Song challenge

I’m not sure what the rules are for the music challenge that are doing the rounds on WordPress right now? So I’m just going to make up my own thing. And then feign ignorance about the whole endeavor when I get it wrong. (Standard Joey modus operandi)

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Cultural appropriation is a hot topic. Why this should be so, mystifies me…. then again almost every form of nationalism and culture(ism) mystifies me… it all seems to get so dangerously stupid so very quickly. That’s not to say you can’t be proud of the traditions of your ancestors… but that is not the same as being outraged by someone, for example, that is not from your ‘tribe’ wearing a traditional dress that you perceive with some sense of patented ownership and exclusivity.

That’s also not to say the idiots on the other side of the fence are any better. The amount of times I’ve been subjected to the ‘well if you’re so hung up on ‘your culture’ why aren’t you living in a mud hut counter argument. Oh and stop using ‘our’ western medicine, technology etc. God… sometimes it’s tough just get out of bed in the morning with all this tit for tat reasoning being bandied about. You’d think we could have moved on from these playground dynamics by now.

Anyways. I’ve chosen Christopher Tin’s ‘version’ of Baba yetu as my song.

Which… as far as I can tell… is ALL about ‘cultural appropriation. It’s a European orchestra featuring a Black South African Gospel choir singing a Swahili translation of a Christian prayer. All directed by a Chinese American. It was also the theme song for a video game and was the first song from a game to win a Grammy. Its doesn’t get more culturally appropriated than that.

And you know what? It’s awesome. Cultural appropriation fosters tolerance and is one of the greatest forces for good there is. Just roll with it and stop getting all bent out of shape.

Disagree with me? Change my mind in the comments section below.

The Jelly Bean test(tm)

I’ve been thinking about interview questions lately. (having recently had to interview people again)

Joey – ‘So tell me about your weaknesses as you see them?’

Potential job candidate- ‘My only real weakness is that I work too hard’

Insert care too much, am too much of a perfectionist, hardly ever take vacation time

Joey – *smiles* (on the outside) *dying slowly* (on the inside) while scribbling furiously on his note pad…

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Interviews are a rehearsed exercise, a choreographed charade and in my opinion a flagrant waste of time and oxygen. What do the answers really tell you? Besides that someone is just going through the (peristaltic) motions of seeking employment. Which I suppose is… something. Still… I would like to posit an alternative…

Enter the Mighty Jo Jelly Bean test (all rights reserved, all wrongs reserved, all green wobbly things sent back)

Step 1. Empty a big box of Jelly Belly jelly beans into a bowl on the boardroom table.

Step 2. See what happens.

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I think you can learn a lot about a person by watching them eat Jelly beans. (certainly more than asking them where they see themselves in five years time)

  1. If you stare at each other uncomfortably for several minutes with no one making a move… they either lack initiative… or don’t like Jelly Beans. In either case do you really want someone like this working for you? Eliminate!
  2. They smile. And then pick out… and eat all the Blue Berry flavored beans. Clearly this person is a racist. Eliminate!
  3. Picks out all the Sizzling Cinnamon. And eats them!!! *you suck air through your teeth and mumble ‘Jeez’ under your breath* Eliminate!
  4. Picks out all the Buttered Popcorn and Toasted Marshmallow. While you can commend their palate…  those are the Jelly beans you wanted. Eliminate!
  5. Asks what flavor you like… and then doesn’t eat those. We may be able to work together
  6. Stuffs several flavors into his mouth at once. OMG! Eliminate! Eliminate! 
  7. Picks up the bowl and pours the entire contents into his mouth. Ballsy. (I feel comfortable using the determiner here, because a female wouldn’t do this) We may be able to work together
  8. Empties the bowl on the table and then reorganizes the Jelly beans by color/flavor/ranking. We may be able to work together
  9. Is a guy, but seems to favor Strawberry Daiquiri. Eliminate! 
  10. Out themselves as a Potterhead by referencing Bertie Bott’s every flavored beans and then lamenting that there isn’t a booger flavored bean. This could go either way 

And while the Mighty Jo Jelly Bean test is not foolproof and is, eh… on the whole quite subjective, I still feel this is a effective way to root out unsuitable candidates in an efficient and timely manner. Also you get to expense Jelly Beans under recruitment costs. BONUS.

Love your anemone

See what I did there.

*sigh*

I have no enemies. Or rather I have no enemies that I know about. Which is just as bad.

I mean I have the stock standard villains that come with your default life settings. But these are boring and trivial; people that cut me off in traffic or meander slowly through shopping malls with no agenda or sense of urgency. Even the vague political enemies that exist in the broad sphere I occupy don’t count. My life is lacking a quality nemesis on a personal level.

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I blame Matthew. Author of the synoptic Gospel to be precise, although I can think of several other Matthews who have displeased me during my lifetime. Matthew while cribbing from Mark added ‘But I tell you, love your enemies’ in chapter five, verse forty four.

I was always led to believe this was meant to underscore a sense of pacifism that’s loaded into the new testament. Turn the other cheek as opposed to the previous an eye for an eye policy.  Kill them with kindness, instead of shanking them with a sharp piece of metal or introducing them viscerally to blunt force trauma.

I tried a bible study group once. But I was deemed too adversarial and was quietly asked not to come back. Potentially Matthew knew something about the motivating power of a good adversary. Be grateful for your good fortune to have a decent enemy. Love them, for they make you stronger.

George Patton had Erwin Rommel. Ulysses S. Grant had Robert E. Lee. Mao had Chiang Kai-Skek. Batman had the Joker. The 47 Ronin had Kira Yoshinaka. Undoubtedly these enemies motivated them to become stronger and better. There is no better energizer than a good enemy. (I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Greene and Alan Watts lately)

But how does one even get a good enemy? I imagine the quality of an enemy ranges from poor through to excellent. Its a pity you can’t interview or test-drive potential candidates.

I think first you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses. That way you can set your sights on an enemy of slightly superior means and skill. You don’t want anyone beneath you, but nor do you want someone who can crush you like an eggshell. Slightly better than you motivates you to exceed and better them.

Friends are ideally suited to making good enemies. But converting a friend to a decent enemy is easier said than done. This person needs to want to be your enemy, which puts the onus squarely on you to create an environment where this is possible. That seems like A LOT of work for potentially no payoff. You can loose your friend and not gain an enemy.

Joining a tribe is always an option. Preferably one with pre-established enemies. The tribe can direct my feelings, their cause becomes my cause, their enemies can become my enemies. Although I’m not convinced that this is as good a motivator as someone who has wronged me on a deep and personal level. Still you get the social benefits and the  sense of belonging that comes with tribalism.

I am however, not a joiner. Which I think scuppers that possibility.

Then there is my own personal psychology. While initially exceptionally aggrieved by any slight… after a day or two I generally lose interest and wander off to go and make myself a sandwich. I think I will struggle to keep myself on a constant simmer for any length of time, what the Klingon’s conceptualize as, bortaS bIr jablu’DI’ reH QaQqu’ nay. Or loosely translated into the vernacular, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.

This begs the question what sort of event (and subsequent enemy) could motivate me for long enough that it would propel me to self improvement. All the things I can think of are pretty horrible experiences, none of which I would want to barter for.

To some people enemies seem to come easy. I’m not sure if that is a natural proclivity towards creating enmity or just low standards. Perhaps a potential candidate just needs to tick one or two requirements before being welcomed aboard. Then there’s always the spurious or imagined enemy which unfortunately smacks more of mental illness than a real solution.

Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for. For now I shall continue enemy-less. I don’t think these things can be contrived or manufactured. I think they need to develop naturally… which means, they may possibly never develop. Still, I remain hopeful that my nemesis is out there…

Discworldian physics. And the beginning of the end times.

Monday morning… Traffic was super mundane and no one tried to murder me. Which is… (in all honesty) exceptionally weird. Usually theres a least one. So… off to a good start. I realise I’m totally jinxing myself (and potentially everyone else on the earth) and that this bump in the space-time fabric has just caused one of the celestial elephants to stumble, cantilevering our planet dangerously off to one side. This could be the end for us. (I always suspected my life had purpose) Joey, pusher of the red button, destroyer of humanity.

Vaguely I wonder if cantilevering is really a word. And more importantly if I’ve used it correctly. My thought process being, since there are four elephants holding up the planet (on the back of giant space turtle), one stumbling means, at that point the planet would be cantilevered? Ie, not supported. Anyways. I apologise if I got it wrong. I am not an architect, engineer or astrophysicist. If you want to send me some pithy, hate mail, I’m okay with that. (I won’t be checking my mail again anyway)

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The above assumes you have a working understanding of Discworldian physics. How someone could get this far in life WITHOUT an understanding thereof is beyond me… but I imagine there are people out there… you know… *cough* living in a dark Platonian cave playing shadow puppets or whatever people do for fun in allegories of this type. (Joey pats myself on the back for combining Terry Pratchett, flat-earthism and Philosophy one oh one into a single post, yay!)

Hmmm. One of my IP addresses has JUST (randomly) decided it’s in conflict. Conflict with whom is unclear… Maybe Poland? Historically speaking that would probably make sense. We have always been envious of their lebensraum. Although the Poles make the best games these days (CD Project Red, 11 bit studios, etc) which makes me less inclined to call for invasion and take up a more, let them live and make games, philosophy.

Anyway, this is how it starts. ‘We have an elephant down. I repeat we have an elephant down’. (to be shouted in a Scottish accent). Although how one would go about righting a downed celestial elephant… is beyond me, I’m just the harbinger of doom, I don’t come with any real solutions or workable stratagems. I am the guy that leaves the wet towel on the bed, doesn’t replace toilet paper rolls and puts the empty milk carton BACK in the refrigerator… clearly I’m more disposed towards chaos (and getting shouted at by my wife).

I tag this post as ‘astronomy’. I chortle to myself as I tick the box. God, I am so funny.

Spitters are quitters.

I need to pee. Which, as opening lines go, probably won’t be counted among the greatest of all time. I was going to go with ‘Call me Ishmael…’, but apparently thats been taken.

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… and while not a white whale of mythical proportions and foul temperament… It is a whale* snapped mid breach, with an iPhone, while a little inebriated. Which has to count for something (in my opinion).

*Southern Right Whale

In any event. I was just about to launch into a self-involved tirade about my day… heap some scorn upon those who vexed me… maybe break out some self pity, while seeming just sad (but not pathetic) enough to evoke some concerned comments…. you know normal blog stuff.

But now my bladder has laid waste to all these machinations and I am forced to tack against the wind. I use a sailing metaphor. And likely use it incorrectly. But since we are channelling Captain Ahab … and since this is my blog… I can decide to use an obtuse nonsensical analogy, as is my right, as granted to me by Matt Mullenweg and the power of Greyskull. Slash WordPress.

*Joey bounces off to go use the facilities*

Is it satire or sarcasm that’s the lowest form of wit? I can’t remember…

I’m guessing sarcasm, but don’t they broadly mean the same thing? I feel I should probably know this. I have huge gaps in my tuition. (Most likely caused by brain damage)

My eighth grade English teacher, a diminutive (but violent) nun called Sister Mary-Joseph, used to punch me because I couldn’t identify clauses in a sentence… or the conjunction that joined them (still can’t). Likely a motivational technique that would be frowned upon in modern climes.

Under duress I would randomly point to non specific part of the sentence in the hope that I had guessed correctly and that I could sit back down. Unfortunately for me Sister Mary-Joseph recognized my duplicity and negatively reinforced me accordingly (with her fists).

This is my clergy abuse story. Fortunately I didn’t have go down on anyone…  or shallow a warm, viscous load of the ‘Holy Spirit’. So pretty mild really.

For the most part I think I turned out okay…

*someone in the peanut gallery starts laughing*

Except for knowing anything technical about the English language I mean.

Subjectively awake

‘I’m awake’. He blurted out to no none in particular. It should be noted that he was not, under normal circumstances, particularly inclined towards bouts of soliloquy. He was also not completely convinced that his opening statement was entirely accurate…. you know, when viewed in absolutes.

Joey is still waiting for that initial cup of coffee to form the first frail earthworks against the circadian rhythm that seems intent on wanting to de-platform him this morning. To the ramparts and fight my little caffeine molecules! Once more into the breach! (I feel they are becoming immune… or at least developing some form of reticence to my rousing speeches)

Although to be fair, perhaps I’m expecting too much. It feels like one of those days where I need to run one of those plastic aquarium hoses from the percolator, across the office, down the stairs and directly into to my abdominal caffeine port… that I’m going to have installed. (in the meantime I’ll just tuck it in behind my eyeball, where it will, hopefully, through osmosis saturate the spongy grey stuff to a point of sufficiency and general well being)

This is the first bit of cyborgery that actually makes sense to me. Given the choice between a Near-field-communication chip in my wrist bone and a direct infusion apparatus… hmm… weirdly cyborgery is not underlined in red. Oh wait… there we go. Bit of lag going on there.

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I am also (still) hungry. Another annoyance of this stupid human form.

I went snuffling around the refrigerator earlier. Like the cupboard of old mother Hubbard… it was bare*. Save for something deeply suspicious wrapped in tinfoil… that… I’m pretty sure… seems to have edged closer since last time I saw it…

*because Jo has already eaten everything else in a previous episode.

I was basically forced to raid the neighbors refrigerator.  And while this may seem like an admission of guilt… They have food. And a very porous border. (This could almost be a metaphor for something else)

Besides, they should know by now that an exceptionally Kunning (which is a lot like cunning, only with a capital K to denote the superior form of the adjective) individual lurks in the (general) vicinity and you need to take steps to safeguard your delicious edibles against pilferage. I’m actually helping them…

I was also kind enough to leave the empty Fruit Loops box on the counter, to remind them to buy more. (I didn’t have any post-its)

Don’t worry about me though. I should be fine. Just need to defrag my metaphorical hard-drive and I’ll be back to normal.

Please stand by.

Purveyors of domesticated male bovine excrement

I have a love/hate relationship with twitter. I find it quite alluring in so far as it allows you access to the people you like… but I also find it all very Orwellean. Only George called it Newspeak.

‘Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought’.

But obviously I have bias, my medium of choice being the more ‘long-form’ rant. Ie The blog. Which in of itself has its flaws (and also likely dates me). But then no medium is ever perfect.

Sometimes when I’m bored I like to search for people that I like. Which is often a mistake. You know that old chestnut; you should never meet your heroes. Well…You should DEFINITELY never follow your heroes on twitter. Their largely mundane, inane thoughts stripped bare, just left there to rot, like some bloated marine mammal… stop taking selfies and roll it back into the sea already. It’s grim. And often, a little sad. The ubermensch you admire is just a mensch. Twitter kicks Nietzsche in the groin. Nietzsche grits his teeth and mumbles something about ‘what doesn’t kill you…’. Twitter kicks him again. Nietzsche goes down. And stays down.

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Still sometimes I do it anyway. Go onto twitter I mean. It usually starts to go sideways for me with their bio. *Joey rolls his eyes* Bio’s are often hilarious. But not because they’re funny. People either take themselves super seriously. Or attempt wit. It rarely works out that way. Personally I attempted wit… which is not really my forte…. but the alternative is egoism… or leave it blank. The latter seems quite anti-establishment.

Then there is the content. If anything social media has taught me that…

Apparently the internet is not all pornography.

But when you subtract the writhing naked humans out, all you have left seems to be the aggrandizement of self, bellicose jingoism, name-calling, carnival barking and hustlers. And… of the social media titans, twitter feels like the most concentrated tincture of all this. At least the pornographers are out there creating actual content.

I, of course, have been party to all of this. I don’t pretend to judge myself any less harshly for my complicity. Despite my all my reservations I have in the past been mean and combative for no reason.  I have gotten into ‘robust’ conversations with people who domicile under bridges, perhaps even venturing under an overpass myself now and then. I have ascribed ‘likes’ to things that would likely make me suck air through my teeth if reviewed now. I wish I could take it all back. But I can’t.

The internet doesn’t change you, rather it likely reveals who you really are. Which is quite frightening sometimes. Despite the veneer we like to portray to the world, underneath its often a rotting substrate barely holding everything together.

Sometimes I find it all very dystopian.

I’ve have however realized that this medium seems to be the ONLY way to communicate with content creators whose work you like. You can send them an email, but chances, they will never get back to you. Some do write back and kudos to them. But for the most part your admiration just gets lumped together in a folder with spam and hate mail and eventually deleted.

This however leads to another problematic area for me; the compliment retweet. Someone says something nice about you and you immediately flaunt it to the world as some sort of achievement. #dopamine. Basically you’re high fiving yourself.  Authors are especially prone to needing this sort of affirmation it seems, especially newly minted authors. Established old hands don’t give a fuck. Whatever happened to graciously accepting a tribute? Or does everything piece of bric-a-brac tossed your way have to be displayed on your mantle-piece? Maybe just the most nauseatingly toadying ones?

I think the biggest issue I have though is the time it takes to manage all this hubris and shift through pages and pages of asinine drivel in search of something to make the economy of effort seem worthwhile. I’m not sure how people justify this?

In any event on my deathbed I will undoubtedly be grateful for all the time I spent languishing on social media. Seems unlikely. But maybe I should just follow better people?

Muppets et al.

A healthy man wants 1000 things. A sick man only wants one thing – Chinese saying 

I type it out verbatim. Even though I hate the phrase ‘Chinese saying’. I am briefly tempted to change it to ‘author unknown’, but decide, after some internal deliberation*…

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*pictorial representation of what this might look like

to leave it as it is…. even if does feel vaguely fortune cookie-ish. I feel since it’s gender specific the answer is probably ‘Blowjob’. I think we are meant to assume its health. But I think we can all agree that this is unlikely when these two things are assayed against each other on the scale of probability.

I’m not the most functional grown up at the best of times. A situation made infinitely more dire by injury or sickness (see previous post). Even worse is that during such times I so fit so snugly into that stereotypical (wretched) male mold. Which is then further exacerbated by the self-loathing that comes with the acquiescence of such typecast character. Fortunately I have a very capable wife, without whom I’d be really quite stuffed.

I propped my odious and contemptible form up with caffeine this morning. A triple espresso meant to form some sort of bulwark against an overdose of codeine. Like Thanos I appreciate balance in all things. (I’m not entirely sure they should make another Avengers movie, I quite liked the way this one ended).

In any event, I only realized when I was almost at work that I had listened to almost an entire Muppets playlist without noticing…

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Which is both worrying (because clearly I’m not copious mentos [sic]) and comforting (insofar as someone took the time to make a Best of the Muppets playlist). Its missing ‘Pachalafaka’. Which is likely my favorite Muppets showtune. Apparently it means transvestite in Turkish.

I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I choose to believe because it makes me grin. I also tend to accept Google as the fifth (albeit apocryphal) gospel.

The healing prowess of the Basset hound

I am dying. In the great inevitability sense of the word AND in the more localised, microeconomic sense. At the moment I’m mostly referring to the latter. The progeny, in the guise of the Outbreak monkey, carried on her person a deadly pestilence the likes of which can only ever be propagated in a kindergarten sandpit through the communion of sand, tiny plastic shovels and multiple strains of snot (with mutable viscosity). After briefly battling with the symptoms herself she then bestowed this virulent blight on her poor, hapless sperm-ovum contributors.

It has both her mom and dad down and out for the count. The girl tempest is however healthy again and operating at her usual 105% capacity (which is adding to the general sense of misery) At the moment I’m tagged in to achieve some mattress time while the wife grinds out suicide hour and the parent of the year achievement award. (Because I’m the male of the species my symptoms are deemed more severe and incapacitating, also my mewling is louder and more frequent which almost guarantees me quarantine)

Unfortunately it’s not all camomile tea, Netflix and sleepy time. The basset hound thinks he has healing prowess. Whenever anyone in our household is sick, Dr D. will dutifully come and… well, cry at your beside until you lift him up onto the bed. (Our household is not a believer in equal-heights) He will then attempt to ‘heal’ you (with his body weight). Theres nothing quite like a canine mandated recovery that comes with a 25kg cement bag digging into your spleen and obstructing the peristalsis of your small intestine…. I wouldn’t recommend it personally.

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The German Shepherd, although not an innate healer, feels left out and soon adds her massive girth to the equation. Eventually everyone is snoring loudly… except for the intended recipient of said healing, who as well as being sick, is now also, extremely uncomfortable.

I vaguely wonder where it all started to go wrong for me? Lying there, crushed by the symptoms of the common cold, this has turned into a time for meaningful reflection. Especially now that the trajectory of my entire weekend has now been called into doubt. I have a sneaky suspicion it’s not going to be very exciting. And may, potentially end with my demise. If you don’t hear from me again, know that I went out swinging. Okay, thats probably not true. While I endeavoured to fight them on beaches (and on the landing grounds)… I probably slipped on some toddler type detritus in the middle of the night, fell and smacked my head on the edge of the toilet… an ignominious end for one so mighty.

If at all possible I’d like a lone piper, preferably bespoke in Campbell tartan playing amazing grace while my body is stuffed into one of Elon Musks rockets, and fired off into space. When the universe contracts again I wish to arrive before my peers. I am weirdly competitive that way…

To infinity and beyond

‘Unstuck, unfucked and unleashed’ – The obstacle is the way, Ryan Holiday

I’ve decided to take my writing a little more seriously. Almost like a grownup. Although there’s got to be something said for taking the blog of someone who just sprayed himself in the eye with screen cleaner seriously. In my defence it’s was quite difficult to see (now impossible) which way the nozzle was facing. Gently formulated to burn like matches. Who needs coffee when you can self medicate with a shot of Isopropyl* directly into your cornea every morning. Goddamn…

* noun. 1. of or denoting the alkyl radical —CH(CH3)2, derived from propane by removal of a hydrogen atom from the middle carbon atom.

I have no idea how to segue that opening into a coherent follow up paragraph. Until recently segue wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. Embarrassingly I used to think segue was spelled Segway and that it was a proper noun that became a verb. Like when you Xerox something. Do you keep the capital in situations like this? I sense someone rolling his or her eyes at me right now and getting all judgmental. Still… I feel confident that I can recover and salvage a long meandering tirade from all of this… maybe.

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Stegosaurus used for scale.

I’m drinking white pomegranate tea. It’s supposed to be super healthy for you. But mostly it’s a hot drink substitute for coffee. I’m trying to cut down on my stimulant intake. I have this ideal concept of self where I exist in this perfect mindful state, free of extraneous influences. Its good to have goals… even if they are unlikely to be totally achieved or fully realized. Back when I was fighting regularly I’d start my day with two crushed up Ibuprofen chased with a Red Bull and a double espresso. And that was just to get myself out of bed and into the office. Usually by 10am or so I could feel the rotation of the planet and the gentle hum of the universe expanding at sixty nine kilometers per second.

I’ve come a long way since then, but recently I’ve found myself slipping and needing that caffeine crutch again. The problem is I really like coffee. I’m not a connoisseur by ANY stretch of the imagination… for the most part I like my coffee in a disposable cardboard cup with a plastic lid. I know, I’m espousing heresy on such a massive scale I should expect the inquisition banging at my door at any moment. ‘Hello, hello, hello… what’s all this then?’ (in my mind the inquisition is, apparently,  British)

I’m trying to drink one coffee type drink per day. (Trying being the operative word) For a while I made it bulletproof coffee. Instead of butter I’d use coconut oil. It’s supposed to do something cognitively for you. Then again I often imagine my mind like a hamster wheel. Only the hamster is dead. Fortunately the wheel hasn’t stopped turning just yet, so I can still dress and feed myself without missing my mouth. (Some might debate the latter) Coconut oil isn’t going to do anything for him anymore. The hamster I mean. Except maybe make him smell a little more tropical.

In any event if you’re going to continue reading this blog I need to warn you, that, broadly speaking the the quality of the writing here resembles the microbial bacteria that lives in the water, that collects in the little plastic container that holds your toilet brush, co-inhabiting this space with tiny bits of fecal matter. It will likely do nothing for you but nurture your misanthropy and potentially give you gastroenteritis of biblical proportions, the likes of which the sensitive skin around you rectum will never forget or forgive you for.

If you’ve made it this far I can only suggest to you that TODAY might be the day! Grab the emergency crucifix and load up that revolver with the silver bullets. You know just in case. Good luck out there. Take very few prisoners. And don’t touch the hand railing on the escalator. You may get hepatitis.

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)

 

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?

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?

Growth forecasting. And other made up stuff.

Economists are never wrong, as the saying goes, but their predictions are sometimes subject to an unexpected asymmetrical shock which causes them to awry. 

I really like economics but ended up majoring in Industrial psychology (because I thought it was interesting) and finance (because I wanted to be a trader). Several years later I decided to have another crack at majoring in economics. But then got distracted by philosophy and political science (and the humanities in general). My enthusiasm for traditional and linear forms of education and the piece of cardboard they give you afterwards has waned somewhat over the years, so I don’t ever see myself progressing past economics 202 on any official platform.  Besides being an economist is a lot like being a horoscope writer, you dwell in a dim twilight realm bereft of light, peddling your own particular brand of bullshit to anyone who will listen to you. Some people even aggrandize their vocation with a prefix. Senior economist, which personally I think is hilarious that something so spurious should have a hierarchy. Still… I have a soft spot for economics, even if the practitioners thereof are mostly kooks and whack-jobs.

We all make predictions. Especially about the economy. We don’t need to be able to chart aggregates on a graph to do this. Just like economists we can make stuff up as we go. Sometimes we will be right. And sometimes we will be wrong. When we are right we get to croon on about it indefinitely. When we are wrong, we casually forget to mention it. (or delete our blog post)

Besides, really, its all Bismark. Which is a fantastic line from Dan Carlin I have decided to love (steal) and casually drop into as many conversations as possible.

James Burke – ‘… we don’t know whats going on. But we think that we do and that we have instruments that tell us we know and we run our systems based on the fact that we have a pretty good handle and more or less we manage to stumble along, the Fed drops the rate and to a certain extent the economy behaves the way it is expected to behave. The instruments we use are extremely crude so on a macro level we see things happening more or less the way we thought they ought to, what we don’t see are the levels, the more subtle levels at which the effects are less immediately visible, less easily understood on the front page of a newspaper, or more likely to have an outcome down the road, in which case, by that time of course we don’t know they are late effects, we see them as something else. I am not a conspiracy freak, but I have long believed that what we think is going on is nothing like what is going on, I’m talking about the way the political institutions work, I believe that Realpolitik has always been whats really happening and the flak, the blah, blah, is what the rest of us believe is going on and I think that’s the way the world works.

Dan Carlin- ‘Its all Bismark’. 

James Burke – ‘Its all Bismark’.

After that lengthy prologue I suppose I can move onto what I originally wanted to blog about. Which is growth forecasting. Which is probably the blandest most boring topic for a blog post in the history of the world. If only it wasn’t so damn important. We will all live or die by this annoying little term. 

Our governments borrow money (if you believe this) to improve our lives by building roads and hospitals and libraries and they assume (because economists tell them) that future growth in the economy will be able to outpace the interest that they need to pay on these loans. Our pension funds extrapolate data from previous decades to surmise how much money we will have when we retire. 

Since world war two, the growth rate in the world economy has, for all tense and purposes been, astronomical. Technological innovation has been the main driver behind this growth. 

What if we’re done growing?

I mean not completely. New technology is still being developed that will drive productivity and therefore growth. But what if the lofty single and double digits of growth are done? As soon as you mention this, people tend to switch off, label you cynical and shuffle off. 

Freakeconomics recently did a podcast on what essentially is the law of diminishing returns. 

The law of diminishing returns refers to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested

The example they use (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here because I’m relying on memory) is an acre of crops. Back in the day, the yield on an acre of corn (for example) wasn’t great. But as we’ve progressed (mostly in the last century) and we’ve developed fertilizers and pesticides. We have genetically modified the corn to be drought resistance, disease resistant and to produce as big cob as possible. We’ve almost maxed out the productivity for an acre of corn. Now we can do more R&D and eke out a tiny bit more productivity out of that corn… but that will cost of millions of dollars in research… and really, does that 1% increase in productivity out weigh the cost of research? Probably not.

I think assuming that we can continue to grow exponentially (Chip manufacturers for example are struggling to keep up with Moore law of semi-conductors) is super irresponsible of us as a species. Especially when we are making huge financial decisions based on guess work and extrapolation of past performance. 

What happens if the world economy only grows at 2% for the next three decades? 2% growth in 10BC was twenty times the annual growth rate for an ancient Roman. As I understand it up until the 19th century the world was ticking along at under 1% GDP growth per year. 

With the debt levels being what they are 2% growth would be catastrophic. 

I worry about technology. Especially the tech that is coming in the next couple of decades. Soon we will be able to print anything from houses to complex mechanical spares. What does that do to the building industry? The engineering industry? Self driving trucks, drone deliveries? What if we develop fusion and put all the coal industry out of work? There are hundreds of labor intensive industries staring down a barrel of gun. 

I think optimists will argue that we will muddle along and somehow it will all work out. I worry about all the mouths we will have to feed and the crazy political populism and ideology that comes with that with this drive to optimize.

Poor people eventually snap. Ask a French aristocrat. 

I generally dislike pessimism. But I also dislike continual and buoyant optimism. I suppose everyone is every era feels like they are on the cusp of some sort of disaster, and somehow we’ve gotten through as a species. Technology may save us. IBM couldn’t see the use for personal computer. And that wasn’t that long ago. Edison invented the lightbulb with virtually no R&D funding. There are countless counter arguments to techno-pessimism. 

Studying finance. I only ever learned one thing that I thought was valuable. Hedge your bets. Cover your short positions with long positions. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and assumption is the mother of all fuck ups. 

Dream Retirement

In 1571 at the venerable age of 38 Michel de Montaigne (a French philosopher) retired. He moved himself into a tower which housed his library where he could read and blog (okay, write essays) in relative solitude for the rest of his days. Across his bookshelves he had the following inscribed.

In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, his birthday, Michael de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life, now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure

This sounds awesome. I would add some accouterments that perhaps were lacking in Michel de Montaigne’s man cave. Some decent speakers, Wifi and a MacBook air. But generally speaking, I think he had the right idea. I would maybe also add a grappling mat so I could roll some Jujitsu.

Michel de Montaigne came from serious money though. Which clearly helped. I’m not quite there yet. But maybe one day.