History Today – April 19, 2019

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • The Mueller Report came out today. I heard about it on the NPR podcast “Up First.” It was about investigating the allegations of President Trump colluding with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Apparently Trump views it as an exoneration, but the podcasters didn’t make it seem like that. I don’t think I’m going to read the Mueller Report, but maybe I will, so I can finally understand a little about politics. I did a little research while writing this paragraph, and what other people are focusing on is that the Obama administration knew about Russia during the 2016 election.
  • I just realized that Trump has been President for two-ish years now. My life hasn’t personally changed that much because of him. I haven’t noticed any real change in my taxes, except that I’m getting a smaller refund than usual, but I believe my withholding has been slightly lower throughout the year.
  • The Yellow Jacket movement in France is still going since December 2018, but I hadn’t even heard of it until a few days ago (not that this means much, since I don’t always pay attention). I did a small amount of research about it, and it seems to be anti-Macron (their young entrepreneur president) and the “globalism” that he represents (a term I had never heard used with contempt). The movement burst into fruition in December because Macron instituted gas taxes to help encourage the move toward renewable energy. It mostly affected rural people who have to use cars more. People have described it as a tax on the poor. The movement seems to have some anti-immigrant roots (again the anti-globalism). I saw internet chatter mostly in comments on YouTube videos about the movement.
  • Spring is absolutely beautiful in Northern California. It’s my first spring here from LA, and I’m now reconsidering my previous distaste of the season, which in LA was mostly an extension of summer.
  • I ordered the Nixit menstrual cup online today for $49.00 plus ~$6 shipping. I’m trying it partially for a more environmentalism friendly life and partially because I hate having to use tampons so much. Thinking back the the Yellow jackets in France, it’s a luxury to even be able to put my dollars toward more environmental solutions.
  • A friend of mine spent the winter in Europe, including Paris, but she never mentioned the protests.
  • Even though the internet makes information so readily available, it has such a tunnel-vision aspect to it that I could be on it all the time and not know almost anything of current events.
  • I’ve been rollerskating a lot lately, fell down a lot and finally bought some safety gear. I have not fallen since. In my town, we can rollerskate on the sidewalk legally, so that’s why I’m doing this instead of bicycling.
  • I’m trying the minimalist thing for my wardrobe. I like it so far!

History Today – March 2, 2019

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • A good friend of my fiancée died yesterday. She was only 33 and left behind two teenage boys. I didn’t know her that well. But she had just been helping us a few weeks ago moving a new couch into our house. She was surly and quiet about her problems. She had health problems, but the way she acted, I wouldn’t have guessed. I think she believed in heaven.
  • I went for a ten mile walk today, even though it was raining. I enjoyed being alone in public.
  • Bernie Sanders had a rally today I think. Apparently he is going to run for the presidency again. My fiancée thinks he’s going to win this time. His campaign raised almost 6 million dollars in 24 hours last week, according to CNBC, with an average donation of $27. I wonder what the median donation was.
  • I visited Forever 21 — the store — for the first time in what feels like a few years. I finally understand the outfits I see on some of the instagrammers I follow. I thought they were digging up stuff from the 80s (or maybe 70s? I’m not up with the fashion decades), but stores actually sell this stuff. And it’s cool. Funny how fashion is cyclical.
  • Coming back from a trip in North Carolina, I met a woman named Catherine (I didn’t ask the spelling, so I’m just guessing). She had pure white straight hair to her shoulders, and she journaled. In fact, for a majority of the flight, she was writing in her journal, handwriting it. It was pages and pages. She was very friendly and told me about herself. She used to teach, but now she edits, freelance. Her daughter has a PhD in French and is a professor. I learned way more about her than I would’ve expected, but the interaction made me want to go back to handwriting. I type instead of handwriting now, because it makes editing easier. But there is a sort of magic in handwriting. It makes you closer to the words. It feels less like work, I think. Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to write nowadays.
  • Girl Scout cookies are still $5 a box.
  • Crop tops are back in fashion.
  • Trader Joe’s has bags of Orzo for $0.99. I think pasta in general is probably the best thing to eat for high calorie content on a small budget. Or big bags of rice.
  • I’m shopping online for clothes and shoes more than ever. It’s so much more convenient. Amazon is super helpful with this. Interestingly, I don’t always get the best prices on Amazon.
  • Amazon’s new HQ2 is not moving New York City. Sometimes I worry about Amazon becoming a monopoly or too powerful as corporation. I researched a bit about them, and they’re willing to accept “razor thin margins,” a phrase I saw a lot. I’m not sure they can actually become a monopoly in the online retail space, because the barrier to entry for new e-commerce stores is incredibly low. However, their Web Services infrastructure is huge. A few years ago in 2017, that infrastructure went down because of some employee accidentally taking too many servers down, and lots of huge companies websites didn’t work. The Internet shouldn’t be so easy to temporarily crumble. Internet infrastructure, like the railroads back in the early nineteenth century, is incredibly important to daily life currently, and anyone having a monopoly there is worrying.
  • Tesla always seems to be struggling to meet its demand for the electric car, but I’m super stoked to see self-driving cars become the norm. I think personal travel will become more accessible than ever. Automated Uber-like services will be the future in my opinion. Owning a car and only driving it twice a day or less is incredibly inefficient.

My walk made me very thoughtful.

Collective-Individualism: What’s the Real Difference?

Political opinions tend be emotionally charged and divisive. Lately, I’ve been trying to narrow the differences of political opinion into fundamental iotas of opinion. What is the base of the disagreement? Why can’t the Right and the Left come to some sort of mutual agreement? After all, both “sides” tend to try to be logical. I honestly believe that neither side vehemently hates the other on a base level. We all respect each other’s humanity, right? My fiancée pointed out that maybe the difference was on the definition of human. How does the Right define a human? How does the Left define a human? I don’t know. I can’t even put into words what I think a human is, other than “us.”

So, I did a quick survey of the internet to determine the ideological differences between the Right and the Left. Two words that caught my eyes were: collectivism (the Left) and individualism (the Right).

I took to Merriam website for the definitions.

Collectivism has two definitions:
1. a political or economic theory advocating collective control especially over production and distribution
2. emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity

Individualism has two definitions (with sub-definitions):
1. – a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount
– a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests
2. individuality

The difference between the two stems from what is more important: the individual or the group. This is overly simplistic, in my opinion. When I first started learning to drive, the classroom portion of the driver’s education emphasized defensive driving. Defensive driving is when one is constantly alert, making sure they are anticipating the mistakes the other drivers are potentially making. In a sense, here the driver is practicing collectivism. They are watching out for what everyone is doing. However, when I got behind the wheel, the driving instructor told me to think about defensive driving later; he wanted me to focus on offensive driving first. He said make sure you are doing everything right, imagine in your mind that everyone else is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you just focus on you driving correctly. I would compare this to individualism. Over time, I’ve adopted a happy medium between offensive and defensive driving. That’s because collectivism and individualism alone don’t produce a satisfactory outcome.

A community only thrives long-term when it’s members are empowered and have individual freedoms. But individuals don’t accomplish nearly as much as groups.

I think this is accurately modeled in families. Each individual family member is loved and important and is able to act as an individual. Let’s assume a traditional American nuclear family: a father, a mother and 2 kids. Both the father and the mother work outside the home, arranging their schedules to be able to take the kids to and from school. The children have chores at home (collectivism) and responsibilities in school (individualism). The father and mother combine their incomes into one joint account and make decisions for the family: where to live, what to eat for dinner, where to go on vacation (collectivism). Some families let kids vote or decide on certain decisions (individualism). Depending on the family, a teenager might work; some parents make their kid pay for their phone or other bill (collectivism) and others let their kid keep the money (individualism).

The family is an interesting mix of collectivist and individualist practices. And it’s not a this-or-that proposition.

When this thought is brought to small communities and then to larger communities, I think the same principles still apply.

Individualism:

  • the First Amendment – freedom of speech, religion and press
  • allowed to travel where we wish
  • copyright
  • a plethora of clubs and societies based on individual identities
  • free-market economy (with certain protections)
  • choice of major in college, if one chooses to go
  • choice of job
  • choice of neighborhood
  • the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms to protect ourselves from government and others
  • the ability to go to the store and buy what you want
  • the right to vote
  • the entire Bill of Rights – right to a speedy trial with a jury, right to bail, due process, etc.

Collectivism:

  • roads and other infrastructure
  • emergency services
  • taxes to pay for public interests, goods and services
  • anti-monopoly laws
  • public education

Those are in not particular order. I just think that one can’t actually put the individual as paramount without considering the collective.

Protecting the individual while advancing the collective would be ideal, I think.

 

History Today – July 12, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • Last Wednesday was 4th of July, and the sentiment I noticed being echoed throughout social media was that it’s odd to be celebrating America’s independence and freedom while illegal immigrant children are imprisoned and lost. But celebrations continued — it’s hard to resist a tide. I went to a park and sat so close to the show that a firework that was still sparkling hit the ground five feet away from me. I believe it hit someone, but he was fine. I heard the event planner after the fireworks show saying they would change how close people could sit the next year.
  • I can’t imagine working a 40 hour or more a week job for 20-40 more years.  But that’s a well-accepted reality for some reason.
  • At home, we’re trying to eat out less by buying groceries. It’s been moderately successful. The weekends are harder, but we are spending less.
  • I’ve been on my computer more in the last few weeks, as opposed to my phone. I don’t understand why. I am watching more tv shows online.
  • I’ve been listening to podcasts on my daily commute to and from work. I cycle through different types of podcasts: Up First, This American Life, The Mad Fientist, Lore, Terrible Thanks for Asking, Feminist Current, Feminist Killjoy PhD, and more. I don’t always listen to people I agree with (if it’s political or advice-based), but I’ve noticed that I can usually always find some common ground with the podcasters. I think it’s a wonderful method for sharing information. I learn a lot.
  • I’ve been trying to use my MoviePass as much as possible, but my fiancée has been too busy to go with me.

I just am feeling stressed a lot lately, and I’ve been getting tension headaches. This is just a mood I get in sometimes.

Pushing through the uncomfortable times seems to be a thing that our culture prizes highly. But is it worth it? Could I be contributing to society more effectively by seeking my happiness and contentment first and then contributing.

Doing the Things I Dream Of Before Financial Independence

I’m obsessed with personal finance. Yes, this is a writer’s blog, but I’ve been craving writing about financial independence, so write I must.

For the past five years since graduating from college, I’ve been working full-time — the first two years I even worked a lot of overtime though that lifestyle wasn’t ultimately sustainable for me — and dreaming of not having to work anymore.

There’s something soul-crushing about commuting large distances and spending the most energetic years of my life being productive for someone else. I don’t mind being productive, not in the least — I come home and write and blog and learn Python. I’m not lazy — as much as my capitalist brain wants me to believe when I constantly dream of freedom from paid labor.

As a result, I’ve strived to invest 50%+ of my earnings in the pursuit of retiring in my early fifties.

Honestly, I don’t think I can wait; that’s a quarter of a century from now. So I looked up an early retirement calculator on Networthify.com and plugged in my numbers. It said I have 7.4 years until retirement, assuming my expenses stay the same (though that is super unlikely with inflation unless the calculator compensated for inflation). That made me heart calm. This calculator seemed a bit lean, and I definitely think I need more money than it calculated I would need, but the encouragement was exactly what I needed.

Even with the horizon closer than I had thought, last year, I started this blog, I decided to self-publish my YA novella The Friendship Ruse, and I just put out my debut chapbook you think I’m serious, but I’m joking. I’m pursuing my retirement goals now.

I’m extremely future-focused, but the only guaranteed time is right now. Imagine if I got to retirement and died the next day? I need to enjoy the destination, in addition to the destination.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a great computer answered the question of the meaning of life with “‘Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.” The author, Douglas Adams, apparently had just meant for it to an ordinary number, but the explanation I liked was that it was a reference to the 42th ASCII code for an asterisk, which in programming language is sort of a wildcard and ultimately means whatever you want it to mean.

As a result, here I am! Pursuing all my dreams right now, because even waiting 7-8 years is too long for your passions.

*Fun sidenote: I was once in a writing class in which I had to write my own obituary. I wrote that I would die at age 42 — before ever reading Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Review of “Pillow Thoughts” by Courtney Peppernell

Pillow Thoughts, a book of poetry about love in all its stages by Courtney Peppernell, made me feel empty — probably not in the way one might imagine though.

Let me clarify, that I did enjoy it. It was grandiose and unabashedly gooey. I didn’t think anyone could be so dramatic about love. For example, this wonderful poem:

Of all the maps in the world, the only one I will follow is the map to your heart.

It’s cheesy. But it made me want to write love poetry, and I wouldn’t say that romance poetry is my cup of tea. I asked my fiancée, and she affirmed that I am very much a pragmatist when it comes to love.

That’s why, faced with Peppernell’s outpouring of promises and assurances, I felt inadequate. Is my love not deep? Is it not full, because I wouldn’t make such promises? I hope to explore this in my own writing.

Another short poem that I adored was:

But the world is exhausted, and the only wealth we have left is love.

I want to feel this way. So I’m going to endeavor to write more love poetry. Here’s to being inspired!

As a sidenote, this book of poetry and prose felt more like a big group hug than literary poetry. I had to alter my expectations when reading the book. At times, I felt like I was getting to the essence of the author, but other times it seemed she was spouting saccharine prose to boost the reader’s self-esteem. I didn’t need to do a deep reading of the poems to really understand their meaning. That doesn’t make it bad, just a different kind of poetry than I was expecting. I like it when a poem makes me think, when the words sink into my brain and stain the wrinkles. This book does not do that.

History Today – June 20, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • I daydreamed about coming into a windfall. I’m middle class, but money still feels so elusive.
  • Because of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy in relation to illegal immigration, there are children separated from their asylum-seeking parents who illegally crossed the border and immediately turn themselves into border patrol. A lot of people that I’m friends with on Facebook are donating to help — though I’m not sure who to — and posting about it in outrage. Apparently, the outrage is working. This is being compared to concentration camps and fascism. I see posts about who to call/email and annoy. It’s amazing to see so many actually doing things. Public pressure will accomplish things, if enough people are taking action.
  • I’ve been watching ASMR videos on YouTube. It doesn’t put me to sleep, but I get the tingles.
  • I visited a Sanrio store, and it reminded me of childhood. Gudetama — a depressed egg cartoon who has given up — is my favorite. Apparently, I’m not the only one who revels in the nihilism. I think that says something about the culture of today.
  • I recently spoke with a family member who expressed incredulity that I’m depressed but also not “seriously” doing anything about it. I’m actually doing a lot about it. Maybe I’m too relaxed about it. I couldn’t survive though if I didn’t laugh about it and downplay it. Maybe that’s folly. I don’t know. But it’s similar to the culture on Tumblr. I am an amalgamation of the social media platforms that I regularly frequent.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fixing problems. And I’ve come to the conclusion that solutions are different for everyone. There is no right answer.

Being hung up on trying to do something the “right” way might not be right way for every single person.

History Today – June 4, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • Facebook ads have always been a successful medium, but today was the first day they were able to successfully lure me into clicking on not one ad, but three. Technology knows me better than I know myself. It inclines me to clear my cookies and my cache, but I don’t think that would stop Facebook from knowing me.
  • I have a desire to share more of myself than ever in my life. Especially to strangers on the internet.
  • I heard a recap of the Hookup Hotline segment of 97.1 Amp Radio this morning on my drive to work. The date between a forward woman and a conscientious man went well, without a vocalized complaint by either party; they went to Malibu and had margaritas (or at least she did). I wondered how I would be on that segment, even though I’m currently engaged and not looking. Maybe it’s my love of adventure (and books) that has my mind twirling in maybes.
  • I replied to a poetry contest that I did not win, but was earnestly encouraged by. I said I was already editing. It’s the truth. I still wonder if I should enter more contests or self-publish. I love the idea of winning, but I love the power of doing it myself.
  • I did not hear about a school shooting, but I suppose that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.
  • I’m practicing a tighter budget again, not necessarily because I need to, but because I want to challenge myself.
  • I went to Disneyland yesterday. The tickets are $117 for a single park, per person. In high school, it was way less. They take pictures of you when you enter the park, instead of hand stamps. It’s to help with fraud, I believe.
  • You can’t seem to win on the financial front unless you’re lucky, smart, or hardworking. Pick two, minimum.

I saw more than three ads today about starting my own business. I know ads are targeted, but someone has got to be running these ads, which means there’s clearly a community for this sort of thing.

I once bought the book of one of these people. While there was some good information, there was nothing that I didn’t already really know.

Perhaps we need to be babied and told stuff we already know to break out and be the people we want to be. This includes me.

Currently, I’m going through changes in my life: a move, a slight change of jobs, and launching into the completeness of my being.

I’m going to try to make part-time work sustain me while I pursue things that I need a kick in the ass to do: write more and build an unrelated business. It’s interesting that trying for things that will benefit me are so hard to get underway.

Successful people in media seem to have a gusto that I don’t think I possess, but I’ve lately been coming to the realization that they are as lost as me. I just am a bit more obvious about it. My friends and loved ones do not have as perfect lives as their social media leads me to believe.

It’s actually a breath of fresh air when someone posts a negative thing about their life on Facebook. We are not perfect, though there is this instinct to curate ourselves until we are. I have it too.

History Today – May 29, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • I have my smart phone with me everywhere, even the bathroom.
  • I’ve started buying more feel-good items lately like jewelry — something I’ve never really done.
  • My commute is 35-45 minutes one-way to work, but I go the opposite direction of traffic, so it’s not that bad. I take a car.
  • I heard a radio program this morning about lesbian radio dating. It was recap of how a date went that the radio hosts had set up that previous Friday. The date went well. I smiled the rest of my drive to work. I’d listened to the radio segment before, but this was the first lesbian date that I’d heard of. It was the Hookup Hotline segment of the New Guys morning show on 97.1 FM.
  • The only news I heard about was that the lady from Roseanne said something terrible — a racist comment I believe — and had her new-old show cancelled. The people I discussed this with thought what she said was deplorable. I did no research.
  • I went to the movies using my MoviePass — a service that lets me see “unlimited” movies for a flat monthly fee. It costs me less than one ticket would cost me. The lady in front of me in line at the ticket line commented to her daughter that her movie cost $16. “When did that happen?” she asked. I don’t know. When I was in high school in 2010, movies were at least $4 cheaper. I saw “Life of the Party” today. I enjoyed it.
  • I used my Dictionary.com app twice today, to look up words and confirm definitions.

I’ve always been curious about what it was like to live in a certain period of history. History books show only a limited view of society. So why not add my screaming into the void as a form of documentation.

For example, my grandma escaped a communist country during the 1960s. She and my grandpa failed a few times — landing her in jail, much to her amusement. And I do mean “amusement,” she actually laughed while she was in jail. It just goes to show that ordinary people have extraordinary lives. There is so much that doesn’t land in books, so much that is lost when the person who experienced it dies.

What is life like today? Keeping in mind that I’m a white, millennial, upper-middle class lesbian in California, it’s odd. I scroll Facebook so many times a day, seeing other people screaming into the void, and I feel both connected to and disconnected from them. When it comes to politics, I don’t know what to think. I don’t want to be wrong. But it’s so hard to truly care deeply about everything that happens when so much happens. Every single day, Trump has started up a new controversy. At this point, it’s gotten to the point where I feel like there’s a devastating school shooting every month. I was in high school less than a decade ago, but it wasn’t something we worried about. We all knew about Columbine — a school shooting in 1999 — but it felt far away. Now I see ads where high school kids hold up signs about how it’ll be for their parents if they die in a school shooting. These kids have to go through so much. Is every high school student thinking like these kids in the ads? Are there kids out there that were as oblivious as I was back then?

I don’t know.

Has every period of history always felt so tumultuous for the people experiencing it? Or is this period of time especially rocky?

I don’t know.

And yet while all this happens, I float through my life. Going to work everyday, slowly chipping away at my goals, because can I really just stop my life? Can I be paralyzed by what seems to be ripping apart modern society? It’s not shreds yet, maybe I should just hope for the best. Maybe life is a tattered but comfy blanket that you’ve had since you were born, and it’s all you have. Make do and do some darning when you have the time and energy.

I kiss my fiancée in public. I speak loudly when I go to restaurants. I post sad poems on the internet. I’m living, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything that’s wrong with the world is my fault for not being more vocal. I grew up being told that every vote counts, so I’m a registered voter. In college, I was a part of LGBT organizations, contributing to activism. I try. Is that enough?

I know people my age who feel the same. Who feel like they’re failing the world for not exhausting every bit of energy they have to making it better.

I’ve got to imagine that helping when I can is sufficient. One of my favorite sayings is the safety spiel when I hop on a plane: “put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.”

When I can’t do more than go to work everyday and then straight to bed when I get home, what use am I to the world?

 

*Hopefully this is a good level of detail. I’ll figure out more of what I want to write about as I do more of these.

Why It’s Okay — Maybe Even Great — To Be Average

I’ve had a revelation. I think I just figured out the key to success as a moderately smart, moderately hardworking person who doesn’t really want a normal job.

The key is diversification. I’m always trying to find that one thing that’ll allow me to be my own boss or the intense amount of work it takes to crank out novels like I’m a rabbit popping out babies.

I’m not expert level at anything, as much as I would like to be. I’m not a genius. And while I’ve been bemoaning that fact for years, internally, it suddenly became clear to me just now that I don’t need to be a genius. I just have to be passable to get the life I want.

I’ve always heard that you should go with your core competency and stick with it — that’s my business school education. If I was great at corporate things, I should focus my energy on that. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine focusing all my energy on one thing, and I think that I’m like the typical person in that aspect. In essence, I don’t have the passion in any one field to have the patience for expertise. I am truly a jack of many trades.

And this might actually be a good thing in some ways. The single most impactful thing I learned in my finance class when I was in college was that if you had a monkey pick 40 stocks and put him up against a professional fund manager, the monkey will win most of the time in terms of long-term profit. That’s why so many people invest in index funds. They’re mitigating risk and reducing workload by spreading out their investment across an index.

But if I did that with my various hobbies that I would like to turn into income streams, it would essentially be the same thing, except instead of money I invest my time. The good thing here is that I’m only pursuing things that I find interesting, like: personal finance, investing, crafting, writing, real estate and education. I already like to research and do things in these topic areas. So my time would be investment but also entertainment.

I don’t working on things I love doing. And since I’m not an expert in any of those things, why not do them all a bit?

I made $37.95 from five months of having my book out and self-published. That’s about $7 a month for one book — the sales have been relatively spread out. If I write 7 more books, I’d get $56 a month — assuming that is a conservative rate. At 1/40th of what I need to survive, it’s not shabby. That’s a week worth of groceries if I’m frugal.

I see so many people saying that writing books isn’t worth it unless you’re going to be super prolific and an amazing marketer, but why? I write because I love it. Why not continue self-publishing? And working on all the projects I love? It’s fun, I’m not planning on quitting my job until my side projects can generate reliable income anyway.

There’s something to be said for pursuing your passions, even if you can’t strike it rich. Maybe all my passions can collectively support me one day. I’m aiming for it now!