Dr. Jordan Peterson, Truth, and Even More Truth

This is the second of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK).  The third post can be found here (LINK).

“J-Roc raps about gangsters and guns, pimps and hos and Compton.  The guy’s not from Compton.  He’s a white kid from a trailer park.  He should rap about what he really knows which is living in his mom’s trailer eating peanut butter sandwiches.” – Trailer Park Boys

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When I think that society is too complicated, I then remember that I couldn’t even take this picture without the help of the millions of elven technicians that live in my camera.  Then I cry.

As a reminder, Dr. Peterson is a psychologist that teaches at the University of Toronto, but don’t hold that against him:  he seems to be one of the good Canadians at this point, though a bit fixated.

On what is Peterson fixated?  Dr. Peterson seems to be obsessed, and not with Pez® or Japanese tentacle pudding cups like a normal man.  No, Peterson is obsessed with the truth.  Earlier this year in response to a question on Quora, (LINK): “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Dr. Peterson didn’t come back with a 250 page book priced at $43.50 (I’m talkin’ about you, Dr. Tainter (LINK)) but rather a fairly simple 40 item list.  I’d suggest you go over and read it – it’s not bad.  My list would be different, but you’ll have to wait for a new post for my list – this post is all about Peterson.

I’ve often heard it said, if you want to know who someone is, just ask them.  I was reading an article on the web where these psychiatrists were attempting to figure out a test to give people to determine if they had narcissistic personality disorder.  The best test they’d yet determined was to ask them, “Are you a narcissist?”

Narcissists seem pretty proud answering, “Yes, I am!  Because I’m so awesome!”

Nice.  So, with that in mind, let’s listen to Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Peterson’s first rule is:

Tell the truth. 

Simple.  I think we all learn to lie about stuff as soon as we learn about consequences.  We all start out as horrible liars, since being three years old doesn’t exactly pop us to the top of the “able to make up good, convincing lies” chart unless your parents are very, very stupid.

After playing with lies, if we are very, very, lucky we learn that lies are really, really bad.

I’ll tell you my story, because I’m just enough of a narcissist to think you might be interested.  Because I’m that interesting.

I’ve been divorced, and can attest that divorces are very expensive because they’re worth every penny.  My first wife and I didn’t have personalities that really matched very well.  To top that, neither one of us was very good at telling the truth to each other – it was like a US-USSR arms race where, instead of stockpiles of nuclear weapons, our Cold War involved an ongoing series of falsehoods aimed at one another.  She was relieved to move out.  I was relieved when she moved out and was replaced by Boris Yeltsin (for a short time).  It took tanks and a promise of vodka to get Boris out of the house long enough to change the locks.

Regardless, I could see the impact that lies and distrust had made in my life, and I made a personal vow that, no matter what I did in the future, I would always tell anyone in a future relationship the Truth.  No lies.   And I have told the Truth, regardless of the outcome to The Mrs. since we met.  One time I called home, late, while I was still at work.  I whispered into the mouthpiece, “Can’t come home right now.  Governor of the state is in the office right next to mine, surrounded by news media, talking to my boss.”

The Mrs. only reply was, “Okay.  See you when you get here.”

By this time, we’d been married almost eight years, so, based on my constantly telling the Truth during that time, plus during every interaction before we got married, I think I could have called up and said, “Honey, been picked up by a UFO, and they have Elvis and we’re going out for ribs and beer.  Be back before 11pm.”

This may or may not be what happened to me.

She might have believed that was what was really happening, but she would certainly have believed that I thought it was the Truth.

And this has paid off during my entire relationship with The Mrs., in dividends, though certainly she knows better than to ask my opinion on anything where she doesn’t really want a True answer.  Has it caused friction?  Very rarely.  It did today, because I told her my opinion, and was told (essentially) that she didn’t want that right now.  Sometimes Truth is not what we want.

But in every case, it has led to harmony and trust.  If you have a partner who always tells you the Truth, you know you have someone who is on your team, always.

But back to Dr. Peterson.

In response to the Question on Quora, he listed 40 points.  By my count, 16 of them (40%!) dealt directly with Truth.

Here they are, quoted with permission, with my commentary:

  • Tell the truth. Discussed above.  The core of Dr. Peterson’s points.
  • Do not do things that you hate. If I were to quote Shakespeare, I’d quote Hamlet here: “To thine own self be true.”  Oh, I guess I just did.  This is Truth to self.  Your hate (if everything else is set right) will be based on the dissonance of what you’re doing and your best self.  You’re avoiding Truth by doing things you hate.
  • Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act. Directly related to the above, the idea of having to tell someone, Truthfully, what you did prevents you from doing things you would be ashamed of.  Which would include eating a whole bag of Ruffles®, unless it saved an orphan in some way.
  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. Again, this is more “Truth to self.”  As my coach in high school said, “Wilder, when you cheat on those pushups, you’re just cheating yourself.”  I kid.  I never cheated on pushups in high school.  I cheated on squat-thrusts.  But, when cheat yourself from the Truth of the meaningful, you end up with the never ending squat thrusts of the expedient.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things. I had a boss who was always seen doing things.  In reality, he mainly was responsible for ensuring we had a constant Internet connection, mainly by surfing for things that amused him.  But if there was a way to be seen by his boss doing the “right” thing?  He would move faster than a miniature poodle on a porkchop to get in the credit zone.  I’m pretty sure he’s never been happy, especially since his strategy is to always look good, but he has none of the skills to create great outcomes.  My corollary:  Do things, and be seen doing them.  You can have both.  But never stop doing things.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. Again, the theme of being Truthful to oneself continues.  But this is aimed at being Truthful to the long term you.  If you cheat that you, you’ll always have regrets, and probably termites, too.
  • Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible. “Who says that fictions only and false hair become a verse?  Is there in truth no beauty?”  Okay, I stole that from the poem “Jordan (I)” by George Herbert, 1593-1633.  And that’s creepy, because I only learned the poem’s name or author tonight – to me it was just the title of a sub-par Star Trek episode (the one where Spock goes temporarily blind).  But outside of the creepy factor of researching a poem to find that it has the same name as the person you’re writing about, beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.  The elegance of pure math.  The sudden discovery of a True thing.  The Wilder corollary to this one:  ugly things around your house steal your energy.  Fix them.
  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Again, Truth to self.  I have seen people with amazing skills and talents just stop on their way upward – because they are afraid to fail.  I’ve done that myself, until a very visionary leader told me, after I’d explained what he wanted was hard to do, “Wilder, just do it.”  Nine times out of ten when he told me that, I achieved it.  The tenth?  He got fired.  But he got a severance package worth about $1.4 million.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. There is truth in beauty.  There is also truth in the stable social constructs that have created wealth, peace, and Pez® for thousands of years.  Tear them down?  It’s easy.  But can you tear them down and put up something even better?  Probably not.  Can you make them better?
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you. Again, Truth is your primary commodity here.  Friends who want the best for and from you will tell you the Truth.  Others won’t.  One time I saw the head of operations for a company walk down the hall with about three feet of toilet paper trailing behind his waistband, top center behind, like a big, white, fluffy skunk tail.  Nobody else saw him.  I didn’t tell him when he walked out of his office, somewhat flushed and embarrassed.  He made small talk until he realized I wasn’t going to say, “Hey, saw your toilet paper tail and I’m going to tell everybody!”  And I didn’t tell the office.  He was a nice guy.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. How is it possible that you have the answer to world peace, and there’s a towel on the floor in your room?  Or your son hates you?    Thought so.  Fix the things around you so you understand the Truth required to fix the world about you.  I’m still working on cleaning my room, so, my advice is suspect.
  • Be precise in your speech. Precision in speech means . . . you say exactly what you say you mean.  Which is?    The Truth.  And if you go back to Orwell, removing words, or making them mean things they don’t removes the ability to even make certain arguments through language, so at some point the Truth isn’t even possible to utter anymore.
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.  By not teaching Truth to your children you cripple them to find Truth on their own. And finding Truth by yourself is harder than finding a clean spot on Johnny Depp’s sink.  As smart as your children might be, they are not wise, and need you to guide them through Truth so they might find Wisdom, and through Wisdom enough money to pay for your retirement home some future day.
  • Do not hide unwanted things in the fog. We try to hide Truth from ourselves every day.  We look in the mirror and manage to not see what anyone else in the world can plainly see.  While there is no reason that you have to tell the world your deepest regrets, you should at least be able to see them and understand that they are True.
  • Read something written by someone great. Great people write Truth, that’s why what they write is great.  The more profound the Truth, generally, the simpler.  But a great writer can, in 200 pages, take you on a journey that wraps you around and through a path where you walk to Truth.
  • Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know. As much as we search for the Truth, we learn more every day.

Here is a Peterson theme:  Truth in a Post-Modernist context is always relative and always the product of the culture that created it.  It ceases to be objective Truth, and becomes a relative truth.  From the points above, you might predict that Peterson would reject Post-Modernism because it denies the very existence of Truth.  And you would be right.

The battle lines are set: Modernism vs. Post-Modernism and the very existence of Truth.

What amazes me is that it is clearly explicable in our world that there are objective facts that are True, yet in a Post-Modernist viewpoint, nope, not so.  Therein lies the ultimate fight between Peterson and Post-Modernism – Peterson is on the side of Truth, and his opponents deny that Truth even exists.

There are too many points, too many places where Truth is not the relative product of a culture to even begin to argue that truth doesn’t exist.  (If you must have an example:  there is a force we call gravity that causes mass to clump together.  Truth.  Gravity is not a social construct.  There are cultural Truths as well, but I’m not going to open that can of worms with this post.)

So, I’ll allow that the narcissistic side of my personality is pretty sure that you’ve enjoyed this, but the Truthful side knows that you did.

As for me?  I’m with Dr. Peterson.  Go with the Truth.  It’s a winner.

Jordan Peterson, Being Healthy, Slaying Dragons (where legal)

“Why don’t you get a life Rick? Why don’t you go to community college like Julian here? Hey, I got a good idea. You could teach, ‘Living in a Car and Growing Dope 101.’” – Trailer Park Boys (Which, in the editor’s opinion, are another Canadian menace)

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William Shatner and Pugsley.  Pugsley was thrilled.

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and we here at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise© have already had Elon Musk Week™ (LINK).  Given the great response to Elon Musk Week®, my editor (me) has assigned my writing staff (also me) and my graphics staff (again me) to Jordan Peterson Week™.  This is the first post in the series.  My second post is here (LINK).  And my final post is here (LINK).

Jordan Peterson is fascinating to listen to, and you can certainly do that, unless you live in 1995 or Arkansas, where video isn’t yet a part of the Internet.  YouTube has devoted a massive amount of computer disk space to cover the hours and hours and hours of Dr. Peterson’s fascinating lectures.  How much disk space?  Almost enough to cover 30% of The Simpsons episodes, or 571,231 hours.

I kid.  But Dr. Peterson is exceptionally popular despite the fact that some of his videos are an hour or two long, and the typical attention span is measured in fifteen second chunks, and he’s still popular tells you he’s saying something pretty important.  Heck, Dr. Peterson is Canadian and despite that, people take him seriously.

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You know who else is Canadian?

There is quite a lot of information content in his videos – they’re very dense, and often he will drop an amazingly wise bit of information and leave me to back the video up whilst I’m Stairmastering® with my hands and face covered in yogurt to catch his point again.  Why are my face and hands covered in yogurt?  To keep the cucumber slices in place, silly!

Peterson drops a truth grenade in every video.  In one, he indicates that most of his psychological practice cases don’t have any sort of a mental issue.  No real psychotherapy is required.  No years of sitting on a couch discussing cigars or tunnels and their meaning.  Nope.

And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?  Audio only, but a classic.  I had this on cassette when I was a kid and it all went WAY over my head.

Dr. Peterson indicated that most problems were problems in living.  He brought up six areas where he would gently (or not so gently) counsel his patients to “get a life.”

“Get a Life” must be a course they teach in Canada.

Peterson indicates that there are six areas where his patients need to focus on getting a life (interpretations past the bold are mine, not Dr. Peterson’s):

  • Friends/Intimate Relationships – These are crucial relationships, and it seems (LINK) that the earlier they are formed, the stronger they are. I guess we hadn’t learned to pretend to be something we’re not, so those relationships are more authentic.  Everyone I went to High School with knows what well developed sense of self I have (though they called it “egomaniac”) and I don’t have to pretend to be humble (important in not scaring a boss to death).
  • Being a Part of a Career/Dominance Hierarchy – Having a career is important, in that it provides a sense of significance to what you’re doing. You have the opportunity, each day, to jump in and do your very best within the confines of a social network that doesn’t require BookFace® (unless you work at BookFace©).  Dominance Hierarchy is a term used by Peterson a lot.  This is driven by the notion that it is hardwired into us by a lot of years of biology and evolution.  In the past, (pre-monogamy) most human males didn’t get to mate and leave an offspring (think harems).  This (depending on your mileage) may have left a LOT of angry males only marginally attached to society, and a bargain of monogamous, single marriage in return for angry unmated males not rioting and breaking everything.  So, want to be the most dominant person in the room?  Sure you do.  Like a love for gluten, it’s hardwired.  And studies have shown that this is important (LINK).  Please remember, however, all the recent retirees that have this as their primary purpose and expire six months after retirement.  This can be a dangerous solo focus.
  • Have a Schedule/Routine – Pick a time, any time, and get up at that time, all the time. Every day.  This stabilizes your body’s innate circadian rhythm, which has a direct relationship on your mood.  Hmm, I’ve worked to make this better, but . . . (LINK)
  • Eat Something in the Morning – Dr. Peterson talks about a nice woman who only ate ¾ of a cup of rice every day and was starving herself. My breakfast looks a lot like dinner.
  • Personally Regulate Drugs and Alcohol – Peterson said “regulate” but by context he meant personally regulate. His other comment, “especially alcohol.”
  • Have a Spouse/Family – Family is important. Besides creating another group of people that should have your back no matter what, it also provides an anchor in time.  It is a link to the past from your parents.  It is a link to the future from your children.  And, it’s a link to BookFace® if you do it wrong.

Dr. Peterson said that being solid in three or four of these was absolutely necessary to by psychologically thriving.  I imagine that an extreme stress on any one of these by itself (think the retirees mentioned above) can be a pretty debilitating experience.  Keep in mind, also, that these presuppose a normal life in good times in Western Civilization, and not times that would make Dr. Maslow grin with the grim anticipation of NOBODY winning at his self-actualization game (LINK).

Looking at the list I can see from my personal experience that having three of these going for you is crucial to not being a neurotic moron appearing sane.  When times were tough at work?  I leaned on family and on friends.  When I was going through my divorce a zillion years ago?  I threw myself into work and leaned on friends.

What else does Dr. Peterson say?

Lots.

One big one is “Clean Your Room.”

And it’s not a metaphor.  It’s literal.  The act of cleaning your room – of making your place tide – provides a basis of stability.  It’s also symbolic – it’s hard to argue that you know the solutions to all of the world’s problems and need to organize a protest when you can’t even keep your room clean.  The simple symbol of slaying the tiny dragon (that’s a metaphor, unless you live in Westeros and are plagued by actual tiny dragons) of chaos in your life shows that you can be conscientious enough to actually get something done.  And you get a boost when you’ve actually achieved something.  Hey, I haven’t won the Nobel® Peace Prize™ (now on stick!) but, by golly, I don’t have to step over a rack of magazines to get to my bed!  Your work leads to something besides futility.

That last part is important.  I once had a conversation with a friend at work where we talked about the different ways that people view tasks:

“John, you and I get up in the morning and think, yup, I have got to shave this morning.”  He rubbed his chin for emphasis.  “Those guys,” he gestured in the direction of the group we were talking about, “get up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, ‘You know, I’m going to have to shave every day.  Every single day for the rest of my life.’”

And life can seem like that – a bit of constantly encroaching chaos.  Maintaining the discipline of cleaning your room keeps that sense of being a victim of life at bay.  “I can’t clean the room – I don’t have time,” and “I’ll get to cleaning the room on a long weekend.”  Those are statements of someone who has voluntarily made themselves a victim, and, really, is avoiding the truth.  Even five minutes a day, over time, will lead to a clean room.

My cleaning method is to pick a spot on an area, and then make that area perfect.  Then, the area adjacent to my “perfect” area looks . . . awful.  My favorite spot to start in the kitchen is the microwave.  The Mrs. chides me because, “Who is going to come visit our house just to look to see how clean our microwave is?”

Well, nobody.  But the microwave is truth.  Regardless of who sees it (or doesn’t see it), the microwave is now clean.  And I know the truth.

And this week, each morning before work I’ve cleaned on the master bathroom about three minutes.  In two weeks, that’ll be half an hour.  That I’ll never notice, partially because zombies on The Walking Dead have a greater self-awareness than I do when I first get up in the morning, plus their breath smells better.  But I’ve done something a bit different.  I’ve started the day having slain a tiny dragon; starting the day with a win.

And that’s legal in my state, as long as I have a permit.

Join me for more of Dr. Jordan Peterson on . . . Monday.  Get a life.  Or slay a dragon.

Eclipse, Game of Thrones, Chili’s Restaurant

“Or we could stare at an eclipse while screaming at it!” – Upright Citizens Brigade

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This picture of the Sun’s corona is courtesy of The Boy, the number 8, and the letter W.

Like millions of other Americans within a short drive, The Boy, Pugsley and I piled into the Wildermobile and headed for destiny.  (For the record, millions of Americans didn’t pile into my car.  They got into their own cars.)

Actually, it was a Marriott© instead of destiny, but I hear those things can be related.  This was no ordinary Marriott®, rather it was one strategically placed within 90 minutes or so of the Path of the Great American Eclipse, which would snatch from us, momentarily, the Suns Life Giving Yet Deadly rays.

We had packed our Solar Viewing Glasses, which we had gotten for free a week earlier at our local library.  “We” is really The Boy, who I had to threaten with the immediate torture of being pulled from the Matrix through restriction of his use of any device invented since 1907 should he not comply.  “Later” seemed to be built into his answer.  Take away his Tweeter® or his BookFace©?  Yeah, that would be like amputating a limb.

A week out at the library?  Plenty of eclipse glasses were freely available.  Three days out?  None.  Again, people do NOT plan.  It seems like that when it’s bright and sunny out, even when they know that winter’s coming, they don’t put up extra food or even minor emergency preparations.  After you’re observed people long enough, you learn that most of them . . . don’t learn.  (But not you, dear reader, who likely have an IQ high enough to give a normal person a nosebleed due to altitude sickness.)

The Mrs. was skeptical when I tried to get hotel reservations a scant week before, but Marriott gleefully set up the reservation.  Originally, she was going to accompany us, but the day before we were to leave for the hotel, we took a nap, and she slept through the time when she was supposed to take the dogs to the kennel for boarding.  The Mrs. sighed . . . happily.  I’m not sure she was at all excited about an eight hour trip into the deepest uninhabited part of Upper-Lower Midwestia just to not see the Sun.

The Boy, Pugsley and I planned (prior to leaving) on when and how we were going to leave on our great adventure.

My plan was that I wanted to get there so I had about 90 minutes to eat dinner prior to Game of Thrones (spoiler – Ned gets decapitated at the end of season one).  Pugsley, however, had configured some sort of alternate reality that involved us getting there at 3pm.  The Boy bought into this alternate reality and stubbornly wore his backpack starting two hours before I started packing.

Keep in mind, The Boy is nearly 17.

I think both The Boy and Pugsley were excited.  The Boy was even more excited when I tossed him the keys.  He drove us from Stately Wilder Manor to dinner, and then to our hotel.  My daughter, Alia S. Featherbottom (nee Wilder) was going to meet us, but forgot we were coming as she fell into a pit of Dungeons and Dragons®.

Now, as a general note, we don’t let Pugsley (12) watch Game of Thrones.  The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has watched the show.  Tonight?  Single hotel room?  He sat and watched Galaxy Quest with headphones on.  Although The Mrs. and I normally sit and watch the show together, in this case she and I texted back and forth during the episodes.  Here is an example exchange:

The Mrs.:  “There’s more walking in this episode than in The Lord of the Rings.”

Me:  “At least they’re not singing.”

After that I poured my heart and soul into (yet another) post about how stupid NASA is (LINK), but even I am beginning to feel a bit guilty – picking on NASA is a lot like hitting a kitten.  The Boy helped by doing my thermodynamics calculations.

I had carefully selected our site.  It was about fifteen miles from the nearest town, and it was on a nice corner where the line of totality exactly passed over.  It was perfect.  The only problem?

Clouds.  They were everywhere.  I pulled out my cellphone and had the path of the totality map up.  On another cellphone I had the cloud cover map.  I reviewed first one phone and then the other, cross referencing one map to the other, sort of like Columbus if he was having trouble getting 3G on the Santa Maria like I was out in the cornfields.  At least he had WIFI when the Pinta hit Hispaniola, right?

Plotting one map against the other while The Boy drove, I made a decision.  The GPS said to turn right.  I told The Boy, “Turn left.”

With that, we moved off plan.  We had gone rogue, chasing bits of blue sky.

We navigated farther west, and soon, bluer patches of clear sky were NOT obscuring the Sun.  We were getting closer . . . finally we stopped in a small town park.

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We pulled into position about 40 minutes before the eclipse.

The park was filled with nice, friendly people.  Which makes sense.  These are the type of people who are intellectually curious, and were patient enough to drive hours to a small town for a two minute eclipse.  These weren’t troublemakers.

The eclipse itself was sublime.  The Sun was a fat crescent, a slim crescent, and then it was gone.  There were some light clouds, but they weren’t a major eclipse of the eclipse.  We had chosen our site very well.

My biggest personal surprise about the eclipse was that it didn’t go completely dark – I guess I had expected that.  Venus was very visible in the sky, but the clouds surrounding us (35 miles away) were still lit by the Sun, and that lighting left me feeling like I was under the world’s largest sunshade, which I guess that I was.

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My picture of the Sun’s Corona.  I prefer Negra Modelo myself.

It had been an oppressively hot and humid day.  The temperature dropped a bit during the eclipse, and that brought out thick clouds as the water vapor in the air condensed out.  We got in The Wildermobile and The Boy started driving us towards home.  The worst traffic jam we saw took place at a T intersection about 30 miles south of totality, and it was about a mile of politely and patiently driven cars that took us about ten extra minutes to get through.  The traffic apocalypse foretold by Nostradamus did not emerge.

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The above fiberglass squirrels were all over this town, and every squirrel I saw was painted differently, but all of them had eclipse glasses on.  Who says Midwesterners don’t know how to party?

The Boy drove us back down to a Chili’s® restaurant 90 miles south of totality.  It looked like it was closed, with zero cars in the parking lot.  I jumped out to check the door, it was open, and they were open.  We ordered food, and the waitress said that there had only been one table that had been there for lunch.  Apparently, your willingness to eat at Chili’s™ is some sort of predictor for you to go to see an eclipse.

The Boy drove home, and I slept most of the way.

Most of the way.

On the way back I mused on the events of the day – we had seen a solar eclipse – our first total solar eclipse, and I was reminded of something I heard Tony Robbins say:  “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy experience.”

I guess my takeaway is:  “Being nice doesn’t get you Eclipse Viewing Glasses, but angry threats do.”

Lonely? Ditch Facebook, Find Real People. Live Longer.

“When a man of Scotty’s years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him. His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship’s engines.” – Star Trek

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Why, oh, why does it not say Texas Pain RELIEF Institute?

Daniel and I were friends from second grade onward, until I moved away.

I’m not sure if it was our mutual love of Mad® magazine, parody, or wearing army fatigues that we found here and there and the unearned ranks, units, and qualifications we’d poorly sew onto the faded olive drab fabric (I’m pretty sure I was a sergeant of a unit that never existed).  We’d regularly sleep over at each other’s houses, throw up poorly breathing nylon tents in the back yard, and then go on maneuvers with our toy rifles; fording quickly flowing rivers or assaulting fortified hills.  Daniel even managed to find a Korean-era K-ration we were too scared to eat.  I mean, it smelled okay, but . . . .  And we each shared magazines we certainly didn’t want to let our parents know we had (hint: boobies).  And I still have one book he made me promise I’d return to him because it wasn’t his, this really has weighed on me, and I’m not kidding.

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What magazines we looked at may or may not have looked like. I plead the fifth.

During the school day we skipped lunch together, talked science fiction together, and told bad jokes together.  Our conclusion on Mel Brooks and Hogan’s Heroes?  The best things on television, ever.  Carrie Fisher and Sigourney Weaver?  Our goddesses, along with Madeline Kahn.  Especially when we saw Carrie in a bikini one night at Daniel’s house.  Wow.

It was also Daniel who taught me that in Tom and Jerry, Jerry was the evil one.

When I visited him at Easter I knelt and did the novena, even though I wasn’t Catholic.  We were brothers.  Daniel and I belonged to the same tribe, until time and distance pulled us (mainly me) away.

This week a study (really, a metastudy, or summary of other studies, which is like a summary of Game of Thrones for your friends who don’t watch Game of Thrones) was released about loneliness and how being lonely negatively impacts health.  (Hint, being lonely is worse than being obese, drinking too much, or not having enough Pez® to stick to your eyebrows on St. Johns’ Day in Nova Scotia.)

AARP commissioned a study that says that 42 million people older than 45 suffer from “chronic” loneliness.  Since there were only 120 million people older than 45 when they did the study, that means that over 35% of those people over 45 are . . . sad.  And it’s very sad when that many old people with that many wrinkles are sad.

What does chronic loneliness do to you?

Nothing good.

It increases your odds of death by . . . 50%.  That sounds like a lot, and it is.  That’s almost worse than the wrinkles.

So in the age of Facebook®, people are less connected to one another.  In fact, in another study they found that old people who relied less on email and social media for their social connections were . . . happier.  Let me write that in blazing letters across the sky:

Facebook® is no substitute for calling the people you know and love and talking to them.  Period.

I’ve watched Facebook™ grow, and I’ve viewed social media with skepticism.  I tried to get on Facebook®, but it never was able to engage me.  Facebook® seemed so much shallower than blogging.  Also, I’ve always thought that Facebook© was a tailor-made infidelity machine – putting people who used to have sex back together, while removing all of their bad qualities in a haze of boozy memories.  There is no way that I wanted to fight off all of the girls who were chasing me like I was a Roadrunner®.  Heavens, who has that energy??

Let this be a reminder, the people on Facebook™ have bad morning breath, have bad armpit smells, and leave their socks all over the place (except, of course, me).  But to a lonely spouse, or worse, and idealized memory?  Not so much.

Let’s pretend that Facebook© was really, really good at helping people really connect on a spiritual level?  They’d disable that feature in a second.

Why?

Facebook® makes money when you’re dissatisfied, and makes money upon your dopamine receptors which are always looking for novelty.  Facebook™ makes money when you hit refresh and scroll through more updates and see more ads, or look to see how many people “Liked” you.  Facebook© is free to you because your attention is the product.  And your dissatisfaction is the way to maximize their return.  Thank heavens for youtube videos of cats!!!

Why are older folks getting lonely?

Well, my parents had dinner parties.  When they were in their 50’s I was still a pup, and had to got to go to their dinner parties, at least when they were at our house.  The couples would get together, and they’d immediately split up.  The ladies would go the kitchen and drink whatever Mom made for ‘em, even though it smelled like something that would catch on fire if a stray spark veered by.

The men would retire to the dining room (nobody smoked anymore) and drink bourbon, scotch and talk about elk hunting, war (real, actual war) stories, or how the weather was, or what the crops were like.  Someone would make an off-color joke, and give me a wink and a nudge.  Really, it was always Vern that did that.  Honestly, most of the jokes were right over my head unless they were directly and obviously about boobs, but at least I was part of the game.

After drinks, there would be dinner.  Which would also include drinks.

Afterwards?  Cards and a communal gathering, until the time came that people would head home.  The game of cards itself was meaningless, merely a reason to sit around the table and talk more.  And drink more.  It was a good thing that they mainly left before Star Trek©.

The gatherings were even more wide ranging than that – on occasion we’d go spend the night, for instance, at a cabin deep in the mountains that one of the families owned.  During the course of that weekend we built a mountain road with a road grader, rode horses, and I outshot all of them with Pop Wilder’s .222.  Oh, I and won a game or three of Risk®.

We hunted together with Pop Wilder’s friends.  We went on wide-ranging 4×4 trips deep into the forest at 12,000 feet.  We rode snowmachines together.  Although I was certainly the junior member, more than anything it looked like a tribe – a group of friends that supported each other and shared in each other’s joys and sorrows as we snacked on ziplock-fresh sandwiches at 12,000 feet.

And today I don’t see that.  Although I know a zillion adults, most of them don’t get together like this.  Most of the adults I could get together with like this (there’s a pretty big implied trust) live very far away.

In our current world, we spend our time chasing our children on their adventures (wrestling, football, academics, Boy Scouts, etc.) and focusing on our spousal relationship, and finally, work.  I know that sounds like the best way to spend your time, but . . . is it, really?

Right now, as a family, we depend upon the iron triad of children, work and spouse.  All of my adult friends (locally) come from either my children or my work, or, IS The Mrs.  What happens when work changes (this is a minority of friends we see, so not much) or the kids get older?  Two thirds of the local social network dries up.  That day.

And, I recall that the social network for my parents lived on with them after I graduated.  After Pop Wilder retired.  It was a durable network.  They may have been alone, but they were never lonely.

In some weird way, we seem to have taken the informal support networks from men and women.  We seem to have replaced them with the evanescence of work and children.

We have, when those support networks crumble over time, ignored those left over.  And they get lonely.  They don’t have Vern attempting to turn the butter into my thumb when he passed it to me (it never worked, I was young and fast, and he was older and a bit inebriated).

Where are they now?  Are they in our past, those who trust us with their very souls?

There is an endless summer.

That endless summer contains every single day young boys spent together in a world bound only by imagination, in a world where each barley field represented a chance to crawl on our bellies toward enemy lines to stop the Germans in their tracks, or to stop the Cylons® before they could hit our main base.  One last swig from the canteen before we braved the minefields and tried to take out the German 88mm gun before it savaged our boys to pieces.

We played at life, at courage, at understanding where we fit in our tribe.  We discussed love before we knew what it was.  We discussed right and wrong when we were living it.  We displayed strength because it was intertwined with our being.

I called Daniel’s number tonight for the first time in years.  I remember their house, and I know right where they were when they picked up the phone, heck, the number was familiar with me.  They remembered me through the fog of ages.

I’ll talk to Daniel soon.

Why did I wait so long?  Guilt.  I felt (and still feel) that I’m the one who killed our endless summer with the starting of my car and the loss of my virginity.  I’d left the fields of play behind.  I’d left the best friend that I’d ever had or will ever have behind.

Tonight I gathered up the courage to make the call back towards summer, the call back to the innocence of boys bound together in blood, in bad comedy, in Steve Martin, in mutual, total trust.

And we’ll go back to the summer, where we belong.  At least for a few minutes when we talk.

Did it get dusty in here?  My eyes seem to be watering.

Nobody gets to be lonely in summer . . . especially not an endless one.

Self Control, Soviet Tanks, and Stanford Marshmallows

“Any problem caused by a tank can be solved by a tank.” – Family Guy

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The featured image is geology.  Which is way cooler than what the class made it seem.  This is one I took in Alaska.

The first all-night study session I that I did involved studying for finals the first semester of my freshman year at college.  I do recall getting increasingly tired, and at 4AM I jumped in my car to buy, for the first (and last) time ever:  No-Doze®.  No-Doze™ was awful.  I felt jittery.  I felt my teeth moving around in my gums.  I felt my eyes moving around in their sockets.  It felt like there were bugs walking around on the inside of my skull.  Thankfully, I was distracted by actual pain in my stomach (due, I’m pretty sure) to the No-Doze©, which is what kept me awake.

I ended up doing fine in my tests, but can only recall that “Cops On Streets Detain Crime” (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian) and “Miss Pennie’s Panties” (Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene).   I think I’m missing a billion or so years of geologic history because there wasn’t a sufficiently naughty mnemonic involving underwear.

Oh, and I can also recall that No-Doze© is the work of the devil.

Looking back, it seems so simple.  A little effort each day would have paid off at finals.  Big time.  Study a subject (like geology – lots of memorizing) a little bit each day.  By the time finals rolled around?  With just a few minutes of study, I’d be ready to take the final, and do so on a full night’s sleep.

However, while study may payoff later, not studying always pays off now.  Present Me can have a beer, go to a movie, read a book, watch an episode of Twilight Zone®.  These are all better than studying geology.  Honestly, a dentist visit is more fun than studying geology, though it’s still probably easier to sleep through geology.

What has all of this got to do with Wealth?  It’s Wilder Wealthy Wednesday, so how does all of this tie in?

I’m glad I asked.

Everyone makes choices about how they spend their resources.  There are the needs of the Present, and those of the Future.  Example:  if retirement and putting The Boy and Pugsley through college weren’t issues?  I would own a tank.  You can buy them, you know.  (LINK)  Real tanks, sold by Eastern European arms merchants.  It sounds like Bruce Willis should be in this movie, right?  Oh, and I’d also own a swimming pool filled with Pez® that I would swim in like Scrooge McDuck™.

But I won’t.  I value Future Me enough to forego the fun of riding around the neighborhood in a fully functional WWII Soviet tank.

Barely.

And it’s mainly so The Boy and Pugsley can get jobs and not have to live in my basement and borrow my tank.  Future Me likes that Future.

This is also the way borrowing money works.  Present Me decides he wants something, like a house.   Present Me obligates Future Me for thirty years’ worth of mortgage payments.  Good deal.  Let’s pretend I don’t have the cash to buy what I want.

If that’s the case, I find someone who has cash, and trusts me enough that I’ll pay ‘em for the next thirty years.  For their trouble, they get, say 5%, of the unpaid balance each month as rent on their money.  They like that deal because they’ll have more money when it’s all done.  I like the deal, because I get the house now.

An economist would call the interest rate charged to me for borrowing the money a “discount” rate.  It’s the amount that the bank charges you so that they have a durable long-term investment that makes sense for them.  If you can’t afford to meet their discount rate?  The bank is required by Federal law to invest their reserves in Russian tanks and Pez®.

The discount rate in most cases is simply a numerical rating of your will power.  If you knew I was going to give you fifty dollars at the end of the month, how much would you give up to get it today?  Of you said, oh, five dollars, that means you are willing to give up 10% of the value . . . for one month.  That’s (we can quibble about this number, but we won’t for now) a huge premium, the equivalent of 314% annual interest.  If I could get a 10% monthly return, I’d retire . . . this afternoon.

So, our “discount” rate is really a numerical measure of our ability, our willpower, in delaying gratification.

Delayed gratification, it turns out, is a pretty significant human characteristic.

In the 1970’s, Stanford was known for several radical psychological experiments:

  • The Stanford Prison Experiment – A really creepy experiment where students dressed as guards and inmates and completely cost me my faith in Californians.
  • The Stanford Pizza Experiment – I think this was a 1970’s B-Movie. Adrienne Barbeau – don’t miss it!
  • The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment – The one that goes with this post.

In the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (SME), young children were given a marshmallow.  They could eat it now, or be given two marshmallows later.  I’m obviously simplifying this – they used cookies, too.

About a third of the children made it long enough to get the second treat.  Between this and a previous experiment, there were several primary correlations on just which kids would get the second treat.

  • The older kids were more likely to get the second marshmallow.
  • Intact family. If there was a dad in the house?    No dads around?  No second treat.

So what?  A lot, actually:

The longer a child could wait, the:

  • Better the expected SAT score,
  • More education the child would likely complete, and
  • The child would likely be skinnier.

Those are pretty positive, and pretty significant outcomes.  And, although there has been complaint about the study (small sample size, flawed methodology) since it matches my biases, I’ll assume it’s right.  (Hint:  this is how some journalists actually think, or rather, avoid thinking.)

Are there other examples of discount rates/willpower out there?  Sure.  We keep creating academics, and they have to look busy, so they keep writing papers for each other.  Thankfully Jesse Shapiro wrote one (LINK) just to prove a point in my blog.  Thanks, Jesse!

Shapiro looked at food stamp recipients.  He found that there was a 10% to 15% drop in calorie consumption from the start of the month when the EBT card was filled up to the end of the month.  Some people ate enough at the beginning that they had to skip meals at the end.  Additionally, it looked like the food that folks ate through the month also was . . . not as good.  The overall quality of the food consumed appeared to have dropped during the month as well.  Might there be other contributing factors to this?  Sure, but the data didn’t seem to indicate that was the case.  And that 10-15% discount rate is huge.  Over 300% annually (compounded).

So, why should you delay gratification?

  • When it’s clear that it’s good for you.
  • When there’s certainty to the payoff.
  • When the payoff is big enough to make Current You value it almost as much as Future You.

Most of the time we have enough real information to know if it’s good or not and how certain it is.  It’s that last bullet point:  making Current You care enough.  Why do people smoke?  Their Current You runs a big discount rate on the first two factors.  And maybe Future You just pisses Present You off?

One last thought on willpower.  Remember that study that showed intact families mattered?  Yeah.  If the Mom is impulsive enough to get preggers by a man she can’t have around, or if the man is impulsive enough to bolt?

Bad news for those kids.  Willpower and the ability to delay gratification is, like intelligence, highly inheritable.  Looks like it’s late nights and No-Doze® for the lot of them.

Why Fitbit and Cheat Day Might Be Making You Fatter

“What is wrong with these people? They have no willpower. I once went 28 years without having sex. And then again for seven years.” – The Office

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How Cheat Day feels.

Fitbit® will not make you skinny.  In fact, Fitbit™ might make you fatter (or, make you lose less weight).

Why?  Although exercise is very, very, good for you, you still can’t run faster than your teeth (LINK) . . . exercise is not the biggest factor in losing weight – it’s calorie intake(we’ve covered that before, too (LINK) – remember the Scottish dude who didn’t eat . . . for over a year?  Yeah.  He got skinny.  Remember, he started at 456 pounds.

Sure, he exercised, but his ace in the hole was the “not eating” component of his plan.  But if he would have had a Fitbit® . . .

It’s not just Fitbit™ – it’s any fitness tracking device.

Why?  Well, it’s all in your head.  Really.

The most crucial part of the equation when it comes to weight loss (or, really, kicking any habit) is hacking your own brain first.  And if you don’t do it, there are tons of companies that want to do it for you.

Let me give an example:

Once upon a time after I graduated college, I was in a department store (this is in the BA time – Before Amazon) and was looking at a stereo.  It was awesome!  Speakers big enough to use as a coffin for a large dog.  I wanted it, but knew that I shouldn’t.  I owed people money, like my mortgage company.  I had just moved.  It was expensive.  Ohhh, but it was pretty!  And it had . . . surround sound!  I could listen to my TV with speakers located behind my head!

I would have walked away, but the person I was in the store with said, “You studied really hard in school.  You work really hard at work.  You deserve it!”

Brain hacked.

I bought the stereo (and ended up paying probably 10% more than the price in interest) since I couldn’t pay it off that month.

But I deserved it, right?

No.

I totally didn’t deserve it.  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Nobody Deserves Anything.  If we could just tattoo that on each other’s foreheads, we’d all be better off.  I never hear The Boy or Pugsley EVER say deserve.  It’s a dirty word around our house, and no one wants to hear the 45 minute lecture that goes with that word.

That word successfully hacked my brain, though.  In a way, that was worth the whole price of the stereo, five times over.

And that’s what Fitbit© does.  It creates the concept of deserve in your brain – and that’s the danger.  I walked 10,000 steps today!  I deserve . . . a pizza.  Not a slice.  A pizza.  I walked 15,000 steps – that’s a pizza and some ice cream.  Oh, and beer.

So, an activity tracker might just make you fatter.  Are there other self-sabotaging behaviors we engage in that might add in to the mess?  Sure there are:

  • “I’ve already slipped up today, so I’ll eat the whole pizza.” – This makes sense – it combines a temporary defeat with a complete and total surrender of the day. Yay!
  • “I’ll restart the diet after the weekend. And this pizza.” – Ah, the good old future you, paying for the sins of present you.
  • “My cheat meal can be a cheat day.” – Well, meal is a lot like day in that they’re both words.
  • “My cheat day can be a cheat weekend.” – And what weekend isn’t made up of days?
  • “Chips are good for you, right?” – Only if you own stock in Frito-Lay©.
  • “Those cookies will go stale if I don’t eat them?” – And they will slowly kill you if you do . . . .

These have the common theme of “deserve” followed by “victim” followed by “extreme rationalization.”

And how do these come to mind?  These are already tricks I use to convince myself that this makes sense.  I’ve had to abandon cheat meals because . . . I’m not good enough to deal with them.  Likewise, any system that depends upon your willpower to for long term support, especially when you have a friend like your brain, is doomed.

Scott Adams works the idea that he uses choices to work around willpower.  Now I’m not sure that Scott has ever weighed a pound over his ideal weight, but he does have a point – willpower for a long term diet is a difficult partner, so he has a system.  Sadly, as a vegetarian, none of his choices involve bacon, and my choice the other night to eat all those chips was probably not as bad as it could have been (I might have tried to inject them into my eyes), but it wasn’t a great choice.

So, an activity tracker might be a calorie enabler, and another tool for your mind to tell you that you deserve something.  And whatever you do – don’t make me give you that talk.

Reminder:  John Wilder is STILL not a doctor, nor will he regenerate as one.  Consult your Doctor, Attorney, Car Mechanic, and Podiatrist prior to following any advice that you might get from here.

RV Ownership for Fun and Profit

“What? Come on! Man, you’re smart. You made poison out of beans, yo. Look, we got, we got an entire lab right here. Alright? How about you pick some of these chemicals and mix up some rocket fuel? That way you could just send up a signal flare. Or you make some kind of robot to get us help, or a homing device, or build a new battery, or wait. No. What if we just take some stuff off of the RV and build it into something completely different? You know, like a like a dune buggy?” – Breaking Bad

overview

Our camp, as viewed by the disembodied spirit of Elvis.

“I can’t believe you did this,” The Boy was flat out surprised.

“Why not?”

“This . . . this is so not like you.”

“This” was buying a Recreational Vehicle (RV), specifically a travel trailer.  You have to be specific when you describe what exactly your RV is, since (upon checking the Internet) everything from a little red wagon to the Death Star© qualifies as someone’s RV.

And, I’ll admit it, when you have a guy that drives a 12 year old car (LINK) until it gets totaled (LINK) it would seem a bit out of character for him to buy what can only be considered a luxury item.  Or at least that’s what I thought of, when I thought of RVs.

The Mrs. and I had actually discussed purchasing an RV for the last 15 or so years.  At first it was a little pop-up camper that occupied our dreams.  When we moved to Alaska, we looked at several different campers and camper types, and were pretty close to offering some money for a little integrated camper with its own engine, etc., but I couldn’t quite get comfortable driving in the bush in Alaska where there were no cell phones with a camper that had 271,000 miles on it.  That’s just asking for Hollywood to make an “Into The Wild”-type movie starring your family and a grizzly bear that stalks you for 231 miles of your trek back to civilization while you have to fight it off with marshmallow roasting forks.

I like to think that they’d get Liam Neeson to play me.  If he works out and gets some bigger biceps.

Anyway, we put the idea of an RV on the back burner living in Texas, because the last thing you want to be is a Texan with an RV.  That’s like ALL Texans, and, since The Mrs. and I have never read Harry Potter, we figured why join the crowd now?

But I like camping, and after a few camping adventures that seem more like a horror movie to The Mrs. (Just a little farther, dear – you can stop throwing up whenever you get to the top!), she decided that she liked . . . showers.  And a bed.  And not throwing up on the trail.

But, to buy a camper seemed so frivolous.  And not that I don’t buy frivolous crap – I do.  Right now I’m wearing a 2016 Campaign t-shirt for The Flight of the Conchords (Jemaine & Brett 2016 – It’s Business Time).

It’s worth the watch – 3:55 minutes of New Zealand’s second most popular comedy-folk duo.

Anyway, it seems so frivolous, something that someone with LOTS of money would do.  It’s something that . . . rich people would do?  Or old retired people who wanted to drive a house around slowly so they could have their house be in different places.  Kind of like the Tardis, but with Social Security.

I started stalking Craigslist around where we live.  And, after getting a whole lot of free Styrofoam packing peanuts, I finally found two candidates.  I’d also looked at a dealer, but the brand new one he showed me had a table that was split open due to humidity.  Not a great selling point.  The one I liked best was an R-Pod.

An R-Pod was designed to be smaller.  We have a generic pickup, and a youth-skewed 4×4 SUV that The Mrs. likes to remind me is older than Pugsley.  Pugsley is 12.  She is not exaggerating.  It doesn’t have a cassette deck, but . . . close.  Both of these vehicles could pull the R-Pod, which weighs in at a whopping 2800 pounds, with a cargo capacity of at least another half-ton.  This is important, since we’d have two vehicles capable of pulling the beast around, since our 4×4 was capable of “only” pulling 5,000 pounds.

First lesson?  If I wanted to do this cheaply (and, Internet, you know I do!) I would have to buy something light, or I’d have to buy a trailer AND a car.

Again, we’d found two of these located two hours away in River City, Lower-Northern Midwestia.  We texted and, without hearing back, turned our pickup to go buy an RV.

Now, I’m not opposed to other people buying brand-new RVs.  If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a pool of cheap used ones to pick from.  Make no mistake – an RV isn’t an asset.  All it does is either take you to the lake for fishing (or gold panning! (LINK)) or sit in a storage space.  It creates no income.  And every second it sits on the planet it depreciates, until it turns 50 and becomes either “classic” or “constructed entirely of prohibited components like lead and asbestos.”

An RV is not an investment.

So, on our way to River City someone returned my Craigslist email, and said they’d be there when we got there.

They were.  They were a nice couple who had bought the RV to go to musical concerts, but the wife couldn’t manage to get around the trailer.  I looked the trailer over, checked what I could figure out, and then, consulting Kelley’s Blue Book for RVs® (yes, this is a thing), made an offer of $1,000 less than the asking price.  Unbeknownst to me, The Mrs. had been talking to the Mrs. of the owner’s side, and, they’d had it on the market for some time and were just getting ready to lower the price.

So, while I felt like a wheeler-dealer, I probably pegged the number that they really wanted.  I wrote out a check, they wrote out a title, and we hooked OUR RV to the truck and headed back home.  It looked strange, since most RPods have decals that make them look all pretty.  In this case, the original owner (not the one we bought from) had painted over everything to advertise his traveling patent medicine show that he ran with Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.

I know, I know, but you have to give the 70’s some slack.  They’d just discovered polyester.

The Mrs. and I talked about what to do about our generic, white RV.  In general, we decided we should either paint it like the mystery machine or like the shuttle Galileo from TOS Star Trek.  In general, we both liked the way that we imagined the shuttle . . . . and we’ve gotta paint it . . . but can we bring our phasers?

Upon getting it home and hooking it up to power, I found that everything was functional, except the refrigerator and sensors that indicate the levels in the waste tanks and battery.  RV refrigerators are mind-numbingly expensive, since they are configured to run on propane, plug-in power, batteries, and hope.  They are apparently only made in Germany by small gnomes that live in the Harz Mountains.  I resigned myself to buy a cheap college dorm fridge (there was a plug in) and move on.  I went to work (mildy) brooding on this.  Primarily I was depressed because the nice man hadn’t told me the fridge was on the fritz.  I would have still bought it.

Most RV folks say the sensors are useless, and often stop working quickly.  Not a problem.

I decided to not make our new toy a source of sadness.  I buried any disappointment in a determination to fix it.

Pugsley had spent the night in the trailer.  The Mrs. had bet he’d get in the first night it was home, but he waited until the second night to make his move.

Upon returning home from work, I decided to check out other systems.

Nothing electrical worked.  Nothing, except the air conditioning, microwave . . . . hmmm.

It was hot, I was sweating, and I began to check various components.  I suppressed the burning desire to choke Pugsley.  I really reasoned that he was only a bystander – and honestly, the fact that everything was broken was really encouraging.

I know, that sounds weird.  But when one thing breaks?  Yeah, that thing is generally broken.  When it all breaks?  That means your mind can generally fix it if you think smart enough, or have a great deal of experience really screwing things up.  Me?  I have a great running history of not giving up when I should (LINK).

After a bit of investigation, I found that two main fuses were blown.  I sent The Boy to buy new ones.  During his absence, I flipped the battery terminals on the brand new battery the previous owner had installed.  The Boy arrives.  I pop in the fuses.

Everything works.  Everything.  Including the German Ice Machine!  Even the sensors that tell me how much onboard poop we have!

So, in best Star Trek® fashion?  REVERSE THE POLARITY AND EVERYTHING WORKS!!!!

picard polarity

The previous owner had flopped the terminals on the battery.  Now I had a flawlessly working system.  Yay!  And, unlike constructing tire chains by hand, this didn’t take sixteen hours to noodle through.

During this time, I remembered that the previous owner had stressed I should look at the wheel bearings.  For those of you that may not be aware, a wheel spins.  But the trailer does not.  The contact part for the spinny-part to meet the non-spinny-part is the wheel bearing.  It’s essentially a bunch of greased up balls (no jokes here) that allow everything to spin around without getting hot or grinding the nice metal into a pile of hot, combusting metal dust.

vulcan stand up

On side had a great place to inject grease into the bearing, which is what we used to do when Nixon was president (or so I’m told).  Now most cars have sealed bearings that would last to Jupiter and back, but in the 1960’s (I’m told) you had to grease stuff all the time or else you’d die when the wheels flew off of your Model T at 22 miles per hour.

My crappy $500 trailer has sealed bearings.  Not this trailer.  Nope.  It has bearings that must be greased.  So I greased the ditch-side (think about it) bearing.  There’s a small dust cap that covers the grease Zerk.  The grease Zerk is the fitting that allows grease to be pumped on a one-way journey to the bearing, and is named for . . . Austrian engineer Otto U. Zerk.  I know it sounds like a joke.  It’s not.  It should be.  It’s not.  Otto.  U.  Zerk.

Anyway – one side done, new grease covering all the nice bearing parts.

Next side . . . where’s the Zerk?  Where’s the cap that holds the grease in?

I pulled the Zerk off the other side – Otto’s THREADED Zerk!!! – and put it on the other wheel.  And pumped in a LOT of grease.  And resolved on our trip to gold country that I’d pump grease into that wheel every hundred miles.  (Spoiler, that seemed to work.)

Things I never really thought about:

  1. It takes a LOT of gas to pull even a small trailer. I thought that perhaps if I had one much larger that I’d need to pull a small refinery behind me to supply me with gasoline.
  2. Even a slight uphill was devastating to our progress. Speeding?  Uphill?  Ha!  Never, never, never going to happen.
  3. What I could normally do at the Real Speed Limit (normal speed limit +5 miles per hour) I now had to do at my Maximum Thermodynamic Speed Limit – which was often normal speed limit -5 miles per hour, sometimes -20 miles per hour.
  4. It matters how you load a trailer. For the first 90 miles, whenever I approached 55 miles per hour, the trailer would start to sway from side to side like a break-dancing backup singer during a seizure.  When I stopped to fill the Wildermobile with gas the first time I looked up “Trailer Sway” on the Internets.  It turns out you simply have to put most of the weight forward so that there’s more weight on the hitch.  I moved a bunch of things forward, and it worked like to stop the sway.
  5. I’m not comfortable running a consumer engine at 5000 RPM for 12 hours. I let it back down to 3000 RPM just so I didn’t wreck the family’s hearing.  Mine is already shot.  Thank you very much, Iron Maiden.

But it worked.  We even had one offer at a gas station (while we were on our way) to buy the trailer from us for what we paid for it.  Nope.

The issue we had that concerned me the most was the trailer breaking.  Apparently all travel trailers have electric brakes.  These brakes interact with the braking system on the vehicle pulling the trailer and have the trailer brakes slow the trailer at a (similar) rate to the pulling vehicle.  Why?

Because if not, the trailer would be pushing the pulling vehicle as it tried to stop.  Worst case, it would keep going during an emergency stop (Newton’s Second Law – A fully loaded travel trailer in motion without brakes will keep going even when you’ve decided that stopping might be in your best interest.)

What concerned me were the mountain passes in gold country.  They’re steep.  And, while going up would certainly be slow, I wanted going down to be at something less than the speed of sound and not resemble CW McCall’s Wolf Creek Pass.

For these brakes to work, however, an electric controller has to be installed.  While I am pretty sure I could install one okay, I’m not going to settle for pretty sure when it comes to preserving my pretty face, unless I want them to pick my remains up off the highway with a stick and a spoon.  I farmed it out.  But halfway to the mountains, it wasn’t working – showing a code that it had short circuited.

Well, when we stopped to buy a new fuse because Pugsley had plugged a Cray2200 supercomputer into the power outlet.  While stopped, I looked a bit closer, traced the wires from the battery back, and found one of the crimped connections that the mechanic had installed had worked its way loose.  Ten seconds later?  Electric brakes back in business.

We got the camper to gold country, and then, well, camped.  In a never-before-happened event, the family decided to extend the vacation for an additional day.

Here is my personal review of the camper:

Sunday Night:  Omigosh.  We’re here after 70 hours of driving today.  And now?  We have to set it up.  In the dark.  Without waking other campers. Three occupants. Only I will pee in camper restroom, and only when no one around.  Camper cold, windows left open by Pugsley.  Found the next day.  Closed windows.

Monday Night:  Everyone now fine with peeing in the camper – bathroom walk way too long at 40˚F.  Camper way too hot.  Four of us.  I open the windows.

Tuesday Night:  Four of us.  Firefly.  The Mrs. closes the windows, causing me to have a dream that I live in Houston again.  Aaaaargh!

Wednesday Night:  Four of us.  Lots more Firefly.  Slept great all nights.  Too many stupid little dogs with stupid hot dog breath.

JayneNVera

Thursday Night:  Going to stay in it overnight at some nameless city, but we had the “great rush home” which was unanimously approved by the Family Subcommittee on Travel Hours.  Sometimes it’s better to sleep in your “other” own bed.  Plus I get to wake the neighbors by trying to back the trailer into my driveway at 3AM.

Once I bought the trailer, I now notice that there are trailers . . . everywhere.  There are trailers parked out in front of houses where the trailer would CLEARLY be a better place to live than the home it’s in front of.  I’m not sure I understand how you can afford a $20,000 or $30,000 RV when you clearly make less than $50,000; but then again, I don’t understand fashion.

I read that since they look like a home that interest a trailer loan is tax deductible?  DO NOT use me as a source, unless you’d like to spend a long time in prison for “Using Internet Blogs As Tax Advice.”

My big financial advice on campers – don’t buy one if you can’t do or pay for:

  • Maintenance: It’s like owning an additional home.  There are electrical systems, plumbing, and structural systems.  The first night I got it, it attracted ants from five counties away.
  • Tow Vehicle: No, your Prius™ (LINK) won’t pull one.  If you don’t have a good tow vehicle and need one, can you afford the trailer?
  • Gasoline: You will have to use more gasoline than you ever have, since Elon Musk hasn’t invented an electric trailer puller.  He will, I have no doubt, but it’ll be on Mars.

Economics?  Cheapest vacation we’ve taken in years (except for the whole “buying the trailer” thing).  Didn’t buy restaurant food except twice.  Didn’t spend much on attractions.  And we saw things like this:

This is a video I took.  Felt like Francis Ford Coppola shooting Apocaforest Now.  That’s our trailer at the end.

I did the economics, and it will likely pay out in four or so years, which is better than most investments do.  I may bore you with them at a future time.  But you’re not Vulcans® so you might not like math jokes.

We are planning on using it for many vacations where we’d normally use hotels, so you’ll hear more about it soon.

Dorothy said there’s nowhere like home.  And it’s not home, but it’s like home.  So, I guess there is somewhere like home, and it’s on wheels.  The Boy and Pugsley and The Mrs. rated it the best vacation except for one where we went to Alaska on spring break (yes, we really did this, and maybe I’ll post about it sometime).

So, verdict?  It was wonderful.  It was economical.  It was peaceful (LINK).  I learned about gold panning (LINK).

The Mrs. and They Boy are painting it right now to resemble a Shuttlecraft® from Original™ Star Trek©.  Will keep you posted.