fighting the lack of good ideas

use absence to increase respect and honor – law 16 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 16

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. Your must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

evaluating “work from home” “opportunities”

It seems the number of advertised “work from home” “opportunities has gone ever higher since the advent of prolific social networking.

A not insignificant portion of these opportunities really are legitimate – 31, Avon, Mary Kay … – but a lot of them at the very least feel scammy.

The good ones tell you everything you need to know up-front:

  • “franchise” or licensing fees
  • buy-in cost
  • required sales to maintain active status
  • expected monthly commitment
  • growth paths
  • etc

The scammy ones do not – they have poorly-written, ambiguous, or unstated expectations, require lots of cold calling, expect you to pay-in an enormous amount with little-to-no understanding of how you will get paid later, they’re really “affiliate” marketing, etc. They’re the timeshare of the ‘independent consultant’ business. They’re the 2AM infomercial of the “work” world – you know the type, “for the low low cost of 3 easy payment of $39.95 I will teach you how to make money sending envelopes!” Btw, the way you make $1000s sending envelopes is by promising people to teach them how to make money by sending envelopes.

Many people I know have a tendency to get sucked into the more scammy of the varied wfh things – using the common catchphrases of “if you’re tired of being a Just Over Broke (aka “job”) worker, this is for you” or “in just 10-15 hours a week, earn $500-$2000 a month” or “I’m getting ready to launch a great new product, and I need you to be on the secret board of directors in the prelaunch stage” and more similar to them.

Let’s look at the the first one I mentioned: “10-15 hours per week to ‘earn’ $500-$2000 a month”. If you work (whatever this involves, it’s always left very nebulous), 40 hours a month and make $500, you’re making $12.50 an hour – about 50% above minimum wage, but you haven’t paid taxes yet – and you’re on the hook for all of your SSI (not the half you usually are by being a “real” employee). That means you pay 15.3% to SSI and Medicare (and remember, still no income taxes taken out yet). 15.3% of $500 is $76.50. Compare that to working for a “real” employer where you only pay 7.65% (because they pay more than half of it). 7.65% of $500 is $38.25. That’s a major difference.

What if you’re at the high end of the mentioned range? $2000 a month (which is only $24000 a year, btw – a third less than teachers start in the state of Kentucky), and we’ll say it took you 60 hours to earn it. That’s $33.33 an hour. If you could sustain $33.33 an hour (by, oh I don’t know, having a real job?), you’d be earning $69333 a year (2080 work hours in the year). The problem with these types of “opportunities” is that they’re not consistent. And the hours range always (in my observation) corresponds to the bare minimum of the “earnings” range. If it takes you 60 hours to make $500, you’re only making $8.33 an hour – a dollar more than minimum wage, and you’re on the hook for double the SSI/Medicare taxes – which, over the 60 hours, shows a difference of only 44 cents per hour more than minimum wage. 44 cents. Why not just get a job?

What if you’re truly successful with one of the “work from home” thingies? Well, then you start making the infomercial rounds, and you’re the guy they show with the 12 mansions, the 8 yachts, the cars, the women, etc. But you’re also not working “10-15 hours a month” – you’re engaged with the “opportunity” full-time+. You’re probably operating your “business” 70-90 hours a week.

If you’re going to work 70-90 hours a week, why not start your own company and own *everything* you do? You will, most likely, pay far less in taxes than as an independent contractor.

Are “work from home” “opportunities” all a scam? No. But do they consistently yield the earnings levels advertised for the hours put in? Not that I have witnessed.

For more information, this Money.SE question, “What warnings would you tell a friend about to enter a multi-level marketing (MLM) business venture?“, is a great resource:

  • MLM is not really a selling job
  • Be careful not to stockpile inventory, you’ll end up with $4000 dollars worth in your garage that you’ll never use
  • MLM is really a recruiting and training sales people job
  • Don’t think you are going to get rich at this part time
  • There are a lot of millionaires from MLM but they work a lot of hours recruiting and training
  • What does the business do
  • How do you make money
  • How do they make money
  • Why does this business need you
  • What do you bring to the table that the business doesn’t already have (skills, contacts, money)
  • How realistic are your time expectations – is this to be a part-time occasional endeavor, or your full-time occupation
  • Is there a product
  • Is the market saturated
  • Put as little of your own money into it as possible
  • Take as much out of it as you can as soon as you can
  • Don’t count your money as earned until you actually get it in your hands as ‘cold hard cash’
  • Remember if it’s too good to be true, it usually is – no matter how many of people assure you it’s not
  • Don’t go in thinking you’ll beat the system by trying harder than everyone else: the only way you’ll make any money is by recruiting lots of people, and selling products that can be obtained for cheaper elsewhere at a normal store
  • Make sure you are paid on volume, not people

check your home, auto, and plp insurance policies

Every few months to year I take a look around to see if anyone can give me a better rate on my auto & renters’ (home) insurance. This month, after 3 years, I found a carrier who could knock about $60 a month off my payment *and* give me more coverage.

Interesting things I learned in this process:

  • you want a Personal Liability Protection – “umbrella” – policy
    • provides coverage over-and-above the limits on other policies you hold
    • follows you world-wide (at least with my carrier)
  • individually-scheduled items on a renters’ (or home) policy are covered even if something happens away from home
    • say you have your wife’s engagement ring individually-scheduled
      • if she loses it at the beach, it’s still covered
      • if it’s stolen from home, it’s still covered
    • the cost of adding individually-scheduled items is a fraction of their cost to you if something goes awry
  • max-out your auto policy’s limits – you’ll get better rates
    • if you carry state minimums (25k/50k in KY), you will have a higher rate than if you increase your coverage levels (it was a $300/year difference for me (not that I’d ever take minimums, but it was still interesting)
    • the insurance companies factor-in your “insurance intelligence” when giving a quote
      • if you pay for more coverage, you’re “smarter” about insurance, and less likely to have a claim
  • the company you’ve been using for years takes all the factors in your driving, credit, and other relevant histories and calculates your risk to them differently
    • so shop around!

I was with my last carrier since moving to KY in 2010. I don’t know how long I’ll have my new one, but for now, increasing my coverage, expanding its scope, and reducing my payments are all great.

I went from 2 to 3 policies (including the new PLP), and am pretty excited (though, of course, I also hope to never need them).

after “the cloud”

Cloud computing has been hyped for the last decade+.

For those few of you haven’t heard of it and understand it, cloud computing is a computing-as-a-utility concept wherein compute (and storage) happens on systems which you may not own. That’s it.

So – now that we’ve been offloading our storage, computing, and other tasks to others in an on-demand manner, what is next?

When computing started, it was centralized, you worked on terminals (that communicated right back to the central machine), and did not “own” any of the work at your local work station.

Then we moved into the PC era where computing was done locally, and we only saved data to a server if “we wanted to be backed up”.

Now we’re moving back into a centralized (and distributed at the same time) computing environment where we can access the same document on our iPad and laptop and twelve other people can see it at the same time, too (eg Google Docs).

We are moving more and more toward ubiquitous computing – smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, servers, cars, everything we own is becoming computing-aware (also related: the “internet of things“).

What’s going to come after the cloud hype dies out and we’re back to “business as usual”? Well, other than some as-yet-unnamed term becoming the hot topic du jour – nothing. Computing hasn’t changed in the last 50 years except to become faster, smaller, and more prevalent.

Where computing happens will always depend on the given job at hand – we will centralize when it makes sense, we will distribute when it makes sense, and we will localize when it makes sense.

The real concern for the next decade is data security and integrity. It doesn’t matter where you store your data, or how you process it: if you cannot rely on its accuracy, integrity, and safety, it’s just so much noise.

If you can’t access it when you want need, you’ve already lost.

what if human cloning …

… instead of making a unique individual spawned from a synapse record instead created the reverse of a horcrux? For those who haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies or read J K Rowling’s books, a horcrux is an object (potentially “alive”) into which a wizard can split his/her soul to make themselves harder to kill. They also provide an intermittent link (apparently in an on-demand, individual basis) between themselves and the horcruxer.

In The 6th Day, syncords are used to transfer a person’s identity, memories, etc into a human blank.

In the Newsflesh trilogy, we’re not told how cloning is done, but just that there is a way of recording the state of someone’s brain and implanting it into a new body.

In Jet Li’s The One, we are presented with a multiverse in which everyone exists in alternate versions of themselves – but when one of the multiverses loses an instance of a person, their physical energy/strength/etc is transferred to their remaining “selves” until eventually all instances die, at which point there is no place for the energy to transfer, and it is eliminated (I think – it wasn’t really explained in the film).

Discounting the possibility of a multiverse, what if every time a clone was created, while the current state of mind was implanted to give a common history, going forward all simultaneously-extant instances of the individual would not branch their histories, but instead would create a hive mind, each gaining the experience of the others via “inverse horcruxification”? Ie, instead of splitting the soul, it would diversify the mind, and create extra ‘containers’ in which the person can experience the world.

Multiplicity kinda went down the line of thought, but while all the clones worked together, they weren’t creating a shared memory/history of their “lives”.

I think it could be pretty cool to explore this concept in a good book/movie (or even series).

zombies and vampires

Many people recently have asked me why I like [some] zombie and vampire stories (and, more generally, why they’re so popular right now), and after taking the time to think carefully on the topic and explain it to them in person, I thought I’d do my 3 readers a favor and write it out here as well.

First, the two apparently-different genres have several similarities:

  • fantasize about what could be done with [effectively] unlimited power
  • fantasize about existing as an amoral being – one who is no longer bound to human standards because of their “conversion” to something other-than-human
  • follow a “scorched earth” scenario to clean the slate and allow individuals to create new societies (also, consider The Postman and other apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories)
  • fantasize about how humanity as a whole can recover from an unconventional apocalypse (so many stories have gone the “nuclear option” that it’s almost passé)
  • explore the dark side of the human condition without being criticized [as much] for talking about taboo topics (eg racism and [healthy] feminism in Night of the Living Dead)

Second, the history of the undead in mythology goes back a long time before the modern era of Twilight and Night of the Living Dead.

In many ways, zombies and vampires are the prototype supervillains we love to hate in comic books.


Vampires (in some form) have been mythologized for at least a thousand years. That wikipedia page goes further to note that dating back to at least the Mesopotamians there were stories of protovampires. Additionally, various recent archaeological news stories show “vampire graveyards” being found all over Europe – some dating 2000-4000 years ago.

Modern fascination with vampires started a long time before the paranormal romance section in your local bookstore started (which predates Twilight) – we can backup to Dracula by Bram Stoker for igniting the interest in vampiric stories over the last ~120 years in the West. However, until Twilight came along, there were very few vampire stories which had “good” vampires in them – Wesley Snipes’ Blade trilogy did, as has Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dark Shadows (which, as a sidebar, starred characters with the last name of “Collins”, which has made me wonder whether Stephanie Meyer picked “Cullen” for her prime protagonist family’s last name because of the “positive” vampires in the previous series), and, arguably, Interview with the Vampire.

You might also claim The Munsters and The Addams Family romanticized (along with comedicized) paranormal relations (both human to non-human & non-human to non-human).

However, the vast majority of stories surrounding undead creatures who appeared human but drank the blood of mere mortals, or who could morph into bats were far more prolific than any “good” rendition of the genre. Surely there is a reason that, in general, when we hear “vampire” the first thing we think of is something coming to suck our blood and make us like themselves (or dry us out like the creature Imhotep did in The Mummy).


What about zombies? And no, I am not referring to the voodoo zombies (though it’s where we get the term from). The undead who come to prey on the living have been glorified in Western pop culture horror, scifi, and fantasy stories for at least the last century. And they have existed in mythology dating back to at least the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The basic background always falls into one of a few camps:

The zombies portrayed always fall into one of three types:

  • “believable” – ie, slow, uncoordinated, existing only to feed and replicate their infection/condition, and gradually getting worse / more decomposed
    • may include non-human zombification, but generally within certain “guidelines” (eg the animal size and type (mammal) limit in the Newsfleshiverse)
    • traits of the recently infected/”undead” most closely resembling the uncontaminated “living”
    • may have zombies display apparent semi-rational activity as the virus (most often) in control decides whether to feed or replicate (generally related to the time elapsed from contamination and/or from last feed/spread activity)
    • may display hive/swarm “mentality” in large enough groups (Mira Grant and George A Romero)
    • any of George A Romero’s works, or the AMC (and graphic novel) series The Walking Dead are good examples of this classification
  • “superhuman” – fast, ravenous, unintelligent, but displaying swarm/hive mentalities
    • because the adherents of this theory tend to discount decomposition to some greater or lesser degree, the universes tend to be substantially more violent and bleak than in the “believeable” category
    • the Dawn of the Dead remake 9 years ago, 28 Days Later, and the movie adaptation of World War Z are prime examples of this zombie theory (interestingly, Max Brooks’ book World War Z (my review) did not have the superhuman zombie type on display)
    • not all superhuman zombie examples are outside the realm of plausibility outside their own worlds, but most stretch believability past where you could think, “hey – that could happen” (especially when dealing with “infections”)
  • “transhuman” – research / engineering gone wrong
    • this category tends toward the superhuman
    • may (and often does) include non-human zombification
    • can only exist in the world created by the imaginers – ie, the background explicitly makes known that it is not “our” world, but the one of the story-teller’s making (though, of course, it may closely mimic our world)
    • Resident Evil is a perfect example of the transhuman category


The CDC released a “Zombie Preparedness Guide” in the last few years. Some people have scoffed at the concept, citing the guide as a prime example of government waste – up there with the $7600 coffee pot on the C-5 Galaxy and congressional pensions.

However, especially because of the recent spike in interest of the topic of zombies among the general public, such a guide is a fantastic way to raise public awareness to general emergency preparedness, under the guise of humor and fantasy. Such techniques have been employed throughout history (thinking in somewhat recent past, consider the cartoons that accompanied movies in the 30s, 40s, and 50s or the “duck and cover” songs with the turtle propagated during the height of the Cold War; you could also cite the “this is your brain .. this is your brain on drugs” ads from the 80s and 90s with an egg and then the same egg cracked and sizzling in a frying pan).

Unlike aliens (and demons, djinn, and similar otherworldly beings), vampires and zombies do not come from anywhere but “here” (excluding the intergalactic space dust creation theory of Fido and others – where the zombies are terrestrial, but the cause is not). The purely terrestrial – though typically unexplained, and certainly not understood – nature of the creatures that want to eat us gives them an unusual power over our psyche that cartoonish or non-terrestrial evil cannot. If aliens, a la those in Independence Day, come to invade earth – there’s not much we can do (because by now they’ve all seen the movies we’ve made, and know not to come here if they’re allergic to our bacteria (War of the Worlds), hygrophobic (Signs), or running compatible-with-a-Mac-and-CodeWarrior computers susceptible to electronic infiltration by a cable guy with a master’s from MIT).

If vampires exist, depending on which vampireverse is most true, there are ways of destroying them … though it’s hard (fire, silver weapons, the sun, etc).

And if zombies can exist, we all know from every good zombie story (though first promulgated in the Night of the Living Dead) that we can kill them “in the brain and not the chest, headshots are the very best”.

If vampires and zombies are our most primal supervillains, who are our superheroes to deal with them?

Though mentioned, there are many of other myths of the undead, third-world, and/or otherworld inhabitants, including jinn (include Vikram the Vampire in Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson (review), aliens, and daemons. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing about them someday. But for now, I’ll keep them as mere passing references.

crush your enemy totally – law 15 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 15

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihiliation. The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)