Category Archives: the root of all wealth

Metaphors that work in multiple closed systems

I love this site's advice; this bit comparing swimming in the financial world to swimming in ocean waves is particularly awesome:

The struggling person has debt. It’s an absolutely destructive and useless thing to bring into your life, unless done on an investment basis with a calculator firmly in hand. Debt used to finance luxuries just creates a backwards current on your life. Suddenly you must paddle fiercely just to stay in one place.

Just a few feet forward on the exact same wave, rides the debt-free person. Everything they earn can be applied to spending, which means they have much more power to buy things when compared to the indebted person.

A few feet ahead of the debt-free surfer is the Investor. This person doesn’t subscribe to the statement, “money is no good unless you spend it”. Quite the opposite, their belief is “money does you no good if you just go out and spend it”.

Because the investor has put most of her past earnings to work, there is now an unstoppable wave behind her, pushing her along whether she decides to work or not.  Anyadditional work will push her forward very quickly, and spending in moderation won’t knock her off the wave.

All three of them may be moving along at the same speed, buying the same stuff and living the same lifestyle. And they’re only a few feet apart. They can converse freely over the roar of the water, because the difference between wealth and poverty is only reallychanging a few spending habits until you amass a sufficient ‘stash. But the level of  struggling and cubicle-sitting and clock-punching and money-stressing is completely different, just because of how they have positioned themselves.

Blogs I Love: The Quitting Lawyer and the Despondent Millionaire | Mr. Money Mustache

I love this gentleman's blog for a zillion reasons, but the core of them is SO well summed up in this latest post, I just had to re-offer it:  

The Quitting Lawyer and the Despondent Millionaire | Mr. Money Mustache.


The exact same world can seem like an evil or beautiful place, based purely on how you choose to think about it. And paradoxically enough, changing the perspective (and thus the behavior) of enough people can even change the physical reality of the world for the better. That makes “just changing your perspective” into a pretty powerful tool.

My biggest secret to wealth is realizing just how little money it really takes to lead an extremely rich life. But the biggest battle I face in sharing it is the different perspective that is programmed into the modern rich-world consumer: the perspective that simplicity is deprivation, change is scary, and effort is something best paved over with convenience.

That would speak to me anyway, but having fallen into this at-first-unintentional slimming-down of lifestyle myself, I read that and I want to cheer.  And cry.  And cheer some more.

It's been a weird week.  ;) 

Give Me A DRM-Free World

Lulu Blog » Living in a DRM-Free World.

Count me among the authors who feel that DRM did nothing to benefit us, and who're frankly relieved that it's on the way out.

Has the book been torrented?  Yup.  Does this upset me?  HELL no.

Think of it this way:  The Internet is the biggest communications medium in the world.  If you were an author and you went to the biggest public library in existence, where everyone was talking about and handing around books 24/7, and you found that yours hadn't been mentioned or shared at all, what would you think?  That it must suck, right?  

As an author, or really any kind of artist, you get attention and money and rewards for your work when people like it and tell other people about it.  Being that they're talking to each other in the real world, they have a much better idea how much of your work should be shared, and what should be said about it, to interest the person in front of them, than you and a zillion marketers could ever have.  If they think loaning a copy to their friend is the best way to make you a new fan — or that thumbing through it themselves is the best way to determine if they want to be your fan — then who the heck are you to argue?  

It's a sort of Taoist truth of sales:  Let people do their thing, and only intervene when needed.  I intervene, usually by being nice about it, when I run into someone who's borrowed by not bought my book, and almost always they turn into a buyer.  If I intervened by being a jerk, or prevented them from getting ahold of my work in the first place, guess what they'd be?  Yeah, not a fan, for sure.

Fortunately we're not alone, we authors-who-pay-attention; as this article demonstrates, publishers like Tor and distributors like Lulu are catching on that penalizing readers – especially penalizing all readers for something a tiny percentage of them do — is just plain stupid, and a world without DRM is hopefully right around the corner.


Class warfare > Class massacre

Those complaining about the Occupy protests being Class Warfare are right.  Finally, it's turning to a war, with both sides aware that they're fighting it.

Thus far, it's been Class Genocide, with one side pooling their immense resources to safely corral and eradicate the 99% from afar.  By controlling the media, they've managed to keep the people they're attacking — depriving of food, shelter, education and rights — from ever realizing or acknowledging that they're under attack.  Like "safari hunters" who shoot caged lions, with enough money the 1% can make it cheap and easy to pick off their opponents like fish in a barrel.  It's been war-without-ever-leaving-your-mansion, winning without risking so much as a profit-margin. 

Until now.  Now the jig is up, and though they've been under attack for at least a decade already, the 99% are grabbing some weapons and getting ready to make this a real, honest fight.

Of course those who've been winning effortlessly for so long don't like it when their prey starts fighting back, turning the easy massacre into a real battle in which, oh yeah, they're massively outnumbered.  Now they might lose something; now, if they want their protected status and special privileges, they may actually have to pay for them.  It's not nearly as profitable to mug a person to their face as it is to sneak into their house while they're out working two jobs and swipe everything, is it?  When someone is facing you and the deal is open on the table, they might fight back, and they might even win. 

Cowards don't like warfare.  They prefer psyops.  They like missions that involve keeping people too scared and hungry to fight back, and "battles" where you can shoot everyone while they sleep.  But the cowards are in for it, if the 99% have woken up.

I'm not a fan of battles in general.  But Class Warfare beats the heck out of Class Massacre.

Refocusing in Adulthood

I had one of those tiny physical moments yesterday that explodes into a psychological OH YEAH DUH … that was a moment, literally an otherwise meaningless moment in the shower, of refocusing.

Life is powerfully, powerfully distracting, especially as you slam into full adulthood and all the filters that kept out various influences are removed.  This isn't oops-too-much-RSS-browsing distraction; this is full-on fight-or-flight-level hardcore psychological distraction.

Some examples:

  • Faced with the insecurities of providing for yourself and others, of economic wibbly-wobbliness and the suddenly finite number of years before retirement, you throw yourself into working and saving money (easily 80h/wk, all told)
  • Faced with the heady freedom of being allowed to do anything you can legally get away with, you wind up "trying on" hobby after hobby, filling your free-time and emptying your wallet on lessons, equipment, outings, and materials, all for things you'll probably hardly ever do again;
  • Faced with the daunting task of raising a child "correctly", you throw yourself into planning activities, events, and lessons into every possible moment, as well as into cooking and cleaning things into an acceptably perfect childhood environment;
  • Faced with the sudden relative lessening importance of social activities (what? I'm old enough to party all I want and now partying doesn't mean much anymore??) as well as, for some people, the sudden ease of actually pulling it off (wait, I used to find this scary? ha!), you grab any opportunity to go to a gathering, eating up your evenings and killing your attempts to wake up early and do stuff;
  • Overwhelmed by the 80-hour work weeks, the pile of clamoring social engagements, the kids, the house, the classes and outings, you retreat into television for hours or days at a time, often finding yourself too exhausted to even get dressed if you don't absolutely have to.

…And welcome to adulthood.  ;) 

When I was young I thought, of course I'll be a writer, writing comes easy to me and I love it.  But then…was I going to write instead of working and saving money?  Hmm, no.  Write instead of parenting?  No way.  Write instead of going out and doing stuff?  Well, that one was easy when I was a bored and scaredy kid, but this weekend I can literally go to three parties and a SolidWorks design class and free-diving in the ocean if I want — all with people I like. 

When I found taiji I thought, oh, THIS is the thing; this is the perfect physical component to my philosophic life, the mental components of which are of course reading and writing.  I love taiji like I've loved few other things; I often think that if I had nothing else but a life of constant taiji, space to write about it, and some pretty trees to look at, that'd be great.

But when to practice?  At home, with the kid bouncing around and things begging to be cleaned?  At work, in the five minutes between meetings?  Making the time to get to class once a week is epic difficult, though I do it, doggedly, but far too often without having practiced at all in the in-between.

And when to write?  I get up around 4:30am, but the writing, it turns out, takes more than just getting up. 
More often than not I surf blearily, drinking coffee and trying to gather my thoughts and the day's plans, until it's time to head out for work.

I never wanted to admit that I couldn't do everything, that I was going to have to say no even if something sounded awesome, involved a really cool person, or I'd never done it before.  But you just can't have everything all at once; if you want that nice retirement plan and health insurance, it's going to cost you big-time, as is the perfect kids' lesson-plan and the clean house and oh yeah, the novel and the black-belt.  There are sacrifices, and some of them really suck.  Welcome to adulthood.

But the important thing is to make these decisions as consciously as possible, I think.

So this weekend, that's what I'm doing — I'm refocusing things.  I'm putting some recurring plans in place, for writing and practice, that will get absolute priority…even from work, and cleaning, and parenting.  (To clarify regarding a common misconception:  no, more parenting is not always better; kids need time and activities to themselves too.  It's just up to the parents to schedule that so that it gives us time as well — and that's no mean feat.)   

This weekend I re-remember what's most important, and I state clearly to myself what I'm willing to bend for (work emergencies?  Sudden opportunities?) and what I'm not.  This weekend I re-invent my Super Picky Schedule to be super picky about the things I want out of life too, not just the things I feel responsible for. 

And there's another element to Refocusing:  The Present.  By acting intentionally rather than responding to pressures (i.e. all the "faced with"s from the list above), you bring your focus into the moment more.  …Make no mistake, this is probably why a lot of people don't do it.  Swimming naked in the Now can be a lot less comfortable than a nice ride in a pre-built boat that just goes where the waves push it.

But this is life.  It's not about being comfortable.  We all get to sleep sooner or later…  ;)

Skeet shooting bullshit with numbers: Wisconsin edition

In Michigan as well as elsewhere, I've heard the attempted anti-union argument that "teachers make too much money anyway".  Now, I know a few teachers (experienced, in difficult subjects like science) and they do pretty well, so it's easy to see how some people might find that argument (i.e. "teachers make too much money, so there's something wrong with unions") at least a little convincing.

Thanks to my iFriend zentiger (via kataplexis), today I can kill it dead for good.  Behold, simple high-school math:

Suppose that teachers are making too much money. OK, that's fine. Let's treat them like babysitters, and pay them less than minimum wage. Say, $3/hour. The conversation wandered from there, but I decided to put some numbers on it and see what happens.

Now, teachers don't work full-time; around 180 days a year for around six and a half hours a day. (Lunch? No, you don't get paid for lunch. Or grading. Or planning.) On the other hand, teachers deal with ~30 students at a time, so that's something — your average babysitter deals with one, or maybe two, at a time. Let's call it 1.5.

Now let's do some math. $3/hour/1.5 kids is, shockingly enough, equal to $2/hour/child. And each day is, as we know, 6.5 hours, so it looks like we should have (in a given day), $13/child. Multiply that by the (sadly small estimate of class size) 30 kids each teacher deals with, and we're at $390/day. $390/day * 180 days/year = $70,200/year. That seems like a reasonable introductory salary for a schoolteacher, no? If not, where did I go wrong in my math? I mean, I'm doing this all in my head, so I might have screwed up somewhere.

This result is especially interesting given that, according to (I don't actually know if this is a good source), the median salary of a high school teacher is $53,558. If that website is accurate, it looks like we're paying our teachers, on average, $20,000 per year less than we'd pay a 14-year-old for the same service. Oh, and the teachers also, y'know, educate our children. So that's a plus.

What the hell, America?

The Extremes of Sleep are Still Apparently My Bag

Once again — and I'm sure this will deeply shock everyone — I'm waaaay behind on the polyphasic-related email I've been receiving, so if I owe you an email, it's totally my fault…again. 

In my own defense, I'm adjusting to a crazy hard job during an utterly crazy time at the company; I have a lot of responsibility and a lot to prove; and I have to move across the country in, like, a month.  So add moving and traveling 800 miles every couple weeks to apartment-hunt to 80-hour weeks with nights and weekends and, well, that's me. 

Seriously, I have neglected to email my mom more than once.  Don't feel shunned.  ;)

However, it's fascinating to me that I'm now living the exact pseudo-monophasic modern Western sleep schedule that I've railed about for years.  I stay up too late; I get 4-6 hours most nights; sometimes 7; some weekend day if I can I'll sleep 9 or 10 and feel groggy but oddly refreshed afterwards.  I'm exquisitely dependent on a good dose of daily caffeine; I'm starting to have to fight gravitating towards energy drinks.

I *am* that professional nerd.  And I am the worst sleeper ever; and for the moment, I really can't avoid it.  

The only reason this isn't upsetting in the extreme is that I've determined, for sure, that my job will be cool about letting me get a nap in.  There's still the commute and other details to iron out, but that's promising enough that I'm willing to use it as an excuse to not panic.  I may just be too busy, and too out-and-about-with-no-car, to pull off Uberman; I've accepted that.  But Everyman 3 — one of the great loves of my life — looks very darn likely again in the near future.  

THANK.  GOODNESS.  I hate sleeping and I hate being tired, and I've been doing more of both the last few months than I ever did while I was polyphasic.  Ew ew ew.  …Still, it is a heck of an experiential opportunity, to try the typical, horrible (I-M-increasingly-justified-O) sleep schedule that the typical overworked slob in my socioeconomic arena keeps…I suspect I'll be glad to have learned this, later on.

Before I go, I want to say thank you to everyone who's been emailing me — there have been quite a lot lately! — I do enjoy your stories, questions and comments, even when I can't get back to you promptly.  Thanks so much for taking the time to fill me in.


In Loot of Actual Content…

Behold!  A list of all the fun stuff I brought back from my latest trip to Boston!  It's rather amazing that I had time to shop, but not only did I, I got to see a part of the city I haven't really explored before (Newberry Street), and get taken to all the places *I* would like to see…this amazing huge computer store called MicroCenter (fate saved my wallet by not having any of the monitor I wanted in stock ;)…a Michigan-quality army surplus store…the most eclectic "comics shop" I have ever seen…the world's coziest bookstore, and nevermind three different places for food.  It turns out my friend who hosted me this time is like the world's best date, heh. 

So yes.  I ran myself almost into a coma most of the week, but I had an intense Thursday night and a lovely Saturday, and got to hang with some of my favorite humans period, so I'm calling that a win.

Anyway, the list!  I offer it in gratitude for all that it implies.  ;)

  • 200' of 550 paracord, red & black
  • awesome BDU/utility pants (though I was pretty offended that I wore an 'extra small' in them.  I'm not extra small, dammit.)
  • 2 p38's
  • a tai chi sword to replace mine with the wobbly grip.  I had to get it, because it looks just like mine (which is kind of an odd style), except that instead of being black it's red, and it's both garish and wonderful and I love it.  Also, the army surplus guys had no idea what it was (and were visibly awed by my overpowering female nerdosity — the combination of my deadpool t-shirt and FMA purse almost gave the cashier tremors, ha), so they sold it to me for about half the minimum price they should have.  \o/
  • Books:  "Please Kill Me" (a punk-rock history for my boy), "Homework for Grown-Ups", the Opus (Bloom County) full-color compendium, some pr0n, and an awesome book on Oriental Battle Tactics, Weapons and Strategies 1200-1800.  All on sale.  *score*
  • The Coolest Pink Frilly Umbrella Ever, for a certain goddess among gradeschoolers
  • Little rubber-bandy shapey things that are all popular now, for same
  • Assortment of real, brightly-colored, sticky-note tabs for placement on important documents, with big bold arrows and variations on "F*CK THIS" and "DON'T F*CK THIS UP"
  • Black aluminum 12-LED ultrabright flashlight for my tactical (yup, milspec–I'm totally one of those nerds now) office laptop bag
  • Red aluminum pen-size precision screwdriver multitool for same
  • Awesome accessory bag for the MOLLE straps on said tactical office bag (a gift)
  • 2 locking d-rings for same (I can hook so much to that bag now, heh)
  • Wacom tablet for my boy (also a gift)
  • RFID-blocking two-color duct-tape wallet, made just for me right in front of me.  *aw yay*


So yeah.  I had a great and crazy week; and I'm sorry it didn't leave me with much to write about here, but still…great and crazy!  That's worth something! 

May you all get one too!  ;)

P.S. I don't have a camera right now – I realize that could have made this post a lot more fun – but I should soon, and then, I promise, fun of some kind will ensue.  *wink*