Pawn Prince v1.2

Salutations, reader! Welcome!

After community feedback, my piece mod to Chess has received an update! First in 5 years!

Version 1.2 is being approved by Board Game Geek now – you can find the full file shortly on BBG, which I highly recommend you to. (There are pictures in the PDF!)

To give you a preview, here’s the rules text in this little mod:

The Pawn Prince (Prince) replaces the Pawns in the A and H columns.  The piece cannot be captured by a piece moving into it from the 3 tiles immediately between it and the opposite color’s side*.  No other Pawn can become a Prince, as Prince’s cannot be upgraded themselves.

The Prince piece gains the base movement behaviour of any piece – same color or not – left or right to the Prince before it moves.  For example, if a Bishop is on the left, and a Rook directly ahead, the Prince only has the moves of a Bishop for that turn.  If a Prince is on a Prince’s flank, the Prince cannot move, since the other Prince’s base movement is no movement.  If no piece is to the Prince’s left or right, it cannot move!

For the special move cases of Castling, En Passant, Jumping, and Pawn Promotion,  these rules do not apply to the Prince even if the Prince is next to a Rook, King, Pawn, or Knight for which the special move cases apply. In the case of En Passant, the other player may not use En Passant on a Prince piece.

If a move leaves only a Prince and a King unit for a color on the board, the game ends in a stalemate unless the move results in a checkmate.

If the Queen of a color is captured, all Princes gain the permanent movement of Kings, but still cannot be captured by the forward facing tiles and may use the movement of any piece on their sides.

* A Knight’s capture path to a Prince is determined by the controlling player. That is, a Knight must move 2 tiles along an axis, 1 tile along the other axis.

I’m very excited that folks are still viewing and playing the content I’ve put together. It gives me a push to continue on my newest works (BITS being a great example).

It’s my pleasure to share this simple mod to a complex game with you! When you give it a play, let me know your experience – it’ll be invaluable!

Stay well! Cheers for now ♟

COVID and False Arguments

(In the following, we’re going to discuss death, disease, and dangerous rhetoric. This post is a heavy one. If you continue, know you are strong. Click on the links to be informed from official [ie legitimate] sources. Share as you will.)

Not OK. I started writing this when we were nearly to 150,000 deaths in the United States caused by the worse-than-lack-of response from federal and state leadership. Now, just 2 days before this post is meant to go live, 1 week later, we’re at approximately 155,000 deaths (~157,000 at time of posting), 4.7 million confirmed cases. You will understand any testiness that creeps into the following, as I have a bias for competence and human life. *deep breathe* We begin:

Overview: Situations Now and Before

The globe is in the middle of a pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen in a hundred years. At the time of writing (and I don’t expect this to change, except maybe with higher numbers), the United States is getting the worst of it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports approximately 150,000 deaths in the United States over 5 months from the COVID-19 virus when the first deaths were reported in March. The escalation of cases and deaths is exponential as the US continues to lack a unified effort between local, state, and federal governments to protect its citizens in the face of what is objectively a disaster.

That means approximately 30,000 people have died on average per month for 5 months. Again, these numbers are on the rise exponentially at the time of writing.

For reference, here are other especial deaths of citizens of the United States:

The Argument

The argument was posed in response to sharing this post on Facebook that compared COVID-19 deaths at the 4 month mark with plane crashes. The COVID-19 deaths at that time equated to approximately 50 plane crashes with all lives lost per week for 4 months. It concluded that those who govern would take action to resolve such a situation and no-one would take the deaths as a “hoax” or fail to take them seriously.

In rebuke of this, an argument was put forward that gained some minor support. In a nutshell:

  1. 135,720 Americans die every year from lung cancer, a preventable disease and the leading cause of cancer death. (From the original argument, it was rounded up to 150,000.)
  2. No mass hysteria or fear occurs in the country over these deaths.
  3. No prime time news coverage is given over these deaths.
  4. No knee-jerk federal control is implemented of of people’s use of the disease-causing products or behaviors.
  5. No preventative steps are taken restricting adults making adult decisions after statistics on lung cancer risks and death have been broadcast to the public.
  6. In comparison with COVID-19, the government administrations have fulfilled their duty to inform the American public.
  7. Any more action taken by those in power and leadership, including mandating masks and regulating public behavior, violates the foundational liberties of Americans (and is wrong for all this implies).
  8. The use of extreme imagery in regards to COVID-19 information is an appeal to emotion, a logical fallacy.

This argument can be expanded to other chronic cases of death. It merely changes the number of those that die.

The Argument’s Falsehoods

Let’s begin with the argument itself before we compare it to COVID-19.

Point #1 will be addressed later in the article. For reference right now, lung cancer kills 11,310 people every month, or 56,550 every 5 months.

#2 – The mention that there is no general fear of lung cancer deaths is more a call-out to human simplicity. “Out of sight, out of mind” is merely a reduction to acting like infants, where the things not present are forgotten. A human has only so much higher functional bandwidth and attention, such that anything not immediate is quickly forgotten or excused. If we or an immediate familiar doesn’t have lung cancer, we aren’t thinking about it.

#3 – For lung cancer news coverage, we have November as an awareness month. Other than that, children learn smoking is bad in school. That’s about it, so true, there is little coverage. But is this a good point to be making?

Lung cancer deaths account for almost 25% of cancer deaths, despite $27.2 billion of federal dollars distributed to state governments in 2020 to counteract the leading causes of lung cancer, smoking and tobacco products (80% of deaths attributed to smoking). Maybe that is because lung cancer research only receives about 10% of federal funding.

For #3, it would not seem appropriate that this point is in favor of the argument.

#4 – Mentioning a lack of government regulation is the first completely false and misleading point in the argument. Whether starting on the federal level in the 1960s with warning labels (~60 years ago), or currently with how the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces regulated sale and production, or by recent example the regulation the current GOP administration signed into law in 2019 on tobacco products, this point is plainly, unapologetically debunked.

#5 – If talking about letting adults make adult decisions, there are limits. Again, we call out the current GOP administration signing into law on December 20th 2019 a raise in the minimum age of tobacco purchase from 18 to 21. (As a reminder, 18-year-olds are “adult” enough to sign contracts, go to prison for life, vote in elections, and kill and die in war.) It would also be a disservice to fail to mention that the Bill of Rights’s freedom of speech – a foundational aspect to civil liberty – is restricted in cases of fighting words, obscenity, fraud, and more.

It can be concluded that the point on leaving adults to make adult decisions free from government regulation is false. (Any case made that this is at best an anarchistic ideal or at worst a criminal mentality is beyond the scope of this article.)

#6 – What is the duty of elected officials in leadership? If we merely go off of the preamble of the Constitution, the original text reads:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Establish Justice? Insure domestic Tranquility? Common defense? General Welfare? These appear to be the best intentions meant by the Constitution. (I’m appealing to Occam’s Razor for simplicity and brevity.)

The document goes on to charge and empower Congress to create laws towards the Constitution’s intentions. Further, the “executive Power”, the president, is charged and empowered to command all military forces, make treaties, appoint judges and ambassadors, and convene or adjourn Congress.

It is action towards common goals, which does not include abandonment of those responsibilities when having passed on information to the general public. That is the duty of the GOP administration – best labeled as this as it is a simple umbrella to refer to federal government, and the Republican party holds a majority of Congress, the Supreme Court, and has the executive office.

If we consider that the only duty of the GOP administration would be the truthful, timely, and complete informing of the American citizenry of the COVID-19 situation, how did the administration do?

(The following chronologically-ordered mentions are taken from NPR’s reporting of public comment by Donald Trump, current sitting president.)

  • Claim to have COVID-19 under control.
  • The GOP administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard citizens.
  • COVID-19 will “miraculously” go away in 2 months when it is warmer.
  • COVID-19 is a “new hoax” from the Democratic party targeting Donald Trump.
  • Comment that the Swine Flu that killed nearly 13,000 citizens was poorly handled.
  • “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
  • National state of emergency declared.
  • Recommend to socially distance for 15 days.
  • Establishment of act to compel industries to produce supplies to combat COVID-19. Days later, admits to using the act as “leverage”. No industries compelled to produce supplies for another 9 days.
  • Claims America will soon be “open for business”. Encourages churches to be full on Easter holiday.
  • Claims to have not known the severity of COVID-19 despite WHO recommendations, international experiences of the pandemic, and guidance from the CDC.
  • Announcement that wearing face masks is a voluntary precaution, that “you don’t have to do it”, despite CDC recommendations.
  • “The president of the United States calls the shots” when incorrectly arguing that the president has the power over states’ rights to establish or life local emergency conditions.
  • Halt of funding to the World Health Organization.
  • Calls for various states to end their COVID-19 precautions (wearing masks, closing non-essential businesses) to continue economic activity.

I apologize, dear reader. I cannot go on. The above only extends to the middle of April. In that time, the virus was supposed to be under the control of the US, it was not that bad, it was a hoax, it was to just go away, it was leverage, responsibility for protecting citizens was given to the states, the states were told the could not take responsibility for protecting citizens, and “you don’t have to do it” in regards to social distancing and wearing face masks, some of the best protection against contracting and spreading COVID-19.

This argument that the duty of the government is to inform citizens is false by the letter of the Constitution. Even if it was, the GOP administration would have done better to be silent and remain out of the way of more localized efforts instead of giving incorrect information to the public and undermining global and US efforts.

#7 – Government mandates are wrong and over-reaching, so this point goes, as it regards requiring social distancing and wearing face masks.

I’m tired. This point is wrong. Here’s why: Constitutional duties and powers of elected offices.

Of course, coming back to our comparison with lung cancer, restricting smoking indoors, banning adults from purchasing tobacco, and forcing tobacco product suppliers to print warnings make this argument’s point moot.

Do you need me to mention seat belts, smog checks, lead in your water, asbestos, age of consent, taxes, police, a standing military, firearm registration, education requirements, and food safety standards? No? Well, guess that may mean you’re a rational human being. We continue.

#8 – FINAL ONE. Huzzah! And it’s the logical fallacy of an appeal to emotion, to think of planes crashing in fire instead of people choking to death in hospital beds on their own fluids.

Did that last sentence get an emotional response from you? You may remember it better because emotion enhances recall. This is required as purely-factual information (point #6) had failed to prevent 137,000 deaths.

Since 137,000 deaths is a fact, and comparing a number of equally dead people by disease to that number by fire, there is no falsehood posed in the point (ie, no negative or misleading proposal). The benefit, however, is that there will be fewer deaths in the future if emotion can be used to get people to act appropriately rather than in ways that lead to more dead.

But most importantly, if we can’t agree that people killed indiscriminately by their hundreds of thousands is a bad thing, that we do not stand idly by while this happens, I don’t know how to teach you to care about other people 🤷‍♂️

The Conclusion

Lung cancer. It kills 11,310 on average every month.

COVID-19. 34,350 killed a month, averaged a month ago.

Lung cancer is terrible. It is preventable. We have failed as a society to save those who’ve died and will die because… what? Liberties? Economy? And every government for the last 100+ years shares the blame with the culture that condoned the mortality.

COVID-19 is terrible. It has killed at least 3 times the number who’ll die from lung cancer. It has been preventable. Could still be preventable. Yet more will die because… what? Liberties? Economy?

All that and more, it seems, a claim backed by the without precedent GOP administration’s abandonment of duty (if not outright maliciousness towards the general public), further while a cowboy culture in the United States will continue to claim more and more lives by individual belligerence regardless of guidance, fact, or seemingly moral discussion. The argument dismantled above gives proof that even when facts are provided, people will still choose to kill other people, belittling the act (or lack thereof to prevent the killing) all the way to justify themselves.

COVID-19 is not a joke. The death of another human beings, let alone hundreds of thousands, must be corrected actively, not passively. A life is not a statistic. To argue over whether a person should die or not, that exercising personal liberty for personal gain is more important than the health of  another, is… Well, villainous.

Any further discussion is a threat to public health. Thus, I will cease writing further on facts and leave the duty to competent, benign journalists and healthcare professionals. However, I reserve future calls to action on COVID-19, on lung cancer, on the ills of humanity that we as people must do something about.

You’ve been informed. From here, it’s simple. Waste no more time on “argument”. Give no room to those that would goad you to waste your life. Follow CDC and WHO COVID-19 guidelines. Act.

Do that, and you may save a life. You may save yours.

July August Goals

Hello hello!

Checking in for July’s progress (and boy, what progress!). As we look ahead to August, I think the momentum will be kept up. Let’s talk:

July Goal Review

  1. Invest in Family
    1. Won. Visiting sis and reaching out to family, I’ve learned a lot about them and myself. (Still working on myself!) A
  2. Invest in Games
    1. Won. I have a Draft 0 of BITS, specifically BITS of DnD, a conversion of the hit TTRPG, and am onto Draft 1. That, and I playtested various mechanics of a Civil War-themed Risk game – the playtest showed areas where the game wasn’t communicating the right ‘feel’, but I did mathematically deduce what the continent bonus should be in any Risk game (look for a post on that later! Spoiler: the constant for bonus value is .4).
  3. Invest in Investments
    1. Won. Read up on The Tao of Warren Buffet and The Intelligent Investor, both excellent and recommended reads. Sold objectively way overvalued TSLA stock, built an automated checklist for stock purchase worthiness, and discovered the glory of ImportHtml in Google Sheets (could give a post on this later if there’s interest). And I bought COBRA insurance! ~woot~ (?)
  4. (Wait, what happened to the interview?)
    1. Interviewed, passed the fourth and final round, yet when it was between me and another, the other won out. Oh well 🤷‍♂️ Gave me more time for other goals 😉

August Goal Proposal

I had in mind possibly blitzing a short story a week for four weeks, ~10K words a week, put them in an anthology or some such. While still on my mind, I’ve decided to finish (or get presentable) the thing that’s pestered my mind for two years: BITS. Check it out:

  1. BITS of DnD Draft 1
    1. As the title says. Get a presentable document prepared (there are still notes in Draft 0). Once that’s done, I’ll moved to the second goal:
  2. BITS of DnD Final Draft (For Beta Playtesting)
    1. By the end of August, I’ll have a playable ruleset that strangers should be able to pickup. This is the draft that can be applied to a general BITS ruleset and collection of design principles applicable for other IPs and games!
  3. GD ST Outlines
    1. GD ST” is a code name for a WIP retelling of a classic IP. My goal is to concoct ‘episodes’ (at least 12, preferably 24) that will be in a one-page outline form each. The outlines will be great for later use, should I begin a ‘short-story-a-month’ or similar scheme to get back to writing 📝
  4. Housekeeping
    1. This is particular. Travel is going to happen to someone in the household, so they will become a COVID risk. That, and my sis is moving, so I’m lifting and carrying for that. So, housekeeping! More chores than normal! These things I’ll be spending time on (kind of a cop-out, so should really be one less goal for August as was done for July… oh well 🙃).

July was an overwhelming victory. I’ve demonstrably improved in my financial knowledge and positions, some of my relationships, my game making, and in my understanding of SQL (this is a coding interview thing).

August shall not stop me, nor should it you. If there is help I may provide you in your goals, do reach out. Should you like to help in playtesting, proofreading, or just wanting to check on how things are, I deeply appreciate hearing from you 😊

As always, stay safe, stay healthy, remember that you are and that is excellence. Cheers! 🖖🏻

Improvised Role-playing Game

It follows this month’s goals that I invest in both making games and in family. This week, I did both!

This post has lessons for being a Game Moderator, or GM (referred to in the massively popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons as DM) and impromptu game-playing. However, I want make special note of just how much fun my sister, her partner, and I had with nothing more than two dice, a prompt, and our imaginations 😁

Try the following yourself sometime and have a great day! 👍

Mechanics

2d6. Or, two six-sided dice, are what’s rolled. Only the GM rolls dice when the outcome is uncertain or the attempt could be dangerous.

3-5-7-9-11 difficulty. Difficulty starts at 3 for very easy (this should hardly, ie never, be used; the player should just be able to do it), 5 for easy, 7 for moderate (the default if no difficulty specified), 9 for hard, and 11 for very hard. The GM bases the difficulty off of the game’s context, the player’s ability, and the action or actions trying to be done.

Roll at or above to succeed. Meet or above the difficulty to do the things intended.

Critically succeed or fail. When the 2d6 both have the same face value (eg 2-2, 5-5), consider that a critical. It’s a success or failure if the total value of the 2d6 is above or below the difficulty, having especially positive or especially negative consequences.

Have the option to reroll the lowest die for great context. If in the game story a player does something unexpected, has the high ground, or takes advantage in the game’s story in any other way, give that player the option to reroll the lowest die.

Playing

Two to six players, one being GM. You need a handful of players (two to six-ish), one being the GM. Players work together to clarify and act in the game’s story. The GM describes the environment and outcomes, rolls dice, presents obstacles, answers other players’ questions, and asks what the players are doing (this buys the players time to think of their next actions).

Non-GM players are themselves in the game. To judge how well they might do something, the players are asked about their past experiences and current abilities when such things might help them accomplish what they want.

Let the details reveal themselves. Whether defining a player’s character or the game world, let the specifics be asked for when they’re needed. This saves time and trivia. Want to know where the exits in a room are? Ask if there are any. Need to know if a player is strong enough to lift something? Ask for their experience and past examples of doing similar.

Let the very likely happen. If something is very easy, or if it involves nothing but the character themselves, those in the game story do it without needing to roll the dice. This goes for having certain items and being knowledgeable about certain things that the player would very likely have or know.

Talk it out. Again, as a player, ask for details and talk among yourselves. If unsure what intentions are, what something looks like, where things are, or how actions would be carried out, ask and talk it out. As a GM, you also don’t need to describe absolutely everything, either; ask players for how they commit their successes, where they were before, and what they’ve done previously.

Give a prompt. The GM can start the game off with the famous The Orc and the Pie game prompt from Monte Cook: “You see an orc with a pie. The room is 10 feet by 10 feet” and “what are you doing?” Regardless of prompt, it should have implicit or explicit obstacles to get around and goals to attain in a place.

Optional

Players roll their own dice. This though seems to slow things down. One person rolling (the GM) and reviewing the values is faster, especially since the GM determines the difficulty and any additions or advantage the players have. (That, and you need more dice!)

Players are someone else. Depending on the game wanting to be played, players can be lousy pirates 🦜 superior ninjas 🐱‍👤 bug squashing space marines 👾 or anything in between, original or taken from a popular story world. Being generic as possible helps here, but the bare minimum is that all players are familiar with trope.

Add or subtract from rolls. A roll may be given +1, +2, or -1, -2 for the abilities of the player in the context of the game world, such as being weak (usually a negative) or comparatively large (usually a positive). This was tried for awhile, but arithmetic usually slowed things down, it being better to give harder or easier difficulty instead.

Roll for who goes first. This is commonly called “initiative”, which determines which characters act first. When playing, I did this for the first conflict, yet that was over very quickly. As the game went on, we skipped initiative, instead giving each player and fictional character near-enough equal time in the spotlight to try something, moving on to other characters once they were done.

Have you done something similar? I want to know! The improvised game played was something I want to do again. Heck, I may (after the current pandemic passes) carry dice with me at all times just for the possible opportunities 😃

Investment Unicorns

Why, hello, there!

Jimmy here, with a short one (or at least, I’ll think it to be short) since I’ve more to figure out on this topic…

But! Maybe you’ll get some answers to investment questions on your mind or be able to answer some of the following 🙂

Definitions

When I say “investment”, I mean a stock or similar I’m going to hold for at least 5-to-10 years at least (my retirement horizon).

When I say “unicorn”, I mean what Warren Buffet does: Buy low when the business is quite expected to last long-term (ie decades). That ‘should’ be a rarity in this Bull Market.

What’s a “Bull Market”? It’s a time of elation and high emotion and high prices before a lot of sadness when the prices eventually go back down 😢 Simply, it’s a period of time in the stock market where prices for businesses go through the roof, whether or not the business is good at making money or has the capital to back up the asked-for price. In that, the price-per-earnings (P/E) ratio is typically high.

And lastly, “P/E” is an indicator on how much a company is being sold for vs. how much money it’s actually bringing in. 20 P/E is the rule of thumb for ‘fair price’ when the underlying company is expected to last a long time. 30 P/E is definitely considered high, while 40 or more is astronomical. 10 or less might be considered a steal, especially if the company has the long-term sustainability to flex profitability in the years to come.

Signs of Unicorns 🦄

So what do I look for that is an “investment” “unicorn” in a “Bull Market” (or any market)? A few things:

  1. A low P/E.
    1. For me, I have been foolish (we’ll look at that later here), buying company stock that did not have low P/E of at least sub-20. However, they’ve continued to grow in the longest Bull Market run in the last +120 years.
  2. A dividend.
    1. Having a dividend means the company will pay me periodically for owning it regardless of the stock price. To me, that sounds like passive income 💲
  3.  Brand.
    1. Is the name recognizable? Does the company do something very well? Do people talk about it in positive terms and use it on the regular?
  4. Longevity.
    1. This one’s a little tricky. Is the company earning money in a stable way for more than 5 or 10 years, is it expanded well into the market making it hard for newcomers, and does it have to reinvent product rarely?

To me, a unicorn has <10 P/E (a “-” or no P/E means the company has negative earnings), a dividend, is a popular brand, and has lasted and will last into the future. If so, I’m ready to dump 10% of my cash reserves into it pronto! (Another tip from Warren Buffet.)

Past Unicorns

I started investing in individual stocks back in November 2015, 4.5 years ago, well before I heard about Financial Independence or Paula Pant or ready up on investing vs gambling.

Buying into Activision, Sony, Microsoft, I was buying into companies that made or financed video games because that’s the world I knew 🤷‍♂️ The only other thing I kept in mind was to buy when the companies where going down more than 10%. But really, I had no idea 😶

In the last year or so, I bought into more things. More Microsoft, more Delta, more Exxon, more Google, more Tesla, etc. Some have gone up, some down. But I tended to buy willy-nilly just because the company seemed like it would be around forever (except for Tesla, which I thought was way too low a year ago when I saw Tesla cars parked in lines outside my office).

So how did all that perform?

Unicorns Jump

Let me show you how certain things have performed – we’ll forgo looking at individual stocks but at funds or markets as a whole (all from Vanguard, and investment leader [seriously, go read up on them]).

For the following references, I’ll post the 5 and 1 year gains (or losses!) as of July 15th 2020. I’ll also include the current P/E ratios if available.

  • My Investments
    • 5 yr: +30.01%
    • 1 yr: +26.87%
  • S&P 500
    • 5 yr: +51.72%
    • 1 yr: +7.41%
  • Vanguard S&P 500 ETF
    • 5 yr: +50.40%
    • 1 yr: +6.16%
    • PE: 31.50
  • Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
    • 5 yr: +54.36%
    • 1 yr: +6.94%
    • PE: 26.15
  • Vanguard US REIT Fund
    • 5 yr: +1.00%
    • 1 yr: -12.26%
    • PE: 38.56
  • Vanguard Growth ETF
    • 5 yr: +94.97%
    • 1 yr: +25.25%
    • PE: 37.72
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF
    • 5 yr: +36.29%
    • 1 yr: +3.37%
    • PE: 22.31
  • Vanguard International High Dividend
    • 5 yr: +3.40%
    • 1 yr: -13.18%
    • PE: 11.86
  • Vanguard Total International Stock ETF
    • 5 yr: +2.31%
    • 1 yr: -2.36%
    • PE: 17.66

But what does it all mean???

It means I was dumb 5 years ago. As is the common suggestion, put currency into ETFs. (Seriously, do it.) With a heavy leaning to the US, we see the S&P and Total Market Vanguard funds even outperforming the S&P 500 itself. Growth companies have been ridiculous over the last half decade. My investments compare their measly 30% gains with the 50% realized elsewhere.

However, I haven’t done too bad in the last year. While the world has entered a pandemic, I’ve maintained well-above-standard earnings.

Now, I could let this outcome go to my head. “Why yes, I am that smart and can game the system! I gambled on Microsoft and Tesla, why not do the same again?”

Yeesh – May cooler heads prevail…

Unicorns Don’t Exist

I’ve had a good run, yet I’ve proven I perform worse than the market in the long-ish-term.

Now, as P/E ratios of major stock holdings race past 30, past 40, when a rocket-launching electric-car battery company is off the S&P but more valuable than any other business on it, when we near a massive US election in November, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic with millions out of work and hundreds of thousands dead… I am getting cold feet.

“No, Jimmy! Listen to Buffet! Buy stock for life! Don’t try to time the market!”

OK, fine. That’s a good point. Buy for life if buying stock. Act as an investor, not a speculator.

Then what do I do?

Well, even Buffet and his former mentor Benjamin Graham call out gross P/E ratios. When a business is overvalued to a silly extent (30-40+), it’s fine to sell if that money can go to a better leveraged investment.

There are a few companies that fit that bill in my portfolio (*cough* Tesla *cough*). Where the money (and any more I venture to stick into the market) can go to Vanguard funds. They consistently do well, have dividends, and some aren’t too icky with their P/E ratios.

If I do want to gamble (ie individual company stock), use another rule of thumb: no more than 10% of total cash in individuals. That, and have a defined exit strategy if I start to “make it big” or realize “I’ve made a mistake”. It’s like taking a little money to the casino and serves the same purpose of having fun 🙃

Your Unicorns?

I’ve covered that I’ve gotten lucky in the short-term, but have under performed in the long-term looking for my unicorns. In conclusion, I can say for me and most others seeking to invest, unicorns are very rare and far between, much like investors Graham and Buffet.

Going forward, I’ll put the time of searching for unicorns into rebalancing my portfolio into a Vanguard diversified ETF spread 👍

Have you found a unicorn before? Do you have one now? Why do you think you’re one? 🤔 Keep me posted – I’d like to hear your investment lessons if they’ve worked out for awhile 😉

Cheers ~

What Is Your Work Worth?

I’ve been around the block a few times as it comes to employment and figuring out my work’s value.

In figuring that worth out, a few excellent tools have made themselves invaluable time and time again.

I don’t use these tools until I have an interview lined up or a change in job title or I’ve been employed at the same place for 9 to 12 months. However, when used appropriately, they’ve put the leverage on my side when negotiating a salary or raise. For the cost of an hour looking up values, I’ve netted tens-of-thousands of dollars in value added.

That, and the tools have let me know if I’m walking into a proposal as being underpaid – as an advocate for the worker, never be underpaid 😐

Here, I’m opening-up my personal toolbox for your use. May it be a starting point on your next job offer, a stepping stone to ask for a raise, or merely another reference for your own methods to calculating your work’s worth 🙃

TLDR

(Really, you should read on. But, if pressed for attention, do the following.)

  1. Get the job title for the new job / your current job.
  2. Next, get the city for the job’s cost of living (CoL; google “cost of living theCityName“).
  3. Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, searching for the job title, and recording the median salary.
    1. Example for Software Developers.
  4. If the median salary is not in your current year, search “inflation calculator”, using what you find to turn the salary into your current year’s dollars.
  5. Multiply the median salary by the CoL percentage (111% CoL = 1.11).
  6. Take the multiplied result, round up to the nearest tens-of-thousands (this is the Minimum Salary you should consider for the job).
  7. Multiply the result again by either 110% (this is the Expected Salary you should quote to anyone who asks).
    1. If your Minimum Salary is less than $100,000 and you’re feeling fierce, multiply the Minimum by 125% instead of 110%.
  8. Aim for the Expected Salary or more (negotiate!). Accept nothing less than the Minimum Salary.

If you want more detail, you’ll have to read on 😁

Variables

So what’s important in determining worth? Well, simply put… everything.

That’s hardly helpful, so here are some base values needed for the figuring:

  • Job Title (Title)
  • Company
  • City
  • Base Salary (Salary)
  • Potential Bonuses (Bonus)
    • Performance Awards
    • Signing Bonus
    • Stock Discounts
    • 401K Matches
    • PTO
    • Gym Memberships
    • Commute
    • etc. (Don’t worry too much on this.)
  • Cost of Living (CoL)

Titles can be important, and bonuses lucrative, but unless you have some special arrangement to fully leverage non-salaried bonuses like stocks or commission, nothing will be cash in the bank at the end of the day.

If the salary can’t be increased, multiply the difference of what you want vs. what is offered by 2 (“2” for the number of years a person typically works in a position). Negotiate for bonuses equivalent to that number.

Sites for Values

To get values for the variables, Sperling’s Best Places, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, Salary, Salary Expert, and the job post itself will be your best friends.

(If any of the salary sites have bonuses, record those too).

  • Sperling’s Best Places
  • BLS
    • Search for the job title for the median salary and national area data.
      • Example of a Software Developer. (The “State and Area Data” tab has county information that gives you another salary value when you hover the mouse over the maps.)
    • If the salary medians are from a past year, use Google to find an inflation calculator to turn those old salaries into today’s dollars.
  • Glassdoor
    • Search both the job title salary globally and the company itself for salary information for similar work.
  • Salary
    • Enter some basic information to get the job’s salary.
  • Salary Expert
    • Get more salaries for the job title at the location of the job.
  • The Job
    •  Here is where you get the job title, company name, and city.

If your industry has compensation reports (eg Software and Stack Overflow, Video Games and the GDC Game Developers Survey), include those here too! More data, more power!

Formulas Go Brrrr

You’ve been good so far. Now, do this:

  1. Get one salary out of the reported salaries.
    1. If there’s a national salary (eg BLS, Glassdoor), multiply that salary by the CoL of the city the job is in to get the salary to use.
      1. Eg $100,000 national salary * 1.10% CoL = $110,000
    2. Calculate the Median and the Average for all salaries collected from every source.
      1. Google Sheets is a great tool for this.
    3. Whichever of the calculated Median and Average is higher, keep that and discard the other.
    4. Do this for the bonuses too.
  2. Round the calculated salary up to the nearest tens-of-thousands place. This is your Minimum Salary.
  3. Round the bonus up to the highest place (eg $102=$200, $1799=$2000, etc).
  4. Multiply the Minimum Salary by 110% to 125%. This is your Expected Salary.
    1. Why “110% to 125%”? Well, it depends. The higher the percentage, the more difficult it gets to defend during negotiations asking for the Expected Salary. Use judgement and self confidence in this – regardless of what gets asked for, a salary will always need defending, so preparing a longer argument of why the salary is warranted comes with negotiating 🙂

Tada! You now have a Minimum Salary, an Expected Salary, and Bonus values, aka your work’s worth. That said, let’s put them to work 😎

Using Your Worth

Here’s where the negotiation comes in. Negotiation is a topic unto itself and is better covered by cleverer folks than I, so I’ll leave you with these bullet points to keep in mind:

  1. Ask for more than you think you’ll get. That’s why asking for Expected Salary is the least you can do for yourself if pressed to give an expected value.
  2. If given an offer more than the Expected Salary and the Expected Salary hasn’t been told to the person making the offer, counter with at least the offer’s salary and the Bonus calculated earlier, if not asking for an increase in the offer’s salary by 10%.
  3. If given an offer less than the Expected Salary, work with the offer to see about raising the salary to the Expected (*cough* negotiate *cough*). Should the offer salary not be raised, do mental math to calculate twice the difference of the offer and the Expected Salary – negotiate for that value in Bonuses (signing bonus, PTO, etc.).
  4. Don’t accept less than the Minimum Salary. The greatest power is to the person who’ll walk away first.
    1. That, and accepting less than what’s literally fair (the median and average) hurts you, your peers, your industry, and your country. Don’t do it.

These values you’ve calculated are the bare minimum acceptable to not hurt yourself (Minimum Salary) and a reasonable request for the work to be done (Expected Salary) with wiggle-room (Bonus).

Remember, you are asking for compensation for the work to be done first, your history and experience second. Be aggressively fair for future, but only use the past as a lens instead of an anchor keeping you from accepting reasonable work.

Further Learning

What do you think? What do you use in your own work worth calculations? I’d really like to know!

If you’d like a spreadsheet with some of these formulas filled out, let me know.

Lastly, a reminder about our relationship to work and money:

Your pay is not a judgement on your value. It should only be a fair estimation of your work’s worth.

Good luck, y’all, on your next negotiation, job or raise. Cheers ~

June July Goals

Hello, all!

Welcome back and welcome to July! Trust you are healthy, getting wealthy, and wiser than you were ❤

June Goal Review

  1. BITS
    1. Won. The Body-Interaction-Thought System, my “baby” for running table top role playing games. After a number of playtests, partly converting the Warhammer 40K Deathwatch TTRPG, and uncounted hours of study, I have me a decently solid system. I’ll see about posting an Alpha-version of the system (and notes for converting your favorite games to it) sometime in the coming weeks 🙂
  2. Mods
    1. Failed. I have a Civil War Risk mod, but I haven’t figured out the territory bonuses typical for Risk games. You can see for yourself the map I intend to update and use for finishing this game:

      Civil War Map - BW - Trim - East
      Map of the Eastern Civil War-era United States.
  3. White Papers
    1. Failed. Have notes. Don’t have papers. 🤷‍♂️
  4. Tabletop RPGs
    1. Won. As mentioned, Warhammer 40K Deathwatch and its ilk of like-games has been converted. Simple abstraction, division, and averaging streamline the game to act faster while delivering a similar brutal punch 😎

July Goal Proposal

A caveat before we begin: I’ve been interviewing. Since I take a week to study when faced with these kinds of conversations, time will be taken from goals. I’ll make this up as best I can, though I will limit myself to one fewer goal this month.

  1. Invest in Family
    1. After some sudden family loss in June and with the prospect of having to start work again, I need to not let the opportunity to enjoy the company of these others. Though without much measurable outcome, I will seek to visit my sister, keep up the family estate, learn from my parents, and spend oodles of time with Sandy the lovable cat 😍
  2. Invest in Games
    1. There’s BITS to polish, there are example BITS games to make, there’s Civil War Risk to finish, and a myriad other games I’ve started but have yet to complete. BITS and the Civil War mod will be my priorities to show off in prototype (hopefully Beta-level) form.

      roll-the-dice-1502706_960_720
      Dice from Pixabay.com
  3. Invest in Investments
    1. Money is the name of the game. It’s the scorecard for my ultimate goal: Early retirement (or, at least the ability to retire). With the stock market doing excellently, I’ll draft the stocks/funds I’d buy if the market crashes like it did in March. If such is the case, retirement will be coming much, much sooner.

June was tough, though progress was still made. As we spike in COVID cases in the US and my time is temporarily taken by interviews, I will meet July’s challenges full force 👍

You rock. Don’t forget that. Stay safe, wear your mask and keep your distance. All the best to you and yours and your goals. Need any assistance with your work? Keep me posted!

Character Sheet Essentials

Greetings again, there.

Been thinking and working a lot on tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs). In that work, I’ve needed to understand what’s necessary for making TRPGs since my work concerns a universal simplification system that keeps the game’s original mechanical balance.

So, for your next dungeoneering adventure, you making your next great game, or if you only have a packet of note cards, keep five things in mind: You (your character), Seem (your external disposition), Story (your history), Stuff (your, ah, gear!), Status (your health, experience, etc).

Going into those things in depth, keep in mind that all of the following can be recorded on one side of a 4×5 note card. I’ve pictures as examples, though these have been made game-specific for the Warhammer 40K Deathwatch TRPG:

YOU

Your character and all the important things needed to keep in mind when interacting in the game. Name, stats, any special abilities, and some reminders of IP-specific values. This card shouldn’t change during play, and rarely between sessions of play.

Sheet-You

Name
Yep.

Role
A reminder of your role in society or the game world.

BITS
The Body-Interaction-Thought values that are added to your rolls.

IP-Specific
In this case, Movement (half, full, charging, sprinting).

Skills
Anything you can do in particular.

Special
Special abilities or considerations in what you do.

Other IP-Specific
Anything else. In this case, max health and don’t-die points.

SEEM

Your character’s external appearance and behavior. This card also shouldn’t change much, unless a scar or some terrible incident has come about!

Sheet-Seem

Behavior
What’s your demeanor? Put that here.

Appearance
What do others see?

STORY

Your character has a past and a future. Here those goals and history get recorded. If the game IP warrants it, include the relationships the character has to people, places, and things. This card can change during play, especially if keeping a log of the character’s actions. (This may require additional cards / space!)

Sheet-Story

Future
Your goal(s), what you aim to do, how you’re driven to act.

Past
A log of everything you’ve done.

Relations
Optional as it’s IP-specific; how you and others relate to one another.

STUFF

It’s dangerous to go alone, so what are you taking along? Carrying and wearing, using and keeping, the gear goes on this changing card.

Sheet-Stuff

Armor #
How much protection what you’re wearing warrants.

Tools
A nicer word than than “Weapons”, but doesn’t alliterate 😑
Anything held or ready to be held.
Only ever carry 4 of these at a time; kept in the hands, on the body, or on the hips.
Since these can be changed often, best to keep the details of the tools on other cards.

Wear
Typically the suit worn, maybe your pack, and a few pieces of other gear.

Misc
A count of the miscellaneous items that you’ve packed.
Is abstracted to keep down bookkeeping.

Ammo (IP-Specific)
Sometimes ammunition kept in a magazine needs special attention.
Also is abstracted to save on bookkeeping.

Specifics
Any items carried along that you have a definite amount of.

STATUS

How your character is should be changing constantly throughout play if anything of worth is being done. Health, progression, and conditions are added and removed on the regular, possibly needing to replace this card multiple times during a single play session.

Sheet-Status

Health #
Health (thinking of renaming this to “Wounds” or “Harm”) followed by the total capacity for harm you have.

BITS Growth (ie Level Progression)
Add progression clocks or ticks (this latter is cleaner) to level up each of your attributes separately (or all at once if using an XP-pool system like D&D).

Conditions
Are you sick? Under the influence? Jot the name and a shorthand for effect here.

What’s missing? Drop a line – you’ll make for better games doing so 😁 Cheers!

#PaidMe

Hi, folks!

Guess who’s still in a strange land of finicky data? No matter! That doesn’t prevent writing a few things down 🙂

There’s been a few hashtags going around over the last few weeks. #TechPaidMe, #GameDevPaidMe, #PublishingPaidMe, #ComicsPaidMe, even just #PaidMe.

Think it’s about time I contributed to #TechPaidMe / #GameDevPaidMe. Why? Why not? Transparency in worker pay gives power to the worker. Gives power to you.

uncle-sam-29972_960_720
Uncle Sam from Pixabay.com

My history has been thoroughly and chronically underpaid for the value brought. After reading Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference, I’ll never do such things again. After reading this post, maybe you won’t be underpaid either. Sound good?

I’ll save you some time by crunching the numbers with 2020’s income tax for take home pay (THP), then inflation (Inf; doesn’t count Roth 401K and IRA contributions), then normalized cost of living (CoL; to a US national 100%) so you can get some decently useful.

The Data

(Skipping pre-2013 dev work as I was preoccupied with other things at the same time.)

2013
#TechPaidMe
Software Developer
Base: $45,000
THP: $37,816
Inf: $41,620.54
CoL: $54,122.93
Secure Banking Solutions
Madison, SD

That means in 2020 dollars, adjusted for cost of living nationally, I took home about $54K. Let’s continue…

2014-2015
#TechPaidMe #HealthcarePaidMe
Technical Services Problem Solver (customer support + custom dev)
Base: $69,000 (I think? I actually can’t remember. I just know it was under folks hired some 3-6 months after!)
THP: $51,757
Inf: $55,988.32
CoL: $50,079
Epic Systems
Verona, WI (Outside Madison)

2015-2016
#GameDevPaidMe
SDET II Tools Developer
Base: $66,000
THP: $48,387
Inf: $51,690.73
CoL: $40,926.94
Microsoft
Tigard, OR (Outside Portland)

2016-2018
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Software Tools Developer
Base: $75,000 (not including bonus up to 15%)
THP: $59,588
Inf: $60,842.61
CoL: $54,518.47
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

At this time, I read Never Split the Difference among other books and Reddit posts. Continuous learning evidently pays dividends:

2018-2020
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Senior Software Engineer
Base: $104,500 (not including bonus; had a raise for a few months before a promotion with a final raise here)
THP: $80,179
Inf: $-
CoL: $71,844.98
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

Despite all of the lower-than-expected pay, despite coming late to the FIRE Movement, I am well on my way to financial independence. No debt, minimal other expenses, and investment performance is set to CoastFIRE me in less than 10 years, FatFIRE in less than 15. If we suffer a crash in the markets, independence will happen sooner with savings on hand that were meant for buying property 2 weeks before COVID-19 locked the US down. #BulletDodged

If you feel comfortable in sharing, what have been your numbers in tech and game dev? I used to be very sensitive over letting others know what I earn, so I understand if all you get is a reference point for your future salary negotiations 😉

Before we go, checkout these resources that have been such boons to me:

It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this, and ask for what you’re worth ❤ cheers ~

Trip Across COVID America

Hello, there!

As was mentioned last week, there continue to be technical difficulties in rural America. Thus, we’re without an uploaded cast for week two. You’re going to get a more filled out transcript for now 😁

Makes the time fitting that we should talk about the elephant in the room, (rural) America. It’s more than just bad internet connections. It’s grandeur, even in its blasted expanses; it’s hope, even as there’s none; it’s a new perspective, even with (or because there’s) a pandemic continuing to ravage the American populace. It’s pride in the ashamed. It’s so much more than just these things.

THE SETUP

After the following post, you may have an evolved understanding of a certain psychology in different parts of the United States. I’ve certainly come to new terms with the country as a whole because of a week-long trip I took at the start of May 2020. The plan had been to spend a month on the road, touring the wild places I’ve not yet given myself time to enjoy.

However, with many states locked down and a person not wanting to visit those that weren’t, while the national parks were closed, much of the proposed adventure were untenable. It makes sense to scrap such a venture: Despite being away from people, interactions would need to happen at sometime, while the danger of solo longer-term travel is a valid consideration.

In exchange, I made arrangements to meander in more-or-less a straight line to New York State where I’d visit family after an additional two weeks in self-isolation. The tenants of the trip remain the same:

  • Minimal human contact to the extreme.
  • Masks and gloves when doing things like using washrooms or gas stations.
  • Eat and drink of my supplies (2.5 weeks of water, 1.25 months of food).
  • Sleep in my car or tent.
  • Enjoy myself, abandoning preconceived daily structure and being chill about the journey.

FIRST ADVENTURE – UTAH AND FUEL

road-3856796_960_720
Nevada road from Pixabay.com

With all of my possessions taking up 5×10 in a 10×10 space or in my car, I set forth from Lake Las Vegas on May 2nd after a horrendously peaceful morning next to the water. Places I’d not seen in a long time, things that elicited memories of years of late nights with friends, food, music, joy, anger, sadness, passed as I traveled up a sliver of Nevada into Utah, a beautiful place.

The road took me past my nostalgia of Grand Canyon camping, Zion hiking, and those that came along. As the memories of years gone by flew away like power lines, I started making new ones.

Into strange places I drove, places of irregular gullies and ravines, a wide, basking splendor of high and low tops. These dropped away as if a curtain rod had fallen, revealing an expanse of plain bordered on its sides by more mountains and hills.

Now, to my shame. I ran out of gas in Utah’s high places! Though maybe I exaggerate… Anyway, with so many gas stations, I figured I’d last through the mountains I passed. I know now they were part of a national park, devoid of any such facilities.

Coming out of the mountains, I calculate I had a third of a gallon left in the tank. Approximately 15-18 miles. Alarms pinged and warning lights flashed. I pulled the car off the highway to search my phone with no data available for fuel.

Luckily, there happened to be a town but 12, 15 miles away from where I was. Completely perpendicular to my course, it proved my only hope.

Leveraging my Toyota Prius’s electric capability, I tooled North to the town, thinking awhile that I could jog, fill a water bottle with gas if need be. As I watched my gauge estimate 18, 15, 13, 8 miles left, I entered the town as the Sun cut off on the mountainous horizon. And there, to my elation, was the single-pump, self-service gas station.

I spent the night in the town, walked through dark, dark streets to its cemetery and back again. Sagging houses were neighbored by those erect, yet all missed the landscaping or paint those in cities commonly see. Some shacks gaped black holes of doors and windows at me, yet those that didn’t threw new shadows from the scrap and vehicles and tools left in the yard.

All this under a massive expanse of stars I’d not seen in years and years.

I wonder if that fear of dark caves (or their modern equivalent, abandoned buildings without light) reminds us that first there is no human fire there, and second that monsters lie in caves, as nearly all human myth has beasts in the dark…

SECOND ADVENTURE – COLORADO AND SHOCK

Utah gives way into the =incredible= mountains of Western Colorado, and its even more incredible inclines and declines among trees and snow.

Gassing-up and driving through tight gorges, I see people. These adventure-seeking Coloradoans bike and run and go everywhere. Neither the pandemic nor the snow grant them masks, nor are the paths they trod wide enough to distance themselves socially.

Shock hits me. I’m set about thinking on the culture and mentality of the people in the place. If I only could have been humbled by knowing what I’d come to see.

The beauty of Colorado’s West dies at Denver. Passing into the East leaves no doubt.

Plains. Plains for as far as the eye can see stretch for mile-after-unobstructed-mile. Ravines and tree lines do exist, but in such small numbers as to be the most interesting bits of scenery.

Though, I’m remiss to not mention the clouds. Storms of such bulking mightiness as one can only get on the plains bless the sky. Language fails me to describe it any other way.

THIRD ADVENTURE – KANSAS AND DISREGARD

Oh, Kansas.

Gas is incredibly cheap here. That’s a thing.

Its people scoff at the COVID disaster. They wear not mask nor glove nor have much mind of space either. It is plain by the stickers and signs and clothing that the sitting president is something akin to God here, as these reminders outweigh the “Jesus saves” and anti-choice placards. This is ironic, as the actions of the people show a disregard for those moving about.

No love lost as I cross quickly into the forests of Missouri.

FOURTH ADVENTURE – MISSOURI AND REVELATION

No masks worn in the gas stations. Children and parents alike crowd together without regard.

I leave the civilization for the Lake of the Ozarks. After a pleasant afternoon comes the rural country through winding back roads.

water-111422_960_720
Missouri water from Pixabay.com

What a country.

Fields and flowers and forests and flowing water. Nature is in power here.

Nature is in power over the peoples, too.

Small huts called houses are consumed by vines. Brush and grass swallow automobiles. Machines rust, concrete cracks, the roads are pitted.

I see much, and nothing, and it has me thinking…

These are little places, the lost places, the places entering or having long since passed into decrepitude. I find myself traveling through the rural destruction of Missouri.

It strikes me at that moment why so many in such places seem … angry, helpless. The feelings conveyed when one turns on the news, talks to the person in bluejeans while adding gas to the car.

The reason would seem to lie in being around the perpetual destruction of the past. As houses dissolve into nature, paint peels and grass grows. There is no basis for self-respect left in the place of grain and trees. What a person sees every day is the death of the work of their forefathers and a constant reminder of their own pending oblivion. And there’s nothing they can do in their towns to stop it.

Perhaps it is nostalgia, romanticism, or an inability of imagination, or all these causes and more, that these adults stay in such a place. They have children there, enabling and encouraging them to stay in the psychologically ruinous rural disaster. Is it too harsh to come to such a conception? Well, the next generations are left to play witness to:

  • The destruction of their grandfathers’ world.
  • The human failings, incompetencies, and inabilities of their fathers.
  • Their own inabilities to maintain a legacy long since rotted in the bush, the mantle given to them without consent by their parents. They are supposed to attain riches and far-flung wants, says Media, says their friends and cousins who’ve escaped for brighter shores, yet they can’t. The tools they have at their disposal, left by their sires, are meant for tillage and ages long since having abandoned the rust-encrusted grain silos.

It’s true that the old start wars, young fight them. The old set traps for the young, naive to fall into. The old curse their own young through bitterness or ineptitude.

Is this a horror I witness? My mind reels at the implications. The Prius is stopped by the side of the road. If true, these observances explain and correspond with so much: Dismissal of change, the glorification of “good ol’ days”, manifest destiny, cultural and racial pride…

When the population is unable to acquire what they are expected to have (materialism, consumerism glorified in televised culture), these populations hold resentment towards (or worse, belief in) the dreams of their parents, when they pretend to hope for a future as also surrounded by the evidence of a lost past that refuses to completely rot under the hot and humid sun. The cycle of trial, failure, and tasking others to try has no choice but to continue.

Humans see patterns. That’s what we do. So those stuck in a dwindling cycle must be aware that what has been tried by others for years does not work.

We also are keen to rationalize away our laziness and wrongness inherent in our choices. We abstain from responsibility as it comes to the negative consequences of our actions (or inaction). Therefore, the method is not considered wrong, merely that some external force caused it to fail or it needs “just one more try”.

We push away those we resent and those who objectively get better than us through ways alien to our own. Thus, outside influence in decision making is lost. Thus, the only influence left is from the few voices that:

  • Have failed.
  • Are miserable because they see their failure yet refuse to admit to it.
  • Would like company in their misery.
  • Rationalize sunk costs of failure, justifying the same efforts be made by others.

To perpetuate the cycle, those who’ve found themselves wasted and stuck in a country that’s left them behind do what they must:

  • Encourage others to stay with them, feinting helplessness.
  • Dull the will of others to leave, usually through a lack of education.
  • Trap others with them, usually through marriage and the begetting of children.
  • Make it easy for others to stay with them by providing parental or financial support.
  • Shame any change from the above course.
  • Guilt others who consider leaving or self-sufficiency by either claiming the other is disrespecting legacy and abandoning the miserables in left in the cycle.

With these points in mind, it is easy to understand how quickly and fully a person could become trapped in the cycle of oblivion.

But humans won’t be forgotten. Thus they rail against change and others and those that have grown out of nostalgia and failed history. For this tragedy, I weep.

FINAL ADVENTURE – NEW YORK AND HOME

I no longer care much to stop to see things. I’ve come to know too many things already.

Yet, I still eat my daily meal. This meal finds me at Lake Sara at the kayak launch. It’s private, quiet. The path to the plot is through forest. It’s… peaceful. I am at peace.

The fish jump, the clouds sail, a fisherman goes in circles though grants me a wave in greeting. Birds perch and water snakes slither. Peace.

As I pick up my picnic to go, I realize there is something in the green, blossoming moss next to my seat. It’s fur.

I leave.

The race is on to meet-up by Mothers Day. To New York I make haste. The country passes in a blur. Wind whips and dark clouds bring with them cold rain.

Western New York! There is virtually no traffic here.

To my last night on the road, I rest at by far the nicest facility of my journey. It overlooks a lake, is away from road noise, has very clean and spacious washrooms, has vending and microwaves, solar power, hardly any others parked, and is absolutely splendid. I could have not asked for better sleep or peace.

Cold cannot be ignored. I wear pants instead of shorts for the first time. For the coming meeting, I groom and shave. It wouldn’t pay to appear too haggard from the drive 😅

landscape-3369304_960_720
Farm fields from Pixabay.com

Cautiously and curiously, I meander through hills and forests and lakes. I encounter the farms and rolling fields of the Finger Lakes. And around a corner of tall, lush trees, I find what I’ve been driving to all along.

I’m home.

THE WRAP UP

Thank you for staying along with this adventurous tumble, reader. After a week and 2800 miles of driving across the continental United States, a few things bear repeating:

  • The US is gorgeous and wondrous and broad.
  • The US is large enough to be lost in, full enough to survive in at little cost, but short enough to get through in under a week.
  • Driving on the road is a sincere kind of meditation; I highly recommend it.
  • The US response to the COVID-19 pandemic is troubling.
  • The tragedy of rural America is… I need to think on it more to understand. Something terrible continues there. Or maybe it’s the system in the rest of the country. I don’t know what to do about it.
  • Cycles are perpetuated; what harmful cycles are you and I keeping up?
  • I can live in my Prius for a month, should I only need gas if lacking a camping spot!

Wow. A long one. Not as long as the drive, though! What have you observed having spent any time in the US? 🤔 How far off am I on some of these insights?

Stay safe, stay healthy. Maybe talk with you next week! Cheers for now ~