Browsed by
Month: April 2022

Anti-procrastination cafe

Anti-procrastination cafe

At Japan’s anti-procrastination “Manuscript Writing Cafe”, there is no leaving until your work is done.

The cafe is for writers of all kinds who are facing imminent deadlines. Customers first write down their work goals and an expected length of time it will take to achieve them. Next, they choose between three levels of intensity of progress checks from ‘mild’ to ‘difficult.’ Only after achieving said goals can writers check out. According to the cafe’s owner, Takuya Kawai, every customer has achieved their goals, even if they’ve had to stay past closing time. The cafe also offers unlimited coffee, tea bags, high-speed Wi-Fi and charging ports to maximize work efficiency.

Here’s the address if you want to go. It turns out that I walked a block away from here a few years back, but it didn’t exist as this kind of cafe yet.

原稿執筆カフェ 3 Chome-34-1 Koenjikita, Suginami City, Tokyo 166-0002, Japan

I-Bonds are the rage

I-Bonds are the rage

“The two most powerful forces in the universe are gravity and compound interest”

Inflation is no joke, but I think many people don’t really understand just how bad it is. The last 2 years have seen 7-8% inflation – levels not seen since 1981. People under 40 have never experienced conditions like we have today. At 8% inflation, the value of your money, the purchasing power, drops in HALF every 8 years. It’s like having $100 today, and without doing anything, it’s only worth $50 in 8 years. Unless you are getting an 8% raise EACH YEAR, you’re not even breaking even.

I think a lot of people think that prices will ‘go back to normal after this is over’. With inflation on a country scale like today, prices almost certainly will NEVER go back. Besides specific market-driven increases (like the war in Ukraine on gas prices or local shortages) the prices you are seeing today are what they will be from now on. Forever. And they’ll keep going up each year by the inflation rate. That’s how the $100 you have today will be buying less tomorrow. You still have the $100 that can buy you 10 boxes of cereal at $10 today – but it can only 5 boxes in 8 years when cereal is $20/box after 8% inflation for 8 years.

So what can you do? In order to break even, your money needs to work for you – and work hard. You need to be making 8% or more on every penny you have in order to keep up with the rising costs. But where can you find 8% and higher returns?

Traditionally, you look to the stock market, but in 2022, that’s turned out to be a really bad rate of return. Many of the most profitable tech stocks are down 25-40% this year: nVidia, Netflix, Amazon, Google, etc. The Nasdaq, S&P, and Dow Jones are also all down so far this year.

Now enter bonds. Bonds have been largely a terrible place to put money in the last decade. Very low inflation and interest rates means you were getting almost nothing from them. Many young people probably don’t even know about bond investments. However, in 2022, even bonds are also taking big hits and are in negative territory. It seems there is nowhere to go. Putting your money in stocks and bonds that give NEGATIVE growth on top the 8% inflation means you could be losing 30-50% of your money in one year alone.

But there is another kind of bond – Series I Bonds – and they are really hot right now. These bonds, sold by the US government, are tied to the inflation index and return a value that keeps you at least even with current inflation. You may not be getting ahead of inflation much, but you certainly are guaranteed to keep up with it. This is especially attractive in a time when almost all other investment vehicles (stocks, bonds) are going down.

There are some important things to know about these bonds:

  • They must be purchased directly from the US Treasury
  • I bonds earn interest for 30 years unless you cash them first. You can cash them after one year. But if you cash them before five years, you lose the previous three months of interest. 
  • Maximum purchase of $10,000 per year, with the ability to use your tax refund to purchase up to $5000 more per year (Possible hack: could you make tax pre-payments to ensure you’re over that $5000 refund value on purpose?)
  • If you have a trust, your trust can purchase an additional $10,000 per year.
  • You must pay federal taxes on gains, but not state or local taxes.

If you are interested in purchasing some I-bonds, check this guide out since it walks you through the process on treasurydirect.gov – the only place you can purchase them.

Better to not be born

Better to not be born

“Politicians argue for abortion largely because they do not want to spend the necessary money to feed, clothe and educate more people. Here arguments for inconvenience and economic savings take precedence over arguments for human value and human life… Psychiatrists, social workers and doctors often argue for abortion on the basis that the child will grow up mentally and emotionally scarred. But who of us is complete? If incompleteness were the criteri(on) for taking life, we would all be dead. If you can justify abortion on the basis of emotional incompleteness, then your logic could also lead you to killing for other forms of incompleteness — blindness, crippleness, old age.”

Jesse Jackson, January 1977

There still exists a great disproportionality of abortion of black children vs other races (even other minorities). Instead of providing the compassionate support we claim to want, we take the easy way out of death. To the point that some countries such as Iceland have no down syndrome children births, and more black children in New York are aborted than born.

We also miss out on great lives such as this Michel Petrucciani and other artists like him with a disability that would almost certainly be aborted today. Here’s some other famous celebrities that were almost aborted or advised to be aborted: Steve Jobs (unwanted pregnancy), Oprah WInfrey (teen mom), Tim Tebow (pregnancy complications), Pope John Paul II (mother advised to abort), Justin Bieber (teen mom), Jesse Jackson (pressured to abort), Jack Nicholson, Celine Dion, Cher, and many others.

Yet we have come to accept arguments that a disadvantaged life is a life not worth living – only to have that disproven time and again. I find it fascinating that we greatly applaud kind hearted people that rescue animals missing limbs, that are blind, have deformities, etc – yet if an unborn child has one of these same conditions the public largely attacks people that try to rescue them.

Moving forward, it only took 20 years from Jessie Jackson’s speech for Oregon to pass it’s assisted suicide law in 1997 – as he predicted. I wonder what the next generation, one that has grown up justifying the idea of disposable lives, will do in the next 20-50 years.

Words are meaningless without action. Consider donations to these charities that provide women with the resources they need to keep their children from conception to birth to raising them, education, and beyond:

Plausible Nuclear Escalation

Plausible Nuclear Escalation

In 1983, the movie “The Day After” was broadcast as a made for TV movie. 62% of Americans watched it. It became the highest rated television movie in history – a record it was still holding as of last check in 2009. The film postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact countries that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.

I remember seeing that movie. I was only about 10 years old, and I remember how terrifying it was. I don’t think people born since the 90’s appreciate the fact that whole generations in the 70’s and 80’s grew up with the idea that at any time – even by accident – the whole world could be nuked to the stone age in about 90 minutes. This movie brought the reality of nuclear world war into shocking focus.

Fast forward to 2022, and we are again hearing direct threats of a nuclear war. This video, Plan A, was created by a Princeton team that simulated how easily a conventional NATO conflict could turn into a full-scale nuclear exchange.

What’s frightening is that this very scenario of a NATO-Soviet start of nuclear war was posited in 1982. Fast forward to 2020 when this video was made – long before the 2022 Ukrainian conflict. Yet, we are edging closer and closer to this very scenario today. Still, there are those who have hope for a different outcome while we make every political effort towards peace.

Fr Stu

Fr Stu

Stu Long was a classmate of mine during seminary days at Mt Angel. His story was like the story of many of other seminarians – people that you might never have expected being calling to discern the priesthood. His story, however, was more unique than most – and his path certainly more twisty. His life has now become a movie by Mark Wahlberg:

Here’s a news clip on the movie from a local Helena Montana news report:

And this clip exactly matches a lot of the stories Stu had and as I remembered him

Pullman Mansion in Chicago

Pullman Mansion in Chicago

Chicago is a city full of amazing architecture – something you don’t see as much on the west coast with it’s more modern buildings. There are some really great Chicago architecture tours by the Chicago Architecture Center if you visit the city.

One such architectural marvel was the Pullman Mansion. The Pullman Mansion was built for George M. Pullman on Prairie Avenue and was known as the social center in Chicago for over 50 years. When the area surrounding the mansion became blighted in the 1920s, the Pullman family auctioned all the contents in 1921 and demolish the home.

At the sale, everything was sold – not just furnishings and art, but also the wall panels and decorative interiors. Everything that could be pried loose was sold.

In 1984, architect Michael Shymanski made a discovery in the basement of the old Chicago Historical Society Building that shed light on the Pullman mansion. He found a whole pile of pieces from the old Pullman home – along with the original construction plans. It turns out that the craftsman who built the home had numbered and labeled each of the pieces during fabrication (something very common for the time). It was possible to know exactly where each piece came from.

This video is one of the best put together documentaries about how the house was put together and what it looked like. Definitely worth a look if you like Chicago architecture.

Les Mystères de la Passion, de la Résurrection et de l’Ascension du Christ

Les Mystères de la Passion, de la Résurrection et de l’Ascension du Christ

For Christians, we are about to enter the mysteries of Holy Week. Christ enters Jerusalem, is crucified by the temple leaders, and then rises from the dead – an act which opens the gates of eternal life for humanity. There is so much going on in such a few short days, one can barely keep up with it all. It’s no wonder the different events of Holy Week have been the subject of countless masterpieces over time.

On my first trip to Paris, I did the tourist things like visiting the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa. But what’s much more interesting is that when I left the hall, I saw a painting that captivated me far more than fair Lisa. A painting by Antonio Campi called The Mystery of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ (1569).

What is fascinating about it is that the more you look at it, you see all the events of Holy Week until the Ascension of Christ in one picture. I spent a lot of time looking at it and finding all the different parts. There is so much detail in this one giant painting! Just some of the events are:

  • Meeting of the women while carrying the cross
  • Jesus is stripped and his garments nailed to the cross
  • Crucifixion with the 2 thieves at Gogatha
  • Removal of the body from the cross by Joseph
  • Wrapping in burial cloth
  • Burial in the tomb
  • The Harrowing of Hell
  • Resurrection and frightening of Roman guards
  • Apostles finding the tomb empty
  • Mary encounters Jesus in the garden
  • The appearance on the Road to Emmaus
  • Thomas places his hand in the wounds of Christ
  • Jesus meets the apostles fishing and Peter swims to shore
  • Cooking of the fish together
  • Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep
  • Jesus’ final discourse and ascension into heaven.
  • The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles

Give this little video clip a watch to see what events you can see.

Links:

Kapla plank tricks

Kapla plank tricks

Similar to dominos, Kapla are long thin planks you can use for building things – and set up to fall over like dominos. I was really impressed – especially the sequence right around 0:12 in which there are multiple back and forth movements using the same planks. Crazy!

Luck

Luck

“I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.”

I have found this quote to be very true. We don’t exactly make our luck, but we certainly can help or hinder it.