People Should Listen to Me More Often

You can look at every major financial crash since tulip bulbs and find the underlying fiction that created paper wealth without any value behind it. Handshakes and winks and it’s fun while it lasts.

In April of 2021, I wrote that Bitcoin was a terrible solution to an interesting problem. It is called a cryptocurrency, but it does not match any previous definition of the word “currency”. As an investment it is, in fact, slightly below “bag of magic beans that aren’t actually magic”. At least with those you could make a nice soup. Soon after that episode, the price of a Bitcoin tumbled, then briefly rose to new dramatic heights in November of the same year, and has since steadily eroded.

It is late and rather than sleep I thought tonight I’d read about the latest crypto disaster. Roughly One Trillion Dollars vanished this week. Poof. Gone. Retirements destroyed, hedge funds cratered. Those investors should have listened to me.

Time magazine (wow has that brand been dragged into the dumpster) included this in an article about crypto volatility:

Given that crypto derives some of its value from people’s belief in it, markets can be rattled by surrounding skepticism or policy changes.

Time.com

So, close, yet so far. In fact, crypto derives all of its value from people’s belief in it. There is absolutely no other source of value. If you were to buy gold, and then suddenly everyone decided gold had no value, you could at least make something pretty out of it.

What drove this week’s meltdown is complicated on the surface, and simple in substance. There was a cryptocurrency that was, through elaborate mechanisms including game theory, always supposed to be worth a dollar. While my first question is “why would anyone buy that shit instead of just buying dollars,” apparently plenty of people thought that was a good idea.

So how do the people flogging this investment plan to control the value of the tokens they sell? Part of it is by holding investors hostage – people with a vested interest in maintaining this dollar parity will buy up other people’s tokens to maintain their value. But you can’t always rely on that, so these companies also keep reserves so they can maintain the price by buying up tokens when there is a bunch of people selling.

But… whoops! What if your reserves are in other crypto tokens? What if you need to sell all your Bitcoin ($1.7 billion worth, maybe), but Bitcoin is also falling because someone is trying to sell a shit-ton of it, and even when you’re done, it’s just not enough? Everything goes to shit, is what happens.

It’s a regular cycle. Someone finds a way to create an illusion of value where no value exists. Before crypto, it was weird real estate loan guarentee instruments that created an entire market unto themselves, and led to a near-collapse of our banking system in 2008. That was done by bankers who should have known better, and there were (for a little while) regulations in place to keep it from happening again. In 1929 it was shell companies that all owned each other but not any company that actually made a profit.

Crypto, on the other hand, is a much more egalitarian fraud. Anyone can play! Elon Musk used the power of his twitter account to rob countless less-wealthy people through Bitcoin price manipulation (he claims he was not being corrupt, just stupid – but both can be true).

One thing that none of the press I read tonight mentions – Bitcoin uses lots and lots of electricity. When the cost of power goes up, ultimately that has to effect the value of their tokens.

Universally the press has treated the crypto crater just like they would any other investment issue. Treating crypto with the same words they would use for something that has intrinsic value. That’s simply not right. None of them are saying “This is all fake! Get out while you still can!”

I could create a crypto tonight, call it “eco-coin” and vaguely suggest that we only accept electricity from windmills, or at least I’ve seen some pretty bitchin’ windmills, windmills are cool, so you should invest in eco-coin. If I could catch the ear of the Master Influencer at Credulous Weekly, eco-coin would be off to the races.

In terms of actual value, my new crypto would be worth exactly the same as Bitcoin: zero. I’ll finish this episode with the same words I used to start it: You can look at every major financial crash since tulip bulbs and find the underlying fiction that created paper wealth without any value behind it. Handshakes and winks and it’s fun while it lasts.

Pod Life

It was in late 2001 or early 2002. I was on an airplane, and I pulled 1000 songs out of my pocket, was navigating to find the album I wanted, when a man in the row behind me leaned forward and asked through the gap between seats, “What is that thing?”

It was an iPod. Until its release, there had never been anything like it. The mechanical click-wheel of those early versions was just so satisfying and intuitive, navigating through a large collection of songs was simple, even with the tiny black-and-white screen. “It passes the blonde test,” a blonde friend of mine said after a few seconds with the device.

Part of the iPod of course was timing. Suddenly it was possible to fit a hard drive (yes, an actual spinning-disk drive) and a battery into a little case with enough storage to play music. But on top of that was the design. Anybody could make a music player, but only Apple could have made the iPod.

And only the iPod could save Apple. There was a huge battle inside Apple over whether the iPod would work with Windows computers. Steve Jobs was absolutely against it. Steve got his way most of the time, but in this case ultimately other voices carried the day, and while Steve was not the least bit gracious in conceding, he was later able to recognize that decision as a turning point for the company. It was the moment the gadgets were allowed to grow independently of Macs, and eventually the gadgets became the center of the Apple ecosystem. And here we are now.

Today (or, recently at least, I don’t pay close attention) Apple announced that they will not be making any more iPods. It’s just as well; the iPod is now just an iPhone without the phone. The iPod nano was probably the pinnacle of the “thing that plays music” Apple offerings, although it was not as viscerally satisfying to use as its clunky ancestors. I have one of those around here somewhere as well.

The only surprise I felt at the announcement was that the company I work for was still making iPods up until now. It seems like once the pod had to play video it wasn’t really an iPod anymore (says this grumpy old man).

But… the headphones I wear could fit a click wheel. A million songs in your ear. Anyone want to make that real?

3

Breakfast of Champions

Green Chile Cheesy Bagel!

Featuring “Some guy in Albuquerque with a roaster in his garage” brand chiles! The best!

5

A Message I Wrote Tonight to Dev Davis, who Wants to be My Mayor, about Tough Love

Edit for context: Dev Davis wants more cops as part of her solution for homelessness – although saying that finding shelter for the homeless is a county problem.

This whole ‘tough love’ thing is based on some pretty shaky premises. Underneath it all, you are saying it’s a county problem, solved by county programs. Not your budget, and if the county falls short of helping these people then lets get some more cops to move them out.

Your assumption is that if the county safety net misses someone, they WANT TO BE HOMELESS. They want to live each day without running water, or shelter, a good meal, or even the protection of the police you want more of to protect US from THEM. They must not want access to health care. So your “love” is to kick them around until… what? What even is your ideal outcome?

The entire idea that withholding services from people who have NOTHING will make things better is laughable.

Go down to the river, Dev. Meet those people. Children, elderly, purple-heart vets. Tell them to their faces about your tough love.

1

A Few More Thoughts About Rick

Rick Markus was my father-in-law, and he died recently. He leaves behind a gaggle of grieving daughters, an autistic son, and a gun collection that will likely have to leave California. He also leaves behind a workshop filled with wondrous tools.

I love tools. I like to build things. But I am horribly, awfully slow at building things. In this metric, the old man far surpassed me. I was talking with The Boys about it this evening, and I said that before he could make a thing he had to make the thing that would allow him to configure the tool to make the thing.

But I left out a step. First, Rick had to make a thing to measure the precision of the tool he was going to use to make the thing that would enable him to make the thing. And once he had an empirical measure of the tool, the next step was to make a thing to compensate for the tool, to make the tool better, so when he made the thing he would use to make the thing, it would be right.

If you wanted to demonstrate the axiom “perfection is the enemy of progress” you need look no farther than the shed where he spent his time. His massive drill press would deflect under pressure; he addressed it. He rebuilt parts of his metal lathe (itself a fine specimen) to improve precision.

I am not the slowest person on the planet to get projects done. Or at least I wasn’t before Rick died. Maybe now I am.

He built, as far as I know, very little.

So now there’s this lathe, that he machined parts to improve, and I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t work metal; maybe someday I’d like to but that’s a different me in a different place. There’s that big ol’ drill press, also upgraded, waiting for someone who needs to drill a hole.

There are hundreds of tools in that shed, from the press and the lathe to boxes of taps and dyes. There is sheet metal tucked away, milled to absurd smoothness, that he picked up from the scrap heap when he was working with the x-ray lithography kids at IBM. He had no use for that stuff, but he just couldn’t let go of such an excellent piece of engineering. It’s hard to recognize that something that took so much effort to create is now simply scrap.

Is that a metaphor? If you want it to be, sure, knock yourself out. But keep it to yourself; if Rick heard your theory he would give you a sideways glance and say “ooooh-kay” and resume his story about solving the impossible problem of corruption in magnetic core memory, or the time he shortened the run time of a batch job at some data center by pointing out that the terminal had a bell.

It’s funny, contrasting the pragmatic and efficient solutions he found in his professional career against the optimizing-for-the-sake-of-optimization that marked the time I knew him. I think it comes down to this: when he was working for someone else, he optimized for what they wanted. Efficiency. Expediency. When he was working only for himself (or his family), only perfection was good enough.

10

That Reply I got From Aptera

If you follow this blog you might recall a while back I wrote about a car company called Aptera. I got super-excited about the product, tried to ask more questions, and hit a brick wall. The wall wasn’t so much about the company hiding things, as it was about the people fielding the questions not being trained on how to refer them to the people with the answers.

I ended that episode, and the following updates, promising that if I heard from Aptera again, I would let you know. Then I did hear from them, and I didn’t let you know. Not cool on me.

In fact I later got a very nice letter back, that specifically addressed my core questions. Well, maybe not fully answering, but framing expectations. I have to say, the use of exclamation points really helped to sell me. They’re excited!

I’m going to put the whole message below. I expect I’ll fail to match the well-formatted text I received. Just the look of the message indicates that some care was put into creating it. You will have to take my word for it.

Does this restore my faith in the venture? To be honest, it does, at least a little bit. My desire for an outfit like this to succeed has almost nothing to do with my own transport, and everything to do with making cities in the western United States less carbon-awful.

Anyway, here’s the full reply that I promised before.

Hi Jerry,
I sincerely apologize that they were not able to get your questions answered! We are more than happy to assist. To give you some clarity into the situation, we are required to use a third-party platform/company to accept investors’ funds and work with the SEC to ensure compliance. This is not directly managed in any way by Aptera. So when you email [email protected], it does not go to anyone on the Aptera team, it goes to an outsourced support team that specializes in financial inquiries related to the investing process.
Please find answers to your questions below: 

  • Strangely, the Gamma body was due in Q3, and supply chain sorting-out for Q3 and Q4. /  Gamma production in Q4.

We had aspired to make a production-intent vehicle by the end of this year. We think we’re pushing that into next year, but hopefully not too far into next year. We’ve signed some significant agreements that we think will provide us parts in 2022 at a greater scale than we were anticipating before. So we think once we pull the trigger on manufacturing, we will be able to scale rapidly, and really start to crank out vehicles. But getting to that start of production is later than what we had expected at least a year or two ago. In addition, we do not have any plans to change pricing at this time. 

• Have the “Betas vehicles” been built?

The Beta builds are underway! We have a new 80,000 sq. foot assembly facility which is complemented by two additional spaces nearby for beta development, R&D, and solar composite manufacturing. We look forward to sharing our progress with you as we continue this phase of testing and development. Please stay tuned for video updates on our social channels such as YouTube. Betas are in progress! Here is our November update:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK-aamqGZS4.

• How is test validation going?

We look forward to sharing this with you over the next several months as we make more progress in the beta stage! We recently stepped into this phase and as progress is made we will provide updates directly from our CEOs Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro. We’re looking forward to announcing more information to our supporters. We are having all the betas being completed for the development vehicles to send to suppliers and validate production parts. The path to production did not happen as quickly as we had originally anticipated, but nevertheless, we are making great progress and cannot wait to launch. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are more than happy to assist. We are committed to moving mobility in a direction of sustainability and innovation. We cannot thank you enough for your support.  

The message was signed “Aptera Team”, and had a bunch of links to various social media.

At this point, with this message that really had very little of substance, I’m all excited again. Maybe this actually can be the car that breaks oil. Maybe this is the car that an inner-city grandma can afford to operate, and not have to worry about gas prices. It could be a game-changer.

Maybe it won’t be, but tonight at least, with all the things and whatnot gong on, I’d like to see this as part of a carbon exit strategy.

4

See You Tomorrow, Rick

Those were the last words I said to my father-in-law. He was surrounded by concerned daughters hoping to find the optimum pillow configuration for his knees — so much attention — so I just kind of called it in from the hallway. His eyes moved to acknowledge me.

That was yesterday, and I did not see him today, and I won’t ever again.

I believed it when I said it. Mostly. He was going downhill fast, but I had created a moment in my head, just for us, tomorrow, without four daughters pestering us, when we could just sip beers for a bit. Not talking. I’m not a talker in times like that, I have learned.

I imagined a time of peace, for him, for me. Saturday night the sons-in-law had gathered around the bed and Rick just wanted a beer. I failed that night, though maybe Rick did too: He could have had all the beer he wanted if he only leaned on someone. That night I could have, should have, said, “it’s going to hurt like a motherfucker but I can prop you up and you can lean back against me and have your beer.” Rick didn’t want to be propped up. He didn’t want to lean on anyone. But I think right then I could have talked him into it, and I think he would have been glad I did.

A pretty little alternate history.

After that night a new bed was installed in the house, one that could allow him to sit up, and one of his final memories is being carried from his bed to another room, and I know he hated every moment of it. But no one wanted him on that magical bed more than I did. Lacking the cloud of daughters, I would have hoisted him up and carried him myself. I was a tiny incorrect minority, who thought his life might yet go on awhile and this action might make him more comfortable for the duration. People linger beyond expectations, sometimes, when they want to. Sometimes even when they don’t.

And I thought that maybe, in a quiet moment, one without words, I could snap open a cold Budweiser for Rick, ease it into his hands, then open one for myself, and say goodbye the way I know how. But that is not what happened, so I will simply say again,

See you tomorrow, Rick.

5

I Have No One to Discuss this With

It’s a wacky footnote in sports history. I learned about it a few weeks ago, and I’ve kept the WikiPedia Page about it open in a tab ever since, so when I stumble across anyone around me who might find it interesting, I would be ready.

But even when I regularly interacted with other human beings, there was no one in that set that would find this story interesting. So I’m just going to tell you about it. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

It was a soccer tournament for the Caribbean Cup. The rules for the tournament had an odd twist, sanctioned by FIFA: If a team scored a winning goal in overtime, it was a “golden goal” and counted as two goals for deciding tie-breakers. So it came to pass that Barbados was playing Grenada, and Barbados needed to win by at least two goals to advance to the next round. Grenada could be content to lose by only one and it would be they who proceeded in the tourney.

Barbados was up 2-0 for quite a while, but then Grenada scored. As it stood, Grenada would move on to the next round, leaving Barbados behind. Barbados attacked, but Grenada pulled everyone back into a defensive shell. With Grenada on full defense, it was looking unlikely that Barbados would get the goal they needed.

So, with time running out, Barbados kicked the ball into their own net, tying the game, to try for the “golden goal” in overtime.

But here’s where things got really weird. At that point, the ONLY thing that could prevent Granada from advancing was a tie. It didn’t matter who won, as long as the margin of victory was only one point. Granada had only to put the ball in either goal before overtime started to move on. So they were attacking both goals, while Barbados was defending both goals. I like to picture this moment, as the structure the athletes usually play under broke down completely and the heads of the fans in the arena exploded one by one.

In retrospect, it seems pretty certain that if Grenada were the least bit prepared for this situation, they would have managed to score, even in the limited time. Hell, on one end, there’s no offsides! But who prepares for that? They did not, in fact, put the ball in either net during regulation play, and it was on to overtime.

Barbados got their golden goal, and moved on to the next round of the tournament. Grenada, unable for a couple of terrible minutes to even put the ball into their own goal, went home.

The golden goal rule was scrapped the moment the tournament was over.

2

Apple’s Little Monster

I used to post about techno-gear fairly frequently, but I’ve tailed off, largely because since I began to work at Apple it would be easy to accuse me of homerism.

Today, as I was preparing to leave work, I got a message from the Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas, asking for a friend about the Mac Studio Cube. That was how I learned about the new hardware my company announced today. Maybe I should have watched that presentation. At any rate, do not waste your time coming to me for any inside information.

The word “cube” immediately conjured images of the original Mac Cube, one of which sits, in its metal-wrapped-in-polycarbonate elegance on a shelf in the Muddled HQ compound.

The new Cube not as pretty, even if it is more recycled (100% of rare earth metals are recycled), but that’s not what got my attention. This little computer is a fuckin’ beast.

Not that long ago, Apple bailed on Intel and started making their own chips. The first generation of the M1 processor was a ground-breaker. Fast and incredibly power-efficient. The reason turns out to be pretty simple: a lot of power and speed is lost to the places the disparate chips in your computer talk to each other. The answer: put everything on one chip. Processor cores, memory, GPU, I/O, and all the rest. The result is much faster computers that use a lot less power.

Apple has rapidly expanded the line of processors—literally. The name “M1 Max” is not just an empty marketing name, the chip is literally the biggest single chip that can be made in quantity with current technology. To extend this idea any further, you either have to improve the silicon die technology to make bigger chips (which obviously everyone is doing), or you have to incur the cost of having separate chips talking to each other.

But what if you built your chip so that you should just sorta… glue it to another one? Today we heard about the M1 Ultra, a gigantic chip that is literally two times maximum. And the connection between the chips is so efficient that the scaling is almost linear.

It has been a long time since I followed the chip-fabrication press; back around 1986 they were still talking about optical computing (using lasers for logic gates to get to extremely high clock rates), and gallium arsenide was still the next big thing. Remember gallium arsenide? Of course you don’t. It was not the next big thing.

Which means while I have an interest in this stuff, I have no idea whatsoever whether anyone at Intel or AMD did a spit-take when Apple announced the M1 Ultra today. Probably not, unless it was the speed at which Apple brought the idea to market.

I wonder, honestly, if Intel is even able to compete here. System-on-a-Chip (SoC) constrains versatility; if your chip has to work in many places, it can’t optimize for any.

But I raise my glass tonight to the silicon people at Apple. They are punching the rest of the industry in the face right now. Maybe I’m a homer, but what they have done speaks for itself.

2

Donald Trump Accepts the Presidency of Ukraine

First of all, I’d like to say — and you know who I’m talking to — that elections should always have tanks. They’re so cool! And Black Lives matters doesn’t drive tanks. And if you defund the police they won’t have tanks either.

But Ukraine is a place I know. I love Ukraine. I sent my best pal Rudy over to make sure the country was “secure”, and “paying me.” Ukraine loves me right back. So when they asked me to be their president I had to say yes. I couldn’t let them down, not after what they’ve been through the last few years, with the nazi president who is jewish and all.

All of Ukraine is thanking my best friend Vlad! And they should! Because he is a genius to think of invading a country saying it was a peace-keeping mission! It blew my mind what genius stuff that was! No one has ever done that before in the history of mankind! So then Vlad said, “You know what, Ukraine? You deserve the best president in the world. You deserve Donald J. Trump.” I was flattered, a little bit, but not too much, because I am the best president and I have never lost an election without tanks and I will make Ukraine special.

When Vlad asked me I wasn’t sure at first, because America needs me too, but the women here are completely hot. At my reception there was one woman and I thought looks like I’m getting divorced again but even better I think she won’t tell.

Also, while I’m the president of something, I can’t be tried for the countless instances of fraud I’m being investigated for.

When I was American President I knew all about that Ukraine place. My buddy Vlad explained it all to me. They stole Hillary’s emails, did you know that? Ukraine did that. Vlad said so himself. Despicable. Russia would never do something like that. Vlad told me, and he’s a genius.

But now I am president here and I promise this country, if it’s really is a country, will not be the Mexico of Russia. Because we all know what Mexico is like, and I’d never be president of something like that. There will be no taco stands in my Ukraine.

There are people who say I should not be president of Russia Ukraine who think this is bad but it can’t be bad because I will be president and I am almost a big a genius as Vlad. Some days I am! and Vlad says “Donald you are such a smart man” and I know it’s true because he is a genius.

I am a genius too, and now I will make everything better here in Ukraine. Somebody told me I tried to extort this country once, but I don’t remember anything like that, and if I did it was because of Crooked Hillary or that Vlad told me to. It is time now to:

MAKE UKRAINE GREAT AGAIN

2

How to Name Your New Drug

The medicines you take generally have three names. There’s the actual chemical, there’s a registered name for the chemical or chemicals that make up the medication, and there’s a slick marketing name.

As a simple example, the slick marketing name for acetaminophen is Tylenol.

Almost all new drug names have three syllables, with the emphasis on the second syllable. They all use the minimum number of letters to achieve this (it’s a competition), and x, q, and z are required. Only a chump would follow a “q” with a “u”. Run the algorithm, and your next prescription will be for Qzyliq. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

I have a little writing project going right now and I need a few popular drug names that when you squint, might look like active verbs, in the gerund or past tense. Names that end ‘-in’ (to suggest ‘-ing’), or end ‘-ed’. The more well-known the name of the drug, the better.

Drop a line if you have a suggestion. Thanks!

12

Idle Hands

It is generally accepted these days that, based on the fossil record, the precursors to humans developed a modified knee that allowed them to stand and move about on two feet, and, shortly thereafter, these hominids’ brains started getting bigger at a dramatic rate.

There is no proven causal relationship between the events that I know of, but I believe it is reasonable to imagine that once the hands were freed up, cleverness and nimbleness would be rewarded. (And the ability to throw things well.)

Suddenly this animal’s brain had the tools to perform much more complex tasks, and nimble fingers became a force multiplier for more intelligent owners. Smart became very sexy.

The brain expansion kept right on going, even when it became dangerous to push that big head out of a mother’s birth canal. As a compromise human babies are born completely helpless, brains still developing, just so the mother would survive. It was a heck of a compromise to make, and required more complex social groupings for the species to survive. And here we are.

Unimpeachable sources will tell you “Idle hands do the Devil’s work.” But it was the idle hands of our ancestors that literally defined who we became as a species. Those locking knees created idle hands, and it was idle hands that gave rise to our brains.

There are those who believe the human organism was created through a process of intelligent design. But perhaps it would be more accurate to consider we were made instead by malevolent design. Those locking knees, and all the Devil’s work that has come since, certainly have me wondering.

6

Rocket7 and Happy Feet

A while back I published the episode that was meant to be a preview for this one.To save you the trouble of remembering anything or reading any more than you have to, here’s a brief synopsis:

My feet are different sizes, very wide, and have really long toes and very high arches.

For everyday life, I can just get soft shoes from companies with a skateboard heritage (they run wide) and accept that I will blow them open sooner or later. When I was a kid, my sneakers would always fail around the balls of my feet, leaving my socks in the wind.

But on the bike, the shoes were becoming a real limiting factor. As my rides approached forty miles, my feet approached rebellion. Bike shoes are very rigid, and if your foot isn’t in the right place in the shoe, then your foot is also not properly positioned over the pedal.

I started doing research. By “research” I mean I put “custom bike shoes” into Duck Duck Go and found my way to Rocket7. Once I found a place that could make my feet happy, I stopped searching. I didn’t seek out competitors, or anything like that.

I didn’t place an order right away; if you know me you know that there must be the requisite period of overthinking. After long rides I would go back to their site, and ponder: There is semi-custom, where they find the best match for each foot among their standard templates and tweak it, or for quite a bit more money, you can get full-custom. I wondered: my feet are a little extreme in many ways, but EEEEE width and long toes and high arches can’t be too uncommon, right?

Finally, after literally months of thinking myself in circles, I brought it up with the Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas and she asked, “This is for your health, right? Then it’s worth it.”

She is smart, and understands what is important. And so I sent in a deposit for Full-Custom shoes.

Instantly, knowing that someday I would own shoes that fit, my current bike shoes seemed more uncomfortable than ever. I’ve done a few thousand miles in these Shimanos, and they were always a discomfort to be endured (the left foot angry after too many hours pedaling in a day; my right little toe very angry after too many hours pedaling in a month).

Relief was not swift in coming. It is a complicated process, getting shoes tailored to your feet, when the tailor is in a different time zone. But while it was not a swift process, honestly it was kind of fun; and the discrete stages of the process served to increase giddy anticipation.

So the process goes like this: They send a bunch of stuff to make molds of my feet. We make the molds and send them back. The good people at Rocket7 then create casts of my feet from the molds, and build shoes for those casts.

First, the kit arrived:

The package from Rocket7, clearing customs.

The kit included a carefully sculpted platform to put the feet in the correct position, some other measuring tools, and three of these crazy plaster-infused socks that you use to create the mold. Included are special scissors and other odds and ends necessary to make things work.

The first hitch: In our communications, I had not mentioned the size of my feet. One is small, the other is smaller. The magic socks in my kit were extra-large. (I suspect that most clients are actual athletes and those people tend to run big.) So then the wait began for smaller socks, and welcome to supply chain. The wait dragged on.

Finally the smaller socks arrived and it was time to do the magic. But of course to make sure you do things right, an expert at the company needs to be on video the whole time. Bad foot molds mean shoes that don’t fit and anger enough to go around. Setting up that appointment proved to be a challenge as well, as first our modern plague and then ventilation failures at the shoe factory (lots of solvents when working with carbon fiber) made things tough for them.

This is a small company, and I like those. One of the reasons I like them is that when, as was the case here, I had a question, I got an answer. (This is not automatic for small businesses, I’ve met more than one who try to ghost you when things are rough, but Rocket7 is all that’s good in a cottage industry.) When I asked a question, I got an answer.

Finally the day came to meet KC (the boss of all this stuff) and cast my feet.

Casting my right foot. Yes, this photo is cropped to include the dog.

What I unfortunately staged badly for this photo was that KC (who, by the way, holds a few speed skating world records), is on a laptop directly behind me. It was a fun afternoon! All the time he reminded me, “keep your knee out over your foot” and in the following weeks I was like “oh fuck what if I didn’t keep my knee out over my foot? My shoes will suck and it’s my fault!”

Still life with my feet

I was glad for the third sock. We started with my left foot, then did the right, but after KC had gone on to deal with other stuff I was worried that I’d curled up my toes on the left mold. They’re always curled up in shoes so I wanted a mulligan there, to give them the space they deserved. Also, we hadn’t really paid enough attention to my arch on that first go. So we used the spare sock to get a new left foot.

We sent them back, and there was another wait. More supply chain issues, Olympic training, the usual stuff.

And then:

The best shoes ever

Behold the magnificence! Gasp in awe at the way the toe boxes bulge on the sides! Honestly these seem kind of like cartoon shoes, stumpy and wide and bulbous and perfect. But they are the first shoes in my adult life (using a traditional definition of “adult” based on the calendar) that actually fit. For forty years and more my left foot has been in a much-too-big shoe, and my toes have always been crushed.

My feet are no longer a limit to my endurance. There are many other limits, but those are my problem to solve.

Now I want all my shoes to be like this. I want all my shoes to fit. There’s an outfit up in San Francisco that will make custom hiking boots, using a similar process.

But there’s already a set of casts of my feet, proven to be good. An iPad with LIDAR could model that, and any custom shoe maker in the world could print my feet and make the shoes. (Of course, I would be able to decide where my foot models went.)

Before I veer too directly into “Get Poor Quick”, I’ll come back to this: I love my new shoes. I’ve got a few hundred miles on them now, and every one of those miles has been with happy feet.

10

A Reminder

These are gravestones for soldiers who fought for the United States of America. These are “the troops” that everyone is so eager to support. These soldiers lived through conditions that no modern US soldier has ever known. They were as likely to die in a friendly camp as during battle.

What were they fighting for? They fought and starved and marched and died to keep idiot hooligans from waving confederate battle flags in the halls of Congress. You are looking at the graves of soldiers of the United States Army who gave everything to preserve this nation, and anyone who glorifies the slavers whom they fought is a traitor as well.

Happy belated January 6th, my friends.

3

Mired

I occasion Discord, a chat-oriented social media platform that allows you to hang with people with whom you have some connection. I am part of three groups there, by far the most significant the Kansas Bunch — a very small community of writers anchored around some brilliant people in Lawrence, Kansas. They don’t actually know that we are the Kansas Bunch.

My membership in that group seems at times to be honorary; I celebrate the achievements of others while I struggle to restructure my novel once more. But I love those guys and I love hanging out with them.

But things got gnarly at work as they sometimes do (I am well-compensated for these times), and I posted a desperate message to my Kansas Pals saying “please give me an anchor at least once in a while.” Since I wrote that, I have not opened the Discord app on my laptop.

Actually I should say I’ve not successfully logged in. Maybe a month ago I tried to log in, failed, tried again on my phone, failed again, went through tech support, found where I had hidden my secret unlock-in-case-of-emergency keys, and then hesitated.

I still haven’t logged in.

When I do, there may or may not be answers to my plea from months ago. There may or may not be any messages at all. Probably there are friends of mine pushing forward as writers, working on great things. Things you may read someday. There’s no shortage of talent in the Kansas Bunch.

But I’m actually behind where I was when I last communicated with The Bunch. My project is less structured, more vapor than ever. I’ve been working the last few days to put some sort of parameters on the first book, with a tight focus on providing a great beginning, middle, and end, while accepting that this is just the first stone to hop to get across the river.

There’s a bunch of people on Discord who would love to help. But the last few weeks I’ve just been stuck. NaNoWriMo was awesome this year, but when it was over I just flopped and stopped writing entirely. I also stopped riding my bike. I just stopped pretty much everything except work.

None of this conforms to my idea of who I am. Well, that’s not true — I hold more than one idea of who I am in my head, and fat, lazy, slob is one of those images. I’m fitting that one pretty well.

So I guess I am who I imagine myself to be, just not the best version. I even know exactly what to do to break out of this quicksand. But part of the quicksand is sapping your will to escape.

13