Something More

I don’t often like to talk about religion. Mainly this is because most of the people I tend to run into either don’t feel strongly about it or they feel so strongly that they have trouble talking about it with anyone who brings up questions.

I don’t know what church I was born into. But by the time I was 5 years old, my family was regularly attending a Presbyterian church. And by the time I was 10 years old, we were members of a Reformed church. And by the time I was 13 years old, we weren’t going to church anymore. Not that we actively turned away from it, but just that we moved 850 miles and never found a new church that my mother felt good about regularly attending. She tried, though. Went to a dozen or more churches and none of them felt “right”.

As I grew older, I occasionally went to church with friends, and I had college classes on religion (I wrote papers on Zoroastrianism and Islam, the Book of Job, and more). I even read the Bible … well, most of it, some parts are so dry I had to skim them to stay awake. But nothing ever fully captured how I felt about the world. There were hints, glimpses, but with every hit there was often a few nearby misses that kept me from believing their particular brand or vision.

If I were to try to describe my view, the best I could do is this: I believe in the inherent “moreness” of things.

A person is not just the sum of their parts – there is something more that makes them who they are. I feel, that if you were to clone a person, that new being would neither be an exact copy of the original nor a soulless monster. From the moment it came into the world it would begin to express itself on the world and to be impressed upon by the world, and simply by being a separate thing, the clone and its original would become different people, similar yet distinct.

And it doesn’t just apply to people. When you build a house, at first it will be little more than cement and lumber and plaster and wiring and plumbing and shingles and so on. But given time the house will become “more”. Even to people who experience the house for the first time will feel the lived in (or abandoned) nature of the structure that exists outside of the materials that make it up. And groups of people take on traits of their own. As do cities. As do states. As do nations. Two corporations that might produce the same goods will feel different when you encounter them. Some of that is marketing, some of that is the people who run it, some of that is history, but all of that sums up to be greater than the physical things that make up and populate and are produced by those companies.

One day, I suspect, people will be able to sense that “moreness” of other worlds, other galaxies.

And in my view, if there is a god, she is just that which is “more” than the sum of everything.

Eleven Containers

When my father passed, my brothers and I, among a great many other things, set upon the task of clearing out the house. None of us were in a position to keep it, and maintaining the estate and running a rental was far too complicated, so it had to be sold. We cleaned it up and cleared it out, each of us taking the odd piece of furniture here and there, selling quite a bit in a garage sale and on craigslist, and then came the attic.

Stored up there were the things that had been put away as the boys grew up. All the toys. And we took them out and stored them at my brother’s house. Later, we gathered there and went through every plastic tub, throwing out the things that were irrevocably broken, and keeping the things that meant a great deal. At the end we had eleven containers, plastic tubs, full of toys not broken enough to throw away, not special or important enough to keep. And my brother couldn’t keep them at his house, he had for a while already and really wanted to be able to use his garage again. So I volunteered to take them and perhaps try to sell them. And in my garage these eleven containers sat, for months, for years.

Eventually my wife and I wanted to use our own garage and we rented a storage unit. Not just for the toys, that would be silly. We have a lot of things in the storage unit, but there the toys also went.

I think about them fairly regularly, sitting there, in the dark, doing nobody any good. Every now and then I think I’ll go get one or two bins and put the items up for sale on eBay or something. But then I don’t. It’s easier not to deal with them, not to decide to let them go.

Perhaps this spring we’ll have a yard sale. Maybe I’ll be ready then.

Does it Scale?

In my journey to lose weight and get in shape, I decided that I needed a new scale on which to weigh myself.

I had a scale already, but I was concerned that it was indicating that my weight was fluctuating sometimes 5 to 10 pounds in a single day. And while I know that your weight can fluctuate, that seemed a little extreme.

I also wanted to get a scale that was wifi enabled and could send my weight data to an app or something so that I could more easily track it without having to maintain my own spreadsheet. The added bonus being that if it could write down my weight for me, I could weigh myself, save the result, and not actually see it myself. Seeing my weight every day could be discouraging, but if I look at it weekly (or monthly), while the scale records it daily, I could, perhaps, avoid depression when the number doesn’t move.

To that end, I bought a Fitbit Aria 2 scale. I’ve only used it three days at this point, but I already like it more than my old scale. My weight isn’t wildly fluctuating, and it turns out I actually weigh about 10 pounds less than I thought, 10 pounds less than the old scale averaged.

The Aria 2 also gives me body fat percentage and BMI based on my height. I know that BMI is pretty bullshit and I’m not sold on body fat percentage. But they are data points that I’ll track even if I don’t assign them much value.

Later, once I get the habit of this weighing myself thing down, I’ll probably add some measures – biceps, thighs, waist, belly, etc. But that’ll be another post down the road.

Have Card, Will Carry

In 2016, like a lot of folks, I didn’t think that clown could win. But he did. Then I desperately hoped that after the election, but before he got sworn in, he would take to the mic and pull off the mask to reveal he’d been Andy Kaufman all along. But he didn’t. And what initially was a comically bad transition team and all the mistakes that only an amateur could make turned slowly (though in some cases rapidly) into a nightmare joke of a presidency, where the man’s word isn’t worth the tweet it’s posted on. Lies and contradictions and bad decisions and disgraceful displays on the national stage. Surely, I thought, the Republican party would rein him in. And maybe they tried. Quietly. Behind closed doors. But publicly no one stood up to him as he trashed all the mores and traditions of the office.

I do think that a democracy only thrives when there is opposition and compromise. But the Republican party has shown that they are no longer interested in compromise, or even democracy. Just opposition, and power, and money. And the current administration… there are plenty of wild conspiracy theories about the Democrats and Hillary Clinton and “the Left”, conspiracies that would put anything about the JFK assassination to shame. There are so many dots to connect and so many of those threads are completely fabricated. There is a lot of “What if…” and not a lot of “Here is a fact…” But the current criminals in power, it’s like someone once told them the best way to hide something was “in plain sight” and so all of their criminal activity doesn’t require conspiracy theories, just connecting two dots with a fact. “Did the Trump campaign meet with Russians?” “Yes, and here are the emails and calendar appointments that prove it, and also the guilty parties just tweeted out that they did it.” “Are people paying for access to Trump?” “Here, you can see the Mar-a-Lago membership rates are at their highest ever even after a large price hike, and Trump spends a lot of time there.”

It’s like if you start reading a murder mystery and the butler just admits right up front that he did it, hands over the murder weapon, and the security camera footage of him doing it. And then the next 200 pages are the butler’s family and friends, and hat wearing supporters, trying to convince the reader that maybe facts aren’t true and maybe the guy wasn’t even murdered at all anyway, or that murder shouldn’t even be a crime when it is committed by butlers.

Two years of this, with no end in sight, has finally turned me into a card carrying member of the DNC. And until the GOP collapses I will continue to be.

2019, the Year Fink Beats the Stomach

That’s right, 2019, I’m calling you out. This year. THIS. YEAR. I’m going to beat you into submission, Mr. Stomach. You are going down!

Aw yeah.

I guess this means I’ve called out my first resolution, so I should just start the list.

  • Lose weight, get in shape. I’m going to exercise every damn day in 2019. Even if it just means rolling out of bed and doing ten push-ups. Every. Damn. Day. If I get to the end of a day and I’m about to hit the sack and I haven’t exercised, my ass is going to do some before I let myself go to sleep. Also, I’m going to try to do the better eating thing. The primary goal will be “less”. When I go out to eat, I’m going to try to put half my food in a doggie bag for another meal. Restaurants just put too much food on the plate. And when I eat fast food, even though I will have to fight myself constantly, I will get the small fries and small soda (or just get water), and maybe even a smaller sandwich. Maybe eat off the kid menu. I also want to see about cooking some more veggies at home, maybe even do some vegetarian/vegan meals. I don’t think I’m ready to give up meat entirely, but I certainly don’t need it every meal.
  • Read more. This one is also back again. I’m going to start the year reading books for my career. Some management stuff. Some design patterns stuff. In part this is because having worked in the same place for a decade I’ve fallen behind on the language and when I do interviews I come off sounding like a buffoon because I have no idea what people are asking. But also, read more fiction as well.
  • Write more. Also back again. And this time, I mean it. I’m going to try to post more on my blog, and I’m going to also do more writing for myself (you know, “finish my novel”).
  • Game more. Keeping the repeat train alive… but specifically I want to play more variety of games. I love Overwatch, but maybe sometimes I should play other things. And I want to attend more game nights with friends. They were fun when I did them this year. Also, I might try to attend a board game convention or two.

I’ll actually keep that “write more” resolution by trying to write more posts about each resolution as I tackle it.

Also, last year I used an Ink and Volt planner to help me out, which it did, but it was a lot more involved than I wanted it to be. The planner became a chore, and it’s setup tended to make me feel like it was more a weekly thing than a daily thing – which is odd, because I called it a chore but then complain it should have felt more “daily”. I wanted to have something more directed, more daily, and also “light”. So, what I am doing this year is I made a template for my reMarkable (since I just learned how to make custom templates for it) and do that. I may also keep a separate “weekly outlook”, but I haven’t decided yet. Mostly, I need to form better habits and something I feel more compelled to check in on daily would be better at engendering that.

Anyway, here is the template I came up with:

If you like this template, and want to use it, this is a PNG, but I do have it in SVG as well, just ask.

The goal here is to be both planner and log. Each night I will set up the Planned events for the next day. This could be appointments or just tasks. There are only 10 slots because I don’t want to overplan a day – that just leads to things not getting done. Then, on the day, I’ll mark off the Planned things I complete, and I’ve got an Unplanned section for things that come up and get finished. Like, maybe I wasn’t planning on getting the oil changed in my car, but the light came on and I had time so I just dropped by a place and got it done.

I’ve got a section to track exercise.

I’ve got specific habit checkboxes for things I want to do better at. Brush and Floss – I do tend to brush my teeth every day, but I need to floss more. Shower doesn’t literally mean “shower”. It’s shorthand for taking care of my skin, be it shower, just washing my face, lotions and whatnot. Normally I shave once or twice a week, but I want to try my hand at shaving more often, even daily, because some people have told me that will actually help some of the skin issues I have. And meditate because I need to achieve some inner goddamn peace, mother fucker.

The water checkboxes are because I really do need to drink more water. One, because I find myself to be dry in the throat too often. Two, because I passed a stone a while back and I’ve been told a way to help avoid that is to basically keep flushing your system with water.

There is a food log, which is where I will track what I eat, so that I can see what I’m eating and be more conscious of it.

And lastly (though by page orientation I should have addressed this before the food log) is a Notes field, which is basically for my general feelings on how the day went or ideas that popped up for something I need to put on tomorrow’s plan.

I’m tempted to put together a Week plan page, so that I can orient some longer term plans, but I’m still playing with the idea. I can always do it later. That’s the best part about this journal: it isn’t fixed. Every page can have a new template applied to it.

Okay then. That’s my plan for 2019. Well, that and continued resistance against the current administration, smashing the patriarchy, and all the other things I have to do to maintain my sanity. Which leads me to my last resolution, which should also help with the getting in shape thing:

  • Whenever I read too much political news that upsets me, I will put on music and dance wildly until either I feel better or I am exhausted. I’m probably going to do a lot of dancing.

Welcome, 2019. Come in and stay a while.

2018 Draws to a Close

What a year, huh? And I don’t just mean the political shitshow that is the current administration. It did cause me to protest more than I ever have in my life. But I also ended a job that I held for nearly ten years. Because of that, I am ending the year feeling… untethered. Free, yet aimless.

So, I suppose for a wrap up I should begin with tackling how I did on my resolutions for the year.

  • I’m still fat, and still unhappy about it. I did try better at the beginning of the year, but then I got super stressed out for about 6 months ending in me quitting my job. After which I indulged a bit until more recently trying again to do better. Overall, I’m down maybe a pound or pound-and-a-half for the year. Not stellar progress, but at least I didn’t gain.
  • I did read more. Not a ton – see the aforementioned 6 months of stress – but I did plow through a few books. Also, I dropped books as they became uninteresting. This is a feat for me, as I usually feel obligated to finish what I start.
  • On the writing front… well, I posted a few times here at the start of the year in January, then one time in April, and then a few more times at the beginning of December. I did a little not-on-the-internet writing, but again there was that 6 month period of stress that kind of wrecked a lot of things.
  • I did play a crapload of games though. I played some tabletop games with friends a number of times, I started playing Overwatch and got 350+ levels, I finished getting all the Korok seeds in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I started Super Mario Odyssey. My video gaming was on the PC and the Nintendo Switch – the Xbox One got almost no use this year.
  • And I did use the Ink and Volt journal. It worked pretty well, but I’m going to do something different for next year. The Ink and Volt planner was a bit more than I need or want.

Reflecting on 2018, I did okay, but it could have been better. I hope your year turned out well.

The Revolution Will Be Automated

I wrote a post about a conversation that I once actually had with someone.

Every day, when we let it, the world gets better. Things get easier. And this is a good thing. Except that sometimes older people get angry that the people who come after will benefit from the world being a better place. “Why, in my day…” they’ll begin, and rattle off some thing that you used to have to do that you don’t have to do anymore, because it was made obsolete or trivial.

And every business I have ever been a part of has always been searching for ways to automate, to consolidate, to increasing productivity while reducing staff. And that’s a good thing!

But the question brought up in the conversation and one I’m always asking people is “What then?”

Let’s just take an example. Some fast food restaurants have tried out self-service ordering kiosks. A customer walks up to a terminal, and puts in their own order, tapping items off the menu, and customizing those items. Now, I’ve seen some people confused by those terminals, and one I used was so strangely designed that even I had trouble with it. But if they became mainstream, the learning curve would lessen, people would get used to them, and they’d become just another part of normal life. Now, for this example, let’s assume that by putting in self-service kiosks a fast food restaurant could eliminate 1 person per shift from their schedule – which would be roughly like 3 employees. There are roughly 247,000 fast food restaurants in the US.

Where would those 741,000 people get jobs after they were laid off?

My local grocery stores, Targets and WalMarts already have self-checkout lanes. There are about 47,000 of those. They probably were able to drop 2 or 3 people from their staff, so that’s another 150,000. And if those self-checkout lanes got better (and they will), then they’ll probably be able to cut more.

Think about banks. When is the last time you went into one or used even the drive up teller that was a person? I don’t even have to deposit checks at the bank anymore. I can do it on their mobile app. And any time I’ve needed cash, I go to an ATM. In fact, personally, the last time I actually entered a bank or spoke to a human at a bank was about 26 months ago. And before that it was probably several years. How many people have been downsized because of ATMs and mobile apps in the banking industry?

Every time we make an advancement in technology, it displaces workers, and they have to go find another job somewhere else. They may even have to go back to school, or take an entry level job even though they have years of experience because they are going into a new field since all of the fields they have experience in are automating too.

You might be thinking that this isn’t a problem yet, but go look at all the articles about “millennials” destroying industries because they don’t have money to buy the things previous generations bought because they are underemployed at low wage jobs. Just look at all the young people trying to make a living on social media, be it playing music on YouTube, streaming games on twitch, or trying to be a brand on Instagram. Older people will tell them to “get a job”, but where? Where should they go? What industries are expanding? Where are there older people retiring and the jobs not being eliminated behind them? In fact, those older people, they probably aren’t retiring, because they don’t have the funds to be able to do so.

We are, in the not too distant future, going to reach a critical mass of people who can’t find work because all the jobs worth doing have been automated, a critical mass of people who don’t make enough at the jobs they can still get to afford basic needs and a little entertainment. And people who live paycheck to paycheck, they don’t retire, so it’ll only get worse.

It is a problem, and in this country we need to start thinking about it. What do we do when there are no more jobs? What do we do when so much wealth is held by so few people that the majority of “us” are poor?

That’s the place where revolutions get ugly.


Now that November is good and done with, I will admit to my shame: I wrote 0 words for NaNoWriMo.

Being that I am currently unemployed I figured this was going to be my best chance ever to write, and not feel rushed, and get it done – and not like the times in the past where I wrote garbage just to meet the goal. Then I got sick. Still though, losing 5 out of 30 days shouldn’t have hurt. But I just could never put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard as it were.

I even had a real plan. I had an outline. I’d done the research I needed. And then… nothing. Zero.

Perhaps if my unemployment had been brand new, but I’ve been out of work (by choice) since August. And while I’m not under serious pressure to get a job (I’ve got until probably the end of May before I start getting worried), it has been demotivating that the interviews I’ve had have gone so poorly, or that every single company seems to think that open offices are the best (they are not – they are, in fact, the worst), or that most companies are so far away.

A goose egg of a NaNoWriMo on top of that was just a gut punch. A kick while I’m down.

So now I’m trying to see if I can get more writing done in December, and also seeing if I can maybe make a go at starting a business of my own. I just need to find a way to keep my spirits up, to keep moving, keep producing, keep writing, keep reading, keep learning…

Last night I was awake until nearly 2 a.m. going through old post drafts here. Throwing out the ones that don’t matter anymore – I mean, who needs my thoughts on the upcoming 2016 election? Editing the ones that might still be something, like last night’s post. Jotting down ideas for posts yet to come. It felt good.

There Are Not Always Two Sides

I can’t stand watching the news on TV. First and foremost this is because most of the places I see the news on TV – restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. – seem to always put on Fox News, and Fox News is barely news, and studies show that people who use it as a primary news source are actually less informed than people who don’t watch the news at all. That study is from 2012, and I’m certain it has only gotten worse since.

Second, most news shows and channels always want to make news a discussion, and in order to do that they have on guests, and they always want to have guests from “both sides” of the argument.

Often this mainly serves to misrepresent that the two sides are equal. As John Oliver showed on Last Week Tonight, having 1 scientist who says climate change is happening and having 1 scientist who says it isn’t doesn’t accurately represent that 97% of scientists support the climate change model. It makes it look like it is a 50/50 split, which it is not.

But more damaging, it often allows people to think that there are two sides. Take climate change again. It’s happening. That is a 100% irrefutable fact. If you look at charts of temperatures for global models… well, they don’t call it a “hockey stick” graph for nothing. It is relatively straight for a long period of time with a natural up and down cycle and then right at the end – the last hundred years – there is this sharp upward swing. The only people who can deny that are people who just flat out deny reality, deny science – like people who think the universe is only 6,000 years old. The only debate is a) how much are humans responsible for the upward swing, and b) can humans arrest the upward swing. But that’s not how discussion get framed on the news. That’s too much knowledge and nuance. Instead, they bring on one guy to say “Look, it snowed outside. How can we have Global Warming if we still have snow?” and they bring on another guy to say “Because it’s more complicated than that.” And the audience is left thinking there is still debate over climate change.

Another way I like to think of it… if the question is “Which color is better, blue or green?” then you can have “both sides” argue it out, because which color is better is 100% opinion (at least until you get into specifics like “which color, blue or green, is better for reflecting more heat?”). But if the question is “Are blue and green colors?”, the answer is “Yes.” and you don’t have someone arguing the other side, because there IS no other side.

This false idea that everything has two sides and the way news programs approach it is having a detrimental effect on the viewers. For a good explanation of this phenomenon, check out this Slate article about the subreddit AskHistorians policy of banning Holocaust Deniers. The short version: Just allowing the Holocaust Deniers to engage in discussion lends credibility to their position – even if they don’t specifically deny the Holocaust outright, their questioning of minutiae allows the casting of doubt in the viewers. “Why, if this one little tiny thing is wrong, then what else could be wrong?”

And then there is the secret truth: Holocaust Deniers don’t actually think the Holocaust didn’t happen. They absolutely know it happened, but they AGREE with it, and maybe feel like it didn’t go far enough. They want to sow doubt so they can discredit people who oppose their (white) nationalist ideas, and they can normalize their other positions – like deporting people of color, or arresting all illegal immigrants and taking their children from them as hostages.

These sorts of things are why we need to improve public education in this country. Because there is another factor out there called the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, people are terrible at judging how competent they are at a task or skill they are not competent in. And we currently have a president who believe that he knows better than the experts in all area, despite having no education or training in most (if not all) of those areas.

People need to be educated, at least a little, in most subjects – just enough to recognize that when someone is just telling you a bunch of facts there is no “other side” being kept from you. They are just facts.

Lost Minutes

Every workday morning I get in the car and as I pull out the driveway I tap Waze to life to get the most expedient route to the office. It usually says the trip is going to take about 40 to 45 minutes, and at 5 AM it is right. But any later and I will get to watch my arrival time slowly tick upwards, my destination drifting later and later. 45 minutes becomes an hour, then an hour fifteen, an hour and a half, and sometimes up to as much as two hours.

These lost minutes feel more empty than any other wasted time. Commuting is such a bore, but one where you can’t just sleep through it. Well, if you take mass transit you can. I live in the suburbs and work in the city – mass transit takes two hours because … well, the politics of Cobb County is something to get into another time.

Driving in heavy traffic sucks.