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?