SOC

I have no clue where to begin today. Spontaneous writing sucks when you don't have anything to write about. I actually do have things to write about, but they are already on my list.

I recommend Skype for the home. I talk to my brother on it on a regular basis. It is free, and I don't have to worry about running out the charge on my cellphone.

I'm reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It is the last book in the trilogy, and there won't be anymore though a rumored fourth volume exists. Larsson is dead. I find it ironic that his work has gained such fame and acclaim (and money) after the man's death. The appeal of the books comes down to main character Lisbeth Salander who people admire for her intelligence, her moral code in spite of it all, and her desire to be left the fuck alone. She also kicks ass. (I will write reviews of these books.)

This SOC is not flowing like the ones in the past. Choppy and disjointed.

In fiction writing news, I am going to do some first person shit. One is a rewrite of a promising but ultimately failed story I did twenty years ago called "The Angel of Death Comes to the Candy Kitchen." That will be on the Charles Noir blog. The other is a tale called "Confessions of a Serial Ass Beater." It is a story told by a guy who beats the living shit out of people who deserve it.

I often debate whether I should vary my style like that. My current style is something I call "movie style." Everything is written in the present tense and the third person. There is only dialogue and action. People who read these stories say it is like having a movie in their head.

So far, all the fiction I have ever written rates as "dogshit." This is understandable since 99% of fiction is shit anyway. I know Aristotle's Poetics, but in the end, I think people just want to be entertained. I don't know what is good when it comes to writing fiction. I know Cormac McCarthy is good. That man is insanely good. I think I would like to write on that level. But I don't know how.

That is a project I would like to return to. I'd like to be a great novelist writing important works. I just don't know how to do that. It is something I will have to ponder and consider.

Quotable Quotes

Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they need is at the end of their own arm.
SIDNEY J. PHILLIPS

When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.
SAM EWING

Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it.
UNKNOWN

Plough deep while sluggards sleep.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

The Protestant Ethic

[In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism] Weber argued that the presumed anti-capitalist Puritanical rhetoric of eschewing earthly acquisitiveness was actually an impetus for that very acquisitiveness. The thesis was novel and well-known. Catholicism, Weber argues, was tolerant towards the acquisition of earthly gain and winked at lavish expenditure, an idea engendered by hierarchical structure of the Church (which required struggling and jockeying for "position") as well as its own tradition of lavish expenditure (the church) and its oft-used earthly powers of forgiveness for sin. This might make one conclude that the Catholic ethic was more predisposed towards capitalism than the Protestant (as others, before and since, have argued).

But no, replied Weber. It is true that the Protestant doctrines asked men to accept a humbler station and concentrate on mundane tasks and duties and, without a hierarchical church structure, there was no example of upward-mobility, acquisitiveness and expenditure. Yet it was precisely this that engendered the "work-and-save" ethic that gave rise to capitalism. Dedication to and pride in one's work, Weber claimed, is inevitably a highly productive attitude. The Calvinist ethic of "godliness" through the humble dedication to one's beruf (calling/duty/task), meant economic productivity was consequently higher in Protestant communities. In contrast, the upward-mobility that was possible in hierarchical Catholic society meant that a lot of people found themselves in jobs which they saw only as way-stations to higher and better positions - thereby dedicating only a minimal or nominal attention to the given task as finding it either beneath their dignity or certainly not worth resigning to as their end in life. Consequently, Weber concluded, Catholic communities tended to be less productive.

The higher productivity of Protestant communities was coupled with higher thriftiness. The sinfulness of expenditure and lavish display of earthly goods was a notable Protestant principle. So too was it Catholic, but the Catholic Church had been more prepared to forgive these (and other) sins. The Protestant church had no such power and thus the inducement to the faithful to stay modest in consumption was high. Yet the higher productivity of the Protestant essentially meant that they earned more than the Catholic, and yet because they saved more, they essentially accumulated; the Catholic was less productive but spent more.

Thus, Weber concluded, the idea of "capitalist accumulation" was born directly out of the Protestant ethic - not because the Protestant churches and doctrines condoned acquisitiveness as such (quite the contrary), but rather quite inadvertently through its claim to productive dedication to beruf and thriftiness in consumption. The subsequent ethical "legitimization" of capitalist acquisitiveness in later society under the rubric of "greed is good" was simply a distorted statement of what was already a fact. In no sense, claimed Weber, is the capitalist ethic of "greed" the creator of "capitalist society" (however much it might later be a propagator), but, rather, quite the opposite.


http://homepage.newschool.edu/het//profiles/weber.htm

I was first introduced to Max Weber back in college, and his thesis made a profound impact on me. Scholars debate this thesis, but I can't understand why. If you produce more and consume less, you will accumulate more wealth. The fact that anyone would debate this shows they are lazy people thinking wealth comes from a series of "tricks."

We live in strange times. Today, people want a credential instead of learning. People want a job title but not a real job. They want to get rich by getting lucky and getting over but not by giving value for the dollar. They buy shit they can't afford on credit cards and think they are rich. It's all one big fake ass world of lazy fucks. It is precisely the sort of world that Weber describes that the Catholics created with their value system.

It all comes back to hard work and thrift. You don't build wealth with consumption. In order to have capitalism, you must have capital, and capital comes from productivity and thrift. It is paradoxical, but to be rich, live like a pauper and work like a fiend.

The problem with the Protestant ethic is obvious. It was fired by a religious impulse. As an atheist, I can tell you that no deity will be there to reward you. So, it makes sense to earn in order to consume. The problem is that this breaks down. As they say, you can't have your cake and eat it, too. The whole point of being rich is to not be poor.

You have to take money out of the picture. A purely material work ethic results in an unsustainable lifestyle. If you look at work as simply the means to provide for your needs, you will hate the work and do the least amount possible. For me, the answer is to find happiness in work. The money is merely a beneficial side effect. Of course, I'm not going to work for free for somebody else. I can always work for myself which has the same effect as getting paid to work for someone else. Cleaning my house is every bit as fun as getting paid to clean someone else's house.

I think we are the product of our values, and the reason this nation has declined so much is because of the wrong values. We need a new Protestant ethic for this age. People need to work and save. They should strive for authenticity and providing value. The bullshit needs to end. The party is over.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. NORTH KOREA

There are fireworks on the Korean peninsula, and people are mystified by the latest North Korean insanity. But not me. I know better. By showing their ass, North Korea brings the USA to the negotiating table. The result will be some sort of new agreement and--wait for it--economic aid. Yep, that's right. North Korea wants your tax dollars to keep their broken government running, keep their people in subjugation, and build a few more atom bombs to use for further negotiations that will result in economic aid. And guess what. It works. North Korea will get that money. They are like the fucked up relative who shows up on your doorstep looking for cash to buy coke with, and you give him the money to make him go away. But he always comes back. . .

2. BLACK FRIDAY

I always thought this would be a cool name for a band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btKso1-uFVA

I was thinking more of a death metal band.

3. THE NEW SPIN

Since losing the House in the midterm elections, the leftards have a new meme. Without acknowledging their own idiocy or tomfuckery, they are promoting the idea that the GOP will fuck America for no other reason than to see Obama lose in 2012. I haven't seen such self-delusion since Anakin blamed Obi Wan for turning Padme against him. The reason the Democrats got bitch slapped in the midterms is because Obama is fucking America. The Republicans don't have their hand on their wheel, but they do have a foot on the brake. Even libertarians are being called Nazis and tyrants. Unfuckingbelievable.

There are really only two kinds of politically minded folks. The first type is like me which are the ones who care about principles and will bless or damn any and all politicians for their adherence or deviation from those principles. Then, there are the slimebags who simply twist facts and conjure up arguments to support their chosen party. These are the partisans. These are the people who can smear Bush for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gitmo while praising Obama for--wait for it--Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gitmo. Amazing shit there.

4. PALIN

The polarization never ends. Bristol does great on Dancing With The Stars as a critic on NPR slams her for absolutely sucking. Sarah does a reality show and gets slammed for being a celebrity trying to portray herself as blue collar. Blah blah blah. All the critics say the same thing. All of this is just a way to use popular media to advance politics. But they are wrong. Totally fucking wrong. They have it backwards. Palin used politics to go after a much bigger prize than political office. She used politics to become rich and famous. Palin doesn't want to be President. She wants to be Oprah. And it has worked. I hear she is raking in $10 million a year. Not bad.

Politics and entertainment have blurred. Palin represents this new paradigm. She is a game changer. Look at how much sway she has, yet she holds no office. The Left will decry this, but they've been doing it forever with Hollywood celebrities testifying on Capitol Hill and Bono doing his save-the-world-while-I-shelter-my-fortune hypocrisy. The fact is that celebrity is a form of power since all political power is popular power. Being famous is equated to being smart or just being right. And since most people are stupid, they believe famous people.

Palin is stupid but so are her critics. They will sneer to their demise.

5. IRELAND

The dominoes are starting to fall. First, it was Greece. Now, it is Ireland. Expect Portugal, Spain, and Italy to follow. And who pays? Germany. Germany will pull out of the EU. They are fools if they don't. GET THE FUCK OUT, YOU STUPID KRAUTS!! Why? Because the EU is a massive socialist welfare con, and Germany is the mark. Sharing is so wonderful when you get to share the pain. It is not so good if you have your shit together.

6. PALPATINE VS ZOD

For a long time, my favorite villain has been Darth Sidious aka Chancellor Palpatine aka the Emperor from Star Wars. He was so totally evil. But I am also partial to General Zod from Superman II played by Terence Stamp. They are both really good bad guys. They both crave power and have no mercy. I wonder what would happen if the two of these ever met up. Fascinating.

SOC

Keeping up with a blog can be a lot of work. I have an editorial calendar, but it doesn't change the fact that I have to make time to get shit written. My goal is one post per day. Some months, I exceed that goal. Other months, I fail to meet that goal.

Recently, there was a fellow who was working at a recycling place that buys metal from people. I won't share his name even though his picture and story appeared in Mug Shots. The guy stole $50,000 by printing out false tickets and pocketing the cash. The reason his story interests me is because of his lifestyle prior to being terminated and arrested. He liked to buy things. He wore really nice clothes and was an avid golfer. Knowing of other people that were thieves, I saw a common pattern. Most of the people that I see stealing don't do it out of need but do it out of greed. They love to buy shit they don't need.

I'm weird in that I'm not big on buying shit. I never have been. I've always lived a frugal lifestyle. I got a promotion once with a large raise, and everyone piled on criticizing me for driving the same old car I was driving before. I admit it didn't look too good by then, but I drive things until they disintegrate. In other areas of my life, I sit on thrift store furniture. I wear clothes from Walmart and Goodwill. I am writing this with a computer cobbled together from two other computers. If I won the lottery, very little would change in my material existence.

Material possessions do little to enhance the quality of my life. I measure the things I buy by what their purpose is. By this measure, a thrift store couch is as functional as a brand new couch. A used car achieves the same purpose as a snazzy new Lexus. It gets you from Point A to Point B. On that basis, my life is qualitatively no different from anyone else except I don't fret about making monthly payments. I don't have any.

I find happiness in the things I do and not the things I own. Having too much stuff actually interferes with doing the things you enjoy. By having less, there is less to maintain, and you don't have to work so much or do work you hate to pay for shit you probably don't use anyway.

Quotable Quotes

My experience with liberals is you must bash them over the head. You must humiliate them. You have to make them cry. And then some time later, they will come around. But I do not think people make major intellectual transformations without either laughing or crying first.
ANN COULTER

I believe that we parents must encourage our children to become educated, so they can get into a good college that we cannot afford.
DAVE BARRY

A hit for me is if I enjoy the movie, if I personally enjoy the movie.
RIDLEY SCOTT

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
MALCOLM X

Hell, I never vote for anybody, I always vote against.
W.C. FIELDS

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. KYLE BUSCH

Busch has the talent to be a champion, but his recent meltdown where he showed his ass and flipped off a NASCAR official shows that he will always be an immature prick. I was rooting for him but now. It isn't that I have great love for NASCAR officials. I don't. But these temper tantrums are just devoid of class.

2. PELOSI

Nancy Pelosi just wants to keep being the HBIC for the Democrats in the House. People need to understand. Yes, she is massively unpopular, and her face can't take another lift. Her skull would pop out if she sneezed. But who else is there? And with Obama in charge, would it matter? The Dems are in the wilderness. All the GOP has to do is hit the brake and keep the foot there until 2012. FWIW, I hope Pelosi gets the job as minority leader. She is the bitch that keeps on giving.

3. QE2

Bernanke keeps squirting gas on the embers, and the flame up will singe that beard right off his face. Remember, this was the guy that drove our economy into the toilet. Now, he gets to do it again. He is desperate to inflate a new bubble, and it is working. That new bubble is the federal government.

4. FACEBOOK EMAIL

Facebook will now do email according to rumors. I already have a Yahoo! account and a Gmail account. Now, I have this third one. I might as well see if I can get a second asshole because the asshole I have now can't handle all the shit. Just another outlet for spam.

5. USPS

The US Postal Service blew $8.5 billion. They warn they will be broke in 2011. But never fear. They will get the usual bailout they have been getting for the entirety of the existence of the USPS. The answer is to privatize and open up the market for competition. I'm sure FedEx and UPS would like to take a crack at mail. But this will never happen. It just blows the mind how failure can go on so long.

6. THE BUSH LEGACY

W. has been making the rounds selling his book and trying to rehab the image that he was a warmongering idiot. He did "the best he could." Christ fucking almighty. How hard is not invading Iraq? How hard is it to not camapign for a prescription drug entitlement? How hard is it to decide not to bail out a bunch of Wall Street fuck ups? He acts like the problem was that he faced opposition that kept him from doing the right thing, so he did the next best thing. But this is absurd. This country would have been better off if he had spent the entire eight years on the golf course. The problem isn't what he failed to do. It was what he succeeded in doing. The fact is the country would have been much better off if he had gone back to drinking and cocaine. That stupid fucker doubled the national debt and mired us in two unwinnable wars. No amount of PR is going to scrub away the shit stain that will be the Bush legacy. But if he is lucky, it will be covered over by the turd Obama is laying now.

nirvana

Capitalism and Minimalism

The problem, of course, is that the system has taken on a life of its own. We’re so freakin’ good at what we do that millions of people are walking around with more stuff than they could possibly know what to do with.
We’re so convinced that buying that next gadget, or car, or beach home will make us happy that we leverage our current happiness by working overtime to save up enough money to make the purchase. 2 months later – we’re bored with the latest toy and a little bit emptier inside.
Not knowing what to do, we turn on the stupid box (that’s a T.V) and allow ourselves to be brainwashed by a million really enticing ads. “Hunny, I think I know what we need… let’s buy a Bowflex. Maybe if I get super fit like the guy on this commercial I’ll be able to pull myself out of this funk.”
2 months later- you know the story.


Does Capitalism Clash with the Minimalist Lifestyle?

* * *

Mike Donghia attempts to answer a question that has been on my mind awhile. I am a libertarian, and I believe in the free market. I believe capitalism provides more material goods and abundance than any other economic system there is. It is because of capitalism that poor people like me today live better than royalty lived a century ago. Needless to say, I am enthusiastic about the free market system.

I also don't think frugality is antithetical to capitalism but is essential to capitalism. By choosing not to consume, a person accumulates capital. Many rich people are notoriously frugal with their cash. This aspect of minimalism is not in conflict with capitalism.

Where minimalism and capitalism diverge is on the consumption side. The free market delivers a great deal of goods and services that make our lives easier and better. But not all goods and services make our lives better. The quack selling bullshit cures is a notable example. Just because it is available doesn't mean you need to buy it. Choosing not to purchase a good or service is as much a part of the free market as anything else.

Minimalists choose to consume as little as possible. The reason for this is clear. It improves savings and reduces stress and clutter. Marketing and sales work to instill a felt need in consumers for various products and services. Minimalists ignore these efforts. Others do not. These are individual decisions. They are neither good nor bad. But what remains is the trade off. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

You can't have financial security while spending more than you earn. You can earn more or spend less, but the principle remains inviolable. Savings is the difference between what you earn and what you spend. Likewise, debt is the difference between what you earn and what you spend. You can build savings indefinitely. You cannot do the same with debt. One practice is sustainable while the other is not.

At this point, someone will toss out the environmental argument and "sustainability." This is simply an effort to couch minimalism in moral terms and force it on other people for the sake of the "planet." I have no interest in this argument because it is fallacious. People who disagree with me on this Malthusian BS are advised to read The Ultimate Resource by Julian Simon.

If minimalists need a model on reconciling capitalism with simplicity, they need look no further than the Puritans, the Quakers, and the Amish. Those groups show that simplicity and abundance are not antithetical. In fact, they go hand in hand.

What would happen if the entire world went minimalist? That is obvious. You would see declines in many endeavors from making luxury SUVs to cable television to home shopping networks to the end of rented storage units. But this is not going to happen unless the government pulls off some kind of Maoist social revolution. And I don't really want that. The Green Meanies might.

Going minimalist is an individual decision. It is something you choose to do for you. I laugh at people who live in McMansions and pay more in car payments than I pay in rent. But it is their lives, their money, and their foolishness. It doesn't affect me, so I don't care.

The bottom line is that being minimalist does not mean becoming Marxist. For me, it means putting my money in the bank instead of in shit I'm not ever going to use.

---
NOTES

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ultimate_Resource

DVD-Indulgence



Indulgence is an indie video that is a running version of the surf and ski porn you might see coming from the likes of Warren Miller or Bruce Brown. It features ultrarunner Anton Krupicka in his preparation for the Leadville 100 in 2007.

The first part of the vid is just Anton running. This sounds really boring until you see where he runs. The landscape is the star in this vid, and you quickly understand the primal vibe that Krupicka exudes. The mountainous vistas are gorgeous and breathtaking. If you wonder how a guy can run up to 200 miles a week, Indulgence ends the mystery for you. Where you run matters a great deal. Pounding the pavement is nothing like these trails.

The scenic runs are interspersed with interviews with Krupicka. Anton is a character but extremely likable. A bonus section with additional questions is also enlightening. Finally, there is a scene with Anton's long suffering girlfriend Jocelyn Jenks who has to qualify as Girlfriend of the Decade to be with a guy who runs so much and is a relative bum the rest of the time because he is so exhausted.

The one thing you take from Indulgence is that running is a supremely enjoyable activity. The other thing would be the value of a kitchen knife applied to clunky running shoes.

Indulgence

Rethinking College and Career

In the more than 20 years that he’s been studying the issue, Sum says that the current downturn has negatively affected young people the most—and not just in terms of their take-home pay. For some people, the recession has forever altered perceptions of how the world works, creating the impression that success has more to do with luck than with hard work.

Young, Educated, and Unemployed: A New Generation of Kids Search for Work in their 20s

* * *

This is a great article. The sad thing is that this isn't a problem for the young. I read of MBAs with business experience and in their 40s who can't find a job. The fact is that this recession hurts all over. The irony is that most of these folks voted for Obama.

I read a lot about the bubble in higher ed, people struggling repay student loans, and unemployed middle managers, lawyers, and what have you. What I never read is the crux and the linchpin that ties all of this together. This is the issue of bullshit jobs.

Bullshit jobs are created in bubbles. They result in nothing meaningful. It is mostly office work, attending meetings, and just doing shit that doesn't matter. Right now, the public sector and university administrations are the white hot center of the bullshit job bubble. Why is this? Because that is where all that fake federal money is going--government and colleges. You can't get a job as a college professor, but you can as a college recruiter--if you are lucky.

The reason these people can't find work is because they trained for bullshit jobs that are fading fast in the private sector. Bullshit jobs rely on luck, and right now, luck is in short supply. Deprived of these bullshit jobs and buoyed by parents and unemployment checks, these people revert to a holding pattern hoping that luck will come back their way. This is not the answer.

The answer is to do real work for a change. For instance, a young person can get a job washing dishes at a restaurant and work his way up to cooking. In time, he might try and open his own place. This is what real work is about. It isn't about mission statements and meetings. It is about providing value for the dollar. But the bullshit alternative is to take an entry level job in a corporation and claw their way into middle management. What a suck ass route to take.

The whole society needs to rethink these things. I've already done this. The result is that I stand completely out of step with the rest of the culture. While people look at folks riding by in their shiny BMWs with covetous hearts, I envy the blue collar guys I see at the construction site in their hard hats and denim doing real work. I do real work, but it just doesn't have the same dirt and grit as what those guys do.

I doubt anyone else will see it the way I do which is just fine with me. I'm not the one with mountains of debt and a job he hates. I'm glad I went to college and had a job once that required a degree. It makes it easier to enjoy what I do now knowing that the grass isn't greener on the other side because I have seen the other side.

Veteran's Day Musings



I saw this on a Facebooker's wall:


In other news, I went to check the mail box and noticed it was empty then realized that is was some day to honor some people for joining up as pawns for mass murder and all we have to show for it are closed banks and no mail.


That is some harsh shit. FWIW, you don't want to say shit like this around veterans especially the ones who had buddies KIA. But I will try and address the issue the commenter was raising.

I am antiwar. This is not the same as being a pacifist. I believe in having a strong national defense. I think we should be like Switzerland having a strong army, an armed citizenry, and a foreign policy that stresses minding your own business. It is that last part that makes me antiwar.

Invading another country, blowing shit up, and killing people doesn't result in anything good. This does not win hearts and minds. In fact, it radicalizes people who previously didn't give a fuck. How would you react if your house was blown to shit and your family members were killed?

On the flip side, veterans returning from Vietnam were subjected to being called "baby killers." That is way over the line. The fact is that the blame for this rests not with our military but with civilian leadership that gets elected by our population and gets supported by your tax dollars. If we are going to go down the line of moral equivalence, every time you get withholding from your paycheck you are paying for the bullets and bombs that are going to be killing someone in another part of the world. The fact is that we are all baby killers. The moral thing to do is to stop paying taxes and go to jail.

So, how should we treat our veterans? That is a bit of a conundrum. They are serving on our behalf, but I think their service does little to make us safer or to advance our liberty. They are pawns much like the rest of us. I just acknowledge that fact without praise or judgment. I think the best thing we can do for men and women in uniform is to bring them home.

Further Thoughts on Time, Money, and Energy



I wrote a post three years ago called "Time, Money, and Energy." Looking back on that classic, I realize my viewpoints have changed a bit.

My turn towards minimalism has been a result of my frustrations with time, money, and energy. My ambitions exceeded my supply of those resources. When I wrote the original, I was not yet a minimalist. I would spend my days psyching myself up to try and do more stuff. I would get things done, but I never got enough done to my satisfaction. The answer was always more--more time, money, and energy.

I still struggle with these things, but the answer has changed. Now, the answer is less. I refine my goals. I eliminate things. I declutter. I edit. I focus. The results have been much better. What you choose not to do is as important as what you choose to do.

Time is limited and will always be limited. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. You can try and cram more activities into that 24 hour period, but you are going to fail. I think this is something that older folks have learned which is why they don't hurry. I get frustrated when some older driver in front of me is going too slow until I look down and see they are doing the speed limit. Their problem isn't their slowness. The problem is that I have managed my time poorly, and I am trying to make the insanity work. Basically, I'm late. They've learned to get up earlier and prepare. They have their shit together while I don't.

The reason people have trouble managing time is because they try and do more than is possible. In the case of being late for work, it is almost always the result of staying up late the night before working on some project (or partying.) Behind this is a belief that you can squeeze more out of the time that you have. But you can't. There is no 25 hour day. When you cram the day, you are going to fail. You are going to end up not being able to do something. By cutting back, you decide between what matters and what doesn't. The surprising thing I have learned is that I get more done when I choose to do less. The reason for this is that I get done the things that matter. The chaos strategy lets failure edit my day for me.

This leads to the issue of money. I used to be fond of saying that all problems were money problems. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize this is not true. Problems are the result of poor choices and bad habits. We look to money as the solution to this fundamental problem. When we don't have the money, we say that our problems are because we don't have enough money. Yet, when people like lottery winners come into money, they blow it all in a short time period. Meanwhile, rich people like the ones in The Millionaire Next Door tend to amass wealth as a consequence of lifestyle and habits. They have two primary habits that make this wealth possible--hard work and thrift. People are broke because they are lazy and spend too much. Since people don't want to acknowledge these flaws in their character, they always tell a hard luck story about misfortune and expect others to bail them out. Or they get stupid and resort to credit. Yet, if they corrected those two flaws, their money problems would be gone.

This brings us to energy. I remember reading that ultrarunner Dean Karnazes only sleeps four hours per night. I don't know if this is true or hype. I've done the four hour thing supercharged with high doses of caffeine. When I make coffee, it is black sludge. Going without sleep doesn't work. Sleeping only four hours a night will give us 20 hours per day. Surely, this is an answer to our time problems. But I find that I function so poorly that it isn't worth it. I need six hours of sleep each night. The misery from gaining those two extra hours of time isn't worth it. And coffee is no antidote to sleep deprivation.

Lifehacking has become popular because they hold out the promise that you can overcome the problems of time, money, and energy with a few clever tricks. These are gimmicks. The longer I live I find that the answers are still the same old classic wisdom I have grown up with and choose to ignore. Here are some practical tips:

-Limit your leisure.

I am probably the only blogger on the internet that gives this advice. From minimalist bloggers to Tim Ferriss, the mantra is to work less and have more fun. This is very appealing until I translate it to what it really means--be lazy and spend more money. We equate free time and leisure with happiness while work is seen as drudgery. But from all I have read, people's most enjoyable moments come from their jobs. Or as the Puritans put it, "There is no joy in idleness." And since leisure usually requires toys, limiting this area also has the added benefit of saving you money. By working more, you will enjoy life more, make more money, and save more money. There is no lifehack invented that can beat this.

-Live small and light.

A lot of time, money, and energy is spent and wasted trying to live large. A bigger house requires more resources to clean, maintain, and heat and cool. A bigger vehicle usually costs more and drinks more gas and yet doesn't get you to Point B any better or faster than a smaller vehicle. Since 80% of the time Point B is going to work or hitting the store for milk, this is a lot of gas to burn for so little. People usually buy a vehicle for their biggest possible need such as pulling their RV instead of their most common need which is driving solo to work, appointments, and errands. It's like using a machete to spread butter.

-Sleep.

People look at sleep as time wasted, but sleep is the recharge for the batteries. Just like your cellphone or your laptop, you learn to use the energy there wisely and to recharge as often as you can. Sometimes, you can go longer, but you accept that at some point the battery will be done. Sleep is the same way. Until science comes out with a breakthrough, you need to close your eyes once in awhile and get some rest.

Q & A

Q: Why do you shave your head?

A: The short answer is that I have a receding hairline and shaving my head is a preemptive strike. By getting rid of it, I don't have to deal with it anymore.

There have been numerous upsides to shaving my head. I thought women would find me repulsive. The opposite has happened. The other thing is that people can't guess my age. If I grew out my dying and graying hair, my age would be obvious. And things are much cooler in the summer.

The downside is that I have to shave daily. It isn't a low maintenance hairstyle. That is a myth. You just say goodbye to bedhead. The other downside is brain freeze during the winter. Buy some hats.

If you decide to shave your head, I recommend going to a barber and having them shear your noggin to the bone with some clippers. Then, go home, lather up, and shave it. Do this daily.

On the weekends, I let my hair and beard grow out to give my skin a break from the constant shaving. On Monday when it comes off, it seems to give me a better feel. Some folks can compromise with a buzz cut like Jason Statham does.

I'm not a fan of hair. I don't do goatees or beards. I think women should go short with their hair. It just feels cleaner and looks better.

HEROES-Leo Babauta



When I first heard about Leo Babauta, I was not very impressed with him. In fact, I considered him to be a bit of a flim-flam artist along the lines of some infomercial guru. I was totally wrong on that.

Leo Babauta is an ordinary guy. That is what makes him so special. Unlike other hyped up self-help gurus, Leo is plain spoken, sincere, and real. His website, Zen Habits, rocketed to popularity because of this authenticity. His approach is simple. Focus on one habit at a time. In time, your whole life will change. Following this approach, Leo went from being overweight smoker mired in debt to becoming debt free, fit, and paring down his lifestyle by adopting minimalism. If you are frustrated by where your life is, turn to Leo. He will help you out.

There is much to admire about Leo. He is generous putting all his work in the public domain. He gives away his advice for free. It doesn't cost you anything. Despite this, I have bought some of his books. Getting free samples makes me more willing to pay because it is value for the dollar.

The antithesis of Leo are guys like Tony Robbins and others who are big on marketing and hype and bullshit. Leo isn't like this at all. He is a real person, and it gives you the confidence that if he can do it you can do it, too.

You can check out more on Leo from these websites:

zen habits
mnmlist

SOC

I recently watched The Exorcist. It did not scare me. It scared me as a kid, but it does not scare me now. I think being an atheist has taken the fear out of me.

The thing I fear most now is being incarcerated. I don't go around breaking laws or hurting people or doing anything deserving of jail. But I can't think of a worse fate than the loss of one's freedom. Even death is less horrible than prison because you can't experience death.

I think a lot about being alone. People are afraid to be alone but not me. I'm used to it. I remember when I used to live in Florida, and I would escape my housemates by going to the Subway in Maitland at night and eating a sandwich and reading a book. I used to run in those days, and I would run at night. This would be midnight not seven o'clock when the sun went down. I would run in neighborhoods that would get you killed, but I didn't care. That whole experience was like a dream.

I have always been alone. I have had family, friends, and girlfriends, but you end up realizing they don't give a damn about you. I always find myself back at this default setting.

Being a loner marks you as a weirdo. It is antisocial. But is the problem with me? I don't think so. The problem is that everyone that comes into my life turns out to be a worthless piece of shit. They have all these problems that ultimately come down to needing money, and they expect me to give them the money. In the end, I get the message. If you want people in your life, you have to pay them. I think this is fucked up, so I'm alone.

Being alone is bearable and even enjoyable if you have lots to do. I always have lots to do. There is no end to work or projects. Just lose yourself in doing. That is the best way to live.

Quotable Quotes

Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.
THOMAS SOWELL

Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
P.J. O'ROURKE

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
H.L. MENCKEN

Evil requires the sanction of the victim.
AYN RAND

I think about dying. I've come to realize we all die alone in one way or another.
RICHARD PRYOR

An Open Letter To President Barack Obama On The Meaning of the Midterm Elections



Dear Mr. President,

Right now, you are probably asking yourself a question. How did this happen? How did I fail to communicate? How did I fail to get my message out? You poor dumb bastard. Mr. President, you did get your message out. The American people got the message loud and clear. You are an out of touch arrogant fucktard who thinks he can run this country and our lives better than we can. Rejecting this message, the people have sent you a message--ENOUGH.

We have had enough of bailouts, government stimulus, and Obamacare. In short, we have had enough of bloated big government that is now bankrupting this country. You have had an important opportunity to lead and do the right things, and you have blown it. Now, we just count down the days when we can vote your ass out in 2012. Even Democrats wonder if they should have went with Hillary instead of your sorry ass.

But there are a few things you can do to redeem yourself. You can get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. That would make me happy. It would also go a long way towards balancing the budget and helping our economy. Surely, the GOP will call you weak for becoming a dove, but there are many Republicans who want the wars to end. You will get bipartisan support on this. And you will actually earn that Nobel you got.

There's not much else you can do going forward. It would help if you stopped bailing out your rich friends. You have no chance of passing any big government programs now, so you can drop that shit. It all goes back to those fruitless senseless wars that you have tremendous power to do something about. So, my message is clear. DO IT. Be the peace president. Live up to the promises you made in 2008. You've got two years left before your ass is fired. Make them count.

Sincerely,

C.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. KEITH OLBERMANN

Keith's act has really sucked since he left ESPN. He was way cooler doing the highlights on SportsCenter. As such, Dan Patrick is still revered while Keith would probably see his car keyed and his lights punched out if he stepped foot in a sports bar. He is a colossal ass clown. So, it is with some delight and amusement to hear of his being suspended for making contributions to Democrat candidates in violation of policies at MSNBC. FWIW, Fox has no similar policies.

Most people who watch KO don't give a shit about this and neither do I. But to see this guy get fired would be sweet indeed. I would not key his car or punch him in the face, but I wouldn't bother to give Keith a heads up on the dude that urinated through the window of his Benz.

2. OBAMA IN ASIA

The President has hauled ass out of town to avoid the absolute embarrassment of being repudiated by the American electorate. Pundits and politicos can debate the mandate of the GOP victory, but one thing remains clear. The American people are tired of Barack Obama and want his sorry ass out of there. Obama has done the best he could short of resignation by taking this vacation. My advice to Mr. O is to extend the trip to 2012.

3. PELOSI STAYS

I thought Nancy would elect to retire, but I'm sort of glad that she is deciding to remain as leader of the House Democrats if she is elected as the minority leader. Of course, I don't think that parking spot is nearly as good as the one for the Speaker of the House, but I think she will deal. But she is certain to fire up the leftards which will give Obama fits.

The coolest thing Pelosi could do is put together an antiwar coalition.

4. SPRATT OUT

I was surprised that SC Rep. John Spratt got whipped out of office by Mulvaney. I thought Spratt was there forever. Just goes to show that you don't need term limits to limit some terms.

The Washington Patch

Brer Taibbi: I hate you Brer Blankfein. I'm gonna get you if it's the last thing I ever do. I have written this great book detailing your crimes and you are in trouble now. You've sassed me for the last time. I'm just deciding what we should do with you now".

Brer Blankfein gulped and did some quick thinking: "Whatever you do, Brer Taibbi, please don't make me suffer under no more goverment regulation!"

Brer Taibbi: "Maybe I will join the Libertarians and let the free market have its way with you"

Brer Blankfein's eyes got very large: "Subject me to the free market if you must, but whatever you do, please don't give me no more regulators."

Brer Taibbi: "Well, I'm not a big believer in the free market. Those libertarians are too gullible (unlike Brer Taibbi who was a sophisticated liberal writer). Maybe I'll recommend that you be prosecuted according to the laws of the land.

Brer Blankfein': "Prosecute me, sic the free market on me! Do whatever you please, only please, Brer Taibbi, just don't hit me with any more regulation!"

Brer Taibbi: "Regulators, eh? What a wonderful idea! I'm a big believer in goverment regulators They'll tear you into little pieces. I will issue forth a call for the mighty US government regulators to step in and take away your powers. Never again will you boss the rest of us around."

And with that, Brer Taibbi issued forth in his mightiest voice a call for the brave and bold US government to step and create regulations that would cut Brer Blankfein down to size. The US government sprang into action and answered the call, putting their best regulators on the case, and hiring many more to fill the void left by not enough regulation. Brer Taibbi cocked his ear toward the NY Times, listening carefully for stories to signify Brer Blankfein's death rattle. He heard nothing.

Then Brer Taibbi heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up at capital hill. Brer Blankfein was sitting next to a senator in a fine sushi restaurant, having a drink and a fine filet mignon and looking smug.

"I was bred and born in the washington patch, Brer Taibbi," he called. "Born and bred in the washington patch."

And Brer Blankfein flew away in his private jet as merry as a cricket while Brer Taibbi ground his teeth in rage and began his new job as a writer for the GNN (Government New Network).


Matt Taibbi: Wall Street Has Seduced America With Randian Pseudo-Libertarianism

Delinking Education and Employment



Imagine this scenario. You have a high school grad who goes to college in the fall. To make ends meet, he takes a part time job as a dishwasher at a restaurant that provides fine dining. This kid pursues his degree which is a double major in biology and French. His post-grad plans are to go to medical school. But while washing those dishes at the restaurant, he starts to fill in as a waiter, a bartender, and eventually, a cook. He enjoys his job, and by the time he graduates from college he has already become an accomplished chef. He is then faced with a dilemma. Go to med school or stick with cooking? He decides he loves cooking more, and his grades in organic chemistry weren't that great. He goes on with the cooking thing and opens his own bistro.

Now, here is a guy who wasted all that money on college. What a fool! He should have decided to stick with cooking from the start and not spent all that money on tuition and all that time learning shit he didn't need to know. But he enjoyed French and biology. Looking back, he was glad he went to college. But as they say, life is what happens when you are making other plans.

FB has an interesting post here that asks if all that higher education is worth it with an accompanying table of occupations that don't require a college degree but have a significant number of degree holders. Are these the ones that graduated with a low GPA or majored in underwater basket weaving? I doubt it.

I'm old fashioned in the sense that I think education and knowledge should be valued for its own sake. To that extent, I think it is worth it. Knowing French is better than not knowing French even if it does nothing for your career. But that career aspect is the litmus test for the value of an education, and it is stupid.

Many people value education purely in terms of employment. Will it get me a job? Will it earn me a high salary? To a secondary extent, people ask if it will also help them attain status. On the basis of these questions alone, the best career path for a student is to attend an Ivy League school and medical school and become a doctor. Anything else--business, law, engineering, or what have you--is stupid. Medicine is where it is at. Everyone should be a doctor.

But we recognize the nonsense in this. In a world full of doctors, we wouldn't have good food to eat because no one would know how to cook. The world is full of niches, and we all find our spots. Or as I am fond of pointing out, the Arabic scholar was an unemployed bum until 9/11 happened. Now, he is rich because he can translate shit for the CIA.

As we learned during the housing bubble and its collapse, the fundamental flaw in the conventional wisdom was the idea that the house you lived in was not a consumer item but an investment. I still deal with this ignorance as people berate me for continuing to be a renter. Likewise, in the education bubble, people value degrees in relation to jobs. Education and employment have been linked. This is why college students think it makes sense to take out all those student loans in much the same way that homeowners thought it made sense to keep buying ever more expensive homes or to take out all those home equity loans. The future economics made the present decisions make perfect sense. But then that future fails to appear. This is how you get a cab driver with a Ph.D. in default on his student loans and living with his parents. The first thing people ask is what he studied in school, and they might be shocked to discover that it was nuclear physics. But ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall (and his Pakistani heritage,) jobs have been hard to come by for this individual.

Education became linked with employment after World War II as more people were able to attend college thanks to the GI Bill. Companies began to eschew aptitude tests because it got them in trouble for racial and sexual discrimination, so they began using college degrees as a proxy. It didn't matter what the degree was in. What mattered was that you could read, do basic math, and show up for work on a regular basis. A bachelor's degree was a good indicator that you could do these things. The result of this was that this degree was prized by everyone as the coin of entry into the middle class.

Alongside this growth was a greater value placed on highly specialized degrees in technical fields. The liberal arts began to take second place to the university as glorified trade school. You could get a job with a history degree, but to get a good job, you needed to study engineering, physics, and chemistry. Naturally, the bulk of these majors found employment in defense related sectors. Then, those folks got downsized after the end of the Cold War. I remember Michael Douglas in Falling Down as D-FENS, the highly agitated unemployed defense engineer who wreaks havoc as payback on a society that didn't value him anymore.

The fact is that there is a huge gap between what you know and what you do for a living. This isn't a problem until you put a price tag on what you know, and that is what college does. It sells what is essentially free on the hopes of attaining better employment. This link is the crux of the problem. It is the spark and federal student loans and grants are the wind that blows this spark into a raging inferno.

When you delink education and employment, amazing things occur. First of all, you start learning more stuff as you look less to acquiring a piece of paper and work towards satisfying your own curiosity and needs. Second of all, you save tons of money because you don't need to pay a school for that piece of paper which is only necessary for attaining a job. Third, you look more to specialized training to fulfill career demands. This training tends to be short, focused, and cheap.

There are certain bits of conventional wisdom that I disagree with. Here they are:

-Education is worthless unless it leads to a high paying occupation.

This is a utilitarian viewpoint. If we applied it to food, we would eat a fiber filled fortified loaf of bread and water to fill our nutritional needs and get rid of pizza, sushi, and fried chicken. Learning is worthwhile apart from a paycheck.

-Science and technical majors are better than liberal arts and business majors.

I used to subscribe to this notion until I ended up working with some of the geeks. I used to work with a chemical engineer--delivering pizzas. I knew an electrical engineer who made his living as a frame carpenter. And I met a ceramics major who made her living making ceramics. The fact is that the job market is dictated by supply and demand which is why diesel mechanics can find a job while automotive engineers find themselves out of work. Outside of medicine, I don't know of a single reliable major that has a guaranteed job attached and a high income.

-You need a degree to become successful.

This is obviously not true. Consider that I finished my degree where Bill Gates didn't. There is simply no comparison. I don't think Bill cares that he dropped out. On the more mundane level, I know plenty of people with just high school diplomas that do just fine when it comes to making money. Your talent and your virtues matter more than just about anything else when it comes to doing a good job. If you do good work, good money will come your way.

When I talk about these topics, people tend to assume certain things about my worldview. When I celebrate the blue collar people, others think I am against learning and education. When I write or talk about the many cerebral subjects I am interested in, people assume that I am some sort of elitist intellectual snob. The reality is that I value both intelligence and a good work ethic, and I eschew status as being empty and meaningless. I don't resemble anyone from this age, but I do find affinity with people from a prior age. This would be the Puritans, the Quakers, and the Founding Fathers. Their unique blend of hard work, literacy, practical skills, and love of freedom are similar to my own. These were people who plowed the fields during the day and read books at night and didn't feel one bit inferior to those Europeans.

I think what this country needs are those old fashioned virtues and values. When it comes to employment, I think people should strive for a quality work ethic and to do work they can be proud of instead of seeking a job title. And, in the evenings when the work is done, I think people should read books and learn things. Naturally, people think I am an idiot for living like this, but I can speak without sounding like a fool, feel good about my work, and be debt free. Being literate and blue collar goes against everything the current culture stands for, but this is why I thrive while everyone struggles in their ignorance. They have no clue. They want to be rich, lazy, and stupid. I don't.

Plan B for Bachelorhood



People ask me all the time. Are you a confirmed bachelor? My answer is always the same. "Not exactly."

What I want is what I call Plan A. Plan A is a family, and I don't mean Leave It To Beaver. That is a fantasy. But I see family where both husband and wife work, share household chores, love each other, and raise the kids. There is no infidelity, wife beating, drug abuse, or kids turning into juvenile delinquents. Unfortunately, Plan A is a bit of a myth. This leaves me with Plan B.

Plan B is bachelorhood. It isn't the optimal choice, but it is the acceptable choice all things considered. Why crawl into misery? What have I to gain from throwing my life into the cesspool of another person's life? Who wants to share life with a fuck up?

This is Plan C. Plan C is what all of the women I have dated have wanted. Plan C is where the man works and pays the bills while the woman lies on her ass at home watching daytime television, loafing around town, shopping, and having a lover or a cocaine and gambling habit on the side. Then, the man gets derided for his "workaholic" ways. Naturally, the house is a wreck, and the woman gains fifty pounds while the kids flunk out of school.

Is it any wonder why men don't want to marry?

Plan B will always beat Plan C. As for Plan A, that is turning out to be a fantasy. There are some exceptional woman out there, but the key word is exceptional. Plan C is the norm. Women will do a Plan A head fake. But they want Plan C. And Plan C leads to Plan D--DIVORCE unless the man is just incredibly stupid. If he chooses to stay, he will get a mistress and start drinking more.

I'm on Plan B whether I like it or not. The answer is to start liking it.

Post-Election Items

1. I am very thrilled that Rand Paul won. Of all the candidates in this election, he was the one I could confidently call "libertarian." I hope he makes a stir in the Senate.

2. Nikki Haley beat Vincent Sheheen to become governor. I like Vincent. He and I are both Camden High grads, class of '89. He seems like an upstand guy except that he is a lawyer. Nikki, OTOH, is definitely an adulterer in my book. But in the end, I support limited government, and Sheheen does not. Sorry, Vince. You need to rethink your positions.

3. Marco Rubio is the GOP's answer to Obama. That is asking for a lot. The reality is that the Hispanic population is diverse with Cubans trending Republican and the rest going for the Democrats. This is a result of immigration issues. I'm pro-immigration, and I think the anti-Mexican stance of the GOP hurts the party and is stupid. I don't see Rubio changing this just because he can speak Spanish.

4. The GOP takes the House but not the Senate. That is enough for gridlock which is what I am optimistic about. Rand Paul winning Kentucky won't have much impact since he will be replacing the very conservative Jim Bunning. But House Republicans will try and hamstring Obama for the next two years which is an unqualified good.

5. Polls indicate that Prop 19 legalizing marijuana in California will go down in defeat. This is what I expected. This is a real blow to efforts to end the War on Drugs. As I've said all along, the government accurately reflects the popular will. It is not the laws that need changing or better leaders in government. What needs changing is the massive ignorance of the American population. If Prop 19 can't pass in Cali, it has no hope of passing anywhere else. The irony is that California is considered a left wing liberal blue state. But California voters are among the stupidest in the nation. It is is said that as California goes, so does the rest of the country. They are right. We are headed for fucking oblivion as we tax-and-spend into poverty and lock each other up for smoking blunts.

6. Does voting make any difference? No. This election was just a tap on the brakes before we go over the cliff.

I Voted



I voted in the election today. I caught all kinds of criticism today about my post entitled, "Why You Should Not Vote." So, I went down to the poll and waited in line for almost an hour.

How did I vote? Straight Republican ticket on all counts. I also voted against an increase in the sales tax and for more state fiscal responsibility on rainy day funds.

Will it matter? Fuck no. I always vote for the same things which are less government, lower taxes, and more freedom. The result has been more government, higher taxes, and less freedom. It is like spitting in the ocean.

If this Congress turns out to be like it was under Newt's revolution, I won't ever bother voting again.