Charlie's Blog: February 2015


The Discipline of Faith

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

I have weak faith. I admit this fault in order to remedy it because I am ashamed of it. I think St. Peter spent the rest of his life remembering and doing penance for the time he gave in to fear and denied his Lord. Likewise, I think I will spend the rest of my life remembering how I turned from faith to embrace atheism. Doubt is always pecking at my brain, and it leads to double mindedness. The result is the instability that James mentions in his epistle.

My hero in faith is my wife who has more reasons than I to doubt the existence of God and His goodness. Yet, she is strong where I am weak. I suspect that this is why God put us together. Everything that follows is her advice on having faith.

There is never going to come a time in your life when you have it all figured out or when it all makes sense. Likewise, seeing is not believing because we know of the many who have seen and refused to believe. You can spend the rest of your life trying to get to some point where there are no doubts and mysteries, but this state of mind does not exist in this world. Even John the Baptist had to send a messenger and ask if Jesus was the real deal.

Faith is a decision. You set it and forget it. Faith is not complete understanding because we are not capable of complete understanding. Faith is believing that God is good, and He will make it all work out in the end. Our task is to stop questioning God's goodness and to simply trust in Him. Doubt must be eliminated as an option.

I have always built my life on the sand, so it crashes on a regular basis. My wife built her house on the rock, and this is why I envied her when I met her. She has faith. She is stable where I am double minded.

Faith is not to be simple minded. Faith is to be single minded. As someone who has been down many avenues of doubt, I realize that St. Augustine was right. Faith precedes understanding. My wife pointed out something to me that I realize was very true. Atheism and mental illness are often found together. You would think that people who believe in angels and demons and God Almighty would be off their rockers, but I find sincere Christian people to be very well adjusted people. Conversely, the atheists I met while an atheist were all nuts. I never met an atheist who had it together.

Faith makes you better. Doubt makes you worse. As someone who has had both, I can attest that the path of faith is the better path. The discipline of faith is to decide to stick to the path of faith no matter what comes. Cross the bridge from doubt to faith then burn that bridge forever. Be single minded in your devotion to God. Faith is a decision, and it is the best decision you will ever make.


The Discipline of Prayer

If you really want to be a penitent soul - both penitent and cheerful - you must above all stick to your daily periods of prayer, which should be fervent, generous and not cut short. And you must make sure that those minutes of prayer are not done only when you feel the need, but at fixed times, whenever it is possible. Don't neglect these details. If you subject yourself to this daily worship of God, I can assure you that you will be always happy.

I struggle to pray. The reason for this struggle is obvious. I am so busy with the affairs of life that taking time out to talk to God seems like a distraction from the tasks at hand. The anxiety of always having to get things done crowds out the need and desire to pray. But now, I feel anxious if I don't pray. If I neglect my prayers, I feel vulnerable for the rest of the day as if I am a soldier that forgot to put on his body armor.

When I was an atheist, it is obvious that I didn't pray. My prayers stopped the day I found my roommate dead in his bedroom. Looking back, I realize that the cessation of prayer was the beginning of my descent into the dark territory. If I had not stopped talking to God, I would have come out of that trial into a better place. God was always there, but I hung up the phone.

I know better now. The biggest mistake I have ever made in my life was to stop talking to God. After a decade plus of silence on my part, I moved one inch in God's direction, and it was good again. I picked up the phone, and I realized He was still there on the line waiting for me. I was happy again. I had forfeited many years of happiness because I had stopped talking to God.

Escriva's advice is good advice. I am fond of saying "ABD--Always Be Doing." But I can add another saying to my arsenal, "ABP--Always Be Praying." If we pray merely when we feel the need, we find that we rarely pray. The discipline of prayer is to keep a schedule and make a habit of prayer. I don't wait to grow a beard before I shave, so it makes sense to not let my life turn to crisis and turmoil before I pray.

My favorite story from the Bible about prayer comes from the Book of Daniel:
It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”
Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.”Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.  
Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 
I absolutely love this story of radical obedience. The rats had it in for Daniel, but they couldn't find anything on him. So, they made doing good a crime as they always do. God would preserve and bless Daniel for his obedience. The man defied death to pray to God. Yet, I find myself unable to spare a few minutes to say an "Our Father." I pray that I would be as faithful and devout as Daniel in his discipline of prayer.


The Discipline of Work

What I have always taught, over the last forty years, is that a Christian should do all honest human work, be it intellectual or manual, with the greatest perfection possible: with human perfection (professional competence) and with Christian perfection (for love of God’s Will and as a service to mankind). Human work done in this manner, no matter how humble or insignificant it may seem, helps to shape the world in a Christian way. The world’s divine dimension is made more visible and our human labour is thus incorporated into the marvellous work of Creation and Redemption. It is raised to the order of grace. It is sanctified and becomes God’s work, operatio Dei, opus Dei.

We have reminded Christians of the wonderful words of Genesis which tell us that God created man so that he might work, and we have concentrated on the example of Christ, who spent most of His life on earth working as a craftsman in a village. We love human work which He chose as His state in life, which He cultivated and sanctified. We see in work, in men’s noble creative toil not only one of the highest human values, an indispensable means to social progress and to greater justice in the relations between men, but also a sign of God’s Love for His creatures, and of men’s love for each other and for God: we see in work a means of perfection, a way to sanctity. 

It doesn't take a detective to see the huge influence that St. Josemaria Escriva has upon me. When I became Catholic, I asked the next logical question. What do I do now? Some people choose to become priests and deacons. Others choose religious life as a nun, monk, or friar. For everyone else, there is just being an ordinary Christian in the world living as single or married working the daily grind in offices, factories, homes, schools, etc. There are some who feel called to become a third order religious such as offered through the Carmelites, the Dominicans, and the Franciscans. I admire those who can take such a path because a third order vocation is very demanding when combined with the daily tasks the rest of us do. This is where I find the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Josemaria Escriva to be so valuable. They speak to the ordinary and offer a spiritual path that can be performed in the middle of the world.

The universal call to holiness means that everyone and not just clergy and religious should be holy. It became fashionable and remains fashionable for many Catholics to just phone it in. They may be Catholic in Name Only appearing at Mass for Christmas and Easter and whenever they need their children baptized. Otherwise, their faith is purely cultural. Others are bare minimum Catholics who observe weekly attendance at Mass and the Holy Days of Obligation, but do not allow their faith much practice beyond the walls of the parish. It would be easy to pile on these people and condemen their sloth, but the sad truth is that much of these ways has been taught to them in the parallel thinking that Heaven is for the ordained and the consecrated while everyone else should hope to land on the steps of the backdoor of Purgatory. Yet, when I read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, I see ordinary people being the holy ones. Here is the exhortation of St. John the Baptist to his hearers:
And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”  
LUKE 3:10-14 NASB
John the Baptist did not tell those who came to him to be baptized to become robust spiritual athletes and perform a lot of religious rites or pray the Divine Office. Those are good things to do, but John told them to be good where they were. Perform works of mercy and be honest in your work. This seems simplistic, but I urge you to pause and consider what the world would be like if everyone followed this simple advice of John the Baptist. How much misery is in the world because people fail to do these simple things?

When I was a Protestant, the gist of the spiritual life was to read the Bible each day, pray, and don't use tobacco products or watch movies that were rated R. Catholics can laugh at this, but they substitute praying the Rosary daily and a couple of novenas each month for the blue law Christianity of the Protestants. These things may be good in and of themselves, but they must actually result in holiness and not merely the ornament of spirituality. This was the spirituality of the Pharisees who John the Baptist scorched with the guilt ray. It matters less what you do so much as the intention and the spirit in which it is done. This is an important principle to grasp because it shows how a person in a clerical or religious vocation can be bad while someone in the world can be holy.

It is no secret that bad priests exist. It still amazes me that men who have the power to transform bread and wine into the body and blood of Our Lord can be unholy in their thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet, I read of scandals with priests and bishops on an almost daily basis. Some shun their vows of celibacy and have affairs. Others compromise with the world to gain favor. Still others indulge their material desires. Then, there is the sex abuse scandal where priests committed acts that are scandalous even among those incarcerated in prison. How can these men be this way? The answer is that their religious activities are done the same way most people go in and work each day. It's just a job to them. Their faith grew cold long ago, so they keep going through the motions. Their intentions have moved from doing service to the Lord to just doing.

If bad intentions can turn the sacred into the ordinary, we can also see that the converse is also true. The ordinary can be turned into the sacred. By following St. Paul's exhortation to do our work as unto the Lord and to be living sacrifices, the ordinary life of any Christian can be devoted and consecrated to the Lord and offered up. This is the teaching of St. Josemaria Escriva. Your ordinary work that God has called you to do can be the means to your holiness and sanctification. The means of this transformation comes from the intention of your heart.

St. Josemaria Escriva taught his followers to begin each day with the Morning Offering. Here it is:
O Jesus, 
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Everything you do each day can be offered to the Lord. Your work, whatever it is, can be done as unto the Lord. That customer that snipes at you can be endured with patience and offered up to the Lord. That long commute that stresses you out can be offered up to the Lord. The homemaker can turn washing dishes and changing diapers into sacrifices unto the Lord. Even the cold beer the blue collar worker enjoys at the end of the week can be offered up in thanks to the Lord.

I credit St. Josemaria with helping me on this and giving me hope and encouragement. I am just an ordinary guy grinding it out each week. My work is rarely pleasant. I don't always do it with perfection or even enthusiasm. But I do offer it up each day and try my best. I also remember the ordinary people in the Bible like St. Joseph or Jesus Himself that made a living by the sweat of their brows. Many of the apostles were fishermen. St. Paul was a tentmaker. I firmly believe there is a soft spot in the heart of God for the blue collar people. I also believe that is why He has put me in the jobs I have done over the years. I am educated and have read many books, but I must also admit that much of my growth has also come from the dirty jobs I have done over the decades. I have learned humility, fortitude, and patience from my labors. I am at the point now where I pity those who make their living through moral compromise. I don't think I could ever make it to Heaven as a hedge fund manager.

The discipline of work is to take the ordinary work of life and turn it into a pleasing sacrifice to the Almighty. This means to do honest work. Some jobs can never be honest. For instance, the loan shark and the stripper would have to change professions. Other jobs can be done either honestly or dishonestly. For instance, you can be a good cop or a dirty cop. Either way, at a basic level, you should do honest work. Then, you should do it with diligence and perfection. This means not being lazy or idle but putting your effort into it. Finally, you should be humble about it trying not to draw attention to yourself or being a show off. There are many who do excellent work, and they make sure everyone knows it. But the one whose intentions are directed towards the Lord eschews this bragging and considers the labor as doing one's duty.

Frustrations are also part of work. Things don't always go as they should. Customers and co-workers scream at you. Your boss is a rat demanding of you a work ethic that he has never had. Your equipment can be shoddy. I don't know a day that goes by without these frustrations. You have to bear these as mortifications and offer them up as well. I also remind myself that evil is never satisfied, so what may be pleasing to the Lord is never going to be pleasing to the world. You can do the best job possible, and the world will hate you for it. This is because the world is ungrateful. I remember reading a biography of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. I was struck by the fact that the management of the Chicago Bulls hated Mike's guts. They also hated Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time. It blew my mind, but it does not surprise me in light of original sin. Jesus was perfect, and the world hated Him, too. The lesson is that doing good work will make you plenty of enemies. Do not let this discourage you but strengthen you.

Finally, you can pray all day throughout the day as you work. The commute is a great time to pray the Rosary. You can pray the Angelus at your lunch hour. You can pray for people you encounter throughout the day. I think God puts people in your life each day to pray for them.

I am not perfect in my practice of these things. I don't even think I am good at these things. I just try my best and ask forgiveness when I fail. For Lent, I decided to give up laziness. People express surprise that I would say this because they tell me they don't consider me lazy at all. But they don't know me like I know me. I don't do everything with good intentions or perfection. Sometimes, I slack off. I know I can do better. I can help my wife more around the house. I can complain less. I can be more patient with the thistles of life. This is why work is a discipline. The soul needs to be purged of all imperfection, and the crucible of the daily grind is what polishes the tarnish from your spirit. St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us.


Butcher's Benevolence

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

One of the things I used to believe as a libertarian was that everyone was selfish, and this was a good thing. Most libertarianism stems from this idea of Adam Smith that the free market works because people's desire for gain makes them do what appears to be altruistic and for the sake of others but is really done for their own sakes. We can accept this selfishness because it is a rational selfishness. In his sneaky way, Adam Smith was denying original sin and establishing one of the cornerstones of Enlightenment thinking which is that individualism should be the basis of society and not altruism. The problem is that Adam Smith was wrong.

In the libertarian mindset, each individual seeks his or her own good. Since we do not have everything we want or need, we trade with others from our surplus of goods for the things from their surplus of goods. For instance, the worker exploits the employer's need for labor while the employer exploits the worker's need for money. They trade labor for money and both benefit as a result of the exchange. Each pursued self-interest and both benefitted. What gets forgotten is when the employer shaves hours from a worker's paycheck or denies the worker a living wage or pursues a course of action that would impoverish both of them. Smith's original concept of the butcher's benevolence gets replaced by the too often told tale of the scorpion and the frog.

The Scorpion and the Frog

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.
The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.

"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"

"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"

"Alright do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.

"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back.

"I could not help myself. It is my nature."

Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

The scorpion and the frog is closer to the reality of human relations than the idea of the butcher's benevolence. It staggers the mind to think that any person would pursue such a self-destructive course of action as the scorpion, but we read of these things all the time. Consider the superstar athlete who ruined his perfect marriage by chasing after whores. Consider the companies who break the law, lie to investors, and cheat employees and customers alike to their own demise. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't see people indulging their self-interest not only to the detriment of others but also to themselves.

I used to tell people that everyone was selfish, but that some people had an enlightened self-interest while others had an unenlightened self-interest. But this was so much nonsense. There is no such thing as an enlightened self-interest. This Randian libertarian notion is a myth. You will find it only in the pages of Atlas Shrugged. The reality is that it is bad thinking reversed to put the blame on the victim instead of the victimizer. This is what I call the "Goldman Sachs" defense. Basically, you can put the screws to someone with the notion that a smart person would have walked away from the deal. Or, in other words, you deserve to be suckered for trusting someone like me. This sounds almost identical to the tale of the scorpion and the frog.

In my readings of employee owned enterprises, I am amazed at how well these enterprises run and how much profit they generate. Other companies that have profit sharing with employees have similar results. Basically, when employee performance is tied to the performance of the company, they are motivated to work harder and promote the enterprise because they have a stake in the outcome. This model should also fit perfectly with the libertarian mindset. But I have never seen a libertarian or a right winger promote or praise this arrangement. It is usually some Marxist that touts the benefits of employee owned companies. The reality is that most businesses would run better with employee ownership and engagement, but the owners and management prefer to steal rather than share even if it means they get reduced profits as a consequence. "Enlightened self-interest" is their ex post facto reasoning for being stupid. Or, as Gore Vidal put it so aptly, "It is not enough merely to win; others must lose."

It staggers the imagination that a company would ever choose to not pursue what it is clearly in their own self-interest and would actually want to hurt others and themselves. Yet, as absurd as this sounds, this is exactly what they do. A classic example would be the way General Electric polluted the Hudson River even though this river runs through the city where GE brass lives.Why would they do such a thing? They did it for the same reason that Neutron Jack Welch loved firing people. There is pleasure in destroying humanity even if that humanity is yourself. People are not merely selfish. They are truly evil.

The butcher is benevolent not because he thinks it will make him a profit but because of some decency within him inspired by his morality and religious sensibilities. He has regard for his customers even if he doesn't know their names. A truly selfish butcher would prepare a dog carcass, call it pork, and collect a real profit. The benevolent butcher knows that giving customers what they expect is right.

The problem with being a benevolent butcher as opposed to being an evil butcher is that it puts you at a competitive disadvantage to all the evil butchers. When the referees are corrupted, the cheaters are going to win the game everytime. The sad fact is that most of the world is this corrupted game now. The result is reduced prosperity and a declining standard of living for everyone.

People only prosper in the true sense when they adhere to the Christian ethic. The libertarian ethic was the way Enligthenment thinkers tried to arrive at the same conclusion but by a different path. God was replaced by "rational self-interest." When has this ever been successful?

Adam Smith's religious sensibilities were clouded, but it is obvious to me that the man was a deist if not an atheist. Thinkers consider his two works, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, as being opposed to one another, but I know they are not. Both attempted in their way to explain a morality without a personal God intervening. In Wealth, it was the "invisible hand." In Moral Sentiments, it was some vague appeal to empathy and compassion born out of personal relationships.This project of a religion without God continues today under various guises and labels which is how you get an animal rights feminazi activist that considers a ham sandwich to be murder while defending "reproductive freedom" which amounts to abortion and infanticide on demand. I suppose as long as the aborted baby isn't turned into a sandwich, it is morally acceptable.

The Christian ethic doesn't make sense from a rational viewpoint. It seems that doing right just makes you a sucker and a victim in this world. The idea is that Christians are the frogs in a world of scorpions. But this idea is a mistaken one. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." The simple fact is that the Christian frog knows the true nature of the scorpion. He never gives rides to the scorpion. This is because the Christian believes in original sin. Human nature is corrupt and wicked. This means that people are not merely selfish but actually delight in doing harm to other people and to themselves. I have low trust in regard to people, and I always anticipate and expect them to do the worst. Once someone does me wrong, I resolve to never give that person the chance to do it again. But most of the time, they never get the first opportunity. Christians are not naive people. They know people are wicked.

People can change and become better. This is the message of Christian hope. But most people are not going to embrace this, and they will go to Hell. The world is a wicked place. The irony of this is that by accepting this dim view things actually get better. As a libertarian, I embraced a view that people were basically good with a few bad apples here and there. The result was that I was disappointed on a daily basis. I believed order came from freedom, but I must admit that it comes from restraint. A potent example was how the deregulation of the banking sector led to the abuses we see today and the 2008 meltdown. If libertarianism was correct, that deregulation should have made things better. But things became worse, and the freedom fools try desperately to blame it all on the government. The reality is that banking was bad before those FDR era regulations, and it became bad again when those regulations like Glass-Steagall were repealed.

Common sense tells us that people should have the freedom to do what is good and right, but they should not have the right to do what is evil and wrong. When libertarians make the case for making it easier for a small family business to operate, I applaud it. Unfortunately, their efforts get the government out of the way to let the big business devour those small enterprises. You are left with the choice of being mauled by a gator or eaten by a shark.

The problem with the libertarian worldview is that it gets human nature wrong. The reason the Democrats and Republicans have endured where the Libertarian Party has floundered is that they both in their respective ways get human nature right. Human nature is corrupt and fallen. The purpose of government is to restrain evil in both the social and economic spheres. Libertarians disagree with this, and this is why libertarianism is seen as naive and juvenile. If people are good, government is not necessary. People are evil. Government is the price of that evil.


Tech Fatigue

Men have become the tools of their tools.

One of my peeves in life is when someone asks me a question about some topic or subject such as how to convert gallons to liters or when Burr shot Hamilton or whatnot. There was a time when such questions did not bother me, but they bother me now because we live in the age of smartphones where the answer to every question is a Google search away. It has become irritating in the same way that people would ask me the time because they were too lazy to pull their phones out of their pockets. I wear a wristwatch, so people think I am obligated to provide them the time. My answer? Get a watch.

I am no Luddite, but I can't help but notice the fact that technology is losing its power to improve our lives. This could change if they ever invent cold fusion or something really groundbreaking. But since the internet became a big deal in the 90's and cellphones got cheap, the improvements have been merely incremental. This is a problem for the folks in Siliconia because their business thrives on providing new things except none of it is really new these days. It doesn't take much to see the parallels between Facebook today and AOL in the 90's. We are in an era not of invention but reinvention as tech fatigue sets in.

The tablet is already old hat. Nobody wants one which is why they are giving them away. The tablet is simply a cheap computer minus a keyboard. It is old tech repackaged as something new courtesy of the overhyped imagination of Steve Jobs. I can predict that the Apple Watch and Google Glass are destined for a similar fate as the tablet computer. These things are examples of tech fads.

Tech fads are nothing new, and they provoke a laugh when seen in hindsight. But no one really has the courage or the brains to call them fads while they are fads. A fad is nothing more than a novelty that excites curiosity for a brief time then fades as the novelty gets replaced by the need for utility. The Palm Pilot was one of those novelties, but it was less useful than using a simple paper address book and dayplanner. This continues today as I notice that many of the pictures on EDC show smartphones and tablets paired with Moleskine and Field Notes notebooks and an array of pens and pencils.

One would think that Jobs and Edison would have totally obliterated the Gutenberg world, yet paper survives in the age of screen ubiquity. It isn't like the nerds haven't tried to get rid of the notebook and the printing press, but paper persists because of its utility and ease of use. You don't have to plug in paper. Paper does not catch viruses or become clogged with malware. Paper doesn't shatter when it hits the ground.

Things don't change that much. You realize this when you watch a movie from the past about the future which is now the present. There are no flying cars today. Doors are still opened by hand with knobs and hinges. Artificial intelligence is nowhere near HAL 9000 levels.

I have loved tech for a long time because I saw how it made things better. The internet put the world of information at my fingertips. Cellphones made communication much easier. I never had to be pushed into adopting these things. It is only lately that I feel that the world of tech has become pushy. In the past, I always said yes. Today, I say no, and it isn't because I am some old dude averse to change. I say no because there is no change. Because of the lack of real change, the tech world has had to repackage the same old stuff and shove it down our throats. If you disagree with my thesis, consider the last time Facebook frustrated you by a change forced upon you. Just when you get used to it, they switch everything on you forcing you to go along or drop them altogether. Or, look at how Microsoft tried to force its customers into the touchscreen world with that abortion of an OS known as Windows 8. Tech used to change the world. Now, it tries to change its customers to like whatever they offer. The new things aren't really new. They are merely different.

The pinnacle of all this pushiness is the smartphone. People make fun of me for using an indestructible flip phone with long battery life, good sound quality, and great reception when I could upgrade to a piece of exposed fragile glass that drops the call that I can't hear and needs to spend every four hours plugged into the wall to recharge it. So, I ask the question I always ask when the mockery begins. What does the smartphone offer in terms of utility that I need and don't already have? The best answer is that a smartphone has GPS capability that I already have courtesy of my GPS and flip phone. The smartphone has been around long before Steve Jobs dumbed it down for the masses. Now, the phone resembles a game more than a communication device. The most popular app in the world for smartphones is the Facebook app. The smartphone is the tech version of candy which is tasty but not good for you.

It is easy to ignore a fad. You choose to be smart while everyone around you chooses to be stupid. The stupid people are the ones that are hard to ignore. I can't help but notice that smartphones are usually in the hands of stupid people. Many of these people don't even own a PC or have read a book since the requirement back in high school. Even the most impoverished welfare mother has a gigantic phablet smartphone. As for social gatherings, they amount to nothing more than people gathered in an area that serves food and drink while they ignore each other in favor of their screens.

I can lament these things, but I know they won't last. I survived hair metal, so I can survive this. If there is anything truly new today, it is the desperation that the tech industry displays as the price of their wares heads towards their true value and away from their hyped value. This is why they are giving away those tablets for free. This is why Bluetooth earpieces are left in the drawer unused. This is why they have an app that turns your smartphone into a dumbphone.

I don't know where things go from here. What I can say is that new fads will replace old fads in the same way that Justin Bieber replaced the Jonas Brothers. I just know that I am a late adopter when it comes to technology, and the tech industry would prefer that I be an early adopter which explains the pushiness. Their goal is not innovation but more profit from less value. I'm just tired of being pushed around.


Exercise as Corporal Mortification

The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and ... up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish.

I am what is known as an "early riser." This is a consequence of having a day job that requires me to be at work at a time when most people are still in the bed. Sleep and I have been on bad terms for a decade, but we make up on weekends, holidays, and days off. I am up at 4 a.m, and I am out the door by 5ish. I like to think I have some kind of discipline, but I am humbled as I drive to work and see people out on the streets wearing their lights and vests as they pound the pavement in devotion to their training. I only have to drag myself out of bed and stumble into work as I quaff coffee to give some kind of jolt to my system. These people are out there punishing their bodies in the dark, the cold, the rain, and what have you. I have to abandon comfort each morning for the sake of my living. These people choose to abandon comfort. They choose to suffer each morning. This begs a question. Why?

Some years ago, I managed to infuriate some people in the pages of this blog. This would be the old blog that now sits in an electronic dustbin, so don't waste your time googling for the article. The blog post was a review about a documentary I watched from Netflix about ultrarunners and the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon where runners complete a 135 mile course in Death Valley in the middle of summer. Temperatures exceed 120 degrees, and the pavement becomes so hot that the runners stay on the white line of the road to keep their shoes from melting. This isn't a race you struggle to win so much as just finish. Once again, people choose to do this. This is not the Bataan Death March. This is a recreational endeavor. Once again, this begs a question. Why?

The ultrarunning crowd was not pleased with my questioning their sanity. They told me in various ways both nice and profane that I just didn't get it. I admit it. I didn't get it. This sort of behavior struck me as being unbalanced especially when some of the risks are kidney failure and death. Yet, people do this. They also do other things like enroll in Navy SEAL training for a weekend or run the Sahara desert over the course of a week. We could offer the possibility that people do these things for fun sort of like surfing, fly fishing, or hunting. But this overlooks the obvious fact that there is no fun in suffering. Pain is always pain. You have to ask yourself one question. Why?

I can venture an answer to the question. It is obvious that these people are not choosing to suffer for the sake of money since they are not getting paid to do it. I can also say that they are not doing it for the sake of health since many of the health benefits of exercise can be had on a much less strenuous regimen. We could say it is pride except you don't actually win anything. I think people willingly endure this pain for a spiritual reason. Most probably don't even realize it. But when you read about Indian ascetics fasting and meditating, ancient Stoics embracing cold statues and sleeping on boards, and nuns and monks wearing hairshirts and using disciplines on their bodies, it is easy to see the connection. These people punish their bodies for the sake of their souls. Modern day exercise makes such odd behavior acceptable in our times.

St. Francis of Assisi referred to his body as "Brother Ass," and he practiced severe corporal mortification in disciplining that stubborn body. Francis fasted, wore rough garments, fasted often, denied himself many physical comforts, and even beat himself with a cord. We can admire this saint's devotion to these mortifications, but if you were to duplicate his example today, they would have you committed to an institution for the insane. Those who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis must do their mortifications in secret. Even Francis lamented that he may have been too severe with Brother Ass and praised restraint in the practice of corporal mortification.

St. Josemaria Escriva also practiced corporal mortification and recommended it for others. But his most basic spiritual direction in this regard is the heroic minute. This is the moment when you wake up in the morning and reach for the snooze button on the alarm clock. This is the first battle of the day, and it is won or lost depending on your decision to hit that button. The reason the heroic minute is so important is because it determines whether you will spend time in prayer or not. It doesn't take long to discover that sleep is the biggest enemy to the disciplined life. It can break your entire day if you let it command you. I take to heart this advice from Escriva since that battle is a daily thing for me. But I also like the rejoinder that "here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body."

Exercise has this same effect on people. It strengthens the will without harming the body. The problem with old school corporal mortifications is that they do damage to the body. This is why St. Francis of Assisi lamented that he may have been too severe with Brother Ass because his mortifications damaged his health.
The advantage of exercising daily and hitting the gym is that these mortifications exercise the will very effectively, but your body becomes fitter as a result. This is what they call a "win-win" deal. Before you reach for the cilice, try the jump rope and the free weights first.

Some may argue that the severe exercisers are not seeking a spiritual benefit in their trials. I can admit that most gym rats seem motivated more by vanity than spiritual welfare. But those who exercise away from the mirrors seem to take on the character of the God haunted monks of old.

Ultrarunners describe their self-appointed trials in virtually spiritual terms as they descend into an area of internal darkness to come out on the other side. They sound like St. John of the Cross with his dark night of the soul. Many of these people probably have no religion whatsoever, yet they scratch that invisible itch. People desire suffering not because they are masochists but because of what they discover about themselves in those trials. When the body is beaten, the spirit can roam free.

Pain is painful, and you should avoid it if you can. But if you have a soul, pain is something you can't avoid. I used to think that the willing sufferers were stupid, but I was an atheist then. Atheists don't like pain and suffering unless they can brag about it like Nietzsche. Suffering is pointless to the atheist. For the atheist, you should take care of your body until depression or disease force you into the arms of euthanasia. As a believer, I see value in suffering. We are more than just our bodies, and it is in suffering that we learn this most essential lesson. As everyone else reaches for the prescription meds and the Jim Beam, those who embrace the suffering and the darkness find the comfort their souls need.  When we hurt on the outside, it helps us to stop hurting on the inside. What the world sees as agony is really relief. The only real pain is in the soul.


The Bait and Switch

We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poor house in an automobile.

All economic systems have some virtue at their core, or else they would be left untried. The prime virtue of communism is that it makes everyone equal even if it is an equality of misery. You will suffer, but you can take comfort in the fact that your neighbors are suffering, too. With capitalism, the primary virtue is that it produces large amounts of prosperity. Unfortunately, that prosperity is not distributed widely but concentrated in the hands of the few rich people able to dupe the rest of the population into various forms of wage slavery and indentured servitude. This con game is possible because capitalism achieves through fraud what communism achieves through force. This game is known as the "bait and switch."

The bait and switch game is a fairly simple one. You promise one thing and deliver something else. Politicians do it all the time. They make campaign promises up to the election, and then they disregard them once in office as they perform favors for their rich contributors. The hapless voter is left disappointed and embittered but will keep pulling the lever at election time as a sort of referendum for what he would like to see happen as opposed to what actually happens. My advice is to stop voting, so you can at least maintain the dignity of not being a dupe.

With capitalism, the bait is some promise of prosperity in exchange for some freedom and security. For instance, the student goes to college in hopes of having a good job and a first class ticket to the middle class. The result is no job except pouring coffee at Starbucks and a lifetime of indentured servitude. In another instance, a family buys a really nice large home with a mortgage with a low interest rate. But this is an adjustable rate mortgage that goes up making the family homeless as they lose the home they can no longer afford. Or consider the people who migrated to take advantage of the oil boom and the high pay this boom generated. Those people are now being laid off as the Saudis turn on the spigot wide open to destroy the challenge to their oil hegemony. Whether intentional or unintentional, the effect is the same. People ride the boom up, and they ride the bust down into oblivion.

The apologists for this bait and switch game of free market capitalism will defend the system as producing the greatest prosperity the world has ever seen. They would be correct. Free market capitalism has produced the greatest prosperity the world has ever seen. Thanks to capitalism, today's poor get to enjoy their poverty by endless distraction from their smartphones. Houses have never been bigger or more empty. People have more gadgets and better stuff but have never been more afraid in their lives for their own prosperity and survival. They never know when it will all go up in smoke. Prosperity should promote a feeling of stability and security, but these things are foreign to free market capitalism.

Survivors of the Great Depression learned the lessons of capitalism well. This is why they were thrifty for life and eschewed stock investing. This is why they would hoard preserves and other food stuffs, shun debt, and use up things instead of wasting them. Once you've had the ground move underneath your feet, you avoid big buildings with no ready exits. We can consider those Depression folk to be paranoid, but they look smarter all the time to us in this Great Recession.

The Austrian economists try to explain the business cycle in terms of central banking. For them, the boom and the bust is created by the machinations of the Federal Reserve as it inflates the money supply. There is some truth to this except they overlook the booms and the busts that existed before central banking. The Austrians are always at pains to point at some expansion of credit as the culprit in every bubble. But this is like pointing to oxygen as the cause of fire since it is always present in every blaze. For libertarians, government and central banks are the oxygen. But oxygen does not cause fire. It merely dictates the size of the fire relative to the fuel and the heat. Likewise, bubbles are the product of psychology as people throw caution to the wind in pursuit of fast and easy riches. Credit merely makes it faster and easier.

Whenever someone criticizes free market capitalism, the assumption is that the critic must be some form of Marxist or worse--a Keynesian. But I am neither Marxist nor Keynesian. I am a Distributist which means I believe in capitalism for the masses. I believe in an ownership society, and I don't mean that fake one George W. Bush advocated where everyone gets to be in hock to some bank. This idea is what we know as the American Dream which was the prime motivation of everyone that voluntarily emigrated to the New World. The American Dream is really a modest dream. You would own your own home free of debt to some banker. You would own your own business or farm or work your trade. You would have savings and a measure of self-reliance. You could have a family. This dream is a small dream. There are no mansions or yachts or Maseratis in the American Dream. There is simplicity and security. Yet, this dream eludes virtually everyone in America today who is enslaved to some corporation to pay off some moneylender with Uncle Sam ready to tax the rest and Wall Street to scam you, too. The working man is nothing more than an animal being milked and bled until he is dry and turned into glue and dog food.

How did this farce come about? Like it or not, many people living the American Nightmare are there because of their own choosing. They swallowed the bait, and the hook is now set. You can get off the hook, but it will hurt you in the process because the hook always goes in easier than it comes out. The bait is swallowed everytime you sign an agreement on a loan or a mortgage. The basis for this bait and switch game is simple usury. The Austrians blame central banking, but the real culprit is just banking.

Usury is the trick where people take their future labor and exchange it for something now. This is how people can pay for three houses over a liftetime where patience and thrift could have bought them the same home in less than a decade. Poor people are always borrowing money which means they are always perpetually in debt. Rich people never borrow money and may actually lend money. This creates an effect like a Hoover vacuum cleaner that sucks wealth from the bottom up to the top. The automobiles and the smartphones and other consumer items are merely the bait on the hook of usury. The apologists for this colossal joke try desperately to defend that bait as a good meal. The reality is what Will Rogers explained so eloquently when he said that we are the first country to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.

Economists will try and use fancy jargon and other tricks to explain how this system is a good one. But ecnomists are self-deluded liars who will say anything for the sake of a job with a think tank or the government. Common sense will tell you that someone who goes on a spending spree with a credit card is not actually rich despite having a lot of stuff. Americans have a lot of stuff, but they are also the biggest debtors in the world. Even Uncle Sam owes the usurers which gets passed on to us.

We can make arguments for all sorts of laws and regulations to try and fix this problem, but there is only one law that needs to be passed. This would be a law against usury. Even the most die hard Austrian will still defend usury. Austrians see the culprit in credit expansion but overlook the fact that usury is the spark that sets the house on fire. Credit expansion is where you lend money that doesn't actually exist, but money itself doesn't actually exist except as a medium of exchange. The boom happens when the money is lent, and the bust happens when it can no longer be paid back. The way to end the boom and bust is to put an end to the lending of money at interest.

Distributists despise usury. But a law against usury is unlikely to see passage. This may seem like doom until you realize that it is always in the power of anyone to not accept credit. Cut up those credit cards. Refuse to buy on time. Always pay cash for things or do without. Pay off debts as quickly as possible. Live a simple life. The result of doing this is a growing sense of security as debts vanish and savings grow. If you are stressed out, you are not prosperous no matter how much stuff you may have. Prosperity is the elimination of risk and not the concentration of risk. Free market capitalism is nothing more than a casino where everyone is a loser except the house. The drinks and meals are free until your chips are gone. Then, you are put out on the street. Do yourself a favor, and don't take the bait.


Wealth Without Work

"Work?" Callano said with a laugh. "Me work? Only suckers work."
From the interview Only Suckers Work

Work is for suckers. Anyone who spends any considerable amount of time with me will hear me say this line. I say it with sarcasm. It sums up what I think of so many people in this unjust world. I say it with sarcasm but not bitterness because I am one of those suckers who has to work for his living. I am smart enough to get money without working, but I'm not sleazy enough to actually do it. The simple fact is that conscience is the only barrier between you and fabulous riches.

I divide the world into two basic classes of people. There are those who work for a living producing things of value and serving the needs of humanity, and there are those who are on the grift parasiting off of those who do real work. The grifters can be subdivided into those who grift legally and those who grift illegally. Morally, they are no different.

The problem with the world is that we assign value according to what people earn in dollars as opposed to what they produce of value. Money becomes the final arbiter of what is good, right, and just. By this logic, the well paid stripper has greater value than the humble but hardworking schoolteacher. But I don't abide by this logic at all. Any fool and sleazebag can get paid. It takes virtue to produce value. So, I appraise people not by the size of their paychecks or the cars they drive but by what they do and produce. I like to see callouses on the hands and dirt under the fingernails. As a result, I hold the waitress at the Waffle House in higher esteem than the Queen of England.

When people think about wealth without work, the first image that springs to mind is the welfare queen living large on the checks she gets from Uncle Sugar while the rest of us taxpayers work hard to keep her producing children out of wedlock and smoking her dope. Along with the welfare queen is the disability slug who has conned the government into giving him a check for not working though he is able bodied and the leech collecting unemployment checks and managing to remain jobless until that last check is cut. At this point in the essay, the Fox News watchers are cheering this bit. But hang on. You will feel the sting before I am done.

If welfare is getting paid for not working, then by the same logic, retirees on Social Security are also welfare parasites. At this point, I have lost the AARP crowd. The irony is that the vast majority of these welfare geezers watch Fox News and curse the welfare queen with a few racially charged terms to rub manure into the wound. Their response? "Well, I paid into it." This is correct. Thanks to the law, everyone who earns a living has to participate in the Social Security ponzi scheme. But today's beneficiaries are being paid from today's workers who are unlikely to see Social Security checks in their old age. If we apply this to bike theft, I can go and knock some guy off his Cannondale and take it to make up for the bike I had stolen from me ten years ago. I earned that bike, dammit. Sucks for you.

If you are getting some kind of government check beyond a tax refund, chances are that you are a parasite. Most government workers are parasites. Members of the armed forces, police officers, teachers, and firemen are safe from my writer's wrath, but I think every member of Congress is a crook. This also goes for their well paid staff members, the POTUS, the Secretary of Whatever, and those nine unjust justices sitting on the Supreme Court. What value do any of these people create? When did you ever thank the Lord for the work of some government bureaucrat? Every dollar that government spends comes from the pockets of hard working Americans. This begs a question. What do the citizens receive in return for all those tax dollars? I would say very little. But you can bet that many of those government parasites pull down at least six figures with a generous pension and Cadillac health benefits that the rest of us can't afford. This farce is called "public service." The only sacrifice these bloodsuckers ever made was forfeiting more lucrative opportunities in the private sector for the more secure paycheck of a government job.

Government workers make a fat target, but the fat cats in the private sector are no better. It's too bad I lost the MSNBC crowd at this stage with my disdain for government workers as I now aim my sights at the corporate looters. The worst sector of the private market is the financial services sector which makes its money from usury and deception. These are the ones that the hard working Americans had to bail out back in 2008. These people create nothing. Yet, they are paid millions and billions for putting wealth at risk with a government backstop to keep their casino afloat whenever their greed overwhelms their common sense. Between money printing from the Fed and assurances from Big Daddy O, it has never been better to be in the financial services industry. And we know who suffers. This would be every sucker in America that actually makes a living the old fashioned way by earning it.

The rest of Corporate America is little better because they also get subsidies, tax breaks, and bailouts from the government. Inside of these companies, the hourly employees are squeezed for the last penny, urged to go on public assistance, and denied living wages with the implicit threat that even cheaper wage slaves can be had once you've been terminated. Meanwhile, CEOs, middle management, upper management, consultants, and the like get paid fat cash to blow wads of money deceiving shareholders, beating down the workforce, cheating customers, and escaping with their golden parachutes once their chicanery finally earns them a pink slip. What value do any of these people create?

The reality is that this economy has a growing class of parasites and a shrinking class of producers. If you look at dollars paid, it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Buf if you look at who works and who doesn't, the good guys are easily distinguishable from the bad guys. Once the work question comes up, suddenly, every parasite is quick to point to some blue collar roots, cite long hours on the job, and make dubious claims to "earning it." The funny thing is that these people who don't earn anything can find a way to insult real working people as uneducated low class slugs the rest of the time. Real working people have to account for every minute of their day to some management rat that can't even tell you what it is that they do.

What do you do? What value do you create? How do you make the world a better place? And why should you be paid what you are paid? These are important questions. The simple fact is that there are those who produce real wealth, and there are those who steal it. If you believe work is for suckers, you are a thief. If you don't work for a living, then you steal for a living. And if you feel the need to knock on the working poor and dehumanize them in every way, why do you need our dollars to keep your lazy ass rich?

I don't know how much longer this game will last. I'd like to say that justice is coming swiftly, but I've seen this sort of thing my entire life. The history of the world is replete with examples of those who work and those who grift. But I can also say that the bad guys fall with regularity like Bernie Madoff. On the individual level, I see the toll of the grift. I've never met a rich person who was happy or even secure. But I see happy blue collar workers every day of my life. I have wondered why the honest working masses don't rise up and cut throats and burn down the mansions of the parasites. But I think it comes from equanimity and the knowledge that the best revenge is to not become like your enemy. For me, I see it when these rats can't look me in the eye but cast them down to the floor in shame. They know what they are. A thousand lies can't cover the singular truth that they are thieves who produce nothing of value for anyone. They lack the virtue required to make an honest living, and they will pay for it with their souls.


Vegan Hacks

I choose not to make a graveyard of my body for the rotting corpses of dead animals.

It doesn't take me much effort to win the argument for eating vegan. I accept the fact that most people are never going to become vegan and would rather die than give up meat. I just make sure their decision to die is an informed decision sort of like the Surgeon General's warning on a pack of cigarettes. If I could get a similar warning on a pack of frozen hamburgers or on a sign outside every McDonald's, my job would be finished. Since that is unlikely to happen in my lifetime, I just quote the facts, scientific studies, and just plain common sense. Then, I offer the three day challenge followed by the two week challenge. Most people agree that going two weeks without meat, dairy, and eggs will not kill them. Every person who has taken the challenge reports feeling better, losing weight, and having increased energy. Then, they go back to eating animal products. But they know where they didn't know. That's all I can do.

The problem with being vegan is that it is not as easy as eating crap. If you have spent a lifetime eating from fast food restaurants, drive thru windows, vending machines, convenience stores, and the microwave oven, the first thing you discover is that being vegan means giving up all that convenience. I think this convenience issue is the number one reason for vegan apostasy. Life is busy. There are things to get done. Who has time to cook and prepare food?

Before I became vegan, I thought long and hard about this issue. I had to come up with a gameplan for this issue, but I had help in the form of Tim Ferriss. Now, Ferriss is no vegan but a meathead. I think his paleo style diet is a bunch of crap. But I appreciate that Tim has a unique way of looking at the world and finding ways to make it work for him. So, I took some of his tips but also his mindset to come up with these vegan lifehacks to make the vegan lifestyle work for me. Here they are:

1. Eat the same things for breakfast and lunch everyday.

This one comes straight from Tim Ferriss. Breakfast and lunch are the most inconvenient meals of the day. Many people skip breakfast entirely. Lunch is whatever is available at the nearest restaurant or lunch counter. Or, it is just a pack of crackers from a vending machine. But it isn't the preparation of a meal that takes so long as the time spent trying to decide what to prepare and eat. I already know that I am going to eat oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow and sandwiches for lunch. The total time I spend each day preparing those two meals is 10 minutes. This is exactly how long it will take you to get through drive thru windows if you choose McDonald's for these meals. I would venture to say that I spend less time on these meals than the meatheads since most drive thru lanes are packed.

2. Get a lunchbox.

My old man used to carry a lunchbox like the one pictured above. I choose one more modern that I can put a blue ice in. I also recommend a Klean Kanteen for water and beverages. Also, check out To-Go Ware for their stainless steel food carriers. I'm not sure when it became uncool to carry your own food, but if you are a vegan, this should not bother you since being vegan isn't cool either.

3. Eat fruit.

Fruit is nature's fast food. I learned from the raw food folks that fruit can be a meal. If you don't have time to prepare a meal, eat a bunch of bananas or toss some in your lunchbox. Keep dried fruit on hand like raisins or craisins. I have also found that many convenience stores carry fresh fruit now like apples and bananas. Carrots and celery are also good. These foods require no cooking at all. The problem is that we think of them only as snacks instead of meals. The key is to just smash in as much fruit as your guts can hold, and you will feel very satisfied.

4. Vegan Quick Meals.

For dinner, a vegan quick meal is an awesome solution when you are eating by yourself or don't have time to make a real meal. Basically, these are soups and stews made from vegetable stock or a vegan soup in a can. Take a pot and put in your can soup or vegetable broth. Add whatever leftover carrots, celery, onions, or greens you may have in the fridge. Add some beans. Toss in ramen noodles, pasta, or crumble up some crackers or matzo. I like Texas Pete for some kick. Now, you can make various flavor combinations depending on what is on hand, but you should have this made before Rachael Ray's assistant has finished chopping her stuff for her 30 minute meals. Have some fresh fruit for dessert.

5. Go to the grocery store daily.

People believe that a trip to the grocery store must entail buying large quantities of groceries at one time, but I have learned that a five item trip takes just a few minutes. It takes less time to pick up those few items than it used to take me to pick up a meal from some fast food place. Convenience stores and fast food chains used to be fast and convenient, but they aren't that way now. Grocery stores have learned to be more convenient with deli aisles and express lanes. If you go during the day, it is like a ghost town in the grocery store. I go to the grocery store in the same fashion that other people go to the convenience store or fast food joint, but it takes me less time to get what I need.

Those are my hacks. I live in one of the most inhospitable environments to veganism that exists where even the vegetables come slathered with meat chunks and lard. I also don't do social eating because most of the people here are so stupid that they think being vegan means you only eat grilled chicken and salmon. There is a social cost to being vegan, but this is the price you have to pay for being smarter than the herd. It can be lonely on the cliff as you watch everyone jump off the edge without you. I can live with that.