Out of State Residents, Facebook, and Quotes

7/17 – Out of State Residents

Because we are travelling around the US for a couple of years the idea of a “state residency” is kind of irrelevant to us. Unfortunately, we pay a price for that. Right now in Illinois we are paying nearly double the price to camp in state parks. It is unfortunate that someone can’t just have US residency and be treated equally across the states. The US really isn’t set up for mobile people and many of the institutions encourage a type of state-level nationalism. We can’t find healthcare that is affordable and covers multiple states, and we pay a higher price for things because our IDs are from somewhere else. I recognize the benefits of experimentation among the states and allowing most of the laws to be created and enforced at a local level, but I think that can happen without discriminating against fellow Americans (or really any humans…)

7/21 – Facebook

I’ve been listening to Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek while biking. It has been fantastic and I’m trying to implement some of the suggestions into my life. One of the things he mentioned that really resonated with me was getting rid of time wasters and things that seem important but really aren’t. For me, the biggest thing in this category is Facebook. While I enjoy Facebook a lot it has a way of sucking hours out of my day (sometimes in big chunks and sometimes in many small chunks) and I am rarely better off in my life. So, for a week I am trying to not really use Facebook. I’m checking the message portion because that is a main form of communication for me but I am not engaging in discussions or reading through the negative sludge that tends to accompany posts. My Instagram is still linked to Facebook though to share personal things in my life with family/friends and such.

Overall it has been a wonderful experience for me. I am happier and a ton more productive. Instead of mindlessly searching Facebook on my app I am engaging in more conversations, taking time to do little spot work-outs (a quick 90-second plank or 30 push-ups or 5 pull-ups or something), and doing more work and writing. I am more productive and happier.

There is something about online social networking that causes people to throw social norms of politeness and kindness out the window. Take, for example, what happened on my wall today. Last night I went out to dinner with my wife and one of her friends, we went to a vegan restaurant in Chicago and I shared a picture of the vegan milkshakes we got. There were a few comments and questions about how a milkshake can be vegan, I don’t mind those because they came from people I know in real life and because they seemed genuinely curious. Then, there was one comment along the lines of “I bet they aren’t really vegan because they probably use refined sugar”, this comment came from someone I don’t know personally… we are only online “friends”. First, this person is making huge assumptions without asking any questions or doing research. Second, he seems to be posting a comment simply to be combative and suck the joy out of anothers experience. I can’t imagine he would do this in “real life”. If he saw a friend of a friend walk out of a vegan ice cream shop and overheard them saying they can’t wait to eat the vegan milkshake I doubt he would interrupt them and say “I bet that’s not vegan”. But online this type of “you are wrong and even though I don’t know you I am going to spew negativity on you and try to establish my own superiority” attitude runs rampant.

I don’t want to give up social networking for good, I think it serves a valuable purpose and is going to be a necessary tool for interacting for a long time. But, I need to find a way that is healthier for me. Maybe I’ll trim my “friends” or maybe I’ll just ignore comments and turn off notifications. I don’t know, but I’m much happier and productive without that blue temptation called Facebook.

7/31 – Quotes

I’ve been listening to and reading “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and it is packed full of quotes that I love. Here are a few:

  • “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain
  • “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.” – Dave Barry
  • “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” – Warren Bennis
  • “It is far better for a man to go wrong in freedom than go right in chains” – Thomas Huxley
  • “By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day” – Robert Frost
  • “On this path, it is only the first step that counts.” – St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney
  • “Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer” – Niccolo Machiavelli
  • “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt
  • “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs
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Things I Wrote: One Million Dollars, Thankful, Meditation

$1 Million

On one of the podcasts I listen to the host, Isaac Morehouse, was discussing imagination and mentioned one of the exercises he occasionally does is think long and hard about how he would respond to certain events, including receiving a bunch of money. The amount of money varies from experiment to experiment but the important thing is to give it some real though and itemize instead of just saying “Travel” or “Donate to charity”. Those things can happen but getting into the details allows our imagination to flourish, as well as keep us tethered to reality. This type of thinking (particularly thought experiments about how we would respond to bad events) is very Stoic in nature, so it definitely appeals to me.

So, I am going to itemize how I would spend $1,000,000 (tax free) as best I can. I don’t have internet access to look up particulars but hopefully I can really break it down and go into detail about how I would realistically spend that money.

  1. $67,000 – Pay off student loans. Getting out of debt would be my first move. While I feel no particular ethical obligation to pay back my student loans it does make pragmatic sense to do it.
  2. $250,000 – Set up a personal loan account to buy up my friend and families student loans or other debt. We could make repayment agreements where the payments and interest rate are very low. This is a system that would help me so much right now, it isn’t the minimum payments that kill me, it is the interest rates that basically guarantee I’ll have debt hanging over me for decades. I’d be thrilled if someone offered to consolidate my loans and give me a low (or zero) interest rate, I’d even set up a direct deposit so they are sure they would get their money.
  3. $200,000 – This would go into a safe, conservative (though hopefully interest bearing) account to provide for my future. Right now I can maintain the life I have for about $24,000 per year and this amount would keep me going without a need to work for the next 8 years or so. Not a lifetime but it is something.
  4. $125,000 – One time donations to non-profits I support
    1. $25,000 to DanceSafe to expand their harm reduction program
    2. $25,000 to MAPS for their MDMA therapy program
    3. $25,000 to Karma Rescue to help run the No-Kill Shelter in LA that we adopted Higgins from
    4. $25,000 to SSDP for scholarships to help get students to their conferences
    5. $25,000 to Wikipedia
  5. $100,000 – Provide financial support for 2-3 of my friends who are artists and would like to focus on their craft instead of working to make ends meet. This would probably be monthly payments.
  6. $75,000 – Build a “tiny house” to live in.
  7. $30,000 – Buy a used Subaru Outback
  8. $10,000 – Pay for myself, Anna, and some other friends to go to Burning Man
  9. $100,000 – Provide support for people on GoFundMe (and similar crowdsourcing programs).
    1. $75,000 – Those in financial need
    2. $25,000 – Those advancing technology that I support or have cool inventions
  10. $20,000 – Put aside for moving and set-up costs wherever we go after the bike ride
  11. $20,000 – Honeymoon in Iceland (and maybe other Nordic countries)
  12. $3,000 – Personal Purchases
    1. $500 – Get some really sweet home brewing equipment and start brewing more beer
    2. $1250 – A cool gaming computer
    3. $500 – Books
    4. $1,000 – Health stuff (cooking equipment, weights, nootropics, etc)
    5. $750 – MDMA for a year or more

Post Script: This was more difficult than I expected. $1 million is a lot of money and my estimates are probably a bit conservative here. I’d also like to really nail it down and get accurate in the future.

Thankful

There are many attributes that make up who I am. Some of them are all beyond my control and some I have a bit of control over. I have made decisions in the past that have lead me to where I am today, but much of my past (particularly in my early life) is, for lack of a better term, luck. I was born a white male in the USA to a stable family, that has given me an advantage over many people. I wasn’t born into money, but I also never wondered if I would have a meal or a safe place to sleep. I think it is important to reflect on the ways I am blessed and remember that other people are fighting through life without some of the advantages I have. So, here is a quick list of specific things that I am thankful for, some of them are a product of my choices but some are not.

  1. Teeth – I have healthy teeth. They aren’t particularly straight or white, but I’ve only had one cavity and I have taken pretty shitty care of my teeth. I rarely brushed daily and never flossed until Anna and I moved in together.
  2. Lack of Risk Aversion – I tend to take risks and not really worry about the downside. I don’t act without thinking, but having a bit of a risk involved in quitting my job or going on a bike journey or whatever doesn’t really deter me. I probably would be a business owner like my grandfather if I knew of something I cared enough about to create.
  3. Upbringing – I don’t see eye-to-eye with my parents on much but they were good parents who did their best. They were both around to support my education and personal development. I knew there would be food to eat and a place to sleep, even though sometimes we crammed several kids into a room. It was a loving and stable family.
  4. Immune System – I very rarely get sick. Part of this is genetics and part of it is lifestyle, I try to exercise regularly and eat fairly healthy.
  5. Stoicism – I tend to easily cope with bad situations. Some of this is natural to me but a big part of it is a combination of using MDMA as medicine and practicing ancient stoic techniques.
  6. Network of Friends – Due to growing up in Oregon, joining the Army, going to college in South Carolina, working in DC, living in Los Angeles, and travelling by bicycle I have a vast and diverse network of friends. We don’t always get along but I know that if I need support someone will be there to lend a hand, and I hope they know they can come to me for the same. Having a network that extends beyond a limited geographic region or political/economic/religious/social/racial bubble is something I am incredibly thankful for. I learn so much from having different viewpoints shared on my Facebook wall or in my life.
  7. Late Bloomer – Despite my current thoughts on sex and recreational drug use I was a late bloomer in these areas. I was a virgin until 23 and never even smoked pot until 24. MDMA wasn’t in my life until I was 28. Other drugs like shrooms, LSD, 2-CB, cocaine, ketamine, and 25-I trickled into my life after that. I am incredibly thankful that was the case. I am able to handle my drugs, and introduce myself to new drugs, in a responsible way. I am afraid that I would have made some pretty terrible mistakes if I had encountered drugs or sex in my teens, I was relatively immature socially. That doesn’t mean that I think the abstinence-only scare tactics that were employed against me is the best option, education in all these areas is a far better choice.
  8. Postponing marriage – I had two opportunities to get married before meeting Anna. The first would have been a disaster. The second could have been great but our life goals didn’t match up well. I am really, really happy I waited until I found someone that matched up with me in the important areas (kids, lifestyle, etc) instead of settling for someone. I don’t think people should have long lists of things they need in a partner, but you also shouldn’t give up things that are important to you. If one of you wants kids and the other one doesn’t then it is probably best to break up, there is no middle ground and guilting someone into doing something they don’t want can lead to resentment. The same can apply to desire to travel, importance of money, recreational drug use, etc. Sometimes love isn’t enough and no matter how much two (or more people) love each other their lives are just not going to match up well long term.
  9. Smoking and Addiction – I never really smoked. I used to carry a pack of Marlboro Reds with me when I went out drinking in DC but it never really materialized into an addiction. I don’t seem to be prone to addiction and have very easily stopped something cold turkey when I wanted to, even beer. Smoking seems like the worst habit in the world to me, and as much as I try not to judge I do tend to get a feeling of “eww” anytime I see someone smoking. It just seems to be the opposite of everything I value, but I recognize I am kind of an asshole for having this type of knee-jerk reaction.
  10. No Sweet Tooth – I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. At some point in my life I just stopped desiring things like soda, candy, and cookies (except when stoned… then I will all the Oreos). Anytime I occasionally want something sweet I can eat on pop-tart or a handful of raisons. I do crave savory things a lot, but even that can be handled with some hummus or French fries.

Meditation

Meditation is one of those things that I know I need to add to my daily routine but have a lot of trouble with. I am convinced that the benefits are well worth my time but still keep having trouble doing it. I have the time, I just don’t use it wisely. There are plenty of opportunities throughout my day to spend 10 minutes in meditation. Well, starting at 10 minutes, I do hope to work my way up to more. But, alas, I spend too much damn time in the morning and at night staring at my phone or dicking around on Facebook. I need to find a better way to minimize my time on social networks, they produce a lot of value for me but at some point that value is sucked away and I realize I have been just scrolling and “liking” mindlessly for 30 minutes. I use Facebook to stay informed about the world and share articles that I find interesting, but I usually get that done in the first 10 minutes of logging on. Maybe I should limit myself to 15 minutes on Facebook in any given session, and also limit the sessions per day. In addition to my poor use of time, meditation is difficult for me. I can rarely get through one full breath without my mind wandering. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself, and I know it will get better with practice, but I still get frustrated at times. Oh well, I am going to keep trying.

Things I Wrote This Week: Cycling, Marriage Equality, I Believe, Dream

I’m trying to get in the habit of writing daily to improve my writing and get the creative juices flowing in my brain. In the past when I try to blog daily I end up quitting shortly afterwards. So, this time I’m going to just try to write something relatively quick daily… maybe something that was distracting me while meditating, or maybe a current event, or maybe something else. Regardless, if I keep up the practice I will post them as a blog post every week or so. These aren’t meant to be a completely thought out opinion or well formatted posts, they are just some thoughts going around in my head.

6/24 – Cycling

The most common complaint I see about cyclists is that we “run red lights and stop signs”. It always makes me wonder if people are angry that some cyclists do something they perceive to be dangerous or if they are angry because cyclists seem to get away with breaking the rules. Is it genuine fear for our safety or is it a drive for equality? I actually think it is the latter. It should be noted that rolling through a stop sign and treating a red light like a stop sign instead of a light is actually legal in a few places. Bikes are treated differently because they are different, they are also the only means of transportation without a segregated path in most places to provide safe travel. Pedestrians have sidewalks, automobiles have roads, and cyclists usually have to navigate on one of those two… pissing everyone else off in the process.

Cyclists tend to get grouped together and blamed for an individual’s bad behavior. Yes, some cyclists are assholes and inconsiderate and break laws, but that doesn’t mean all of us do that. I have never heard someone say “ugh, that car just cut me off in traffic, all drivers are terrible and should be banned”, but I hear that about cyclists. Like it or not, bicycles are here to stay. In fact, they are becoming more popular as America slowly shifts away from a car culture. Ideally, cyclists would have their own protected area to operate like other means of transportation, but we aren’t there yet.

6/27 – Marriage Equality

Yesterday was an amazing day. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of marriage equality. I understand that many conservatives are upset, and I kind of understand why, but I think their anger isn’t justified. Certainly, this has altered the definition of marriage in the US on the legal level. But we humans do that all the time. Marriage was redefined when the Supreme Court ruled that people of different races could marry. Marriage was redefined on a cultural level a century ago when it started being about love instead of property. Throughout the thousands of years of human pair bonding marriage has been redefined numerous times across time and cultures. There is no objective definition of marriage that exists outside of time and place, it isn’t some sort of Platonic form. It is a human social construct that we use to arrange our society, and as our society evolves and changes to advancements in science and technology our social constructs will change. I think this will cause a shift in society, and with most societal shifts there will be some institutions that must change or be destroyed. That is the natural cycle of things, that is creative destruction, that is evolution. And that is okay. We don’t get better as a society by staying stagnant as time changes. Jobs, relationships, government, religion… they all will be forced to adjust their place in society as we advance. Those that don’t adjust will become a historical footnote.

Today is a day of celebration. My partner and I wish we could be in Minneapolis this weekend for Twin Cities Pride, but unfortunately we are far away. But, we are happy… almost in tears at times. This is a great decision for equality under the law, human liberty, and strengthening of relationships. The country is a better place now than it was 24 hours ago.

6/29 Random Stuff I Believe

I identify as a libertarian in practice and anarchist in theory. Though, I am pragmatic with many things, including my love of liberty. If it turns out that by sacrificing some of our liberties we would live longer, happier, healthier lives then I would sacrifice those liberties (though I wouldn’t force others to make that decision). It turns out that I think increasing the amount of freedom people have also makes their lives longer and of higher quality. But, as a realist my policy positions don’t always match my theoretical foundation. So, here are random things…

  • Basic Income Guarantee – I think we need to switch over to a social safety net that provides a minimum basic income for everyone in the country. It doesn’t necessarily need to get people to the poverty level, but would instead eliminate the shitty bureaucracy and allow people to transition jobs, get an education, take care of a family, etc without worrying about an ear infection killing their child or choosing between paying the electricity and feeding your kids. Welfare and stuff is alright but it is inefficient. Besides, as we move to an automated world more and more jobs are going to become obsolete. Even jobs that used to require a college education, just look at how Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT Online, and such are providing an education for free or a fraction of the cost of the university. Everything can be outsourced or automated and if we want to prevent a violent revolution due to a lack of food and jobs we need to transfer some of the wealth to the people. Maybe a percentage of money saved by automation goes into an account that is distributed, or maybe all the wealthy people get together and realize it is in their best interest to provide the Basic Income without a state apparatus… but I think something needs to happen or the US will implode into a blood bath of fragmented nation states. Then again, that might be a good thing.
  • Healthcare – Ideally the state would get out of healthcare, but that ideal isn’t going to happen. As much as many conservatives talk about rolling back The Affordable Care Act they know that isn’t actually possible. Hell, they bitched and moaned about the Department of Education but couldn’t do anything about it. I think a single-payer system is better than the crony hodge-podge insurance shit we deal with now. Other countries with a single-payer system seem to be doing much better than us. People may scream “BUT SOCIALISM!!!!” and I say, “who the hell cares?”. Of course, there is the irony that many conservatives worship the military, which itself has a “socialist” healthcare system.
  • Drugs – Legalize them all. All of them. Yes, even heroin. As bad as some chemicals can be for individuals or society it is made infinitely worse by forcing it onto the black market. The government can’t even keep drugs out of prison, they sure as hell can’t keep them out of the US. And the DARE fear-mongering program is a waste of money and brings about zero benefits.
  • Marriage – Let everyone who wants get married. Plural marriages are different than same-sex marriage, but it is still consenting adults making a legal contract with each other. There is no reason the state should prevent that from happening.

7/2 Dream

I had a dream last night… not an altogether rare occasion but this one I remembered pretty clearly. I’ve heard that you can learn a lot from dreams by putting yourself in the shoes of all the different components. I’m not sure how much objective truth can be gleamed but it seems fun and will be a cool mental exercise. So, here’s the dream:

I’m standing on a cliff overlooking a forest. It is nighttime and I see that quite a few of the trees are on fire. The fire doesn’t seem to be spreading, they are just single trees burning. I walk down to the nearest tree on fire and one of my friends is standing there. This friend of mine is someone that I’ve only met in real life once, though we are strongly connected online. We have a lot of the same friends and share views on drug policy. She is also someone who goes to Burning Man regularly. To be honest, she is someone I admire greatly and wish I knew better. For simplicity let’s call her June.

As I approach she turns around. I see that she is wearing a hoodie with fur trim. Her hair is also on fire a little bit. She doesn’t seem to notice her scalp burning, she is instead looking at the tree with an expression of fear and helplessness. I start patting her head to put the fire out and she joins me until the fire is out.

We decide to go for a walk through the forest. As we walk we talk about a problem she is having. June has an elderly grandmother who does not approve of her partner. The grandmother is angry that June never told her that she was dating anyone. June says that the relationship isn’t serious and they don’t plan on marrying so it isn’t a big deal to not update her grandma about it. Grandma doesn’t buy it and wants to meet June’s boyfriend. June doesn’t want this and is clearly upset about it all, it is causing tension in the family and stress in her life. June starts to cry as we walk.

Okay, so I think there are several themes and casts of characters to analyze. Let’s start at the beginning:

Me: I exist and view this whole scenario. I think this is me as an outside observer in the lives of my friends. As I interact with June I am more than an observer, I am also a shoulder to cry on and to help put out fires. Though, I seem unable or unwilling to put out the fire on the tree.

Forest: The forest is filled with trees, and possibly one person at each tree… though I didn’t see anyone except June. Maybe while helping a friend I fail to notice other friends. Anyway, some of the trees are on fire, some of my friend’s lives are on fire. They are having problems that I can notice if I just open my eyes.

Tree: My guess is the tree represents each of my friend’s lives. They are strong and solid, and as a group they make up a beautiful forest. The fire seems to be their lives in disarray, or maybe a problem that if it isn’t resolved will be terminally destructive. The fire is also a warning sign that something must be done.

June on Fire: The fire from the tree has spread to her as a person. It is now a real danger to her life and wellbeing. Something must be done soon, even if June doesn’t notice the fire it is still there and dangerous. Ignorance to the problem won’t make it go away, it will only make the healing take longer in the future.

June: It seems that June could represent several people. First, it could be me. I certainly have problems that I neglect, and my relationship with my family is far from good. My sexuality, religious views, political views, and lifestyle have been a source of tension between my family and I. I don’t really confront these problems, they haven’t negatively affected my life much and I am very happy right now.

Second, it could be the real “June”, the girl who I kind of know but am not that close to. This seems unlikely unless there is an unproven way for people to communicate subconsciously through their dreams. Maybe June is in need of help and calling out through the dreamworld for support. I am open to this possibility but cautious about it. Either way, I sent a message to June letting her know about this dream and offering a listening ear if she needs it.

Third, June represents someone else in my life. Someone else whose life is troubled and needs someone to talk to and help putting out the fire. I’m not sure who this could be, but if any of my friends read this and feel like venting or something please reach out to me. I love you dearly and will do my best to help you. A stranger once saved my life, and I am always here to do the same.

Walking: The last element I can really remember is walking through the forest. My guess is this is a form of healing. Walking and talking, getting the pressure off of you with a dear friend in a peaceful world.