You Are a Business, Not an Employee

Perhaps the most insidious concept that public education has convinced us to accept is the idea that we gain some amount of safety and security by becoming a part of large organizations. It makes a lot of sense on the surface because it seems to naturally follow that when we band together in common cause we have a lot more authority and power to leverage against whoever the opposition might be. In many cases this is true, but depending on what your goals are, this way of thinking might be hurting you in the long run.

There are certain principles that apply to every aspect of our lives, regardless of how disparate they might seem at first glance. From the price of goods to relationships to even just having quality air to breathe, it’s all about supply and demand. Someone else has something that we want and it is going to cost us a certain amount to obtain it. Even if what we want isn’t owned by another person, there will be some amount of effort that we will be required to expend to gain access to it. Nothing is ever truly free.

Successful people in the business world understand this cold, hard fact of human existence. They have no illusions that every action they take will have some level of cost associated with it, and what makes them successful is their ability to ignore situations where the cost meets or exceeds the expected reward. Even in their dealings with their employees, the first thought on their mind isn’t having a quality employee; their primary concern is maximizing how much money they can make off your labor. In a successful business model, your feelings are irrelevant, regardless of how much they might try to convince you otherwise.

As employees, we tend to put far more of an emotional investment into those who hire us than the other way around. Part of this is out of gratitude that we have a job at all, but a lot of it is simply that we have put ourselves into a submissive role to someone else in exchange for a piece of their prosperity. For us, it isn’t a business arrangement as much as it is somewhat of a family dynamic. We are the children and they are the wise father providing us with an acceptable lifestyle.

This mentality is exactly what allows large corporations to have the kind of leverage that they do today. Employees simply don’t see themselves as what they truly are: a microbusiness with a valuable skillset and a range of customers available to them based on the current level of demand. In the same way that your employer seeks out customers to sell their services to and have to convince people to pay money for it, your individual goal is to convince an employer to hire your services in exchange for payment.

What most people fail to realize is that they tend to give their services up cheap. We all tend to understand that a business wants to minimize cost while maximizing profits, the general idea being to “get the best bang for their buck”. In simpler terms, a business wants to spend the least amount of money to get the most amount of benefit. In furtherance of this goal, they want to minimize how much they pay you and maximize how much you give them. It makes so much sense when we apply it to a business that few people really question it. This is just the logical way of doing things if you want to make money.

When it comes to we employees, however, we tend to have a very different way of thinking. From our point of view, the job is our means of making a living, and while the goal might be to get as much money as possible from our employer, we tend to ignore other factors that are just as important. When we start seeing numbers that truly grab our attention, we forget to think about the unanticipated costs and expectations that come along with that hefty new salary.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself throughout my time in the working world is that different people have different priorities for different things. Society convinces us that it’s all about money, and I certainly won’t disagree with that idea completely. Money is what really “makes the world go ’round”, and if you want to have any significant level of happiness or contentment you’ll need a fair bit of it. However, once you reach a certain point, more money doesn’t really help with that anymore. Where the point is will be different for each person depending on their goals, but eventually you reach a point where money is no longer the primary concern.

For myself, I have learned that the most valuable resource by far in my life is time. After serving more than a decade in the military, I’ve experienced a great deal of my life being wasted by waiting around for things. Military service is well known for the “hurry up and wait” mentality, rushing around to get things done and then sitting around waiting for the next thing to happen. I was never much of a fan of it, nor was anyone I served with. It was just part of the way things worked and we all just had to “suck it up” and get through it.

Now that I’m in the private sector, I’m much less patient with people who waste my time. Every minute I’m spending doing something I hate is a minute I’m not spending doing something I love. Unlike money, you’ll never get your time back. Once that minute is gone, it’s gone forever. As you get older, you begin to understand the value of your time and it becomes ever more important to minimize the amount of it being wasted on things that aren’t important to you.

Obviously the person who places the maximum value on your time is going to be you. Let us be under no illusions that anyone is going to care much about how much of your time they might be wasting. Like many things in life, value is determined by the consumer, not the provider, which is why there is always such a harsh negotiation when it comes to salary. My time is worth a certain amount to me and a certain amount to the employer. Our agreement depends on many factors, not the least of which is the ratio of time versus benefit for both sides.

As I stated before, the employer will be looking to maximize their cost to benefit ratio based on the services you will be providing. For them, it isn’t really the final number on your employment agreement as it will be the amount of production they get out of you per unit of time. You might be making that magical six figure salary, but if you’re working eighty hours a week instead of forty to get it, then you’re basically working for half pay. It’s a great deal for the employer, but in retrospect not so great for you.

When I look at my career, I’ve shifted away from worrying about how much money I make to really considering my work/life balance. My approach to this is exactly the same as how the employer does it: maximizing the ratio that is important to me. However, instead of worrying about the amount of money versus how much I have to give someone, my primary concern at this stage in life is getting the most amount of money for the least amount of time. As my most precious commodity, it has become the primary factor in how I approach my work.

Unfortunately, this approach isn’t going to make you popular with your boss. When you decide that putting in all that extra time and effort to impress your employer just isn’t worth giving up the time, you’re not going to win any medals at the office. If you’re like me and the opinions of others are far less important than your personal peace of mind, then this isn’t much of a problem. You simply go in and do your job and then go home; I rarely think about work once I’m off the clock. However, if climbing to ever higher levels of success and income are your goal, then perhaps this philosophy isn’t right for you.

In the end, what I’m talking about here is a choice between becoming hyper-successful or choosing to prioritize your time over money. It is up to you to decide what is important to you, and that can only happen if you take a step back and really think about what you want out of life. If it’s millions of dollars and a super yacht, then obviously nothing in this article will apply. However, if you’re like me and you just want to have as much time as possible to do the things you want, a change of perspective might be in order.

Just remember that you are a business, not a slave. If the customer won’t meet your price, you don’t have to sell to them, just the same as they don’t have to hire you. Regardless of how scary it might feel, there are plenty of other customers out there willing to pay for your services as long as the terms are reasonable. Don’t give up your time out of fear. The sacrifice should be worth the compensation. Only you can decide how much is worth it.

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The Pervasive Indoctrination of Systems

I’ve spent most of my life in one system or another. As a child, I was subjected to the tacitly nationalized public school system, indoctrinated in the ways of putting the group before myself and taught that conforming to the rules is more important than valuing our freedom. When I spent more than a decade in military service, I was proud of my contribution to the nation, and I still am, but it was yet another system designed to teach me obedience over individuality. Almost all of my life has been spent in some form of structured thought process.

After so many years living in structures that laid out what I was supposed to do and when I was supposed to do it, I’ve found myself quite lost since leaving the military. There is an underlying desire to find some way to become independent of the resources of others and do something on my own to make money, but no matter how hard I think about it or what ideas might float across my brain, nothing ever sticks. I’m stuck back in that world of waiting for someone to tell me what I should be doing.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to just do something that is uniquely mine. I’d love it if I could somehow turn it into a career, but the odds of that happening are infinitesimally small and if I made that the motivation for coming back to write every day I’d never have lasted as long as I have. Most people fail within the first month; I’ve been writing for for nearly seven. It is the one thing I have that is fully mine to control with no authoritative input from anyone else. It is the only real creative outlet I have.

The problem is that I desperately want to figure out a way to move my professional life into a similar configuration. I have never been happy working for someone else, abiding by their schedules and conforming to their way of doing things. My time in the military was successful, but I imagine if you sat down and talked to anyone I served with they would tell you I had a bit of an attitude problem. Military structure and I never truly got along very well. I tend to think my way is better.

The issue for me is that for three quarters of my life I was immersed in a system that robbed me of my ability to think outside the box. There is a part of me that yearns to go off on my own and start some kind of business, but the practical and indoctrinated part of me just holds me back. Part of it is that I simply haven’t found anything that piques my interest enough to put in the kind of effort required to make it successful; most of it is just a lack of belief that it could ever work out. Despite my desire for freedom, the primitive part of me that wants to feel secure struggles to work without the perceived safety net of steady income.

Of course, we can rationally understand that there is no such thing as truly steady income. At any time we can lose our job for any number of reasons, from downsizing to making a mistake or simply from the company we work for going out of business. There is no sane reason to continue submitting to system of false security, but somehow most of us still seem to want to do it. Despite the fact that the odds are even either way, we still convince ourselves that we have a better chance of survival by being part of a larger group.

This makes sense from a biological standpoint. Larger tribes had greater odds of success back when we had to fight each other for resources all the time. Safety in numbers was a real thing during those times, and you were crazy to try to survive on your own. It was through tribal loyalty and conforming to the expectations of others that we ensured our mutual survival and prosperity.

This just isn’t the case anymore; at least not from a standpoint of moving ourselves forward. Innovation happens when someone decides to go do their own thing and figure out something new. A popular definition of the word “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting a different result. Progress is defined by doing something different. Conforming to the tribe causes stagnation. There needs to be a willingness to take a risk on something new.

I understand all this, and in my head I believe it. There is a large part of me that knows that if I just took a step out there and started doing something, it would likely succeed because I am a very capable person and I take great pride in doing things well. I am a self-starting person who becomes very particular and demanding of something when it is something I’ve decided is important to me. Endless hours have been spent on tiny details for things that I have a serious interest in simply because it was something that was able to hold my attention. I yearn for a career that grabs me by the belt.

Therein lies the core issue. My problem isn’t a lack of confidence in myself, it’s a lack of interest in anything with a serious chance for profit. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to jump into fields of work where their true interests lie. For you to earn any kind of living, you have to produce something that is useful enough to others for them to pay for it, and I haven’t come across anything yet that pays decent money and still grabs my attention. It’s all just a grind to me.

I’m grateful to live in a place where all I have to worry about is grindy work and that basic survival isn’t something I really have to think about much. There are much worse situations to be in and I certainly recognize that. However, what many people don’t understand is the very real needs we have the extend beyond just finding a way keep breathing. There are levels of existence, and once you’ve met the needs of one you are automatically drawn into seeking ways to satisfy the next. We aren’t made to be satisfied with what we have; there’s always something better.

This blog is one avenue I’m taking to try to satisfy that next level of need. My basic survival has never really been an issue, but I’ve never been in a place where higher values have been truly satisfied. I continue to hope that I can take this thing I’m doing and turn it into something more, but the indoctrination of the system that has dominated most of my life continues to tell me it’s not going to go anywhere. The fight for me is to continue doing it anyway despite the odds, hoping that my efforts eventually yield the rewards I’ve always sought.

May it be a small inspiration for others.

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Homework is a Ridiculous Concept

School was never something I enjoyed. There were parts of it that were somewhat intriguing, but for the most part I spent my youth yearning to be free of the classroom so I could pursue more interesting endeavors. To be honest, in those days those pursuits were mostly video games, but these days I tend to balance that out with a lot of research into topics that I’m interested in such as physics, cosmology and other topics that grab my attention. School rarely had anything to offer me aside from a list of things I was supposed to know to be acceptable in the workplace. It was important, but decidedly unengaging.

Perhaps the single most unreasonable concept that to this day I strongly disagree with is the idea of homework. I am nearly forty years old and I still look back on my time in school and remember how much I hated coming home from school only to be dragged right back into that world with mounds of homework to get done. Kids of every generation can relate to this feeling, as I’m not the only person who couldn’t stand it. We just wanted to have fun, not be saddled with a bunch of extra work.

As most adults grow up, however, they start to see the value in reinforcing information for kids in the home. I am not one of them. Rather than an additional means of ensuring that kids are really learning the information, I see it is an insidious method of teaching children that it is acceptable to be sent home with extra work that should have been completed during the day. It convinces them through repetition that the concept of working outside of normal hours for no additional reward is perfectly acceptable.

Having worked in both types of pay scales, salary and hourly, I can say without doubt that I prefer to be compensated in a way that encourages my employer to minimize the amount of time I spend at the office. Exempt positions are nice from a consistency standpoint since you can count on getting the same paycheck regardless of how much you work, but the tradeoff is that you’re expected to stay as long as is necessary to get the job done. Hourly positions generally mitigate having to stay late, but you might sacrifice some income in the process.

My favorite arrangement is a guaranteed forty hour work week, where you are paid hourly but you still get a minimum paycheck every week. At least, that’s what it is in the normal working world. The unicorn for me would be a job where I just have a list of tasks that need to get done and a deadline to finish them; then it’s on me to figure out when and where I work to get it done. Of course, those jobs are very few and far between, so the guaranteed forty is my favorite from the available options.

At any rate, I’ve never held homework in high regard, and I’m not a fan of it for my children, either. Fortunately, my kids have been homeschooled for most of their life, so homework isn’t really a thing for them; they’re home already. It just irks me that children are being taught that it is perfectly acceptable to bring their work home with them to get done on their time rather than just getting it all done at school. This kind of thinking is what leads to sixty or eighty hour work weeks trying to stay on top of things. It’s what makes employers believe this kind of behavior is normal.

I understand the idea of “just get it done”, and many times I agree with it. Sometimes things come up and you just have to put in extra time to get it all done. However, for many people this is just a regular part of life and they sacrifice so much of their time trying to bite off more than they can chew at work. Until people start realizing that this is simply corporate America taking advantage of effectively free labor, it won’t change. And as long as our school systems continue to promote the concept of homework, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

What do you think about homework? Is it an effective way of reinforcing information for kids, or is it an unnecessary indoctrination into becoming overworked? We live in a time where people are really starting to learn what they want out of life, and for many it isn’t slaving away for someone else for sixteen hours a day. Perhaps it’s time to stop teaching our children to bring their work home with them.

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Be a Man

I’ve mentioned once or twice in the past that I am a 90’s kid, having grown up during the era when the generations switch from “Generation X” to “Millenial”. Depending on which definition you choose, I’m either at the very tail end of Gen X or the very start of the millenial generation. As such, I tend to be a mix of highly contrasting ideas about many subjects when it comes to society. I like to believe that my natural tendency leans toward the old ways, but I’m self aware enough to realize that many of my views are skewed by a childhood tainted with certain ideas designed to change the status quo.

This new millenial generation has been taught some very unconventional ideas about what it is to be a man. It is a logical thought process to want to make improvements to any system, and I personally take a great deal of pleasure in finding ways to make something better or more efficient. On the surface, trying to revamp human relationships by making either sex more understandable or better makes a lot of sense. However, like many things in life it’s never as simple as we hope it will be.

Human beings still have a lot of primitive processes that get in the way of our ability to positively interact with each other. The primal urges that still reside within us fight for dominance over what we have decided are the higher ideals of our existence. This is fine because it allows us to maintain a certain drive to do more or be more, the baser part of us never being satisfied and propelling us forward to new levels of greatness.

Where we run into trouble is when we start looking at this primitive side of our being as a negative and begin to believe that we can somehow train it out of us. The reality is that it is a part of who we are and it makes up a very large portion of what has made us the most successful species on the planet. Were we to truly take out human aggression, it’s quite possible that we would stagnate into self-extinction as we lose that drive that forces us to keep moving; to keep improving.

Growing up in the 90’s, I was taught many conflicting ideas between my home life and school and media and various other sources of information. In the home, I was exposed to more traditional male qualities, much of it very negative from an objective standpoint, but in retrospect I value it because it taught me to be resilient as an adult. Steel can only be hardened by fire, and the same is true with men. However, this process was highly tempered by the softer message of the progressive propaganda that has been pushed for the last several decades that men should set aside their “toxic male attitudes” and strive to be more like women.

Much of the conflict we see in our society today has an underlying source in the drastic change in relationships between men and women. At some point we decided that it made sense for men to stop being what we truly are and capitulate to the female way of thinking. Men no longer act with confidence and aggression and dominance; we’re too afraid of offending someone anymore. Rather than standing firm in what we think, we bend and flex and contort until we no longer recognize what we believe in and just follow the crowd, hoping that we can find some form of acceptance in our platitudes.

Recently in my life, I have reached the point where I am no longer satisfied with just “getting through” things anymore. I have a certain way that I want things to be and I am no longer willing to compromise on them. It no longer matters to me whether anyone approves of who I am or how I think about things or if I behave in the way that they think is best. A man is a natural born leader, even if it just means leading himself. Despite what the more communal minded amongst us might try to plead, there is nothing wrong with going your own way. Many times it’s the only way to satisfy your soul.

I started writing this article with a vague intent of listing some of the qualities that makes a man a man, but the truth is that it is unnecessary. Both genders intuitively understand what being a man is all about; we respond to it when we see it and secretly yearn for it when it isn’t present. The confidence, competence and even slight arrogance of a strong man is something that real men admire and strive to become, and women secretly find attractive and compelling regardless of how much they try to deny it. It’s hard wired into who we are.

One of my favorite turns of phrase is the idea that “you can’t legislate behavior”, the idea being that no matter how many rules you put in place, people are ultimately going to do what they want. The same thing applies to gender roles in that you can try to legislate and propagandize human behavior to shape what people are, but in the end we are going to be what we are and no amount of brainwashing will ever get rid of it. It will always be there under the surface, ready to burst forth and show what we really are.

So we have two choices, really: we can continue to try to appease the ridiculous idea that the genders should try to be something they’re not, or we can embrace what we are and learn to maximize the benefits of that way of being. Instead of wasting our energy fighting against nature, we should be using it to further enhance who we are as a people. If we can learn to recognize and appreciate the things that make us different, perhaps we can stop finding reasons to hate each other.

It’s the differences that makes life interesting anyway.

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Cycles and Repetitions

The title of this post is somewhat cryptic, but really the subject isn’t particularly complicated or mysterious. I simply like to be a bit vague with the labels for these articles to encourage people to have a look and maybe learn something they didn’t know or just didn’t think about the way that I do. What I want to go over today is the fact that our existence is filled with things that repeat themselves over and over, and while we do get new things from time to time most of the things we encounter are repetitions from things we’ve experienced in the past.

It isn’t a new topic for me personally, as I realized long ago that much of what I experience in life isn’t anything new. This is especially true when it comes to things like music, where there are only so many configurations of notes and chords and rhythms available, and it’s simply a matter of time until modern artists are just repeating the themes of what the pioneers did in the past. Some people are honest about it and simply do remakes, but many either don’t know they’re recreating something already formed or just steal it because people don’t remember it anymore.

What made me decide to write about it today was watching through a “Let’s Play” of an old PC game entitled “Betrayal at Krondor“, a story extracted from a series of novels about the Rift Wars. I never read the books, but I did play the game a bit when I was young and always had a latent interest in it. As I have been watching the story unfold and the mechanics of the game be revealed, it reminded me of a time when video games were still fairly new and clever ideas were still being tossed about because it was more about innovation than profits.

Betrayal at Krondor was one of those games that did quite well from a review standpoint, though I have no idea how much money they made off it. The story is very engaging and the gameplay makes you constantly feel invested because it is quite difficult and the consequences for failure or death actually have meaning. When you play this game, you aren’t just trying to get through it; you are drawn into a storytelling event that happens to include an interactive component.

The point of this article isn’t to be a video game review, however. What sparked the writing of this article was a desire to highlight how time passes and eventually what was once new has been reduced to a series of patterns that are replicated over time. Betrayal at Krondor was a truly original game, but over the years this style has been iterated on to the point that one can never really be surprised anymore. Any game of this genre is basically the same: run around, get into fights, there may or may not be a fun story, and you fight a boss at the end to justify all the time you put in.

There are many reasons for this, some of them understandable and others are simply greed. It takes a lot of time and money to develop even the simplest of professional quality video games, and developers have to balance their end vision with the budget. Most game designers start out with a grand vision of the perfect game, but as bugs and time start getting the better of them, features are removed and story elements are pared down to meet the publishing deadline. Even if deadlines didn’t matter, the fact that technology moves at such a rapid pace means that games eventually get left behind as new features become available and make even relatively new games obsolete. It’s a mad dash to keep up.

Of course, perhaps the biggest reason is the one we already covered: it’s all been done. Are there any truly unique story ideas remaining? What about clever game mechanics or combat systems? How many more new types of magic systems can we come up with or monsters can we dream up or evil villains can emerge from our fantasies? There’s only so many complex ideas such as this available until we start repeating things from the past. As was said so profoundly in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

As I look back on the nineties, it was an era of truly unique and original ideas regarding computer games, not because anyone came up with something that no one else had ever thought of, but because we had a truly revolutionary technology at our disposal that allowed us to branch out into a truly new area of development. It’s easy to come up with something new when you’re in completely unexplored territory. Once you’ve spent a bit of time there, however, good old repetition rears its ugly head again and you’re back to doing the same things over and over again. It’s simply a curse of time.

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The Problem with Lying

Everybody lies. There isn’t a person reading this article that hasn’t told a multitude of lies over the course of their life. Even little children, who we see as the most innocent amongst us, tell all kinds of lies as a matter of course, whether to get what they want or simply to get out of trouble. Lying is a basic part of our makeup, and no one is exempt from it. No matter who you are or what you believe in, you are a liar. It’s just part of the human condition.

Where we can start to make some differentiation is when we begin to categorize the various kinds of liars that exist. It isn’t whether or not you are a liar that makes you a bad person; what really matters is what kind of liar you are. Perhaps you only tell “little white lies” to either avoid embarrassment or to spare the feelings of someone you care about. Maybe you cheat on your taxes or bend the rules because you find them odious. At the extreme end, you might be someone who preys on others with your lies for financial gain.

We are told that sin is sin, and in the eyes of God this is certainly true. However, because we must deal with people as people, it’s one thing to understand in a philosophical way that all sin is bad and quite another to figure out how to deal with the bad acts that our fellow human beings tend to commit against us. When it comes to how we respond to the way others behave, a necessary level of categorization is required to measure our own actions.

Still, when it comes to something like lying, we each have a choice to make. There isn’t any getting around the fact that we’re going to lie about something. Many times it’s automatic. Perhaps you have an active philosophy of never telling a single lie, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you, but the reality is that you simply can’t keep to that. There will be times when the lie slips out automatically, and perhaps you don’t have the resolve to immediately correct yourself. You end up lying by accident.

For myself, I have a strict policy of telling the truth when it’s important. On topics where the lie being discovered will have significant effects on my life, I always tell the truth and I do so for a very specific reason: it isn’t worth the additional negative consequences of getting caught. It’s bad enough to have to deal with whatever the problem is in the first place, but the loss of trust and the additional anger you have to deal with after having lied to someone important just isn’t worth it.

Another problem with lying is having to constantly deal with the fear of it being discovered. If it’s a significant lie, such as falsifying your resume to get a job or cheating on your partner, it can become quite difficult just to get through your day without worrying that someone will find out and expose you. Spending your days with a massive lie in the back of your mind is no way to live. It’s far preferable to just tell the truth up front and get it over with.

As I said in the beginning, we all lie, and I’m no exception. Sometimes there just isn’t any way around it if you want a positive outcome. You might have to just say what you have to say, or perhaps you omit something to prevent a fight. It might come out anyway, but if you keep your lies to small issues, you can usually avoid the trust issues that come with lying about the big things. People are generally understanding if your motives are pure, even if your actions are not. It’s when you let yourself go and lie for nefarious purposes that you start to run into trouble.

What do you think about lying? How often do you do it? Do you lie for good reasons, or for selfish ones? We all engage in socially unacceptable behavior for one reason or another, and our motives are the determining factor as to whether or not it was justified. Before we step outside of our moral construct and engage in an act such as lying, it is important to determine if it’s truly necessary, as well as why we are doing it.

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Personal Post: Space

I was struggling to come up with a topic for today’s article, so I figured I’d go back to one of the semi-series of articles I started in the form of personal posts that talk about something about me or one of my interests. There is quite a long list of randomly different things that I find intriguing, and while exploring our emotions and philosophies and other such things is certainly worthwhile, sometimes it’s nice to just talk about something that makes us tick. Taking a break from the seriousness of the world is necessary to keep from going insane.

Since I was a child, I’ve always had a fascination with space exploration. I grew up watching shows like Star Trek and movies like Space Camp and obviously Star Wars. Aside from the fact that the stories associated with these were designed to spark an interest in worlds beyond our own, there was just something intensely interesting about the idea of zipping around the galaxy in a spaceship. Of course, I’ve always spent a significant portion of my life in a world other than the real one we live in here, from fantasy novels to science fiction movies to any other number of different stories.

Aside from the escape from reality factor, however, as I became an adult and started learning more about things like cosmology my interest in anything space related only grew. I was fascinated to learn about things like gravity and supernovas and black holes and myriad other phenomena that exist in our universe. Every new piece of information grabs my attention, especially when we learn something new that we thought wasn’t possible before.

What is truly amazing is that we are at the beginning of a new age of exploration, and the final frontier of space is just over the horizon. As we prepare to put human being back on the moon and start getting ready to put the first people on Mars, we can imagine a future where we are no longer confined to this single, precious planet where we are constantly in danger of extinction from some cosmic disaster. The idea of visiting worlds other than our own will soon no longer be science fiction; it will be a part of our daily lives.

I’ve always dreamed of going into space. One of my hopes is that before my life is over I will somehow find an opportunity to get up there and experience our world from the other side of the clouds. Even better would be to actually pilot one of those amazing spacecraft, as I’ve always been interested in space simulators and I love flying airplanes. Space is obviously vastly different, but I love the idea of flying just about anything.

As crazy as it might sound, space travel could become quite routine in the not very distant future as our material science continues to progress. We are very close to having a material that is strong enough to create an elevator straight up into space. Our advances in technologies like carbon nanotubes has brought us breathtakingly close to making low Earth orbit more of a suburb than a destination. There is still a lot of work to do to make it feasible, but the physics and materials are solid.

Getting into orbit is only the first step, however, and the thing I would love most of all would be to become the pilot of a ship moving around the solar system. I would love to visit different worlds, but I have little interest in living on any of them. My preference would be to live on an interplanetary shuttle of some sort, moving people and materials around from planet to asteroid to wherever else it might be needed, enjoying the endless view of the countless stars and having my time punctuated by brief encounters with the various bodies of our solar system.

Of course, none of this is likely to happen. I am already old enough now and the skillset I ended up choosing for myself make it highly dubious that any space agency would find me qualified to do anything even remotely related to space. Anything can happen, obviously, but I’ve had to accept that the biggest dream I could ever have will remain as such. If regular passenger service to space becomes something real in my lifetime, perhaps I could realize a part of it, but making space my life is something I simply waited too long to zero in on.

Regardless, for the rest of my life I will continue to watch and wait as human beings push ever farther into the final frontier. As new technologies become available and we discover new aspects of physics we never knew were possible, I will follow along vicariously through those who are selected to brave new places and dangerous situations, living life about as far on the edge as is possible. With any luck, perhaps I can find my own adventure and experience at least a part of what I’ve always wished I could.

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Sometimes You Can Be “Too Efficient”

So I’m going to tell a real life story for this post. I woke up this morning to find my trailer floor covered with water. This wasn’t as surprising as most people would find it, as I’ve had some problems with leaking in the past. As I continued to investigate, however, it turned out that the problem was far more surprising…and gross…than my initial assumption would have garnered. It turned out my black water tank (for the toilet) had overflowed and spread water throughout the back half of my RV. Disgusting!

If you know anything about how RVs work, then you might be confused as to how this could have happened. The toilet drains into the tank, not the other way around. The answer to this question is my own stupidity and laziness. My sewage tank has the separate flush feature that sprays water inside the tank to help clean it when I need to do my regular emptying of the waste. For those who don’t own RVs, you can’t just use your toilet like a regular house version; the waste can’t flush away like we’re used to and you have to let the tank fill up with waste and mostly water so the water rushing out of the tank carries the waste with it. Otherwise the waste dries out and piles up in the tank.

At any rate, I tend to try to find ways to make my regular tasks as efficient as possible to they are less of an irritation when I have to do them. One of the steps I took was to get a splitter that allowed me to permanently attach a hose to the sewer tank cleaning inlet so all I had to do was flip a switch to turn it on. That alone would have been fine because you can hear when it’s on and you just turn it off when you’re done.

Unfortunately, I also live in a long term trailer park with a yard that requires daily watering, and I own an automated sprinkler controller to make sure I don’t forget to keep the lawn hydrated. The splitter was also connected through this, which wasn’t particularly smart because I forgot to make sure I switch everything back the way it is supposed to be with the sprinkler supply on and the sewer tank supply off. Hence, when the sprinkler system turned on this morning, instead of my lawn getting much needed water my tank got much less needed filling.

As with most things, in hindsight I can see where the mistake was, but at the time it seemed like a very efficient way to make things work. I get extremely bored with doing things over and over, especially when they’re tasks I don’t particularly care for like cleaning, so I tend to try to find ways to make things take less time or remove me from the equation altogether. The automated sprinkler system is one such example, as now I don’t have to stand out in the yard to water the lawn. A computer does it for me.

This is, however, an example of a time where placing efficiency at the forefront of everything came back to bite me because, even though it is logical to remove steps from a process, when one of the steps involved a fallible human being you will invariably end up with a mistake of some kind. The mistake can be trivial or very costly, but it is a near certainty that something will go wrong.

This quite disgusting story, which I am actually still working to clean up after at the time of this writing, is a perfect example of how trying to find the easy way to do things doesn’t always work out. If you put enough work in on the front end to place preventative measures in your system, then it usually works out fine. The problem is that for most things we only take a cursory glance at the process before signing off on it. This usually leads to unintended consequences later on.

The lesson here for me is that I need to revisit my water management plan for my trailer so I can prevent further issues from here on. On a more grand scale, the lesson for all of us is that we need to temper our impatience and desire to make things easy with a more thorough plan up front to make sure that we minimize the mistakes that inevitably crop up when we fallible human beings decide to do something. I for one don’t intend to have to clean up after my toilet again…at least not for anything that is my fault.

What do you think about being efficient? Do you come up with ways to avoid unnecessary tasks only to have the results turn out not the way you wanted? What kinds of things do you hope to avoid, and is it sometimes better to do it the “old fashioned way”? Sometimes it’s just better to do it the more difficult way, because sometimes the results of doing things the “easy way” end up being far harder than if you just did it the old way in the first place.

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Life as a Lazy Person in a Work Hard World

One of the principles I’ve wanted to maintain on this blog is to provide an unfiltered view of the world from my own perspective in the hope that being real with my readers will cause what I have to say to resonate with people. It’s easy to get up on a platform such as this and try to claim that I have all the answers to everything trying to get people to follow me. The hope is that by not pretending to be something I’m not, I can avoid the inevitable judgement later on when it comes to light that I’m flawed just like everyone else, as if you didn’t already know.

I bring this up because the subject for this particular blog post is about a topic I’ve covered in the past and still struggle with to this day. In fact, I will likely struggle with it for the rest of my life because I’m old enough now that the habits of my youth are pretty much ingrained in who I am. I can certainly strive to mitigate it as much as possible, but in the end I will always be afflicted by that terrible curse of laziness.

As I stated in my previous post, my laziness does have limits. I would never allow the quality of any work that I do for others to be unacceptable, partly because I don’t like looking bad in front of people, but mostly because despite my desire to avoid hard work I still have a very contradictory side of me that demands that things get done right. This puts me in a very awkward position because I end up having to do a lot of things I’d rather avoid doing because I take too much pride in getting things done to shirk them.

When it comes to the things I do for myself, I tend to have a much lower standard. At heart, I’m very much a “good enough” kind of person, and as long as whatever the result is will be something I don’t have to pay much attention to, I’m usually fine with however it turns out as long as it works and doesn’t look too bad. This is especially true when it comes to projects around the house. I just don’t have enough concern about such things to put much effort into them.

Where I really run into struggles with this is in the workplace. In a world where everyone wants everything right now and in a perfect way, I struggle to cope. Many times I end up having to put effort into things that don’t really need to be worried about solely because someone decided it needed to get done and get done in a certain way. The number of hours I’ve wasted putting effort into trivial things that really don’t matter makes me shudder to think about.

I mentioned in another post that the concept of the “bare minimum” is something that has always been perceived as a negative, despite the fact that the term itself implies that the result is still within the realm of acceptable work. When it comes to my laziness, it’s less about not wanting to work at all and more about my time being extremely valuable to me, and the less time I have to spend grinding out work for someone else the better. Every minute spent doing someone else’s work is a minute not spent doing what I want to be doing.

In the end, my laziness will continue and the world will go on, but like many people I’ve had to learn to cope with living in a world that is incongruous with who I am as a person. I don’t believe this makes me bad or useless or any of those kinds of things, but it does tend to paint me in a negative light with people like employers and anyone who believes in the idea that hard work at any cost is important. For me, all I want is to put in just enough effort to have the kind of life I want, and that life is pretty modest because I’m not willing to put in the work for anything more.

What do you think about working in situations that don’t line up with the way you are? Do you put effort into things that aren’t really that important and struggle with it? Or are you on the other side of the fence and believe in putting in as much effort as possible in everything you do. Perhaps neither approach is wrong and it is simply a matter of personal preference. In the end, as long as the job gets done, how you do it is immaterial.

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When Science Gets It Wrong

As we move forward in our push to ever greater heights of scientific achievement, it is easy to assume that what we are told is the truth and that we can count on the people who are coming up with all the new theories and developments that make our lives better. We trust that they are putting in an objective effort to find some new truth to be discovered, and we rarely question their integrity. So much of our modern world is made possible because of the honest efforts of many people who simply wanted to figure out something new.

However, the strange reality is that science has become something of a religion over the past couple of centuries. Because the information gained through years of research takes nearly as many years to truly understand, we rarely look into the findings of the scientific community to verify that their conclusions are correct. It simply isn’t possible for any one person to know everything, so we have to place our faith in the hope that people are doing the right thing.

COVID-19 has now shown us that this can lead to some pretty dangerous consequences. Despite the claims of highly regarded scientist in important positions around the world, it turns out after all that the virus was created in a laboratory in China and escaped into the population, leading to the infection of people across the globe and a massive disruption to the lives of nearly every person on the planet.

That human beings lie is no secret. We are all guilty of it in one form or another. The scary part of it is that we have become so trusting of the scientific community that it never seems to occur to us that they might have ulterior motives for claiming what they do. They do so much to help us with many things in our lives, so why would we doubt them?

The sad part of all this is that the people create things like the coronavirus conspiracy make it harder for the rest of us to believe anything that might be more legitimate. People wonder why many of us don’t believe in global warming when “the science is in”, but this belies the fact that there is plenty of scientific evidence out there that directly contradicts the claims of the eco-nuts. We just can’t trust the “facts”.

Science is a search for an objective truth and the results of pure scientific research are objective fact with no room for argument. This is something that is not only logical but also intuitive. There is nothing wrong with believing in scientific theory because when it is done right, we are getting pure, unadulterated truth. The problem is people who find something to gain from claiming to have completed scientific processes who slant their information for personal gain.

It would be nice to be able to place our full faith and confidence in our scientific community, but like everything else it is full of human beings with critical flaws that corrupt almost invariably corrupt the final result with their own fallibility. Be it from mistakes made during the scientific method, or simply lies told at the end because they need the result to look a certain way, we can never blindly trust anyone who claims to have a scientific fact. At least not until we rule out every possible way they could gain from a lie.

What do you think about science? Can we trust what we’re told, or do we have reasons to doubt? Has there been a time when you believed what the scientific community has told us only to find out it was a lie? We base our modern lives on what comes out of this highly technical and confusing field, but sometimes the walls come crashing down. What else don’t we know?

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