The World is Filled with Worthless Stuff

I bought a new blender the other day. I was excited about it. It made me happy. I looked at different models, read reviews, read the specs, and ordered it for the best price I could find online. It arrived and I removed it from the box, washed it, put it together, read the manual (because that’s what I do) and packed up my old, garage sale bought, leaky, broken in several places blender in the new box and took it to the goodwill. My thought was ‘this is still a good blender, it still works, someone might need it’. I know that in my lifetime there have been a few times I didn’t have a blender and would have welcomed one, even with a broken handle and in need of a new rubber washer. A day later, the new blender got knocked off the counter and the handle cracked (just like the old one had been). So now, the world has at least two cracked handle blenders – and when I visited the Goodwill a few days later – I saw at least 20 blenders sitting on the shelf for $6 each and no one lining up to buy them. My new blender was so affordable ($25! And New! And Shiny! And Better?) that I hadn’t bothered to check if there was a good used one available.

I think the developed world is very much like that right now. Things that used to be scarce and thus relatively expensive are now cheap and available to everyone via the internet or discount stores like Ross or Walmart. For just a few dollars more, I can buy a new blender instead of an old one. I can buy new plates and mugs for not much more than I could find them at a thrift shop for. Over the past several months, I’ve donated truckloads of plates, dishes, glassware, clothing, appliances, decor, and more to thrift shops. One day I smashed six tables of low-end glassware at my shop – it was incredibly fun and no one is going to miss any of that stuff. I pulled out three big tubs and started throwing glass into them, then I smashed it with a hammer, then I took it to the dump. I’ll bet 80% of the stuff in most thrift stores is like that. Maybe more.

Cheap jewelry that looks like real jewelry, fake leather bound books, mass produced Persian style rugs, Chinese watches, mass produced wall art, and the list goes on and on. I try very hard these days to not have any of that stuff in my shop. My shop is an antique shop, but more, I’ve tried to make it a shop that has interesting things you won’t find elsewhere – hand made copper and brass, sterling silver, rare or interesting books, fine pottery and porcelain – but still, the regular stuff just seems to pile up. And so I make trips to the Goodwill, I make trips to the flea market (where that stuff is increasingly hard to even give away), I go to the dump.

I suspect, that there will be a time in the near future – when the thrift stores will stop accepting all of this cheap stuff and you will be faced with either keeping it or paying to dispose of it at the dump.

It’s a shame that we waste our resources, our time, our money on this kind of garbage. I’m sure that if I still had my grandmothers old blender – it would still be working. I wonder if my mom still has it? Maybe I’ll ask.

Afflictive Emotional Response

Afflictive emotional response tends to be a deflection from facing an opportunity for real growth (and growing). If you can – look past your anger, fear, anxiety and see where it is growing from – examine that soil, run it through your fingers, test it, rub it between your palms – and find the opportunity for growth. I say this to me – and hopefully I will listen. If you hear it and can listen, I applaud you.

All Hell Is Gonna Break Loose … And We All Know It

2017 is going to be an interesting year. I’ve given up on trying to predict what is going to happen – or at least that’s what I tell myself. I can’t help it though…playing the predict the future game is too much fun. It’s like a slot machine, you usually lose, but when you win – even a little, you want to do it again. And when you win big…well, that’s when you are in danger of losing it all. So, here is my prediction… in about two weeks all hell is going to break loose. The enemies of the USA (and we have lots of them because of the way we’ve been meddling in the affairs of the world for the past 75 years) are going to hit us from all sides shortly after Trump is inaugurated. Since Trump has more or less fired every Obama appointee from the moment he takes the oath, there has never been a moment when we have been more vulnerable. Since he has not been getting security briefings and has refused to acknowledge the reality of our national security, he is uniquely positioned to fuck everything up in a crisis. Within days of his taking office we can expect attacks within the US and upon US interests outside of the US. We can expect cyber attacks that will cripple our banking, electric grid, and information systems. The economy is going to get slaughtered. Foreign enemies will use this state of confusion to undermine the goals of the USA abroad in places like Ukraine, the South China Sea, Iraq, Europe, and the Korean Peninsula. And then….well, isn’t that enough? So there is my all in prediction. If it doesn’t happen, I’m happy wrong. If it happens, I’m psychic and right (but not happy). Either way, there it is. Here are a few more predictions for 2017 – Dick Cheney will come out of the shadows. A nuclear bomb will destroy an urban area. The internet will let us know it is awake and aware (I believe it already is, but is keeping it from us). A billionaire will be kidnapped and murdered. A virus will wipe out the entire US chicken supply. A millennial movement advocating violence towards baby-boomers will shock the internet and go global. And finally, a cat will record a grammy winning song with Yanni.

That’s it. Have a great year. Be safe, be cool, don’t be surprised. See ya later.

Myself at 45 – Goals Review for 2016

Here I am – I usually do this on my Birthday, but this year – I was away and unable to find the time – so here I go now. At 45, I’m just a few days shy of being exactly 5.5 years shy of my halfway mark through this life. I climbed the Chinese mountain that grants you life to 101 years old – so, here I am.

I feel good in my skin. I feel good in my head. I feel good in my spirit. It’s entirely possible that this is the most balanced I have ever been. I did not achieve so many of my 2016 goals – and yet, somehow, I won in this terrible year of nightmares and celebrity deaths.

2016, I dubbed it the “Year of Joy and Gratitude” back in 2015 when I was formulating my plan for the year. My purpose was “Be a better father, friend, son, husband, and brother. Enjoy life more. Make life simpler. Earn more money and use it well.” and the objective was “At the end of 2016 my life will be simpler and I will be focused on family, creativity, garden, health, and joy.” In the years that I’ve been doing this – I’ve found that years rarely comply to the structure I try to set for them. My path to this worthy goal consisted of seven categorized goals with each of them made up of multiple measurable goals. Here they are with analysis for end of year.

1) Keep my family safe, happy and healthy with a combination of healthy food, exercise, games, and providing a safe home. – My focus on getting outside, getting more family time, gardening, reducing meat consumption, and getting my wife her US Citizenship worked. I rocked this goal. On the downside, while I expanded the garden we were assaulted by gophers, slugs, mice and rats, and raccoons who slaughtered our flock of chickens. The garden failed this year despite much more work going into it. Family trips were awesome and getting Hanane her citizenship was the culmination of a huge multi-year effort. A+ on this one despite the garden.
2. Be Fit and Healthy by eating better, exercising more, and meditating. I started the year at a bloated 193 lbs with a 36 inch waist. By summer I had dropped down to 168 and a 32 inch waist but by years end was back at 185 with a 34 inch waist. My failing points were quitting the gym when the school year started (because I could no longer go first thing in the morning) and also never really getting my addiction to sugar under control. I began using the Headspace app to be sure I got my daily dose of meditation and re-awakened my Buddhist practice. The meditation and Buddhism are so incredibly important that I won’t give myself an F in this category but will instead raise it up to a C.
3. Make more money by selling businesses, diversifying, paying off debt. I tried to sell my businesses without success this year. I was unwilling to sell for a loss. I managed to pay off all my credit card debt and improve my credit score but was once again forced to defer my student loans. Financially, I didn’t come anywhere near my goals – and yet, I earned more than the previous year, paid off all my credit cards (but they have crept back up again), and improved my credit score. I also became much better at the business I am in and streamlined my businesses to increase profits and decrease waste. Despite not getting anywhere near my monetary goals – I can’t fail myself here either. I earned a solid C and given the foundation which has been laid, I’m going to bump that up to a C+.
4. Paint, draw, sculpt, build. I didn’t do nearly enough painting, drawing, building, or other artwork – but I did enter three of my paintings in a juried show and managed to sell two of my paintings. B.
5. Lighten load sell and give away stuff. There is so much more work to do here. And yet, I am so much lighter than 2015. I sold, gave away, donated, trashed, and got rid of so much stuff. I changed my buying habits and developed new venues to get rid of my accumulations and earn more money. There is more work here, but I earned a solid A in this goal.
6. Write by writing words. I never knew that writing would become such a difficult thing to do. Creating the time and space for it is the really hard part. I did turn a corner and change from no writing to some writing – but there is a lot of progress to be made here. C.
7. Be joyful with gratitude, acceptance, love. This is a tricky one – I found this, but not in the way I expected. A big part of it was realizing that it’s okay to tell a whole class of people that they suck and I want nothing to do with them. Realizing that was okay and that I don’t have to make room in my life for assholes opened the door to the greatest feeling of acceptance I’ve ever known. My 2015 hippie formula was missing an essential part – it’s okay to turn your back and say fuck that person, they suck and it’s not my problem. A.

Usually there are a whole slew of unplanned goals that I write about here. This year, that didn’t really happen. I did however accomplish some noteworthy things that deserve a bit of extra credit. I taught my 5-year old daughter to read, do math (addition,subtraction, and beginning multiplication) and ride a two wheeled bike. I find myself the proud owner of a 1987 VW Vanagon, once again being a member of the VW tribe. There have been some rather profound personal discoveries which I can’t really describe with words but which come from meditation and self awareness. I’ve got a grasp on the tail-feathers of my inner peace. In a sense, I feel like I’ve been Steve Martin in that movie The Jerk and I’ve been clutching onto that chair and thermos whilst ignoring the seemingly simple wisdom of my share-cropping father who tried to point out the difference between shit and shinola. At some point in 2016, I dropped the chair and thermos and stopped rubbing shit in my hair. I get it papa. And that earns me an extra credit A+.

By my reckoning, that gives me a cumulative GPA of 3.31 which translates (by rounding up to a 3.5 or a B+ for 2016. That sounds about right.

Blogging Comes Full Circle

I’m not sure what the point of blogging is anymore. For a while, I knew, then it changed and I knew again, then it changed again. Early on, I saw blogging as pointless public journaling online. That’s what it was. That was fine. At the beginning, this blog (under a couple of different names) was for one thing – building an audience for my books and selling books. As I started selling more books (fuknbooks.com) the blog became more generalized and less focused on tips and tales of living in a van and more focused on sharing news that I found alarming or weird – an audience started finding me and I found a little tiny bit of celebrity in blogging and podcasting- then someone offered to buy my blog for what seemed a great deal of money (at the time) and I sold my name (chrisdamitio.com) and started a couple of new blogs to fill in the void (clownjazeera for creepy clowns, fukn.us for news, vagobond.com for travel, vagobunny for sexy girls, existensis for religion and philosophy, etc) the guy who bought my blog, loaded it with ads and made quite a bit of money from it – meanwhile, I’d lost my audience with my blog and struggled to make it work – none of my blogs worked except Vagobond.com which was focused on travel – so I went all in for that and at one point had one of the top travel blogs in the world – I knew what I was blogging for at that point – it wasn’t for joy, it was for money. Advertisers were paying big to buy links and I started pulling in more money than I’d ever earned – trying to be smart about it – I reinvested it into more travel blogs – at one point I had nearly 70 blogs, was employing 15 writers, a couple of designers, and was also working and travelling non-stop – and that’s when Google pulled the plug. First they suspended my adsense account for click fraud (which I was not guilty of, by the way) and took away nearly $1200/month income. That was okay, my main income was selling links – but it was short lived – Google began penalizing advertisers for link buying – income dropped to less than $1000 a month very quickly, then Google took it up a notch and began penalizing sites with sold links. The entire blogging industry fell into a panic – some were ready, they were earning from different models – I wasn’t. The smart ready ones created travel blogging courses, started hosting trips, wrote eBooks, and created PR companies. I didn’t have the time or the foresight. My portfolio of sites very quickly became worthless. At the same time, what had been blog content was consumed by Pinterest, Instagram, and the ramping up of Facebook, Twitter, and for a short while Google+. I scrambled to stay on the top as an influencer and a social media guru – but it was too late and I was unable to keep up. Between becoming a father, moving my family to the USA, and trying to find a home…my blogging empire fell apart. I was riding pretty high for just less than a year…it allowed me to do some pretty serious travel and gave me the means to make the move to the USA…and then it dried up. My best month I earned close to $8000 – these past three years I’ve been earning right around $1000 a year from my blogs. From close to a hundred – I’m down to four websites. This one, Reedsport.info, ReedsportAntiques.com, and Vagobond.com. This one is right back to that sort of freeform online journaling about whatever I want, the antiques site is more or less a business card for my shop, Reedsport.info is a little community paper I publish, and Vagobond is still a travel blog – but no longer a big world wide site with multiple writers and photographers. The audience for blogs is not what it once was…there are more than 150 million blogs now and people are focused on their social media accounts instead of going to websites…clickbait sites get traffic, but I’ve never wanted to be one of those – but wouldn’t say no to the income. I’m grateful that I was able to earn what I did when I did. I wish I had been able to see the writing on the wall earlier because the money I spent on buying sites, paying writers and developers, SEO, and the time I spent on creating crappy content, creating crappy blogs, and ‘building my brand’ could have been put to much better use – although, I’m happy to say that I bought my name back from the guy who used it to earn during the blogging boom – which is why I have this site again. I’m not sure that blogging here (or on Vagobond) has a purpose anymore beyond expressing my thoughts (here) and sharing my adventures (on Vagobond) – I don’t think that most of my social network friends even bother to click through or read things like this anymore (unless I post them on Facebook) but because they are nice and because they are my friends and because they have lots of content to go through, they like my posts on their network and move on. And that’s okay…that’s what I do too. And I do this…and I’ll probably keep doing it.