The Waning Hours of the “Current Year”

2016 is winding to a close and I’m going to take a few moments to reflect back on the year, personally and the world at large.

It was actually a year with some significant changes.   To start, when I went back to work after the holidays at the beginning of the year I went to an eight hour a day five days a week work schedule like most normal people, although from 2pm – 10pm.    This presented some challenges and honestly I didn’t care for it when the idea was proposed, but turned out to be overall a positive thing.   It means I’m home every morning and then home every night, whereas the schedule I had before had me working nights and basically working a couple of days then getting a couple off.

The change in schedule made my life a little more regimented and also gave me the weekends off.    Unfortunately it made it harder to tackle bigger projects with smaller periods of time and I’m not sure if I sleep less, but it feels like it – going to bed at midnight or one then the baby waking up at 6:30.

Having the weekends off led to the biggest success of the year – our business.  It feels like most Saturdays were spent pushing tea one way or another and now we have a viable part time business going into the new year.   In some ways we underperformed my expectations but in others we succeeded…I would say that at the outset my expectations were kind of arbitrary though.

Then we got married.   Honestly things didn’t feel very different the day after, but it was a big event during the year.   I was more involved this time around than last, so the planning had a bigger impact on my life.   It was a very DIY wedding so Mary spent countless hours on Pinterest and such.   At times I wanted to say “can we please not talk about the wedding anymore tonight?”, but we made it through and the wedding was amazing.   Everything went great.

Then we found out (recently) that we have another baby coming.  It’s a boy.   That’ll be a huge change in 2017.

I always get ideas for different little projects.   A book I should write, a webpage, a podcast, a business, etc.  Usually I get so bogged down with ideas that nothing ever happens.   This year I decided to focus on just one of those things and I did.   www.coldwarcast.com   A podcast about the Cold War’s history, with a strong emphasis on telling it through the pop culture of the time.    It’s been fun and with no significant advertising somehow I have about a 100 listeners that tune in each episode.   I’m hoping to grow it and dedicate myself to putting out more frequent content.   As of now it’s been about a show every two weeks, maybe twice a month.    I’d like to do *at least* once a week, even if I have to shorten episodes.   I’m hoping to take that to the next level this year.

At the beginning of the year I made a list of things I wanted to do this year.   A list of books I wanted to read, a couple activities and a few vague “learn more about…”, “do more…”.   Thinking back, I think I at least made a conscious effort for every one of them, except making a point to hit up the shooting range.    Admittedly I had some help early on by spending the first couple weeks of January at work doing very little but reading.

Fitness goals?  I definitely had them.   Ones that I thought were achievable, too.   Wound up hitting a plateau, doing something else for a while and then ramping back up, even bulking, before hitting another plateau, getting some aches and pains and getting bored.   I can say that I did get stronger in the current year, but I also put on a little bit more fat than I’m comfortable with and feel like my stamina is way down.

Now, what am I going to do about it this year?  I can’t say my diet was the best it’s ever been last year, at times intentionally.   I’m going to have to clean that up.    I just started a new program that has me doing more volume rather than low reps/high intensity.   I’m also adding back in a meaningful go at assistance work and planning on doing at least 5 minutes of cardio before working out in order to warm up.   I’d also like to add a few minutes of medicine ball slams or hitting the heavy bag a few times a week.
Off the top of my head I’d guess that I could stand to lose around 15lbs of fat, give or take a few and be about where I would want to be aesthetically.   I just have to realize that it’s completely on me.   Sometimes I get pissy when Mary fills the candy jar full of m&m’s or randomly decides to bake a cake.  It makes it difficult, but that’s where willpower comes in.

It was another terrible year for gardening due to the chickens tearing things up.   If I want to have a garden, I’m going to have to do something really drastic, like put up a deer fence around the whole thing in order to keep them out.  Doing that will help with the diet problem too, as I’ll have more vegetables in my diet than I did the previous years.

Financially it was kind of a rough year too.   The wedding took a toll, a cut in pay over the past couple years and then going to a one income household made it hard to stay ahead of things.  Oh, and Mary’s student loans kicked in. We sunk a lot of money into the business, which took a while to recoup (and I’m ok with that).   I’ve been doing pretty well for myself over the past several years, having a job that pays a fairly high wage and living low.   I’ve been used to doing just about whatever I want within reason, but this year was the first time in a very long time where I’ve had to say that I couldn’t afford it about something fairly reasonable.

Things are aligned for 2017 to be better financially though and be able to start putting some money aside again.

Oh, I also wanted to have all the loose ends in my house tied up, like fixing trim, painting this or that, just little things.   How’d I do on that?   HA!  Better luck next year.

 

I’ll leave the personal stuff there.    Let’s go on to the larger world.

Holy fucking shit!   If I could sit down with Ryan circa January 1, 2016 and have a conversation about what’s all happened in the past year, I wouldn’t believe it.

Right wing populism was the big winner of the year.   I can’t believe how far various aspects of that worldview have come in the past year.   Our cousins across the pond ran away with it in the Brexit vote, causing all kinds of heads to spin.   Merkel’s political power/approval is waning in Germany.   Viktor Orban in Hungary became a national hero.   Vladimir Putin is probably the most respected politician in the world.  Le Pen and FN is looking good in France.   Wilders in The Netherlands is sitting pretty good and Duterte in the Philippines rounds it out in the East.

Then on the homefront, there was the election of Donald Trump, which I followed closely throughout the year.   At the very least his election was a rejection of our political class, immigration, globalism, political correctness and the idea of undue civility.   What I mean by the last one is that the American people are ok with pushing back on some of the social forces that have been shaping our society for the past few years.   A celebrity, pundit or politician makes a comment on social media?   Fuck ’em, let them have it right back.   Half of the country acted shocked and appalled over this, half of the country cheered it loudly.

I think it’s safe to say that the gloves came off a little bit against the zeitgeist in 2016.   Social media is definitely no longer a “safe space” for left wing ideas as there’s been all kinds of pushback on these kinds of things to the point where there’s a strong internet subculture against these kinds of things that uses the language of the alt-right.

On that note, I can’t believe the alt-right became something of a household name, even if it is a little off target.   A year ago these guys were making podcasts and blog posts that maybe a thousand people heard/read, now Richard Spencer’s name is plastered all over everything.    Guys like Mike Cernovich, Paul Joseph Watson and Milo Yiannopolous have built careers in the past year around being “alt-light”.   I just wouldn’t believe that there would be a meteoric rise in the alt-right and many alt-right viewpoints.
Now let’s talk celebrity deaths….

I think there were a few “big” ones in the final days of 2016 that brought the idea of dead celebrities of the year into the forefront of people’s minds.   It’s hard to say it was really worse than any other year, if you like celebrities.

I can’t say I really care about these kinds of deaths.   I can acknowledge, in many cases, the entertainment value or even “impact” some of them have had on me, but in reality almost each and every one of them have functionally stopped existing for me.    What do I mean by that?   I mean that if Prince put out an album today, I probably wouldn’t have listened to it.   If Carrie Fisher starred in a movie today, I probably wouldn’t see that either. Most of these people are, as far as I’m concerned, carved into stone in a sense.   What I appreciate about these people almost always is something in the past, not the present.   If a favorite actor/musician/author/etc in their prime died, maybe the prospect of missing out on them fulfilling their potential would affect me (i.e. Kurt Colbain dying while Nirvana was still going strong seems more tragic than someone living off fumes from the past).

At any rate, I’m ready to move on into 2017.

 

 

Microbusiness Chronicles: Tallying Up The Intangibles

Well, now that Christmas is over and it’s several months until the first Farmers’ Market of the season, we’re at a year-end lull.   We’ve got a few small dates between now and then, but nothing too time consuming.   Honestly, it will be kind of nice to have this time to regroup, rearm and refit and come back next year better than last.

It also means it’s about tax time.   I’ve been going through our expenses to get everything in order when it comes time to file and we’ve spent a lot more than at the outset of this business than I imagined we would spend to get it off the ground.   Almost $1000 in tents, tables, baskets and signage, a couple hundred in design fees, probably $1500 in table fees and then a few thousand dollars in product.    We’ve also got the website, mileage, postage, a couple bucks in advertising.   Then there’s labels and packaging, which isn’t cheap.   It all ads up.

Although we spent a lot, I thought we did pretty well this year.   It *felt* like a successful year, but when I go to finally add everything up I’m going to guess that we didn’t come out very far ahead…especially if we factor in our time.

That’s ok.  I’m fine with that because we’re set up for a very good year next year.     Sure, we have all the “infrastructure” we need as far as equipment (tents, tables, scales, signs).   We also have a website and a pretty decent inventory of finished product and ingredients.   More or less everything we need to pick up where we left off without any significant up front costs, whereas last year we needed *everything*.

The big, important things we have now are intangible.   We made some mistakes early on due to lack of experience/knowledge that we won’t make this year.    I’ve learned more about our craft than I know last year at this time, which is important.   We’ve been able to streamline our processes as well.   What we’ve picked up in knowledge between last year and today is extremely significant.

Probably the biggest asset we have is our relations with people.  We’ve gotten on good with our suppliers (except I think the FedEx people hate Mary).   We’ve made contacts with some show promoters and have a pretty good idea of the ones that are good and the ones we should avoid.   It feels like we’re likely to get welcomed back to some of the shows we were at this year.    We’ve established a good rapport with the farmer’s market people, which is our most important thing and has paid off over the year.

Finally, and probably most important, we have our customers.   We’ve interacted with a lot of people and it seems like we get quite a few that come back.   People have been leaving us good reviews and recommending us to their friends.   I really like it when people tell us that our functional teas help them (digestion, sleep, headache, etc.).   We’re starting to make something of a name for ourselves and people are seeking us out.  It feels good.  We have a small, but growing social media presence that I plan on expanding.

So there we are.   We’ve made a couple of bucks, but we’re sitting really good to grow and be more successful in the upcoming year.

My Thoughts on Mike Cernovich

Mike Cernovich has made a name for himself over the past year, in a good way.   Gorilla Mindset has turned into a popular book within certain circles.   Danger and Play has seen a spike in traffic and his twitter and periscope has blown up, especially due to his work on the election.

He’s also made a name for himself recently in a bad way.   His recent denouncement of Richard Spencer and then this weekend’s feud with “Baked Alaska” coupled with running with earlier on being dubbed the “leader of the alt-right” or some sort of prominent identification with the alt-right have a lot of people throwing accusations of being an opportunist his way.   The comment section of pretty much everything I’ve seen that has something to do with Cernovich has been overwhelmingly negative towards him.   I know that’s not always the best metric, but it’s pretty damn overwhelming.

I think I first got introduced to Cernovich exactly a year ago.   I believe I read Gorilla Mindset last year around New Year’s and subsequently followed him on Twitter and his podcast.     I thought Gorilla Mindset was a good book and one of the first “self-improvement” books I’ve ever read.   There were a few good takeaways.

From the start his podcasts struck me as a little odd.   It seems like a twenty minute podcast is a couple minutes of substance and the rest is made up of repeatedly re-establishing his creditability on the subject (in other words, boasting?).   “I’ve sold more books than this guy”, “Look at the life I live”, “The haters are just jealous of…”.   I’ll admit that in the realm of self-improvement this kind of thing can be a good motivating thing, but its done to the point where it seems like either an insecurity thing or a “fake it until you make it” strategy.

On the note of “fake it until you make it”, I really think that’s what he’s done with his brand and built it completely around self/brand-aggrandizement.   In a way it’s pretty impressive and something that people can gain from if they read between the lines.

Now, on to the subject of his political leanings – he doesn’t strike me as the type of guy with any significant political worldview at all.  That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but he’s has positioned himself to look like the leader of a political movement, the alt-right.

Here’s how I see his involvement with the alt-right…. Cernovich probably really does have it out for SJW/politically correct culture, for various reasons.   He already had something of a niche carved out for himself in the “manosphere” and from there there’s inroads into the political right.   Maybe there was some reaching out to him from alt-right rank and file, maybe Cernovich did the reaching out.    Either way, he probably believed that he would be able to make his niche within the world of lashing out against SJW’s.

As far as his support for Trump goes, I think he really did have an appreciation for Trump as a businessman/showman from before his presidential run.  Still, I think his support had an aura of latching on to a movement rather than actually being into it.   Admittedly, he did some good digging/analysis during election season and was an overall asset to Trump’s campaign.   I won’t deny that.

I think he embraced the alt-right without actually realizing the totality of what the alt-right was about – I think he just thought internet trolling and MAGA hats, like Milo Yiannapolis recently <incorrectly> described the alt right.     He showed his actual ignorance of the movement by claiming that Richard Spencer, pretty much the guy that coined the term and laid the groundwork in the US, was hurting the alt-right.    No, Mike, he IS the alt-right.

Along with a few other “alt-light” figures, there’s been a bit of a backing down from the actual alt-right once it’s dawned on them that it really isn’t just a quasi-socially acceptable way to lash out against PC culture.   He basically got in a little too deep with people he didn’t want his “brand” associated with.

I really feel like there was tones of jealousy between Cernovich and Spencer.   Cernovich is certainly bigger (at this point), but Spencer has more depth and has been getting a lot of the spotlight lately…for being genuinely him.

As for me, I’m kind of torn on what to do with Cernovich.   I’ll probably revisit Gorilla Mindset at some point and check into his podcast here and there.   Honestly, at 15-20 minutes per episode and being so infrequent I don’t feel like I’m completely wasting my time.   It’s kind of easy listening, really.    I think he’ll wind up alienating many of the people that pay attention to him today and begin to crash and burn.    Until then, I’ll probably take him with a large grain of salt and pick up the occasional tidbit of wisdom here and there.

Let’s Talk ‘Fake News’

The results of the 2016 Presidential election certainly caused some people on the left to seek reflection.   Some of them came back with some good, frank analysis on why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump and many of them didn’t.

Among the most common reasons were the over-abundance of racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, islamophobic, etc. Americans – it just wasn’t possible for a paragon of moral virtue like Hillary to win when the deciders were made up of such deplorable stock.   My personal favorite was that too many dumb rednecks weren’t ready for a woman president – as if Ann Coulter, Carly Fiorina, Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin ran they wouldn’t have gotten votes from the majority of people who voted for Trump.

Next down the line was “Russia” who allegedly tampered with our election – by (allegedly) leaking factual information about the Democrats.    This one was coupled with the phenomena of “fake news”.

So liberals from sea to shining sea were pulling their hair out over the idea that “fake news” influenced the election, and lambasting sites like Breitbart, RT, Alex Jones, Occupy Democrats Logic and probably hundreds of others.

Here’s the thing that bothered me the whole time about pussy-aching about “fake news”.  It’s not the idea that one narrative is considered fake and one isn’t, it’s the idea that if only millions of Americans were just exposed to the truth, the scales would’ve been tipped in favor of Hillary Clinton, the rightful heir to the presidency.

Get the fuck out of here.   And get the fuck over yourselves, too.    There seems to be a widespread inability to accept the idea that a large swath of the country made a conscious and thoughtful decision to not accept the narrative that Hillary, the DNC and her supporters were pushing.   It screams of narcissism.   I don’t think I would ever say that “if only those people would understand that Trump only wants to deport the illegal Mexicans…”  or something like that, hinting that my worldview was one that would line up with everyone if only they had come to their senses.

Also, the idea that people weren’t completely bombarded with “the truth” as liberals see it is completely laughable.   I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that at least one in five posts on my Facebook feed during the election was a repost of some article or meme against DJT or any other facet of a right-leaning worldview.   I think it’s fair to say that almost every mainstream media outlet had an anti-Trump bent.   There was no shortage of material floating out there that went contrary to Trump’s narrative.   No shortage at all.

…and of that material, some of it really counted as “fake news”.   Many of Trump’s most “shocking” statements were misquoted, half quoted or misinterpreted by “real news” outlets  and they ran with them for the sake of making a better story and furthering their narrative. For example, there was one time when Trump was speaking with disabled veterans and gave a nice response to one question.   The media cut it off halfway and the story became “Trump thinks veterans are weak and that’s why they commit suicide”.   So even if PatriotEagleNewsNow.com floated some clickbait about how Hillary Clinton was a Soviet operative in college and your racist uncle shared it, I have a hard time feeling sorry for the Democrats on this one.

It also goes without saying there were a lot of less-than-reputable by impartial standard “fake news” sites on the left to the point where it seemed like there was A LOT more anti-Trump/Republican/right-wing bullshit stories than anti-Hillary/Dem/left-wing.

The other angle to this is that the mainstream media really did get their clocks cleaned this election, and possibly will continue to get clobbered throughout the Trump administration.   They lost out on his advertising dollars because he went to Twitter and Facebook instead (when he wasn’t manipulating them for free airtime).   They failed to view the election without the blinders of personal politics on and missed the mark on their analysis.  Regular folks saw their biases and indifference and villanized them more than ever before.

But most importantly, they were on their way out even before all of this due to entry barriers being broken.   Now anyone can give their analysis (exhibit A, me) on these kinds of things and have a platform to share with the world.   Some people really made great strides as media outsiders in this election – namely alt-right and “alt-light” figures like Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopolous and Paul Joseph Watson.   Even Alex Jones.   I really think part of the lashout against fake news comes from a position of apprehension of their own impeding doom from the “real” media.

 

 

No, Asshole, Santa Claus Isn’t Turkish

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While Christmas often brings out the best in people, it also brings out the less-than-desirable in others.  You can’t through the season without someone pissing and moaning about a “crass display of commercialism”, stating that Jesus really wasn’t born on December 25 and/or bringing up the pagan roots of Christmas in a manner to discredit the holiday as it pertains to practicing Christians.

While all of these points are certainly valid, they almost always come from a position of the person either really, really having an axe to grind with Western civilization and/or a smug attempt at elevating ones’ self over the proles that buy into the holiday.     People love to downplay the kinds of things that other people cherish.

One great way to downplay aspects of Western civilization held sacred is to make them non-Western or at the very least piss on the things viewed as Western achievements.   This is where we hear about historical figures likely being non-white and/or hearing about someone from outside the Western world doing it better or first or the personal shortcomings of the historical figure in question.   So we hear that Euripides was black, Arabs saved Western civilization by being so advanced and Chris Columbus didn’t change the course of history or anything, but he was extremely brutal to the natives of the American landmass.

One way this happens from time to time around Christmas is the idea that Santa Claus has his origins in Turkey and therefore all of us dumb white people are celebrating a guy that wasn’t white and comes from the Islamic world.     Ugh….

It is true that the non-fictional character St. Nicolas really did come from the part of the world we now know as Turkey.  Absolutely.  However, the thing is what we now know as Turkey wasn’t inhabited by Turks, it was inhabited by Greeks.    I know that the idea that things might not have always been the way they are now is difficult for some people to grasp at times, but it’s true.   St. Nick was a Greek that lived in what ultimately became Turkey.   Doesn’t make him anymore Turkish than I can claim to be a Sioux by virtue of living where they once lived.   The Turks, with all due respect, moved into that piece of real estate almost 1000 years after St. Nick occupied it.

…and for what it’s worth, St. Nick was just a part of the mythos that eventually created the Santa Claus that we know today.   For the record, none of that mythos is remotely close to Turkish.   I know some people would like to believe this kind of bullshit because it fits nicely into a narrative they’ve created.

With that said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever you prefer to hear.   Always be skeptical of “well, actually….” claims and the motives behind them.

Microbusiness Chronicles – Multilevel Marketing

Since we started to do what we do we’ve been rubbing elbows often with various multilevel marketing/network marketing entities….and I think every adult American below a certain socioeconomic level has encountered network marketing before.

A pattern I quickly noticed is that with these events that we do, the more MLM participation the worse the event goes.   A lot of shows have a no MLM rule, which they believe creates a more authentic crafter/producer atmosphere.   And I agree.

First, I know that someone is making money off of these kinds of businesses and that there are people who genuinely like the products they have.  In my own life I can immediately think of a couple people who have been successful with MLM businesses – I can also think of  dozens who fizzled out after the first week or two of doing it.

Ok, so when we think of “business” or “work” we normally think of two different situations – as an employee or as a owner.   You’re either working for someone or for yourself.   MLM seems to be a bizarre hybrid of the two, more similar to being a franchisee (like McDonalds, etc.) than anything else.    You have a set product line, rules to follow and some system of support like an employee.   But you also more or less choose your own level of involvement, determine the level of effort you put into it and sometimes put your own skin in the game by putting up your own money to get started.   You’re also on your own during dry times, unlike an employee.      In short, like an employee you’re given *the* business but like an owner you’re responsible for *building* the business.

People are sold into these programs by the promise of a small initial investment and then whatever time/effort you want to put into it, but I think one thing that a lot of people overlook is how much of their “personal brand” or social capital they actually burn up doing these kinds of things.  To be honest, I think a lot of people see these kinds of things and then try to avoid it like the plague.  Then it turns to “oh shit, it’s Suzie.   She’s probably going to try to sell us It Works!” because these things work on expecting people to shake down their own personal networks….and your personal network probably doesn’t want to hear it.

Some people can get away with it if whatever product actually lines up with their lives.   The only example I can think of is Advocare (and maybe Herbalife) and the personal trainer industry, where at least they can say “hey, look this works for me!” and have a captive audience.

Anyways, I think the big problem with MLM insofar as craft shows is that there’s no personality to whatever it is they’re selling….and that’s also why the people in your personal network are usually less-than-enthused with whatever the product is.   It doesn’t take any vision, creativity, etc. to do Scentsy or Lularoe.  Even though it’s “your business”, everyone sees it as someone else’s business that you’re peddling.

I think the most common criticism of MLM, half in jest, is being “cult-like”.   That’s because it’s the same idea – someone else’s idea/thing that you go out and evangelize.   Instead of talking about the normal things friends/family would talk about, you’re encouraged to talk about this or that essential oil blend and how you heard about it causing the blind to see and saving some poor woman from cancer.

Ok, so people are just generally turned off by MLM.   Yes, there are people that like the products and all but I think overall people are turned off.   If they go to some event and all they see is the same kinds of people that bug them at work about ordering Pampered Chef, they say “this sucks”, “nothing here is worth a fuck”, etc.     So I appreciate it when a show is just crafters/producers.

One of the people I can think of that has been successful with MLM is my own wife (before we met).    She started to get her Mary Kay business going again around the time RDH started to come into existence and I thank God that she decided to put that on hiatus in order to focus on *our* thing.    I really believe that if she started pushing MLM at the same time we launched our business it would’ve really watered down our brand and made people in our own little circle less interested in what we had.   Most people would view a post about MLM, no matter how personal, as spam on Facebook.   If we post about how we’ll be at this or that event or we’re working on this or that on our personal Facebook pages, I think most people aren’t annoyed with it (although you can easily step over the line).   If we did both, I think people would write off posts about RDH as spam as well.

On another note, I usually feel kind of sorry for some of the MLM vendors at these things, especially at the slower shows.   Especially the ones that don’t actually have a product that someone can pick up, buy and walk off.   We were next to an Arbonne lady at a show that we did very well at.   All she had was a few display products and a catalog.   I’m not even sure if anyone actually placed an order.  She may have gotten a few contacts to do demonstrations, but if you think about it you have to overcome quite a bit to get someone to come to your table, actually write down their address and contact info to be interested in something and then be able to follow up with them at a later date to get something set up. Then at that point the sales process begins – sounds really hard.

 

Another thing that I don’t get is that if you’re really interested in these kinds of products, is it really that much more difficult to go at it on your own?  I understand that you probably can’t make vibrators on your own and compete with Pure Romance or tasers and compete with Damsel in Defense, but there’s always some little niche you could go after on your own.   Look at Young Living – how fucking hard is it to acquire some essential oils in bulk and make your own blends?   I bet I could take one hour and figure out a source of oils, a source of bottles, labels and even a few recipes to make my own blends.    It Works?   It should be easy to come up with your own “green smoothies”.   Makeup like Avon or Mary Kay?   IDK, but I’m sure there’s something in that realm a person could easily do on their own.

At the end of the day, I think there’s just so much more opportunity in creating your own small business/microbusiness over buying in to someone else’s model.   I think everyone would rather go to one of these shows if it were populated by people who say, made their own clothes, kitchen utensils, oils, scented products, green shakes, etc. over the extremely impersonal MLMs that exist today…and I also think the people in your circle would be a lot more interested to hear about what you were doing as well.

One Week of Driving With Uber

I’m always several years behind on technology.   When I first heard about Uber, I thought it sounded like a good idea but something that wasn’t going to happen because A. I had a rusty 97 Silverado that no one would pay to ride in and B. I had a dumb phone instead of a smart one.

Here we are in the “current year” and I have a vehicle that meets Uber’s expectations and an up-to-date smart phone, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I get off work at 10PM and I’m right across the street from a strip club and close to a couple others.  I’m also close to an interstate exit.   On my way home I pass right through downtown, so I figured I’d be in a good place geographically and temporally, as people would likely be wanting to go downtown (centrally located) from around where I work (north end of the city).

This period from 10-midnight is usually just time I’m dicking the dog on the internet anyways.  Everyone is usually asleep by the time I get home and there’s not much else to do.   So I figured it’s a good use of my time.

So far I have very mixed feelings about it…

First and most importantly, I think the pay is too low once you take everything into consideration.   90 cents at the outset, 65 cents a mile and 15 cents a minute.   So a four mile trip that takes ten minutes is about $5.   That in and of itself isn’t too bad, but there’s usually anywhere from 3-12 minutes that you have to drive to go pick the person up which you don’t get paid for.   So if you go ten minutes to take someone on a short trip you could wind up making $3 for the whole ordeal.

Let me explain how it works – so you turn on an application and when someone needs a ride you get a notification and you have fifteen seconds to respond.   The notification tells you who it is, what their rating is and where they’re at and how long it will take you to get there.      So  “Jimmy D (4.7 stars) at 666 Walnut Ave.    9 minutes”.   You touch the screen to accept (or let it run out to decline) and it maps out the most direct route to the location. When you get to the location and pick the person up, you swipe a button that starts the trip just like the meter in a cab.   Then when they get in the car it shows you their desired destination and the route to take.   Then when you get them there, you hit a button to complete the trip.

Pretty slick system.    My only complaint with it is that you can’t see where the person wants to go until you commit to getting them.   I understand how this would lead to rat-fucking and turning down riders, but it kind of sucks if you’re not wanting to go way out of your way.   The system works on the fact that you can get someone to come pick you up within ten or so minutes though, so I get that.   I’m just saying, it would be nice.

The other thing that sucks is that it seems like you can do an awful lot of driving/spend a lot of time to not make that much money.   My truck isn’t exactly the most fuel efficient option either, so I’m probably getting killed there.     If you get a notification that’s ten minutes away, you drive ten minutes to get there.    Let’s say you spend ten minutes to drive them to their destination.   Then you drive towards concentrations of people, which could take you another ten minutes before you get another person to pick up eight minutes away from your current location.    Then you pick them up and drive them for ten minutes.   So within the span of an hour or so, you could have two $5 rides amounting to $10 for the hour.

Then you subtract the gas you spent and then some percentage of that would go towards wear and tear on your vehicle.   Then if you really get into it, maybe an increased likelihood of getting into an accident or something just by spending more time on the road.    So it can wind up being a lot of time to not come out of it with much money.

So it’s not really something that I really feel excited to do, because it’s kind of depressing to  be out for two hours and use up about a quarter tank of gas to come home with about $20. I think I’d have to feel really hard up to really hustle up $100 or $200 a week from Uber.

Here’s what I do like about it – it is really flexible and there are situations where I’ll be at one place in the metro area and there’s really no other option but to go the way I want to go.    I’ll probably do it in those situations.

Although I think it would be hard to turn it into a real viable second income, I do like the idea of the “nickel generator”, meaning something that kicks out a few bucks to you here and there.    I have a couple of these (a book on amazon, the Red Dragon Herbs website and an affiliate link – btw, click the one on this page to make your amazon purchases!) already and it feels nice to see *something* additional come to you every month, even if it pales in comparison to your primary income.

I can see myself doing it maybe a time or two a week.   Even though it doesn’t pay out what I’d like it to pay in order to make it a better deal, it’s also nice to know that it is something I could do if I was ever in a pinch.   It’s just depressing to think how many drunks I’d have to take from one end of the suburbs to the other in order to come up with something resembling a living wage.

General Mattis for Defense Secretary!!!!

Meme magic is real.    Picking General James “Mad Dog” Mattis (or “Chaos 6” as some of us knew him) as the Secretary of Defense kind of has the aura of something along the lines of picking Ted Nugent to run the ATF – it just seems like something that would be thrown out in jest but never actually happen.

But it did.   Or well, as long as they get it through Congress which might be a bit of a problem considering he’s only been out of the military for 3 years instead of 7.

 

I served under Mattis in Iraq.   No other general in our time has had so much bottom-up respect from the lower ranks.   He made us feel really good about who we were as warriors and what we were doing.   He set the tone and it filtered down the ranks.    I think he’ll go down in the pantheon of Marine Corps heroes, probably as the embodiment of the Marine Corps in Iraq.

Beyond my personal respect for the guy, there are a couple things I really like about this appointment….

 

  1.   He was fucked out of a promotion to Commandant of the Marine Corps by the Obama admin presumably because he would’ve resisted some of the social engineering that Obama’s administration pushed onto the Marine Corps.   Mattis would’ve ultimately followed orders, but he would’ve vocally opposed whereas the guy they actually appointed was very accommodating.   Everyone thought Mattis was the logical choice for commandant, but instead they gave it to Amos, a guy that has been very unpopular for his bullshit “reawakening” and his lack of experience.   Trump “promoting” Mattis a notch higher on the totem pole is a way to say “fuck you” to this kind of thing.
  2.  If they say that for these kinds of jobs you have to be wary of the people that actually want it, I don’t think Mattis ever had his eyes on anything beyond Commandant.   This would be uncharted territory for him.  He’s not an opportunist and (presumably) wouldn’t be looking to use it as a springboard for something else.   I can’t see him actually desiring this position and probably took it reluctantly or at least was blindsided by it.    I think he’s qualified to the job, even though he hasn’t groomed himself for it.

    3.   Trump says he’s going to drain the swamp?   This is a great pick to get that done.   If you ask Mattis what the military needs, I guarantee you he’s not going to start talking about expensive fighter jet programs or “equal opportunity”.   This guy is going to be all about standards, readiness and mindset.   I can see him not being friendly to certain sectors within the military industrial complex that seem a little too extravagant.   This guy has a real spartan mentality.

    I’ve heard a few squawks from liberals on this one, but not many.    Surprisingly my old battalion commander, a guy that I thought had a hard-on for Mattis, went on Toni Lehren (?) to talk about how he thinks Mattis SHOULDN’T get the job, which blew me away.    He’s not the only one with that opinion, but they’re definitely the minority.

    At any rate, I’m sure America’s enemies have already started shitting their pants knowing Chaos 6 will be in the captain’s chair.

A Few Thoughts on My Son’s First *Real* Christmas

This will be my son’s second Christmas.   Last year he had no clue what was going on and realistically any partaking in the holiday he did was just us projecting Christmas on to him.  I mean, I’m sure he had a great time but he had no idea what we were all doing.    This year is a little different as he can tell there’s something unique about the this period of time.   He’s really into Santa and the Christmas tree all lit up.   He likes the reindeer and he likes snowmen.   I think he’s at a point cognitively where he’ll make associations between this kind of imagery and the holiday and also that Santa brought him presents.

I’ve never really been a grinch – I’ve always appreciated Christmas as an adult.  If anything, it’s a day I take the time to reflect on many things and I suppose I’ve even developed a few personal rituals with the holiday over time.   But realistically it’s hard to get into the “Christmas spirit” when you’re in your late 20’s or 30’s and childless.    This year things are a little more exciting just because there’s a little guy here to share it with and to see his reactions to the “magical” aspect of Christmas.

So last Sunday we took him to Bass Pro Shops out on the edge of town for him to see Santa, because apparently that’s one of the best ones and they give you a free picture.    He was into it, but not at the same level he apparently was a week earlier at an event downtown.   They had a large section of the place all done up with reindeers, fake snow, snowmen, Christmas trees and all the other accoutrements of Christmas.   Nice display, I suppose.   Activities for the kids and all of that too.

We were there for about a half an hour browsing around and then left.   Admittedly it’s kind of a fun store with all the fish and dead animals.   But it had me thinking – there’s not really many places to experience Christmas in the public sphere anymore.

I’m not necessarily talking about a “war on Christmas” or anything like that.    It’s just that there aren’t many day-to-day places that people go to day-to-day that feel Christmasy.

When my parents and grandparents (and probably their parents) were kids, they would traditionally do Main Street or the town square up with wreaths, trees, lights, etc.

When I was a kid we had the shopping mall.   Yeah, people always shit on the mall as the most uncouth/kitschy thing in the world, but at the very least it was a public space that people regularly went to and experienced Christmas time.   You would have the decorations and such and Santa occupying a corner of the mall, but moreover you would have individual stores displaying whatever the hottest gift ideas of the year were.

My mom might be able to tell me about going to the big department store downtown – a vibrant place with a lot of diverse activity and that being a fond Christmas memory of her youth.    Me?   Well, I guess I would probably talk about Radio Shack and Kaybee Toys in the mall.

Honestly, my experience of experiencing Christmastime mostly through a shopping mall as a kid probably pales in comparison to a lit up town square with goods in display windows or the pageantry of the downtown department store…but it’s going to beat the fuck out of the kinds of things that will be there for my son.  He (and others in/around his generation) will get a speciality department store that merits a one-time visit and then a not-so-speciality department store that pretty much looks the same as it does all year with a few superficial decorations thrown up.   Nothing that really gives a strong Christmas aura.

Hell, since were awash in entertainment options as a society we don’t even have a commonality in that anymore.   Christmas movies come out every year making last years’ irrelevant (do any of the new ones stand the course of time like Christmas Vacation?) and we don’t even have the Christmas TV specials that *everybody* watches.

While watching Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special and then going to Spencer’s Gifts in the mall may have seemed like a superficial and soulless way to mark the holiday season, at least we can say we had something that resembled a communal expression and celebration of Christmas and rituals that we all partook in.   I just don’t think the same opportunities even exist at the same level as they did a generation ago.

It’s something I’ll have to keep in mind going forward.   If we want him to have holidays with meaning beyond a day of presents and gluttony, we will have to do the work of building ritual into it ourselves.   Target and Bass Pro Shops* won’t do it for us.

* I did really enjoy my visit there.

Sweden – Liberal Utopia to Liberal Dystopia

It seems like about 15-20 years ago you would hear Sweden brought up all the time as an example of how things *could* be.   Liberals loved to cite their socialized medicine, universal education, social security, top notch schools, rehabilitation-based justice system, environmental measures and their status as a humanitarian superpower…all while having one of the highest standards of living in the world.

Sweden’s success stood in contrast to all the bad things that Republicans/conservatives said would happen if the United States went down the democratic socialism route.   In the eyes of liberals Sweden was pretty much a utopia and the gold standard of how things ought to be in the world.

Today all I hear is bad things coming out of Sweden – examples of neoliberalism gone nuts. The rate of immigration from the third world is such that (combined with a low native Swedish birthrate) Sweden has another generation or so before it’s a majority non-Swedish place.   Moreover, Sweden has one of the highest (if not the highest) sexual assault rates in the developed world and there’s a direct correlation between this and the massive influx of migrants.   The Swedish government and media seems to be working in tandem to bring about Orwellian measures to silence any dissent against the “new Sweden” the elites are working on.

It seems like every week there’s a new story of some kind of insanity coming out of Sweden, like distributing bracelets that say “don’t rape me” as a way to curb sexual assault or someone in a position of power making a statement along the lines that native Swedes need to change and adapt to the migrants instead of the other way around.  There’s been reports of very, very young school children learning about homosexuality and fetishes from a sexual standpoint (I don’t think “hey, these people exist and this is what makes them different” is wrong but learning about *how* they have sex and explaining fetishes probably   crosses a line at that age)

It’s lead to a backlash within Sweden as the right-leaning Swedish Democrats pick up steam in electoral politics and metapolitically we see a lot of alt-right action coming out of Sweden with Red Ice Radio, The Golden One, Northern Brothers and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.    On that note, I should add that dissent from the mainstream narrative isn’t very popular in Sweden due to their natural communal and non-conformist disposition.

Anyways, there’s been an article floating around the internet saying that a UN report deems that Sweden will be a third world country by 2030.    Honestly, the figures are a little misleading but it’s undeniable that Sweden is slipping in national HDI (Human Development Index) and other social and economic markers.

All of this begs the simple question – why????

Why would Swedes willingly sacrifice the ability to pass their high-functioning and prosperous society to the next generation as they knew it?   It blows my mind.   I understand some immigration as pretty much everyone else is doing it too.   I understand that you can make some allowances for sexual liberation in a very high-trust society – but why would you jeopardize all of this especially if your country serves as a beacon of hope for all the ideals you hold dear?    It doesn’t exactly make people want to embrace neoliberalism/social democracy when the result is a police state where your daughter/wife has a good chance of getting raped by migrants.

I don’t really feel I’m wedded to any particular political/economic system, so I won’t write Sweden’s <pending> failure up to socialism.   In fact, I think socialism worked great for Sweden because it was a homogenous high trust society – everyone was pretty much on the same page culturally and the wealth gap wasn’t as inherently large as it is in other places like the US.

I will chalk it up to shortsightedness and a generation’s desire for “good feelings” over a responsibility to their progeny.   There’s maybe a Faustian desire for social justice here that will cause Sweden to ultimately lose all of the things that made Sweden, well, a leader in social justice.

In ten or fifteen years when Sweden’s welfare system begins to implode to any meaningful degree and the level of progressivism drops to accommodate the “new Swedes”, will American liberals still point and say “Well, in Sweden they do it like this….”

I doubt it.

Finally, I should add that I don’t necessarily blame the average Swede for Sweden’s predicament.   Like I said, they have a very communal and conformist culture that leads them into more nurturing roles (i.e. “let’s save the world!”) and less likely to dissent from the “general consensus”.  I think these traits are both admirable to varying extents, but again will probably create a destruction of that high-trust society that is required to keep Sweden Swedish.

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