Thursday, October 16, 2014

Burn Rate (Cost of Living)

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. During the "Great Depression" of the 1930s, if you lived on a farm out in the country (excepting the Dust Bowl), you probably wouldn't have noticed. You would have everything you need to get by right there: crops, animals, milk, firewood, etc. Many family farms didn't even have money, but they got by.

But now in an urban or suburban environment, think about how much money you need just to exist. When you get paid, before you've even gone out to spend anything, you have to account for things like the following:

Benefits (Health, Dental, Vision, Disability, etc)
Taxes (Federal, State, Social Security, Mediwhatever)
Retirement contribution
Car registration
Car payment
Car insurance
Rent or mortgage (mortgage could include PMI)
Renters or homeowners insurance
Cell phone bill
Cable or FIOS bill

And many more depending on your preferences and situation. Like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, subscriptions to magazines and so on.

This is before you've bought a single grocery. Before you've bought beer or gone out to eat.

It's amazing how much it costs simply to be alive in America (and probably other countries).

ROK: The Supreme Importance of Having A Den

Aaron Cleary (aka Capt. Capitalism) has a post up at Return of Kings about the importance of a man having a den or study.

He is absolutely correct.

Aaron also addressed the "man cave", a concept I believe he and I are similar in opinion to. I can't stand the concept of a man cave. I am not a primate. When people ask me if I have a man cave, I want to respond "No, because I'm not an idiot". I addressed the man cave in this post:

Whenever people ask me if I have a "man cave", I try to figure out the most polite way to say "No, because I'm not a flipping retard. Do you have a man cave? Should I talk slower? Should I just point and grunt? It's very nice of your wife to be so gracious and give you a shelf in your own house to put your football on. How kind of her."

A study is sacred, and I miss mine. In my house, I had a room upstairs that functioned as my study. I had a Cape Cod style house with a finished, dormered attic. My walls sloped down, but that was MY space. I kept my computer desk and equipment and all my books up there. I had a recliner I could sit in to read. I had a work light so I could do soldering and take computers apart or fix my children's broken toys. I miss it.

In the basement I was renting in my geo-bachelor days, I had a part set up as a study. I currently share a two bedroom apartment with my new wife and stepson, so all I have is part of a table in what shows up on the floorplan as the "dining room". But I make it work.

Like Aaron says, a study (or den) is a sacred place where a man can go to think, work, and do great things. My ideal study has dark wood (probably cherry oak) furniture, lots of bookshelves, a computer desk and a table where I can spread out books or other projects I'm working on. A nice chair to sit in while I read.

I will have it someday.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

I Should Have Read Ender's Game A Long Time Ago

I've know about Orson Scott Card for a long time, but until three weeks ago, I'd only read one of his books. He wrote the novelization for "The Abyss", which I read back in high school. I liked that movie at the time. I watched it at the Imax theater in San Antonio, where Ed Harris' bald spot was over three stories tall in one shot.

I found The Abyss book at a book store. Up to that point, I hadn't read a good novelization of a movie. I found out why. I tend to read the Author's Notes, Preface, and Introduction in books. I can sometimes learn interesting things from them. Card wrote in the book how when a movie is novelized, the novel is often based on an early version of a script. The script changes as the movie production goes along. Card refused to turn out a crappy book, so he was able to get a late delivery date and worked closely with the production crew to ensure his book matched the movie as close as possible. And he did a great job. You could almost follow the movie exactly with his book open.

I knew the Ender's Game movie came out recently, and I kept seeing the book on lists of "books men should read" on manosphere blogs. I finally bought it and read it. I finished it in three days.

It was a very enjoyable read. Ender strikes me as a messianic figure, as in he was born to do what he did in the book: command the fleet as a preteen boy.

The book had an interesting premise, especially considering it was written in the 70's or 80's originally. A slightly militaristic society only allows families to have one or two children, who are then tested almost from birth for military ability. Ender's older brother and sister failed out of the program, so his parents were permitted to have a "third" in the hopes he would be the one qualified for the fleet.

Ender becomes the one. He is given a test of rejection where his monitor is removed, leaving him to believe he was rejected for military service. He is attacked by a bully, and when he wins the fight, decides he needs to win all the future fights too so he won't have to fight them. He beats the boy mercilessly so he will never be bothered again. The Fleet decides that's what they want.

Ender is taken for military training, where he is pushed hard. He is unknowingly forced into isolation so he believes he will always be on his own. He is left to figure things out for himself, and to build relationships that eventually evolve into followers who trust him implicitly as their leader.

I was talking to a coworker about the book recently. He said it was required reading when he was a young Marine officer. He said he didn't like the ending, because "Ender wasn't a patriot at the end. They had to fool him into commanding the battles."

I thought about that for a while, and that's when I realized that statement is exactly what makes Ender such a great character, and Card a great writer.

This is the way war works: you have to dehumanize the enemy. Look at history; at what has to happen within a population for wars to take place. Especially wars in faraway places. Perhaps it's easier to get Germany to invade France. Here in America, it took a lot of propaganda to drag this country into WWI and WWII. In WWI, there was a ton of propaganda about how the Hun (German) would bayonet babies and was just a cruel, evil monster. Look at cartoons from WWII; like the Popeye cartoon with him fighting the Japanese caricature in a submarine. He kept popping out saying "So solly!"

In order to mobilize a population for war, you have to convince them that the enemy is evil. The enemy isn't human; he has no feelings, no family, no barbecues, no goals in life. No future. The enemy is an inhuman killing machine, so we have to get in there and kill him so he can't kill us.

Ender had such an enemy, but even in his case, it wasn't that simple. Nobody thinks of himself as evil. That's Hollywood bullshit.

In Ender's case, the enemy was an ant-like species. It had queens, and the rest of the bugs just followed orders. When the queen died, the troops just stopped.

Ender, in addition to being a great strategic thinker, was also able to think for himself outside of strategy. He was able to ask questions like "What are they thinking?" "What do they want?"

Ender's enemy had a motivation: their planet was overpopulated and they needed more room. But they couldn't communicate with humans. There was no apparent way for either species to sit down and talk and maybe find a solution besides war. This I find a great premise in science fiction. The Star Trek Universal Translator would not work here.

He did what was required of him. He won that battle, and all future battles, so they would never have to be fought. Of course, this was at the price of genocide. Ender had to be tricked into this though. His superiors couldn't see past "We have to kill him before he kills us!"

I think, rather than being an "Ooh-rah! Kill, kill, kill!" patriot, this is the strength of Ender's character.  If Ender had been that two dimensional, it wouldn't have been as good a book.

Unlike my coworker (whom I shared this with, and he said he'd have to think about it for a while), I thought the ending was very powerful. The enemy had found a way to communicate; through Ender. They enemy told him "We tried to colonize your planet, but once we realized you were an intelligent species, we couldn't kill you off. So we never came back. We understand why you had to do what you did, and we forgive you."

So rather than a two dimensional killing machine, the enemy, like Ender, was intelligent and complex. But they suffered from the same communication problem. So after it was too late, Ender became the bridge. I assume this is part of the messianic nature to his character. Ender is also the means to bring back the bug species; again, a messianic theme. Redemption and recreation.

I can see more clearly why this book would be required reading for the military. (Starship Troopers is on the Navy's Professional Reading List). Although Starship Troopers truly does feature a two dimensional enemy. (I don't quite get the "skinnies". They don't seem to serve much purpose).

So, I should have read this book back in high school. It is a very good read.

You can buy Ender's Game here. It's a great book.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Marketing Terms I Can't Believe People Still Fall For

A brief glance at my junk mail inspired this post.

Final Notice

A green, postcard size piece of card stock. It even has the text on the address side "WARNING $2000 FINE, 5 YEARS IMPRISONMENT..." and all kinds of other bad stuff "FOR OBSTRUCTING DELIVERY OF THIS LETTER". That's too bad. Obstructing delivery of this crap would be doing me a favor.

On the back, it says I've been selected for a credit card hardship program. Right. More like targeted. I have one credit card at 7.9% APR. I've never seen a better rate; not even from the same credit union I've had that card with since 1994. Oh, sure I can get 0% for six months, then it goes up to 20%. I reject this for the same reason I object Comcast's "Get all our stuff for $79 for a year (with a two year contract.)!" I'm not taking a special rate just to get locked into a worse one later.

Back to the junk mail. So let me get this straight: This is my FINAL NOTICE, that I will NEVER AGAIN get an offer to refinance my 7.9% APR Visa card at 30%?

If only. I get 3-5 of these a week. I wish just one of them would be honest that this is the final notice I will ever get about this crap.


Of course. It's in one of those 3 sided perforated envelopes you'd get a check in, but it's not in the shape of a check so I know it's bullshit. But rather than ripping it up and throwing it away, I'll open it so I can rant about it.

This one is for some debt negotiation service. No thanks. Their rates would be far higher than anything I'm currently paying.

I wish they'd just rip these things up on their end and throw them away. Now I have to walk to the trash can, which really isn't worth the effort for this junk mail crap.

You will never see this offer again!

This one tends to come through email. I get it all the time, from the same people. And yet, within less than a week, I'm told I will never again see the same offer I was told I'd never again see last week.

Do people seriously believe and fall for this crap? I guess they must. If there was no money in it, nobody would do it.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Spreadsheet Sex Guy And Frigidity

A month or two ago, a story broke in the "manosphere" about a guy who created a spreadsheet to track a month worth of trying to initiate sex with his wife and her refusals. They apparently did it 3 times within the month, but for the rest of the time, she refused for various reasons such as "I need a shower", which he reports she didn't take until morning. Also, needing to watch a rerun of some vapid sitcom. I think it was Friends.

She took off on a 10 day business trip. He emailed the spreadsheet to her work account, then went radio silent. I don't think anybody knows how it worked out in the end. She posted the spreadsheet to Reddit, didn't get the exact pity she may have been looking for, and pulled it. But it was too late.

That brought back a lot of memories for me. It also gave me a bit of a struggle. As a Christian, I probably shouldn't advocate divorce, but in our current culture, and after what I went through, I'm very tempted to say that men should freely and unapologetically divorce frigid and nagging women. No man should ever have to put up with that shit, and that kind of woman probably deserves to be divorced.

We get a lot of mixed messages in this meme. Both Churchianity and game tell you if your wife is nagging and frigid, it's your fault. If you were either a better Christian man or better at game, you wouldn't have this problem.

This of course seems to remove a woman's moral agency.

But doesn't she make her own choices? Doesn't she have responsibility for her own actions?

She made a marriage commitment. That commitment wasn't "I take you to blah blah blah until you start being a beta or I judge you to not be worthy." But in this paradigm, she's simply a bit player with no ability other than to react to her perception of your worth. She has no responsibility to her commitment (which I speculated women have trouble with).

I doubt any woman starts out in life planning "I'm going to reel some guy in, then turn into an ungrateful, unforgiving, cold hearted, nagging, cheating, frigid bitch!" But sadly, many do. And the claim that they can't help it because you're a beta or not a good Churchian husband only makes me think they shouldn't be allowed to make decisions, either for marriage or divorce. If they're so blown by those winds, maybe they should have an appointed guardian to make their decisions.

Let's break things down. Too many people, especially women, think that marriage is about love. But the feeling they ascribe to love is really infatuation. Once they infatuation goes away, they think they don't feel love anymore. And so, it's time to end the marriage.

Marriage isn't really about love though. At its heart, marriage is a contract.

Why would you enter into a contract with somebody who is incapable of fulfilling it? If you need work done on your house, would you hire a contractor who would stop showing up and stop doing the job because he perceived you to not be good at understanding the project? He just takes the money and leaves because he thinks you're not good at game, and the courts are OK with this?

Hopefully not.

So the lesson is, avoid women who can't fulfill the marriage contract. Marriage is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make in life, and if it goes wrong, it can have disastrous consequences. It can hinder your economic viability. Believe me; I'm living this.

Also, sex is part of that contract, even if only implied. What man, in his right mind, is going to enter into a marriage contract to not have sex? I suppose it's not a right mind thing though. It's not like women come with a warning on their foreheads that says "I'm sweet and like you now, but within 5 years I'm going to turn into a cold hearted, ungrateful, nagging, cheating, frigid bitch because you ain't got game."

Saturday, October 04, 2014

LVMi: Sports Stadiums are Temples to Crony Capitalism

I've never been much for sports. I have tried over the years, but just cannot get myself to care. The fastest way to get me to leave a room is to start talking about a football game. It bores the crap out of me.

I've also seen over the years how professional sports rape the taxpaying fans (and non-fans, like me). Every time a team decides it needs a new stadium, they get the taxpayer to pay for it.

I remember living in San Antonio during high school. (I went to John Jay, which since became one of the first schools to force student to wear RFID tags to be tracked at all times.) Henry Cisneros was mayor at the time. He decided they needed a sports stadium. He jacked the city sales tax up to 9% as one of the efforts to pay for it. The Alamo Dome was built. I'm not sure if it's still called the Alamo Dome or if it's since been renamed after a bailed out megabank like all the rest. I could look it up, but that implies I care and I don't.

San Antonio was shot down for an NFL team halfway through construction, but they used the stadium for other events.

During my time in South Jersey, pretty much every Philly team demanded and got a new taxpayer funded stadium built for them. Then they jacked up ticket prices and banned bringing in any snacks so you have to pay their outrageous prices in the stadium. Good thing I don't go to games because I don't care about sports. I've never understood why sports fans tolerate this crap though.

LVMi has a blog post about the NFL and Crony Capitalism. I knew the NFL got all kinds of taxpayer funded benefits, but I didn't realize they were completely tax exempt.

I've also never understood why people who whine incessantly about how CEOs are way overpaid never seem to whine about the insane wealth of celebrities, politicians, sports stars, and the NFL itself. They also seem OK with the incredible wealth of people they approve of, like Warren Buffet. But if they don't like you, your wealth is wrong.

Spot The Fallacies This Political Season

As we move into election season in the United States, not only is my blood pressure going up, I'm finding new ways to flex my intellectual muscles.

The other night, my wife was watching TV, and a political commercial came on.

I work very hard to avoid commercials. I tend to go to Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube for my entertainment. If I absolutely must watch a show on Comcast, I use On Demand. I consider commercials an intellectual wasteland not worthy of my time. Occasionally I will see a commercial that is amusing, but I'm more likely to see a unicorn surfing a rainbow. And even the rare amusing commercial gets incredibly old.

One problem I have with Hulu is you have to watch commercials, but Hulu is where South Park currently resides, so I endure. At least when watching On Demand, you can fast forward. Not so on Hulu. So, I use the mute button. There is one commercial on Hulu about Buick. People keep saying "That's a Buick? I can't believe that's a Buick!" to which I shout at the TV "It has a Buick logo, you morons!"

So back to the commercial that inspired this blog post. It was for a hot button political issue that I will anonymize, because this post isn't about that issue; it's about the underlying logical fallacies the commercial committed.

The portion I overheard, which caused me to look up from the book I was reading, was "<certain political party> wants to overturn <certain Supreme Court decision>." The rest of the commercial talked about how bad this could be and why the other political party MUST win to keep this Supreme Court decision and the perceived benefits to society intact.

Since my rants often amuse my wife, I shouted out "Are you that f'ing stupid, or do you just think the people watching the commercial are? Congress and or the President cannot overturn a Supreme Court decision!"

I identified this as a Category Error fallacy. I believe it also fits into the "Appeal to fear" fallacy. Perhaps even "Appeal to consequences of a belief." Other fallacies it touches on are "appeal to emotion", "slippery slope", "ad hominem", and "composition".

I believe it's also ignorant of history. This certain political party has had control of the Presidency and Congress (hell, they both have, and seriously, what has actually changed?) many times since that Supreme Court decision, and that decision has remained intact for many decades. I don't think the people who believe this Supreme Court decision was the best thing to ever happen to mankind have anything to worry about.

I must redouble my efforts to avoid commercials until well after the voting day. Or maybe I should make a game out of spotting the fallacies. It's a good intellectual exercise.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Prepping Is Mainstream Now

First, I'm married again. She's a real sweet girl. Should have met her first. This blog now has two marriage epochs. Any reference to "my wife" prior to November 2013 refers to my Succubus ex-wife. Any reference to "my wife" after September 2014 refers to my new wife.

Yes, congratulations to me.

That said, my wife (post Sep 14) came home tonight. I mentioned an article I was reading about how the dollar could be dead in 6 months. It's a topic I follow. With almost 18 Trillion in national debt and the bailed out megabanks with insane levels of exposure to derivatives relative to their actual assets, we could easily be screwed at any moment.

Or who knows; maybe somehow this could hang on for a few more years, but math indicates a day of reckoning has to come.

Her response?

"Yeah, we were talking about preparedness at work today."

It amazes me that a topic that a few years ago would get you accused of being a "kook" or "conspiracy theorist" is suddenly on everybody's mind.

Next thing you know, the man on the street will be talking about Bitcoin and putting money into foreign currencies and in foreign banks.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Why I Returned to my Galaxy S3

Back in January, I was due for a phone upgrade. I was a Windows Mobile user way back, and had my fill of the platform. Although there were a lot of developers creating great applications for the platform, Windows Mobile itself was unstable and unreliable. The Samsung Epix was my last straw, to the point where I sold a few things and begged money from my dad to get an iPhone 3G, which I paid full price for as I was out of cycle for an upgrade.

I had a total of 3 iPhones. Then I got a Galaxy S3 last year.

Late last year, a coworker got a Nokia phone with Windows Phone 8 on it. He was happy with it. I thought it would be a good time to return to the Windows platform, which integrates well with Windows 8.1 on PCs and tablets.

And it truly does. Microsoft FINALLY put out a good phone OS. I got the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1, which I'm still running on that phone.

However, it's less than ideal. While the platform itself is well built and stable, the script is now flipped. Instead of Windows Mobile which absolutely sucked but had good developer support, I find Windows Phone to be great but has poor developer support.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, it's the apps that make the platform. Your phone itself can have the best, most stable operating system around, but without apps, it's limited.

I call Windows "The Forgotten Platform". Developers have largely forgotten it. Some, such as Web IS, refuse to develop for it entirely. Their Pocket Informant was my favorite app on Windows Mobile. Not going to happen for Windows Phone. Similar for MyLifeOrganized and Nozbe.

I use Waze heavily. Waze has not had an update in over 6 months. Amazon released a Kindle app for Windows Phone, but it sucks. You can't highlight or make notes in books, and while it can retrieve your place from the server, it won't save your place back to the server. The same problem exists in Kindle for Windows 8, which likewise hasn't been updated since October of 2013. Meanwhile, Kindle for iOS and Android have had multiple updates and is a joy to use on both platforms.

I'm also a heavy podcast user, but there is not a single useable podcast app for Windows Phone 8. I did find a free one that offered variable playback speed, but it can't import. The native podcast app suffers from the same problem, and is limited to its own catalog, which doesn't have more than half of the podcasts I listen to. Even when I enter the URL manually, it can't find it because it only looks in its own catalog. Since I got the Windows Phone back in January, I've had to keep my Galaxy S3 around just to listen to podcasts.

Additionally, the phone I chose, a Nokia 920, has a horrible battery life. I'm forced to run in Battery Saver mode all the time unless I want my phone to be dead in under 3 hours. This limits operation.

So yesterday, I swapped my SIM card back into my Galaxy S3. Now I only have to carry one phone with me.

One strong positive to the Windows Phone is it integrates well with Microsoft Sync in my car. It will read my texts to me while I'm driving. However, the voice recognition flat out sucks, so I can't dictate responses like I could on the Galaxy.

I'll probably get one of the new iPhones when they come out later this year. I'm running the Yosemite beta on my MacBook Pro, and iOS 8 is supposed to integrate well on it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Serenity Prayer You Know Is New Age Bullshit

While I was in the Navy, I took part in a 4 week program that included some counseling and other "self-esteem" activities. It got me off the ship for 4 weeks.

While there, I learned a concept most of us have heard called "The Serenity Prayer":
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I also learned an addition which I incorporated myself:

And the apathy to not give a shit.

I used to listen to Mark Passio's podcast. It's generally informative, but he gets very repetitive and argumentative on some topics. I eventually got tired of his militant tirades in favor of vegetarianism. I also have to evaluate how I spent my time with my podcasts, and the time spent on Passio's for the value I got lost out. Whenever Passio produces some exceptional content, Richard Grove usually puts it into his "Peace Revolution" podcast.

One such exceptional piece was Passio's presentation "New Age Bullshit And the Suppression of the Sacred Masculine." In exchange for seven hours of your time (totally worth it) you can watch the presentation here:

This is where I was introduced to the original serenity prayer, before it was dumbed down and pussified. "The courage to change the things I can" sounds really weak, doesn't it?

The original (cited by Passio) is:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

The courage to change the things which should be changed, I think, is a much better attitude about life. Far too many of us use the excuse "well, I can't change that, so I'll just have to accept it." This perspective absolves you of that excuse. If it should be changed, then get it changed.