Relations and Dating · Self-Improvement

We Occupy Different Worlds

There is an awful lot of emphasis on “coming together” and “being one tribe” in today’s world, both before and after the death of Coors Light. Companies can’t stop preaching the virtues, politicians are ever-willing to trot out their statements of welcome, and educational leaders do much the same. We are all one, they seem to mutter, and you best believe it.

The only problem is, reality tells a starkly different story. Depending on who we are and where we come from, our perceptions and experiences stand to be radically disparate in nature, regardless of how much propaganda can be hoisted to block out those facts. No serious person is going to argue that the 6’4’’ white man has any realistic identification or solidarity with a 5’2’’ Hispanic guy. Perhaps if they work in the same economic field we might witness some closeness, but each will be reacted to as though they are two entirely separate creatures, based on skin tone and height. Only an exasperated fool would attempt to join them.   

In the field of dating, those differences matter, as we well know. The same could be true of a fit and lipped Latina versus a 250lb “Baby blue eyes” blonde. Is anyone willing to argue that somehow they are on even terms? (This excluding the Alt-Right and minority men who worship skin color). Differences matter, and no one actually believes the aforementioned claptrap unless they have to.

Now some empowered soul will stand and declare, “You’re wrong! It’s a about equality under the law.” Please humor me more. Is a working class person without financial resources liable to be treated the same as a rich fellow who can pay for the fancier esquire? The answer is not in doubt, but citizens are expected to cover their eyes and ears.

Even in the economic realm, disparities translate into divided universes. The college kid whose parents are loaded has far more freedom in terms of extracurricular activities and graduate schools than another specimen forced to pay their own way. I am reminded of the self-righteous classmate who mocked me for having a summer job in university while he took a stipend from the parents for an unpaid internship with the high and mighty. Means lead to starkly opposite ends, at least in the medium term.

As time goes on, this prevailing truth continues to manifest itself in the public square. There is no debate that BMM supporters view the world differently than “Defend the Police” adherents. Certainly Democrats and Republicans have separate views of legitimacy, which raises the deafening cry of what will happen in November 2020, regardless of the outcome.

Will everyone unite, because “We’re all Americans after all”?

Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

Restoring Goldberg Manor: Part III

So it has been a while, but certainly not for reasons of inaction or work shyness. A number of significant reforms have already occurred, and two major projects (roof and windows) are in progress. I thought I would give everyone an update here for good measure.

Re-Screening of Porch Door

Before:

Notice the large hole…bad news when the mosquito Staceys come calling.

After:

Installation of New Bedroom Lock

Before:

After:

The holes would later get puttied in, and will be painted at some point.

New Screws for GEM Pump

Before:

After:

I am not happy with the Rustoleum paint’s efficacy. This was after all the metal parts got a week-long coke bath.
I have ordered a chain plus buckets, so my next move is to replace the rotting base wood.

Dryer and Washer Install

Before:

After:

I will be having this drywall worked on soon, but the shifted location for the washer is far more convenient.
Don’t have a before pic on this exact spot, but you get the idea.

Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

How To Make Clothes Last

Clothing is THE critical issue. Around the nation, it drives people to their weekend or mid-week shopping sprees, greased so often by the need to appear “hip” or “sexy” on the Instagram dot com. Coming off as poorly-dressed is often associated with less respect, diminished romantic prospects, and even difficulty making money.  To show how serious the question is, reports indicate that the average American expels around $150 per month for clothing and related services – no small joke when the average income is under 64k before taxes. The sweatshop stitching intensifies.

Although less common as a financial topic, preservation of clothes is a fantastic way to break from the norm and spare a crying wallet more pain. What’s more, it need not fly at the expense of style or comfort, assuming certain steps are followed. The key aspect is to understand garments for what they are, obtain enough of them, and treat each one with the utmost respect.

Socks

Probably the last thing folks think about, even though they serve such a glorious purpose by keeping feet healthy and comfortable. Everyone knows socks wear out, but far less consider how this can be mitigated effectively. For one, purchase enough pairs so you have two for every day of the week. This allows for swapping at midday, which improves circulation to the toes and avoids too much strain being placed on the fabric. Consider a pair of slippers for the house, and avoid walking in socks on the driveway, where rough splotches can tear at the threads.

Also be sure to invest in a quality darning egg and stitching kit. When the heel or toes begin to show off more skin than a tradcon would approve of, you can fix them up lickety-split. Through this strategy I have been able to maintain pairs of Dickies going back 5 years, which beats purchasing a new pack every few months.

T-Shirts

Here again, quantity helps with longevity. Another useful approach is to buy more synthetic and polyester materials than cotton. Sure, they might feel tacky, but the quick-drying and sweat-wicking fabrics just feel nice, and seem to last longer, even without a Nugenix pill. I’ve had a surprisingly good experience with Wal-Mart’s Dri-Star materials, and you can go premium if that brings more satisfaction. Regardless, make sure to turn them inside out when washing, as this both cleans the fabric better and limits wear on the front. This is doubly true for any shirt (such as a uniform) that has velcro pockets.

Shorts/Briefs

Try to hand-wash these guys, including the sporty versions, as a means of increasing shelf life. I have seen some absolute tragedies coming out of the washing machine and dryer due to the underlying design. Adidas and Nike for example tend to leave the interior stitches exposed, and those threads will wear out rapidly when being tossed around.  If exercise shorts must go in a washer, remember to lace the drawstring up a couple times; doing so prevents it from getting dragged into the waistband by your machine’s impeller.

Pants

While it is fine to throw some pairs in the washer, they should be handled with care and turned inside out. Do not let them sit in the machine after it finishes. Instead, shake them out and place in the dryer for 10-15 minutes before hanging up to air-dry. Placing slacks or jeans in the dryer for long periods of time can result in damage to the buttons and belt loops, or even shrinkage. Get a decent iron and smooth out the wrinkles when they are dry before either folding them for a drawer or hanging the rascals up.

Washing In General

If it is not already a primary theme, limiting the use of washing machines and dryers is important (if not always practical) as we seek to preserve clothing. The reason why I emphasize synthetics is because they require less time in the dryer and can return to wearable status faster on even a lukewarm day than a piece of cotton will. Unless you are big into those fancy Gain or Downy scent pods, just consider a nice environmental detergent and be done with it. The especially brave might even try out a wash rack, but that is only for the muscled arms among you.

Finally, when a piece of cloth must be retired, keep to mind that it might be compostable, or even made into a cleaning cloth. This will not function as well for synthetics, but cotton socks can serve as excellent shoeshine pieces, and t-shirts past their prime become excellent rags or mopping heads. Alternatively, trim them up and add to a compost pile. Nothing wrong with that.

Culturalism · Self-Improvement

When Positivity is Delusional

A frequent criticism I’ve received over the years is that I’m too negative, at least when contrasted with the saucer-eyed, “Heeey guyyyz” entertainers potted about on the Internet dot com. The primary factor might be my voice, which has always been described as monotone, even when I am not trying to be, but at any rate the perception sticks, regardless of what is being discussed. I have of course made the distinction between realism and cynicism where folks accuse me of the latter, yet the chatterbirds continue shrieking, because they want something positive.

The problem is, positivity can often be a mask for real issues. The country is burning from communist-fueled riots, and our currency continues to hyperinflate, but no worries, because there is a nice Independence Day parade, and flags aplenty. There are monster video game birds to beat, and softer bird varieties to game in real life.  Pills can cure diseases, and even bring smiles to the depressed, providing we all remain upbeat and happy. Just listen to the music, and slowly mong to some Snow Patrol. It’ll be ok.

In this way the positivity gospel becomes so fanatical that any dissent is viewed with derision and seen as heresy. No matter how “positive” the intentions of the messenger might be, his interruption of the comfortable norm means he must be labeled as a depressing fatalist or misanthrope. That innocent act of pricking the lovely bubble of punchbowl ecstasy makes him marked for erasure, lest he otherwise white-out their splendid existence.

But of course unfettered positivity is dangerous, and the responsible souls must call it out. How can anyone fathom telling a man to wed a harlot, or buy a car at 18 percent APR, just because it carries a good attitude to the fore? Should you abandon the youth to become rabble merely so no one’s Mozilla-endorsed “be proud of yourself” groove is thrown off by an elderly curmudgeon?

Positivity advocates will of course respond by claiming they do not actually support such ideals, yet their actions are telling. There is only so much that self-talk, weight-lifting, and pro-energy dieting can accomplish before an individual is forced to be honest (read: a realist) and make changes that will  ruffle the feathers of that “slap you bro’s ass” crowd and their committed Wayne Newton smiles.

As for myself, I will continue to speak out, because while we may not successfully mobilize the masses, every mind pinged might just nudge another in the right direction.  The momentum could become a waterfall, then perhaps collapse into a gushing ocean. Things might just change.

And to be honest, that sounds pretty positive.

Culturalism · Relations and Dating · Self-Improvement

The Importance of Keeping a Journal

“Those fateful days, robust hours, frightful minutes, all lost to the shimmering gray wall of forever.”

Not sure where that quotation came from, so we’ll just say Martin Goldberg. At any rate, it touches upon one of the most direct arguments I can make for the maintenance of a daily – if not at least every other day—written journal. This remains one of the most crucial habits you can adopt in life, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the practice is relatively uncommon.

As human beings, our capacity for long-term memory is relatively limited. Most of us cannot remember in detail a single day twenty years ago, or even one two weeks passed. It could be something to do with the monotony of everyday life, yet the realization is no less disconcerting under that lens. It is probably not a stretch to say that 97 percent of your life is a frantic blur, and that is somehow acceptable. I try to even but I simply cannot.

Think of the memories, the specifics, whether good or bad, all dashed to pieces in short order, their legacies gone before a second breath. The magnitude is an overwhelming spell of terror. What’s more, those absent slices of time make up your life.

On this very hill we must consider the value of a journal. By jotting down specific notes of what went on and who was involved, the individual crafts an enduring story which can outsmart the mind and leave imprints to be rediscovered in later days. There is no more – or certainly less—of the scrambling wonder, the attempt to recall a name or face, especially as you gaze down the churning tide of advanced age. Instead of being a stumbled and haggard crone reaching for the vanished past, you can feel the touch of scrolls, the scent of faded ink, the love of days gone by but never perished. You have the ability to return, and to revisit.

Now of course at some point you may pass on into that place beyond the stars, where few souls have gone and reported back. Yet with a journal you live on. The heart of the child, young or grown to fill difficult shoes, will look at and enter the mind of his father, feel the echoes of the time, the memory he was too small to experience. Daughters will find the wisdom of their mother, what things she loved, the joy that spoke, rich tears all cried. The legacy will be one living, from time towards a horizon eternal.

All fault of a pen touched gently to the paper.

#VanLife · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

Restoring Goldberg Manor: Part II

Things are coming along smoothly enough. This past week has been a lot of electrical work, plus some other aesthetic improvements. I also have a larger paint job lined up for the next several weeks, one of two major changes planned, the other being Central Air, which will likely be a fall project.

Painting Walls In the Sunroom Plus Electrical Additions

Before:

After:

Two of these installed. You’ll note how the ground is on top, which is the correct way to install them, although the popular style in the U.S. is to invert the receptacle.

New motion activated light:

Scraped and Painted Pump

Before:

After:

This will probably get a second coat, along with the chains and buckets to make it functional.

#VanLife · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

Restoring Goldberg Manor: Part I

As many of you know, I have ventured out into the great boomer unknown and purchased a house. My goal with this series of posts is to give a sense of the improvements and changes which the building has (and will) suffer through in the name of preservation and stability. In certain cases I didn’t take a picture before changes occurred, so we’ll have to employ our active imaginations.

New Water Heater Plus Drain Pan:

Floors Sanded and Coated:

Before:

Moi foot

After:

(Note the paint change too, done to enhance lighting)

investing · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

Are Beggars Beating The System?

When I was younger, I recall watching the Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett. While not always equal to the Basil Rathbone version, it delivered thrills aplenty, bringing to life countless tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A particularly poignant example is “The Man With The Twisted Lip,” which focuses on a wealthy but debt-troubled man who mysteriously vanishes, only to be discovered playacting as a beggar to help service his liabilities. It’s possible that the tale was written with assumptions of upper-class snobbery towards the poor, but that should not jettison the social value, particularly in today’s early retirement and money-scrounging culture.

I thought back to the show over the last two weeks, as I handed out cash to several panhandlers between my work shifts. Of course they might well be down on their luck, but what if they aren’t? What if homeless beggars are more like our friend in the show, a clever masquerader seeking to avoid the wages of tax?

From what data is available, a panhandler might draw $100-$300 dollars a day in an American city,  This doesn’t sound especially great, but remember that the funds are tax-free. To put it into perspective, when I worked retail some years ago, an eight-hour shift gave me $80.00 in gross income. After taxes, paying for boomer retirement, and Berniecare, I was sitting closer to sixty-five bucks. From any standpoint, that’s a yuuuge difference.

We should further understand that homeless people have access to soup kitchens and shelters, two helping hands that absorb other daily expenses. Should the person be masquerading of course, they might live with a family member or pay minimalist rent off the books to avoid added scrutiny. Meanwhile, Clarence Goodman has to cough it up for housing, food, gas, and Trojans, all to ensure semi-regular affection from his wow, man.

Now you might say, “Sure, but they don’t get all those great benefits!” As it turns out, that depends. Disabled folks can claim SSDI up to a certain level, and the general homeless population is eligible for Medicaid, with some regional variances. To be sure though, they miss out on subsidizing the retirement of the elderly, which does rather sting.

There are some downsides, to be clear. Any pretender to the homeless throne would have to deal with rough weather, lack of consistent sanitation, low money haul days, and the usual social stigma. In addition, whenever they chose to “clock out” of the streets, their behavior would have to carefully avoid attracting suspicion from the empowered and governmental.

Still, it’s a thought.

investing · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

The Problem With Self-Help

Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been an explosion of new self-help guides on the internet dot com. Old legends like Tony Robbins keep cranking it out, while young orangutans jostle for their piece of the pie. Almost every online following seems to devolve into the genre with varying degrees of intensity and commitment.

That’s all good, but an unfortunate theme appears to pervade most of the books: complete disconnect from reality. I happened upon this realization after reading through The Compound Effect  by Darren Hardy. It’s a short and compelling read that rehashes the timeless principles you typically hear, such as:

  • That $4.00 coffee at Starbucks every day adds up to $51,833.79 after 20 years.
  • If you make only $40,000, bring a bag lunch and cancel your magazine subscriptions, plus change your cable provider. This will save you a lot of money which could be invested for a higher return.   
  • If Stacey puts $250 in her Roth IRA each month starting at age 23, she’ll have $1 million by age 67, in this case ASSUMING she gets an 8 percent return, compounded MONTHLY.
  • If Chad does the same but delays his start by a a few years, he’ll have only $300,000 at the same age.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and energy.
  • You’re 100 percent responsible for your actions/decisions/choices.

The last hyphen point is especially interesting. Hardy does attempt to push the gospel of self-improvement, laying into the folks who blame other elements for their misfortune, such as family or the government. He hoists the individualist banner valiantly, yet towards the end of the book there is a brief disclaimer which can be summarized as follows: You’re 100 percent responsible for whatever you do, but those choices are INFLUENCED by powerful external forces.

At precisely this moment, the “Stop complaining and focus on yourself” mantra is dealt a fateful blow. Obviously one can apply all those principles, but there is nothing preventing a Black Swan from tossing it all back to square one again. These gurus seem to forget that prior to the 2008 collapse, companies like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns were well-respected, with both residing in various investment and retirement portfolios. Concurrently, there was no shortage of self-help spin doctors encouraging people to “Save every penny so you can invest” for the future. No doubt others adhered to those philosophies, but nothing stopped the macro-level malevolence of corporate and governmental interests.  We can look at the oil collapse of 2014 (and even 2020), along with the Coronavirus financial spanking to see a steady dynamic afoot. The train rattles on.

I suppose the takeaway should be that for all the benefits of helping yourself and “being an individual,” there are always factors at play well beyond your control, and those unwelcome guests can easily crash the self-reliance party.

Anyone bring the Natty Light?