Beach Vacation 2016

I usually don’t take vacations. Every year, the HR lady calls down to the sunken storage closet I work out of and tells me that my two weeks of vacation time will expire unless I use them right away. I always let them disappear, I have nowhere to go anyway.

This time was different. My mom’s side of the family (40ish people) got two houses at Sandbridge in Virginia last week. Instead of working, like a productive member of society, I spent the week swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach, eating good food, drinking responsibly, watching the olympics, and playing card games with my many relatives.

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It was great. Now, I want a beach house.

I didn’t get nearly enough reading done, and I’m not looking forward to the mountain of work waiting for me in the office, but overall, it was a great way to shake things up. I think that’s the point of vacations, not necessarily to relax, family trips can be more stressful than daily life, but just a change of pace. I’ll catch up with the workload and everything will be back to normal soon enough, so it’s always worth taking some time, and a few hundred dollars, to ride the waves, kick the sand, and re-connect with increasingly distant family members.

Beach Vacation 2016

House Poaching

At the end of March, I got a realtor and loan officer. I hadn’t planned on getting this process started until Mid April, but I was a little impatient.

Anyway, we looked at 6 houses and put an offer in that day. The house needed a lot of work. I don’t mean “maybe some paint, and a few lightbulbs.” I mean, the entire roof (five or six layers of shingles (illegal) on top of a slate roof on top of the original (water soaked) boards. And the entire electrical system, most of which was un-grounded, some of which was scorched. I mean it needed a lot of work. After weeks of painfully slow back-and-forth, I got out of that contract. I was willing to see it through if the sellers fixed the big stuff, but they never responded, so that was that.

The second choice should have been my first choice. No house is perfect, and it needs a few things taken care of, which the seller has already agreed to fix. It has its caveats: one car garage instead of two, somewhat strange layout; but it’ll be ok.

We’re planning to close on June 3, and there are many more hoops to jump through between now and then. Hopefully I can lock it down, figure out the moving logistics, and start my new life.

House Poaching

The Dictator’s Handbook

I gave this book a 5 star rating. I don’t know how you determine your review system, but I only give 5 stars if it changed my life.

The Dictator’s Handbook illuminated key policy differences between governments that rely on pleasing a small coalition of supporters, and those that need to keep a larger group happy. This is the key difference between dictatorships and democracies; the former leader richly rewards a handful of co-conspirators, the latter enacts public policies that benefit the voting majority.

Once in power (via election or coup), a leader’s overarching goal is to stay in power by securing the money and using it to reward their supporters. Through this lens, it’s easy to see why some despot-led countries, rich with natural resources, ignore and oppress their citizens. The leader doesn’t need to care about the people, so long as they continue working and exporting. Similarly, a democratically elected leader doesn’t need to care about those who didn’t vote for her.

This thoroughly researched text is refreshingly cynical and calloused. Like all great expository and explanatory works, it focuses more on verifiable fact than comfortable fiction.

I found the chapter on foreign aid most controversial. As you may remember, I had planned on volunteering overseas, but after reading this, I’m not sure anymore. The authors argued that government-to-government foreign aid is used to buy policy concessions, most of these examples came out of the Cold War era. Of course, dictators are more cheaply bought, so the US (among other countries) would donate funds, solidify foreign policy positions, and help keep despots in power.

Also, NGO donations might do more harm than good. So long as living conditions are abhorrent, freedoms are denied, disaster and conflict run rampant, and the people are in great need; wealthy nations and NGOs will donate. So long as donations keep flowing into the bloodstained hands of the autocratic leader, why would he lift a finger to alleviate his people’s misery?

The Dictator’s Handbook

I’m No Entrepreneur

I’m no entrepreneur and I’m ok with that. I recently read the first few chapters of “E Myth Mastery” and learned beyond a reasonable doubt, that I do not have the passion necessary to invent / create / pour my heart and soul into a startup company.

And that’s ok (hopefully), I’m perfectly fine with sticking to the plan, which is, after all, why it’s the plan in the first place. I’d like to have a wellspring of entrepreneurial passion, I’d like to not experience debilitating nerve pain, I’d like to really enjoy something in my life. But that’s the way it is, I have learned an important lesson, and now I don’t need to read the last 333 pages.

If I do start a company someday, and I plan on it, it will be a holding company for my real estate investment properties. I think that type of venture would suit me very well. I don’t have the passion for a daring startup company, but I have the focus and patience to manage long-term investments. I don’t have the burning need to create, but I have the dispassionate void where my heart used to be to keep logic at the forefront of my decisions. I’m no entrepreneur, so I’ll play to my different strengths.

I’m No Entrepreneur

A Call To Action

I have been planning on volunteering in La Paz, Bolivia for some time now. During that time, I have done quite a bit in order to prepare: I paid off my student loans, learned some basic Spanish, earned an IT certification, and took many courses on non-profit management, all to be of use once I arrived in Bolivia.

No one regrets more than I do that this hasn’t come to fruition as I expected it would. Due to some complications and uncertainties in other areas of my life, I cannot afford to volunteer in La Paz as I had hoped. I’ve learned that even if one has the heart to volunteer and help the needy, it’s very difficult to actually make it happen. I’m still not sure if it’s better to discard one’s dreams or defer them, but either way, I won’t be volunteering internationally for the foreseeable future. I emailed the director this morning with the bad news.

HOPE’s service and health programs in La Paz, Bolivia have helped thousands of disadvantaged people live better lives. Together with Foundation Arco Iris, they provide healthcare, education, food, clothing, and volunteer support to impoverished families. Bolivia is the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, over 50% of the population lives on less than $2 USD per day. There are approximately 30,000 children and orphans who live and/or work on the streets of La Paz. The need is great.

Please follow this link to see more of their work in Bolivia, follow their WordPress blog, and seriously consider donating to support the effort. I ardently wish that I could help in person, but if it’s not meant to be, we can help from afar.

A Call To Action

#YouAintNoMuslimBruv

I found this trending hashtag this morning and learned about the stabbing attack in a London Underground station yesterday. The suspected terrorist stabbed three people before he was arrested. In one of the videos of the incident, a man yells “You ain’t no Muslim bruv” to dismiss the attacker’s professed faith-based motive.

This was the best response to a terrorist attack I’ve seen thus far. With one sentence, he differentiated between the crazed knife-wielding man and the religious beliefs held by millions of peaceful people. This distinction is not only crucial for the world at large to recognize, but can serve as a rallying cry against those who pervert scripture to suit their own hatred.

#YouAintNoMuslimBruv

Trapped

I see how people get stuck in a job or a place that they don’t really want to be in. Changing ones life is difficult, the more I plan and work on changing my life, the harder it gets. So many pieces have to fall into place, and it can take years of intense focus to make it happen.

Maintaining is easy. Well, not always easy, but certainly easier. To stay in this job because you know the office and you understand the work and you don’t want any instability and you’re getting a bit older and and and the excuses go on and on. To stay in this city or state or country because you have an established routine here, you know some people, you wave to the neighbors, you have a reserved parking spot, and maybe someday you’ll do something crazy, but someday never seems to arrive.

I understand. The more I plan and work toward my future life, the more I realize why most people don’t bother doing this sort of thing: it’s arduous. I’ll need a pile of money, a new job, a temporary place to stay, a new driver’s license, new plates on my car…and then I’ll need to actually buy a house, which has it’s own long list of issues and contingencies and hurdles.

But I think it’s worth it, I’d rather spend hundreds of hours working toward the life I want than spend that time idly hoping someone else would change my life for me.

Trapped