Cautionary Progress

With more and more car companies adopting electric models, we’re looking at a future that phases out gasoline and diesel in the same way that these fuels phased out steam-power. We’ve fought wars for fossil-fuels. Even this past year in the United States, the Dakota Access Pipeline has brought on many civil rights groups and activism to defend the right to live free of contamination. Americans have killed thousands upon thousands in order to maintain this resource, and now we’re on the cusp of creating a world where it it’s better put to use for starting fires than it is for running cars. Many major countries are aiming to eliminate fossil-fuel-vehicles by 2040. Previously, it was only cars that could be even hybrid, let alone fully-electric. That changed this past year, when BMW unveiled that it would be building a hybrid motorcycle known as the R1200 GS xDrive Hybrid. This will be the first hybrid motorcycle to reach a consumer market (and the first I’ve heard of any company building at all). This is still a hybrid and does’t guarantee a market for the fully electric model. So what do we know of the fully electric vehicle? Well, there’s Elon Musk’s Tesla for one.

While Tesla has not been turning profits since 2013 when they had their first profitable quarter in ten years, the company is still on many investors top lists. Despite not turning any noticeable profits since then, the company has been pulling in tons of revenue and Musk is planning to have fleets of Model S’s (their new sedan) set for the $35,000 vehicle mark. Pricey, but worthwhile. In the United States we offer tax credits to people who buy Electric Vehicles, with Tesla netting you a whopping $7,500 (the maximum possible is $7,500). So what’s to stop new drivers from switching to an Electric Vehicle? Using these vehicles doesn’t mean you can just plug into any outlet in your home. Sure, you no longer need to perform oil-changes, change engine fluids, or any of the other maintenance in relation to fossil-fuel-vehicle, but you will need a charger. You’ll need to ensure you’re doing proper battery maintenance, keep your battery levels appropriate for the distances you’re traveling, and ensure that there are stations along the way for your longer trips (not to mention waiting for your vehicle to charge on said trips).

Now, I’m not attempting to advocate for fossil-fuels in any way. If anything, I’m a huge fan of what Tesla is doing and cannot wait to drive my own Tesla sedan someday (long before 2040 I hope). The problem isn’t what EV’s will be bringing to the automotive industry, but what they will be taking from it. When we move to an Exclusively-Electric-Vehicle model, the entire Gasoline and oil industry will take a severe step back (or possibly dissolve entirely). A survey covered by the guardian back in January of 2016 shows that Solar has exceeded Oil in the total number of people employed. This survey only covers the USA, so calling it globally representative would be inacurate but it does help put things in perspective. The more important thing to think of is how many nations depend on oil as a resource in order to maintain trade and revenue. In that case, what does the Fully-Electric model spell for them?

When we jump (WHEN, not IF) we’ll need to ensure we’re creating a market for all these people to be employed in. Every single gas station you’ve ever seen will eventually close down for the sake of charging stations. Every single fossil-fuel-vehicle mechanic and repair shop will be unemployed if they don’t move forward and learn these new vehicles. Every scent of gasoline and that older car smell will be a memory and people will actually grow up in a world where they don’t know what a car engine turning on sounds like. These are things that will occur that we haven’t considered, along with millions of jobs that need to be replaced in order to maintain the societal norm when we shift away from Fossil-fuel-vehicles. It’s easy to say this is the right choice, but it’s harder to do it the right way. When we do shift, we will need to ensure that most (if not all) of the gasoline/oil industries move into positions which allow them to prosper. Multiple corporations which have been long-standing will need to change not just the way they operate, but also the product and methods by which they sell. We aren’t just talking about upgrading a technology, we’re talking about actually revolutionizing human transportation on a scale we have not ever seen before. Steam did not employ people on the scale that oil does. The invention of the fossil-fuel-vehicle created new jobs, there was a creation of a market without the destruction of another.

Again, I am not calling for us to halt on Fully-Electric vehicles. This is just a call to start the conversations we need to be having if we intend to be Fully-Electric nations by 2040. It will take us another 23 years to reach that point, and we need to ensure that we do not create a vacuum of employment for the working class when we do. I can’t say I’m too sympathetic for the corporate level oil-industry, however they too will need to be employed should they not wish to retire. Try talking to your fellow car-fans about these ideas and see what comes to mind! Seek out ideas and ways that will help to bolster the solar industry and employ the fading fossil-fuel industries. Instead of creating a void in our world, we should be moving towards this as the beautiful upgrade it really is. I hope this helped you to think more on the premise of Electric Vehicles from a perspective you may not have considered. If so, please leave a comment and continue the discussion! I’ll be sure to reply and keep the conversation going with you all.

From My Father

From My Father

The importance of a good work ethic, the importance of proper education, and how the two grow relatively inseparable. Our intelligence is directly tied into what we can accomplish, therefore the more that we know, the easier it becomes to achieve. My father works long and laborious hours, sacrificing his own personal time in order to be certain myself and my sisters had (and have) everything we could need or want. What little time he had left to himself was often spent taking us to events, spending quality time with us, and ensuring we were happy. Having been the only child on his side of the family until my 11th birthday, my father focused on me and made an impression. Since as far back as I can remember he has always tried to share his knowledge on how different devices and mechanisms work. When I got my first car, I didn’t know how to change the oil, so my father taught me. When I needed to get new rotors and brakes on my car because I had driven it to the point where I was actually eating at the rotors with the brake pads completely worn away, my father taught me how to change them. When we needed to remodel my little sisters room and build a closet in my room, my father taught me. At each point that I can remember in my life that I didn’t know something and he grokked it, he shared with me and oversaw that I at least understood the concept. He has always been generous with knowledge and freely states without shame when he does not know something (at least in this respect). This is yet another great lesson: When you do not know, Admit it. I can’t say that I’ve always adhered to the idea, or even that my father does in all scenarios, but the truth is it is better to pretend you don’t know when you do, rather than pretend you do know when you don’t. This conflicts with the premise of “fake it till you make it”, but of course, all things in moderation.

Respect for your elders, even when they may be wrong. This one took me a while to get right, as you’ll learn how to best correct those older than you as you attempt to incorporate this lesson. Among the best advice I can give on the subject, asking “what” instead of “how” or “why”; ex: “What led you to think this?” Rather than “Why do you think this?” Or “How can you think this?”.

Always laugh and be courteous to others until they give you a reason not to be. My father is not rude to others, nor does he laugh at the misfortunes others have. To this day, he does not laugh at drunkards in the street, and has corrected me even as recent as this past year when dealing with them in public. You have nothing to gain from laughing at the misfortune of others. You also have nothing to gain in taking out your personal feelings on strangers. Regardless what is going on with him, or with our family, my father has always been courteous to strangers. The exception to this rule is as follows:

Do not ally yourself with people who are not genuine. My father has counted very few people his friends, and for this I am grateful to him. It helped show me the value of friendship and how rare a true friendship is. In my youth, I believed myself to know what this meant and was wrong. He had no problem letting me know the realities of life in this respect, even if he withheld other truths for my own sake. Some people will screw you over, and when they do, you don’t get even. Your best course of action then is to just get away, and learn to make peace with it. The willingness to get back at someone, the drive to do others harm will only eat away at you in the end, and will make it so that your joy is consistently ruined by the anger you’ve held onto. In making peace with these situations, you’ll help prepare yourself for the harder part of being screwed over. When people deserve second chances, you’ll know, and if they don’t, you’ll also know.

My father has always treated our animals with care, treated them with respect and trained them to know their boundaries. We have always shared table-scraps with our pets, as far back as I can remember. The animals have always known not to come up to the table, only allowed what is given and never to take what isn’t handed to them. The only exception is our current cat Kali, who actually smacks you on the leg for food because she believes she is a dog. All our other dogs have known they are to patiently wait, and if they’re not receiving scraps a simple “No, go lay down” usually does the trick. My father has never made an animal sit by without giving them a reward; in this I’ve learned that if you are in command, you must not toy with the idea of a reward. It is not right to tease others with what they do not have, and it is both admirable and becoming of us to share what we can with others.

If it is within your power to help others, then you should. Do not think this means you should spend all your time committing to favors for others; it isn’t. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the event that you do this, whatever compensation you are given is a welcome gift; do not ask for more than what was given, and don’t speak of it. If you’re willingly helping someone, then you should be helping them and not expecting a reward in return. That is the definition of a good deed. To do for someone else without the expectation of any reward or praise, or the need to flaunt what you have done for them. Once you try to call upon the good you have done in the past as if it is a voucher for something you want in the present, you’ve nullified any good your deed once held.

Cleanliness is important (and this is “a do as I say, not as I do” moment). My grandmother was a very neat woman, and my father wanted the level of cleanliness she always demanded, even if he isn’t always as clean himself. Organization is vital, even if only you understand it. It is not becoming to sleep in late or stay up late; early to bed and early to rise. I am unfortunately just recently beginning to grasp this concept at 28, it would’ve served me much better a decade ago. For those of us working the night shift, those after-hours drinks shouldn’t prevent you from getting up in time to get anything done before your next shift.

There is no shame in being a sentimental creature. No man is weaker for sharing his love with the world, but there is also no need to flaunt your affections and cheapen their power. When you say “I love you” too often, it becomes weaker. Save it for goodbyes, and the moments that count. Never hang up the phone with a loved one without saying it. This bleeds out into all other relationships I’ve had with loved ones.

When you are doing wrong, ensure that you admit you are doing wrong. It is worse to declare you’ve done nothing wrong when you have, than to simply admit you’ve done wrong and see through it’s correction. My father never wanted me to smoke, and told me from the earliest age that even when I was old enough, I shouldn’t, because it wasn’t good for him. I didn’t listen, of course. I snuck cigarettes until my mid-20’s and eventually he found out as parents always do. He respected that I made a choice and just said “you should quit now, while it’s easy”, so I did. Admittedly, I do occasionally have a smoke when I’m drinking with friends, but it’s serious progress after having rolled my own for a few years and sneaking into the yard for a smoke when my parents had fallen asleep. In this I understood something about my father: he respected me enough to let me decide, but he made his view known without conflict or exerting some authority over me. That’s all you can do with the adults in your life, and anything beyond that would be grounds for conflict.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my father, is to let your parents call you by the nickname they gave you as a child. It is yours and yours alone, and should forever be a mark of honor and power for you. No matter how old I get I will always be “little man” to my father and there isn’t anything in this world that can take that from either of us. What’s the story behind your childhood nickname? What great lessons do you know you drew from your parents, whether by example of what to do, or by what not to do? Share in the comments and let me know, I’d love to hear from you all.

The Dark Tower; a film review with and without spoilers

Let me begin by saying this: I am a huge fan of the Dark Tower series. That being said, I enjoyed the recent film while sitting in the theater for reasons that aren’t valid, entirely sentimental, completely personal to me. Looking at trending news, the film pulled in less than half its budget (19.5 million profit on a budget of 60 million) during opening weekend, and has been less than well-received by critics. That aside, I have some actual “story” issues with the film which I’ll address further down the page, but the bulk of this post will be spoiler-free. I will clarify when I’m about to spoil anything, so rest easy and avoid skipping ahead if you’d rather avoid ruining any of it for yourself.

 
While King’s epic storyline contains seven main books and a handful of shorter additions in the form of Marvel graphic novels and reference books, this film is attempting to condense enough of that information (settings, characters, worldbuilding, etc) into an hour and a half to pull off a story. Admirable in theory, but damn near impossible to do well. There is too much information to condense into such little time. There is an idea floating around the internet which would render this film a purely fan service endeavor, and while I’m not convinced by this idea I’ll still address that premise later. For anyone intending to go see this film, keep in mind that there is a whole new world you will be dropped in. Without giving examples or details here, try to imagine cutting any Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter film down to an hour and a half and attempting to explain the full extent of that world; it’s not easy. The film is forced to make every single scene count, with very little time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Does this make it feel rushed? Honestly: yes.

 
The main plot here is Roland Deschain of Eld, a “Gunslinger” (the Dark Tower’s equivalent of a Knight) is trying to chase down the dark sorcerer, Walter a.k.a. “The Man in Black”. Roland’s prowess will appeal to any fans of action films, and Walter’s “dark magicks” are a mix of extreme persuasion, incendiary heat/fire, and psychic abilities. The two are fighting a war of determination and will, one on the light side and one on the dark. While not a novel idea, it’s the way these characters interact that makes the story interesting.

 
Idris Elba is as close to the Roland I remember as anyone is going to get. The defeated old knight who no longer feels he deserves the honor he was once bestowed, marching on to find the evil sorcerer that only he has the power to defeat. Matthew McConaughey becomes The Man in Black for an hour and a half, embodying the constant taunting that Walter does throughout the series, using his “magicks” to force his way into Roland’s mind and make him relive past tragedies as if they were preventable if only he were stronger. The beauty of these characters is that Roland’s will is pure-good and constantly tested by the guilt that maybe he could’ve been strong enough to save those he loved, while The Man in Black is not simply a villain in the usual conflict sense, but also gives an insecurity and anxiety to a character we would otherwise not expect to deal with such traits. While I won’t speak of events here in order to not ruin anything, the narrative progresses at a pace that feels slightly quick without leaving major plot holes. Sitting in the theater, people seemed wowed by the action, but underwhelmed by the multitude of easter-eggs that fans will recognize. The film is going to suffer from having a divide of those who know too much about and those who are just finding the series. If I had to assume the perspective of someone who didn’t know the series at all, I’d likely give it a 6/10, and this only because Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances mesh as well as they do.

 
As a fan, I had a very different experience. I squealed in my seat with the excitement of finally seeing the Gunslinger come to life on-screen, The Man in Black and all his dark magicks at work, and being in the world of The Dark Tower. My problem was after the film, when I looked back and realized we have to take this snippet of the immense lore and enjoy it, resigning to the same problem most book-to-film translations have. In condensing what took months to read into a single evening’s time, you’ll be losing a lot of material in order to make sense of it for a larger crowd, and satiate very few of the original fans in the process. Sometimes this can be done well, like Marvel’s single-hero titles. Other times, like in Marvel’s team-up films, the action serves to distract you from the fact that the story isn’t giving you all the details it should or could. I’d like to believe this isn’t the latter of the two, but in retrospect, I feel that it is. That being said, let’s dive into the non-spoiler free stuff.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD.

 

An article on Looper by Claire Williams addresses the premise that Roland has the Horn of Eld this time around, meaning this film takes place after the events of the book series. I’ll refresh the memory of anyone who hasn’t picked it up since the mid 00’s when the “final” book was released since I had to do so myself before seeing the film. Near the end of Book 7, The Dark Tower, Roland arrives at the Tower and cannot free Gan/God because he doesn’t have the Horn of Eld. He is then returned to the beginning of his journey without complete recollection that he had been to the Tower (something it is hinted at that he has done before, as many as 18 times) this time with the Horn of Eld and a voice in his head singing the sweet promise:

 

“maybe this time will be different.”

 

Roland then sets out again on his journey (potentially the 19th attempt). Williams does a great job noting each little intricacy and poses her own theory, but let’s focus on the horn for now. A difficult task, considering it’s never shown in the film. I’d have no issue with this if it was just speculation on Williams’ part, but Stephen King posted a teaser image described over a year ago in May of 2016 on his Twitter, as you can see here:

 

 

Also referenced is “The Crimson King”, which despite multiple sightings of “All Hail the Crimson King” and the “eyes” showing up on Jake’s wall, also makes no appearance. Instead, the film revolves around Roland’s grudge against The Man in Black. This is a Game of Thrones movie with Ramsay Snow/Bolton as the main villain. Again, not an issue if only we weren’t told this wouldn’t be the case. In the cannon, The Man in Black isn’t our main antagonist. While we do end on a note of Roland inviting Jake along on his adventures, it is not stated if this is simply to accompany him back to Mid-world or to head for The Tower and finish what has begun. Worse, while we see these Crimson King hints everywhere, we know nothing of him and have no word on a sequel. If the box office is any influence on this decision (as it usually is for series projects outside printed media) we likely won’t get a sequel, nor does the ending tease/warrant one.

 

 

The Jake we get in this film is the same Jake that would’ve died in the mines. Roland and Jake should be running across the Mohaine desert to find him. Instead, Walter has some strange mechanism configured to use children’s minds as ammunition to topple the tower and allow demons into our universe. This very loosely addresses the story as it was in the series, where it is The Crimson King who wishes to restore Chaos to the order which Gan has brought to creation, where the Man in Black doesn’t even live to the end, where Eddie and Susannah Dean live with Jake in NYC, etc. I could go on about the differences. The issue here is we were told this is cannon and it shouldn’t be. I can understand the play at work to get fans of the series roped in, but with 90 minutes on your plate, this is a little less “Book 1” and a little more cashing in on an idea.

 

SPOILERS OVER. RETURNING TO NO-SPOILERS MODE

 
Now while this review may have some negative views of the film to it, I want to reiterate that I DID ENJOY the film. I do recommend anyone to go see it at a local non-chain movie theater and enjoy it themselves. It may not be the summers action blockbuster but it was an entertaining ride and it was fantastic to see Idris Elba firing off some of the most epic gun play I’ve seen in a while. The film tugs at all the right strings and while a bit scary at times, should definitely serve as a good jump-on point for younger viewers looking to be intrigued, or anyone that hasn’t yet taken a trip through Gilead and felt a bit curious what happens when a world has moved on. As an entry way for the series, this would’ve made me pick up Book 1 the next day and dive right in, and it definitely made me want to revisit Gilead. If that was King and the production crew’s intention, mission accomplished.

 
Idris Elba is said to be in a TV series next year which runs more in line with the books, and that I genuinely look forward to. His time as Roland here was worth the watch, as was Matthew McConaughey in his role as The Man in Black. The Jake Chambers we see here will do Jake of NY justice if he’s allowed to continue on the series as well. By that time, most new readers will likely just be finishing off Book “7” (King recently published a “Book 4.5”). For now, all we can do is wait, ya kennit?

 

Thankee Sai.

The Forest Marches On

Lately I’m trying to teach my younger brother what it means to be a moral human being. We’re both relatively inquisitive people and we both seem drawn to the idea of the human mind. Myself, I’m more intrigued by the idea that we’re capable of whatever we allow ourselves to believe we are. My little brother considers the study of psychology an opportunity to better understand himself, and consequently others, so that he might one day provide insight and assistance to those who cannot give insight to themselves. Admirable AF. I’ve recently given him Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. He enjoys some minor ideas but his process was a little screwy at first. He actually has read the introductory part of the collection (Book 1) three times at this point, the third time being with me in the room with him so that he might get clarification when he doesn’t understand something. It’s warmed my heart to find that the lines which reference Marcus’s brother are always underlined. Whether out of ego or simply desire to do right by my brother and help him the way my father helped me, it makes me smile and reassures me I’m doing something right.

In helping him to understand it, I came across an idea that might benefit others just as it benefits him. “Book 1” of Meditations isn’t the simplest of the twelve, and the Greg Hays translation only lists names and the ideas Marcus Aurelius has gained from them. It’s a fantastic list and definitely helps give us some insight on just how many good examples the emperor drew his ideas from, but the macro lesson here is easy to miss. We all likely have these role models and aren’t paying attention.

Marcus understood there was a capability to learn from everyone around him. We could all benefit from reflecting on what we’ve learned from the people in our lives. What have your parents/guardians taught you that made you a better person? What have you gained from your closest friends that benefits your personality? Who else has made an impact on you for the better, and what was that impact? It is questions like these that Marcus reflected on in order to record ”Book 1”, and it is these same questions we should ask ourselves. What do we admire of these people, and how can we better embody those traits ourselves? I’ve found it difficult to change my way of thinking and remember clearly having issues with my own evolution. The thoughts stopping me along the way were some you may find yourself struggling with:

”I can’t do that.” “That’s not me.” “I’ll never be like that.”

I can tell you as someone who has forced the changes upon himself, whatever you think you can’t do, you likely won’t. The process of self-improvement is difficult, filled with constant reminders and self-discipline. Despite Marcus’s simple framing, he understood this aspect of stoicism was a learning process which carried a hefty curve with it. The best way to get yourselves further up that curve is to begin stopping yourself mid-thought and correcting those thoughts. Quite literally, changing how you think.

”I can do this because…”, “I will be the person who…”, “I’m working towards becoming…”

The things we admire in others can be second-nature to them. They simply grok the idea and live it, and often we can’t just ask them “how/why do you?” But I’d challenge you to try. While it is important to pay attention on your own, if someone has a trait that you admire, it would benefit you to ask if they even realize it. Ask why they do it, or how they came to understand it as a necessary or even worthwhile behavior. Chances are their explanation will aid you in your endeavor to better embody the trait yourself. My brother has a bad habit of wishing people would simply give him a step-by-step on “How to be a Better Person”. While I’m not certain such a book exists (or that it doesnt), I’d like to believe that there are some “self-help” books that address these issues with logical and reasonable insight that clarifies how and why we should behave in these ways. While I’m not certain that Marcus Aurelius is the definitive solution, he does seem to be well-received and well-spoken of in current stoic trends. I’m no expert and very much a student myself, I’d like to make that perfectly clear. However, as a student who understands the constant struggle to progress, I would hope this helps give you an idea of how to seek some bettering without sounding too naive or simplistic.

Make no mistake, this is no easy task. When push comes to shove, the only people left standing are those who gave it their all. If reading over this post had you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable about talking to some of those you admire, I’d encourage you especially, do it. You’d likely be surprised how much of a compliment it would be to tell someone “I’ve always liked the way that you did this, could you tell me how/why you do?” And hopefully, upon reading this, someone will come to you and ask that same question.

I hope this leads you to happy discussions and some progress on your path to better yourself. Please leave a comment if you’ve any questions or feedback on the subject, and if I can help you in any way please don’t hesitate to reach out to me as I’m always glad to help others and discuss methods of improvement.

(A special Thanks to my little brother Gareth for his willingness to grow, regardless how scary and new that may be.)