Ignominious rescue

So… my grocery shop trip by bicycle (see previous post) was largely a disaster and I had to be rescued by my wife. But I did learn a couple of things. Mostly I now know why why people don’t transport goods in this manner.

Turns out the heavy crate changes your center of gravity completely. Now that I think about it, of course it would.

I had to cross a busy main road on my way back. Its has two lanes in each direction, seperated in the middle by a raised center island. While I bunny-hopped the island easily on my way there. Trying to do it with a crate filled with groceries on the way back, turned out to be my undoing.

I remember thinking that the one point of failure on my contraption might be the cable tie I had used to secure the crate to my seat and that maybe I should take a spare cable tie along… you know, just in case. I immediately forgot about my concern. (as one does) That cable tie turned out to be kinda vital. With the weight of my groceries combined with my attempt to mount the curb, the load on the cable tie was too much and it snapped. This lowered the already heavy crate onto my back tire.

Mid bunny-hop, suddenly my back tire seized, causing me to… well… I think I did quite well under the circumstances. If I had been cleated in I think I would face planted into the tar. I managed, somehow to recover, jump off and grab the bike before it completely tipped over. Amazingly I only spilled a couple of lemons and one of my plantains into the road and not a single egg broke despite my reactionary acrobatics and scrapping a fair amount of skin off my knee and shin.

My bike was now however, completely immobile. Flip… Was not not the word I used.

About a hundred meters down the road is a gas station with a coffee shop. I dragged my bike there and ordered a coffee. Then sat down and phoned my wife.

‘Please come and rescue me’.

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When she eventually stopped chortling, she came and rescued me.

IMG_8723.jpgWaiting for the recovery vehicle… at least I had coffee.

Once we’d transferred the crate into the car, to the sound of my daughter chiming in from the carseat ‘Rescuing daddy, rescuing daddy’, I was able to ride the bike home.

Mortifying. Turns out I’m really bad at this downsizing, eco-friendly thing…

 

After that we visited my parents. My dad has spent the last couple of days constructing a cart. I think he felt sorry for us because he saw us pulling my daughter around the garden in a cardboard box.

We decided (because we are responsible parents and because of my earlier shenanigans) that we should test it out on the Basset Hound first. To make it sure it was… eh… safe.

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And although he didn’t… exactly volunteer… I think he quite enjoyed himself.

The girl child however, even after seeing the proof of concept and noting that the basset hound had survived unscathed, was not particularly interested in being pulled around by a noisy lawn-mower. Can’t say I blame her.

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Much more content to swing.

The Frankenstein Faith.

I think, like most people, I have this ideal sense of self that I would one day like to achieve. That way I can use some high end nouns to bulk out my twitter bio and not feel like an imposter. I like to espouse the ideology that should get me to this exemplar state of being, but really, my life is largely mired in hypocrisy and procrastination.

I am not very original, so I like to borrow and steal from the -isms of others. I don’t ever adopt any of these wholesale, they are not me and I am not them. I don’t think you should ever brand yourself as someones disciple, if you can, you should always be your own brand, even if it’s just a patchwork coat of mismatched dogma.

For example while not a Mustachian, I really like Mr. Money Mustache or Peter Adeney if you prefer. I also really like Bea Johnson. Who is to zero wasters what MMM is to Financial independence and early retirement aficionados. I also love Chris Kresser whose books have inspired me to really consider my food and what it is that I’m eating before I stuff it into my mouth.

Through the larceny of other peoples tenets I have created this Frankenstein faith for myself. But, like with any religion, talking the talk is easy. Walking it, is much harder. Unless your belief system is pizza, Red-bull and Playstation. (which seems to be my default setting)

One my new found core-tenets is this idea of paleo-esque eating (Chris Kresser) and for a while now our family has (mostly) given up on the large retail supermarket chains. We now buy seasonal fruit and vegetables and buy everything wholesale. We buy our milk from a dairy outlet that lets you fill up your own bottles and our meat comes from an old school butcher who stands behind the counter and knows exactly the provenance of the meat he’s selling.

Tacked onto this is trying to minimize our waste (Bea Johnson). We compost almost everything. We try to buy stuff without packaging and take our own bags when we go shopping. I even use a bamboo toothbrush now.

I know, it has this whole greenie beanie neo-hipster vibe. And I hate the way it sounds when I type it all out. But let’s be honest, all belief systems are stupid. In the end it’s about living in away that makes you less anxious and more in sync with your operating system.

I drive pretty much everywhere. I’ll occasionally walk to our local to get coffee which is about three hundred meters from our house. But otherwise its motor vehicular transport for Joey. Compare this to when I was a kid and rode absolutely everywhere on my bicycle. Those were good times. (Enter Peter Adeney)

In any event I’ve decided, if I can, I’m going to try and cycle more. So earlier today I went to the bike shop to see what they could offer me in terms of a rig that I could carry my groceries in. I couldn’t really find anything that was suitable for my needs. And what was available, was really expensive.

So when I got home I disappeared into the workshop with my bike for about an hour and jury-rigged a type of load carrying system out of a length of twelve diameter 304 stainless steel round bar and a plastic crate. A couple of 3/4” hose clamps secured the structure to the back of my bike. I’ve made it so I can easily mount and dismount the crate with minimum effort.

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Tada!

My wife arched her eyebrow skeptically when I proudly rolled out my new creation. ‘You’re going to transport our milk and eggs in that?’ ‘Sure, why not’, I replied. ‘Why don’t you rather get a little wicker basket on the front like Jessica Fletcher’. I glowered at her. Although that did take the wind out of my sails a bit.

Being good Friday the Fruit and vegetable wholesaler is closed today. But tomorrow morning I am going to try and make my first bicycle shopping run. It’s about a 6km round trip along the stream near my house. Hopefully my contraption will be able to take the weight…. it should.

(famous last words)

 

Tokaido

I love Tokaido. Its probably one of my favorite games of all time. Which is weird for me because, generally speaking, I am a hate filled MF’er who has zero qualms about nuking your home-world and leaving your meeple lying dead in a ditch somewhere while I load your resources into my sketchy van. (all done while executing the Morris dance of victory)

But I’ve fallen in love with the zen like merriness of Tokaido…

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The point of the game is to have a truly EPIC journey/holiday while you travel along the Tōkaidō road which (in a time before bullet trains) connected Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo). Much like our modern day equivalent the point of the game is to have a ‘better’ holiday than your peers (and then gloat about it on social media*)

*I think one-upmanship is one of the oldest human traits.

The premise is super simple, first you choose a period character…

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They all have a slightly different tactical advantage. For example, the monk gains an extra point every time he donates money at a roadside temple. (charity after all equals dopamine and dopamine equals victory)

There are various ways to get ‘experience’ points on your journey. For example, painting landscapes and bathing with monkeys in hot springs. And…

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buying souvenirs.

Being a gourmand and eating lots of food…

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also helps.

If you discount the Robot Restaurant and my morbid fascination with Pachinko I’ve basically just described my own trip to Japan. (Temples. Hello Kitty Fridge magnets and lots of amazing food)

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Beardy Joey taking selfies at the Imperial Palace.

I know, to say this is to espouse heresy on such a massive scale so as to risk stoning by polyhedrons. BUT… the IOS version of this game is also really, really good. In fact I’ll go so far to say its better than the board game original. Sure its not quite as social. But it makes up for it with nifty animations.

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And you can play it by yourself. Something of which I am quite a fan.

In my opinion its a flawless port to an electronic medium and I really can’t fault it in any way.

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Its fun, cheerful and unlikely to make you rage-quit and potentially Frisbee your iPad air across the room and into a wall. (LeHavre and Galaxy Trucker have both made me want to do this)

In fact other masturbation, Tokaido is (probably) the most fun you can have with yourself. I know, how many reviews pair meeples and beating the one eyed monster (or playing with the little man in the boat)? Probably not that many.

Unlike bashing the bishop, Tokaido is less likely to end in eternal damnation. And generally speaking it makes a lot less mess. Both solid wins imo.

Roundup.

I fell asleep in front of the television watching Ricky Gervais on my laptop. (My daughter has secreted away the Apple Tv remote) I vaguely remember some Caitlyn Jenner jokes… and then nothing… I woke up about twenty minutes later, discombobulated, Humanity still in full swing. Closing my laptop I rampaged off to bed with the stealth like poise of a baby rhinoceros, navigating by iPhone light (so I wouldn’t fall over an errant German Shepherd sprawled out in the passage like some sort of dinner for one-esque rug). After that I tried (unsuccessfully) to unfurl the blanket that my wife had (with advanced mathematics) somehow established herself in. (you know, so I could get a tiny corner of warmth) After ten minutes (okay, maybe more like thirty seconds) of furtive probing I gave up and the did married couples version of when someone tries to pull the tablecloth out from under all the crockery.

After a slew of cuss words that would make a B-Block inmate blush and the hijinks of  navigating through the domestic version of the Tough Mudder… I wasn’t sleepy anymore. And so here I am, back where I started. Albeit in my pajamas now. With my teeth brushed and sparkling clean.

We have an excess of office furniture at work at the moment. It’s not really serving a purpose, other than taking up space, so I decided to appropriate a filing… shelf, cupboard thingy. I had the minions drag it down the stairs and then delivered it to my house this afternoon. (flagrant abuse of managerial powers entrusted unto me… by… well… me)

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Tada! The girl progeny has a new bookshelf (from which to dispense and distribute her books to every conceivable corner of the house). Some of these books she inherited from me and are not currently age appropriate (HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Chuck Palahniuk*) But I figure she’ll grow into them eventually

*I’m kidding. There’s no Chuck Palahniuk in there.

Did I mention it was the progenies birthday party this weekend? I can’t remember. After a quick brainstorm we decided that the thought of having a gazillion people in our house, with a plethora of snotty, little people in tow, rummaging through our vinyl collection and poking at my lego (and that’s just the adults) filled us with dread and loathing… Plus we’d have to lock the dogs away, and since that’s not really something we would even consider, we decided to have her party at the park instead.

My wife made a Peppa Pig cake…

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… and much fun and merriment was had by all. Except the girl child, who absolutely hated all the attention and tried to remove herself from any and all social activity. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

IMG_8636.JPG She also refused to take off her hat. And spent the morning looking mostly pensive. Although sometimes she would mix it up with a bit of a scowl. (REALLY awesome photos) I’m sure the talk will be of my strangely mute child who has clearly fallen off the development ladder.

Speaking of which, we had our first teacher-parent meeting at the Kindergarten she attends this week. They made us sit on the little wooden stools in the classroom, while her teacher and the principal took opposing tiny chairs. I must be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable… like I was in trouble…. old habits die hard I guess. Or maybe its a guilty conscious. Either way I did my best not to squirm. Or flee.

Turns out she’s the best in her class. Even in the long, illustrious history of the school they have rarely seen such raw magical ability (is what I imagined they were saying) It’s all very impressive for a mudblood (her mother’s a muggle). We smile politely. ‘Do we have any questions?’ ‘Not really’, we both mumble.

In other news I ordered books today. And then clicked same day delivery. (this is how I roll… sometimes) Two hours later I had received…

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…I know. It’s a university textbook. On potentially the driest subject imaginable. I go through weird phases. I’ve already devoured two chapters and so far I’m really intrigued.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to reveal my strange proclivity. In any event, twenty  minutes of killing stuff on playstation and then bedtime for Joey. Sweet dreams. Joey out.

Strange Fruit (Comic book)

A black Superman crashes to earth in a small Mississippi town in 1927. This is one of the most beautifully drawn comics I have ever read… and you should definitely check it out given the opportunity. Part of me wants to leave it at that…

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The other part of me wants to pick at scabs. Even though I know that never ends well.

As far as I can tell some people took some serious umbridge with this comic book. But let me break it down Barney style to make sure I’ve got this down right. You are really angry because an artist created content you didn’t agree with? (Well okay then)

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This is one of the comments from the damning WWAC review. (There are loads. But they are all pretty similar)

This is an excellent tear-down of this comic, and I certainly agree it should never have existed. It is, frankly, arrogant and offensive for a white person to pretend to be capable of telling the story of racism, especially by trying to include the perspective of black people experiencing it. The execution of it, from this review, sounds completely clumsy, too, with an awful hook for the story

You know who else didn’t like certain content and decided it should have never existed? The German student union circa 1933. (spoiler alert it didn’t end very well for the content). Also the last line leads me to believe you haven’t actually read the comic. Ha ha.

Sure, run down and critique the plot, the writing, the font, the artwork (if that’s your thing). But don’t embrace censorship and piss on the creators right to create any story they damn well please. I am big proponent of the first amendment and even if I had hated this comic I would defend the authors right to create it against every single one of you.

I really believe that Jones and Waid had nothing but good intentions when they wrote this comic. And yet there are those of you who are very quick to jump up onto a soap box ready to condemn and point out the perceived failings in others.

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I’m trying to think of another comic that got people so bent out of shape. I’m drawing a blank. For some reason I think about Magneto – Testament. I don’t remember Greg Pak getting uphill (nor should he have) because he is half Korean and therefore how could he objectively write a story about Auschwitz and the holocaust.

Read this comic. Think about how it makes you feel. You don’t have to like it or agree with it. But to say it should have never existed is a very slippery slope. Combating intolerance with your own intolerance is not the way forward. When did we start going so backwards on this?

I saw this on twitter the other day.

An annual reminder to everyone making stuff: For every random jerk trashing you online, there are thousands of people that quietly love you.

JG Jones and Mark Waid. I love you guys. Just wanted to let you know.

Things girls can’t do…

Perhaps, he thought, I should qualify this whole diatribe with some sort of statement of personal bias, lest I inadvertently offended people. Offense is inevitable, I understand that. Especially since I’m the male of the species and therefore the dominant and authoritative voice on the subject matter of gender. God blessed me with some mighty fine (and lets be honest about this, totally above average) junk. And since God is a dude (fist bump) and created me first (in his image) I feel this gives me some sort of divine expertise on the subject matter at hand.

I’m weary of opening with satire. Satire means you might not get dinner. Or risk having a spanner* tossed in your general (girls can’t throw) direction.

*if you’re dating a girl from the southern suburbs. Initially I was going to write ‘broken bottle’, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Despite what I might claim, I am actually still quite prejudiced. I find it disturbingly instinctual and somehow, deeply embedded in the gray squishy stuff inside my cranium. I find myself constantly having to auto-correct my more basic and primordial instincts (that are underlined in red). Outwardly of course I’d like to believe I can function as a seemingly egalitarian paragon, which is how I’d like to behave and be perceived. But it worries me that I constantly need to be battling the sociopath within my own mind.

Let me illustrate my bias with an example.

I was sitting on a plane recently waiting for the boarding procedure to wrap up when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. You know the usual blurb welcoming you on board, expected flight time etc. Only the pilot was a female. While this shouldn’t have mattered, my reptilian brain immediately took note of this development. ‘Jesus we are so fucked’. The hamster in my mind likes his pilots to be male. And preferably white. Any deviation from this perceived skill set causes him to fall off his wheel and briefly run around his enclosure, wringing his hands and upending his water bowl.

A nano-second later the auto-correct feature kicked in with its soothing logic. After all there is nothing that would suggest one gender (or race) is somehow superior to another at operating an aircraft. I truly believe this.

Still, somewhere in the dark, cavernous interior of my brain, some stray neuron fired that shouldn’t’ have. I suppose one could argue that its some sort of perceived loyalty to my ‘tribe’. And that its that loyalty ascribing some spurious sense of superiority to my own kind.

I suppose that is possible…. I still don’t like it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about equality lately since I have now procreated and produced a girl-child. Before this, in all honesty, I only ever really thought of equality in very broad and dismissive terms.

This is likely because ignorance is bliss. When you are a white heterosexual male (generally speaking) you don’t care. You really don’t. I mean how can you… and why would you? You have no concept of being discriminated against, it’s something that’s NEVER EVER happened to you. It has certainly has never happened to me. Well not that I’ve noticed. And if someone has tried, my brain and ego would immediately override it as ‘Clearly this person is some kind of idiot’ and I would never think about it again. How can I can empathize with something that I have no experience with? I mean I can make some assumptions and maybe hypothesize what it must be like… at best all I’m really doing is upsetting people with my cutesy academic approach and at worst I am just being dishonest. Humans are selfish creatures and when you perceive yourself to be the apex predator what reason do you have to change your behavior?

I generally consider myself a moderate (although really isn’t that just another tribe or label) and I imagine Feminism occupies some point left of me. For a long time I thought Feminism was just a form of extremism. And therefore worthy of derision that comes with fringe politics. It seemed to me they had drifted so far off towards the horizon you could hardly even see them anymore. There they seemed to have pilot fished themselves onto whatever (vegan) creature existed there and now seemed content to fight battles other than the bout they were created for. But then I started wondering what I would do, under the circumstances…. and how angry I would get if this was me.

The answer is probably very angry. And angry people gravitate toward other angry people.

But how does one rage against something that the other side doesn’t think is really ‘a thing’? And if I do acknowledge that it is a thing, it doesn’t really affect me anyway, so support from me is clearly going to be limited, the status quo totally benefits me. It requires some serious altruism to get my ass off the sofa and try help find a solution to… well… if you guys want to call it a problem then okay…

I don’t have any really good ideas about this. For the most part I’m just talking out loud. I do feel that didactic conversation is better that aggressive debate where one side intractably screams down the other and everyone eventually just resorts to playground bullying and name calling.

To be fair, it’s not really something I have thought about much (until recently). I mean I’ve always agreed with the concept that men and woman should be treated equally. As an aside, I don’t think men and women are equal. (We have different qualities and I think those qualities are impossible to weight and rank)  But treated equally, sure I could get behind that.

I was with my daughter on the playground other day. I was sitting there watching her crawl around and explore one of these big installation pieces. This other slightly older girl had climbed up onto the second tier of the jungle gym. Sitting there, I surmised she wasn’t in any real danger and she seemed quite capable. Only her father swooped in from the other side of the playground and scooped her off the jungle gym. As he took her down he chided her, ‘You need to be careful honey, that’s dangerous’.

Would he have done the same to his boy child? I don’t know. We allow boys to engage in slightly riskier activities while girls are restricted because they might get hurt. Boys falling and scraping all the skin off their knees is a right of passage. For girls it’s an undesirable trait that needs to be discouraged.

For all tense and purposes that dad had good intentions. He didn’t want his daughter getting hurt. But this episode opened a whole can of murk inside my mind.

We treat boys and girls different right from the get go. How do we expect to create this Utopian society when our social norms are so deeply ingrained in us? Is an egalitarian society just a pipe dream?

I heard this great analogy recently about hypocrisy and speeding. Broadly speaking we appreciate that a speed limit in a suburban environment is a good idea and that setting a speed limit is a societal preference that makes things safer for all of us. Yet at some point, we all break the speed limit and we believe that this hard rule should sometimes be bent just for us. It should definitely NOT be bent for that other person though… they are clearly a selfish maniac. ‘Fuck you, buddy, fuck you!!’.

When it comes to equality are not just all hypocrites? We talk a good talk. But when it comes down to living these concepts as hard unyielding rules, we struggle. Maybe I should just speak for myself. It seems a bit unfair to paint everyone with this brush. After all I might just be the exception and everyone else is more like the twelve peers of Charlemagne.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to ramble. I do think that maybe small incremental steps in the right direction is perhaps a better form of attack. You know, slowly boiling the frog as opposed to forcing him into the hot water. With our immediate gratification mindset maybe we’ve forgotten that these things take time. Potentially longer than our meager lifespans will allow. Is the best we can do to build a solid foundation for the next generation to improve on?  Is that potentially our lot in life?

Maybe we should start with all just being a tad more honest with ourselves. I think that could help.

 

Kill the programmers. Save the world.

The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment – Warren Bennis

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In anticipation of this event I already have the dog. My wife came with a Basset hound (not a real dog) and while Warren Bennis wasn’t breed specific, I can only deduce from his lack of a caveat, that he never owned a basset hound. Responsibility is not really their forté. In fact I often find myself both befuddled and amused that such a creature exists. Afterall canis familiaris comes from genetically engineering a sub-species of wolf. It casts serious doubt on… well… the French for starters.

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Our world is in a constant state of flux. Which I’m largely appreciative of, since for the most part, I am quite partial to a bit of impermanence. It keeps things interesting. And for as long as anyone can remember, futurists, carnival psychics, weathermen and more recently economists have tried to forecast tomorrow.

When I was a toddler I fell out of the wash basket I was using as coracle and smashed my head into the galvanized post of the clothes line. The result was a nifty scar (not unlike Harry Potter). The blunt force trauma however to my third eye (and surrounds) was less endearing and unfortunately debilitating. It meant I was never able access my chakra’s and my ability to predict the future has, as a result, been severely impaired. (Basically zero) Although you could argue that this makes me just like everyone else. Apparently its this amazing commonality that we all share. Regardless of race, gender, political ideology or fiber intake, one of those great egalitarian forces at play.

I can however still make some assumptions about the future and then hypothesize. Which is not unlike mental masturbation. You can practice it on your own and it’s relatively fun.. but really the payoff is short lived and its mortifying if you’re ever caught with your pants down. We still do it though. Some of us daily and routinely. Hypothesize I mean. We suppose things. And then take steps to combat something that hasn’t happened yet. And potentially may never happen.

The opposite of this is mindfulness (I think). Or at least living in the moment. It’s something I’ve been trying to cultivate recently. But it’s really hard. Especially since the future seems quite exciting and potentially somewhat comforting to us. Somewhere out there in the future there is a version of us that is, hopefully, better than what we are now. Although why this should be of solace to us is a little worrisome. Doesn’t that mean that the current version of us is less than optimal? Or even defective somehow? Why do I plan on being better at some future yet undetermined date? What’s wrong with me right now? (besides the obvious I mean)

In any event, while you’re sitting in your little corporate cubicle farm, ready to minimize your Facebook window at a moments notice, you are failing to grasp the grim reality of your situation.

Right now, somewhere, some vitamin D deprived, bespectacled programming fuck is writing code meant to replace you in your job. He doesn’t hate you. (well… he might) This is just the way of things…. and the sooner you realize you are basically an inefficient, time-wasting meat sack with a heartbeat the better off you’ll be.

This machine is guaranteed to be waaaaaay better at your job than you. No more coming in late,  no more smoke breaks. No more sniffing glue or blow off the toilet seat during lunch. No more browsing Pornhub or tweaking your manufactured Instagram life during office hours. In fact, lets be honest, if you weren’t around the company would probably save A LOT of money. And the work would actually get done! Why wouldn’t they want to replace you with a machine? I suppose if you were really good looking they might keep you around. But ugly people are fucked. Efficiency all the way.

Lately I’ve been endearing myself to the other parents in the toddler birthday scene. ‘Hopefully you’re not planning on steering your son or daughter to take up medicine?’ I mention offhandedly. This makes the other adults clustered in the defensive bulwark shift uncomfortably and avoid eye contact. They sense Jo is about to launch into a soliloquy but none of them want to be the one to set him off on his tirade.

‘It’s like wanting your child to become an alchemist. You’re being an irresponsible parent’, I continue, ‘in the future all surgery will be done by robots. Insanely more accurate than your inefficient son or daughter with their shaky hands and opioid addiction problems’. ‘Medicine as we know it will no longer exist. We will still need plumbers though. And probably electricians. Infinitely better career choices in my opinion’.

Going forward I think we have two survival choices. (There may be more, but at the moment my binary brain can only think of two) You can turn yourself into a highly specialized freelancer or you can become an entrepreneur. Neither of these can (as far as I can tell) be easily or cheaply replicated by a machine. And there should (theoretically) always be a demand for both.

Or you can make so much money now that you won’t have to worry about the future. That is the third option.

I’m making the assumption that the machines don’t rise up and kill us all first. After all how many programmers do you think there are right now, sitting in their y-fronts drinking Red bull and mucking about with AI. One of them is sure to get it right one these days. Fuck the terrorists. We should be rounding up the programmers!

If we act now we can…

  1. Stop the technological advance and save millions of jobs.
  2. Stop the unemployed starving masses rising up and murdering the all the 2%ers.
  3. Preserve the status quo. (it seems pretty okay at the moment imo)
  4. and… Potentially save humanity

Now we just have to debate whether humanity is worth saving…

 

Actually… now that I think about it, forget I said anything.

Perpetuating an imperfect system

My heading for this blog post was going to be, ‘Saving for retirement’, but considering how I feel about the topic, that seems disingenuous at best. Also a reader may mistakenly surmise that this is a post about personal finance (It mostly isn’t).

I should probably mention that I have nothing against the word ‘for’. As a preposition it is totally functional and relatively useful. ‘Saving’ is also fine, as a stand-alone concept. I think everyone should try it at least once. But ‘retirement’ is an awful, malignant word. Grouped together these words form (more or less) the basis for everything that is wrong with the world…. ok, I will grant you some notable exceptions. Like… warm beer and short people. Debating however, why such things should be allowed to exist is to question the divine. (which is another blog post)

Saving for retirement on the surface seems like a very reasonably exercise. But maybe it’s just an elaborate form of masochism. Emphasis on the word ‘Saving’. I have far less issue with building a flexible income generating asset base that can last into perpetuity (through something like entrepreneurship).

Having a lot of money when you choose to retire is obviously really nice. And having more cash when you retire is obviously better than having less cash. But have you really ever considered what retirement actually entails? Besides sitting around and counting down the hours before your inevitable foamy, (gurgling) demise in some palliative care facility.

Why do you want to retire anyway? Doesn’t this mean you’ve bought the programme? They sold you the kool-aid. And you drank deep. You’re on step eight of your ten-step life! Next stop… smelling like an old person and death. Some people like to imagine step nine is travel and boat cruises… but its not. It’s a weird musty smell… and having suspicious looking growths zapped off your wrinkled, sun damaged skin by a dermatologist and pencilling funerals into your diary every weekend as your friends and family kick off. Sounds awesome, I can’t wait. Basically I have to save and invest for my whole entire life in anticipation of this event? Seems like a great way to spend the time allocated to me.

How many happy retirees do you know personally that are getting after it? You know… living the dream. Count them on your fingers. I’ll wait… I’m willing to wager less than a handful and that’s only if you move in impressive circles. Would you swap your life currently for their life? They have money after all.

Let’s segue into something else and ramble on about science for a bit, because science is awesome. And finance is just okay. When it comes to retirement we are using outdated models and concepts that were struck in the fifties. Expected life span. You see we all have just one lap. Lets say its four hundred meters… only half way through the race someone in a white lab-coat has changed it to 800 meters.

My expected death is age 78. Statistically speaking. I’ve just turned 39. Which feels ancient. Some days I wonder how people who are 49 get out of bed in the morning without painkillers.

Only my life expectancy is probably not 78. It’s probably closer to 100. Mind you for the proletariat its still 78. In fact probably less. I’ll probably be in a position to afford the miracles of science that are coming. The nano-machines. The new organs (with modifications). The rejuvenation clinics. The implants that tell me three days in advance that I’m going to have a heart attack (just enough time to pop down to the clinic and have flawless robotic surgery and a flat white). My two year old daughter will likely live to be 120… maybe longer. And for her children death maybe something that only happens to poor or unlucky people. Death is unlikely to be egalitarian forever.

Imagine at age 60 you’re going to have live another… 40 years off your retirement funds. That’s a really long time to be running down your assets. Sure, you might have a metric-fuck-tonne of money, or be an adherent of Mustachianism (the 4% rule) or even on the flipside just conjuring up a dystopian future where we trade cigarettes and blowjobs for dirty brown water and blighted potatoes, so really, what’s the point?

Round about now you might imagine this rant is against investing and pro-Epicurism. Let’s work forever and blow our money on whiskey, cigars and the experience economy. Let’s consume to the point where we need a self-storage unit to contain our ever burgeoning collection of stuff.

Its not.

My issue is more about how we look at our lives. We get these social norms and this corporate nonsense pumped down our throats as soon as we’re born. This is your life!

  1. Get born. 2. Go to school. 3. Get a degree (get into debt). 4. Get a job. 5. Work nine am to five pm 6. Buy a house (you can’t afford) 7. Buy a car (you don’t need) 8. Breed. 9. Retire. 10. Die.

Instead of retirement shouldn’t we be punting a concept of designing our lives better? At the moment the way we use our money doesn’t make any sense. We kill ourselves to hoard our money away for a period in our lives where we can’t really make full use of it anymore. Or we blow it all and use whatever we earn to finance our debt. Perhaps I am decrying the lack of some middle ground alternative.

Is this just some terrible burden we’ve all taken on where we actively try (and very often succeed) to defer our lives. Money (and by association our investments) should be the scaffolding we use to build our lives around, not some weird end game strategy.

I used to believe in the whole retirement fairy tale. I mean it’s worked for my old man. (hasn’t it?) He sits around, reading, pottering around in his workshop, annoying his offspring, bickering with my mother and watching hours of network news. Slowly he is trickling down his funds to zero or close to that…  a fuse burning down towards the great white light and the acrid burning smell of litigation (when his children will murder each other for the scraps of his estate)

We imagine free-form days as the ultimate reward after a long hard trek through life. But in reality nothing is more frightening (and potentially dull). When did being old and rich somehow morph into something to aspire to?

Young and rich would obviously be better. And middle aged and rich would be the compromise position between the two extremes. In reality none of those outcomes are very likely, although we are constantly told that outliers in this field can be studied and emulated (just buy our book). In our post-industrial revolution lives we are more like cogs in a very big machine, all grinding on in the same direction on some predetermined path unable to alter our destiny.

This is not a blog post about solutions. Besides, who am I to make any form of judgement call about anyone else’s life and how they plan on spending it? For the most part I’m just wondering out loud about my own unique circumstances and a system that I’ve decided is stupid. Or maybe this is just long form justification for a (mostly theoretical) lifestyle decision that I a trying embrace.

In any event I do think it’s something worth thinking about. Broadly this post is about future proofing yourself. (you know for when the robots come). And not being complacent in our assumption that the status quo will simply continue ad infinitum.

What is your reducency plan?

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I rarely look at my wordpress stats (well, I try not to). This is more of a self imposed rule rather than any real sense of nonchalance or ambivalence I have towards statistics. While this information is useful (I’m sure) for bloggers who want to up their readership and appeal to a certain segment in the market, I use my blog primarily as a form of  procrastination (and therefore, have no real readership goals or expectation). For example, right now, I should be attending the scary amount of work I am behind on (or the tackling the equally scary avalanche that threatens to overwhelm my inbox) But instead I’m clacking away at the keys… achieving nothing of real consequence (story of my life).

When I opened my WordPress this morning however, something caught my eye.

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I had to google what maigre meant.

Definition of maigre. 1 : being a day on which the eating of flesh is forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church.

Which, as you can imagine, confuses me even more. I’m assuming it must be a typo. Although the rest of the search term also annoys me. Don’t you normally search for blowjobs or fucking? Maybe they meant meagre? In any event, I have now (annoyingly) spent a fair bit of time wondering what some paedophile* meant when he hamfisted his google search.

* I realise paedophilia refers to a prepubescent. But the ‘little’ in the search term tends to bend me towards labeling them as such.

In any event. Googling this phrase myself fortunately doesn’t bring up my blog. (It does however probably flag me on some sort of database) In any event I will continue to ponder this strange occurance while the basset rests his head on my head.

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Perhaps with our combined intellect we can solve this enigma. (Don’t get your hopes up, the basset hound has actually now fallen asleep, which leaves only the dumber member of our dynamic cross species duo to ponder)

My wife has recently become persona non grata in the child sleeping department…. So my day started at 1am with the two year old (who had been dreaming about citrus, demanding a naartjie*) When no naartjie could be produced this lead to a meltdown of chernobylian proportions. I eventually went to go sleep with her on her bed where she tossed and turned for about an hour, poking me in the eye and smashing her forehead into the bridge of my nose (Although smarting from the pain, I was also a little proud) while she drifted off towards REM sleep.

*colloquialism for a Satsuma Mandarin

After this I struggled to fall asleep again, so I downloaded and started reading these (alternating between the two) on my Kindle app.

At the moment I’m guardedly neutral about Daniele Bolelli. He gets great reviews on his podcast and his books and I found myself really liking some of his musings. BUT, I also started skip reading (bad sign).

I now know this happens because the internet has addled my brain (thanks to The Shallows by Nicholas Carr) I notice it happening (more) when I’m interested in the content… but not fully engaged. This could also have been because it was 3am. I don’t know. I can’t read like I used to and it’s frustrating. At 5am the girl child was awake and demanding a muffin. So we trundled off to the local coffee shop (which is 24/7) in our pajamas in search of a double espresso and muffins.

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In other news my first habanero has changed from green to orange. Which means soon I can start harvesting. The rest of my chili crop was annihilated in a hail storm when I left my seedlings exposed outside at the beginning of the season. This plant was one of two that made it and its turned into a monstrous bush, standing 5ft high, with (I estimate) at least a hundred chilies on it. I’m quite excited.

The Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

Oh em gee. I have new favorite people. Forward slash book. I realize this changes from week to week… and that I flip flop between positions of eminence like some sort of Havaiana. (its the best I could come up with)*

*as opening paragraphs go… not the greatest… but I’m typing at pace and feel retraction is admitting defeat (something I’m clearly loathed to do this early on)

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Enter, The elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson. A duo, that added together, equals awesomeness. Yes, I realize I overuse the solution in this equation, but this time, its totally justified.

Two things almost stopped me experiencing this exceptional piece of work. I tend to see-saw between audio books and podcasts. Usually dependent on when my Audible credit becomes available…. so I almost missed Sam Harris (The waking up podcast) talking to Robin Hanson. I read the show notes for the podcast (which I often use to gauge my opportunity cost, ie what do I think will add more value, Sam Harris… or killing whatever high frequency hearing I have left with Five Finger Death Punch)

The show notes read like this…

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Robin Hanson about our hidden motives in everyday life. They discuss selfishness, hypocrisy, norms and meta-norms, cheating, deception, self-deception, education, the evolutionary logic of conversation, social status, signaling and counter-signaling, common knowledge, AI, and many other topics.

I grimaced. It sounded dry. And cerebral. Definitely NOT something I was in the mood for… But I listened to the fist couple of minutes anyway, the housekeeping section (more because I was wondering if Sam was going to say anything about Lawrence Krauss*). He doesn’t, but Sam does allude to the poor sound quality in this podcast. ‘Well now I’m definitely NOT going to listen to it…’

*(wordy aside) I don’t have a massive hard-on for Lawrence. BUT… I’m not into Crucifixion by media (if you can call Buzzfeed media) either. If he’s found guilty in a court by his peers let him suffer the barbs of derision… but until then… fuck you all. 

Generally speaking, the only movements I’m into are my bowel movements. I did read Lawrence Krauss… (damn… I’m not sure whether to put an s’ or es onto the end of that… its one of those grammatical rules I never bothered to learn and now its coming back to haunt me) I did read the nine page treatise/response to these allegations by Lawrence Krauss (that’s better) and his explanations seem very reasonable (although they would, wouldn’t they?) I think the only acceptable behavior these days is to NEVER flirt with anyone. Ever. That way the species will die out… and things can just go back to before all this (totally bullshit) evolution happened. To quote Douglas Adams (RIP)

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In any event at the moment, guilty or innocent, it sucks to be Lawrence Krauss. (Unless all this media attention has actually helped him in getting his thing wet, which as far as I can tell, is all he ever wanted to do in the first place)

We now return to our regular programming. I ended up listening to the whole podcast and I’m really glad I did. Its really good. Highly recommended. And the sound while not I-max is actually, mostly fine. Robin Hanson comes across as supremely likable. And an interesting foil to a much more dour Sam Harris. (sorry Sam)

This whole endeavor lead me to consumerism.

I must be honest, I stared at the cover for quite a while before I purchased this book. It just doesn’t speak to me at all. I know, I know, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover…’ But I really hated the Rorschach effect and I hated the ‘Hidden motives in everyday life’ tagline even more.

I finished it in one night.

Which doesn’t often happen anymore because I really love sleeping. (Definitely in my top five things to do with my time now that I’m tiptoeing towards the mid point of my life expectancy)

So… what is this book about? The short answer is everything…  I briefly considered doing a synopsis… but I don’t think I can do it justice. Besides that’s what Goodreads is for. I’m just here to ramble nonsensically and pitch the book from left field.

I can however attest to wanting to read this book again. (also something that almost never happens anymore) I blew through it so fast on my first read I didn’t stop to underline any passages or take any notes… and this is definitely the sort of work that requires some some form of rumination. (the deep considered version of rumination and not the bovine chewing the cud kind)

Otherwise this book is really well written, in a prose that’s very easy going and engaging. I didn’t have to spell out any of the big words and the punctuation all seemed pretty reasonable. A lot of authors (especially academics), while supremely knowledgeable… can be frustratingly obtuse. It makes reading their work more akin to cognitive coal mining,  but maybe you’re into that sort of thing. I, on the other hand prefer my reading to be a slothful (preferably supine) event and if I’m going to receive a mental enema, I prefer to be lubed up. And maybe encouraged with some kind and thoughtful words first.

Its a great book. You guys rock. You managed to succinctly convey your thoughts and ideas and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. More than that, you’ve given me lots of think about. Thank you.

Room on the Broom (2012)

At some point during your single, carefree, existence you get this vague sense of Gruffalo-mania that grips your (foolish) friends. Those friends that have procreated and produced progeny I mean. You’re not entirely sure what its all about, but your brain registers this unexplained phenomenon and files it away somewhere (in a wonky cardboard box underneath the sink) for reference later. In the meantime you smirk at your friends greasy hair and the sliver of dried snot running up their shirt sleeve. And years go by.

Then, at some point, you decide to pick up the baton of advancing the species and end up breeding. (Which, as it turns out, is harder than you originally anticipated). You manage to survive the first two years… you’re not entirely sure how…  but it’s usually around now that you get smacked (between your bloodshot eyes) with… the Gruffalo.

But I understand the appeal now. The Gruffalo is a coup d’etat in consumer psychology, managing to bridge a very challenging divide, in so far as it can appeal to two markedly different development cycles, the until recently sperm-ovum combo and the adult that donated it. (Off the top of my head, Pixar manages to do something very similar with its movies)

Julia Donaldson is brilliant. Which maybe I should have just led with, but I felt I owed her a couple of ancillary paragraphs first. You know, some sort of wordy acclamation in honor of her awesomeness.

Julia Donaldson has other books. (who knew) And one of these is, Room on the Broom.

It’s a great book.

10658722-1354798864-305478.jpgBut so is the movie.

I know, I know, heresy. And I’ve been super weary of making a judgement call on which one is better. So I’ve taken the agnostic approach… and straddled the fence on this one. I’ve learnt a valuable lesson when vitamin D deficient bibliophiles and geeks went scouring their (parents) tool sheds for handheld farming implements and torches when I off-handedly remarked that the Lord of the Rings movie was better than the book..

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I still stand by that… but no longer try and inflict my (clearly) insane opinions on anyone else… (that often anymore)

So how awesome is Room on a Broom? This is much… (Joey holds his hands out wide) At least six feet* of awesome.

* I may be making that up…. since I’m not entirely sure how far I can stretch… and engaging my core now to exit this extremely supine position to fetch a measuring tape,  fills me with… sloth.

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I do have one… small… tiny gripe about this movie. They changed the word ‘chips’ (in the book) to ‘fries’ (in the movie). As in French fries. Which really annoyed me. More than it should have.

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I’m pretty sure America could have figured this out. After all they’ve sent people to the moon. (which indicates some level of competence at problem solving) Stop mollycoddling them with language. And you Simon Pegg (the narrator) *points at eyes, points and Simon* are complicit in this! Shame on you.

But other than that, this is a really great animation and I heartily recommend it. Yay Julia Donaldson, yay!

Ready Player one by Ernest Cline (Audiobook)

I’m trying to decide whether this is a good book or not. I know that might sound strange, considering I was absolutely enthralled from start to finish. But now that its over and I’ve blown my load (so to speak) I find myself reaching over for the metaphorical cigarette, taking a deep drag and exhaling towards the ceiling. I now have time to ponder… and potentially make a quick getaway. Assuming I can find my pants.

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Let me start by saying Wil Wheaton as the voice artist is superb. I feel this needs to be said. Right up there with RC Bray and Nick Podehl. I’m starting to appreciate Wil as a bit of a Polymath. Even if I don’t agree with his politics.

This is a very niche book. And I think can only appeal to (and be appreciated by) a very narrow stratosphere of people of a certain age and… what are the words I’m looking for, cultural proclivity. I couldn’t for example recommend this book to my wife, whose comment after a hundred pages would be, ‘seriously, what the fuck?’

I was born in 1979, just shy of the sweet-spot target audience for this book. My arcade experience was more Golden Axe, Street Fighter and Shinobi. I was more into Nirvana and Soundgarden than eighties hair metal. By the time I watched Wargames it was already quite dated. Although I (still) love some of the movies from that era. Willow, Ladyhawke, Dark Crystal, Never ending story. But those were… generally more fantasy titles and aged a bit better. (I can probably quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail verbatim). African or European?

Still, all the cultural references in this book made sense to me. Lets be honest, it is largely a homage to a certain era, with a story tacked on. Still… I REALLY liked it. Is that because I played D&D. Programmed text games in basic, spent hundreds over hours playing arcade and video games? Reading comics and absorbing Greyhawk supplements to the point where I have better understanding of the economics and penal code of Flanaess than the real world?

Probably.

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The Spielberg movie is coming out in two weeks. I’m glad I’ve read the book first. I’ve watched the movie trailer… and… well… the stacked trailer park looks like how I imagined it. And there’s a battle scene at the end of the movie with… the iron giant. Who DEFINITELY doesn’t feature in the game at all. Actually, from what I can tell… its going to only follow the book very, very loosely.

At the moment I’m true neutral (see what I did there) about the movie. Mostly because I understand that if you have a fight scene with Mecha-godzilla, Ultraman and Leopardon (a Spiderman robot) most people just won’t get it. So you have to tweak it/change the entire story for broad based appeal. (I’m one of those people who get REALLY upset when the X-men movies deviate from the canon) In fact the only super hero movies I’ve actually liked in recent history have been Deadpool. And to lesser degree Ragnarok (because it was actually quite funny in parts). I’ve adopted a wait and see attitude towards Ready Player one. Its Spielberg. He occasionally does okay. You know… Indiana Jones (only the first three)… The Goonies… *thinks* Gremlins…

Reading or listening to Ready Player One if you’re not ‘that way’ inclined, I can imagine, quickly would become like reading a treatise on the nuances of subway transport. (something I tried to do recently) Being completely out of my depth I got bored and frustrated really quickly.

So in answer to my original question. Is this a good book. I have no idea. Maybe. Only you can decide in the end. I had a great time. Good luck with your quest.

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GO!

Eldritch Horror

‘Kid… I was losing sanity and racking up phobias before you were even born’… is what I want to say the pubescent punk in the comic book store who is forcing me to engage with him. Instead I smile meekly and carry on flipping through the stacks. Usually I can rely on my 6.3ft frame and surly demeanor to rebuff any attempt to bait me into idle conversation. He seems however, immune to my anti-social cues and intent on extolling the virtues of Cthulhu Wars to me. I imagine picking up one the heavier Gundam wing blisters and bludgeoning him with it until he stops talking (twitching, whatever).

Cthulhu Wars is a trigger word for me. Yes I know Sandy Petersen made it. ‘… and George Lucas stuffed up his own legacy*’, this is my grouchy go-to response for Cthulhu War neophytes who don’t know any better. Although to be fair I still like Sandy Petersen… George Lucas on the other hand… is dead to me.

*no one can believably counter this with any enthusiasm.

Cthulhu themed games have become ubiquitous. I realise I sound like a cantankerous senior citizen who can only remember when everything was ‘better’ but let’s be honest, these days, poor Cthulhu is wrenched out of R’lyeh style REM sleep at every commercial opportunity and plastered on everything from yahtzee style dice games to lunch boxes. Being a great old one isn’t what it used to be. No wonder he hates humanity.

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If you discount the paper and pencil (6th edition and below) RGP, Eldritch Horror is by far my favourite. (I also like Mansion of Madness)

For me at least Arkham Horror just got too broken with all its expansions (which I dutifully purchased and then bankrupted myself buying sleeves for). The thought of going through all those cards and trying to return it to some sort of playable base game that isn’t completely $#%*@! fills me with such dread that I’ve just been avoiding it (forever).

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Eldritch Horror works better for me and the co-op experience just feels better and more enjoyable somehow. I realise that is super subjective and lacking in any empirical evidence, I mean Eldrich and Arkham Horror are more or less the same game. Same characters, same cardboard cutouts. The only difference really is that one is New England centric and the other Macro-world.

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Go to an exotic location. Get better equipment. Read a skin cover tome. Close a gate. Pop some xanax and return to coda. Stop… eh… delay the end of the world. It’s a weirdly repetitive formula I can, for some reason, totally get behind.

Eldritch Horror always ends up a fun night for me. Even if Shub-Niggurath or Ithaqua lay waste to the world. These things happen. It’s not really a game where defeats fester in the dark recesses of your mind.

Great game, not to be taken too seriously. This isn’t Firefly after all. Ha ha. Highly recommended.

Dollhouse. Not the series.

’twas the night before the birthday and all through the house, both parents sat building and cursing out loud…

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Playmobil (initially) amused me with their warning on the box. I imagine this is because giving your kid an unassembled model that takes you 60 minutes to assemble while your kid is having a melt down might… fray the nerves somewhat.

It took two of us (with some serious degrees* behind us) more than an hour and a half to assemble this… without the screaming child. (which would definitely increase the challenge rating imo)

*albeit it primarily commerce and not engineering degrees.

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In any event it is done and when she wakes up tomorrow we will unveil the fully assembled dolls house in all its glory.

We are very cunning. And wise. Yay us!

Scott Pilgrim (Comic book)

I know everyone has read this comic. This is less of a review. And more of a long laborious ode in which I proclaim my love for Scott… and therefore by association, Bryan Lee O’Malley. (I am not worthy)

If you have no idea who Scott Pilgrim is…  What the hell is wrong with you? (well, you were probably a jock at school, never played coin operated arcade games and never obsessed about a 486 and 16bit sound) I mean I don’t judge you. (okay… maybe I do… just a little bit)

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I’m listening to techno on my ridiculously oversize headphones.

Specifically James Brown is dead by LA Style (1991-92). I have to do this at work in secret because it would likely cause my wife to smother me in my sleep with a pillow. No written warnings. She’s a Seattle purist and would likely conclude I’d gone over to the darkside, from which there can be no absolution. She would leave me for Eddie Vedder. Chris Cornell is dead. So really, Eddie is the only real danger-man left to me. (although I feel relatively confident I could beat him in fisticuffs, if it came to that)

I like Rammstein. Probably my favorite band. Even their broad success and commercialism can’t sway me. But I also like Metric. Our wedding dance was Death Cab for Cutie…. after a minute or so the DJ stopped the music and I started doing the dance to  The Black Keys – Lonely boy. (I was subsequently joined by my wife and bridesmaids and all best men) We walked into the reception to Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle) by Limp Bizkit. (This should give you an idea what sort of wedding this was*)

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*I wanted her to walk down the aisle to the Imperial March… but that idea was veto’d**

**my idea to be married by a Yoda impersonator ‘Married you are’…. was also… unfortunately veto’d. (She has more veto’s than you might imagine any normal person would be allowed to have)

Anyways. I love the late eighties, nineties and early two thousands. I think this was the best time to be alive. (I am a little bias obviously). For me, the quintessential comic that wraps this all up is Scott Pilgrim.

Ready Player One (they play James Brown is dead in the night club scene in the book) and Masters of Doom has recently made me super nostalgic. I’m not usually nostalgic… but Ready Player One has had this weird effect on me. (Fuck me, this is a good audio book, I hope the movie does it justice)

Anyways, Me and Scott are BASICALLY simpatico. Ha ha. I empathize more with Scott Pilgrim more than any other literary character ever created. (well, more than any other character I can think of right now*)

*off the top of my head William Gibson’s Cayce Pollard might come second.

Last night I stayed up late (way past my bedtime) re-reading Scott Pilgrim one through three. I own physical copies of this graphic novel. Digital copies. I even own the soundtrack… on vinyl. This is how I roll.

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I was also in love with Ramona Flowers. Ramona Flowers and Jessica Rabbit. (Although to be fair I rarely thought of Ramona Flowers naked)

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The answer to this question is probably yes. And yes.

I can’t tell you how much I love this comic. Really, I just wanted to put this out there, so it is out there, in the internet. And can never be retracted.

Just another manic Monday…

Like the Bangles song. (Although I always preferred Walk like an Egyptian)

Day three without caffeine. I’ve gone cold turkey since Saturday. So you can imagine how my day is going? In a nutshell, its not going well. Ha ha. Usually by this time I have metabolized about six cups of coffee. To say that I am presently ensconced in serious grouch would be a seriously dangerous understatement.  I also have a headache.

I’m compounding my woes by swearing off bread, dairy (which I initially write as fairy because of my blurry vision) and refined sugar.

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I’ve (recently) decided that I have adrenal fatigue syndrome. And folate and B12 deficiency. (This is what happens when you read too many (fringe) Paleo books). I even went and had my first B12 shot over the weekend. And… in all honesty, I felt a lot better afterwards (despite walking a bit funny afterwards). That might just be placebo. Today however, is more or less a suicide day… I feel manic and discombobulated and I might bludgeon you into a coma with a oversize stapler if you were to walk into my office brandishing a Grande Cap and a Mars bar.

Speaking of which…

My eleven year old basset hound is either suicidal or suffering from cross species dementia (where he enacts the strange tendencies of the Alpine Ibex). No more staying up late to watch Animal planet.

I  had just come back from a friends fortieth birthday where two pints of Paulaner Weissbier had me feeling somewhat sluggish. (more than usual some might say) The wife and kid were at my parents house along with the dogs and my daughter was playing upstairs in my old bedroom. I took the opportunity to lie down on the sofa in the landing and rest my eyes for a bit. I was just about to doze off when I heard a noise that sounded like nails frantically scrabbling on roof tiles. Amazingly my alcohol addled brain somehow managed to piece together in a split second that the sound was that of a basset hound scrambling for grip on the roof tiles above my head. He’d wandered out onto the balcony, circumnavigated the railing and climbed onto the roof. Now he was coming down and was losing his grip on the steep pitch.

‘Jesus’, I bolted up, sprinted out onto the balcony and vaulted the railing with one hand coming down hard on the roof, my right foot going through one of the roof tiles as I landed. I managed interject myself between the edge and the basset hound and grabbed him before he plummeted to his doom. Post event I marveled how I’d managed this feat, not only in my slightly inebriated condition, but also wearing flip flops.

As usual he was dismissive of my efforts and decided the whole thing was a complete overreaction on my part.

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My Saturday had already started poorly with a reoccurring nightmare*. Only this time I wasn’t dreaming. The girl child had hauled an assortment of pots and… a colander from the kitchen into her playroom, upended them and was vigorously assaulting them with a signed Chad Gracey drumstick.

*the one where I only sire girls and they all the women in the house are drummers.

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On a scale of one to ten. Ten being woken up with a blowjob and one being woken up because your house is on fire, being roused by this cacophony at 5am is probably a four.

So much for my hopes for a young Kim Deal. It seems she is destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps and take up the drums. Although I have tried (repeatedly) it seems one can’t mess with destiny.

In other news I started listening to this.

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I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know about this book until recently. AND perhaps more embarrassingly that I only found out today that it has been made into a Steven Spielberg movie. (seriously, what rock do I live under?!?!)

Because I listened to Masters of Doom this entered my recommended list. Read by Wil Wheaton. Whom I now love. I looked at the reviews. Its weird when a book gets this many positive (almost to the point of rabid fanaticism) reviews. My skepticism bit flipped*.  ‘Yeah, nothing can be this good…’

*a John Romero-ism I will now use

I’m only about two… and a half hours in. But I may have to eat my words (again). So far I am thoroughly entranced. Can’t wait for my commute home.

Joeys thoughts on gun control

I had these arbitrary rules that I’d set for myself about blogging. Try and be nice (especially when reviewing someones book or game) And generally avoid highly polarizing topics of opinion.

I’m getting better at the first one. I don’t write the scathing fuck you reviews I used to. If I really hate something I try not to write about it. You know the whole, ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it’ chestnut. I don’t necessarily agree with that reasoning.. BUT… no one writes a book or a blog to be critiqued or run down by somebody they’ve never met before. I’m not entirely sure why we feel the need to review books anyway… but we do. I certainly do. But I’d like my reviews and comments (these days) to be more of a homage than a long list of perceived deficiencies in someones work.

So… Joeys thoughts on gun control (or how to piss off everyone) I’m clearly bored today.

It should probably start with some caveats. I am not a gun-nut. Guns for the most part don’t really interest me other than I accept that they are a tool that serves a function. (its not an accessory that I’ve pimped out, it doesn’t define me and I don’t argue the minutiae of velocity and hydrostatic shock). However, I am almost permanently armed. I carry a Glock 22 (.40 S&W) and at least two knives, a Zero Tolerance 0301 and an Emerson Super Karambit. (Sometimes further supplemented with a .38 special)

I should also mention that I believe firmly in the most extreme interpretation of gun control. Ie. That nobody should have a gun. Not individuals. Not the police. Not the government. No one. Since that is never going to happen. I have to be a slightly more realistic in what I believe. (Spoiler alert, I have NO real solutions, I’m just rambling)

Let me also start with a story of why I am the way I am…

When I was eighteen I was living in single room studio at the back of my parents property. They also have a cottage, which at the time was being rented out to a (somewhat eccentric) hairdresser. He occasionally worked on clients at home. One day two elderly wealthy patrons came to have their hair cut and styled. Decked out in their finery and driving a new BMW they attracted the attention of some less than desirable individuals who followed them.

These two ladies oblivious that they were being followed rang the bell and then drove into the property, followed, before the gate closed, by the robbers. It was still early. I was awake watching CNN and eating Fruit Loops, when I heard what I thought was a  scream. I paused, muted the television and then picked up my venerable Walther PPK (which I inherited from my grandfather). Still in my Pajamas I wandered off to go see what all the fuss was about. I was not prepared.

A white BMW stood there, all the doors were open, two women stood off to one side having their rings and ear rings stripped off them. In total there were five robbers, and just from my quick glance (before I ducked back behind the wall and into hard cover) at least three of them were armed with handguns (likely Torakevs and Norincos) and the other two… I wasn’t sure.

I stood there, frozen, Walther PPK in hand. ‘Fuck…’. ‘What was I going to do?’ I probably had the WORST gun for this type of situation. I had seven (low powered) rounds in my Walther and no spare mag. My opponents were about ten meters away, some behind soft-cover, with two civilians in the background.

I couldn’t do anything I realized. (mostly because I am not Bruce Willis or Steven Seagal) I’ve obsessed about my inaction for years and played this scenario over and over in my head. In the end I made the right decision (I think). After they’d stripped the two woman they hijacked their car and tried to make their getaway. They however didn’t realize that this wasn’t their house, and that these two women didn’t have a remote for the gate. They were trapped. (its not a gate you could just ram open) They had another get away vehicle outside, and between them they managed to force the gate open just enough that they could all squeeze through and escape in the other vehicle, abandoning their newly acquired BMW (but not their loot)

Theoretically I suppose they could have put two rounds in the head of each of the women before they drove off and I would have been guilt ridden for the rest of my life. Or our weird tenant could have come stumbling out and got blown away (he’d locked himself in the bathroom). How would this have changed my actions or inaction? I don’t know. I’ve managed to stop theorizing about this day and hardly ever think about it anymore.

But for a long time this day was burned into my brain. I never wanted to feel like that again. Helpless and useless. Never. That’s not to say if I’d had a better gun I would have used it and the outcome would have been different. All I wanted was better options. Having a gun shouldn’t make you less reasonable.

This day, combined with the work I did with the police and in the Commando has cemented in my mind that the world has some real motherfuckers in it. (I don’t really believe in the concepts of good and evil, but certainly some people are largely useless to society and seem intent on imposing themselves on my liberty)

Let me underscore, that if everyone magically gave up their guns. And therefore no guns existed, I would be the first to sign up. Unfortunately that is not and will never be the case.

So as I understand it, their are two basic premises. Someone can use a gun to curtail someone else’s liberty (death being the most extreme). This can be as simple as a robber using a gun to steal something that belongs to you. Or the police coming to arrest you because you haven’t paid your taxes. Both use the threat of violence to insure your cooperation. If you resist, I will kill or injure you with this gun.

We get obsessed with the gun part. We could just as easily insert machete, claw-hammer or HB pencil.

The flip side is, that if we ban guns, my liberty is curtailed insofar as you take away the options I have to defend myself. Sure, with two gun armed combatants with equal skill (Ceteris paribus) it could go either way. Take away my gun, and the odds massively favor the other combatant. Who are you to curtail my liberty in such a way? So unless you can make ALL guns go away (and maybe ban machetes, claw-hammers, HB pencils and automobiles while you’re at it) I can’t get behind a ban. Sorry.

I can however get behind control. (although the comic book nugget, who watches the watchmen, I think applies)

Guns and cars. One requires a licence and training. The other, not so much.

So who decides who should be allowed to have a gun and who shouldn’t. What criteria or metric do we use? Mental health? How about only white men should have guns? Or only Mormons (they’re responsible aren’t they?).  This gets so murky so quickly. Someone has to decide these things. The government maybe?

The NRA love to point out that Hilter banned personal ownership of firearms. And look what happened there. The NRA is my opinion are (for the most part) a bunch of motherfuckers. This story is not entirely factual. The Wiemar Republic was largely responsible for German citizens not being allowed to own firearms. The Nazis further disarmed ‘unreliable’ persons (mostly Jews) but relaxed restrictions on ‘for-realsies’ Germans to own guns.

The government tells me I can’t dry out and smoke a naturally occurring plant. If I do, people with guns will come, lock me up and put me in a building with murders and rapists. That seems like a very reasonable organization, pretty sure I trust them to decide whether my schizophrenic neighbor who twists the heads off stray cats should own an an AR-15.

This is where things start to get even less clear cut for me. Assault rifles.

I have during the course of my life owned several of these (an FN-FAL and AKSU-74) and I’ve used R4’s and 5’s in the commando (essential Israeli made Galils). But really, now that I’m older I often wonder what the point of these weapons, in a first world middle class suburb environment, are? If you want a weapon for self defense get a pistol and and a 12 gauge. That will cover you for about 99.9% of scenarios in the 0.0001% chance you actually need a weapon to resolve the situation.

Its difficult to justify an assault weapon for self defense. Baring a full scale breakdown of society. (then you totally want an assault weapon). Is that likely to happen? No, probably not. Yet a lot of people obsess about this eventuality and act accordingly.

I suppose its become the case of bringing a knife to a gun fight. Clearly you want to be the guy with the gun. In the same way, in a gun fight you want to be the guy with the gun with the highest cyclic rate to improve your odds at survival. Ergo if the other guy has a hand gun you want the assault rifle. The arms race is as old as humanity.

Unfortunately this also speaks to my libertarian tendencies… the army can have assault weapons, then why can’t I? Because the army needs these weapons to fight wars and foreign armies… History is littered with the corpses of the citizens who trusted that the government (and army) had their best interests at heart.

In an ideal world, I would like to decide who has access to firearms. (hint, it would only be me) the rest of you can fend for yourself with pointy sticks and rocks. I think this has something to do with the way we are hardwired.

The United states presents its own set of issues. I’m inclined to believe that the problem is less about gun control. And more something on a cultural level. I don’t know what that is. and I have no idea how you would fix it. I don’t think you can fix it with legislation though. Even worse its morphed into this awful partisan issue, with peoples identity warping into this weird for-or-against mindset. I don’t know how you fix anything without some level of cooperation from everyone.

I love Thomas Jefferson. Probably in my top five favorite people of all time. Along with Theodore Roosevelt (definitely a gun-nut). And I totally get his reasoning with the second amendment. I wish he was still around, I wonder if he’d be horrified to see where we’ve ended up?

Sheriff of Nottingham

‘So I notice you have a green velvet bag… whats in it?’ ‘Cheese’, ‘Gouda specifically’ I continue. ‘Wheels and and wheels of it’. ‘You sure its not… I don’t know… a gaggle* of crossbows?’. ‘Crossbows?’, I balk at the accusation… ‘maybe a couple of extra weevils… but certainly not ANY Crossbows’. ‘How about you give me 5 silvers and I won’t inspect your goods?’ ‘Hmm… how about 1 silver…’ I counter… ‘How about SIX’, the sheriff roars! ‘Woah, woah, woooooah’, I say, ‘lets not be hasty’…

* I have no idea what the collective term for crossbows is?

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I love Sheriff of Nottingham. I love how simple it is. And I love how much fun you can have bluffing your friends. No previous board game experience required… and so easy even the noobiest of noobs should understand the premise after the first round. There’s not a lot of games that can boast that.

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Everyone gets some money and a character card.

Commodities are divided up into legal…

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And ill… well… goods that attract extra tariffs.

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Every round one player is given the roll of trade war extraordinaire Donald Trump… the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The goal is to surreptitiously fill your the little velvet pouch you are given with goods which you then take into Nottingham. The sheriff stops you at the gate and suspiciously eyes your bag.

There are a couple of ways this can go. You can bribe the sheriff not to inspect your bag. The sheriff can just let you pass. OR the sheriff can inspect your bag. If you tell the Sheriff you are importing Rhode Island Reds and when you open the bag its stuffed full of mark IV annihilators… you’re in trouble and the Sheriff confiscates your goods. However if the bag contains what you say it does, Golden delicious apples… then the Sheriff has to pay you.

It seems pretty simple.

It makes for some hilarious banter. Especially since other players can chime in with their thoughts and opinions. Ideally if you’re carrying legitimate trade goods you want the sheriff to inspect you bag so that he pays you money. If you’re carrying illegal goods you want to bribe your way through… or… seem like you want him to inspect your bag… when you actually don’t.

Its great fun.

Goods are counted up and scored at the end of the game. Its completely possible to win the game by JUST transporting loaves of Rye bread (and donning a guilty expression).

I give Sheriff of Nottingham a friendship ending rating of :

0/5*

*as a term of reference, Grizzled ALSO scores 0/5, ie no chance of losing friends and Battle star Galactica rates 2.5/5… because your BFF… who knows you better than anyone else totally played you and is actually the $%^#& CYLON that taped C4 to the water purifier killing EVERYONE! That son-of-a-bitch.

Sheriff of Nottingham is a great game and comes highly recommended. I can’t tell you HOW MANY times I misspelled both sherrif and Notingham.

 

Blunt force trauma. And other hobbies.

My daughter turns two next week, on the ides of March. Fortunately boys called Brutus are few and far between these days, a name relegated to the junk heap of epithets along with Adolf and Kermit. Albeit for different reasons.

Speaking of strange (but awesome) names I campaigned long and hard (if we had a boy child) to call him Tiberius. My wife used her veto almost immediately. My second option was Ender. And while not vetoed, I was given an arched eyebrow that suggested I should start coming up with more sensible options lest I receive a stern reprimand and have my PlayStation controller locked in the cupboard for a week.

I have casually mentioned to my daughter that given her auspicious birth date she should avoid politics, crossing Rubicon‭s, suspicious Italians called Cassius* and (for good measure) two Gauls, one of whom may or may not be carrying a menhir.

*amusingly I played (a gay) Cassius in our school play version of Julius Caesar. Quite progressive for a Catholic school. (Maybe he was just effeminate… I think outright gay would have been a bridge too far)

As life advice goes I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far. (Joey pats himself on the back). Yay me.

Age two is a big year. It’s when we start training martial arts in our family (since of this generation). I’ve taken to tossing a various assortment of workshop tools (mostly spanners) at her when her mothers not looking. I must be honest… at the moment… she’s not giving me much to work with (in terms of reflexes).

But then earlier while I was closing curtains she snuck up behind me in the gloom, silently padding into the room without me noticing. As I turned I tripped over her, fell over and hit my head on the edge of the exercise bike.

And it suddenly dawned on me…

Ninjutsu!

Ideologically I really like Ninjitsu. Practically it’s a load of shit. Trust me I know. My martial arts evolution went something like this…

1. Tae Kwon do (ages 10 to 15)

2. Ninjitsu (16 to 18)

3. Traditional Japanese jujitsu (18 to 19)

4. Western boxing (19 to 30)

5. Brazilian Ju jitsu (19 to present)

Of those Ninjitsu was the least helpful in terms of any remotely useful techniques. In fact I’d go as far as to say 99.9% of it is a complete waste of time. BUT… it was loads of fun and lends itself well to training montages and a cheese infused 80s soundtrack.

The bo staff training. Day one.

I jest. Obviously. I can’t actually teach bullshit. I find it super unethical.

I think mostly we’ll concentrate on jab/cross combinations and fighting from the clinch. I think that’s a pretty good base. Then maybe move onto to single and double leg takedowns. Maybe the suplex.

As an amusing aside my first black eye was dished out by a girl. (In a ring*)

*as opposed to, for example, on the dance floor of a nightclub.

So realizing after school that Ninjitsu actually offered me zero practical skills I joined a traditional ju jitsu school. This was just as Royce Gracie was cleaning up in UFC 1. I felt quite smug that I’d made this leap before most people.

Traditional ju jitsu was… okay. The class was divided into three core components. Wrist locks or aki-jitsu, throwing (judo style throws) and grappling. I only really liked the grappling element and endured all the other stuff just so I could grapple for three rounds at the end of the class.

Soon after that I entered my first competition. I’m going to say it was a pancrase type tournament. But I’m not 100% sure thinking back now. No closed hand strikes to the head…. hm… that’s pancrase isn’t it? Anyway I remember I was docked a point for taunting. Ha ha.

In any event I broke my foot in that competition. Really badly. Compound fracture where the bone was sticking out through the top of the foot. I went for a shoot and the guy sprawled and then collapsed and somehow my leg got twisted up and when I scrambled up I happened to look down and my foot was all mangled and fucked. I spent three days in hospital and ended up with a three inch stainless steel pin for my trouble. A large part of my foot still has no feeling in it from the nerve damage.

I was out of action for 8 weeks…. so my sensei borrowed me his UFC collection 1 through 10 on VHS and some grainy bootlegged Pride tapes as well, ostensibly because he felt sorry for me.

Weirdly this was my undoing because I suddenly realized I had NO standup game. NONE. I quit soon after and joined what had been up until recently a Jeet Kune Do gym (it would eventually become a part of Straight Blast*)

*I actually rolled a couple of times with Forrest Griffin. I say rolled… but really he turned me into pretzel.

Anyways MMA wasn’t really a thing yet but they were progressive enough to know that something was happening and were fusing Muay Thai and grappling into this weird… something.

I loved it.

I was a pretty good grappler. But my stand up was abhorrent. Like really, really bad.

My first sparring session went like this…

I’d been speaking to this police woman who was sitting on the bench waiting for the class to start. We were talking about mutual people that we knew. She was bandaging her knee up with tape. It looked horrible. It was all purple and scarred and fucked up. She’d been sheltering behind a wall during a shootout and had taken a bullet to the knee. I was impressed she could still walk nevermind fight. We ended up getting paired up together for our first round of sparring.

Damn. I’m fighting a girl. And an injured girl at that I remember thinking.

I would take it easy on her.

Damn…. She came in hard. No mercy. I withered under her onslaught and made a classic rookie error. I dropped by head. Bam! She hit me with an uppercut! (First black eye) then she hit me with another uppercut. Bam! Second black eye.

With both eyes closing up I had to call it. Couldn’t even finish the three minute round.

That was my first experience of boxing.

I got better. In fact my boxing… and especially my dirty boxing eventually surpassed by grappling skills.

Now I’m old(er). My body after almost thirty years of abuse isn’t as spry as it used to be. I used to love hard sparring. It was my favorite thing in the world. You never feel quite as alive as when someone is trying to knock you out. But… I also decided I’d rather quit while I was ahead and keep some level of cognitive ability going. (I suppose you could argue the damage has been done)

So I took up stick and knife fighting instead.

(me in black)

(me in white and camo shorts)

We used to record our fights so we could learn from our mistakes.

Ah. Good times. Its making me a little nostalgic now. Stranger things and the Masters of Doom has recently really given me a hankering for the ‘good old days’. Life was simpler then. Being an adult I’ve decided, mostly sucks.

How cool would it be if my days could be filled with Dungeons and Dragons, grappling, board games, playstation, comic books and reading. Although ideally I’d really like to do these things AND still have a wife and daughter.

Juggling life is harder than you think it’ll be.