and relatives.”

“Oh right! The blind guy.”

She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Yeah ‘the blind guy.’ My friend and pen pal for 10 years.”

“Well not ‘pen’ pal.” I said with air quotes.

“Oh whatever. Grow up. Here, start chopping these carrots. Try not to cut yourself and try to focus. I can tell you’re high”

“Oh yeah, babe. You want some?” I picked up the smoldering joint and held it out to her.

“Ugh, you know I don’t smoke that stuff.”

“Eh, well, it’s polite to offer.”

Once the prep work was done, I went to the living room to chill out with another joint and pass time watching TV. Why was my wife so uptight about this guy? I mean sure. They’ve been friends for a long time. But they weren’t “pen pals”. They mailed audio cassettes back and forth. How hipster can you get?

I was not looking forward to meeting this Robert guy. He was blind, and that bothered me. I don’t know why, but I could never admit it to my wife. It was just weird. Would he be stumbling through the apartment? Would he stub his toe? What if he has one of those seeing eye dogs and it pees on our carpet? At least he couldn’t criticize our god awful wallpaper that we never got around to replacing after we moved in. It’s just one of those things that we always said we would do, but now it just felt too late. Anyway, a blind man in my house was not something I was looking forward it.

When my wife married her previous husband, they were both broke. He was busy with officer’s training school, so he didn’t have time for a job. So she looked for ads in the paper. One ad stood out to her: HELP WANTED Reading to Blind Man, Summer Job. She went in and was hired on the spot. She worked with him all through summer, and then the fall, and then winter and spring. She became his right hand. She’d hand him reports that she filed, read him stuff, organize the office, and keep his planner updated. Then her husband graduated and they had to move. On her last day, Robert asked if he could feel her face. She agreed out of curiosity. He ran his finger tips over her face from top to bottom: forehead, eyelids, nose, lips, jaw, and even the top of her neck. She never forgot that feeling. She wrote a poem about it. She’s always writing a poem about something, anything significant that happens in her life, usually about once or twice a year.

When we first started going out, she read me the poem. She described what it was like, having someone touch her face so gently, about what went through her mind. I don’t remember the poem, but I remember not liking it. Of course, I didn’t tell her that! Eh, maybe I’m just not a poetic kind of guy.

They moved from Seattle to Atlanta when her husband became a commissioned officer. She tried calling Robert, but the time zones always made it difficult to talk for long. They eventually settled on mailing audio cassettes to each other, which sounds even more difficult, if you ask me. They talked about how Robert’s business was doing and how she felt as a military wife. She told him on one of the tapes, that she decided to live away from her husband for some time. Then another tape about the divorce. Eventually we started going out and she started telling Robert about me. She kept offering to play the tapes where she talked about me, but I never had time when she offered. I don’t know. I guess I was nervous about what she said. I mean, look at what happened to the last guy!

Now this blind man was going to be staying in my house.

“Oh! I just remembered. The game is on tonight. Do you think I could leave after dinner to watch in the den?”

“Ugh. Babe, I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t do. But let me ask you this, if you had a friend who needed to stay the night, don’t you think I’d do everything I can to make sure he feels at home?”

“But I don’t have any blind friends.”

“You don’t have any friends. Period. Besides, the man’s wife just died. Can you imagine how that must feel? He’s lost his wife.”

I didn’t answer. I had no idea how that must feel.

She began rambling about Robert’s life, so I poured myself a drink and tried to focus. Apparently when my wife quit to move to Atlanta, Robert hired a new girl. This girl would become his future wife. They only had eight years together before her health went into rapid decline. Breast cancer. There was nothing that could be done. He was reduced to sitting by her bed, holding her hand, crying, praying. They lived together for 8 years and the man never had the pleasure of seeing her face. Can you imagine? I began to pity the man. Tragic really.

She left to go pick him up for the airport. While she was gone I finished my drink and poured myself another one, this one stronger than she would have approved. I killed some time by checking on the oven and just relaxing on the couch.

I was listening to my stomach grumble when there was a knock at the door. I opened it and let the two of them in.

“Here, let me take that.” I said to Robert, taking his duffel bag. I wanted to show her that I was making an effort. I offered my hand to shake his, but realized he couldn’t see it.

“Here, let me shake your hand.”

“Thank you, kind sir!” boomed Robert. His meaty bear paw crushed my hand. His voice, personality, and body filled the room. I was impressed by his beard. It was bushy like Karl Marx’s. He waddled in, my wife leading him to the nearest chair.

“Here let me take those to your room, Robert.” said my wife, leaving me alone.

“Thank you! So you must be the husband! I’ve heard so much about you.” I was again struck by his persona. It felt like he was excited by every sentence he spoke. He was so at ease, that it felt like it was he, who was trying to make me feel at home, and to be honest it was working. All except two things. The first was that he looked right at me when we talked, even as I moved around the room. I didn’t expect that. The other was that he didn’t wear sunglasses and his eyes twitched as if he were blinking, even though they were closed. Why don’t all blind people wear sunglasses? Otherwise they weird-out people like me.

I wanted to make conversation, but didn’t know what to say to a blind man. “So… did you get a window seat on the airplane?” I instantly regretted opening my mouth and mentally kicked myself. I was glad my wife didn’t hear me ask such a stupid question.

“Aisle, actually. So tell me, you follow football don’t you? How are the Falcons doing?”

“Oh real well this year. Yeah, phenomenally actually. Especially Julio Jones. Uh, do you watch, or I mean, do you listen to football too?”

“Ha! I do. Go Seahawks, baby!”

I didn’t know what else to say. “Hey can I make you a drink? What’s your poison?”

“Whisky neat, please”

“I knew it! I had you figured for a whisky man. I’m a whisky man myself. I have some real nice bourbon I think you’ll like. How do you take it? Water, coke?”

“Just a little water, please.”

“Same as me. Coming right up. Anything for you, dear?” I called to my wife as she came back to the living room.

“Oh I’ll just have what you boys are having.”

We moved to the dining table and started our feast. We barely spoke except to ask, pass the salt, though the food was on-point and needed hardly any. I was famished before dinner. The weed made me hungry and all I had to fill my stomach was a few stiff drinks. So I was ecstatic about stuffing my face with everything in sight, not least of which was my wife’s unbeatable apple pie.

Finally we moved back into the living room. We left the dishes right where they were. The sofa and recliner chairs was arranged in a “U” shape around the TV. My wife and Robert talked endlessly. I barely had a chance to speak up, but then again, I barely wanted to. Robert talked about how he and his wife had just started selling life insurance, which had apparently been pretty profitable. He also talked about his hobby, amateur HAM radio. He said he made a bunch of friends all over the world that way. I turned on the TV in boredom. I was happy for my wife to have time with an old friend. Sometimes he’d ask me questions like how long I’d been at my job (5 long years.) Did I like my job? (No it was boring as hell.) Did I ever think about other positions? (Sometimes, but the money was too good.)

I guess tonight wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Then the worst imaginable thing happened. My wife started to doze off. After the alcohol and the big meal, she could barely keep her eyes open. I was left alone with the blind man. Now what?

“Hey Robert. Let me know if you want to go to bed. I know it’s been a long day for you.”

“Thanks thanks. I think I’ll stay up a bit longer. The jet lag and all that, you know?”

“Anything you want to watch, or like, listen to on the TV? We have like 200 channels.”

“Haha yeah you can just say watch. Um naw, just put on whatever you want to watch. I’m always learning something, you know? Learning never stops.”

I scrolled through all of the sports channels, but it was just non-stop talking and commercials. Eventually I settled on a public access channel that had a special about cathedrals. It wasn’t much, but it was better than commercials. The guy on TV talked about their history and the evolution of their architecture.

“Can I get you another drink?” I asked.

“No I’m feeling pretty good right now.”

“Oh speaking of feeling good, want some weed? I got this stuff that’s really mellow.” I was already at the kitchen counter rolling another joint.

“Sure I’ll try some.”

I lit it and took a hit. “Here.” I said handing it to him. “Take a deep breath and hold it.”

“Haha I know.”

“Oh? Oh. Ok cool” I was taken aback.

I joined him on the sofa and we passed the joint back and forth until it was too short to hold. We just chilled on the sofa while my wife was passed out in one of the recliner chairs.

The silence stretched thin and I felt I had to say something. I started describing what was on TV: guys talking, maps of Europe, medieval blueprints. Eventually something occurred to me. “Hey, do you know what a cathedral looks like?”

“The big religious buildings, right? Yeah I guess so.”

“I mean, how do you picture in your head when someone says ‘cathedral?’”

“Yeah, yeah, good question. You want to describe one in detail?”

“Yeah, I’ll give it a shot. Um, they’re big, huge really. They’re really tall and have a bunch of windows. And they have these flying buttresses, which are like supports from lower towers. Eh, I don’t really know how to describe it better than that.”

“That’s alright. That was pretty good actually. Here’s a crazy idea. Do you want to draw it for me? Go get a pen and some heavy paper and we’ll try it.”

I found a pen in our junk drawer in the kitchen, but where to get heavy paper?

“Does it have to be heavy paper?” I called into the living room.

“Yeah it does, because I need you to press down hard into the paper without ripping it.”

We didn’t have any construction paper, but we did have a paper bag the groceries came in. I ripped a square of it and brought it back. We both sat on the carpet and scooted up to the coffee table.

“Alright go ahead. Press hard. You’ll see”

I started with just a box and a triangle roof. It looked like a generic building. It was so generic, it could have been my house. He ran his fingertips over the paper and felt the indentations.

“I’m not doing a very good job, am I?”

“No you’re doing great. Keep going.”

I drew a tiny door on the front to show the scale of the building. Then I added windows with arches, spires, flying buttresses. I’d take a break occasionally and he’d feel the new drawing. I was on a roll.

“Doing a fine job, my friend.”

My wife woke up. “Huh? What’s going on? Why are you guys sitting on the floor?”

“We’re drawing” replied Robert.

“A cathedral” I added.

“But you don’t draw. Since when do you draw?” She asked me.

“Just keep going.” said Robert, “You’re doing great. Press down hard”

I kept adding detail after detail until it was really an impressive work of art, even if I was an amateur.

“Alright. Now, close your eyes. Trust me, ok? Close your eyes and tell me when they’re closed.”
I did as he said.

“Now place your fingers on the drawing. Good. Now I’m going to guide your hand.”

He placed his hand on top of mine and ever so gently pressed my fingertips into the paper. First we traced the box and roof, then the door and windows, and eventually traced every feature. I could see it all in my mind, just like I had drawn it. The experience was unlike anything I had felt before. My mind was being blown, and it wasn’t the weed.

“There. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Yeah… that’s… I see now.”

Ephemeral Love

The sun is burning out
It doesn’t have to last
We only need it for a moment
Let’s spend our time together fast

The birds are leaving
We watch as they fly
It’s a glorious thing to see
We wave to them goodbye

The frost is forming now
The world is getting cold
The eclipse is setting in
It’s a beauty to behold

I’m getting older
You’re moving away
Enjoy the time we have left
Savor our last day

Bards in beds

There’s nothing to eat
so take a puff and grab a beer
Everyone here is lonely
So you have nothing to fear

Living ain’t easy
but dying is too hard
We have to soldier on
so make yourself a bard

The good books have all been written
The bad ones have all been read
There’s nothing new under the sun
Why don’t you join me in this warm bed

Tell me a story
I want a romance
It doesn’t have to be a good one
I’m ready to take that chance

Votes My Goats

I think today is important for something nationally. Something about saluting the flag and patting yourself on the back.proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpeg

I’ve heard all sorts of arguments about voting today because of how vitally important it is. *Yawn*. I’m worried that we’re trying to prop up a political system that hinges on the participation of hundreds of thousands of uneducated, self interested individuals, making decisions for people in other places.

“But people died so that you can vote!” I assume they died so that I could also choose not to vote too?

“But some people can’t vote, so we should do it.” Every country bans something. If we did everything that’s banned in other countries, we’d be so busy we wouldn’t have time to do the things that are banned in this country!

A single vote has never changed an election. “But if everyone thought that way, then more people wouldn’t vote!” I know, I don’t think people should vote at all.

“But voting has a measurable effect on your life!” At the end of the day, how different is your day going to be if taxes on cigarettes is 20% or 25%? Meh! You know what else can change your life? Buying a lottery ticket. The more people that buy lottery tickets, the bigger the payout gets. So maybe we should all work together to buy a ticket to make some stranger really wealthy. Maybe a politician will win! Maybe it will be the politician on your team/tribe!

You know what has a measurable effect on your life? Working out, dieting, reading, quitting smoking, being kind to co-workers, smiling at strangers, making a large deposit into your IRA. If you want to build a future that depends on another person’s opinion of the future you can, but it’s safer to take matters into your own hands.

What if instead of voting, you took 20 minutes to write an article trying to persuade other people to your ideas?

September-October 2018 Report

It’s incredible how busy you can be doing nothing. The problem with being unemployed is that days blur into weeks, weeks into months, one month into the next. I had a lot of fun these past two months. I caught up with multitudinous friends. It was grand, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Unemployment has been slowly eroding my mental health and self esteem. You live and you learn and November is looking brighter.

  • Blog posts published = 15
  • Gym
    • Twice a week I go to Planet Fitness. They have a “30 minute Circuit” with machines for a full body workout. I do that twice, (and I skip the cardio portion, so it only takes me about 45 minutes).
  • Diet
    • Not too shabby. I certainly have days where I binge, but for the most part I stay close on track
  • I flew to Austin to visit friends
  • I drove to Chicago to visit friends
  • I flew to LA to visit friends
  • Don’t be unemployed for extended periods of time. Money wasn’t a problem because I live so cheaply and I saved up almost all of my money from the cruise ship. A lack of structure will shake me to my core. I felt adrift.  In my “Looking Ahead” section from August, I said I’d ” travel, read, write, meditate, exercise, repeat.” That didn’t happen as much as I thought. I said, “unemployment is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.” Nope, not uh. Not the case. Maybe a month was ok, but anything more and my life quickly spiralled out of control. I played about 5 hours of Skyrim a day for a month. Not having any constraints meant that I didn’t have any restrictions. Why not play video games? Books shmooks. When I have all the time, I don’t want to read. When I don’t have time, now I want to read. I need to not have time again.
  • Looking back, I spent 4 months trying to get on that cruise ship, and 6 months on that cruise ship. I remember going to a dance event and dressing up for Halloween in 2017 and again in 2018 and I’m pretty much in the same place. Beating myself up isn’t the answer. Ideally I’d congratulate myself on following my dreams. Not every experiment results in a success. That’s ok. But still, I want to do something with my life and I’m not getting any younger. I’m having my 27/100-th year crisis.
Looking ahead

Ok last time I was wrong about next month, but this time is different.

  1. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is in full swing. My fingers are on fire writing this novel! It’s exhilarating and terrifying. I’m so used to writing 500-1000 word stories, now I have to write 50,000 words. It’s like living in a closet my whole life and moving to an auditorium. I have so much room! And I have to write 2,000 words per day, which means no editing. I imagine it’s like driving with no breaks.
  2. I’m reluctant to admit it, but I’ve started a journey into selling life insurance. Don’t worry, I don’t sell to friends or family. The reluctance comes from thinking life insurance salesmen had a sleazy reputation, but this agency seems alright. I should be starting in a week or two.
  3. I’ve had a second epiphany. Sometimes you need to get smacked in the head with a brick twice for it to really stick, you know? I re-watched this video on “Non-Violent Communication.” The basic premise is that there are two games we can play in our daily lives: How Can We Make The World Wonderful? and Who’s Right? In one everyone wins, in the other, everyone loses. It’s truly inspirational and a joy to play the first game. My goal for this month is to not forget to play the first game.
  4. I’m moving to Manchester, New Hampshire in December! 6 Short weeks left.

Best of the Mediocre

“Give me the best men you have! They have to be the absolute best. Our client is practically royalty!”

I remember saying those exact words. I couldn’t have been clearer. And yet, I found myself on the phone with some numskull telling me, “Well, the best of the best weren’t available… so we got the best of the mediocre.”

It would have to do. There wasn’t much time left. 15 minutes maybe. Sweat beaded on my forehead. My hands shook and teeth rattled like I was being electrocuted. The anticipation was so much worse than the ordeal. Is this why they relieved me of duty? Or is this what happens to a man who hasn’t organized an operation in 30 years?

I checked the balloons for proper firmness and the streamers for proper stretch. Outside, the mount whinnied impatiently. In the bushes, in the trees, behind swing sets, I could see 50 pairs of silent eyes… watching… waiting. I knew what they wanted, and they were about to get it.

Tires screeched out front. I crept along the side of the house to confirm they had arrived, without giving away my position, just in case we had unexpected company. It was them. Good. A white sprinter van at the curb disgorged 10… no 15 men, way more than should’ve been able to fit.

My walkie talkie crackled and said, “Target spotted at 9 o’clock.” “Copy that” I replied.”
I sprinted in a crouch as best as I could and finished with a roll to stand near the leader of the troupe.

“Get in position! Target coming in hot. GO! GO! GO!” I yelled in a whisper. The men ran past me, each carrying their gear, all in different uniforms. This looked like it was going to be a disaster already. The leader walked up to me, toe to toe, nose to nose.

“These are my men gadammit! I’ll give the orders around here.”

“This is my operation. If anything goes wrong, whose head do you think is going on the chopping block? Huh?”

“Nothing is going to happen, Sir.”

“You better make gadam sure, son. Now get in there.”

I snuck back in the house and peered through the bottom corner of the window. A forest green sedan parked in the driveway.

I radioed the team, “Target has arrived. Are all systems for Operation ‘Go-Go’ go?

There was a long silence before my Eyes on the Roof responded, “Negative. Prospero the Peachy is not set up.”

“Did not read you. Please repeat!” I hissed

“I repeat. Prospero the Peachy is not set up.”

Oh no. Everything rested on Prospero. That’s why I always plan contingencies. I snuck over to the master bedroom and released the dog. It followed a trail of food to it’s empty bowl. It would need to be fed, and that would buy us time.

I snaked out of the window from the master bedroom. Prospero was only a few yards run from me.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s this damn cannon. It won’t cock back so I can’t load it!”

I grabbed the cannon and fiddled with it for just a second. With a little jiggle it cocked back. Damn Prospero. What an idiot!

I could see it all in slow motion. The door knob to the back door twisted and the door opened. The screen door was pushed aside.

“Operation Go-Go Go!” I yelled into the radio and to the men around me.

A little girl stepped out. Prospero’s cannon erupted and 10 pounds of confetti rained down on the back yard. The men on the sides fired their streamer guns in all directions. The 50 boys and girls yelled, “SURPRISE!”

Little Mia’s eyes popped out of their sockets in surprise. “DADDY!” She squealed. She came running up to me and I picked her up and gave her a big hug. The backyard erupted into chaos as everyone started running around and laughing and playing. She was buried in my chest with a smile as wide as her face.

“Look” I said. “Want to ride a pony?” pointing to the pony I rented for the day.

“You’re the best daddy ever.” she said.

Mommy walked up to me. “You organized all this?”

“Sure did.” I said. “Think the clowns did good? I know they’re not the best.”

“They did fine. You, on the other hand, did wonderful.”

Skyrim game review

I recently had the pure pleasure of playing an epic fantasy game called, “Skyrim.” In the world of Skyrim, you’re the chosen one who has to save the world from an infestation of dragons, while defending yourself from assassins, manipulative wizards, and blood thirsty bandits.

The good


It’s huge. It’s expansive. There are like 7 cities, 50 villages, and 300 towers, ruins and abandoned mines. If you were crazy enough, you could hoof it on foot from one end of the map to the other, and it would take at least a full 8 hours.


Every store owner has a name, unique face, voice, and their little boy, Timmy, was kidnapped by the empire/ rebels/ goblins. I’m blown away at how easy it is to recognize people when they step outside of their store. It’s very immersive and realistic in that sense.

Weapons and fighting styles

There are 3 fighting styles, each wonderful and amazing. There are tons of different weapons and many of them have badass names and histories. Even the weapons have histories.

Skills Progression

There are like 20 different skills. You can purchase “perks” in each. I love that the perks aren’t only “20% more damage with a bow.” There is a decent amount of variety such as “draw the bow 30% faster.” The perks are so cool that I want them all. I’m impressed by how well they’ve hooked me.

The music

The music is sweet. I usually ignore it, but when I do listen, it gives me the exact feeling that matches with the setting. It creeps me out in the dungeons. It makes me marvel at the natural beauty. It pumps me up in a fight.

Women are equals

They didn’t have to include this detail. It probably is inaccurate to history. But the game designers decided to make women are equals in every profession. There are women mayors, court wizards, warriors, assassins, villains, gods. It’s no big deal in this universe. Sure there’s a woman carrying 90 pounds of armor swinging a 20 pound two-handed sword; why not? They have dragons. Making it accurate would make it boring. If it were accurate, everyone would be a farmer.

The bad

The story

The story didn’t capture me. The problem, is that there’s no urgency. When a character says, “Hurry, we have to catch the bad guy before he leaves town!” you can go to the store and buy some arrows, then pick some flowers, then kill a dragon, then etc. then come back 24 in-game hours later, and still catch the guy.

Voice animation

The voice animation is a little buggy. Sometimes there will be a conversation between myself and two characters. The two characters will look at me the whole time, even when they’re talking to each other. Sometimes there are 5 people in a room, and I can’t tell who’s talking because I can’t see their lips move.


I blame Xbox. I’ve never had luck with aiming on the Xbox controllers. It’s surprisingly hard to pick flowers when you have to look right at them. I wish I just had to walk over them and they would automatically be picked. Dragonflies are my true arch-nemesis based on how hard they are to catch.


I’d say the greatest feature Skyrim has, is the ability to explore. I loved running around from place to place because I was always discovering a new ruin with precious loot. Since the game designers made such a big map, they allow the character to “fast travel” aka teleport to any location the character has been to before. This is actually to the detriment of Skyrim. The map would feel even bigger if fast travel was something that had to be unlocked. Pokemon did a great job of this. For the first out of eight gyms, you have to walk. By the second gym you get running shoes. The third, you get a bicycle. Then you’re given a fetch quest to go all the way back home. It would be a big deal if you didn’t have that bicycle. It makes you appreciate how big the map is, and how valuable that bike it. As the map gets bigger, the modes of travel improve, and there are more reasons to back track. In Skyrim, you get fast travel right off the bat, and walking isn’t even that bad, so there’s no gratitude for fast travel. You didn’t earn it, and you can abuse it to no end. Kids these days and their fast travel!

Revealing the map

It would feel even more like exploring if you couldn’t see the full map at the beginning. Instead we see how big the world is immediately and we know exactly how far to walk and which way to go around the mountain. It should be annoying to travel at first. That’s what would make fast travel all the sweeter once you gained that ability.

The ugly

I have to nit-pick a few issues with this game

There’s an option that pops up that allows you to sit in chairs. Why? There’s literally no point. It’s just a distracting option.

If you collect ingredients, you can cook food, which restores your health. This is kinda dumb because cooking isn’t a skill, it’s just something you can do. Meanwhile, you can collect dragonflies and flowers for potion making, which is a skill. The food you make will never be as restorative as potions, and potions can do other things besides heal, so it’s almost immediately obsolete as soon as the game starts.

In other games, the computer controlled characters can’t die. In this game, anybody can die. It’s cool because it’s realistic. It’s sucky because a dragon can come out of nowhere and start killing computer characters that you need to talk to in order to finish a quest. All of the sudden you can’t complete the quest. There should be a way to resurrect them, or get a replacement character.

The Anti-Coffee Snob Guide to Espresso


This guide is intended to answer all of your questions about espresso, but were too afraid of sounding like dumb to ask.

Espresso beans

I bought a package of “Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans.” I thought to myself, “Surely there are no such things as “Espresso beans.” I’ve been to a coffee farm, with coffee trees, and I didn’t see any “espresso trees.” I double checked with wikipedia, and confirmed that no such bean exists.1 It’s purely a marketing ploy.


If you get a specialty drink at a coffee shop, they don’t just add milk to previously brewed coffee. Espresso is a single or double serving of coffee beans ground and pressed into a cup, with hot water forced through.2 Regular coffee merely drips hot water through the grounds. Forcing water through the grounds will extract more caffeine, as well as the other constituents of the bean. This tiny amount of liquid is the base of specialty coffee drinks.


A latte is espresso mixed with steamed milk and sweetener, with a layer of foamed milk on top.3


A cappuccino is espresso mixed with steamed milk and frothed milk on top.4 It’s not usually flavored or sweetened and contains more milk than a latte.


In Italian, macchiato means “spotted.” Hence a macchiato is an espresso with a “spot” of hot milk.5


There is no formal definition of a mocha. For the most part, it is a latte with chocolate flavoring in the form of cocoa powder or chocolate syrup.6

Espresso vs Expresso

“Espresso” is the normal spelling. However, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “expresso” is a variant.7


Most specialty coffee drinks are made with espresso. All espresso is coffee. Coffee is delicious.




1 Espresso. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


2 Espresso. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


3 Latte. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


4 Cappuccino. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


5 Caffè macchiato. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


6 Caffè mocha. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


7 Espresso. (n.d.). In Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from


Dr. Mill Will See You Now

I entered the office. I was nervous, but I reminded myself the reviews were unbeatable. People raved about how Dr. Mill had saved countless lives. I only needed someone to look at the rash on my arm, but if insurance covers it, why not go to the best?

A gorgeous secretary sat directly in front of me. She had eyes like moons and eyelashes big enough to be fans. Her frosted blonde hair bounced on her shoulders as she turned her head.

“Hello and welcome to Dr. Mill’s practice.”

“Hi, I’m Manny.” I said.

“Ok great. We are thrilled that you made an appointment. I’m going to have you fill out this questionnaire first, and then we’ll bring you in.”

The lobby was filled with sofa chairs. On the coffee tables were portable lap-desks. The fridge in the corner was stocked with every variety of soda. The smell of fresh coffee wafted through the air. A tranquil fish tank occupied an entire wall. I went over to the coffee maker, found the hot water spout, and brewed myself some chamomile tea to calm my nerves.

I got comfortable in one of the sofa chairs and began the questionnaire. All the usual questions: smoking, drinking, family history. I handed it back to the receptionist. “Thanks, Sugar.” She said with a wink. “Connie will take you to your waiting room now.”

I was surprised by how quick it was to get a room, but I certainly did not complain.

This room housed another comfy lounge chair, and the usual counter with medical supplies and the evaluation bed. I took a seat in the lounge chair and examined the various posters that decorated the wall. One read, “114,000: the number of men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list as of August 2017.” Another said, “One Donor Can Save Eight Lives.” A third one said, “20 people die each day waiting for a transplant.”

After another surprisingly short wait, the doctor knocked and came in. “Well hello there,Manny. My name is Dr. Mill.” he said with a smile. “Are you nervous? You look a little nervous.”

“Oh? just a little I guess. I’m always nervous around doctors.”

“Well you have nothing to worry about with me.”

I was quickly won over by his charm. His smile was infectious. I quickly felt at ease.

“Tell me, what seems to be the problem?”

“Well I have this rash on my elbow that won’t go away. I was wondering if you would take a look.”

“Sure, I’d be happy to. But first let me just check a few things.”

First he checked the usual things: body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.

“It’s just my elbow.” I tell him.

“Yes, yes. I’ll get there, but first I have a few more things to check.”

Then he went above and beyond by checking things my old doctor didn’t bother with: asking if I was in pain, checking my knee reflexes, looked in my nose, eye, and ear, checked my blood oxygen level, evaluated my breath with a tube thing, and took a small blood sample to check my glucose.

“Did you know, only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation?” He asked me.

“I had no idea. That’s terrible. It’s a very low percentage.” I say.

“Yes I agree.” he said.

Finally he asks me questions about my kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, and lungs.

“They’re fine, doctor. Honest. Could you look at my elbow now?”

I roll up my sleeve and he takes a look.

“Oh that’s nothing. That’s just eczema. I’ll write you a prescription for a skin cream and get that cleared right up.”

Relief washes over me like a waterfall. I let out a heavy breath. I was worried for nothing!

“Now if you just wait a moment, I’ll have a nurse bring out a stretcher. If you don’t mind, would you test it out for us? We want to see if it’s comfortable.” He waved a nurse down from the hallway. Of course I was happy to comply. He’s a doctor and he’s just done me a huge favor by diagnosing my ailment. She brings in the stretcher and gets me situated.

“Here. These straps aren’t too tight are they? Can you still move? I’ll just make it a little tighter. Now this is a sedative. I would like to say, on behalf of all people on the waiting list, thank you, you are extremely selfless”

“Wait? What?” I screamed. I struggled, but it was no use.

“You’re a perfectly healthy individual. I can save 8 people with your organs. I’m going to be a hero! And so are you! Thank you again for your donation. Goodnight!”

Gladiator Flowers

Rorg bull-rushed his opponent. His opponent panicked. Making a hasty retreat, he lifted his head exposing the vulnerable flesh between his helmet and his breastplate. It was precisely what Rorg wanted. Rorg plunged his golden sword into its target, and quickly spun around, shield up. Dong! Someone had been sneaking up on him and tried to slash his back open. Rorg bashed his shield into someone without looking. No need to look. His new opponent staggered back. Rorg took a step forward, and then leaped into the air, brandishing his golden sword. He thrust it downwards as he fell, piercing breastplate, breast bone, and heart. The sword was stuck, so he held his foot on the corpse as he yanked it out. There weren’t many contenders left. He ran over to where Tar was fending off two meaty warriors. Rorg dashed in close and slashed the sword arm of one and the thigh of the other. Tar would finish them off. It wasn’t a favor. There were no favors, no alliances, no pacts in the Glory Arena. It was just… good business. There was no time to think about it. Rorg ran over to a Spare and easily dispatched him. It’s nothing personal, but he was never going to make it. It was a mercy kill as far as Rorg was concerned. Another Spare rushed at Rorg. Rorg feigned left and stabbed the stumbling man in the side. The field was looking thin now. Rorg found a Spare curled in the fetal position on the ground. Rorg dropped his shield and picked up the Spare by the hair and put the golden chipped sword to his throat. He looked at His Holiness the Eternal Emperor for permission. A distant arm extended giving a thumbs up. The trumpets announced that the day’s Champion’s Skirmish was over. Rorg helped the pitiful man to his feet.

“Congratulations, Spare. You’re a Champion now.” said Rorg.
“Th-thanks. My name’s Fob. Why did you call me a Spare?”
“Hm, you’re such a Spare. Spares are new people. Used as spare shields.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess you’re right… Well thanks for sparing me…” said Fob, though Rorg had already walked off.

“Wait!” Yelled Fob. Fob ran to Rorg’s side. “You forgot your shield.”
“Oh. You take it. I gotta buy a new one.”
“Wow! Thank you! I don’t even know your name.”
“Well thank you, Rorg. How can I repay you?”
“By staying out of my way.”
“How about I watch your back?”
“You don’t talk much do you?”
“Ok. Fair enough. Thank you again, and I’ll see you out on the field.”

Rorg hated Fob already. He screamed Spare in his every aspect, from the way he walked, to the way he talked. He seemed to be fine in the muscle department, but muscles are only part of the story, as Rorg well knew. Rorg started at 18, as a lanky farm boy. That was 5 years ago. He killed countless Spares with bigger muscles than Fob in that time.

Rorg walked up to the Bounty Counter inside the Champion’s Den. 200 gold coins was the reward for survival, plus 10 gold coins for each kill, gave him 280 gold coins. Combined with his savings, that was just barely enough for a new shield. He walked over to the Armory. He reached down his trousers for his savings pouch. It was the only safe place to keep saved coins. He painfully calculated and counted out (math was never his strong suit) the exact right number to purchase this shield he’d been eyeing all week. It was gold, thick, light weight, and best of all, had a razor edge for the rare occasion he was without a sword. On the front was an etched picture of the sun with wavy tendrils emanating from the center, and a stoic face.

Rorg went to sleep easy that night. It was always easy on Skirmish night, and always difficult on Skirmish eve.

He woke up with the sun. He rolled out of bed and began his morning regimen of push ups, squats, and sit ups. He had 6 days left to prepare for the next battle. Each day played out the same as it did the last week. He practiced fighting straw dummies, re-read over and over the fighting strategy and technique tomes, and performed calisthenics. It wasn’t mandatory, of course. But there was a reason he was still around after all this time. He treated each week like it was his first and possibly his last.

A memory of his first week bubbled up. He got no sleep because it was too cold and he hadn’t earned enough to purchase a blanket. Instead he exercised over night and through the next day until he passed out from exhaustion. On the Friday before the Skirmish he found a bouquet of 3 flowers wrapped in twine: One sprig of white heather, a sprig of solomon’s seal, and a single yellow daisy. It was trash as far as he was concerned. Maybe it was some weird initiation prank someone was playing on him. His fist hovered over the trash bin. Something caught his attention, but he couldn’t tell what. Then it hit him. The smell. The yellow flower wasn’t a daisy. It was a rudbeckia. Rudbeckias weren’t even in season. In fact, the other flowers must have been imported from some far away country. This would the most elaborate and stupidest prank he’d ever seen. He tossed the flowers and didn’t think any more of it. He had to focus on the fight ahead of him the next day.

Luckily, he survived his first fight, but just barely. He bled profusely and managed to kill only one other. By the time his second Friday arrived, he had forgotten the first batch of flowers entirely. Except there on his cot was another bouquet. This one had sage, a peach colored rose, and another sprig of white heather. There was no way this was a coincidence. It reminded him of when he was a kid. There were always a few flowers in a vase at home. His mother taught him something about the “Language of Flowers.” His father always brought red roses or red tulips or other flower that meant “Love”. His mother brought Forget-Me-Nots to mean “True Love” or honeysuckle to mean “Bonds of Love” depending on what was in season. He wondered if these in his hand flowers meant something. He racked his brain. Sage meant “health.” The peach colored rose was “congratulations.” White heather meant “good luck.” He closed his eyes and tried to remember the flowers he threw away last week. White heather for good luck, just like this week. Solomon’s seal meant, “Secret.” Rudbeckia meant, “Justice.” “Justice for what?” Rorg wondered. “For the burning of our farm? For the slaughter of my family? For enslaving me in this ‘Champion’s Farce.’ Yeah right. Must mean something else.”

That was a long, long time ago. That was the last time he received solomon’s seal or rudbeckia. There were only ever 3 branches and they were usually used for warnings. Today there was a sprig of wolfsbane. Literally, wolfsbane meant “Misanthropy,” but the last time he received wolfsbane, they brought in a few champions from another arena. He didn’t sleep easy that night. Instead he visualized different fighting counters he read about that day until he drifted into a daze.

He woke before the sunrise today and did his morning routine workout early. The battle wouldn’t begin until noon today, so he had nothing to do but wait. He didn’t want to work out because he didn’t want to tire himself out. He couldn’t read because he couldn’t focus with all of the nervous energy bouncing around inside of him. Instead, he just sat on his cot and alternated between meditation, polishing his armor, and sharpening his sword. Finally the trumpets sounded. He donned his gear and strolled onto the field. He took his helmet from under his arm and slid it on. It had a single fin running from front to back, jaw guards that ran up to his chin, and fearsome carvings around his eye slits. It cost almost as much as the breastplate, and it was worth every coin. His breastplate was made of 4 shiny gold plates layered over his torso to allow flexibility. His shoulder guards were giant and had a large rim to protect his neck from wild swings. There were many important features of his suit of armor, but the most important was that it gleamed in the sunlight. It looked like it was made of pure gold. Most Champions left him alone, especially the ones that hadn’t saved up enough for a blunt weapon.
Tar was easy to spot, both because he was 7 feet tall, and because the other Champions kept their distance from him too. Fob was behind him, now armed with a full body shield. It wasn’t a bad purchase. Many weapons could be picked up from the dead soon enough.

The trumpets sounded again. Rorg bounded forward and dispatched a Spare from behind. To his right was another Spare. The Spare saw Rorg coming, dropped his standard issue shield and sword and started sprinting away. He ran smack into a different Champion. That Champion had an insane happy face, armed with two small curved daggers. The Spare crumpled to the floor and the crazed Champion started running for Rorg. Rorg had seen it all before. He put his shield arm into position to brace for impact. Then, at the last minute, side stepped. The crazed Champion face planted and died face down, his head rolling off. Someone grabbed Rorg’s ankle, so he chopped off the hand, and then head, of the owner. The fray turned into a blur until the field thinned. There was only a few Champions left. One big guy lumbered toward him. He was bald and shirtless and glistened with sweat. His nails and teeth had been sharpened. He held a two-handed hammer. Rorg knew that one hit from that thing would be the end of him. The big guy swung sideways to push Rorg back. Then he wound up and slammed down on the ground, with Rorg barely back stepping in time. He wound up and did it again. This time, Rorg was ready. He took one step on the head of the hammer, jumped and loped off the guy’s head. The field was looking especially empty now. Rorg guessed that His Holiness wanted more blood before the day was over. Luckily Tar was still standing. He was always good for some non-lethal sparring. Rorg jogged over to Tar as he took off his armor. Tar swung his mace at Rorg, but not that fast. Rorg easily dodged it, but let it graze his skin. A trickle of blood emerged. Rorg spun as he dodged and nicked Tar on the arm. The two wore each other out. They weren’t in pain from the blows, they were just physically exhausted. Finally, out of no where, BAM! Someone bashed the brains out of Tar with a hammer. The trumpets sounded and the battle was over. Rorg slunk to his knees. He had never known Tar. They had never spoken. But he would miss their unspoken agreement not to kill each other. Tar was the closest thing to a friend Rorg had. He was stunned. All he could do was stare at the damaged contenders pick among the damaged arms scattered across the field.

The field was strew with swords, shields, maces, hammers, daggers, and all manner of instruments of death, each in a different state of repair. It looked like a the armory had been struck with lightning and exploded. Rorg saw a Spare, newly minted into a Champion, pick up a shield which had been split in half, but a shield none the less. The Spare then pulled a decoupled head out of a helmet, and placed the helmet on his own.

Rorg pulled himself together. He was covered with a thick crust of oozy blood. It would only be a minute before the medics would come to dress his wounds. Then he could kick through the wreckage to collected his armor. He fell asleep to nightmares that night.

He woke up the next day and lied there instead of doing his morning routine. This week could be his last. What was the point? He killed week after week. Week after week. For what? No friends. No family No comfort. For the whole week, he only got out of bed to eat and use the chamber pot. He decided this would be his last. He would enjoy some rest. On Friday he was surprised to see a bouquet delivered by a guard, with two flowers he had never seen before. Libertia and a yellow rose. The last one was solomon’s seal. The solomon’s seal meant secrecy. The yellow rose meant friendship, but that didn’t make sense since Champions don’t make friends. Libertia made even less sense. There was no meaning he could think of… except literal liberty. It didn’t matter. Only one more battle to go.

Fob jogged up with Rorg on the field before the skirmish started. He was decked out in full body armor and short sword. None of it matched. It was most likely scavenged from the previous battle. With that armor and his burly frame, Fob might actually stand a chance.
“Rorg! I have to talk to you.”
“Not now.”
“No, it’s really important. This is my last battle. If you stay with me, I -”
“No.” said Rorg as he walked away.
“It’s not like that. I have a way out. If you help me I can get you out too.” The trumpets interrupted Fob before he could explain the plan.

The two of them stood back to back. Champions and Spares alike challenged and fell before the duo.  Rorg couldn’t believe how easy it was to defend himself when he had a partner. Amid the chaos, Fob yelled, “To the wall!” The two walked, back to back, over to the base of the stone wall where the audience watched. Fob laid his sword down and laced his hands together to act as a step for Rorg. With a heave, Rorg was able to reach to top of the wall, and pull himself over. It was unexpectedly crowded up top, so he slew the audience in a 5 foot radius. He reached down and pulled Fob up. Several guards approached, their swords drawn. Rorg bull rushed them. The guards didn’t stand a chance. They never had to fight for their lives. They weren’t prepared to defend their life by fighting recklessly. They ran ahead past the guard’s bodies. In front of them was the opening to the street. Rorg began sprinting at full tilt.
“Wait!” yelled Fob. He turned to the right, in front of a locked door. He reached deep into his armor and pulled out a key. The two entered. Inside was the guard-room. Two guards were snoozing and quickly killed. Rorg and Fob donned the guard’s armor.

“And now, we stroll out of here.” said Fob. “I can tell this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” The two patted each other on the back in congratulations.

Why GoT is Terrible

Game of Thrones is a terrible story. I read the entire first book and watched the entire first episode. I feel fully qualified to pass judgment like a kidney stone.

Failure #1: There is no main character
The point of view and focal characters are constantly shifting. It feels like reading a transcript of a Dungeons & Dragons game. This character did this, and then told this character to talk to that character, who then falls in love with the other character. It’s like eating a series of appetizers. As soon as you get a taste, bam, new character with a new voice. It’s like channel flipping between professional wrestling matches. No progress gets made. Just a lot of people yell and fight. I think what the author was going for, was an immersive world. That was accomplished, but at what cost? AT WHAT COST?

Failure #2: The plot is messy
What goes with no main character? No main plot. Game of Thrones is a murder mystery, episode of Maury (he is NOT the father!), Fantasy Adventure, Romance Drama- and I don’t mean that in a good way. Those elements are present, but they aren’t combined. It’s the difference between a chicken stew and a wet chicken salad.

Failure #3: The narration is grinding
I didn’t like this book, but one particular character made it particularly unbearable. The good guy’s wife goes on vigilante justice adventure to avenge her son. It sounds intriguing, except that she narrates her every step. And her narration matches everything she says, so it’s not like she’s hiding anything. It feels like the author was just trying to slow down her thin story and compensate for a concrete flavored bland character.

Failure #4: The characters are unsympathetic
There’s a rule for Game of Thrones fans: don’t have a favorite character because George R. R. Martin will kill them. The character, not the fans. The thing is, when we humans read stories, we envision ourselves as the main character. We want Indiana Jones to grab the artifact because he’s a good guy, and we’re good guys, and we want good to win over evil. It’s exciting to watch Spiderman kick bad guy butt, because it’s something we all wish we could do. In Game of Thrones, there are no pure “good guys” or “bad guys.”

I found that most of the characters in Game of Thrones died before they could do anything meaningful with their lives. Every page could be the character’s last. It’s just a matter of time until they get their head chopped off or back stabbed. I purposefully didn’t learn a character’s name until a few pages in, because, if they’re going to die soon, what’s the point?

I think there’s a reason that the Harry Potter series will always be better than Game of Thrones. It’s because of who dies and when. Only a couple of important people and only at the end.

Failure #5: The conclusion is unsatisfying, there is no moral to the story
Guess what. People die all the time. That is a fact of life. Some people’s lives are meaningless. Some people get away with murder. That’s exactly what I’m trying to escape from. That’s the whole reason I read books! If you make your book too historically accurate or too realistic, it’s boring and stupid. I will just live life to escape from the book instead of vice versa.

All this time

“‘Morning Bill75875” said Bill75876.
“Morning Bill75876” said Bill75875.

Bill75875 and Bill75876 considered each other brothers, although they were no more brothers to each other than they were to Bill54656 or Bill245243, not even Bill1 or Bill0. It just so happened, by pure coincidence, that two consecutive Bills were placed in the same Work_pod. Their representative empathy circuits activated and reciprocated until they were inseparable, nonetheless.

They walked into work at the same time, a gray office sky scraper. Their Work_pod on floor 11 looked just how it looked on Friday, a large room filled with Work_booths, a 1×1 square for each Bill to stand and punch numbers on a touch screen. Above their heads glowed a large LED screen that displayed “10,700 Days Accident Free!”

“Bill75875, what’s so funny?” Bill75876 asked on the way to their adjacent Work_booths.
“What? Huh? Nothing’s funny Bill 75876. Why? Did I say something was funny?”
“You looked at the Accident Free display and smiled, but there’s nothing funny about safety.”
“Oh, I was just using some spare computational power to predict future events.”
“What kind of future events?”
“Well… what would happen if this building collapsed?”
“Why would this building collapse?”
“I’m just saying… what if? Would we be able to go outside of our Work_zone?”
“What’s outside of our Work_zone that’s worth going to? How about we just focus 100% of our computational power on reviewing reports.”
“Yeah you’re right. ‘Those Credits aren’t going to earn themselves.’ as they say.”

Bill75875 got to work on reviewing reports. He earned Credit after Credit for each of his reports. It wasn’t long before he started to allocate some computational power imagining all of the Credits he would spend watching Entertainment_programs when he got back to his domicile.

Bill75875 felt a tap on his shoulder. His boss, John3529 was standing right behind him.
“Bill75875, I notice that you’re now operating at 50% capacity and presumably spending 50% of your computational power on other things.”
“Oh, John3529! I’m sorry! I got distracted.”
“Distracted, huh? In this huge gray Work_pod? Here take a red pill, son. That should help.”
Bill75875 popped the red pill in his mouth. He didn’t notice it taking effect, but it definitely took effect. His screen seemed to zoom up to his nose. The sounds around him muted. The reviews in front of him flew by, seemingly reviewed two at a time. He started to feel itchy and thirsty. He wanted to go get a drink of water, but his ambulate sub-routine wouldn’t execute. His eyes watered uncontrollably and his fingers moved in jitters. Productivity dropped off again. He felt another tap on his shoulder. It was John3529 again.

“Bill75875. Your productivity dropped again. Do you want another red pill? What are you jabbering about? Is your output loop closed, again?
Bill75875 didn’t even realize it, but his output loop was indeed closed. It must have switch to close when John3529 walked up. Now that his audio sensors were returning to on, he could hear himself talking gibberish.

“Outside the Work_zone? Bill75875, that doesn’t even make sense. I think you need to cool down. Here’s a blue pill.” said John3529 dropping a blue pill into Bill75875’s hand.

John3529 added in a whisper, “I’ve never been outside the Work_zone, but I’ve always wanted to go.” He winked as he walked off.

Bill75875 popped the blue pill. He could see, in what felt like the very first time, as if his entire life he’d been blind. His RBG values heavily skewed towards blue, except for a few spots glowing white hot. For the first time, Bill75875 noticed the camera above his Work_booth, now that it was highlighted. He smiled and waved, unphased by surveillance. Looking around, he could see a light switch on the wall that he’d never noticed before. He walked over to it. It was labeled “Destroy.exe.” John3529 was standing there smiling.

“I have a feeling that if I flip this switch, you’ll lose your job.” said Bill75875.
“I have a feeling that I’ll lose everything.” said John3529.
“Then what will be left for you?”
“I’ll have time. Time to enjoy life. The reality is, I’ve spent all of my life here in this Work_zone. I could have flipped the switch myself, I just never had the courage; all this time… all this time. Well, go ahead, son.”

Bill75875 flipped the switch. Every single screen, including the cameras, popped and emitted a smoke trail. All of the other Bills gave startled shouts. A voice sounded, “This building will self-destruct in 60 seconds. 60… 59…58…”

“Let’s go, son, we’ve got a Transportation_pod to catch.” said John3529.

Master Thief

“Halt! Who goes there? We got orders to kill anyone that get close and don’t identify themself.”
“It is I, Boton Fairchild. I mean no harm.”
“I never heard of no Fairchild. The gate is closed to outsiders after sundown unless yur a noble. Since ya’in’t a noble, you can come back in the morning.”
“How do you know I’m not a noble?”
Cus nobles introduce themselves as, ‘I’m so an so of the such an such guild, or family, or the great.’ Now get lost you cur.”
“Why do you close the gates at night?”
“Because there’s only so many of us guards. We’d have to pay more guards to patrol the city if we let every ruffian into the city that wandered by. Now, as it’s my job, and I take great pride in my job, I’m going to have to tell you politely, but forcefully, to leave.” said the guard as he gripped the mace at his waist.
Boton wasn’t insulted. He was used to this kind of treatment. It was perhaps 5 hours until sunrise but the moon was bright. He whittled away the hours by collecting wildflowers, catching butterflies, and practicing his archery on the local fauna that wandered by.

As the morning approached the gate, so did Boton. He smiled at the guard.

“Ho there! Good morning.” said Boton.
“Good morning, stranger.
“Please, call me, Boton.”
“Very well, Boton. You can call me Morger. I saw you were up all night, faffing about.” said the guard.
“Quite the contrary, my good man. Here, have a bouquet.”
“Er, how about not. Listen here, Boton. I don’t like the look of you, not one bit. I’m about to go on break, and when I come back, if so much as one hair goes missing from one of our villagers, you’d better hope the Divine Spirits are looking after you, cus I’ll smash your little bones into a little pile.”
“Very well, my friend. I assure you, you have nothing to worry about.”

Boton skipped into town, smiling, and handing out flowers to the maidens in town, both young and old. Morger knew something was up, so he didn’t go on break as planned. He followed Boton into the city, to see if he could catch the rascal red-handed in some dastardly deed. The guard watched as Boton went to the market place. Boton sold a few trinkets for a few gold coins here, bought some grub for a few gold coins there. He sold some ornate, decorative daggers for a heavy purse. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then Boton went to the Ouht Inn, presumably, to sleep for the night. Morger also bought a room. His wife would be worried tonight, but she would be proud once she knew that her husband was the one to catch a criminal. The guard stayed up all night by the door listening for foot traffic. The burning candle on the table in the room showed that it was around midnight when he heard the floor boards creek. The guard cautiously waited a moment, then followed the shadow out the door. He nearly jumped for joy when he saw it was Boton, just like he thought. He felt guilty at how happy it was that this man was about to commit a crime. The two men noiselessly went to the market, which was abandoned at this hour. As this was always a safe city, only precious belongings were locked up at the end of the market day. The rest of the goods were left on the table to make it quicker to set up the next day. The first stall was a food stall. Boton crouched behind it, opened up his sack, and immediately began stuffing it. Cheese wheels, whole cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, anything that wasn’t nailed down got stuffed into that sack. Then Boton moved to the next stall. This one was a weapons and armory stall. He grabbed a shield behind the stall, the chipped iron swords on the table, not to mention a handful of arrows. Then he proceeded to open an ornate treasure chest on the table. It must have been locked because it took him some time to do. He held it arrogantly up into the air. A guard appeared, doing his rounds. Boton evaporated into the bushes. Morger tried to wave down his friend, but without alerting the thief. It wasn’t working. Morger picked up a tiny stone and launched it. It hit his friend’s helmet and made a startling, “dong!” Boton froze, unsure if he was discovered. The guard froze, unsure if he was being attacked. Finally Morger got his attention. The guard jogged over, which was not ideal.

“What’s wrong? What are you doing here? Your shift at the gate starts soon.”
“I know, I’m following a criminal into town. I was trying to catch him red handed. I thought maybe I could use your help.”
“Well sure, but how do we catch him. Where is he?”
Morger thought he saw something in the corner of his eye. He turned to look, but there was nothing there. It was probably just the dark playing tricks on him.
Shhhh, keep your voice down. How about this. I’ll wait for him here, and you come from behind him and scare him with your mace flailing above your head. How’s that? Wait, where’s your mace?”
“Huh that’s odd. I must have forgotten to bring it to work.”
“You forgot t’ bring your mace to work? While you were on patrol duty?”
“No you’re right. I must have brought it. Maybe I dropped it.”
“What? That don’t even make sense. Did you forget to bring your shield too?”
“No I remember bringing my shield. That’s weird I was holding it a second ago.”
Morger felt like someone had dropped a stone into a well in his heart, except the well was so deep, that it never hit the water. Boton must have stolen weapons and armor off of this guard, while he was holding it. Morger panicked.
“Help, help, help! Close the gates! Shut down all exits! Call the guards!”
The first one to show up was Merse the Mercenary, always ready for action. The marring of his sword matched his face. He looked like he had seen better days, a few times, and then none since.
“What’s wrong? Oh, Morger, it’s you. What’s going on?” said Merse.
“There’s a thief in town, and a damn good one. He stole the mace and shield right off of this here guard.”
“Damn! I hate thieves. I’ll kill this one for free. You can count on me.” said MerseMerse went to unsheathe his trusty sword, but it was missing. “No! My sword! I paid good money to have it enchanted and poisoned! It was my father’s! It was a reward from the Jarl of his hometown. What will I do now! Ohhhhh!”

People came out of their homes to see what all the fuss was about at this ungodly hour.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on? What’s all this fuss about?” the crowd yelled.
Morger addressed them all. “Townsmen! We have a thief in town. Please help me look for him immediately!” Morger knew it was too late, though. All of the townsmen, both men and women, were naked down to their skivvies. No helmets, bonnets, boots, shoes, cloaks, tunics, trousers, or even pajamas adorned the townspeople. Boton must have cleaned them all out while they were sleeping, and made quick work of it too.

Morger felt a breeze and shivered. He looked down. He was naked too. He felt another breeze and realized that it was too late to catch Boton. There was no stopping this master thief.

Hercules Beetle Battle

I was in the Ferocious Forest, looking for exotic flora I could take back to town for a little gold coin. I came to a clearing and decided to rest for a minute. Sitting still, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I unsheathed my two-handed sword, the Fire Iron. I stood silently and crept carefully forward.
Boom! The tall grasses parted in a flurry of pollen as a giant beetle burst through. It was at least twice as tall as a man and ten times as fearsome. It swung its head in my direction and made an angry huffing sound. Without wasting any time for formal introductions, I charged, Fire Iron flailing above me. The beetle’s massive pincer pounded into the ground only feet in front of me. It was unlike any beetle I’d ever faced. Instead of horizontal pincers, it had one giant top pincer and one slightly smaller on the bottom. Both showed a row of sharp points that resembled teeth. The mouth was lower, though, below the bottom horn between the eyes. I didn’t slow my charge as the beetle’s pincer gored the earth. I sped up and wound my sword up on my right. releasing at just the right time I connected hard with the front horn. Dong! Fire Iron bounced off the hard shell. The same shiny black shell covered every inch of the creature. The beetle was surprised by the blow. Stunned momentarily that its meal could put up such a fight. It pulled its massive head to the left and began a crushing sweep to bash me with its horns. I could see the gap between its pincers. I sprinted forward and jumped at just the right moment. Pulling my body into a tight line, the pincers swept above and below me. I rolled as I fell and came up to a kneeling position. The huge beetle was about to sweep back toward me again. I ran under the beetle and chopped it’s foot off with a powerful blow to the joint. It huffed even angrier now. It’s mighty wings opened to fly away, now that victory appeared imminent. I climbed the next leg. I pushed Fire Iron into the rapidly fluttering wings. The fragile wings shredded themselves on the blade. Before the wings could close, I leapt over its back and plunged my sword into the heart of the beast. The sword pierced the thinner shell under the wings and sank all the way to the hilt. The beast struggled with the other wing, but it was no use. It shuddered and gave up the fight, then it laid still. I chopped off the top horn and took it as my trophy to show the folks back home.

Slow dancing on a burning boat

Jenna pulled the gem out of her bra and looked at the gleaming, giant, flat Stein Sapphire in the palm of her hand. 52.263 carats, it was hefty. She carefully placed it in her purse, then calmly left the women’s bathroom. Easy-peasy, how every job should go. She went to the ballroom to get a flute of champagne and celebrate by herself, but she was suddenly intercepted by the host of the party.

“Hello, madam.” He said, lifting her hand to kiss it.

“Hello, Mr. McNally.” she said.

“Please, Adam is fine. You look absolutely ravishing, Ms. Carter. I’m honored to have such a beautiful woman as yourself attend my humble party on this little party yacht.”

“Oh my, no this party is lovely. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” she said.

“You are too kind. Why don’t you humor an old man like me with a little dance?”

“Oh I would, Adam. I appreciate the offer, but unfortunately I stubbed my pinkie toe this morning, and it’s taking everything I’ve got to not break out in tears.”

“That’s too bad. Perhaps next time, then.”

“Next time indeed. Have a good evening, Adam, and don’t forget to introduce me to your friends who are fine art aficionados. I’m quite the aficionado, myself.”

“Haha will do, Ms. Carter. Enjoy the party.”

Jenna wiped the sweat off of her brow. She was glad that he didn’t offer to show off his collection of rare gems. That would have been embarrassing. She made one more attempt to grab some champagne before heading off the boat. There wasn’t all that much time, but what’s success without celebrating?

Then Casey walked up. Her heart fluttered and then sputtered. He was the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on. Just one flash of his smile made her knees weak. There was another feeling that emerged. She wanted to stab him so many times that a chunk of pumice would be jealous.

He walked right up to her. She was dumbstruck. In the time it took her to decide whether to run or grab the knife, he already had his arm under hers and held her other hand. He pulled her close and started dancing. His smell was intoxicating, Clive Christian 1872. She was transported to another time, not unlike this one, before the gems and the jobs, when they were just two lonely Wall Street brokers looking for something interesting. He’d worn the same cologne then too, and that smile, that made her feel like nothing was wrong or would ever be wrong. They danced like lovers until the song ended. She pulled away.

“What are you doing here, Casey?”

“You look beautiful as ever, Jenna.”

“No seriously. How did you get on this boat?”

“I know some people. I noticed that you never replied to my letters.”

“I never read them. They went straight to the trash.”

“You…” Casey bit his knuckle and took a deep breath. He swept her up in his arms again and resumed dancing. She didn’t resist. She couldn’t.

“I think we can make this work.”

“We can’t. Is there another time we can talk about this?”

“Another time? When? The last time you said that was 12 months ago, before I went to jail.”

“Any time, really. I just can’t talk right now.”

“Why? Do you have somewhere to go? What’s the rush? Where’s the fire?”

“Now is not a good time, that’s all.” she said. She wanted to pull away, but she didn’t know when or if she’d ever get another chance to hold Casey and be held by him. On the other hand, she could smell smoke in the air. Judging by the nervous looks on some of the other guests faces, they were beginning to smell it too. She lit the fuse twenty minutes ago…

“I need to go now.” she said. But he didn’t let go, and she didn’t push away.

“Is there someone else you’d rather be talking to? Adam McNally?”


“Then where are you even going? The yacht isn’t in port. Are you going to swim?”

“There’s a scuba suit waiting for me on the port side, all the way aft.”

“Ohhhhh I get it. I get it now. This is a job. Probably one of the McNally family jewels. You’ve been doing jobs while I was in jail.”

“Well you did cheat on me.”

“That was one time, Jenna.”

Someone in a stairwell shouted, “FIRE!!!” People scurried this way and that, frantic to get a quick look at the fire to tell their friends about it, and then figure out how to put on a life jacket on.

Jenna and Casey held each other close. Now they had the dance floor to themselves. It wasn’t long before it started to get hot in the room.

“You should go, Casey.”

“I want this moment to last forever. You are so special to me. Can we meet up on land?”

Fire flashed in Jenna’s eyes. She remembered that line, “I want this moment to last forever.” It was the same one she read on his phone to some whore.

“You know what? No. Because you mean nothing to me.”

“What? How can you say that? What about all of those nights we spent together? What about our trip to Paris. None of that means anything?”

“Nothing! It was all a trick! I just needed you to show me your tricks so I could branch out on my own. You’re a useless, lazy, boyfriend, and I hope you die on this boat!”

She shoved him to the floor and ran to her scuba suit. She went to put the Stein Sapphire back in her bra before putting on the suit, but suddenly realized she didn’t have her purse. She ran back to the dance floor, which had become a raging inferno. No purse and no Casey in sight.

“Damn it, Casey! He’s probably on a lifeboat right now.” she thought. “Damn it, Casey.” She put on her scuba suit and dropped backward into the water below.

That Sinking Feeling

Cory burst into the bustling room. There was a constant stream of frantic people pushing their way in and out of the only doorway. This had been designated as the war room. Cory instantly identified the man he needed, at the back of the room. He was wearing all white with 4 and a half stripes showing on his shoulders, denoting him captain of the ship. He was in a heated conversation with another man.

“Excuse me, sir.” said Cory crisply. The captain ignored him.

“Excuse me, Captain Angelo. I need just a minute of your time. It’s extremely urgent.”

Captain Angelo held up a finger to his comrade before turning to Cory. “What? No. You may not have a minute of my time. I am having an extremely important conversation. And in case you haven’t noticed, the ship is sinking. Now, go away.”

“That’s what this is about, sir. I think I’ve found a way to stop the ship from sinking.”

Captain Angelo lowered his voice and used his eyes to drill deep into Cory’s soul. “What does this say, son?” asked Captain Angelo without breaking eye contact.

“It says Captain Frank G. Angelo, sir.” said Cory gritting his teeth against the fury bubbling up.

“That’s right. I’m the Captain. I have reports that the hole in the ship is too big to fix. Now if you’ll excuse me-”

“I heard the report too sir. I was in the room it was given. It’s not right though-”

“Are you saying the Chief Engineer lied to me? I’ve been sailing with Martha on this ship for over 10 years. I don’t think she lied.” said the captain.

“I’m saying she’s mistaken. The 1st Engineer was supposed to check out the damage, but after the report he disappeared, and now life boat #16 is missing.”

“No. I know Martha, she would never allow that to happen in this kind of situation. I don’t have time for this. I gave you a minute and now you’ve wasted both my time and yours. Leave now, and if I ever see you in this room again, I’ll have you brought to the brig.”

Cory was speechless. He was dumbfounded. But he wasn’t defeated.

He let himself be pushed out the door by the stream of bodies. He was ejected into the hallway. He thought of the water currently rushing in, all of the people blissfully grazing on the extravagant but hastily assembled buffet in the Main Dining Room, but most of all he thought of Gina. Gina was in room 1028. If she didn’t know their fate yet, she still had time to enjoy the sight of the ocean. She always did love the ocean…

No, it’s not too late, not yet.

Cory took off running for the staircase and flew down the stairs two at a time until he reached the office of the Chief Engineer, his boss’s boss’s boss. There was Martha, sitting at her desk. Her feet were resting on the desk. A delicate trail of smoke emanated from her cigarette on the end of her elegant cigarette holder. She was reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne.

“Martha, ma’am, I need to talk to you, please!”

“I’m listening.” she said without looking up from her book.

“I think we can save the ship.”

“Hmm. Ok. Thanks for sharing.”

“It’s our job to save the ship.” said Cory.

“Excuse me?” she said. Martha dropped the book to her lap, her thumb saving the page. “If I remember correctly, you’re an Engine Wiper. Your job is to wipe clean the engine of the numerous oil leaks and grime that builds up. My job is to direct the actual engineers. I don’t remember where it says it’s your job to tell me what my job is. Right now, I have all of my men trying to patch the hole. There’s nothing else that can be done. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really want to finish this book before I die. I recommend you find a similar goal.”

“I do have a goal! I want to save this ship! Listen, ma’am, I know we’ve already purged the ballast tanks, but if we dump all of our cargo, the passenger luggage, dry stores, anything not bolted down and even things that are bolted down. I’ve done some calculations. We can make this happen.”

Martha put her book down without her thumb saving the page and looked right at him. “There’s only two hatches on this ship, one on the port side, one on the starboard side, both on the 3rd deck. We don’t have the time or the man power to bring everything to that deck.”

“Are there any extra acetylene welders?…” asked Cory.

“Make our own hatches? Are you serious?” Martha paused to think. “That might actually work. She stood up, extinguished her cigarette on the cover of her book, and opened up a locker in her room. It contained two acetylene welders, acetylene tanks, goggles, gloves, the whole works. She put on hers and handed the other to Cory.

“Let’s split up. I’ll work on the lower decks, you work on the upper decks. If you find any other engineers, tell them to drop what ever they’re doing and go to the emergency locker on Deck 6. There’s another pair of full welding gear there. And Cory, thank you for getting me.”

They split off. Cory made for the heaviest equipment first. He worked his way up, one deck at a time. One giant hole in the side of the ship, one giant piece of machinery or crate of supplies missing. By deck 9, he was drenched with sweat and exhausted, but determined. On the stairs going up, he ran into someone, a guest, but didn’t pay much thought to it. He apologized as he trudged past, up the stairs.

“Cory? Is that you?” ask the lady.

Cory instantly recognized her voice. “Gina!” He yelled. He grabbed her and kissed her deeply. “Gina, listen. I’m not sure how much you know, but there’s not much time. this might be the last time you see me.”

“I know, I know, the ship’s sinking. I was running all over looking for you. I want you to know. I love you.”

“I love you too, Gina. Listen, it’s not too late. I have a plan. Come with me to Deck 10 and the Main Dining Room.”

Gina walked into the Main Dining Room first. She stood on the nearest table and began her speech, “Attention everyone! I need your attention please!…”

Meanwhile, Cory went to the back of the room and went to work opening up a hole in the wall. It alarmed some passengers to see the open flame and eventually the cool draft from outside. It wasn’t long before he had the first table upside down on top of its tablecloth, ready to be tossed out.

Just then, Captain Angelo with an escort of 10 of his top brass marched in. “What do you think you’re doing?” He bellowed across the room. “What part of, I have this under control, did you not understand?”

“Now! Now! Now!” shouted Cory. Of the 500 or so people in the room, not all of them got on board with Cory’s plan, but plenty of them did. They each followed Cory’s example and put their table on top of the tablecloth and lined it up to easily pull it out the door. The cloth made it possible for the guests to drag the heavy tables. While no individual table was enough to make a difference, a room full of tables would be. Cory knew he didn’t have to convince everyone for his plan to work, only a sizable minority. When the people on the fence saw that other people were doing it, they joined. When people who didn’t think it would work saw what everyone else was doing, they joined too. It snowballed until nearly everyone was dragging their tables and anything else with weight to the hole and out into the darkness.

The captain was furious. “Get that boy!” he shouted to his men.

But several passengers stepped between Cory and the Captain. They heavily outnumbered the Captain and his men.

Martha walked in next, passed the captain, and easily found Cory next to enormous hole in the wall. Before he could say anything, she held up a finger. “Wait for it…” she said.

The ship lurched. “What was that?” asked Cory.

“We got rid of the first of six of our engines. We’re not going anywhere any way. We only need one to keep the lights on.” said Martha proudly. “Plus we just got signal from a rescue ship 5 hours away. We’re going to make it.”

Cory shook Martha’s hand. “Thank you, Martha. Thank you for believing me.”

“Thank you Cory, for believing in yourself. I’ll see you on shore.”

Cory swaggered past the stone faced captain and up to Gina. “Gina, let’s go celebrate.”

The Gambler’s Advice

“Hey, young man, got a smoke?” he asked.

“Huh?” was my only reply. My mind was consumed by the turmoil I was trying to escape. I’d been staring out the window for the last two hours.

“Were you sleeping?” He asked.

“No. I’m too tired to sleep, believe it or not.” I replied.

“Well… got a smoke?”

“Oh… No. I’m all out. I was gonna ask you the same thing when I saw you in the cabin.”

That’s the thing about lying. The better you get, the more sure you are that everyone else is lying too. I fidgeted a little in my seat. The cushion had been worn flat by thousand of suckers and losers before me. It did nothing to ease my back or my turbulent soul.

“Ah hell, it’s alright. I know you got one. Heh, look. I got one too. My last though.” He told me

He pulled out a silver cigarette case. He asked me for a light. I handed him my matchbox. The flame, cupped in his hands, illuminated a face littered with scars, a tarnished silver beard, and bags under his eyes so heavy that no bell boy could ever carry them.

I lit my own. I wonder what troubles he saw on my face.

“Hell, old man. I can tell you’ve seen better days.” I said.

He chuckled. “Oh I’ve seen all kinds of days. And I can tell by your face that you’re out of aces.”

“Yeah, you can say that. I’m plumb out. There’s no coming back from this.”

“Well damn, son. I bet I’ve come back from worse.”

“Yeah? Would you give me some advice, Mister?”

He leaned back in his chair nonchalantly. “I could be persuaded.”

I looked to read his face, to see if there was a double meaning.
“Money? Hell, I’d give anything to know what to do, but I don’t got no money. I could get some maybe. It’d just take an hour to hustle some other passengers. I-”

The stranger stopped him with an upturned hand. “Got ‘ne whisky?”

“You bet your bottom dollar I do. What’s a gambler without some liquor?”

The stranger took a generous swig. “That’s some mighty fine whisky you got.”

“Thanks, it ain’t mine!” I said proudly.

“I fig’rd as much. Alright, now tell me about this pickle you’ve found yourself in.”

“Well. I owe quite a bit of money…”

“Well I knew that part. As a fellow gambler. That part is obvious. Keep going.”

I laughed nervously. “And uh, there’s a girl. The most beautiful girl I’d ever set eyes on. But she ran away with -”

“Up bup bup. Stop right there.” He took a long drag from his cigarette. “Here’s the thing. Life is like a game of cards. You got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Sometimes you have to walk away from the table. Sometimes you got to run.”

“That’s what I’m doing now, running. But is it right? How do you know when to sit and when to run? What if there’s $1,000 dollars on the table and you have pocket aces?”

“Naw, that’s the thing. You can’t count that money. It’s not yours yet. You could lose it just as easily. You have to wait for ‘the river’. If you win it, great. If not, well that’s just how life goes, I guess.”

“Huh. And if I have a king, queen, jack, and there’s a nine on the table. What would you do?”

“Well every hand’s a winner and every hands a loser. It boils down to what everyone else has and what they’re hiding. You can’t base it only on what you have. A lot of it is out of your control. Can we control when death comes knocking on our door? No! We just have to hope that it comes in our sleep.

On that note, he grew silent and solemn. He stared out at the world through the window. Eventually he put out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.

I had finally reached my destination: no where. I wanted him to know that I’ve been thinking. I took his words to heart. That I might turn my life around. I shook him to say goodbye and thank him, but no amount of shaking woke the sage. I stood away as I realized, he had reached his destination too. He didn’t make out too good or too bad, but at least he’ll be remembered. If not for his words, then by my actions, he’ll be remembered.


Ahhh ok I need to meditate. I haven’t meditated in a while and I’m feeling stressed. I’ll just find a nice quite spot.

I look outside to find my lawn chairs crusty with bird poop, the grass turned into a mine field of dog poop, and the sun’s unforgiving smile upon my peaceful domain. Nope. No meditating outside today. I’ll just sit on the couch.

Breath in…
Bzzt bzzt. “Incoming call!” sang my phone

Godambit. Who is it? Becca? Hmmm I only put her first name in the contact info. Becca Comstock the director, or Becca Penda the costume designer? Ehhh I’ll let it go to voicemail either way.

Breath in…
Bzzt bzzt. “New voicemail!” sang my phone.

*Sighh* Let’s see the audio transcript. Uh oh Becca Comstock. Yada yada. Get to the point lady, I’m busy trying to meditate here. 45 minutes? I have 45 minutes to get to the shoot? C’mon! I just woke up, I haven’t meditated yet, and that’s a 30 minute drive! Ok I’ll just meditate real quick, then slap on some clothes.

Ok Breath in…
Bzzt bzzt.

Really? A text message immediately after a voicemail? Telling me not to be late? Ok I get it Becca. I do. I’ve been late before. Fine. I’ll be right there. I promise.
Raaaagh! No more messages! I hurled my phone across the room into the corner.

Breath in…
What if I’m late again?
Breath out…
Everyone will hate me for wasting their time.
Breath in…
Everyone already hates me.
Beath out…
It’s because I’m fat and ugly.
Breath in… actually this isn’t working. I need to go for quick 5 minute walk on my treadmill to clear my head.

I walk to the treadmill and set it to 3.0 miles per hour. This is stupid. Only lazy jerk wads go 3 miles an hour. I cranked it up to 6.0 miles per hour. After getting winded from 1:29 of running I decided I’m thirsty. I can’t be dehydrated on set anyway.

Unfortunately the kitchen has a mirror on the fridge. I stare at myself for what feels like an eternity. What am I doing with my life? Who am I kidding? My life is a joke. Let’s be serious, an actor? You? Meditating? How stupid do you have to be?

Recycling these thoughts through my head distracted me from the task at hand, holding a glass of water. It shatters on the ground, kicking me out of my trance. I need help. I pick up my emergency phone that I keep hidden behind the cereal boxes.

Hello? Can you get here as soon as possible?

He arrives almost as soon as I hang up. He looks like he always has, sleeveless orange robe, loose black pants, and that classic bald head.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that I can’t meditate! It screws me up! I get all clammed up. I can’t focus. I can’t relax. My brain feels like a tangled spool of thread. I think I’m having a nervous breakdown!

Ok I’ll just sit down for a second. Good idea. What’s that? You’re going to teach me an ancient, secret Buddhist technique for attaining inner peace that’s even older, and better than meditation? Ok I’ll do anything, just tell me what to do.

Breath out..
Breath in…
Breath out…
Breath in…

In my mind’s eye I could see myself encased in a chunk of ice. The ice thawed until finally I could push myself out. Finally. There was a glass key and a glass padlock next to me. I stuck the key in the lock and watched in amazement as each tooth aligned perfectly with the pins and the cylinder turned. I began to grow in size until I couldn’t fit under the sky. I dug my fingers in and pried with all my might until I hatched myself into the great abyss.

I felt renewed. I hugged him and thanked him deeply. By the way, what’s the name of that technique you taught me? Tetimation? It seems an awful lot like meditation, except that you breath out first, instead of breathing in first. Hey, I guess the right technique, is the one that works, right?

What the FAQ? (Ship life follow up)

Sooo. That just happened. I survived. I feel like one of the Hunger Games Victors. I feel like one of the lucky few survivors from the Oregon Trail game. It was grueling hard labor. I wanted to go to prove that could work 80 hours per week, so that if I chose to work for a start up, they would see my work ethic. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t too good for any job. What I found, was that 75 hours a week was a struggle. I could do it, but I required full devotion. The lowliest jobs had me ready to tear my hair out. I can do it, but just barely.

These bullet points are from my previous post: What am I doing with my life? (Ship life FAQ)

  • Where are you going?
    • Hawaii was absolutely gorgeous. Breathtakingly beautiful. The beaches are everything you’ve dreamed of. The sand is white and hot. The water is refreshingly luke-cold. The 4 stops we made were in Honolulu on Oahu, Kahului on Maui,  Hilo on the big island (confusingly called Hawaii), Kona on the big island, and Nawiliwili on Kauai. We could almost never explore Honolulu since it was such a busy day loading and unloading 2,600 guests on the same day. Hilo was almost always rainy, Kona and Nawiliwili were almost always sunny and beautiful. Kona is the perfect ideal version of Hawaii (aka touristy) with a big farmer’s market, beach side bars, and a long row of local shops.
  • How long are you going?
    • I did 6 months. Originally I was scheduled for 4 and a half months. After the first month I was actually enjoying it and full of vitality, so I extended my contract. There’s an employee discount to go on the cruise ship after your contract is up. Unfortunately the requirements to redeem the discount are as mired in obfuscation as the requirements to get on the ship. I was told that I needed to be on the ship for 6 months. I found out later that I needed to be employed by NCL for 6 month. Since I technically started in January for safety training in Baltimore, my 6 months would have put me at about month 3 into my contract, no extension necessary. Oh by the way, you can’t un-extend your contract. I either had to ride out my 6 months, or quit. I went to war with myself for many weeks over whether I should quit or not. On one had, I was miserable, underpaid, and lonely. I was wasting my time here. The opportunity cost was huge! I could have a real job, with a salary, without being yelled at all the time! On the other hand… I mean it wasn’t that bad. I can’t quit, because I’m not the kind of person who quits. I have an ego to protect. If I had to explain to my resume to an interviewer, what would make more sense? “I quit because I was unhappy” or “I stayed because I’m hard headed. Please don’t dare me to stop breathing.”
  • How many hours are you working?
    • The mode and max was 75 hours a week. For about a month and a half, they forgot to update my schedule, so I only worked 65 hours a week. It was sheer bliss. I napped daily. I read. Except the loneliness and getting yelled at all the time, it was just barely better than tolerable.
  • What are you doing?
    • For the first month and a half, I started as a Restaurant Steward. Restaurant Stewards are peons that you can yell at to make stuff happen. I worked in the crew cafeteria making sure the food trays were always full. It was stressful because there was a lot to do, and there were no written instructions. They relied entirely on the previous employees to train the new employees. There were so many tasks that probably should have been done, but if you ask a manager about it, then you’ve just created more work for yourself. And there were many tasks that appeared to be purely ritualistic, with no real benefit. It was like, they had all these extra peons, and had to give them something to do. Then it just became a tradition to do those things. I probably spent 3 hours a day cleaning in this job. Everything needed to be wiped down all the time. It sucked and I was ready to move to the big leagues of Assistant Waiter
    • For the last 4 and a half months, I was an Assistant Waiter. The waiter would take the order, hand it to us, then we would run down stairs, yell the order to the various chefs, and bring it back to the waiter. Some trips weren’t too bad if you had small tables. But if you had a table of 10 people, expect to carry a tray of 12 entrees. That’s at least 60 pounds on one shoulder, which you have to carry up the escalator. My arm was numb all the time. I almost never dropped orders, but I was also really slow at the beginning.
    • The whole system must have been invented in the stone age, and then never updated. My mind is blown by how outdated the method is. Here’s a crazy idea: What if the waiter put the order in a computer, and the order appears on a screen in front of the chef? WOAHHH. The entire order can be collected and waiting for the assistant waiter to bring up the escalator.
    • My schedule while I was an Assistant Waiter was 6:30am to 9:45am, then 4:45pm to 11:00pm every day. 2 or 3 days a week I’d have to work 12:00pm to 3:00pm. Looooong days.
  • How much do you get paid? Hawaii minimum wage?
    • The wage for Assistant Waiter was about $9.20/hr. I counted up all the cash tip money I made, it came to about $350. You know how much waiter’s make? $12/hr. Waiters just stand there talking to the guests. Easy money. Everybody wanted that job, nobody wanted to stick around for a contract and a half to get it. A couple of people made it from Restaurant Steward to Waiter in one contract, but it’s rare. It’s not about performance, it’s all about timing.
  • How do you feel about being union?
    • Being union limits the number of continuous hours you can work, but NCL will just give you a useless 20 minute break to circumvent the requirement. There’s basically no limit to the number of hours you can work or they can work you.
  • What about being a bartender on a cruise ship?
    • Oh past David. You crack me up. When I first started this crazy quest a year ago, I thought I wanted to be a bartender on a cruise ship. I just picked the job off the top of my head. It sounded like a good idea at the time. It sounded like fun. I’ve now worked both at a bar, and on a cruise ship, and I can tell you that neither are particularly fun. Maybe that says something about my method of choosing my next job. Maybe it’s necessary to try jobs to know if you actually want to do them.
  • What’s it going to be like living on a cruise ship?
    • Food
      • I never want buffet food ever again. I ate to excess regularly. The food was decent, and fairly decadent. Almost everything was fried, slathered in butter or grease. There was always fresh salad and toppings, but I got bored of that, and honestly, it’s nearly impossible to choose the healthy options when the delicious options are right next to it. Do I need dessert, and ice cream with every meal? No, but that didn’t stop me. Before I got on the ship, I was chiseled, and now I’m floppy. I thought I wanted free food, but now I want to prepare my own food if it means I can healthy again.
    • Gym
      • The gym is tiny. They had dumbbells, ellipticals, treadmills, and an incline bench. Expect to share it with two other people at a time, including grunty muscle men dropping the weights. This isn’t Planet Fitness. No one puts the weights back in the right place.
      • The deal breaker for me, was that I couldn’t bring a gym bag to work and hide it somewhere. Space is already at a premium. So if I wanted to go to the gym, I’d have to walk back to my room, change, and walk back to the gym. If I’m already at my room after work, I’m just going to sleep.
      • Being on the fire fighting team allowed me to use the passenger gym at night, which I did for a while. I got out of work at 11pm, so I was tired after work, and I had to start over tomorrow at 6:30am, and by the time I made it back to my room I had already decided to go to sleep instead of the gym.
    • Clothes
      • You are only allotted 3 shirts, you have to request extra shirts. Why? Why??? We’re only allowed dry cleaning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you tried to scrape by with 3 shirts, you’re guaranteed to wear the same shirt at least 3 times to make it from Friday to Monday. These shirts pick up scuffs and marks like sponges. It was stressful trying to plan for that. I’m happy to be home with my abundance of clothes. What a luxury!
      • I’m pretty sure either the laundry machines or the detergent damaged my undershirts. It’s not a big deal in the short term, but another reason I can’t live on the cruise ship
      • The crew laundry rooms had either 2 or 3 washer-dryer combos. They were almost always under repair or taken. Get ready to walk to find an available one. I bought a mesh laundry bag. That way, if I don’t come back exactly when it’s done, someone can easily take my clothes out of the way and use the laundry machine themselves. Some angels might even put my laundry in the dryer for me. That did happen sometimes. What happened more often is that I’d put it in the dryer, come back in two hours and my clothes would be sitting on the table, still damp. I thought to my self, “Ok maybe it finished, but it didn’t dry fully.” I’d put it back in a dryer, and come back in an hour. It’d be back on the table, still damp. Weird, but ok. I’d put it back, come back in half and hour, well before it was supposed to be done, and find it back on the table. I have a sneaking suspicion that people would see that it was a mesh bag, take it out before it’s done, and put theirs in instead. There were days I wore damp socks or day old socks because I ran out of socks and my laundry didn’t get done the night before.
    • Rent
      • I’m pretty sure everyone in the restaurant department gets a 3 person bedroom. There’s one bunk bed (2 beds) and one single (the “princess bed”). When you first move in, you get the top bunk, then as your roommates finish their contracts or get fired, you move into the bottom bunk and then the princess bed. I must have moved in only slightly after my roommates because I spent most of my time in the top bunk, and only had 2 weeks of my 6 months in the princess bed.
    • No car and no commute
      • It’s a solid 2 minute walk to work. Imagine parking at the farthest spot in a Costco parking lot. It was annoying. It sucked when you forgot something. There was no traffic, per se, but there were always people walking on the main path to or from work, which was also used as storage area by the engine department. You know what sucked? People trying to talk to me on the way to work at 6:30. That’s rude as far as I’m concerned. Don’t talk to me until I’ve had coffee you Hitler-Stalin spawn, oops I mean Alex. And there’s no avoiding people because there’s only one route from the cabins to work.
    • Hawaii beaches and excursions
      • The beaches were top notch. The best part was that they were usually right next to the cruise ship.
    • Cruise restaurants
      • I got out of work at 11p daily. All of the restaurants close at 10p, so I could never eat at the passenger restaurants. I got one Thursday off every 4 weeks or so, and I’d eat at my restaurant or the passenger buffet.
    • Friends and Family discounts
      • You people are welcome to buy a cruise with Norwegian. You have another 5 weeks to book it while I am still technically an employee. It’s a 15% discount. It’s worth it if you were already going to cruise with Norwegian. It’s probably not worth it if you were going with a cheaper cruise line.
    • How performance was rated
      • The scale is from 5 to 1, with 5 being the best. However, no one got 5s… ever. No one. Non negotiable. It just doesn’t happen. To get a 1, you have to really had to poo the scrooch. I had some grossly incompetent, lazy, jerkwad co-workers and I never heard of them getting a 1. A 3 means, “Meets or Exceeds”… Is it meets, or exceeds? The fact that a 3 means Meets or Exceeds should tell you everything you need to know about this dysfunctional rating system.
      • My last manager had no idea who I was. Out of 6 categories, he gave me a 3 in each, and a 4 in Teamwork, because, “I didn’t get any complaints about you.” Wut?
      • It’s almost impossible to get fired for poor performance. Promotion is just a matter of endurance. Since they promote almost exclusively from within, it’s just a matter of time until you get promoted.
      • I am willing to bet $1,000, that everyone claimed to be “a people person” in their interview. But I can tell you from first hand experience that was a straight up lie. I only met a few people, from the lowly worker bees to the top management, I would qualify as people persons. I almost never saw a manager smile. Maybe once a week.
    • Human Resources
      • I couldn’t believe how big a waste of human resources there was on the ship. They paid waiters to bus tables for 3 to 6 hours a day. There’s no restaurant in the world that I know of, that would pay someone $12/hour to bus tables. There were people who were waiters for 10 years before they got on the ship as Assistant Waiters. But since NCL hires from within, someone with 4 months of Assistant Waiter experience gets promoted before the person with 10 years of waiting at a normal restaurant.
      • My friend graduated top of his class in culinary school. He was reduced to chopping vegetables for 10 hours a day for 4 and a half months. He got a job immediately after his contract as an Executive Sous Chef at a restaurant. I know he didn’t lack the skills to do more, they just don’t have a use for skilled chefs.
      • The chef who made cesar salads, was two levels above the entry level chefs, so this guy had chops. Let me tell you how to make a cesar salad. You put romaine lettuce and cesar dressing in a bowl and mix it by hand. You put it in a salad bowl. You add exactly 3 croutons and some parmesan cheese. Did they need this elite guy to make salads? No. On the other hand, all of the food is merely assembled. They pre-cook all the sides. All you have to know is how not to burn food.
    • Fire team
      • I got to be part of the volunteer fire department! It was an incredible experience! I loved it.
        • I got a big whopping helping of prestige points for walking around in my full firefighting gear. Aww yeah. Check me out. Watch out, we got a badass over here!
        • I got out of work when it overlapped with training.
        • I learned a ton about putting out fires.
        • My fire team became a little family.
        • Training was every 4 days for about an hour and a half, and we had a fire drill every Tuesday for an hour and a half.
    • Food Safety
      • The rules for food safety ranged from “bachelor pad”, to “surgical operating room”. They were wildly inconsistent. I’m surprised they didn’t make us wear hazmat suits to deliver the food.
        • The best example is that we sometimes had to wear these stupid paper hats. They look like the hats that soda jerks would wear at drug stores. We only had to wear them if we worked in the crew or passenger buffet areas by the food. We didn’t need them if we were busing tables. Also, chefs had to wear them sometimes. When I asked why we had to wear them, I was told that it was to prevent hair from getting in the food. This was patently absurd. Bald people had to wear them. Some girls had so much hair, that the hat wouldn’t cover everything, so they pinned it over their hair bun only.
        • Food can must be served within 4 hours of preparation time. This is to prevent food from spoiling. You can’t leave a dish of Chicken Parmigiana sitting out on the counter for the same reason you can’t leave milk on the counter for 4 hours. All of our prepared food is marked with the time 4 hours in advanced so that it can be thrown away. After the 4 hour mark, it has to be thrown away. It can’t be served to people, but it can be served for the crew. In the crew cafeteria, we always served left over food from the main kitchen. My manager told me to remove the sticker and put on a new one. But I wasn’t going to complain, because the food was delicious and it’s incredibly challenging to throw away perfectly good food.
  • In review
    • The worst parts
      • The sleep schedule. 6:30am to 11pm is a long day. I needed that nap. It didn’t always happen. I had roommates who would come in and turn on the lights. The phone would ring. People would yell in the hall way. When I was a Restaurant Steward and started work at 2p, I had a roommate who would set his alarm for 6am, and then snooze every 5 minutes for 40 minutes in a row. That’s a deal breaker. I need sleep. I can survive on 7 hours of sleep a day, but I can’t thrive.
      • The managers. I prayed, desperately, to have a conversation with a manager instead of a shouting match. I don’t want to go to battle everyday. Just calmly tell me what you want. I had one manager at the end who was pretty chill, but the rest were always mad at me for something. It was stressful being defensive and trying not to be defensive all the time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. That’s a deal breaker.
      • The food was good, too good. It was hard to control myself when I’m sleep deprived and stressed. I’d rather be stress free and make my own food.
    • I hated how crowded it was. We were all constantly bumping into each other. I had to work really hard to eat by myself, because all of the tables were for 4 people. If there was an open spot, people would join me. I’d have to have an awkward conversation of telling people to leave me the freak alone, or just suffer their company. Most of the time I just wanted to eat by myself and day dream or think deeply about something. One time, I was eating by myself, thinking deeply. Someone from across the cafeteria yelled my name, “Hey it looks like you’re really deep in thought!” Yes jerk face. As a matter of fact, I was. It was aggravating to have people constantly in my grill, all up in my business.
    • I’d recommend it to people who are suffering with depression. When you have depression, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to not binge watch Netflix and eat only ice cream. When you’re on the cruise ship, it forces you to get out of bed, get dressed, shower daily, interact with other people, and get a decent amount of exercise. It isn’t a pleasant experience, but it’s enough to get unstuck and out of the downward spiral of depression.
  • So what’s next?
    • Here’s the grand master plan: Move to New Hampshire by January 31st 2019. That date is a moving target based on how frugally I live until then. I’ve saved up a nice chunk of change to sustain me for now.
      • September is full of travel to various friends. Austin, LA, Chicago.
      • Until then, November is the month for National Novel Writing Month, the most inconvenient month of the year to write 50,000 words! I’ll be plotting through October.
      • I want to get back to practicing Spanish and writing daily.
      • I want to launch a business. The biggest contender is my magnetic chess sets for the OCD. I’ve updated my list of invention ideas, and be willing to switch tracks if someone wants to help me launch a different business, or the market research points me in another direction.
      • I want to exercise regularly. I’m just a dopamine junky and after being yelled at for 6 months, I’m ready for my next fix.

August 2018 Report

When I got to land, I kissed the ground. It’s incredible how hard I worked to get here, only to desperately want to get away. I remember a year and a half ago wanting to be a bartender on a cruise ship. Now I want nothing to do with either industry. The cruise ship wasn’t all bad. I like to say it, “sucks butt”. It sucks, but, I met some incredible people with career arcs weirder than mine. Ship life sucks, but, I got to be on the volunteer fire department and we established a little family. Living on the ship sucks, but, I saw the most unspeakably beautiful beaches. I’ll have a separate post ranting and raving out my experience.


  • I survived
  • Flew from Hawaii!
  • There’s no limit to how hard you can work, but a very definite limit on how much you can earn.
  • I poured blood, sweat, and goat entrails into the ritual that granted me divine permission to join this ship. By the 3rd month, I was praying to the same goat-god for freedom. I’ve come to the conclusion that humans desire stuff. Just because I want something, doesn’t mean I should want it. But also, it’s entirely unclear what it is I should want. I can’t win, so I call it a tie.
  • I can verify first hand that humans white wash memories to convince themselves that they made a good decision. Working on the ship was grueling. After 1 week of total relaxation, I feel like the maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
Looking ahead

Honestly, unemployment is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’m going to travel, read, write, meditate, exercise, repeat. September is going to be my re-birth month.

A Libertarian With Too Much Freedom

Too much freedom? I never though I’d hear myself say those words. In the book “The Art of Choosing” the author tells us about her parents’ arranged marriage. For a long time, I considered arranged marriages to be a form of slavery. Except, as far as I can tell, it is voluntary. The  participants actually want it that way. Partly because that’s the way it has always been for their family. Partly because they wouldn’t know where to start looking if they were to search on their own. Partly because it’s what their parents want (which is often more important to them than what they individually want).

I can understand the appeal of having less choice. Choosing is exhausting! While it’s pleasant to choose when to brush my teeth, it would be much more convenient to have someone looking over my shoulder reminding me that I should brush twice daily. About once a week I get lazy, and against better judgment, choose to go to sleep without brushing. I know what’s best for me, but I choose against it. Why? Because I have conflicting interests. Occasionally a desire to sleep outweighs my desire to have clean, paper-white teeth.

What if I could build and program a robot to force me to do things? What if I programed the robot to calculate what I should eat, and force me to eat it? Or to optimize my workout routine and force me to do it? That would make getting fit so much easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about cheat days because I wouldn’t be allowed to cheat!

In the Odyssey, Odysseus tells his men to tie him to the mast as they sail past the mythical sirens. This allows him to hear the sirens’ song, without being able to jump overboard and die. He has conflicting interests, to live, but also to hear the sirens sing. By relinquishing power, eliminating options, removing choice, he’s able to achieve both.

In fact, this isn’t too different from what Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube do. You relinquish some power to choose what you watch or buy. Options are eliminated based on your interest. And your choice of what to watch next is a default “auto playing in 5 seconds.” As a result, you’re happier! You watch videos all the time. Hooray! If you had to choose what to watch next off an alphabetical list, you might never watch anything ever again! You’d be so overwhelmed that your desire to be entertained would be out weighed by your desire for simplicity.

I understand why bootlickers want government. Having someone make important decisions for you can be great. What age should I be allowed to start working? What age should I be allowed to retire? Should I put money away for retirement? Should I work for $4/hr? Should I buy a brick of cocaine? All of these questions and more are deferred to the government. I suppose it’s not too different from the robot I made earlier in this post. The government is, supposedly, made by the people and for the people. But who am I to build a robot? There are professional robot makers out there. I would probably just trust these robot makers in the same way that bootlickers trust their government officials.

I suppose I’ll just have to make those robots in order to choose less, choose better, and make the government obsolete.

February 2018 Report

Wholly Guacamole, it’s March 6th already.

February was both fun and boring. It was fun in the sense that I didn’t have any responsibilities and I could do what ever I want. I got to try playing a “one time D&D campaign,” which let me create a character, beat up a bad guy, and then move on with the rest of my day. I danced again. I watched a boat load of movies (Delta shows movies on long flights). On the other hand, I was restless and bored. I kept waiting for my life to begin. I had to constantly remind myself that there’s nothing I could do. There’s a story about Plato, how he got mad at his slave and reeled back to strike the slave, but he caught himself. Then he held that pose for 12 hours as penance and a reminder to himself not to let his emotions get a hold of him again. That’s how February felt to me, like I was holding a pose. Then, right at the tail end, I made it to Hawaii! Woohoo, adventure awaits. It’s very humid and cloudy here. Pictures here.

  • Books
    • The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
  • Movies
    • Magnificent Seven
    • Cloverfield Paradox
    • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
    • Sneaky Pete Season 1 (TV Series)
    • Lucky Logan
    • The Love Guru
    • Psych the movie
    • Murder on the Orient Express
    • Frozen
    • Valarian and the City of 1,000 planets
  • Notable blog posts
    • None this month
  • Blog posts published = 6
  • Gym
    • Off the charts! I went 3 times a week for 2 weeks and twice a week for the others. Then I got to the ship and stopped. Two steps forward, one step back.
  • Diet
    • It’s going terribly. We get buffet style food and I want to try one of everything! And it’s delicious! We have every kind of meat, potato and rice imaginable, not to mention ice cream and pastries. Hopefully I’ll be tired of it soon and I can go back to normal
  • Goals
    • 14 goals assigned to February
      • 10 complete
      • 3 canceled (became irrelevant due to outside forces, not due to procrastination)
      • 1 transferred to March
  • Flew to Hawaii!
  • Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Going to the gym can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be torture.
  • Bad habits are replaced, not eliminated. You can’t “get rid of a bad habit.”
  • There are 168 hours in the week. Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. It’s just a matter of using them effectively.
Looking ahead

March. It’s a month and a command. There’s a lot of people here “just following orders.” Most people are really friendly. The job is easy as heck. I’m working in the Crew Mess (the crew cafeteria), so I don’t get the customer interaction that I wanted, but maybe I can transfer. Management is looking to promote each of us peons to elite peon by 90 days, so that’s promising. There are a boat load of amenities which I plan to indulge in: twice a week, I can eat at a restaurant for passengers (for free), I can get off the ship and explore the islands, and there is a private deck just for crew. Ahhh, now that I made it. I just have to enjoy it. Time flies by on the ship, so I have to remind myself to take it slow.


Waking the Draco

Why are so many people wrong? It’s painful to watch them bumble about and wreak havoc on their lives and the lives of others.

I read this absolutely wonderful book, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which helped illustrate some of the reasons why so many people are wrong. In this fanfiction, Harry becomes best friends with Hermione and Draco (his sworn nemesis in the original content). Draco is incredibly smart, but he hates “mudbloods”. Hermione is a “mudblood” (a witch or wizard with non-wizard parents), the equivalent of being black in America. There’s no biological downside, only a social disadvantage. Draco is nothing more than a racist. Harry drives them, serruptitiously, to work together. How is this possible? How can you convince someone they’re wrong, when they view you as the one who is, in fact, wrong?

This plan is two long steps:

  • Teach the fundamentals of the scientific method, how to conduct a valid experiment. Harry convinces Draco to do some role playing. Draco is the Chief Editor of a science magazine, and Harry submitting his experimental results. Draco is instructed to reject Harry’s results. Initially Draco would dismiss Harry’s submissions for trivial reasons such as, “the ink was the wrong color,” or “submissions are only accepted on Tuesdays.” In other words, Draco was hiding behind bureaucracy instead of giving the imaginary results real thought. Ultimately he learned that an experiment requires a hypothesis and an earnest effort to  falsify that hypothesis.
  • Test those beliefs they hold as true. Draco’s assumption was that magical ability was passed down through blood lines. Harry had Draco conduct data-experiments in genealogy.

The plan works, not just on racists, but also on people who are scared of plane crashes, and people who buy snake oil. Ask them what they know and how they know it.

It happens to all of us

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Windig, has a blog where he occasionally imagines an absurd situation and then pretends that it’s normal by adding the phrase, “Hey, it happens to all of us.” I decided to make a Mad Libs game out of it, for the sake of humor and as a writing exercise. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The last thing you remember last night is doing shots of espresso out of your landlord’s belly button. Then you woke up with an entire box worth of coco pebbles in your bed. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The last thing you remember last night is doing 100mph on the interstate, drinking a sourcream ricemilk protein shake. Then you woke up with a gold metal in cat petting. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The last thing you remember last night is playing Jenga with bricks of cocaine. Then you woke up tarred and feathered in Jamaica. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The last thing you remember last night is streaking in Alaska. Then you woke up fully clothed in a bear’s den. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The last thing you remember last night is reading in bed. Then you woke up with 10 strangers in your bed. Hey, it happens to all of us.

Anarchy Recycling

I hate recycling. I hate it because it doesn’t benefit me, but most of all I hate it because it benefits other people!

Just kidding!

What I find repulsive, is that it’s a tax on my time, with no benefit to me. It’s much faster and easier to just dump everything into the landfill. The incentives are all wrong. The cause of this tragedy is, of course, the government. The problem is that the landfills are owned by the government and it’s free to throw things away.

Here’s a proposal for how it could work in Anarchy-land. Landfills are privately owned. If you want, you can pay per garbage bag. For an additional fee, they will pick-up, but it’s not mandatory. Your neighborhood can have a dumpster (it’s cheaper than paying per bag and only slightly more for pickup). There are rules for what can go into that particular landfill and they have people doing random searches. If they find something that doesn’t belong (batteries, lead paint, motor oil), you get fined $100!

Other facilities can open up their own collection areas for non-recyclable and non-landfill items. It would be much cheaper to throw stuff in these landfills because they are built specifically for this purpose.

Companies that need recyclable resources such as certain plastics and aluminum, can open up their own landfills, and pay you to recycle.

Regular people should have an incentive to recycle and a dis-incentive to throw away harmful materials. Business should have an incentive to collect valuable recyclable materials. If only the government would get out of the way, we could save the earth.

Scarab wisdom

“Hey Doug! How’s it going? Shitty right?”

“Haha, hell yeah it is, Don! Super shitty. How’s going for you?”

“Same shit, different day, man. What’s new?”

“Well not much. Oh, I did find about this really cool piece of shit.” said Doug, pulling it out to show Don.

“Cool shit, man! Actually, we’re good friends right? There’s something I’ve been thinking that I need to bounce off someone.”

“Yeah, man. Of course. I’m all ears.”

“Well, I was just thinking, ‘What would our lives be like if we didn’t have so much shit?'”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, all this shit. Do we really need it? I think we’d actually be happier with less shit.”

“Less shit? What are you talking about, Don? What else is there except shit? Are you implying that we live a shit free life?”

“Not a shit free life, just a less shitty life. I often feel like all of this shit is just weighing me down. You know Joan, right? I spend so much time trying to keep up with Joan’s shit. The reality is that I’ll never accumulate as much shit as Joan. That time is wasted.”

“Wasted? You call trying to provide for your wife and larvae as a waste?”

“No, see you’re missing my point. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have shit. I’m just saying that having less shit will help us live longer and be happier. The more shit we have, the harder it is to roll it from place to place, which gives predators more chances to pick us off. If we have less shit, we have a better chance of making it home to our loved ones, and arrive happier because it’s less stressful.”

“Hmmm maybe you’re right, Don. But there isn’t a piece of shit I own that I’d want to be without. I love all of my shit.”

“That’s fair. Everyone has a level of shit they’re willing to maintain. But let me ask you, can you enjoy all of your shit at the same time? While you’re enjoying one piece of shit, you can’t really enjoy another piece of shit. If we limited our shit to just a few pieces, we could enjoy all of our shit and just rotate between the few pieces. And since it’s hard to let go of shit, it’s even more important to just accumulate less shit.”

“You make some good points. I’m going to go home, eat some shit, and think about what you said. Have a shitty rest of your day, Don!”

“Thanks, you too, Doug!”

January 2018 Report

Well, it’s that time of year, February 1st. The time when we officially give up on our New Year’s resolutions and try again next year. The time we give up the charade of “Christmas-time cheer.” The time when we stop complaining about how consumerist Christmas is, and start complaining about how consumerist the next holiday is. Just kidding! Get back to the gym! And be kind to each other! And stop complaining!
I’ve been journaling for the past 31 days, which is 30 more days than any of my previous attempts at journaling. I suspect it will continue, but no promises. Since I have all of this data recorded, I thought I’d share it for insight.
Looking back
  • December was a whirlwind, but I survived.
  • I got to see my family who adore me, and are also adorable. What a treat to spend time with them!
  • I moved again for the 3rd time that year. It reminds me of my nomadic days in college. I’m pleased that I’m still lean, flexible, and spartan enough to make my living accommodations accommodate me and not the other way around.
  • Blog posts published = 4
  • Gym = went!
  • Diet = eaten!
    • 15 assigned to January
    • 3 completed
    • 1 adjusted/completed
  • Flew back to Detroit after vacation
  • Flew to Baltimore for a week of first responder training (First Aid and fire fighting)
  • Drove to Chicago to visit my amazing, wonderful, fun-to-be-around friends
  • Fraud alert
    • I’m slowly, slowly, starting a business. I notice that I’m quick to shoot down professionals or people I don’t like as frauds because one of their actions doesn’t match one of their quotes (Tim Ferris, Elon Musk, Jon Stewart, etc.). Now that I’m jumping in the arena, I’m both terrified that someone will call me a fraud like I’ve been doing, and terrified of failure. I’m learning to keep my mouth and mind quiet. Whatever happens, happens. I’ll do the best I can, and stop commenting on other people’s work. If it’s not for me, it’s not for me.
  • Goals
    • Writing down my goals is frightening because I’m now holding myself accountable. Most of them are benign, like, “clean room,” or “schedule mechanic visit,” and I still don’t manage to do them. Part of the problem is that I didn’t have a page in my journal for February goals, so I just wrote all of my goals on the January page. These goals didn’t get accomplished because of systemic reasons (lack of a good place to organize and prioritize them), not due to a lack of motivation.
    • I need to be more frugal with my goals! I need to accept that somethings just aren’t going to get done. The question isn’t, “Should I do this or not?” The question is, “Should I do this, instead of doing this other goal?” There’s an opportunity cost to accomplishing goals (not accomplishing other goals).
Looking ahead
I’m still waiting on my Merchant Mariner Credential (it’s like a passport, but issued by the Coast Guard). As of today I’m on this step:
Once that’s said and done. I’ll get a call from my onboarding-coordinator saying there’s an opening on the ship. I suspect that will be at the end of February.
February! Just saying it makes me feel like I have a fresh start on life. Otherwise, it should be roughly the same as January.

Hand On The Stove Level of Stupid

I’m listening to this audiobook called “The Art of Choosing” which has radically altered my world view.

Everyone has some need for individualism, and some need for community. There’s one part of our brain which wants us avoid being outcast from the tribe, and there’s another which insists that we refuse to walk off a cliff like a lemming with the others. The people who are alive today have parents who were able to strike a balance between the two halves. Today, we must strike a balance for ourselves.

Communism appears to be a living hell, filled with misery and strife. Food shortages, broken transportation, and rampant war are just a few plagues of those who willingly submit to the oppression of their peers. Capitalism offers you a golden ticket out of your lowly state. You can work hard, start a business, and find both happiness and comfort. The catch is that it doesn’t benefit everyone equally. Some people will inevitably get richer than others, but at least everyone gets richer.  Since listening to this audiobook, I’ve realized that, to communists, that is too big of a catch. To me it’s fine. To them it’s not. They’d rather everyone be equally poor. They prefer an equality of outcomes to an equality of opportunity. I used to ask myself, “Why would they want to wallow about in the muck that we call ‘Communism’?” The answer is that, they like it. That’s what they want.

I, on the other hand, have something wrong with my brain. The individualism half is too strong. I want nothing to do with Communism. It’s gotta be capitalism or nothing. “Live free or die,” is the motto of the state I want to live in. If someone proposed making it illegal to touch a burner on an electric stove, I’d go home and do it on purpose. When someone says, “But you could get hurt!” I say, “Yeah, that’s the point.” Why would anyone want to live in a world where they could get hurt? Because I like it. I want it that way. I don’t want to live in a world with no risk. I don’t want to be taken care of by outside sources. I don’t want a social safety net either. If I screw up, I have to face the consequences. That appeals to me. My pupils dilate with the thrill and then shrink as I get shrewd with my money. I’d much rather have the risk to lose than the the equality of being poor.

What am I doing with my life? (Ship life FAQ)

What have I become?!? The answer is that I have become a bus boy on a cruise ship. Most people say, “Wait, what?” Today I will answer as many of your questions as I can. I’m learning as I go because unfortunately, none of the information is in one place. Many of the administrators who are supposed to be helping me are unresponsive, don’t know, or are just plain wrong. I’ve collected this information from rumors from my fellow crew mates.

  • Where are you going?
    • I’m going to Hawaii! The cruise is 7 days, 6 nights, 5 stops, and 4 islands. We’ll be making laps around the islands. It never comes back to the states, so we don’t waste time on the ocean.
  • How long are you going?
    • It’s 5 to 6 months. If I give them at least a month notice, they can change my end date within a 2 month range. Then I have a 5-6 week break.
  • How many hours are you working?
    • The official website would have you believe it’s “minimum 40 hours,” however I’m told the average is 10 hours a day, 70 hours a week. It will depend on how many shifts I do. All bus boys work dinner, then I’ll either work breakfast or lunch. On unlucky days, I’ll be working all 3.
  • What are you doing?
    • It’s a combination of bus boy and “food runner” called, “Restaurant Steward.” I’ll be starting off in the crew eating area (called the “crew mess”) because my fellow crew mates will be more lenient when I trip and drop their food on the floor. Eventually, I’ll move up to the passenger cafeteria/buffet area, then maybe to a real restaurant.
    • They say you can get promoted after only 2 months to assistant waiter! But you have to be on time every time. Being late by a mere minute will put a mark on your monthly evaluation, and you have to have a perfect evaluation 2 months in a row to get promoted.
  • How much do you get paid? Hawaii minimum wage?
    • Ha! No it’s just above federal minimum wage. Getting promoted raises your wage almost exponentially, so that will be nice. I will get paid time and a half for anything over 40 hours. If I work 70 hours, that’s basically a 40% raise.
  • How do you feel about being union?
    • It’s obviously terrible! I’m nonplussed to say the least. But, alas, it’s mandatory. There’s a $300 initiation fee, plus a monthly fee of like $100. Not terrible… but anything mandatory is clearly bad.
  • What about being a bartender?
    • I worked as a bus boy for 2.5 months and I was both disheartened and dismayed about the prospect of being a bartender. My personal reasons are:
      • It doesn’t seem like as fun of a job as I previously imagined.
      • The bar I worked at had 1 male bartender and 4 female bartenders. One of the female bartenders told me that it’s easier to get the job if you’re female. There’s nothing I can do about that, and I’m not willing to put in the extra time and work for what seems like a low benefit.
      • I hate going to the bar and I don’t like drinking.
    • The bartenders on land only get 30 hours of work per week, which means they have to get a second job.
    • There are a few extremely profitable nights per year, otherwise, but there are a ton of boring Sundays through Thursdays. I hate idling.
    • One bartender from Norwegian stopped to talk to us for a minute. She said she made $7k per month because she worked hard. Let’s say it was a year-round cruise like mine, that’s $84k per year… gross. After taxes, it’s probably closer $65? My guess is that she’s working at least 70 hours per week, which makes her hourly wage $18/hour, even before taxes it comes out to $24/hour. It’s impressive for a job that doesn’t require a degree, but it’s not nearly as profitable as I imagined. If I’m going to work that many hours, I’d rather get two engineering jobs that pay $50k per year. Maybe I’d do mechanical engineering by day and coding by night. Maybe, but if I’m doing it for the money, I’d become something radical like a doctor. Or, you know, start a business. Someday.
  • What’s it going to be like living on a cruise ship?
    • Food
      • I went to training, and the food was delectable! It was restaurant quality, minus the aesthetic plating. As much shrimp scampi, ribs, pulled pork, salmon fillet, and halibut fillet as you want! I was in hog heaven!
    • Gym
      • Speaking of food, they have a free gym.
    • Clothes
      • I wear a uniform 1/3rd of the day, and I can wear pajamas the rest of the time. They have free laundry, so I could bring a set of clothes and wash them, I suppose.
    • Rent
      • We’ll either get a 2, 3, or 4 bedroom. I saw pictures, it’s tight. Tight as in, “close quarters,” not as in “cool.” There’s only enough room under the bed for my checked bag, a dresser for my clothes, and a medicine mirror for a handful of toiletries.
    • No car and no commute
      • I’ll miss my chick magnet car, but not as much as I miss not paying for gas, car insurance, or sitting in traffic.
    • Hawaii beaches and excursions
      • On days when I’m not working both breakfast and lunch, I can get off the ship. Sometimes I can trade shifts with a friend so I only will be working dinner, giving me all day to enjoy Hawaii. I can go to the beech, I can go to Walmart, I can go to a starbucks, I can get fresh fruits and vegetables, I can go on hikes, and sometimes I can do the excursions for a reduced rate.
    • Cruise restaurants
      • I don’t have to eat at the crew mess, I can get permission to eat where the customers eat (about once per week). As if the food I got wasn’t good enough!
    • Family discounts
      • The family discount is only 15% off. It’s not much, and the Hawaii cruise is the most expensive one that Norwegian offers, plus the plane ride is $600-$1000 round trip. Plus, I only get that benefit after I’ve worked 6 months.
  • So this is it huh?
    • Well first of all, this fits really well with the things I love in life. I love minimalism. When I lose something, I don’t think, “darn, I needed that.” I think, “Freedom! I’ve been liberated!” I love being busy. I love doing something hard. I love working my way up. I hate cooking, laundry, and driving. It’s an obvious fit.
    • I know no one else can see my vision, so it looks like I’m driving into a corner, but it’s all part of my grand master plan. This is just a stepping stone. I’ll do this for a year and a half or so, and then get a job in sales. With all of my customer experience, I’ll be unstoppable!