Reality Catches Up

A reader writes, “Hey Ron, August is finally here and I’m going on vacation. I wanna get my financial life in order. What’s one book you’d recommend with that in mind?”

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel.

I read Housel’s blog too. Today’s post is titled “Reality Catches Up”. It’s about the precarity of fleeting success. This paragraph will resonate with anyone with much work experience.

“It happens at work, too. A manager who can’t earn employees’ respect by leading often tries to force it through fear. That can feel great: Your employees say “Yes sir, right away sir!” But it’s unearned respect. Employees who fear you will hide the truth from you to avoid repercussions. So the manager flies blind, oblivious to problems large and small that won’t be apparent until it’s too late. Every bit of respect over what you deserve is a liability, a hidden form of debt.”

Sustainability For Reals

Sustainability is not just a buzzword at our crib.

The Good Wife did a bad thing. She got the trees trimmed. That wasn’t bad. The bad was having the tree trimmers leave a small mountain of tree mulch in the driveway without cluing me in in advance.

It’s all good. I just subbed out a bike ride for a few hours of shoveling and wheelbarrowing. The end result is a very cool environmental win-win. Because the trees were trimmed, our very nice view got even better. Now I can easily see the Pal at Olympia Country Club when he’s sitting poolside with his coastal elite friends.

And instead of buying “beauty bark”, the tree mulch is providing a natural weed suppressant. Like me, it may not be beautiful, but it’s perfectly okay.

The Ultra Wealthy Are Winning. . . For Now

Based on yesterday’s middling statistics, including how few times the LA Times link was opened, I did a poor job framing Mckenzie’s story. I described it as a long and difficult read hoping you’d rise to the occasion. If I were to suggest all of us go run a hilly and hot marathon, I probably shouldn’t be surprised if none of you show.

I should’ve lead with the importance of regularly mixing in challenging content with all of the light, entertaining stuff that tends to dominate the interwebs.

I can’t shake Mckenzie’s story, especially after reading Evan Osnos’s mind blowing New Yorker piece, “The Haves and The Have-Yachts”. Osnos tells the story of the ultra-rich buying ever larger, more expensive yachts.

If you’re even a little bit like me, and you don’t like the ultra-rich, Osnos’s piece will turn your dislike into a much, much deeper antipathy. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to take your pills first.

I can’t help but read the stories without wondering why in hell the world isn’t overcome by poor people’s revolutions. Osnos makes a few references to the “EatTheRich” movement, but the Wikipedia entry for it describes it as a political slogan associated with class conflict and anti-capitalism.

Sometimes in my hometown of Olympia, WA I see an “Eat the Rich” bumpersticker or graffiti tag. If I was a “Have-Yachter” I’d be thrilled that the primary pushback to the growing wealth gap is some flaccid combo of political slogans and bumperstickers.

This puts me in a tough position in that I don’t condone mindless property damage or really violence of any kind, and yet, I can’t help but wonder if much more radical responses to the growing wealth gap are warranted.

Another dilemma is how do we define “ultra-wealthy”? The tipping point seems to be $30 million, but compared to Mckenzie, I definitely qualify as ultra wealthy.

The legions of ultra wealthy people reading this post are saying to themselves, “We’ll be fine, we’ll just invest even more in security.” Right now they’re right, but whether I live to see it or not, someday poor people’s rage will ignite like the fires in France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

Pregnant And Homeless In Los Angeles

“In 2018, three Times reporters slipped through a hole in the fence above the 101 Freeway in Hollywood and into a world of young homeless people. Their objective was to tell the story of women at the cusp of the shifting response to some of the gravest social problems: intergenerational poverty, homelessness, child neglect, mental health, foster care and addiction. A feature-length documentary will be released as a companion to this project. See all of the stories at latimes.com/hollywoodsfinest.”

Mckenzie Trahan’s story. Long and difficult to read/view, but an incredibly illuminating window into homelessness. A story of hardship upon hardship upon hardship.

Another Balm For My Cynicism

In Little League, I was a good fielder, but I couldn’t hit. Another swing and miss on my last post which The Good Wife didn’t find too funny. Maybe it’s not me that was amazing and now isn’t, just my sense of humor.

Through the Biggest Little Farm, a Canadian television documentary about University of British Columbia graduates committed to urban farming, and related reading and multimedia, I’ve become infatuated with small scale farming. I can’t fully explain it, I’m just extremely moved by small groups of people working small plots. I’m sure I’m romanticizing it, but their commitments, work, and products give me hope for the future.

And that’s hard to come by these days.

This heartwarming story, “America’s Most Luxurious Butter Lives to Churn Another Day” nearly brought me to tears. I just love everything about it—the people, the cows, the cows’ names, the pictures, the incredible serendipity.

I want to support local farmers, but besides buying their products at the Olympia Farmer’s Market, I’m not sure the best way to do that yet. If you have ideas, do tell.

Caring, kind, patient parenting and caring, committed, and sustainable farming keep me going when so much seems to be spiraling downwards.


Postscript. Informative critique of “The Biggest Little Farm”.