It's the busiest possible time of year. This weekend is Independence Day
, followed next weekend by Connecticon
, and then Netrunner regionals in Philly. After that, nothing. A huge gap of nothing but enjoying the summer until PAX Prime
. I'm looking forward to the gap just as much as the events. All the awesomeness followed by at least a month without obligations and great weather. Expect an above average amount of content from us during that period.
Still plenty of people writing in from the last newsletter, but only a couple of them are reply-able. Just reply to this newsletter directly, and I will see the message. To get a response printed in the newsletter, make sure you ask a question. I need something to work with here, people!
I was reading your newsletter. I have a terrible memory -- unassisted, I am incapable of remembering large portions of my earlier years, and when I do, it is often the worst memories. However, looking at various trinkets and notes, acquired throughout that time, trigger more pleasant memories. In that way, I have boxes full of junk that represent the experiences I have had, people I have been close to, funny moments. And, throwing these boxes out amounts to throwing out those good times -- good times which sometimes help me through bad times. It's unfortunate, but I can't keep hauling these boxes wherever I go, as they grow in size. I could take photos of everything, scan everything, but I'm not that invested in the past to waste so much present.
I also have a not so great memory. I don't feel like I forget too many things. I remember things from all periods of my life with varying degrees of clarity. But other people seem to remember things much better than I do. I too keep around lots of old useless bits for sentimental reasons. Looking through that stuff does indeed bring back memories that might be lost without those physical objects.
This very well could be considered a form of materialism. At least in theory it is better to not rely on such things. You're going to need to be able to make it through life if all that stuff is lost in a flood or fire. That said, I don't see it as a big problem. I was mostly going after nerds who gain pleasure through buying and having things rather than doing things. Keeping mementos as memory aids is quite a bit different than excessive shopping.
Full Life Consequences
I move a lot with my job and rent where the work is so I always appreciate the freedom that comes with owning fewer things. Own too many things and your possessions come to own you. I bought two RPG books at the last con I went to, and straight away gave two other RPG books away to friends. People thought I was mad when I told them why I didn't care to buy more.
But because I live a contented "bare necessities" lifestyle and have a good job I have an easy time saving and can now afford to buy a small house outright. It was kind of an accident, (as was still being single at 30). Once I realised I was comfortable it's totally killed my career hunger. I'm being pressured to become chartered, which I'd love, but I am too tempted to buy a small place and get a simple job to take it seriously and do the required work. But that feels like a backwards step, an immature choice. I may someday also need to support having a family beyond just me.
How do you go about making life choices like this?
It sounds like you are torn between two completely valid philosophies of life. The first philosophy is to go with the flow. Just live life comfortably and contentedly. Follow the path of least resistance, and accept all that comes your way. The other philosophy is to strive for something. Decide upon some goals, and aim for them. Work hard, make sacrifices, experience discomfort. In the end, you are likely to reach your goals, or at least come very close. Choose one. Maybe use a little bit of both? Sorry, but I'm just some nerdy guy. I can't tell you who you are.
Put up or shut up is one of my favorite idioms. Following this principle has led me down some interesting roads, mostly because I am often willing to put up. When we had a lot of suggestions for how to improve Otakon, we were told to put up or shut up. We obviously said we would put up, but in the end they did not give us any putting power. A similar thing happened with Connecticon, except they allowed us to put. Next week marks our third or fourth year running their panels department. I highly recommend offering to put up when given the opportunity to do so. Successfully putting up, when no one else will, is one of the easiest ways to get into positions of power and responsibility.
What sucks is that to change things that really matter on a large scale is next to impossible with any level of putting up. Pick any of the hot political topics that people on the Interwebs are mad about today. There are tons of people out there who are putting up, and refusing to shut up, regarding each of those issues. Trying to fix a convention is relatively easy, and takes just a year or two. Attempting to fix the world is almost guaranteed to fail. When success does come, it takes a ridiculously long time. Much like building a cathedral, even if it succeeds, the generations that started it will not see it finished.
Allow me to illustrate. There is a thing happening called Mayday.us
. It's a plan to create a SuperPAC which will help elect candidates who want to seriously take money out of politics. It's a long shot, but it's still the only realistic possibility we have today of fixing the root cause of all of our political problems. The PAC is currently trying to raise $5 million dollars. As of this writing, it is only half way towards the goal with four days remaining. Only 19,500 people have pledged. Feel free to contribute through my personal pledge page
. Don't feel bad about contributing a lot. We will all get refunds if the goal is not met, and that's a near certainty.
At the same time, Reading Rainbow
is having a Kickstarter to make a comeback. It has almost reached $5 million and has nearly 100,000 backers. Helping kids read is great and all, but more than solving the single biggest problem we have? If we remove corruption from our government, won't that help education a lot more than some apps? It's not hard to figure out why Reading Rainbow succeeded. Nostalgia, marketing, brand awareness, etc. are very powerful. Still, this MayDayPAC has been pushing it pretty hard. I've seen it promoted in all the same places on the web as Reading Rainbow.
Sorry, that probably didn't crush your faith in humanity and hope for the future enough. Let's talk about the DotA 2 compendium
. DotA2 is a very competitive video game that is ridiculously popular, and has international championships coming up. People can spend real money to buy special in-game rewards. Those rewards don't affect game play, so it's not pay to win. They are mostly things like alternate character skins and such. The money is used as the prize pool for the winners at the championships. So far they have over $10 million in the prize pool. They contribute $2.50 to the prize pool per compendium. Each compendium costs $10. That means people have spent $40 million on this in total. You can do the math on that yourself. Our society would rather pay for skins in a video game than pay to fix the government or teach children to read.
Now that hope is all gone, let me reiterate. Corporate influence over government via money underlies every single issue we care about. It doesn't matter whether it's the environment, sexism, net neutrality, health care, foreign policy, transportation, all of the above, or something else entirely. Unless people put up on this issue, nothing else will change for the better in any reasonable time frame. To put up, you can give $2.5 million dollars to MayDayPAC now. Oh, right, nobody reading this has that kind of money.
The strategy of MayDay PAC is not bad on paper. Try to remove the influence of corporate money in politics by using crowd-sourced money to influence elections. The problem is the source of the money. Even the $40 million that DotA 2 got for their compendium is a pittance in the grand scheme. There are people who can lose $40 million and not even notice, but they won't be involved in this. The only way to get a real amount of money to make a difference is not to start a PAC, but to start a megacorporation. As of last year Apple computers had over $145 billion dollars in cash sitting around. Yeah, billions. Imagine if Apple decided to spend all that cash on politics. It would be the US of Apple within a week. That's real power.
I think the best strategy is to become owner of a ridiculously large company. That's pretty much the only way to have any meaningful ability to change the world. Call me when you've made it.