Asshole masquerading as pussy-whipped doormat

I learned very recently that I’ve been particularly good at producing the appearance of being a door mat. A friend of almost two decades was comparing his marital situation to mine (though I contend there are very few overlaps) and mentioned how yielding I was to my wife, how I bent over backwards in order to please her. It was only then that I realized that my friend, for all the time we’ve known each other, didn’t know about that core aspect of my personality: I am an asshole.

I’ve always been an asshole. I’m sure, if you pressed her, even my mom would agree (heck, she might not even need pressing ;-). I used to be a largely insufferable asshole until I got a chance to be homeless and destitute (my career didn’t go as expected after graduate school, and I am hard headed (part of that asshole bit, I’m sure)) and I am quite sure that if you asked any of my friends (my very few friends) from before-homeless they would all agree without any hesitation. While I didn’t attribute my homelessness (now, to be fair, I did have a good friend provide a carpeted floor, pillow and blanket, not to mention he fed me, so I didn’t have to live like a troll under a bridge) to being an asshole, I did have a lot of the rougher elements of my personality smoothed off by that experience. So, when my life had stabilized enough to start looking for love again, I was more thoughtful. My first post-homeless relationship was, to put it mildly, stressful. It was emotionally abusive. Not in the overt sense, but she grew up in a very emotionally abusive household and that carried over into her private life. Until that point I never understood how people could stay under such conditions, but while the lows were pretty low, the highs were quite high indeed. A veritable roller coaster of emotions, though I was glad when I was able to break free. We stayed friendly for a number of years, just a little distance allowed the emotional stuff to move to the background. Anyway, that first, post-homeless, relationship also caused me to realize that being a straight-up asshole was counter productive. This is not to say that the roller coaster was entirely my fault, but to make plain that I was a full contributing member to the angst, though I suspect even the most mild mannered guy would be sucked into that whirlwind.

During the period where I was on my roller coaster relationship I also attended something called the Landmark Forum ( It is a self-educational seminar sort-of thing (it’s hard to describe) that forces (honest) attendees to peel back the layers of stories they’ve developed for themselves so they can pull them out and examine them. Though, objectively, I’ve always known I’m an asshole, I had the story that it was an integral part of my personality, thus immutable. Well, one of the things they teach so well at the Forum is that nothing is immutable about your personality, the way you are is due to choices you make, either consciously or unconsciously. I was able to accept that I was an asshole by choice, thus could choose to be something different.

It was after I’d had these series of experiences that I met my wife, so she only knows the ‘current’ me, she doesn’t know the old, full-time asshole me. Because I now realized that I have an abrasive personality, most of the time (and why I thought to write this post) I strive to be the opposite of an asshole. However, the ‘default setting’ of my personality is asshole, and when I get tired, hungry or frustrated it has a tendency (to put it in its most mild term) to come to the fore. As a case in point: last weekend I was getting my wife’s help to put leaf guards on our gutters. Anyone who knows me well knows I get frustrated easily (an understatement 😉 and I was having problems putting the leaf guards in according to my expectations. My ‘default’ behavior immediately leaped forward and I started yelling in frustration. When my wife reasonably tried to help and offer advice, I, in my ‘charming’ asshole way, made it clear I didn’t want her input. This escalated quickly. Sad to say, but I believe my wife has, after nearly 20 years, begun to assume some of my bad personality quirks and now aggressively pushes back against me when I’m being an asshole. I don’t remember what I said, but she stormed off and later told me she let loose a primal scream or two (I don’t think I heard anything over my rage). I later apologized. Doing so, though, is not something that comes naturally for me and I am generally not free with apologies. I don’t like to say things I don’t mean (though I say mean things when I’m upset, it is because I’m upset; sort of like a drunk), so when I wasn’t feeling apologetic, I didn’t. However, as I have grown older and hopefully at least slightly wiser, I started to realized that there is more to the universe than me and even though I wasn’t feeling sorry that I’d been an asshole again, I was sorry I’d upset my wife again, so I have learned to apologize for the result of my anger, even if I still can’t apologize for being angry (I term myself a ‘recovering’ asshole, so just like the alcoholic, I’m always going to be an asshole, but I hope to be one less and less often as the years go by).

So, what the hell does this have to do with being a door mat? Well, because I now realize that I’ve been an insufferable asshole most of my life, I actively try to not be an asshole, particularly to my long suffering wife. There is also the reality that when I was looking for a life partner I specifically wanted someone who would manage the minutia of things, such as paying the bills, ensuring there was food in the house, I look good when I show up at work, maintenance on the cars is done, that sort of thing. I got lucky with my partner (in so many ways!), not only is she smart (smarter than I am, certainly, when it comes to practical things) and looks fantastic, but she is happy to manage the ‘minutia’ so I can spent my time thinking airily lofty thoughts like how to implement my pie-in-the-sky ideas. She also patiently listens to my crazy ideas and is the practical anchor that ensures I don’t invest too much time in too many different ideas. So, since she is in charge of practical things and I largely ignore them so I can spend more time in my head, when she says certain things need to be done or we can’t afford to do something, I yield to her expertise in her bailiwick (she is generally quick to yield to my expertise, which is more engineering-oriented, so when she has an idea to build something and I tell her it won’t survive the winter storms, she usually goes with my advice, so it goes both ways). So, the combination of my trying very hard to offset my asshole-ness coupled with my avowed desire to ignore the practical things in life, I have been giving all the overt aspects of being a doormat (speaking of which, a good friend and I collaborated and put together this: I never realized this until the recent conversation with my friend of two decades, so thought it might be amusing to document here.

Unlike in the above mentioned document, I have no need to work at becoming less of a door mat, indeed, I intend to continue my two decade effort to be even more of a door mat. I try to work very hard to be accommodating to my wife because she sees the default me so often. Hopefully less often as time goes on, but, unlike the alcoholic, there isn’t some specific trigger I can avoid, it is an integral part of who I am. We’ve talked about this many times over the years, it frustrates her a great deal when my ‘default setting’ is exposed. She has stuck with me this long, for which I am hugely grateful, but I know it has not been easy for her. Because I love her so much I try to make the times in between being the full blown asshole (like last weekend) as angst free as I know how (keep in mind that I’m not really good at being a door mat, it is something I have to consciously work at). Thus, if I am successful, I’ll become more and more overt at being a door mat, but, as mentioned in the document above, women don’t need much of the asshole to feel good in the relationship and I’m quite sure I am still way over quota. I naturally push back, that happens without any thought or effort.

Since this is slightly apropos, I want to laud my amazing wife a bit more. Though in my experience, the ‘submissive Asian woman’ trope is total BS (I dated a Chinese and Indian woman in addition to marrying a Filipina (clearly I have a ‘type’), ain’t none of them submissive!), when my wife and I were initially dating she was a lot more demure. The first time I realized that she had a fist of iron inside her velvet glove was on our first trip to the Philippines together (I wrote about that here: Though we were late and turned back at the gate, she ‘managed’ things such that we got onto the plane (and wound up in business class, though I don’t think she was directly responsible for that). Though in that document I say something about ‘gave him an earful’ to a ticket agent, she isn’t mean, nasty or needs to raise her voice (exactly how I am whenever I get upset). While not quite the same thing, I saw this again a few weeks ago (and a number of times over the years). She wanted a new phone and we were at the store looking into what was available. The salesman was doing his job and pushing my wife into more expensive phones with more expensive plans and though she was totally friendly and open, she didn’t budge a millimeter and pushed right back against him. I guess she got that from her mom, though all her sisters are that way so maybe it is genetic. Though my wife is easy going and accommodating, thus has aspects of the ‘submissive Asian woman’, she has no problems pushing back. Of course, that does mean that sometimes we feed back on one another when I get upset, I have been working hard over the years to simply walk away when I get worked up.

So, to wrap things up, I am a pussy-whipped door mat by conscious choice and work very hard to be so. If that causes some people to think less of me, that is a small price to pay to make my wife happy (or, honestly, in this regard, less unhappy). Since I’ve never really cared what other people think (yet another defining characteristic of the asshole), if they think I’m pussy-whipped, so be it.

Home Sick

I’m recovering from some sort of virus. As I lay down to take a nap on Monday I felt perfectly fine, when I got up from the nap I felt poorly. I worked a half day on Tuesday, then went home and huddled under a pile of blankets for the next 24+ hours, sweating and shivering. Because I had slept so late Wednesday, I didn’t get to sleep that night until Thursday morning – after I would normally be at work, though I still feel rather crappy. I woke up at 6:30 AM because I forgot to turn off the ringer to the damn phone before I finally got to sleep. I stayed awake because I want to call work to tell them I won’t be in today. An hour later my mother-in-law is _still_ on the phone, so I figured I’d put out a blog post to kill time and update my reader(s) on what has been going on.

Three weeks after I started my new job, back in May (I was hired onto overhead in April, so got nearly a month paid before I was back in the vault), the agency I work for announced that they were no longer going to support the product I was working on. At that time, the prime contractor (yes, it is a rather silly way to do things, as a tax payer I am mortally offended at the waste) said that we had enough funds to last at least until the end of October, most likely until the end of December, given how fast the rats were likely to abandon the sinking ship. As such, since we were in the middle of refinancing our mortgages, I decided I’d just sit back and let my new company try and find me another position somewhere. That lasted for about six weeks, then we got a ‘correction’ in what they meant to say was we would have until the end of September. Since it can trivially take 4-6 weeks to switch to a new job even after acceptance all around (what with clearance transfers and whatnot), I decided I couldn’t rely just on my new employer any longer, so revived many of my previous job search contacts. I have had some positive steps, but no official offers yet, so may get to be unemployed all over again.

Regarding the refinances, we are supposed to sign those docs on Monday (which is 5 days away as I type this). Though tings didn’t work out entirely to our expectations (the appraisal of our house in the Va countryside wound up significantly lower than I had expected, fortunately we could get a much higher loan-to-value rate on our house in Maryland to compensate) the end result is satisfactory. We will wind up with just two mortgages, about $500 more expensive each, but no other debt at all. All credit cards, student debt, etc. all paid off in two interest deductible loans. Of course, that also means we will be paying our Va mortgage until we are 81. However, at 3.5% actual interest rate, closer to 2.4% once interest tax deductions are factored in, I figure we are far and away better off putting any money we might have to prepay the loan into investments.

Refinancing dramatically reduces our fixed monthly expenses, by over $4K, which makes my job search immensely more flexible. According to our budget spreadsheet I could take a pay cut of 60% and still cover all our bills. Since I was making only 35% less when I was last working in the uncleared world (yes, there really is a 35% premium for putting up with this nonsense!), that means I have the potential to find a job on the ‘outside’ if things don’t work out on the ‘inside’. Of course, I’d rather keep my current pay, our plan is to put that extra money into investments so we can retire in 6 years. Six _long_ years…

After the refinance seemed in the bag my wife allowed me to schedule a professional editor to go over my first book. He is busy (beware professionals that aren’t!) and won’t be able to look at it until mid Sept, so I probably won’t get feedback until Oct. It is ‘only’ $750 to give a detailed appraisal of my work, including the most important to me: is it worth a damn. Depending on his feedback I should be able to make a clear decision on whether to pursue this dream (fantasy) or not. I’ve approached nearly 30 agents with none asking to view the manuscript. I’ve also submitted the manuscript to Tor/Forge (one of the few mainstream publishers that will consider unagented submissions) and got rejected. Now, it might be simply that my writing is crap, despite the encouraging words I’ve been given, but it also might be I’m selling my work incorrectly, for instance by targeting the wrong genre. The editor should be able to help sort that out as well, and perhaps even provide some input on my ‘query’ letter, maybe that sucks as well.

Though this post wasn’t triggered by any specific article I’ve read, I did read a couple recently I think my reader(s) might find interesting. This one:

Growing Organs on Apples
The future of regenerative medicine may be plants.

Is quite fascinating as it talks about some ‘low tech’ ways of engineering organs for humans.

On a more political note is this one in a theme I’ve ranted about a few times before:

FBI Agent Goaded Garland Shooter to “Tear Up Texas,” Raising New Alarms About Bureau’s Methods

Yes, it really seems that, on purpose or not, the FBI is involved in ‘false flag‘ attacks on our own nation.

According to Scott Adams, Clinton now has a ‘master persuader’ in her own camp, which is why she is no longer getting roundly beaten in the court of public opinion. This doesn’t mean that she is a shoe-in for the elections, though, as the difference is that Trump is his own advisor, so will always take his advice and Clinton is likely to ignore her advice at some critical juncture. While I buy into Adams’ master persuader hypothesis, I’m rather upset that the only way to win an election now is to start enough fires to burn down the nation. This idiot nonsense with Trump ‘dog whistle‘ of encouraging gun toting morons to go after Clinton and any SCOTUS appointments is pure and simple idiocy. With the two sides working so hard to make the other into non-human aliens who aren’t fit to exist, it seems like any success will result in half the nation actively working against the winner. I had expected Trump to moderate his attacks and go back to show that the Main Stream Media (MSM) had misinterpreted his earlier inflammatory comments, yet he seems to be doubling down. Of course, if you go look at his actual quotes they are no where as inflammatory as reported, yet in the vast majority of the cases he is perfectly happy with the MSM interpretation. For a while I thought I might get off the fence and vote for Trump just to see what would happen, now I’m starting to think of voting for Hillary because I hate so much how Trump is dividing the country. Not that Hillary would be a ‘good’ president, we are well and truly in the situation of ‘death by hanging’ vs ‘death by firing squad’, all outcomes are going to suck.

I’ve spent an hour writing this post, so my mother-in-law has been on the phone for two hours and seems to be going strong. I had to use my cell phone to call in to work!

Now that I seem to be awake, I may get something to eat and watch some Olympics before going back to bed…

Long dark tea-time of the soul

Well, perhaps not as poetic as the title, but it has been a strange trip. My job search appears to be resolved, I’m supposed to get briefed on Monday and back in the vault. I’ve been on the payroll already, which has made my wife a lot less anxious, but we won’t really be relaxed until I’m comfortable in the vault with my new work and the paychecks have been running for a while. I actually got two offers and had a third company say they were going to make one (but couldn’t react in time), which was lovely, but there was still a long period of depression when nothing was going on. I do hope we are able to actually focus and put a year or two of savings away before we go off our austerity, but the past doesn’t provide a lot of reason for optimism.

So, this post was prompted by a Dilbert comic I just read. Only the one panel does it for me, so I cut it out (click on the image to go to the Washington Post full panel):

People are just fish plus time

I like the simplicity of the statement and it really sums up evolution in an excellent way.

As always seems to be the case, we have more expensive problems. We were driving home from Shenandoah on Sunday when the transmission on our Odyssey (almost) literally burned up! We kept smelling smoke and were trying to figure out if it was us or someone else when Eliz finally looked in the rear view mirror and saw smoke billowing out from behind our car. After pulling over I carefully popped the hood (leaning back in case it burst into flames) and there was smoke from the back of the engine compartment. Fortunately it didn’t burst into flames, but I was worried for a while as the smoke actually got worse for a minute or two. An expensive tow home, our AAA membership only covers the first three miles, but it wasn’t too bad.

We have a backup car: a 1988 Ford Escort POS with 45K original miles on it. We got it ‘free’ from Eliz’ aunt who was the original owner. It starts and runs fine, but it is a 1980s American POS after all, complete with the idiotic self buckling seat belts. I hate the damn thing, but we need a spare for when events like the above happen. However, when Eliz started it up to make sure the battery was still good, the damn thing started pissing gasoline all over the driveway. That fix ‘only’ cost $150 (the transmission is supposed to cost $2,200; we only paid $3,500 for the damn thing!), because the service station is less than 3 miles the tow truck didn’t charge us extra.

My car has this strange vibration that happens only at highway speeds and only when pressing the gas. Meaning, if going down hill at the same speeds, there are no vibrations, but when going up hill the vibrations are rather disturbing. I at first thought it was tires, but I’ve replaced the two on the front (the mechanic said the two on the back are fine). Now, after some research, I think it has something to do with one of the drive shafts. Because I haven’t been working I haven’t taken it to the shop, but now, with the other two costing money, I might have to put it off for a couple of paychecks (which only come once a month). I sure wish I could win the lottery and drive a brand new car!

Speaking of the lottery, I am getting some movement on my long-term digital storage idea (I haven’t blogged on this topic before and this is the extent of the ‘technical’ description I’m going to offer), something I feel might be worth even more than the DNA sequencing idea. I already have the proof-of-concept (it cost me less than $10 and took less than an hour), so it is already ahead of the game as far as the DNA sequencer is concerned. I have some people interested in paying for the working prototype (which I think I can do for less than $30K) and my patent lawyer said his firm might be willing to cover the patent labor in exchange for some equity. Early days yet, but reasons to get excited.

The DNA idea has been showing brief signs of life. I contacted a consultant about some electron beam lithography work and somehow we got to talking about my DNA concept and the government lab where he works sometimes does research ‘pro bono’ as long as they can publish the results. That, also, is still in preliminary talks, but it would be exciting to know if my idea actually works. Plus, publishing positive results might get me the sort of attention I would need to sell the IP to at least pay back what has gone into it.

Despite having all this time off, I have been too lazy to update the web site with the construction pictures. At first I was rather depressed about my sluggish job search, now I actually have a task: learn about mobile phone technology. It has been an interesting learning experience, it seems that in the world of telephony they have never turned their backs on any protocols and everything ever invented is still in use somewhere. What a mess! Still, learning new things helps keep the brain active.

Sadly, it seems my man Bernie has come up short. Though the outcome was in doubt for quite a while, there is now no realistic path for him to get the nomination. That means it will be Clinton and almost certainly Trump, I just don’t see this Cruz/Kasich last-ditch effort having the slightest impact on Trump’s momentum. I really don’t see that the GOP cigar chompers having any choice but to nominate Trump, to do anything else I feel sure will not only cost them the general election but the House and Senate as well. They may detest him, but I don’t see the party being able to recover from such a debacle for a generation. There is no way any Trump supporter would vote for Cruz or Kasich, so they would either stay home or vote for Hillary out of spite.

Personally, I think Trump will eat Hillary alive during the general election. As I’ve pointed out to several friends, Trump has been taken out of context numerous times, but hasn’t bothered to attempt to correct the record. That’s because it plays into the thoughts and minds of the base, the voters necessary to win the primary. Once in the general election, he will go back to all those supposedly inflammatory statements and ‘correct’ the record and blame it all on the press. Since the voters, as a species, are credulous morons, he will easily convince well over half the nation that he really isn’t the frothing mad man that we all know and love to hate today, but is actually a reasonable and centrist guy who will make Hillary look like a frothing lunatic. This, btw, is exactly what Scott Adams has been promulgating since the very beginning, so I can’t take any credit for the idea.

So, will President Trump be good for the country? At this point, since Bernie is effectively out of the running, I have to say I think he is better than the alternative, that being Hillary. Whether he would be better than Bernie, that I can’t imagine one way or another, but I am quite sure he will be better than Cruz or Kasich (who makes himself out as a centrist, but his only difference is he isn’t full of bombast, he wants all the usual things ultra conservative right wing nut jobs want). At least, with Trump in the White House, there is a chance things will get shaken up and we can perhaps break out from the strangle hold special interests have on our government. Something I don’t see as possible with Hillary.


Three months! Wow! Quite a few things have happened, this will be another long and rambling post…

First, some good news: My patent was officially granted on Dec. 29, 2015. You can see it in all its glory here:

Of course, it is still worthless and we’re still paying for it. One friend insists, though, that the simple fact that I have a patent will make some employers more interested, only time will tell…

I’d been looking for a new gig for a while. My last job was really interesting right up to the point where they told me to stop working on it. Then, despite a number of promises, no further work materialized. I’d been bored out of my mind before (which is what got this blog started) so decided, after a couple of months of waiting, that I would look for something else. I found something else, back with an old employer (ironically, the one who was employing me the last time I was keeping the chair warm), but it took over 9 weeks to transfer my clearance. I’m ‘lucky’ that way, for some reason.

I was to start the new gig on Jan 4th, but, less than 2 hours before I was to start, I was contacted and told not to show up. The only explanation I ever got was this very blog. Fortunately my new/old company put me on overhead while they tried to get me a different new gig, but after 5 weeks without any success, they had to cut me off. To think: if I could just accept being bored I could have kept my old job and none of this heartburn would have happened (as I type this I am still unemployed. Very stressful, since we’ve been diligent about spending every penny we’ve earned on that silly house).

Speaking of the silly house, we have officially passed the final inspection. Not quite 5 years after we got started. I have yet to update the web page with the latest pictures, etc. If you’re curious, though, I stuck three pictures of the pool here:

Now, if I could only get another job, we can finally refinance and pay off the credit cards we’ve run up to the limit to pay for the construction and maybe put some bucks in the bank. Of course, there are still little things to do, lots of them, and the aquaponics hasn’t started yet, but we are close. Too bad, as an austerity measure, we’re not going out to the place for a month or so. We’ll save a couple of hundred a month by staying in MD.

I have yet to get any interest from an agent for my book(s). I ‘finished’ the third, mostly I ran out of enthusiasm. I got 60K words out of an intended 85K. I slapped it into some sort of shape and am asking a friend to take a look. She might be the only one to read it, the lack of interest is starting to weigh me down and I’m getting to the point I’ll just stick them on my web site where no one can read them, just like this blog.

I’m trying to motivate myself to complete my attempt at turning my first book into a screenplay, but I’m starting to suspect that activity will fall by the wayside as well. While it is feasible to find interest in a screenplay totally independent of a book, I figure the competition is probably higher and thus odds are even more against. Then again, I may get enthused once this job situation is ironed out and things are back to normal. I’m nothing if not dully persistent…

Well, this turned out to be a shorter post than I thought… Maybe I really don’t have anything to say, so perhaps the silence wasn’t so bizarre after all.

In case you’re curious, this was the article that triggered my desire to post today:

Mind and Matter
Research suggests that a combination of mental power and conventional medicine may be better than either alone.

More evidence that the so-called placebo effect is real and subject to harnessing.

So, so very quiet…

Why so quiet? Well, I got a ‘cease and desist’ email at work. Apparently they actually _do_ monitor our network activity. Anyway, I was told to knock it off, so I knocked it off. That meant, though, that I had no way to entertain my brain other than surfing the web (I have nothing to do at work and have complained a number of times about that) and that generally means I am so sick and tired of sitting in front of the computer that I barely check email once I get home. Today I have taken the day off and don’t even have to do construction! We went to Las Vegas for a wedding and since I knew we were going to get in really late Sunday (or really early Monday, depending on your point of view) I decided in advance I wasn’t going to go to work. My boy was quite insulted that I got to stay home while he had to go to school.

I have been working toward a resolution regarding having nothing to do at work, but have not achieved closure.

My novel writing has ground to almost a complete halt as well, in the six weeks or so since I was told to quit writing at work I have probably spent an hour or so and wrote 1K words. I have, though, made a lot of notes and my brain has been very active thinking thoughts. I hope to be able to put in a couple of hours today. For those of you keeping score, I have completed two novels and have about a third of a third written. I have also come up with ideas for a couple more in the event that there seems a point to it.

After my aunt, who has looked at most of the first book, sent me a link to a blog post where the author said that getting an agent and paying their 15% would almost certainly result in more than 15% increased compensation from the publisher. Thus the agent basically pay for herself (according to my informal survey, 90%+ agents are women). In addition publishers today rely on agents to act as gatekeepers and it is very difficult to find a major publisher that will consider unsolicited manuscripts. Thus I have started the journey to find an agent. I wrote a ‘query letter’ (the one page opportunity to attract an agent’s attention, sort of like a resume to HR) and started to dig around in various on-line databases of agents that would accept electronic submissions (I am way too cheap to spend all that money killing trees). I found a couple that seemed promising (it is considered a very bad idea to ‘spam’ agents, it is a small industry and my last name is easy to remember, so I wanted to carefully select the people I wanted to contact) and sent them an email. They generally say they will 4-8 weeks to respond (after all, if the agents are successful they are already representing published authors) and no response is considered normal unless they are interested (exactly like applying for jobs, so many similarities).

Surprisingly, though I got negative feedback regarding their willingness to represent my work (“Diary of a Contract Killer” if you haven’t seen my old posts), I got two personalized responses:

Thanks so much for your query! I’m flattered that you chose to share this with me, and grateful for the chance to consider your work. Unfortunately, I’m not quite connecting with this particular project. I do hope you will try me again with future work if you don’t find representation for this one.


Thank you for letting me take a look. I’m afraid this doesn’t seem like the right project for me, but I’m sure other agents will feel differently. Best of luck placing your work.

The implication, to me anyway, is that my writing has potential, I just need to find an agent who thinks my story is interesting enough to devote her time and effort to finding a publisher. That made me two for two in getting a response, where getting 1-2 out of 10 to respond at all is considered good. Of course, I still need someone to request the whole manuscript (they generally only want to see the first couple of chapters), then, naturally, offer to represent me. Then I need to be satisfied that they are going to be the right person/firm to represent me (initially I only do minimal vetting since I am expecting to send out dozens before getting the desired response). Since my first two I have sent an additional six and expect to send a couple every day until I get to a couple dozen. It has surprised me how quickly I am finding repetition in my search (there are quite a few on-line resources for finding agents), it really is a small world. Realistically there might only be a couple of dozen agents who have the potential to represent my work.

Getting an agent, of course, only starts the clock ticking on getting a publisher and naturally simply finding a publisher isn’t enough, the publisher needs to be vetted and their promised promotional and marketing efforts evaluated. It might still be better to self publish, but getting a novel properly edited and ready for electronic / print-on-demand publishing could cost $5K, so not something to be done lightly. Still, the various stuff I have read on the ‘net indicates that agents can manage to contact publishers in parallel while doing so myself would basically get me blacklisted if they found out.

We are almost finished with the greenhouse/pool construction. I still think it is feasible to be done by the end of this year, but we may very well be working over the Christmas break. We were just able to heat the pool during the summer, but at the expense of a huge amount of propane (way more than I had expected, instead of filling up once a year we might have to fill up several times). As the weather cooled and the air dried out we could no longer reach the target temp. In desperation we decided to put on a pool cover. Surprisingly, sad to report, the cover worked amazingly well and even allowed us to heat the pool to 84F for my mother-in-law (who didn’t actually manage to take a dip this visit). I say ‘sadly’ because in retrospect I should have known that the cover was basically a requirement, most of the heat loss is through evaporation. Before the cover the air inside was so humid that the walls and ceiling literally dripped. Now, while it is certainly more humid than outside, there is no condensation (at least when the outside temp is in the mid 30’s, well see when it really gets cold). My genius wife thought of ways to attach the cover and easily roll it up, so it is fairly easy to work with.

The Vegas trip sucked almost entirely. My wife insisted we leave to get to the airport last Thursday at 4PM for an 8:45PM flight. My mother-in-law kindly reserved a front row seat for me not realizing that regular seats have better leg room, so instead of sitting next to my wife and being able to straighten my knees, I had to sit next to a stranger (who had a dog! at least it didn’t cry) and have sore knees for 5 hours. Normally I sit against the window and can lean against the wall to doze, this time my head just lolled about and I got a really sore, stiff neck. Then, in Vegas, you have to take a 10-15 minute bus ride to get to the car rental where you then get to stand in line for a half hour to get the car, then, though the room was maybe 2 miles as the crow flies, drive close to 10 miles to get there. All in all 13 hours door-to-door and barely any sleep. It was 1:30 AM Friday, local time (or 4:30 AM back home, when my alarm goes off) when I could finally get to bed. Naturally I was only able to sleep a few hours, so was up around sunup, all alone (the rest of the family went out to eat and didn’t get to bed until 3:30).

I had planned to play in at least one poker tournament and had figured on Friday at noon was the best time (if you wind up winning you are playing for 4-5 hours, of course you could bust out on the first hand or anywhere in between). A combination of things scratched that off the list, then we had planned to visit with my wife’s childhood friend who happens to live in Vegas Friday evening, but we were too tired despite taking several naps. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to a buffet where we ate until we hurt, but then decided to walk the not-quite 2 miles back to our room. That, plus a constitutional, helped immensely with the pain. Saturday was all about the wedding, though naturally there was plenty of hurry up and wait. The ceremony was quite nice, at the Bellagio overlooking the pool where the water show is. They timed the ceremony to end exactly when the water show started (or, more likely, held the beginning of the water show until the end of the ceremony). Quite lovely, though there was no place to sit and my feet were killing me.

The reception was just later enough to mean the time in between was wasted, then we went to Maggiano’s restaurant for 4 hours. Though the food was quite good, I really don’t care for loud parties and though I tried hard not to ruin it for anyone, I spent most of my time there with a stony expression just counting down the seconds until it was finally over.

Sunday was no better, when the family is all together even the most trivial decisions take an hour, so other than getting some Thai food we just sat around and packed. The trip back, thankfully, was much better. The boss only insisted we leave 2 hours before departure, we got to the gate a half hour before it was time to leave (yes, it did take 90 minutes to travel the 2 miles (as the crow flies), drop off the car, get through security and the airport). The plane left on time, I got to sit next to my wife in a regular seat against the window and actually got some decent rest. We got lucky and the parking shuttle bus arrived exactly as we made it to the pickup point and the roads were wide open. At least the trip home was angst free, though I had already vowed that this would be my last trip before we even left on Thursday. We’ll see; perhaps if we aren’t checking in tons of my ‘rents-in-law luggage (one of the reasons the boss wanted to leave so early on the way out) and can leave in the morning rather than evening (so our sleep schedule isn’t so completely screwed up) and we can stay for a week. We have a timeshare in Vegas, so the room is prepaid, if we use miles to fly the trip can be quite inexpensive, though we have to go during the summer since the boy is in school and summer in Vegas sucks.

I was quite disappointed in the level of eye candy when we were at Vegas. Being in the mid 60’s with a brisk breeze no doubt caused a lot of women to cover up, but even inside the casinos the women just weren’t what I was desiring to look at. There were ‘bits and pieces’ all over, of course, lots of beautiful hair, excellent legs, nice butts, perky breasts, flat tummies, but not in single packages. The best I remember was actually a fellow passenger on the flight out. As I like to say, though she so seldom seems to respond as if it is received as the complement I intend, there was very little competition for my wife.

I hope I can pick up the posting pace to something better than glacial, but until my work situation improves I am not optimistic. In any case, if I find the right agent I may keep my focus on writing novels instead of blogging as with only the evenings (though with construction nearly over, I might be able to start doing some sort of writing on the weekends come next year) I have to prioritize.

Step away from the salad bar!

So no one gets hurt!

Why salad is so overrated

Tamar is an interesting writer (her blog, the rest of her writing at the Post). She often takes a controversial subject in the world of food and does in-depth analysis on it (sort of like how the Do The Math blog does for alternative energy). In this article she looks at the value of salad, specifically the cost/benefit when including the farm and transportation costs. I knew things were bad, but didn’t realize how bad they were. She puts a comparison thus:

A head of iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian (1-liter size: 96 percent water, 4 percent bottle) and is only marginally more nutritious [lettuce is 95 to 97 percent water].

This is an interesting image from the article:

Picture of salads, without the salad
Minus their greens, left to right: the Caesar Salad With Chicken from the Cheesecake Factory; the Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili’s Grill & Bar; the Waldorf Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/For The Washington Post)

Elevator to spaaayyyycccceeee!

Space elevator could take astronauts into the stratosphere
Canadian firm granted patents for elevator designed to reach 20km above Earth

Their space elevator idea has some promise, but I expect it is still $100’s of millions, if not billions, to build it. Finding someone willing to put that much green into something with only a 30% savings in fuel is likely to be challenging. It will be a serious engineering challenge as well.

My idea is to launch from a tube in the ocean (see here from back when I laughably thought I could interest others in my efforts) with an assist via microwave powered air breathing ‘rocket’ until the atmosphere runs out, then, in the case of fragile payloads (e.g., humans) a small rocket to get the rest of the way to the orbital space station. Non-fragile, non-perishable payloads can be sent much faster, thus should be able to get into orbit directly, then can use slow but efficient means to reach the station via ion drives. Yes, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, 40+ years…

Good news, bad news

The latest on my vanity patent:

After much back and forth-ing with the examiner and his supervisor it seems my claims are being approved. That’s the good news. That’s it. The rest is bad news…

The bad news is the examiner has made this moronic insistence that I include a specific detection method in the claims which naturally means that if anyone were to produce the exact same product, but using a different detection method, they wouldn’t be infringing. The particular detection method is only meant to be used at the largest commercial scale (250K+ parallel sequencers) and there is plenty of money to be made at a much smaller scale (I already have a design with 40K parallel sequencers that would work just peachy, except uses a different detection method). Basically the patent is useless for any sort of intellectual property protection. Of course, if I had more money I could get around this nonsense, but the lawyer charges $675/hr and even though he has been generous in his accounting, I and my small investor just can’t afford to put in more money.

The worst thing, as if this weren’t bad enough, is the deadline to file for world-wide rights is Sept 15 and the lawyer needs at least 2 weeks to get the applications ready. Oh, the cost estimate for this process is $90-120K, more than the cost to validate the design. Thus, my uselessly narrowed patent will only be applicable in the US, probably no more than 20% of the market. My small investor took a tiny (yet still $1,000) ad out in the Wall Street Journal and to my mild surprise I got three inquiries. None amounted to anything; only one actually said no, the other two never got back to me despite my gentle nagging.

This whole process has really soured me on the idea of getting a patent. I’m quite certain that if we had a competent examiner that actually spoke comprehensible English we could have agreed on a set of claims that would have been commercially useful long ago and without getting the supervisor involved. A crap shoot on which examiner I get, though they all have specializations, so not totally random. Sort of like judges for trial, wind up with the hanging judge and spend the rest of your life in jail for a minor offense, get the bleeding heart judge and get probation for murder. Oh, examiners are basically paid piece work, so he has been reluctant to spend more time on my application since he has been working for ‘free’. I understand the government’s incentive to try and motivate the examiners with this approach, but now I’m being punished because of his incompetent insistence on wasting his time on irrelevancies.

So for any of you following this saga with any thought of getting a patent of your own, here are some bullet points for you based on my experience:

  • Never, ever, do this yourself. Your claims are everything. If you fuck up your claims before the examiner gets his (or her) mitts on them there is no recovery. Claims are legal statements, think about how easily Congress screws things up all the time. Don’t write your own claims unless you want to spend all your time and money on nothing.
  • Have deep pockets! I haven’t done a final accounting yet, but I am pretty sure I will have spent more than $20K for my useless patent. While it’s feasible to find a lawyer that charges a lot less than $675/hr (it isn’t like my lawyer gets all that, his firm has to pay for a nice building in the middle of DC, not to mention all the support staff) you have to be absolutely sure you have the right guy as this is an area where there are so many subspecialties it’s ridiculous. A portion of my patent mentioned LEDs and my lawyer worked with a specialist in LEDs to make sure all the right verbiage was included in my application.
  • Either plan to cover the global patents up-front or decide they aren’t necessary, this process is so long and drawn out that its just not practical to think you can get the US patent finalized before you go for the rest of the world. Though I never got to the point of doing the global applications (you apply for each country individually, in that country’s official language; let that sink in for a while) I have had a number of estimates in the same range. Thus, expect to have a working budget of at least $150K to get global coverage
  • Don’t bother. That is my take-away message from this debacle. All a patent grants you is the right to sue someone for infringement. If your idea is worthless to begin with, you won’t have any problems with infringers because you already wasted your time and money. If your idea is worth a mint (as I remain convinced mine _was_; now it is basically free to anyone, thus worthless to me) then you need to prepare every step of the way for prosecuting infringers AND have deep enough pockets to take them on. The US system is carefully crafted to basically make the odds of success for the individual on par with the lottery. I’m quite sure if I had ‘invested’ that $20K in lotto tickets I would have more to show for my efforts than I will ever get out of this patent.

Here is a partial list of other billion-dollar ideas I won’t be pursuing:

  • Long-term (million-year) archival storage with read speeds as fast as today’s fastest drives.
  • Table-top fusion. Actually, if this works it’s a trillion dollar idea.
  • Molecular memory that’s as fast as RAM, retains information without power and is infinitely re-writable.
  • This is probably only a $100 million idea: synthetic anti-freeze protein for tissue and organ preservation.

Aquaponics is probably my last attempt at elevating myself out of (upper) middle class. If I can get reality to match my pretty spreadsheet I can leverage our current resources into a nation-wide network that has billion-dollar potential. On days like today, though, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about the potential…

Burning to live longer

Study: Can Spicy Food Actually Increase Life Span?

Would you eat chili peppers 2-4 times a week to live 10-14% longer?

I love the taste going in, but can’t stand the burn going out. Even with bidets, all I get is very temporary relief as the cool water flows, as soon as I turn the water off the burn is at least as bad as before. I like horseradish (wasabi) because it only burns going in.

I only half jokingly like to say: what is the point of living forever if your life sucks?

The paper.

Insecure IoT

Vulnerabilities in Brink’s Smart Safe

This is far from shocking to anyone who has studied infosec. More of a total yawn, actually. Clueless people racing to claim market segments are naturally going to trip over complex things like security. Anything meant to be secure only has a chance of being such if the only way to change configuration is to properly authenticate. Customers hate that, though, because when they forget their password then they have an expensive brick on their hands. I experienced that myself: I bought a solid state computer I was intending at the time to use for hosting my web sites (my provider, at the time, was being incredibly unresponsive to my complaints). I chose a password that would be trivial to remember so naturally didn’t write it down. Over a year later I remember the thing is sitting in the basement and lo and behold, I have no idea what the damn password is. I believe I was eventually able to reset the box and get back onto it (I can’t remember, it was many months ago when I tried for a couple of days), but anyone else who had physical possession of the box could also do that. I quite doubt that the drive was encrypted such that it became a incomprehensible mess upon reset, I expect all the data would be there plain as day. Since I only paid a couple of hundred for the box I was frustrated, but it wasn’t a big deal. What if you had paid 100’s of thousands or millions? In that case you would demand that there be a back door (but only a ‘secure one’, whatever the hell that means!) so if the gewgaw was unable to be reached for some reason you could get around it and still get your money’s worth.

Real security is expensive and hard and is still steeped with vulnerabilities. Anything else is just window dressing advertising to a credulous customer designed to improve profit margins at the expense of ignorance.