“Don’t Fear The Reaper” Dreams

Preface: I’m afraid I approach journaling in much the same way as meditating – I know it’s productive and I should do it regularly …and yet somehow neglect consistently making time for it.

One part of a good journaling habit should include writing down your dreams as soon as you wake. So this is me trying to do that while explaining what a strange mind I live within… except, of course, this isn’t really journaling, which is something you do knowing no one will read it but yourself. This is …something else.
[yeah duh – it’s called blogging. -Ed.]

I often seem to wake up with earworms these days, usually songs from the 70’s.

See, I’ve been working on sleep hygiene this past year. One of the benefits of succeeding is that I’m getting more uninterrupted sleep. Consequently, I’m dreaming more …or at least remembering my dreams more. That makes for some unexpected entertainment.

The inside of my skull, as it turns out, is an even weirder place to be than I knew.

Some of my dreams are recurring. Apparently, that’s not unusual. But these days they’re sometimes serial. Like an ongoing story. Those are the coolest ones to remember upon waking because they come with this satisfying sense of continuity.

One series of dreams, including last night’s, begins with my wife and I having bought a new home.

That I dream about this is easily explained; we have been engaged in ongoing downsizing efforts with questionable success (we keep buying too much house and then want to downsize more or change locations within a year or two).

In the dream we’re in a new home and doing some renovating. This is bizarro world because only in my dreams (nightmares!) am I interested in being a DIY’er and doing my own renovating! The room is all white – unfinished, sanded drywall, drywall dust covering the floor, daylight filtered by white dust on the windows. Even our clothes’ are dusted white. What furniture and other boxy items still remain in the room are covered in white sheets (because, um, I guess that’s what you do when renovating?).

If you remember when MTV actually played music videos (before MTV killed the video star), it feels like one of those sets.

This is where the dream takes the outlandish twist that makes remembering these dreams so much fun.

Working with us on this home renovation are several long-haired dudes. As it turns out, they’re the band Blue Oyster Cult. As far as I know, I don’t think about BOC much these days. But that hasn’t stopped them from invading my slumber.

At some point in the dream, I realize there’s an additional person in the room. I have the sense this shadow person is famous, but I don’t recognize them. This too is easily explained; I’m kind of face blind and am never the guy who’d spot and then identify a celebrity in the wild. When I see someone – even someone familiar to me – in an unfamiliar context it always takes me a few ticks longer to recognize them than it probably should.

Some indeterminate moments later (time passing in dreams being what it is), the band members look to each other inquiringly, give mutual nods, and one of them asks the celebrity if they’re ready. After some apparent trepidation, sometimes a little cajoling or encouragement from the band, the VIP acquiesces and take hold of a mic stand that’s materialized for them. I notice the band members now have their instruments (apparently they were under the white sheets, along with the stacks of amps that are now visible?).

Moments later the familiar, slow building interlude to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (album version!) begins. That famous BOC guitar riff ripples through my dream room. Then the guest singer begins to sing …but they’re always singing completely new words to the song. In this ongoing dream series, BOC has turned “Don’t Fear the Reaper” into an endlessly lengthening song, with the band (and apparently me and my wife) conveying to specially chosen celebrities the immortality of having been graced with the right to add to new verses to the “official” version of this classic rock anthem.

So much cooler than just doing a cover of someone’s song, yeah?

Then I wake up with an earworm that’s likely to last much of the day. Damn me if I can ever remember those new words that were added to this classic, though, alas.

“Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don’t be afraid…”


Non-Dream Fun fact: You could go to Youtube and begin listening to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” covers and never finish. There are a lot of them. Many are quite excellent. And they’re being added faster than you can play them all the way through.*

* I just made that last bit up. …but it might actually be true! 😉

So, You Have Yacht Fantasies…

Boat drinks!

For much of my adult life that was my favorite toast. It spoke to the dream of one day exiting the rat race, able to afford the kind of boat you’d want to live aboard (at least for moderate periods of time). More recently it became the siren song toward haven, the vehicle by which one might leave the COVID-ridden and politically-rabid masses far behind. Island hopping around the tropics became the fantasy route toward escaping the hordes of cell-phone zombies shambling around our sidewalks and motorways.

Anchored off exotic shores, as the fantasy went, we’d sip fancy concoctions saturated with rum or tequila while luxuriating in everchanging views filled with expanses of soft white beaches lapped gently by crystalline, aquamarine waters and drenched in the golden sunlight. “Boat drinks!” didn’t just refer to those sugary libations; it encapsulated the entire dream.

Years passed. We got older. Warm nourishing sunlight transmogrified into potentially deadly, damaging UV. Still the fantasy thrived! Boat drinks!

But sail-powered catamarans are slow, ungainly, and fit only for a narrow range of weather conditions. Conversely, anything powered by diesel engines is loud, smelly, and requires constant refueling, servicing, and other maintenance. Such hassles were at odds with our carefree Boat drinks! fantasy.

So, when a friend forwarded an article about a new solar-powered catamaran, the Silent 55, built by Silent Yachts, my imagination fired up. Hmmm …Boat drinks? Finally?

The images and lifestyle were tantalizing. I became entranced. For weeks I was awash with visions of ocean-going freedom, swishing through the Caribbean from island to island at whim, spending a week here, a week there, anchoring for lazy days off breathtaking tropical beaches or secluded island coves. Basically, living la vida boat drinks…

It sounds awesome to just say “I’m going island hopping around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean …and may even cross the Atlantic and cruise around the Mediterranean!” But while no one would say age has taught me wisdom, it’s at least nudged me enough to take a second look before leaping. What, I had to ask, would small yacht ownership actually involve from one hour to the next (assuming, of course, that I had the ducats to drop onto a pretty, white, ocean-going Tesla)?

Thus began my deep dive down the small yacht ownership rabbit hole. Like many, I started with immersion into Youtube’s yacht review channels. Of course, they’re mostly sunshine and moonbeams. That’s because “first glance” (SEO optimized!) content is mostly marketing, often produced by third parties who are rarely disinterested or unbiased in their reviews.

Now, playing the game with me, my wife and I decided if we were going to live aboard a boat, it would have to be a catamaran. We liked the idea of some stability in our “new home.” And we liked the space. It’s not for nothing that couples who’ve lived aboard their boats say, “You lose 100 sq ft of space for every week you spend aboard together.” We figured we’d better start with a LOT of space or somewhere around week three of this island hopping fantasy one of us was likely to begin typing out “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”

Then I graduated into investigation of what catamaran ownership and, more importantly, use, would be like on a day-in-day-out basis. This required some pointed questions, sometimes to sales people, sometimes to caretaker/captains on a boat in a marina, once or twice to strangers that I found living aboard their boats. Gradually, I teased out the reality of living some part of your year aboard a 42-60 foot catamaran.

During this period, while still getting the rose-colored lenses knocked out of my spectacles, I went even deeper. Even though the smallest boat that Silent Yachts recommends (their Silent 60) was too expensive for fit into our fantasy budget, that didn’t stop my wife and me driving from Naples, FL to Key West to check out an early-production version of a Silent 55. When the Silent Yachts ambassador/boat captain asked if we’d like to go out for a short sea trial, how could we say no?

Even though everything about the newer-generation Silent 60’s is bigger, better fitted, and more impressive in every way than that older Silent 55’s, we came away seriously wowed. That 55′ cat impressed! She slid through the water. She was smooth, quiet, and stable. Best of all, her 10-12kw solar panels rendered her pretty much independent of any need for shore-based electrical power. Not only did she produce enough electricity to run all your creature comfort appliances, she could make more fresh water per day than you’d ever be likely to need. All without any need to even run the generator that the boat comes with, just in case you want more speed/range on a cloudy day than the batteries have range.

From a “hassles” perspective, unlike the 50-to-100 hour service intervals of diesel powered engines in a salty environment, the powertrain service requirement of the Silent Yachts electric drive train was — and this is crazy — a maintenance free 100,000 hours!

Dinosaur-powered yachts are completely tethered to marinas. Solar powered yachts? Not so much!

Boat drinks!

Now this, I thought as we powered soundlessly through an off-shore chop at an easy 16 knots, was a boat built for that live-aboard, island-hopping fantasy! You could anchor offshore even on a slightly overcast day and run your A/C, your refrigerator, your oven, and your washer/dryer when necessary. No marina power hook-up required. No scrimping on creature comforts that way boats requiring diesel generators for power demanded. And none of their attendant noise. Clean, quiet, endless electricity. Like the yachting equivalent of finding Shangri-la!

Still, I dug deeper.

Alas, that’s where the fantasy began to unravel.

Here, gentle dreamer, are some of the admittedly first world problems of owning a 55’+ catamaran in and around Florida.

When you have a boat of this size, you need to keep it somewhere! (Duh!)
Once you get into the 48-55′ range and up, a big catamaran’s beam — its width — begins to make finding slip space challenging if not impossible. How challenging? I pretended I was taking delivery of such a behemoth in a few months and spent a half-day calling around looking for a place to berth my new boat. Only two marinas in Florida (including the Keys) had ANY slip space available. Neither of those offered particularly open access to the ocean — you had a bit of a cruise through a canal network to get to any open water. Neither allowed you to live aboard your vessel. So much for THAT aspect of the fantasy! Now we’d have to find space for the boat AND still maintain a condo down here, somewhere. That hurt our fantasy budget!

When you can find a slip wide enough for your cat’s big-ass beam, it turns out they’re pretty fuckin’ expensive, costing upwards of several thousand dollars a month “rent.” In some marinas (i.e, those near places you’d be interested in living), you buy title to the slip. They cost upward of $100,000 to $200,000 or more, when they’re available. And they *still* have add’l monthly fees, kind of like buying a condo. Basically, in the nicer marinas boat slips are like real estate and the good ones are like waterfront property — scarce and expensive. Another ding to our fantasy budget! Ouch!

Slip scarcity impacts other aspects of the Boat drinks! fantasy, too. In my case, the dream naively included a component where once we’d bought our boat, we would move up and down the coasts of Florida, out to the Keys, and even all the way over to the eastern Caribbean (Martinique, anyone?) following our whims and the weather. The reality looked more like: You will live wherever you can find a slip for your boat, if you can, and whether you’re interested in that area or not.

Then there’s the additional nomad-crushing reality that for most people who’re no longer footloose and fancy-free twenty-somethings, if you’re going to live somewhere, we really need at least a semi-permanent anchorage (so Amazon delivery drivers can find us!). Worst case, this means an anchor buoy in a marina field somewhere, in which case one accepts having to hop in and start up the cat’s 8-12′ outboard tender into the marina or some other dock every time you want to go ashore — not something that’ll always be fun at night or during a storm. Or one rents an actual slip, which is much more convenient …and expensive.

Now, this arrive-and-find-vacancy fantasy can kind of work …for any reasonably-sized, single-hull cruiser. It even kind of works, though less reliably for catamarans under 44′ (with beams under 22′). Many marinas, if not necessarily the most choice ones, seem to frequently have slips available for transient boats that short and that narrow. But once you get over 50′ in length and especially once your beam exceeds 22-23′, slip space becomes rarer than hens teeth. The island hopping fantasy becomes a logistical goat rope. Trip planning becomes a function of trying to find future space for your boat in a here-and-now service industry not known for making promises about future availability. In most marinas very few slips, and almost no very large slips, are kept “free” for transient, short-term or seasonal rentals.

Maybe once one becomes a boat owner and learns some secret handshake, this slip-availability landscape changes, but…

That wide beam creates other challenges, too.
When you have a boat with that wide a beam, there are only two marinas in FL that even have the capability to pull your boat out of the water. As one might imagine, that can be a problem anytime anything more than a cat 3 hurricane heads your way. But guess what? That’s not the only time you need to pull your boat out of the water!

What an education this turned out to be.

With warming water temps and other environmental changes, a boat left in Florida waters these days has to have its hull scraped free of barnacles and mussels by a diver EVERY week during the warm months and every couple weeks during cooler winter months! That’s about $500-$700 per scraping for a large catamaran. But wait, there’s more!

Because the hull must be scraped so often, the boat must be pulled completely out of the water annually to get the bottom of the boat refinished. That service typically runs $7000 – $10,000. Or more. Not counting the time, expense, and hassle of moving your big-ass cat to the one of two places where it can be serviced, and then back again whenever it’s done. Oh, and were you living aboard? Find somewhere else to live while this is being done, my friend.

Oh, and it’s not just the bottom of the boat that requires frequent maintenance, of course. Salt sea air is corrosive. And the dew fall (and near-daily rain, during some seasons in the tropics) on and around shore is coming through air pollution, of course. That leaves black water spot rings on your shiny white boat. It’s also a roosting place (or bombing target) for waterfowl now and then. So it needs to be washed down pretty much every other day. Stem to stern. And the metal work should be wiped down, often with some protectant to prevent corrosion (even with anodized or “stainless” steel fittings, because down here, stainless steel …isn’t). Teak needs to be oiled. Rubber fittings need to be treated. There’s more, but you get the picture.

Naïve me never figured Jim Croce’s “Working At The Car Wash Blues” would factor so prominently in my Boat drinks! fantasy!

Then there’s the whole “sewage” thing…
One question we had was, what the heck do we do with all our fecal goodness (aka “fish food” 😁) on a day-to-day basis or while island hopping?

One of the yacht “veterans” I spoke to told us there’s no dumping of “black water” (sewage from the toilet) or “gray water” (waste water down the boat’s various drains) within 100 miles of shore. That turned out to be erroneous, so it must have been an eco-religious thing with him. Regardless, you only have about 130 gallons of waste storage tank volume even on a large cat. So that means having your sewage pumped, constantly, if you’re living aboard your boat in a marina. Especially if you’re entertaining guests and have 4-6 people aboard instead of just two. And it’s worse if you serve a lot of Mexican food… So that regulation seemed constraining. But reality vs. fantasy? All those days and nights we dreamed about, laying at anchor off tropical beaches or in secluded coves have to be broken up with constant shuttles into the nearest marina to get your shit pumped. Yay.

Further research indicated that the law around the US only limits waste water dumping within 3 miles (not 100 miles!) of shore and coastal waterways or NDZ’s (Non-dumping zones). I also found that many boats come with onboard sewage treatment facilities. So this may or may not be a major hassle, depending on the boat’s outfitting and how much time is planned out at sea. Whether you even have the ability to dump sewage at sea or must instead have it pumped out of a holding tank depends on the kind of MSD (Marine Sanitation Device) the boat has installed. It’s an important consideration!

Okay, so in our fantasy, we actually have the money for the boat and all the attendant expenses and, seemingly unlike almost EVERYONE ELSE who owns a boat in every marina we visited, we’re actually going to use ours. A lot. What does that really mean? Because the distances between islands can often take 2-5 days to traverse in this area. The answer?

Days at sea filled with beautiful …glaring boredom (occasionally interrupted by drudgery)!

That dreamy view, for days on end…

Large, luxury boats these days come with autopilots that make course plotting easy peasy. There’s only one problem with using them in and around Florida and many Caribbean islands. There are shoals everywhere, including many surprisingly far offshore. Some shoals are only problems during low tide. Course plotters and auto-pilots don’t know to route you around waters that may be too shallow for your boat at times. It’s stunning to neophytes how much water around Florida and the Keys, especially around marinas, is only 3-5′ deep …or less. Most of these small yachts draw almost 4′. There’s little margin for error. Straying from a channel means a scraped or splintered hull, a fouled or bent prop, a long wait for a towing service, and an expensive repair (which can be a real problem if there’s nowhere nearby that can pull your big-ass beam out of the water. So the wary, “watch the charts and stick religiously to channel markers anywhere near shore.” Gotcha. Seems like a blinding flash of the obvious. If all the hazards were actually marked. Some aren’t.

Crab traps and traffic, for starters!
That shallow water, even tens of miles from shore, also means that crab and lobster pots (and their marker buoys) are EVERYWHERE down here. Steering clear of them requires constant attention so you don’t snag someone’s trap and foul a prop. Also, boat traffic is heavy in this part of the world, especially in winter. So while the boat is underway, someone has to be watching for other traffic and steering the right-of-way adjustments ALL the time. If one’s fantasy went no deeper than pointing the boat in the general direction of, say, the Virgin Islands and kicking back with drinks or a good book for the next day or three while motoring along, think again. The reality is more like driving an RV down the highway…except your scenery is less diverse. Those 2-3 day crossings between islands at a meager 6-7 knots for most powered sailboats or a Silent Yacht, or even the 16-19 knots if you run the Silent Yacht’s generator, (which of course makes it a lot less silent!), mean spending most of your long days diligently scanning the expanses of water ahead of you. Because they will look empty right up until they’re suddenly not. The novelty of “being at sea” wears off fast for many people, leaving the helmsperson with hour after hour of squinting into the glare off the water, trying to spot and avoid hazards before it’s too late.

There are more caveats for boat buyers. It’s only fair that I leave some research thrills for others to discover. Besides, by now I’ve divided readers into two camps. One is thinking, “Whew! There but for the grace of God go I; now what should I put my fantasy money toward?” The other group is thinking smh, “A few little inconveniences were enough to put him off buying a yacht! What a whiny little bitch! Puh-lease!

But Dreams Die Hard.

Is the Boat drinks! fantasy as dead as my childhood dreams of being an astronaut? Fuck no! But I’d have to make shitload more money before the dream could be well and properly sated. Having one full-time crew member would change the entire picture, as long as one also abandoned the whole “live aboard full time” silliness.

But there’re other options. We grow up and realize the key is to evolve one’s dreams as we and they age. We change. Priorities change. Needs change. Dreams change, too.

Surprisingly, one can charter one of these beautiful boats in or around almost any island group one might care to visit. No, you won’t be chartering a Silent Yacht, but both sail and powered catamarans can be chartered with or without a crew for any length of time from a few days to a few weeks — plenty of time to live la vida boat drinks until your appetite is sated …and when you’re done? Hand that fiberglass maintenance headache back to to the charter company while you traipse your carefree ass back to whence you came. All the joy; none of the pain.

And you can charter a hell of a lot of boat time for fractions of the costs you’d be soaking up in depreciation and maintenance expenses, all without having a literal boatload of cash sunk <cough> in a depreciating asset.

In most places, there isn’t even any course work or certification required for you take rent one of these large catamarans. They’ll give you the instruction you need, (probably) give you some pointers about areas or shoals you should watch out for, and send you on your soon to be inebriated way (but don’t drink and drive, ofc!). Don’t even want that bit of responsibility? Charter the boat with a crew member. The advantage to that is that they’ll know the waters, the best spots to anchor, and as a matter of thumb, boat people are delightful company.

So, boat drinks?

Hell yeah. Let’s go rent a 50′ catamaran. Sure, it’ll have loud, obnoxious, smelly, diesel engines pounding away while our captain (and new island friend!) motors us from sunlit beach to secluded cove. But once the engines are shut down (and all those terrorized birds of paradise recover from the shell shock from their shattered quietude), the sights and sounds of tropical havens will surround us like a gentle onshore breeze. And then?

Boat drinks, baby! <clink>

Delightfully surprised by “Stealth Fitness!”

I hesitate to post product reviews (you KNOW how hard it is for me to realize when I’m boring people with my weird interests!), but when I think something is really worth sharing, I like to mention products executed well.

FTR, I am unaffiliated with this company, nor get any reward or incentive for this review. I just like to share things that work for me.

I took a flier on this one: The Stealth Core Trainer, by Stealth Body Fitness, LLC.
Their pitch was: “Game your core.”

So, the obvious concept is: You’re doing planks, but playing games while introducing rotation/stabilization of the platform your forearms rest on. So, like planks, only more engaging.

It was as if their marketing was aimed right at the intersection of my enthusiasms for gaming and fitness! (And that’s a dangerous sign for any business because anything that seems pitched perfectly at me almost guarantees relegation to niche success, if any!)

I was skeptical, but am delighted to have been proved wrong.

Like many, I get SO bored doing planks that, being as undisciplined as I am, I all too often end up skipping them in my functional-training workouts.This has really changed that. I’ve been doing three planking sessions a day, lately! 😬

I think of this device as “the poor man’s ‘Icaros Home’ experience.” (Here’s an example of the “Icaros Home” VR (virtual reality) fitness experience):

The Stealth core trainer is a LOT less expensive! 😁

At any rate, this Stealth Fitness trainer is insidiously effective. I don’t know how else to say it: I’m freakin’ having fun. …doing core workouts. Who’da thunk it?!

Even the two free games on the Stealth Fitness app that complement this fitness device are sufficient to keep you “gaming your core.” But I like to support ventures like this, so I had no problem with the annual subscription that grants many more games. And for those that don’t want to go that direction, I’ve heard that almost any game that requires you to move your phone to maneuver your character around a screen can work.

As an added bonus, this device has attracted a robust Facebook Stealth Fitness group, which is nice for asking questions, participating in challenges (also supported by the app), and just sharing your successes.

5 Surprising Things You Didn’t Expect in 2021…

I write my Friday Forecasts about as consistently as I do anything (not very) and publish them even less so. But this week a Thursday dollop aimlessness coincided with an ebb in introversion and a few provocative headlines. The resulting stew pushed my prophetic tendencies past escape velocity and into public orbit. So now I get to dare you to go on record yourself and shout me down if you think these are a swing and a miss. Am I wrong? Am I even serious? Tell me why and raise my hopes (or not). Change my mind in the comments. Or better yet, pen a prediction or two of your own! I work at keeping my worldview flexible if not totally rubberized so here is a rare chance for you to change a life!

(This post is brought to you by Green Day, who popped up in my playlist while I wrote. I’m calling it…)

Wake Me Up When September Ends (…in 2021). Forecasting New Normals.

Preface:
(this is where Wayne and Garth do their hand-wavy thing to take you back in time (from the future)):

It was back in August 2020 that headlines began including phrases like, “First cases of COVID-19 reinfection verified…” and CDC statements that, “Coronavirus antibodies could give ‘short-term immunity…’” began arising. Such headlines soon coincided with rapidly accumulating clinical studies finding that COVID-19 immunity had a short half-life (3-6 mos.), along with CDC assurances that their recommendations (unlike so much other 20th– and 21st-century science) were only ever driven by data, never politics….

A year later, in September 2021, here is our landscape:

Prediction 1: VaaS (Vaccines as a Service) A New, Big-Pharma, Direct-to-Consumer Business Model.

More people are getting flu shots, because multiple studies have shown the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce COVID infection severity). By late 2021, about 60% of the population routinely gets an annual flu shot (up from 45% in 2019). Many who don’t (yet) trust the COVID-19 vaccine, which first became available in December 2020 and was widely available from multiple venders by February or March 2021, have now begun to at least get a flu shot. A large section of the population continues to disbelieve in the safety or efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, in many cases because they trust random strangers on the internet for medical advice more than they do their primary care physician.

The COVID-19 vaccines, now offered by in least four variants, have one thing in common: They require semi-annual boosters to maintain immunity. As it turns out, the billions invested by the big Pharmaceutical companies have resulted in a vaccine against this stubbornly ever-present virus that unfortunately requires a semi-annual booster …meaning two shots a year for the foreseeable future. You first get your primary vaccination, which is administered anywhere you can get a flu shot; then you get semi-annual boosters, which can be self-administered at home. The boosters are available via subscription service and are mailed directly from the manufacturer, which saves you 30% versus getting them from a pharmacy or doctor’s office (and the subscription includes free delivery!).

40% of the population still distrusts the COVID-19 vaccine (because, you know, Facebook and misinformation, etc). This guarantees there will continue to be endless COVID infections (and deaths) throughout the world, ensuring ongoing, perennial sales for the Pharmaceutical companies selling their vaccines. Weirdly, legislators seem uninterested in changing this situation.

Prediction 2: The Growth of Poducation (The Decentralization of Primary Schooling).

The ongoing, low-grade (but still occasionally media-hyped) threat of COVID-19 has resulted in Federal and state mandates that public and private schools require students to be vaccinated prior to (and throughout!) the school year. Only a few mid-western states have refused compliance. This has driven an unending chain of (thus-far unsuccessful) lawsuits and protests from those who’ve decided the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease (despite an absence of more than one or two reported instances of the vaccine causing a problem). The new laws have spawned an explosion in home-schooling, with most of that now being done in small “pods” of students where families or small community groups have organized to share the educational load.

An unfortunately-named (but astoundingly successful!) “Port-a-Poddies.com” Montana-based startup has become the first post-COVID educational unicorn (with a $2.5B valuation as of 3rd quarter, 2021) by becoming the “Uber of Homeschooling.” It decentralizes education by matching pods of students with qualified (mostly young, or vaccinated) instructors willing to work in a maskless environment, thus freeing parents who either don’t approve of public schooling, want more personal instruction for their children, or don’t want to vaccinate their kids, to embrace their anti-vaxxer beliefs and still get their kids an education.

Bonus prediction: The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on legislation requiring Federal, State, and local governments to redirect the public funds allocated per child for schooling (~$12,100 per enrolled child, on average across the country) to whomever is actually educating the child. If not overturned, this threatens to take billions of dollars from local school districts and give it directly to the child’s parents (or pod).

Opponents mockingly call this legislation “The Porta-a-Poddie Relief Act.” Forecasts are that a predominantly conservative Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Act, something that is driving incredible valuation leaps in Porta-a-Poddies.com stock. Unknown is whether a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court will result in families who are “poducating” their children receiving a merely a tax credit or direct monthly government checks. Either way, adversaries of The Act (from administrators to the teacher’s union) have claimed that having “the funds follow the child” will be catastrophic to the public-school system, given the mass migration away from public schooling. Schools have already begun cutting deeply into their administration and other non-teacher payroll expenses.

Prediction 3: Fleeing the Petri Dish – an Urbanite Diaspora.

Even the availability of COVID-19 vaccines has failed to slow the migration of people away from the high-density urban environments that have become recurring COVID hotspots. The events of 2020 and 2021 have reversed the multi-decade trend of population movement from rural to urban areas. Neither tax incentives nor threatened penalties have slowed the business and worker exodus from many major downtown areas. Residential and commercial property values in and around major cities continues to plummet, with office and residential inventories at record high levels on the west and east coasts.

Led by tech and finance companies, and other knowledge workers whose employers realized early in 2020 that they no longer needed expensive office space for many employees, the depopulation of mobile demographics from cities has created a cascade of economic implosions. Downtown environments that remained veritable ghost towns even after COVID lockdowns eased in 2020 crushed the last life of those few service businesses that survived Spring and Summer of 2020. The Fall and Winter COVID surges put a final nail into many of those coffins. Then lay-offs from shrinking or closing 2nd-tier “support” businesses and service industries fueled the second major diaspora. City governments facing huge budget deficits “furloughing” even union-protected public sector workers (most of whom seem to recognize that their jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon, if ever) created what is forecast to be a third migration wave away from urban areas.

Huge forces (and lots of money) are being thrown at the problem as people struggle to resurrect dying city centers, but whether that will work, how that will happen, and whom they will attract back remains to be seen. Not surprisingly, crime is up across the board in those cities as police presence decreases. If there are bright sides, it’s that suburbs and even rural areas are benefitting from an unexpected economic and population surges (although that’s not without its own problems). Also, commute time is WAY down (for those few that still commute).

Prediction 4: Domestic Tourism is WAY up!

The closure of many foreign countries’ borders (including Mexico and Canada) to anyone from the US who cannot demonstrate proof of COVID vaccination has collapsed some sectors of the tourism industry while creating several entirely new domestic tourism segments. Cooperatives branding themselves as “Playcation” networks are establishing themselves in remote areas around the country and offering a wide (and wild!) range of “geo-focused” experiences. Taking advantage of cheap land throughout rural America (a la Walt Disney, circa 1965), numerous domestic and international mega-conglomerates (and several of the billionaires who own large tracts of Montana!) continue to roll-out rapidly constructed facsimiles of international destinations that in many ways are surprisingly authentic (especially if you’ve never been there!). As one example, the recently opened “PARIS!” theme park is widely renowned to be incredible, complete with snooty Parisian waiters in overly crowded restaurants who refuse to admit they speak English (signed COVID liability release waiver required). The views of the (augmented reality) “Arc de Triomphe” and “Eiffel Tower” are reputed to be extraordinary. Other Playcation hotspots include activity-focused attractions designed to excite (or exhaust) you (or your kids) for 1-3 day stays. And you can always rest up on the train to the next experience, because…

Many of these Playcation resorts are or will soon be joined by the rapidly growing network of “Casino Trains” that are driving a resurrection in the American railroad and, more importantly for vacationers, allow gambling while traversing interstate rail (due to an obscure 19th century railroad law). These casino trains take vacationers from one Playcation resort to the next in incredible, connected, comfort, allowing families to hit any number of Playcation hotspots that they want without having to fly or drive (which is important, because flying on the two airlines that still allow unvaccinated customers is expensive!).

It won’t surprise you that these Playcation destinations are drawing the service industry workers who’ve left the cities for the greener pastures (literally!) of rural America. Many find that they’re enjoying a heightened standard of living, even though many are now living in what is essentially…

Prediction 5: The Re-emergence of the “Company Town.”

Company owned towns are rapidly becoming (more of) a thing, again. Created first by Google and Apple, but now springing up everywhere, especially around Playcation hotspots (and constructed by the Playcation conglomerate), “Company towns” like those once common in coal-mining country back in the late 1800’s are back en vogue. The first (modern) company towns were created by large tech companies who found out quickly that while working from home created productivity opportunities while cutting expenses, many employees actually *missed* the socialization with their co-workers (and found they didn’t necessarily have a lot in common with their new suburban or rural neighbors). Enter the Company Town – a fully contained urban eco-system (often even with a small commuter airport) dropped into a rural, wooded, otherwise remote area, or in some cases, large abandoned shopping malls purchased for pennies on the dollar and renovated to offer luxury condos and complete town squares, night clubs, and other amenities! Company employees living in such “towns” (often gated off from any surrounding, non-company population) gain access to affordable housing (rent paid to their employer, of course), gourmet grocery stores (groceries paid for simply via payroll deduction!), convenient full-service banking (at the First Bank of Google, for example in one Google town), and various, constantly refreshing entertainment options (cover-charge, alcohol, and other expenses conveniently deducted from your salary!). Many of these company towns are functioning models of the long-awaited cashless society. (Rumor has it that the ONLY way one will be able to pay for ANYTHING in the first Apple company town (currently under rapid construction) is via Apple Pay. No cash, Visa, MasterCard, or American Express accepted!)

That’s probably enough for now, don’t you think? For the one or two of you still reading: I hope you enjoyed my Friday Forecast for the work week ending  8/28/20. This has been another of the episodic cases of bloggarrhea that I call missives (because calling bundles of predictions hittives sounds presumptuous). Hope you had fun.

It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds dumps on us!

One Small Win (Breakfast Edition)

Fixing our fast food breakfasts with “Deb’s Delicious Quinoa & Compote.” Quick. Easy. Healthier.

Our Three Goals:

2018-06-08 07.43.10
Quinoa and peach compote, with tree nuts. And black coffee (because that’s healthy, too!)

  1. Substitute a quick, healthier breakfast for our current go-to of fast food or microwave, highly-processed junk food (pre-packaged, high carb, preservative-filled, high-sugar, non-nutritive, “convenience” food).
  2. Support the ongoing process of weaning ourselves away from an undeniable sugar addiction — one of the greatest long-term health risks we embrace.
  3. Nudge ourselves toward more consistently eating for tomorrow, rather than eating for “right now.”

 

For busy people, eating — especially breakfast — too easily becomes a grab-and-go, on-the-fly activity optimizing short-term convenience over current and future health.

But we all know that eating should be mindful, not mindless. Like anything else when it comes to caring for ourselves, the diet we choose in this decade directly affect how we’ll look and feel in the next one. The habit we want to form is one that shifts our focus from eating crap because it’s convenient toward eating healthy because we’ve made it just as convenient. That’ll help lay our foundation for a happier, healthier future.

With this breakfast choice, we address the sabotaging attraction of fast food or quick, microwavable breakfasts for an alternative that’s just as fast (if not faster!), and much healthier (while still being tasty!).

Because when you eat better, you feckin’ feel better. Seriously!

The number one key toward sustaining healthy eating is to add just enough organization to your life to make healthier choices convenient. In the case of this breakfast, that can be accomplished with a little as 30 minutes of prep time on a weekend. That will allow you to eat healthily all week long!

What We’ll Need

  • Two, 2-quart saucepans (or just one, if you want to make the two components below serially instead of at the same time).
  • One cup of quinoa (available in the “grains” section of your grocery store, usually in the same area as rice).
  • Two 1-lb bags of frozen, sliced peaches (you can slice your own, but our goal here is speed and ease, right?).
  • Stevia (I like the Truvia brand) brown-sugar blend (this mixes natural, low-cal Stevia sweetener with a little bit of brown sugar, which reduces the sugar you’re eating (yeah, there’s still some sugar in this recipe, but we’re going for healthier, not militant! …and, over time, you may find you’re fine with cutting this ingredient out altogether, and just going to with Stevia).
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Extract (organic is ideal, but any extract will do)
  • (Optional) Some walut halves (or chopped walnuts). If you like another tree nut, you can grab some of those, too. What I like to do is add (or make) a trail mix blend that has a high ratio of tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc) to dried fruit.

2018-06-08-07-33-26.jpg

Your Weekend Prep

Step 1. Start your compote bubbling!

  1. Dump the peaches into your saucepan.
  2. Add in about a half-cup of water.
  3. Add in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the Stevia brown sugar blend (you can use up to 1/2 cup if you’ve been a sugar addict and still need your food really sweet for it to be tasty; over time, eating more healthily will retrain your palate so you don’t need everything to be sweet, salty, or fatty to enjoy it).
  4. Add in about 2 tsps of cinnamon (vary to suit your preference)
  5. Add in about 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
  6. Stir. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for a bit (15-30 minutes, whatever). Chanting the “Double, double, toil and trouble” verse from Hamlet will make you sound more educated, here. Or maybe a little crazy. Either is good, right?

Step 2. Cook the Quinoa.

(Note — if you’ve never eaten quinoa and want to ease into its flavor (which can be a little nutty at first), you can also mix the compote into oatmeal instead of using quinoa. Quick-cook, steel-cut oatmeal cooks in the microwave in about 2 1/2 minutes, so it’s pretty convenient, too. Then, perhaps over time, graduate to 1/2 oatmeal and 1/2 quinoa. Then finally to just quinoa, which is better for you in many ways than oatmeal (lower glycemic index, more protein, more fiber, etc). Or, hell, just do this breakfast using oatmeal every now and then for a change of pace! Variety is the spice of life, right? Okay, back to the quinoa, though:

  1. Dump 1 cup of quinoa into your saucepan (note that some brands of quinoa recommend rinsing it first. If that’s the case rinse your cup of quinoa in a strainer, then dump it into your saucepan).
  2. Add in 2 cups of water (like cooking rice, Quinoa just takes a 1:2 quinoa:water ratio).
  3. Optionally, add in a pat of healthy butter from grass-fed cattle (e.g., Kerry Irish Butter).
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, lower to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Step 3.

Allow your quinoa and compote to cool. Then stick each separately into tupperware containers.  That’s it. You’re prepped and ready to eat healthy all week long!

Your Weekday Rush-Around-And-Out-The-Door Breakfast

Grab a bowl. Toss in about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup or so of your pre-prepped quinoa. Add in about the same amount of your peach compote (vary the ratio to suit your preference). Add in your optional nuts and/or trail mix — these give this bowl o’ goodness a more varied, interesting mix of textures, which I really like. Heat the whole thing in the microwave for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Voila! You have a healthy breakfast that’s a helluva lot better for you than the pre-packaged crap being sold throughout most of your breakfast store’s frozen breakfast section. And it’s just as fast to prep on a weekday when you’re rushing around before work.

If you’re feeling froggy, add in some fresh blueberries. And/or strawberries. Get creative.

P.S. I like to alternate this meal occasionally with a breakfast of fried eggs over a piece of whole-grain toast; or occasionally scrambled eggs, onto which I put some salsa. To either of these I like to add 1/4 or 1/2 of an avocado on the side, sometimes with a couple marinated artichoke heart quarters. Sprinkle it all with a little salt and pepper and go to town! Yum!

Hope you enjoy your evolving, healthier bod!

 

Elite: Dangerous Community Screenshots

For more than two decades, MMOG developers have known that completely open-ended games without strict community guard rails guiding and limiting behavior and player interactions bring out both the best and worst in people. More often than not the veil of anonymity that some choose to hide behind while online reveals an unfortunate lack of character. In such environments, one bad apple can degrade the enjoyment of many others.

Rings and SRV large

As a result, given the massive expense associated with creating online games, very few game developers will risk letting the players interact as they will within that virtual space. But Frontier Development did with their game, “Elite: Dangerous” (“E:D”).

The reward for giving players complete freedom to spend their time as they will is that such lack of constraints enables people to surprise and delight you with their inventiveness, their creativity, and the communities they create. In E:D’s full scale recreation of our 400-billion star galaxy, many people spend their time exploring distant worlds and sharing the magnificent views they’ve found there.

Elite Dangerous Screenshot 2017.11.17 - 2048x1024

Flying around our solar system in virtual reality, and then the myriad worlds within several hundred light years of our sun, Sol, has provided me with uncounted breathtaking views. The level of immersion is incredible.

But I’m just an amateur in-game “photographer.” Thousands of E:D community members are both farther ranging and more talented at capturing their in-game experiences. So I wanted to share some of the experiences they’ve had, captured through the windows of their cockpit or via the in-game camera.

All of these images are taken from within the game as it exists today. If you were inclined, you could outfit a spacecraft, visit these locations, see these sights, dock at these space stations, perhaps fly with some of these pilots.

r66Usn6

In an update due this spring, Frontier has promised that these environments will gain more fidelity, more beauty! That’s something to look forward to. Until then, I hope you enjoy this brief taste and that it stirs whatever latent Walter Mitty you have within. Did you dream of being an astronaut, or exploring the vastness of space, being the first to cast eyes on the startling beauty of far worlds? I still do.

With a little searching via Google or Youtube, you can find thousands more of these screenshots. I use them as fuel for the imagination during the cold winter days and long nights here on Earth. …when I’m not flying around the galaxy myself, of course.

The “Thargoid Threat” is Fake News!

Dateline: The Galactic Enquirer. January 4th, 3304. Agricola’s Ascent, Pleiades Sector DL-Y d65.

Elite Dangerous Screenshot 2017.11.27 - 07.49.30.48
[This picture was not taken anywhere near Agricola’s Ascent. But it was taken by the author and he let us at the Galactic Enquirer use it royalty free, so there’s that…]
Galactic Enquirer sources have revealed that the “Thargoid Threat” is a manufactured one, created in a cooperative effort by the embattled executives at Lakon Spaceways and the cash-strapped Alliance.

The Agricola’s Ascent orbital is crowded these days. One can’t walk anywhere without bumping into packs of feral billionaires who have flocked to the Pleiades region pursuing the latest topPercenter and Trustafarian pastime: “Hunting Thargoids.” Hundreds, perhaps thousands of these nouveau riche thrill seekers have left humanity’s boring bubble hoping to join the “elite” club of those who’ve successfully ambushed one of the peaceful alien space flowers in hopes of securing its heart for their trophy case.

Agricola’s Ascent’s corridors and brandy lounges are filled with the swaggering machismo and raucous flamboyance these billionaires flaunt like a million-credit cloak. Ask them why they’re here and to their credit some will honestly reply it’s strictly for the thrill of the kill. But eight times out of ten the response will be some variant of “To save humanity from the growing xeno threat.” Those respondents are convinced their mission is truly that noble, that the reason they’re willing to sacrifice their billion-credit ships (if not their lives) is this “defense of humanity.”

But The Galactic Enquirer has uncovered highly placed sources that suggest the threat to humanity is a manufactured one. That makes many of these Dudley Do-Rights unfortunate sheeple, herded by a heretofore unimaginable galaxy-wide conspiracy.

Investigators at the Galactic Enquirer have sifted through thousands of pages of documents provided by the shadowy hackers famous for populating the GalactiLeaks Galnet site. Our intrepid journalists have uncovered secret emails documenting the manufacture of an interstellar, possibly criminal manipulation of public sentiment. And the conspirators? None other than officials at the highest levels of the Alliance, working in conjunction with Lakon Spaceways! Together they’ve seeded a campaign through the media channels of hundreds of worlds that goes far beyond the normal underhanded but legal persuasion techniques employed by common, high-value marketing campaigns.

Like with most crimes, all investigation takes is following the money.

Hundreds of the GalactiLeaks documents reveal increasingly frantic correspondence over the last eighteen months between Lakon Spaceways product development, financial, and marketing departments. These documents reveal C-level panic throughout Lakon’s highest executives. From the documents, it’s clear that early leaks citing underwhelming flight performance figures for Lakon’s massively hyped new Type-10 “Defender” resulted in an almost total evaporation of military demand for the heavy ship. Coming at a time when rumors of major market share lost to both Faulcon DeLacy and Core Dynamics for the fourth straight quarter shook investor confidence, the leaks triggered a catastrophic plunge in Lakon’s stock value. Lakon executives needed a miracle.

According to documents we discovered, company executives responded to their company’s Edsel moment by manufacturing a threat so serious, so existential, that the galaxy would become desperate for an answer. Enter the Alliance, whose own influence has steadily waned from its recent peak in 3300. As the major power driving Lakon to produce the Type-10 Defender before canceling half their contracts last year, the cash-strapped Alliance needed to cooperate with Lakon to avoid ruinous lawsuits.

For people who believe one should never let a good crisis go to waste, the sudden return of Thargoids was a godsend for Lakon. Although big, beautiful, and not hostile unless threatened or attacked, the lumbering space leviathans’ utter alien-ness made them the perfect foil for Lakon executives desperate to create a new market for their heavily armed and armored, 2250-ton, 500MM* Cr recycled space barge. [* Weight and value figures common for a Defender minimally outfitted for Thargoid hunting. –Ed.]

In the words of one Lakon Executive, from one of the discovered interoffice memos, “We need to make those weird-looking space daisies evil and threatening. There’s no other way we’ll unload all these flying pigs- er, “Defenders” [poop emoji] the damned Alliance decided not to buy! Ha! Coming up with a campaign to make floating daffodils reek of evil — that oughta keep those marketing weasels in PR busy for the holidays!”

But the Lakon PR folks seem to have done the impossible. They’ve painted the Thargoid presence as a looming menace to our civilization. Despite resembling nothing so much as a giant flower and possessing a nature that seems nothing if not benignly inquisitive toward anything man-made, the Thargoids’ very otherness works against them. They’re so alien to us that even their sentience (and thus any possible guilt at even being able to form the hostile intentions accorded to them by Lakon Spaceway’s guerilla marketing) is still very much in question. What is known is that they’ve never initiated an attack on a human ship without that ship either firing first or at the very least aggressively infringing on the Thargoid’s immediate space.

But you don’t have to take this reporter at face value, gentle readers. Use your Randomius-given powers of logic. Ask yourself: If these aliens really posed an existential threat to humanity – or even to humans that didn’t provoke them first – would the Alliance, in conjunction with the Pilots Federation and other major powers, only award a measly two million credits as a Thargoid bounty? That’s a mere 2M credits for a kill, when defeating one involves the following hurdles and risks:

  1. Pilots must foot the bill to buy and/or outfit a ship (ideally the Defender, of course!) that costs at least 500-million credits and be willing to risk the associated 25-million credit insurance deductible if they lose the ship in combat. (And note, the Thargoid hunting builds that improve one’s chances run closer to 750M or even a cool 1B credits!)
  2. Pilots must foot the bill in hiring and paying a ship-launched fighter operator, without whom that pilot’s chances of survival, let alone victory, became low indeed – and pilots must do this understanding that even if they themselves make it to an escape pod, their hirelings will DIE if the pilot fails and loses his ship to the Thargoid;
  3. Pilots go into their hunting knowing that even if they succeed – which most will not do at first, if ever – their ship restock and repair will almost certainly cost almost half-a-million credits (and that’s for a solo fight against the weakest of the Thargoids!).

If you’re doing the math, you’re realizing that hunting one of these dangers to humanity virtually requires a multi-billionaire to put a billion in assets (and his life) on the line, and then offers him a net profit of …about a million credits. It’s a laughable amount in a galactic economy that provides entrepreneurial pilots with profits that are literally fifty times that (or more), in the same amount of time, with a lot less investment, simply for ferrying passengers to remote starports (with little or no risk).

Your realization, gentle citizens, must be: That doesn’t add up! And Lakon’s marketing slogan, developed to rally humanity’s xeno hunters (and, coincidentally, sell lots of Type-10 Defenders!) waives all that financial consideration with a simple slogan: “You don’t do it for the money; you do it for humanity.”

There’s only one solution to this puzzle: Lakon Spaceways has convinced thousands of pilots to conduct genocide against the first and only alien megafauna we’ve ever encountered, for the sole reason of selling a ship that would otherwise be a market flop.

This must not go unanswered! Humanity is better than that!

[Submitted to the Jan 6th edition of the Galactic Enquirer by Cmdr Talion Camisade]

The Importance of Taking Leaps of Faith

I love this commencement address by Peter Dinklage to Bennington College’s class of 2012 (link goes to a Facebook page):

Peter Dinklage: The Importance of Taking a Leap of Faith

I watched this today and it made me realize that in almost every major (professional) change I’ve made during my adult life, and certainly all those I look back on as positive inflection points, I chose *against* common wisdom, *against* the advice, the counsel, of those advocating a safer, more conventional path. I chose for novelty, for adventure; I chose for passion, and I chose to be contrary. And, yup, chance plays a role, and holy crap it was hard, exhausting, stressful work for long stretches of my life. But I think that incredible man has a point! #FailForward #DoItAgain

 

The Sun and The Wind …and Ideological Conflict

The events in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend beginning August 11th, which included the death of one woman and the injury of dozens of others were tragic. My heart goes out to the family, the friends, and the community to which the slain woman, Heather Heyer, belonged, and to all those injured when a homicidal white supremacist drove his car into a crowd.

My hope is that James Fields, allegedly the man behind the wheel, will be found guilty and sentenced to death — a sentence that gets carried out in Virginia faster than any other state.

I no longer live in Charlottesville, though I did once. As a result, I’ve a great many contributors to my social news feeds from that wonderful city. All are saddened; most are broadcasting anger.

As a beginning Stoic, I ask: What do we want to accomplish? How best will we get there?

Many of those affected by that weekend’s events are clamoring for censure, some for the removal of freedoms that underlie our society. As an American, I understand their hurt, their rage, but believe that it’s not just the wrong answer, but a counter-productive one. It won’t solve the problem, it would exacerbate it and cause greater ones. (Full disclosure, I believe that to be true for most “solutions” that seek to apply the power of The State to force constraint, control, or the limit of freedoms, upon The People.)

Ramez Naam, a born Egyptian who rose to prominence in the US as a Partner and Director of Program Management at Microsoft, an award-winning author, a patent-holding entrepreneur, futurist, and technologist, posted this on his blog today:

Don’t let the terrorists win.

We said that a lot after 9/11, and have for the last 16 years. As air travel became absurdly cumbersome, as civil liberties were eroded, as people were arbitrarily blacklisted or detained without room for appeal – we said the terrorists were winning, causing us to undermine the underpinnings of our own society, to crack down on the freedoms that are central to the principles of the United States.

Now, I see friends calling for cracking down on freedom of speech, for restricting the First Amendment, taking away its protections from speech they (and I) consider loathsome. I even see friends advocating for physical violence against people because of their speech.

That, my friends, is letting the terrorists win.

I loathe the ideology of white supremacy. But to let fear or anger at it undermine our notions of civil liberties or civil society… that would be letting the terrorists win.

We’re bigger than that. We’re stronger than that. Don’t let the terrorists win.

In all the footage I’ve seen of those rally’s, without exception, “counter-protesters” are broadcasting hate, vitriol, and disgust at assemblies of white supremacists and neo-nazi’s, who are themselves there to trumpet their irrational hatreds and disgust toward anything “other.”

It’s an emotional, understandable reaction for even rational, tolerant humans, as deeply wired into us as our core values. Emotional responses often come from deeper places, stemming from shared heritage, cultural identity, or our own experiences with justice or lack thereof.

But nowhere among the thinking, the tolerant, does there seem to have been consideration of the question: What do we want to accomplish?

Because, sure as shit, answering hatred with hatred has never worked worth a damn. We know that! In fact, we as a civilization know pretty fucking well at this point that anger, loathing, denials — even the threat of (or actual!) violence — has never done a damn thing to knock a fundamentalist movement from its ideological perch.

When you apply force that will not be sufficient to break a belief, you only strengthen it. Knowing that, why would we choose to strengthen the voices of racists for them? You don’t kill ideologies by denouncing them any more than you do by making martyrs.

Denunciation didn’t work against the original Nazi’s. It doesn’t work with Islamic fundamentalists like Isis. And it won’t work with any other form of dogmatic, institutionalized, hatred like that paraded by supremacists. The most it can do is drive such movements underground where they fester like a cancer until achieving metastasis. Then there’s really hell to pay.

Answering hatred and intolerance with hatred and intolerance is like deciding it’s smart to put out a fire with gasoline. When you see someone doing that, you have to ask, “What exactly are you expecting to accomplish?”

Martin Luther King knew that. He knew that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Mahatma Gandhi knew that. He knew “You must be the change you wish to see in the world. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Most importantly, he knew that “Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.”

Hell, even Aesop, the storyteller and slave in ancient Greece back around 600 BCE taught that lesson in his fable, “The Wind and the Sun.”

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on and took it off.”

The moral, of course, is: “KINDNESS EFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY.

These great men knew that meeting hatred with hatred was counter-productive. And in that knowing, they accomplished the seeming impossible. Why have we forgotten that?

As citizens in a complex society, filled with partial information and misinformation, we should know that often the intuitive, emotional response is the wrong one, the least productive one. And the more complex or deep-rooted the problem, the more counter-intuitive the solution will often be.

It’s one of the reasons why societies ruled by demagogues or tyrants inevitably collapse.

What do we want to accomplish? How best will we get there?

Well, we know for damn sure that you cannot bully people away from an ideology. You cannot soften a mob’s will by flipping it the bird, shouting epithets, or throwing stones. So if you’re not willing to employ lethal force to “change” someone’s mind, the only rational response is to embrace an approach that will work over time. Be cool. Be measured. Be smart. Because peoples’ minds change slowly, when they change at all.

When a little kid throws a tantrum, the fastest way to suck the energy out of it is to deprive it of an audience. That’s why timeout is so effective.

At the same time, when you want to kill a fire, you don’t spray water at it’s top. You take away its source of fuel. You wet what hasn’t yet burned.

When your war is one of ideology, the only way to win is over time.

  1. You undermine its recruitment. You make the beliefs so ridiculous that the cult’s target recruited demographic does not want to be associated with it. In short, you starve the movement of fuel.
  2. You educate whom you can. You remain human, and caring. You contribute to the society you believe in. You stop fanning emotional fires by attempting to put them out with facts — they don’t work. You look through those trumpeting irrationality and vitriol. You give no voice to those who would tyrannize or terrorize others. And you bide while waiting for intolerance to die. In the meantime, give racism, hatred, NO audience. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Because mobs and fundamentalists are like two-year-olds. And you don’t raise a two-year-old into an adult by mirroring their own tactics back at them. That’s no more likely to accomplish anything meaningful than, well, showing up at a bigots’ rally about hatred with a bucketload of your own.

Much more effective, especially against adults, are leadership by example; gentle, consistent, persuasion; and pity. King knew it; Gandhi knew it; Marcus Aurelius knew it; and even the lowly Aesop knew it, more than 2500 years ago.

What would happen, I wonder, if counter-culture rallies proclaiming the embrace of ignorance, the spreading of barbarism or self-serving revisionism, went completely ignored? If nobody showed up? If nobody gave a damn that a bunch of crackpots chose to demonstrate their conviction that the world was flat, or (as in this current case) that others should be blamed for ones’ problems simply due to the color of their skin; their willingness to work smart or hard; or for their choice of beliefs?

What would happen if such rallies were completely ignored or, better, that those who witnessed such displays in passing, going about their peaceful, productive day, simply shook their heads, half-smiled with visible, sad pity, then went about their business?

What if no news broadcasters showed up to amplify delusional voices? Because people declaring sad, ludicrous beliefs are NOT NEWS?

If you cannot, will not, or should not, use force — especially deadly force — to change minds, you must use persuasion. You must find and use the leverages that are inherent in our being a social species to shape amoral or aberrant behaviors over time. You find the vulnerabilities, then apply pressure when and where it will be productive.

Many people like to embrace anger as their first response. It’s as natural as flight-or-fight in response to a perceived threat. But no one rational, no one who’s educated, no one who’s studied history’s errors and would avoid repeating them, jumps to anger as an answer when the questions they should be asking aren’t how do I feel right now, but:
What do we want to accomplish? And,
How best will we get there?

Obstacles are opportunities.

What happened in Charlottesville was tragic. And this is going to happen again, and again, there and elsewhere, if we as a society continue to take our responses from ideologues that are like carpenters whose only hammer is anger.

Home is where the heart …gets healthy again!

For me, it’s always great to get back home from a trip. We had a wonderful time …but of course, like people often do,  while touring Italy I allowed the excuses of “vacationing” and “environment” for a solid week of lazy exercise and detrimental dietary choices.

Unsurprisingly, Italian food, commonly served in 3- or 4-course meals, always with wine (and desert!)(at least on the group tour we took, where many of the meals were pre-ordered for us) created an easy +5lbs in 9 days. Because, “Hey, everyone else is ordering that way!” It’s ridiculous how easy it is for me to fall back into nom nom nomming foods that reinvigorate those American-bred, fattening, aging, sugar and wheat addictions! It’d be easy to shift blame to those childhood “clean your plate!” instructions, but let’s face it: If I claim sentience I also have to accept responsibility for the food I shovel into my pasta hole!

So I always feel that one of the best parts about coming home from a trip is resuming the healthy lifestyle that is too often the first casualty of world travel. That feeling made this recent post by Rohan Rajiv, whose blog I follow, resonate this morning (@4am, because of course my I’m still recovering from a week on European time!):

Your environment versus your willpower

You can find his post at: https://alearningaday.com/2017/07/18/your-environment-versus-your-willpower/.

Now I’m looking forward to a short run and a mindful breakfast!