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You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wealth and Power-

I have lived on this Earth for half of a century, plus a bit of change. Fifty nine years, in April. I kind of discount the nine years a bit, since most of us have a pretty limited perspective before the age of ten. We are still developing our prejudices and delusions, and so are not reliable as witnesses or as people to judge the value of one thing or another.

So, half a century. I have watched the struggle for power, internationally, nationally, and locally. I must have dropped the ball in those early years, because I really still don't get it. Much of it looks like a bunch of kids playing "King of the Hill" on a pile of manure. Sure, you might get to be king for a while, but it is still a pile of manure. If you play the game right, you end up covered in manure. Hardly worth the investment, it seems to me.

You might safely conclude that I lack wealth, and consequently am not very powerful. I am also relatively free of manure. I can't say if that is good, or not. Still, I eat regularly, live indoors when I choose, and have the power to write stuff. Stuff that is largely manure-free.

I am pretty sure people pursue wealth in order to gain power. People pursue power mostly out of insecurity. They fear others with power, and so if opportunity presents itself they gain wealth and power. Lil' Kim (of Korea, not music) proves that there is some wisdom in all of that.

So, wealth and power. Most of those who 'represent' me in government have a bit of both. How rich people can represent someone like me, a person of non-wealth and extremely limited power, I don't know. That may be a matter for another blog. Perhaps it already has been a blog I wrote, but forgot about.

How do you gain wealth? Well, if you do it legally you must live below your means. If you make X amount of money each year, you must live on less. We will call that, uh, Y. So, X-Y=I. See? Algebra was worth all of that time in school sitting in confusion as you watched the stud football player fondling the hot cheerleader in the back of the classroom. Oh, wait. That was just my experience. Sorry.

You take ( I ) and invest it. See? I. Invest. Variables. Important stuff. You put that money somewhere safe. As it builds up, some of the accumulated money can be placed in somewhat riskier investments. Keep in mind, an Emu farm is not considered a safe investment, and therefore should be considered risky. Still, who knows? It might pay off. Anyway, you do this living below your means and investing thing for years, and eventually you have a bit of wealth.

Unless you inherit something more to work with, this program hardly ever works. Earning your second million is always easier, because you have so much more to risk. Money you can risk which won't leave you living in a cardboard box behind the donuts shop. If you didn't inherit that first million, you may have to live in a box behind the donuts shop just to have a lifestyle below your means. You know, X.

Of course, this requires discipline in your youth. No fast cars, fancy foods and liquors. No big screen televisions. Just basic cable on your thrift store little television. It also requires discipline in later years. No botox or plastic surgery or trade-ins on spouses. Discipline. Order. Steady investing. Yeah. That's all likely to happen.

I came up with another plan. Say you can manage to save a bit. Just in a bank account. Put it back for the annual 'investment.' Go to a casino with your nest-egg. Every year. Put it on Red on the Roulette Wheel. Or, Black. One, or the other. It doesn't matter. The risk is the same. So close to a coin toss as to be the same. All on that color. One spin.

If you loose, you begin saving for next year. If you win, you walk away. 100% return on your investment, and  you still begin saving for next year. Put it somewhere safe. Never touch it again. Ever. You don't get to enjoy it. This is your wealth. If you keep doing this, year after year, you will win at least some of the time. Plus, if you keep going back to the same place you will get comps. Free stuff from the casino. Hey, you are a Big Roller.

Sure, walking away will take discipline. However, that discipline will only be needed once a year, rather than the discipline of regular saving and investing, requiring lots of homework and learning and gaining knowledge and all of that stuff. Eventually you can own that donuts shop, and live in an apartment above it.

What about that power thing? You won't get that much wealth, whichever program you use. Those powerful people either inherited their wealth, or stole it. Like Lil' Kim. Of Korea, not music.

Next up: Spend Your Way to Prosperity. Only $75 for my seminar. Reserve your place now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World Travel and Other Adventures-

I have been fortunate in my life, in many ways. One way in which I have been fortunate is in traveling. Some people who have shared bits of my life have traveled only a little. Others have traveled far more than I have. Where I am fortunate is in how I managed to travel.

Some people are intentional travelers. I have traveled intentionally on occasion. The planning, organizing, and funding. Then, the going. Yes, I have done that. However, not all that often. Most often I have traveled as a companion, follower or simply under direction.

For example, I traveled a bit as a child, following family. I have been up and down the length of California many times. Highway 99, and later Interstate 5, have always been familiar to me. We lived, in my early childhood, in the Los Angeles area. We would travel to visit family from time to time in my birthplace, Grants Pass, Oregon. To visit family.

I remember my Dad and my Grandpa switching off driving. I remember watching trains travel on the tracks parallel to some of the highway as we traveled. Orchards. Those fruit stands shaped like oranges. Billboards. Sleeping in the back of a station wagon as we traveled through the night. The scent of coffee in restaurants we stopped in along the way.

One summer my father took a short-term teaching job in Washington state. We lived for several months in Bellevue, Washington. We wandered around the Puget Sound area, visiting small towns, waterfalls, waterfronts and generally seeing the sights. one day we took a ferry ride that provided my one and only (and very short) experience of Canada. We were required to step off of the ferry, be counted in Sidney on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and then we returned to the boat. That trip took us through the San Juan Islands, and is a cherished memory.

We traveled a bit in California, on family vacations. One time we ventured into the Gold Country of California, camping in a travel trailer. It was a fun trip for me. I have always loved journeys along the back country of wherever. Then, I graduated from high school and not long after entered into service in the Army.

The Army took me to California, near Monterey at Fort Ord. Then to Alabama, to stay for a time at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Then to Fort Lee in Petersburg, Virginia. I traveled around a bit in these areas, visiting Civil War battlegrounds, visiting Washington D.C. twice, spending a lot of time in Richmond, Virginia, and eventually reaching New Jersey for my deployment to Europe.

That deployment landed me in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From there I was able to visit Switzerland, and even enjoyed a three week deployment on a training assignment in Bavaria. I followed friends to a ski school in Austria. I ended up on a weekend in Munich because the Army chaplain needed to fill a seat on a tour he was arranging. There I hooked up with a couple of American tourists and followed them around as they visited the sights. 

I did a lot of walking in Germany, wandering between and through quaint villages  and visiting castles and cathedrals. A missionary I knew took some of us to Worms, Idar Oberstein and to Heidelberg. More cathedrals and castles. Oh, and a trip to Trier, where I saw more cathedrals, and also some Roman ruins. I followed some friends to London, as well, for a week of study and meandering touring. 

After the Army my journeys became less broad and a bit less frequent. I wandered across the country during my return, spending a week in Chicago. I traveled a bit by train on that journey, and found it a fine way to see the country. That is a mode of travel I enjoyed in Europe, and think that seeing the United States that way was pretty nice, as well. 

A friend from the Army came home on leave shortly after I got out, so I wandered from Ashland, Oregon to Bismark, North Dakota to visit him. That was quite a journey. I saw Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, passed through Idaho and Montana, and spent most of a week in North Dakota. 

My return on that journey carried me through Wyoming, and a very quick pass-through tour of Yellowstone National Park. After I returned I found myself eventually in Portland, Oregon. I went to school there, part of a different kind of journey. There I met my wife, and we settled for many years and years in the Santa Cruz, California, area.

Santa Cruz was not a bad place to settle, at all. Of all of the places I have visited, it was in the top three of places I would choose to dwell. Richmond, Virginia and Heidelberg, Germany share second place. So, my journey was not a bad one. My wife and I have been together on a kind of shared journey for over thirty years. For my part, at least, it has been good.

We raised children and have participated in raising grandchildren. Though our travels since getting married have been limited, our adventures have not. It has been another kind of journey. Oh, there have been trips to Disneyland, one of our favorite destinations. One other trip was to rescue some of the family from Texas, where an adventure of their own had not turned out as well as had been hoped. That was a memorable journey, highly treasured.

I must admit, however, that some of the most valuable journeys for me have been journeys of the heart. I am not known for being sentimental, and even those closest to me see me as a bit hard and unfeeling. Yet I have not been unaffected by the adventure of raising a family, one which is not yet completed.

Do I still long to travel? Absolutely. Yet I wouldn't give up the adventure of watching my family grow for the privilege of being on the road. Where to, next? Probably travel, exploring Southern Oregon and Northern California. Then expanding to take in the Western United States, as resources and opportunity allows. 

For a wanderer and follower, a less-than-intentional traveler, I have seen a bit of the world. It would be nice if I had taken a few more pictures, but for the most part I am satisfied.

There is far more world left to visit than my remaining time and limited funds will allow me see. I don't mind that, really. Those limits have always been upon me, and my style seems to be to take the adventure that offers itself in the context of the moment. That context now is watching another generation grow, and wandering around the place I now (again) call home.

After that? Another journey, and adventures unimaginable. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Imaginary Me-

I have an Imaginary Me. I think I always have. I suspect most of us do, but many people don't feel comfortable with multiple entities living within the same cranium. They won't talk about it, write about it, or even admit it to themselves. This writing is about a particular Imaginary Me. My Imaginary Me.

Imaginary Me has been wintering in Slab City, for the most part. The winter temperatures are tolerable for a van dweller. Imaginary Me lives in the Mobile Man Cave, a Chevy conversion van adapted for camping. Life in the Southern California desert is rather simple, which appeals to Imaginary Me.

Imaginary Me doesn't have to share his pension with anyone. He doesn't have a mortgage, and has established residence in Nevada due to the lack of state income tax there. While Slab City is a central location and general place of dwelling, Imaginary Me has been wandering around the connecting corners and edges of California, Arizona and Nevada. No particular plans. Just wandering.

It is now getting warm in the desert. Imaginary Me had planned to go to Death Valley to view the spring flowers, but the Internet indicates that the flowering will be sparse this year. Perhaps another year. Even so, the time to migrate is coming upon Imaginary Me. Some uncomfortably warm morning will compel the movement to begin.

This year Imaginary Me will move through the desert to the southern terminus of U.S. Route 395, and journey north the whole length of that route. Slowly. Available free camping at comfortable temperatures will dictate where to stop, and how long. Still, over time the whole of 395 will be traversed. Once the border with Canada is reached, a new direction will be selected. That, however, is in the future.

Imaginary Me is a coping mechanism. He is the embodiment of many of my desires. Reduced responsibilities. Simplicity of lifestyle. Solitude and freedom. I do not regret my responsibilities. Managing complexity in life can be rewarding, and I do not despise that. Solitude is not a longing for loneliness, and I value family and friends. Yet I Imagine. I Imagine Me, in another life.

The life of Imaginary Me is achievable, and more rewarding now than at any other time. My iPhone provides communication, a wifi hotspot, Internet connectedness, and serves as an entertainment center within a small living space such as a van. A laptop computer provides much of the same, and a more comfortable work space. Most of what is truly needed fits in a van, and is quite portable. Imaginary Me has much to do within the context of desert days and nights. It is not a life of loneliness and boredom. It is a rich yet simple life.

Imaginary Me watches the weather on the iPhone. Temperatures and precipitation, here and there. So do I. Real World Me. We scan maps on the computer and iPhone, seeking places to go and see. Highways and byways. I await spring in Southern Oregon. Imaginary Me awaits the compelling heat to motivate a migration. I anticipate getting out into the yard and doing some projects. Getting the barbecue going. Going fishing. Imaginary Me seeks a longer journey, full of simple adventure.

Camping. Exploring Southern Oregon and Northern California, even if just a bit. Not quite life on the road, but a bit of living on the road. So many roads. Real life isn't so bad, really. Real World Me can taste what is presently only imagined.

Perhaps I shall run into Imaginary Me as I get out on the road this season.

Imagine that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beer and Atomic Science-

I am a relatively intelligent person. That being said, I am also a bit slow on the uptake. I should have learned a critical lesson by the time I finished high school. I did not. I should have learned that life was made up of a certain percentage of dumb-assed shit. Pardon my French, but that is really the way it must be put, if the full impact of the matter I had missed is to be grasped.

I joined the Army after high school. During the Vietnam War. As I said, I really didn't have a grip on how much dumb-assed shit comprised the world in which I lived. That speaks well for my childhood experiences, by the way. One cannot grow up that naive without a loving and caring support network. Relatively successful American families work hard to create an environment sufficiently insulated so as to grow up children who are at least naive, and if all goes well they are supremely entitled, as well.

Why do I make this point? Because when I entered the Army I joined with the guarantee that I could study Nuclear Weapons Electronics. Why? Because nuclear weapons are not deployed in war zones. I could get my military obligation out of the way in an era of the draft and avoid combat. I could serve my country, and get my G.I. Bill without being maimed or perforated or psychologically damaged. I really thought I was smart.

While playing with the electronics and nuclear weapons, I learned something interesting. Beer and atomic science were related. Yep. Go figure. I liked beer already, but this just put the whole nuclear thing in perspective. And, yes, I was in the presence of genuine nuclear weapons. We did lots of secret stuff, which you can read about on the Internet but I probably shouldn't share.

How does beer relate to nuclear science? I am glad you asked. If you play with nuclear weapons there is some small  risk of exposure to radiation. Radioactive material, whether in the form of a solid, a dust, or a gas. Radiation is bad. If exposed, one of the first things they do is give you a lot of beer. If you are a beer drinker, you will probably see where this is going.

Beer is loaded with 'vitamin P.' It makes you pee. A lot. A sound bit of beer drinking leads to a substantial amount of urination. That is why a lot of the quality establishments in which I consumed mass quantities were equipped with the trough style urinal in the restrooms. Easier to hit. Less collateral damage. You probably get my drift.

So, lots of beer is prescribed to aid the body in eliminating the radioactive contamination. It doesn't hurt that it works well in conjunction with other anesthetics in taking the edge off of the symptoms of radiation sickness. It probably reduces the complaining during the long hours until recovery or death. Mmmmm. Beer.

What happened with me and the whole nuclear thing? I washed out of the program. You see, there is a lot of dumb-assed shit associated with the whole Army nuclear program, and I hadn't developed the requisite skills for managing the combination of shittiness and dumb-assedness. I got sent to supply school. I may have been a wash-out, but I was still enough of an asset not to waste as a bullet-catcher.

I don't know if supply was a good match, but I eventually got enough of a handle on the dumb-assed shit to make my three years into a fairly tolerable experience. A far superior experience to what I deserved. I was sent to Germany to fight the Cold War, and not to Vietnam to do whatever it was we thought we were doing over there.

Talk about dumb-assed shit. At least we actually won the Cold War. Sort of.

I need another beer.