Friday, June 8, 2018

This Insane "Double Cloud" Westworld Theory Will Blow Your Mind

Note: This post contains LOTS OF SPOILERS FOR WESTWORLD. If you haven't seen Season 2 Episode 7 ("Les Escorches") yet, probably best to avoid this post. You have been warned...

I'm going to jump right into it.

I think my wife and I have cracked what Westworld is up to this season.

It's more than a little bit crazy, so bear with me a bit here.

The big thing to remember through all of this is that it seems like this season is very tightly written. Every revelation comes back to play a part in the grander scheme of things.

So if something has been covered in a plot point, that probably means it's important, no matter how much of a detour an episode like Samurai World seems to be.

This past week, we learned that Ford had uploaded his consciousness to the Cradle (I don't know the cutesy way they spell it in the show), which Kate and I affectionately call "Cloud World."

This is the place where all of the hosts' backups are stored, and they go through their loops best as we can tell pretty much continuously.

Much more on Cloud World in a minute.

We also learned more about Delos's scheme to learn more information about the guests. Namely that Westworld is all a big experiment. They run variables (the guests) through a situation where the hosts are the constants, and record everything--behaviors, reactions, etc.

We still don't know why Delos is doing this, but Kate and I think we have a pretty good idea.

Recall the "tragedy" of Old Man James Delos.

Long story short, rich a-hole has a terminal illness and ultimately dies, but per his instructions, young William tries to put Old Man Delos's consciousness into a host's control unit/body to give Old Man Delos immortality.

Every time they try to do so, William comes in and has the same conversation that he did with Old Man Delos when he was alive to see just how close they got to duplicating "the real thing."

The only problem is that these host copies always bug out somehow. They lose fidelity. They survive for days, sometimes weeks even, but the human mind is proving to be too complicated to be accurately replicated in a host in the real world.

So that path to immortality--putting peoples' consciousness in host bodies--seems to be a dead end.

If you can't create an "immortal" consciousness in a host body, what's the next best way to achieve immortality?

It seems like Ford has the answer:

Upload your consciousness to the Cradle/Cloud World.

As he explains this episode, consciousness seems to last a lot longer in Cloud World--it's not plagued with the same issues of degradation as "implant a person's consciousness in a host body" does.

So Ford, in anticipation of Delores killing him in last season's finale, uploaded his consciousness to Cloud World where he knew it would be safe.

Still with me?

Ford is an interesting character too--what's his motive? Does he want the hosts to just murder all people they encounter? Is he really mad, as the end of this episode might suggest?

I don't think so, and here's why:

It's pretty clear that the "product" that Delos wants to offer is some kind of immortality.

And as we've seen, immortality in a host's body is a non-starter.

But cloud immortality--that's seemingly possible.

Ford has achieved it a couple of times now.

He did it initially by bringing Arnold back to life in the cloud in the form of Bernard.

Granted, Bernard isn't a complete carbon copy of Arnold's consciousness: he's been created from both Ford's memories and Delores's memories--the two people who knew him best.

As Ford was tinkering creating Bernard in Cloud World, Bernard was only released once he passed the "fidelity" test with Delores.

So Ford has created a "person" (Bernard) in Cloud World from the memories of a couple of individuals. And this creation was able to pass fidelity tests for years--up until they find the cache of Bernard copies in the lab, not even Charlotte or Big Bald Goatee Idiot suspect him of being a host.

And as we've seen, Ford's even gone a step further: he's uploaded his own consciousness to Cloud World. And it seems to be pretty accurate as far as we know.

In other words: it seems like Ford's perfected the ability to upload individuals' consciousnesses to the Cloud.

This is a huge development! Theoretically, it means that Delos can sell people "Cloud Immortality" where they can live in Cloud World pretty much forever.

Here's the problem though:

If you live in Cloud World forever, it would get pretty boring after a while.

Guests would just go about their same loops, day after day... Delores dropping the can, pre-badass Teddy going on about whatever simple stuff he's talking about...

Sure you'd have other Guests to interact with... but you'd be living in the same theme park ride FOREVER.

This was alluded to in the Samurai World episode. There are only so many narratives--so many ways the stories can play out. So it would get terribly boring after a while.

So we think Ford needed a way to give the hosts the ability to think for themselves. To create their own narratives. "Choose their own paths," so-to-speak.

And to do that, he came up with a couple of plans.

The first is Delores. She was probably his "plan A"--introduce self-awareness naturally, by allowing her to proceed through the maze.

The backup--the "plan B," I think, is Maeve. She's around to "wake" hosts who either don't buy into Delores's special brand of murderous "justice" or who haven't encountered her yet.

After all, Maeve's search for her daughter had her cover a lot of ground. And she interacted with a lot of different people.

So you've got Delores gaining self-awareness on one hand, and Maeve giving self-awareness on the other.

Yet there's one crucial question that no one has addressed yet:

If you want to give Hosts self-awareness to improve the experience in Cloud World... why would you do that in the real world?

After all, it seems like a real pain to go to all of that trouble... then corral all of the hosts, upload their consciousness into a new Cradle/Cloud World, etc.

And it'd be much, much tougher to convince anyone to work with Delos after the bloodbath Westworld has turned into. After all, if you were a billionaire, would you go to the "New and Improved--Grand Re-Opening!" Westworld after all of this had happened?

Finally, Ford is more of a "show, don't tell" kinda guy. He's a master storyteller and knows that it's way more powerful to let people have an experience and draw their own conclusions than to just be like Brad Pitt in Troy:

"Immortality--take it, it's YOURS!"

So this is what we think is going on:

All of the action this season is taking place inside of a "Second Cloud."

Somehow, the guests who attended the gala were brought into this "Second Cloud" on their way into the park.

This Second Cloud has a few different purposes:

It allows the hosts to develop consciousness (and thus go "off-script") in a controlled way.

It also not only "shows" the guests attending the gala that not only are they going to die... but it lets them experience it, often in the most gruesome and painful ways possible.

And yet Delos is collecting all of this data... and we don't know why... but:

Could it be to create "versions" of guests who have already been in the park for Cloud World?

So like Ford did with Arnold/Bernard, he'd have these "Cloud Immortal" versions of guests ready to roll out...

And that's the true end of this new narrative of Ford's:

If you just got eaten by fire ants, or hung slowly in the sun for days... and then you woke up and Ford's there like, "Surprise! You're still alive... but now for a limited time, Delos is offering Cloud Immortality..." you'd be pretty likely to cut a check, right?

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), Second Cloud World is there to prove fidelity.

And this is where William, Charlotte, and Bernard all come in.

No one probably has experienced the park quite like William has. Even though Ford might "know" more about it, he doesn't have the day-to-day experience William does in there.

So if you were creating a cloud version of the park, with "free-thinking" hosts, you'd want to test it on someone who has extensive experience in the real park, to see if they could tell the difference.

If William is in Second Cloud World, but he thinks he's in the real park, there's a high level of fidelity there.

Same goes for Charlotte--she knows the park in a different way than William... but if she can't tell the difference, there's fidelity there too.

And then there's Bernard. He's key to this part of the story.

That's because he's the first iteration of what Ford's trying to do here:

He's the original "create a Cloud World consciousness from data/memories" test case.

As Ford says to Bernard at the end of the episode, "It's your narrative now."

I think that's because he's testing the fidelity of Bernard in Second Cloud World. To see if this kind of a person constructed from memories and data acts like the real thing in Second Cloud World.

And the ramifications for Second Cloud World are startling:

Is this essentially the genesis story for the Simulation Theory of the Universe?

How deep do the Cloud Worlds go?

(Most importantly to Kate): How does Ghost Nation play into all of this? Are they some kind of fail-safe in the narrative? But if it's all a simulation, why would they be needed then?

It really does boggle the mind a bit.

Anyway, would love to get your thoughts! Leave a comment below:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

How to Fix Health Care, Our Divided Society, and REALLY Make America Great Again...

Dear President Trump,

I know that as a country, we have a lot of problems right now.

I also know that we have a lot of great people. People who dearly love this country, but who feel like they've been left behind.

Not only that, but as a country, we've maybe never been quite so divided.

It seems like every issue now is "us vs. them." The art of compromise--the "art of the deal," if you will, seems like it's dying a little bit every day.

And that division comes at a great price. As we bicker over endless minutia in the hopes of scoring hollow political victories, the real problems remain:

-Broken healthcare

-Crumbling infrastructure

-A divided citizenry that thinks they hate half the country

-A skills gap that keeps a growing number of people out of the workforce, and (to a lesser extent),

-A corporate tax base that continues to dwindle due to tax inversion.

These problems are serious, and require a serious effort to fix.

But What If You Had a Plan to Address ALL Of These Issues... And TRULY Make America Great Again... Within a Decade?

It's not going to be easy... and it'll require a little deal-making ability... but if you can pull it off, it would cement your legacy as one of the greatest Presidents in our history.


I present to you:

America Serves

The basic idea is simple:

-After graduating high school, allow young adults to sign up for a 1-2 year term of national service in an area vastly different than the one they grew up in.

Think "Green Acres." Urbanites heading out to rural America and vice versa. 

First of all, this will expose our young people to people from other walks of life.

Part of what divides us currently is the simple fact that people are insulated within their own little "bubbles."

The working class family from "rural, red state America" watches Fox News and has little time for "academic, Ivory tower" liberal ideas that just "aren't practical."

Similarly, many urbanites in "blue cities" don't get to see what rural life is like in America these days. Many haven't even gotten to see open fields, or see that there's a "different way" than the way they grew up.

By transplanting people across the country, you'd start to see people gain that one crucial thing that you can never get from inside a bubble:


They'd start to learn a little bit of empathy for people who are different from them... and in the process, perhaps they'd come to understand that yes, these people are Americans too!

Sure their problems may be a bit different... and they may live differently and have "funny ideas" about certain things... but ultimately, we all live under the same flag... and we should all be proud to do so.

-This program will be completely voluntary... 

NOT compulsory. I think the concepts of liberty and freedom should be honored, and baked more into our national consciousness. However...

-To entice young people to participate, for every year you serve, you'd get ten years of access to highly discounted, "public option"healthcare.

So serve one year, you'd get ten years of access to health care.

Serve two, you'd get 20 years.

Essentially pay a small premium every month (like $100) and you'd get access to a V.A.-like system of hospitals.

Each child that the person had could be covered for an additional $50/month. So 3 kids would only cost $150/month extra.

Now before you go saying, "The V.A.?! What is this guy, nuts?!?"...

The V.A. is actually getting better. A lot better, actually. High-quality doctors are increasingly considering the V.A. since they don't want to deal with salary structures that rely on how many patients you can get through the door in a given year.

People would flock to America Serves in droves just for ten years of deeply discounted healthcare.

Not only that, but it gives Congressional Republicans a political "out," since they can give in on the public option for some Americans, but in exchange for real, honest work that helps the country.

It's a win-win.

What Kinds of Projects Would America Serves Folks Work On?

As a part of America Serves, you'd get a huge workforce to help with a variety of projects, including:

-Infrastructure Projects: First we could repair our crumbling bridges and roadways. Then we could work on building high-speed rail lines, hyperloop lines, airport improvements--things that matter to help people and goods get places.

-City and Rural Modernization: Think bringing broadband to rural areas, or computerizing the records department of a city.

-National Park Improvement: Would be great to get urban young adults out in the fresh air to make our National Parks (the lasting legacy of the great Teddy Roosevelt, mind you) even better than they are now. I'm thinking new trails, new lodges, improved accessibility options, and more interactive displays.

-Tech Projects: I'm thinking of things like mapping roads for driverless cars. I don't even know if this is a thing anymore, but doing the kind of "grunt work" that would vastly improve our country down the road, and save lives.

-"Manhattan-Type Projects": I'm a firm believer in big projects, like the Manhattan Project and Moon Landing, that energize the modern tech sector, build jobs, advance technology through pure research, and frankly inspire the country to greater heights. A project like this may not be feasible for a few years, but once we set one (nationwide hyperloop network potentially?), it could be a huge source of ongoing jobs.

This would only be the start... and you could get a lot more projects than this, simply by surveying every city and county in America and asking, "If you had the people, what would you like to get done right now?"

All you'd have to pay them would be a stipend for housing, food, and basic goods that would vary with the area of the country you were in with the cost of living.

Not Only That... But These Projects Would Help Build Skills Too...

A lot of these projects help build either:

-Engineering skills, or

-Computer skills

These are exactly the kinds of skills we want to build in our young people, right?

And even better, they'll learn them in the field, on-the-job, getting real "resume experience" with real-world projects.

Better still: once done, these people will be better prepared to continue their educations formally if they so desire.

In fact, if it's feasible, I'd like to add some sort of "G.I. Bill" component to this... or at least 2 years of college assistance at a heavy discount (so that someone could do 2 years at a Juco and then finish their degree at a 4-year University if they'd like). But it might be "too much" to make it work at the start.

Not only that, but I'd like some kind of "skills training" requirement to be a part of the program.

Basically you identify a dozen "highly marketable" skills... then hire folks (as part of the program) to teach those skills to participants 1-2 nights per week for 6 months.

After 6 months, the participant would switch to a different "highly marketable" skill.

This would give them at least 2 marketable skills to help them find work after their America Serves term is over. And as Scott Adams notes, becoming "pretty good" at 2 skills is often enough to make a person wildly successful in the job market.

These skills could be wide-ranging, including:

-Public Speaking
-Computer Programming
-Data Security
-Private Space Program / Rocket Science
-HVAC maintenance

Really, wherever we "need more people" to compete with China and other potential challengers in the next century.

So where would we find these instructors?

That brings me to my next point...

What About Older Americans Who Haven't Had the Chance to Participate? And What Happens When the 10-20 Years of Coverage Runs Out?

These are kind of related, so I'll address them at the same time.

After an initial 3-year "shakedown" period, America Serves would be open to ALL Americans of any age for a one-year term.

Yeah that's right--I want the 52-year old programmer who just got downsized from her job to be able to sign up, get her 10 years of healthcare, and learn new, transferable skills.

I want the homeless guy who's lost hope to be able to sign on the dotted line... find housing and a fresh start... pick up a shovel... and get to work if he so desires.

I also want people who have developed skills to bring those to the program too.

So if someone works at SpaceX or NASA... and they wanted to teach some aspect of (presumably non-proprietary) rocket science to America Serves participants... they could do so 1-2 nights per week, and gain eligibility for the public option health insurance, and any educational benefits it would afford.

This would require a public-private partnership to teach these skills... and ensure that nothing proprietary was released to potentially the wrong hands.

But employers would be incentivized to participate for one very simple reason:

They'd instantly gain a pool of potential employees with skills that they desperately need!

(More on that in a second...)

And every eight years after your initial America Serves term... you'd be eligible to "re-up" in the program. Either by taking a working/learning position again, or by taking a teaching/mentoring position in the program.

This would also continue exposing participants to people in a variety of different industries, from different walks of life, with different problems. The bubble collapses further!

About That "Corporate Inversion"...

Oh yeah--so here's the real kicker:

America Serves would help fix corporate inversion too!

Forgive me Mr. President, but this is an open letter, so for those who don't know what corporate inversion is, it's when a country moves to another country to avoid paying the going U.S. corporate tax rate.

It's quite a bit more complicated than that... but that's the general gist of it.

So for example, right now, the tax rate in Ireland is a lot lower than it is here in the U.S.

Because of that, a lot of companies have created Irish holding companies (or merged with Irish companies and headquartered themselves there) for the tax benefits.

It robs us of billions of dollars of tax revenue from these companies... and contributes to the crushing deficit we now face.

But America Serves would fix that, and here's how:

The Carrot: For every America Serves graduate you employee who makes at least $50,000 per year, the employing company would get to take a $50,000 tax credit (or deduction--accounting wasn't my best class in law school).

This provides the incentive (the "carrot") for companies to hire more employees, as it would effectively lower their tax rate.

They could help develop the "skill curricula" that America Serves participants would get, which would make the participant more valuable after graduation.

They'd also be helping create more value in the America Serves program. After all, if graduates are highly sought after, that makes serving in America Serves all the more appealing.

It could also lower corporate healthcare costs. More employees on America Serves could mean fewer who needed to be on expensive corporate plans... though it would be great to come up with a way for employers to give employees an America Serves "supplement" as an enticement to come to their company.

Lower taxes, more jobs, more good jobs... what's not to like?

However, in case that doesn't do enough to entice companies... we'd need an alternative way to compel them should they still remain abroad:

The Stick: No non-American Citizen or Company should be able to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch

If you want to influence policy in this country... then you have to have some kind of skin in the game.

It makes sense, doesn't it?

This would provide strong incentive for an Apple or similar company to come back home.

If you need to have some sort of repatriation holiday to make it be it.

But it doesn't make sense to allow these countries to move abroad... and then let them lobby for favorable treatment in our government.

In short: you can't have it both ways.

And We'll Pay For This... How?

It's a fair question. This all seems like it's going to take a lot of cash.

But I'd counter that it makes a lot of entitlement programs either obsolete, or able to be drastically reduced.

If someone has the ability to get a "restart" in their career once every 8-10 years, then long-term welfare can be drastically scaled back.

We can also scale back social security (since older folks could take their biggest financial worry--healthcare--out of the equation by passing their skills on to the next generation).

And we could up the age for medicare by 8-10 years as well, practically overnight.

Remember, we want to incentivize folks who have these skills to pass them along to the next generation. If people could be retired for all intents and purposes and teach a couple of classes a week for a year for deeply-discounted healthcare? I'm guessing they'd hop on-board immediately.

Democrats may scream "bloody murder" at any entitlement reductions. But since they'll effectively be getting a form of single-payer healthcare, we all have to compromise here. It's not going to be neat and pretty, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs in this instance.

America Serves Would Bring Us Into the 21st Century

It would fix our infrastructure... 

Create great, skilled, relevant jobs...

Build our workforce...

And it could help end corporate inversion.

Not only would it bring our great country into the 21st century...

But it would also be a big positive experience that a lot of people could get behind.

Sure, you'll have the nay-sayers who'll crow that "It'll never work"...

"It's too expensive"

"It's not feasible"

"How are you going to run it?"

And while sure it'll probably need a few tweaks along the way... I'm sick of hearing why we can't do things as Americans... when half a century ago we were putting men on the moon and paving the way for democracy worldwide.

This would finally be something that would put us on the right track... and help us grow the economy (after all, all of the participants would pay taxes, and would pay even more once they were in teh workforce).

It's the fastest way to Make America Great Again that I know.

What's not to like, Mr. President?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The #1 Way to Stay Organized and Be More Productive, Even If You're Working For Yourself

As anyone who's ever seen my desk or apartment knows, I'm not what you'd call terribly "organized."

Papers and files everywhere... stuff all over the place... if left to my own devices, pretty much any environment I inhabit for an extended period of time starts to look like a "Museum of Clutter."

Unfortunately, back when I was freelancing, this disorganization extended into what I would work on in any given day.

I had a bad case of what's technically known as "shiny object syndrome." I don't know how many different projects I started that never amounted to anything.

I'd work on a book... and then a new website... and then an idea for a startup... and then a client's project.

I was hopelessly all over the place--and worst of all, I never got anything done!

How Working Remotely Helped Me Develop My Best New Habit

Eventually I got into Content Marketing, and even then I didn't feel like I was "firing on all thrusters." For a while I worked for a golf improvement company... and I'd get sidetracked with side projects, new ideas, and other assorted things that didn't ultimately matter.

When I got my current position, I knew I'd need a way to stay on-target. After all, we had 2 Google Hangouts calls daily so that everyone could check in and we could make sure we were all getting things done.

And since what I was about to work on didn't even exist yet, there was a TON to do. I didn't have the luxury of exploring potential "side projects" or anything like that. It was just (quickly) research the best way to do something... and do it. Make it happen.

Fortunately, my boss gave me a book before I started called Work the System. It's about a guy who owned a telemarketing company who suffered from a similar "shiny object syndrome" to my own.

Even more coincidentally, he never seemed to have enough time to finish what he was working on... and his company basically lived "paycheck-to-paycheck" from the checks that came in from outside vendors.

One day, this guy had enough. He decided that chaos wasn't working for him... so he'd look for something more orderly that could give his life more consistency.

And for him, that "something" was the idea of systems.

These "systems" were little more than checklists for common tasks that needed to be repeated frequently for the business. 

They were so simple that anyone could do the task in question. Which meant that this guy could hadn more of these tasks off to his employees... and he'd have more time to work on bringing in more business for his company.

Eventually (spoiler alert), he "systemitized" pretty much every aspect of his business. He started working 10-15 hours a week (since all of the "busy work" was handled by people who were using these systems). 

His quality of life improved drastically. And his business made a TON more money!

This all sounded GREAT to me! And it was honestly exactly what I needed at just the right time: something like a system to keep me on-track. 

As far as I could see, there was only one issue:

What Kind of System Could I Develop to Stay Organized and Productive?

Part of the beauty of these systems the author of Work the System created was that they were simple.

They didn't have many moving parts... and if one of the systems proved to be "broken," he'd just rewrite the step that was broken and try it again.

So when I developed my system to stay "on-task," I went with what I already kind of knew:

I started making daily task lists.

It was kind of an extension of my old job as an attorney where I had to keep track of my billable hours (shudder!). 

For that, I'd keep a list of times that I worked on things and work out the hours at the end of the day.

Of course, my old disorganized self often turned "day" into "month," which could lead to some tracking down documents and whatnot on the day time was due.

I hated billing my time for a variety of reasons. It was inconvenient. It got me out of my "flow" state. It was administrative work, and I'm not afraid to admit that I hate administrative work.

But honestly it was the only kind of system I knew at the time. With one caveat:

Instead of tracking hours, I needed to track what I was doing.

So within the first week, I started writing down what I had to do for the day, longhand. As I completed something, I checked it off the list. Pretty simple, right? Nothing too revolutionary.

Of course, within the first month, problems started cropping up in my system. I'd lose a page of notes (in my Museum of Clutter), and then be forced to ad lib what I'd done for the day.

Much as the author of Work the System noted, if a system is broken, fix the broken part and try it again.

So I started keeping my daily task list in a word document with this format:

Wednesday 2-1-17
-Check the traffic and sales numbers
-Contact expert regarding article
-Write Thursday blog email
-Edit Writer's article for Friday
-Get Optin plugin up-and-running
-Work with developer to get squeeze page up and running
-Finish writer payment report


I usually tried to keep the more important things at the top of the list, but it didn't REALLY matter what order they were in. 

In fact, I still kind of enjoyed jumping around the list a bit--it built in a tiny fraction of the "chaos" I formerly enjoyed into the system without compromising performance.

As I completed things, I'd start "tabbing" them over. And I'd introduce a bold "ROD" (for "Rest of Day") into the list. So that by the time of a call, the list above would look something like this:

Wednesday 2-1-17
          -Check the traffic and sales numbers
          -Contact expert regarding article
          -Write Thursday blog email
          -Edit Writer's article for Friday

-Get Optin plugin up-and-running
-Work with developer to get squeeze page up and running
-Finish writer payment report

To prevent these documents from getting too long (and becoming too sluggish), I'd start a new document at the beginning of every month.

That's pretty much it!

How These Lists Helped Me Boost My Productivity

Over time, I started to notice something weird:

My lists started to get longer. 

Like a lot longer.

It's not that I was parsing things out more, but rather that I was getting more done!

I think subconsciously, I'd get a little hit of dopamine (the "pleasure" chemical in your brain) every time I'd move something over.

More than that, I'd get a sense of accomplishment. I was making progress! I was moving forward! My self-confidence would soar: "I'm organized! I'm a doer!"

But a funny thing happened as I got more and more confident:

My lists started to get SO long that I couldn't finish them each and every day.

I started to worry. Was I doing something wrong? How could I fix the system?

Ultimately there wasn't an "Aha!" moment here either. Over time, I started moving less important tasks lower and lower in the list... 

(And here's probably the most important part):

I gave myself permission to not finish EVERYTHING on the list in a given day if the deadline wasn't that day.

This was big psychologically for me. I don't like having "stuff to do," so I want a clean plate when I go home at night.

But I also like stretching myself and "aiming high." I made a conscious decision that it was MORE important to push myself than to worry about "closing out the list."

And I had a simple fix:

If there were things on the list that I didn't finish that could wait until the next day... 

Then I'd just put them at the top of the list the next day!

Simple enough, right? Nothing fancy.

And as I started to have appointments and interviews days ahead?

I'd create that "day" in my list document... and put the interview or appointment under that day so I wouldn't forget it!

My System Evolves to Become Indispensable

Over time, I've come to rely on this system so much that it's a little scary.

But I still had one issue to overcome:

I used these lists at work to great success.

But in my personal time at the beginning or end of the day... I just became a potato.

I'd sit and watch TV... movies... play video games... whatever.

That all changed recently when I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. 

As Tim is so good at doing, he reminded me that we only have about 26,000 days on this planet... and that's assuming we make it to 70, which is no guarantee.

Not only that, but I'm roughly at the halfway marker now. Only 13,000 days left...

And how many of those days will truly be productive?

Hence why I've tried something new: 

Keeping these lists for my side-projects too!

This is why this site suddenly came back to life... why I'm waking up an hour earlier to work on my fiction again... and I have some other projects coming to life as well.

All of this is possible because of these simple, copy-able lists that anyone can make.

Don't have Word? Keep them in a free Google Docs file.

The point is, if you're reading this, you have access to this tool right now.

It's a powerful tool that's boosted my productivity any given day by at least 50%...

And if that doesn't help you adopt this system, think of it like this:

In the coming weeks and months, I'm going to talk about all of the hard work that goes into making an "automatic cash machine" online.

The more you can get done every day... the less time it's going to take to build that same machine.

If you can double your output... you'll reach whatever goal you've set for yourself that much faster.

If you this system... and the other ones I'm going to show you in short order... you'll double your income in half the time.

That's MORE time your site can generate income for you... and LESS of those worrying months at the start waiting for it to take off.

It's win-win... at least from my perspective.

And I hope this helps you as much as it's helped me!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Everyone Lies in Business

So it's really come to this.

Honestly, I couldn't decide whether to write a big old "f--- you" to Stan Kroenke (who I imagine will enjoy dining with Pol Pot and Hitler in ten years or less), to take the high road on this one, or to try to split the difference.

The more I thought about it, what good will calling Stan Kroenke a "small, petty man who uses his billions to try to compensate for other areas of his (ahem) life" accomplish?

What good would it be to call Roger Goodell a "no good liar who has now sympathized with chronic domestic abusers and cheats, all in the pursuit of the almighty yankee dollar?"

No, that's not the approach I need to take now that it's final that the Rams are, in fact, moving to Los Angeles next season.

Instead, let me impart a lesson that guided me through this entire process, from start to finish, and held my attention like a slow-motion car crash throughout:

Everyone lies.

Especially in business.

We had sportswriters on every side of this thing trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't. Desperately trying to sort the B.S. from the truth.

But what does that fact tell you, right on its face? It means that, implicitly, there was a LOT of B.S. floating around the pool for the entire past year!

The NFL telling #STLNFL to "keep doing what you're doing."

(Never mind the two hand slaps the league office tried to levy against the Task Force. The NFL said it, so it MUST be true!)

The numerous reports that "Carson has 26 votes!"

(Even though on the first secret ballot, that support proved about as real as Pam Anderson's...well... you know...).

Roger Goodell's long-winded "f-off!" to St. Louis at last year's Super Bowl presser:

None of it mattered. And as I suspected from the start, it was for that very reason above:

Everyone lies.

As a licensed attorney, I've known this all too long. Your opponent lies. Opposing counsel lies. Your own client lies. Everyone involved in a business transaction lies at some point.

It's disheartening for good, hardworking folks to hear. I understand that. I've always been keen on the "handshake agreement" myself. That my word should be good enough to cement a deal under almost any circumstances.

But there's a reason that a handshake deal often doesn't hold up in court. There's a reason that contracts exist and "get it in writing" is the mantra of any business owner.

It's because people are dishonest. Yes, Stan Kroenke most certainly is. The statement he released is absolutely sickening:

“This has been the most difficult process of my professional career,” Kroenke said. “While we are excited about the prospect of building a new stadium in Inglewood, California, this is bitter sweet. St. Louis is a city known for its incredibly hard-working, passionate and proud people. Being part of the group that brought the NFL back to St. Louis in 1995 is one of the proudest moments of my professional career. Reaching two Super Bowls and winning one are things all St. Louisans should always treasure.

“While there understandably has been emotionally charged commentary regarding our motives and intentions, the speculation is not true and unfounded,” Kroenke said. “I am a Missouri native named after two St. Louis sports legends who I was fortunate enough to know on a personal level. This move isn’t about whether I love St. Louis or Missouri. I do and always will. No matter what anyone says, that will never change. This decision is about what is in the best long-term interests of the Rams organization and the National Football League. We have negotiated in good faith with the Regional Sports Authority for more than a decade trying to find a viable and sustainable solution. When it became apparent that we might not be able to reach an agreement, it was then and only then that we looked at alternatives.”

What a prick.

Keep chasing those dollars, Stan. I'm sure it will buy you one of the nicest funerals you've ever seen, maybe at the 50 yard line in that new stadium you're so generously building in Inglewood. 

Oh wait, you won't get to see your own funeral? You won't get to take your billions with you after you, like everyone else in this world, croak?

(Don't worry Stan--I don't need to go to your funeral. I just want to know where you're buried. You I can pis bring flowers every year.)

This is the ultimate dishonesty, to practically stand on the arch and piss on the town's citizens and then tell them "Oh, no, that was a hell of a rainstorm, wasn't it?"

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Kevin Demoff was a loyal soldier and truth concealer throughout this entire process. Whenever I've questioned Kevin's motives among my peers, it's always been met with a "Yeah, but he's just doing his job..." 

Where have I heard that one before?

What happened to morals, Kevin? What happened to "doing the right thing?" They may seem like foreign concepts to you, but honestly, right now, I'm embarrassed that my alma mater can claim you as one of its own.

Unfortunately, I knew that these guys were lying from about a year ago on. Few listened, mind you, but that's just the truth. Thems the breaks.

But what could we do about it? When confronted, team officials consistently denied that any of this was going on. Stan was too cowardly to even face reporters. THEMS SO SCARY WIT' THEM QUESTIONS AND WHATNOT!

As media members, all we can do is ask questions. And if we don't like an answer, we can follow up. We can check and cross-check sources to our hearts' content, but that doesn't mean that what they're peddling is worth any more than what I just left in the toilet.

And it's left to us to figure out the degree to which everyone's lying. Honestly, that's been the best skill that I've developed through covering the Rams--knowing when someone is full of shit, and when to read between the lines. Sometimes the lies have been more egregious than others, but overall, they've all served the league's agenda: move the Rams back to L.A. Have to hit more women that $25 billion number, right Roger?

So if you take anything away from this move, if you take any of this into your business and private life, make it this:

Everyone lies. Some are better than others at it. But learn to separate the true scumbags from the posturers.

The posturers won't look you in the eye.

The scumbags will.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

How to Solve the Corporate Inversion / Jobs Dilemma

I know it's been a while, but honestly I've been working on a lot of stuff. So sue me. (Please don't sue me).

One of the problems I'm always rolling around in the back of my head is how to make more jobs for ordinary, hard-working folks in this country. This is especially true in light of the coming automation of a number of jobs that have traditionally formed the backbone of the U.S. labor force.

There's also a problem with corporate inversions, whereby (and this is incredibly simplistic) companies create offshore shell companies and transfer all assets to them in an effort to skirt the somewhat draconian U.S. tax laws.

Nothing I've seen on either issue has really moved the needle for me. Until now...

You see, tonight I spent a long time thinking about this stuff. (Yes, it's a Saturday night, and I'm a loser, and blah blah blah, but I actually had a moment of clarity while watching the Blues game with buddies tonight).

I think I've come up with a solution.

Here goes:

For every "full-time job" (let's say $40,000 salary + $10,000 benefits = $50,000) a company has, they get a $30,000 tax credit/deduction/whatever is more advantageous to them.

It doesn't matter if the employee makes $40,000 (plus benefits) or $3 million. Each employee counts for one unit under this scheme. Obviously the figures would be tied to a cost of living increase, 

Maybe the numbers are off, but I'm looking for a tax system where companies are rewarded for the number of jobs they create as opposed to profits they generate. Profits go to shareholders. The public very likely never sees a dime. How do we create a benefit for the common working man or woman? 

Make it worth the company's while!

Essentially, you shift any "entitlement burden" from the state (where everyone, rich and poor pays in) to companies, who could absolutely use more help, but who are incentivized at present to wring increasingly more out of employees while hundreds of thousands go unemployed, not paying taxes, and feeling pretty awful about themselves.

Why not make it so that in light of dwindling traditional jobs, we entice companies to hire folks as opposed to trying to wring more blood from the stone? Honestly, I think this is a happy medium between the wholly Libertarian crowd and some more progressive ideas. 

Of course, there are a bunch of questions already:

1) How do you prevent cronyism? Like a company just hiring a bunch of its CEO's kids?

Honestly, I think this is a bigger issue for small businesses than the behemoths. Let's say Jerry's Shoe World has Marla, Edith, Luanne, and Goober as employees, all relatives. Should Jerry get tax protection for hiring all of his relatives? 

Here's the problem: you can come up with a bunch of regulations w/r/t hiring practices, and it really doesn't matter ultimately. All it does is impose a bunch of B.S. on Jerry, who will find a way to hire Luanne anyway.

On the other hand, at least Jerry is paying these folks cash. They will, ostensibly, use that cash on rent, food, entertainment, and utilities (no, I'm not a hopeless Monopoly fan). 

But at the same time, I don't want Bob Sears to hire 150 Sears descendants to "keep the store," especially since Sears is in TROUBLE...from what I've heard...

2) There aren't enough $40,000 jobs out there!

I disagree with this one. I think that companies would find this new plan a lot easier to work with than the current plan. As such, hopefully a company with a lot of cash on hand (cough, cough, APPLE, cough, cough), would CREATE more $40,000 jobs to avoid the punitive tax system we have in the U.S.

3) How would this be more appealing than corporate inversion?

I'm not some "pie-in-the sky" idiot who thinks that companies will take this up regardless of whether it's good for them or not. I'm not an accountant, either. I don't know all of the ins and outs. But we DO need to do something to keep Americans employed and companies around.

But what I do know is that if we increase incentives to keep American jobs around, or even to create new American jobs, I honestly couldn't care less if companies are headquartered in Charlotte or Dublin. If we have more jobs, we have more taxpayers. Really, in some ways it comes down to shifting employer ideas about what constitutes "a job" more than anything else. This is just the first step.

Our current plan isn't working. We need some "out there" potential solutions. The President and the numerous frontrunners have entire TEAMS dedicated to this stuff. In all honesty, I just hope to catch an eye and go from there.

So there's my pitch. Questions? Comments? You know where to leave them...


Monday, February 9, 2015

There is Zero Chance Stan Kroenke Will Only Be a Landlord in Inglewood

One of the "kookier" theories I've seen bandied about in the whole Rams-St. Louis-Inglewood stadium brouhaha is that for some reason, Stan Kroenke is partnering with Stockbridge Capital to be a landlord for another NFL team (or two) in Los Angeles, while retaining ownership of the Rams in St. Louis.


This notion is more ridiculous than stuff I've seen on Ancient Aliens.

(Side note: great show. Even if most of it's B.S., a good 25% of the stuff makes you think, "what if?")

Why would the NFL let a competitor own another team's facility? That's like letting Ben and Jerry's own the physical plant of a Baskin Robbins store. You think that store would be tops on the list for general maintenance, fumigation, interior design, heating, cooling, etc.?

To make it more about the NFL, what if the Rams had a pivotal week 17 game against the L.A. Chargers in Stan's new stadium? If the owner was properly motivated to win (and hey, that's a valid objection here because hey, it's Stan...), wouldn't he do everything in his power to mess with the opponent? A convenient "glitch" in the hot water or AC on game day? A pest infestation? A convenient "mis-delivery" of the team's toradol supply before the game?

The possibilities are endless...

Of course, I'm being somewhat hyperbolic. One can only imagine "Stanley Whiplash" twirling his mustache in his ill-fitting suit as he sneaks into the home team's supply closet to grease up their footballs.

But the point about maintenance and upkeep is absolutely valid. Where's the incentive for that? Once the lease is signed, where's the incentive to keep up the facilities?

Would we see another "top-tier" clause in the lease?

Unfortunately, this kind of speculation is thrown out there by the NFL to further reinforce their own image as "one business," not 32 competing businesses for antitrust purposes.

It's a long-standing battle that the league has waged to garner expansive antitrust protection.

("More boring legal stuff?" You're damned right more boring legal stuff! Listen, I don't want it to be this way any more than you do. I got out of the law for a reason. But when I see people hold themselves out as "knowledgeable" on a topic like franchise relocation, when they've at worst not done any research, or at best just lap up whatever's slopped at them from various sources like pigs at a trough, it drives me insane).

The league has a vested interest as being treated as one, large "football" organization with 32 different retail outlets. Doing so means that "everyone's under the same umbrella," like Burger King or Midas--the franchises, while ostensibly competing week-to-week on the field, are all considered one big, happy family off the field.

Conveniently, this would afford the NFL somewhat greater protection under the antitrust laws.

Unfortunately for them, time-and-time again, federal courts have rules that the league is actually 32 competing franchises that are absolutely subject to federal antitrust laws.

This may not seem like a big distinction to the average fan, but think of it this way in the context of stadium ownership:

If you accept the NFL's "one body" theory, then Stan owning the Chargers' Inglewood stadium is like one McDonald's franchise owner owning the physical plant of another McDonald's.

If you take the more realistic, "32 competitors" view, it's like Burger King owning that same McDonald's.

You can see how, despite contractual assurances to the contrary, the occasional corner might get cut.

In a similar vein, word came down earlier today that the NFL is forming a committee of owners dedicated to the "L.A. issue."

While I applaud them on trying to control the narrative, their naïveté on the relocation issue is heartwarming, in that "puppy doesn't know that the 'creature under the covers' is just your leg" sort of way.

If the courts maintain the "32 competitors" view of the league, to restrict territories and movement of franchises would almost certainly be a violation of the antitrust laws against restraining trade to protect competition. As much as Rams fans around St. Louis love the team, wouldn't the team be better able to compete in L.A., where revenues would be far more readily available in the form of consistently-full premium seating and the associated benefits?

That's what really gets me; the league is banking on Stan to "maintain protocol" and "not rock the boat." They've gone so far as to create a "peer pressure committee" to try to intimidate their fellow owners from not horning in on their own self-proclaimed market.

As I've consistently maintained for months, if not years, the NFL isn't above the laws of the United States of America. They can keep harping about how they control the L.A. market, how each owner will have to go through "several approvals" to get to L.A.

When the rubber meets the road, though, I doubt the league is willing to go to court on an antitrust case potentially worth $3 billion in lost valuation and profits, should they push Stan too far (antitrust cases are unique in that they provide triple damages to a successful plaintiff).

The law is pretty clearly on Stan's side, and absent outright buying a judge, the league has to know this, too.

They're puffing themselves up pretty well right now, but ultimately, the league can't think they have the authority to really beat down one of their own, cross-ownership rules or not.

Ultimately, this is a long-winded way of saying that Stan Kroenke has 4 options:

1) Keep the Rams in St. Louis with the Peacock plan, and sell the Inglewood plan to Spanos or Mark Davis

2) Keep the Inglewood plan and move the Rams out to L.A. to be tenants

3) Sell the Rams and buy another team to become the Inglewood tenant

4) Sell the Rams and enjoy the NFL as a landlord only.

I suppose there could be more, but these are the most likely in my opinion. But to conjure up outlandish scenarios where he owns one team, but plays landlord to another?

Man, I could use your help on some story ideas...

Monday, January 19, 2015

For the Ladies Looking For Love: 4 Ways to Get "Mr. Right" to Message Your Online Dating Profile

Believe it or not, I'm currently single.

I know, I know: "Really?"

Yes, it's true. And like too many people my age, I've joined the cadre of online daters in the St. Louis area, exploring territory long ago vacated by my buddy Dave from the on-life-support Bottle and Cans podcast.

I've met some great ladies on the site, but for whatever reason, things haven't worked out as of yet.

I blame it on bad targeting by the sites. I've been a "90%+ match" for a fair number of these girls, and yet when we meet up, the chemistry just isn't there for whatever reason, or the spark inevitably fades after a few short dates.

It's tough being a dude on these sites. No, I'm not talking about the idea of "putting myself out there"--I say stupid shit on the radio all the time, I've written controversial books, I'm a freelancer in sales and marketing. Let's just say that I long ago got used to being kicked in the junk by complete strangers--no hard feelings, folks.

What I AM talking about is the incredible similarity among ladies' online dating profiles.

Don't get me wrong--I know that reasonably attractive women on these sites get an unbelievable number of "Hey girl...what's up?" (or worse) "Wanna see my wiener?"-type messages. It has to be tough to sift through the garbage.

But as a (I think) eligible, creative, educated, okay-looking guy, it's also incredibly difficult to sift through all of the girls with some variation of the following profile:

"I'm a strong, independent woman with X job. I love to travel and see new places--looking for a partner in crime for new adventures. I love my family, and hope to find the same in a guy. Looking for someone who can make me laugh--laughter is the best medicine, after all."

Unfortunately, more often than not, I'll skip right on by these profiles.

Not because anything these ladies wrote was offensive.

In fact, it's quite the opposite.

There's no character here. Nothing to tell me anything about these girls that wouldn't better be said on a first date. Let's fisk this profile line by line:

"I'm a strong, independent woman with X job" Great stuff...but it's weird for us to reach out to you and write out a question about your job over email. Honestly, even though I have a more flexible and enjoyable work arrangement than most, I cherish my off-hours, and am looking for a partner to fill THOSE with...err..."with whom to fill those." NOT someone who's going to be bringing work home with them all the time and put their job ahead of me. Though ambitious, I work to live--I'm looking for someone who does the same.

"I love to travel and see new places--looking for a partner in crime for new adventures." Again, this prompts a question that would be better handled on a first date. Every time I've had a back-and-forth with a girl on a dating site, and I've asked about traveling, it's ended the conversation. Period. Whether it's the first thing I mention, or 3-4 messages down the road. I don't know if it comes across as "intimidating" or whatever, but it's a dead end.

"I love my family, and am looking for the same in a guy." This is late first date, maybe even second date territory. I'm not going to gush about my Uncle Goober and Cousin Athena over an online dating message system--if nothing else, it's a turn-off.

"Looking for someone who can make me laugh--laughter is the best medicine after all." Whattaya want, a knock-knock joke? I love comedy, love standup and comedy podcasts, really enjoy stuff that's actually funny. But this gives me no frame of reference for your sense of humor, what you find funny, or anything along those lines. I'm shooting in the dark, here!

So what's the point of all of this? How can these bitter truths benefit women in the long run? With a few simple changes, you can cut the creeps out, and have a better chance of finding "Mr. Right."

1) Men Are Looking For "Hooks:" A "hook," in the copywriting biz, at least, is something that a prospect can respond to. Something that absolutely begs a question or further explanation. Something that teases the mind and gets the "prospects" (interested, put-together dudes) thinking about how to respond.

You can frame a hook by taking a controversial stance on something, by saying something objectively "weird" about yourself, or otherwise trying to entice "the right kind of guy" to buy into your profile.

They don't have to be fancy. Examples of good hooks include:

"I insist on camping without a tent."

"I've learned that a night spent in St. Petersburg is one night too many."

"I've forgotten how to ride a bike."

(Note: I use this one in my profile, because it's true. If I find a like-minded lady...all bets are off...)

Notice how a lot of these are pretty declarative? More on that in a minute...

The important thing is to give guys a lot of openings to ask thoughtful questions that they can put a witty spin on..."on which they can put a witty spin..."


2) Separate the Wheat From the Chaff

Getting too many "Hey girl...what's up?" messages? There's a simple solution that you may not have thought of yet, as abridged from Mark Manson on his fine book, Models:

-Polarize, Polarize, Polarize...

Let's face it, we all have a tendency to try to gain acceptance from any potential new partner. We laugh and agree with a lot of their statements while secretly we think "Wow, I can't believe he/she said that...well...maybe it'll work anyway..."

I say you should not only embrace these thoughts, but also pre-empt them whenever possible. Go ahead and let guys know some of the "weirder" things that you're all about. Granted, you probably shouldn't put your deepest, darkest secrets up on an online dating profile, but go ahead and embrace some of the "wackier" things about you.

While it runs counter to a lot of things that you've been taught, the important thing is that once you have something "different" up there, you can screen for the non-profile readers better, and qualify yourself to guys who really get you.

That's not to say you should "next" someone at the first sign of disagreement. Rather you should use potentially controversial thoughts and beliefs you might have as a screening mechanism to clear out the creeps and idiots.

(Unless you like the creeps and idiots...)


(Let's move on...)

Also, let's not discount the role that good looks play in online dating. Obviously, there's a baseline of good looks that you're willing to give a shot. Sorry, but that's the way it is...

3) Show, Don't Tell
This is an old fiction writer's saw. Instead of saying "I like to travel," tell me about some of the adventures you've had. I know that if you like to travel, there have to be some good stories--it comes with the territory.

Spell some of them out! Talk about that awesome hike you went on, or that reef you scuba-dived on. Putting pics of these things up isn't necessarily enough. Believe it or not, not every guy will diligently go through every one of your pics and captions and try to divine a hook from there. Paint a picture--let us know that there's some life behind the "sterile profile" with which we're often presented (see, I'm learning).

4) Personality is King

I don't know how many girls I've engaged or responded to because they had a tangible "personality" in their profile. Something other than the standard "stuff" I outlined above. Something that got it, and may have pissed some other guys off, but sucked me in.

Was I necessarily Mr. Right for them? No, not by any stretch.

But at least they got my attention. 

At least they separated themselves from the legions of ladies out there with no discernible differentiating qualities.

That's the real key--set yourself apart from the pack. While attention from random dudes may be nice (and I'm speaking as a guy who gets some random attention from the ladies), if you're on a dating site, and especially a paid dating site, you need to get your money's worth. Make the site work for you. Go for a drink at a public place. Say something "ridiculous." Push the envelope a bit. Have fun. Online dating can seem like a grind a lot of times--go ahead and turn that on its head. Enjoy it for chrissake.

Follow these basic steps, and I assure you, you'll be on the fast track to sifting out the morons and finding "Mr. Right" sooner rather than later.