Darkness on Neofeudalism, the Monopoly of Work, Forced Commutes as Corporate Welfare, and Existence Fees – 28 November 2018

A lot of people have read my previous philosophies about the responsibilities of a society and wanted more, so I will go into some detail and explore a modern relationship between society, businesses, and the individual that I refer to as neofeudalism.

 

In the modern era, we are exceptionally efficient at producing, moreso than ever before, and it has created a new form of monopoly that is potentially more dangerous than any we have previously seen: the monopoly on work.

 

Previously I have talked about the loosening and severance of the correlation between work ethic and standard of living, how one can be the most hard-working person in the world, digging massive holes in the ground from dawn to dusk yet gaining zero utility from it if no one ordered holes to be dug.

 

To expand on this, the problem continues even into demanded work. We know that in the world, there is a huge demand for running shoes. People are spending boatloads of money on them. One day I was thinking and asked myself “can an individual private citizen start using labor to satisfy a part of this demand and create utility for their self?”

 

The more I thought about it, the more signs pointed me towards “no.”  Even writing this, without looking it up, I am not even sure what exact materials a running shoe is made of; some sort of foam, rubber, cloth or nylon like material? Could one buy these materials in a condition that they are ready to be cut, shaped, and assembled into a shoe? Could one learn the process once they have the materials? What is the time and money cost after making the shoe to get it to an actual state where an end consumer can purchase it?

 

It is hard to imagine that after the labor and expense of starting up and figuring out how to actually make and sell a shoe, plus the price of materials per shoe after that, an individual could even sell shoes at a price such that they are making a profit. Per shoe sold, the individual would likely actually be losing money. The implications of this are that for an individual, starting from scratch, it actually costs more to work than to sit there and do nothing.

 

I wonder if there are any products, middle or end, that an individual can make profit on; that people would actually buy instead of a cheaper, better-produced corporate version. It is hard to imagine- possibly digital content, if anything.

 

What this means is that instead of a monopoly on a specific product (which we are too close to or already meeting anyway), corporations have a monopoly on work itself. In order to have a life that consists of anything other than simply existing via government handouts, one is forced to play by the rules of corporations for work. Ironically, because everything is abundantly available to everyone, no one is actually necessary, and no one is valued.

 

The monopoly on work, causing corporations to decide the rules that an individual lives by, leads to the modern day return of the 12+ hour workday. Wages have been so stagnant for so long that many people cannot afford to live in the same city that they work, or even the closest couple of cities. In the media people that live this far from where they work are “super commuters.”

 

If the widespread ability did not exist to commute from other cities, then each job in a city would have to pay a wage at least equivalent of the cost to live in that city X. In this hypothetical, if an individual worker chose to live in a city that was cheaper than the one their work was located, the cost to them would be the commute time, and the utility gained would be the difference in cost between the city that the work is located and the cheaper one, a value Y.

 

In the case where a worker is only paid enough that they are forced to live in a cheaper city, that saved value Y still exists, the only difference is that it is going to the company instead of the worker. The worker is paying the time/labor cost of the commute, and the company is pocketing the value produced by it. The worker is, for all purposes but legal ones, on the clock during this commute time producing value for the company. However, because it is not legally considered working hours, it is unpaid.

 

On paper, a forced-commuting worker that can only afford to live 2 hours away is working 8 hours a day at ( [hourly rate * 8] / 8) dollars per hour.

 

In reality, that worker is working 12 hours a day at ( [hourly rate * 8] / 12 ) dollars per hour.

 

Say two neighbors leave to and return from work at the same time. One gets paid $15/hr and commutes 2 hours each way. The other works across the street and has no commute, but earns $10/hr. If they’re each away for 12 hours, then they come home at the end of the day having earned the same amount. If you factor in overtime, the $10/hr local working neighbor actually earns more.

 

Effectively, when you live in a city with lower cost of living than where you work, you are not being paid the full amount J that you earn on paper. You are being paid in “poor city dollars,” which are worth less per unit in the rich city.

 

With your wage J, you can buy 1 unit of widget A in rich city, or 2 units of widget A in poor city.

 

The same wage J is worth M worth of products if given in poor city, and ½ M worth if given in rich city.

 

If M worth of product cost is the amount it takes to live a standard life, then essentially the job that pays J is paying in real terms half the cost of a standard life, and the rest is paid by the value created during the unpaid forced commute.

 

It is essentially a new form of corporate welfare, sneakier than Walmart having their employees rely on government handouts. The difference between the two is that instead of coming out of taxes, this form is paid by the worker in the form of unpaid working time.

 

Another dystopian result of the monopoly on work is what I call the “existence fee.” The type of work that actually exists and can actually provide an existence that is anything more than empty survival exclusively requires specialized skills, likely ones obtained from a degree.

 

A requirement like this is not a problem for a society, it has the capacity to educate and train any and all of its young citizens in any field. The problem is that neither the society that raises a citizen nor the business that demands the degree holder will pay the cost of living/education for the individuals that are required to have the degrees.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, when designing a fair D&D campaign, it should be winnable even to a character who rolled the lowest stats possible if they try hard enough. When designing the function of a society, the ability to succeed should be attainable by an arbitrary citizen who had the theoretically worst start in life.

 

In terms of education, a hypothetical worst-starting-case individual will have no rich parents paying for their education and will qualify no scholarships. They are paying with loans both their tuition and their cost of living during their education. In this case what are student loans really?

 

At one point they might have been an investment in one’s self; Money that one borrows from their future self in order to increase their earning potential and therefore standard of living.

 

In the current age, they are no longer that, but a default. A degree is the minimum prerequisite (not even a guarantee) for a basic standard of living. It is mandatory, taken as a requirement expected by society (read: businesses with a monopoly on work – the opportunity to be useful) to give one the chance to qualify for the human experience.

 

Due to this, student loans are not an investment, but a fee one pays for existing, like an original sin one is guilty of by being born.

 

Where does the money to pay for this existence fee come from? From some K years’ worth of wages that one labors for and does not get to have.

 

A birth debt paid for by free labor is literal re-skinned slavery; It is no different than a plantation owner saying, “you were born on my property, so I own you! But don’t worry, you can buy your freedom from me after K years!”

 

As a society we like to pretend it is not slavery because we seemingly have other options: rolling over and dying, simply existing on government handouts, or being the next Bill Gates and inventing something crazy. Are they really options though? Can we ethically expect the average citizen to be a genius inventor and tell them that slavery is their own fault if they can’t cut it?

 

The way the relationship between the individual, businesses, and society is set up in the modern day means that, for all but a lucky few, we are born with a debt that we must work off via years’ worth of unpaid labor. We do not belong to ourselves but to the land we were born on and whichever kings and lords (politicians and CEOs) own it: neofeudalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Darkness on the Origins of Conflict – 11 June 2018

All my life I’ve been able to discern people’s motives and thought patterns with great ease. It has led me to being able to understand why a lot of things in the world occur the way they do. More than once I’ve heard some variation of the phrase “I just can’t understand why people think the way they do,” for me, almost everything that a sane person does to create conflict can be boiled down to a few phenomena.

Solipsism. The most widespread cause of conflict in my opinion. It is so nefarious because by nature of having it, one must think that they do not have it, and that their perceived “other” does instead. I’m not talking about it in the literal or philosophical definition; I’m thinking about the nefarious, subtle, unnoticed thought that tells people that “my experience is the ground proof that other’s experiences are compared against.”

We tend to think that other people, when they disagree with us, have some common inaccuracy, and we hold the elusive truth, simply because it was told to us by the people that WE trust, or the sources that WE subscribe to.

When we hear a claim that disrupts our currently held truth, our first thought is not “how valid is the source of this claim compared to the source of my current claim?” Instead, we rush to think “actually, (you well-meaning but naive fool), the world operates THIS way.”

The second is another form of solipsism I refer to as “the main characters point of view.” Simply because we are ourselves, and not everyone else, we tend to put things that affect some people positively and others negatively at a disproportionate rating based on how they affect ourselves.

When we are driving on a freeway and we encounter a long traffic jam, we are quick to think “damn everyone in front of me for holding me up,” while slow (or never) to think “sorry everyone behind me for holding you up.” The traffic is an obstacle in our way, not something that we are a part of.

There was an issue on a ballot I filled out recently that regarded the building of senior homes. There were a lot of pros and cons to consider, and I won’t reveal which way my final decision went, but I clearly remember that my initial reaction was “fuck them, I can’t live in a senior house so why would that be a good idea?” A similar thing happened when I came across an issue of whether or not to raise the toll on bridges to pay for traffic improvements. There were a lot of things that I had to consider, but my initial reaction was “I don’t care, I don’t use bridges in my commute.”

I can easily see how with bigger issues, the same solipsistic reaction can inform one’s decision. If neither myself nor anyone I know had to rely on government assistance, then I might easily think “why does this even exist, no one important uses it, and I’m still paying for it.” If I never felt the need to own a firearm, I might think “why do these need to be legal, I feel safe without one, and everyone should.”

Another big thing that causes conflict stems from the fact that we can not read each other’s thoughts as humans. I heard a famous saying that went “we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.” When we’re in a long line to get on an off-ramp and we see someone cut the line and then try to get in, we tend to assume that they are an asshole. However, if we were to be in a position where we had a slight mindslip or were unaware that the line next to us was for the off-ramp that we desired to use, we would find everyone else presumptuous for assuming the worst about us when we attempt to squeeze in.

Nearly all conflict on an individual level boils down to solipsism, the value of one’s own experiences vs. others, the main character’s point of view, and the lack of knowledge about the intentions of others; but that only explains half of conflict. The conflict that happens on a group scale is also very easy to understand, and is in many ways an extension of the personal causes of conflict.

On a group scale, nearly all conflict in history and the world can be explained by two causes: tribalism and groupthink.

These things are something I pride myself on being able to discern and walk away from before being consumed by them, being that I have personal experience in them.

I’ll always remember vividly a scene I experienced back when I was going to church. I caught the last part of a conversation regarding gay marriage during the height of the Prop 8 event.

“…the gays are just angry because they lost!” How easy is it to dismiss a person’s concerns and experiences when one can label them not as an individual, but as a member of an enemy team?

As humans, we can not be content 100% of the time, and if we are not content, there must be a reason for it. Groups that give us a place to blame our discontent on will validate us and trick us that we can be 100% content 100% of the time if only it were not for whatever they say is getting in the way.

Furthermore, for life to have a purpose, it must have a goal. For a goal to exist it must not have been reached yet. If a goal is has not been reached, there must be an obstacle. In order to create meaning for ourselves, we have to create obstacles or define things that exist as obstacles. If the Punisher exists and there are no badguys to punish, then he is useless. In order for us to create meaning for ourselves, for us to be the hero of our own story, we must have a villain.

Groups that offer us a villain offer us a purpose; this is why they will always exist, and why we will always cling to them.

“Throw Anything!” – 4 July 2017

It was the Fourth of July and Gavin was having a little party. To start, it was me, Gav, and Black Sam. I brought a few things to the party, including my laptop, a confetti revolver, some snacks, and some fireworks.

First we saw this documentary “Oklahoma City” (about the bombings). It was pretty good, but Black Sam didn’t like it so we stopped it early. We had some hot dogs and spiced corn for dinner before the fireworks started. I chose the corn with the most spices on it, which ended up being a mistake and I had to take some off. Gavin stared throwing back some beers to get ready for the festivities.

When the fireworks were starting, we headed out to go watch, with our own fireworks in tow. Gavin lived on the beach in Oxnard, so the streets were lined up and down with people celebrating. We found some rocks to sit on near the water and watched the fireworks.

When the show was over, the real party began. We found a large group of teens and young adults hanging out near the parking lot on the beach. Gavin decided to wow them by running into a bathroom, lighting one of the giant box sparklers we had, running out, and setting it on the ground. It was an instant hit, everyone started hollering and jumping over the sparkler, seeing who could do the best mid-air trick. At one point this kid even grabbed the firework and ran through the crowd, but was forced to drop it as it burned his hand.

Soon, the cops pulled up and the crowd scattered. We tossed the remaining fireworks in the sand behind the bathrooms and left back to Gavin’s. We called up Nick who said he would come over later. Gavin put back some more beers and became exceptionally rowdy. He stated jumping around to some loud music with a beer in his hand, and me and Black Sam joined in. At some point Black Sam offhandedly mentioned that she could go for another hot dog.

Then, things took a turn for the insane. Gabin grabbed a shoe on his apartment floor and launched it like a football as hard as he could at his ceiling. It made a loud *THUMP*, which seemed to egg Gavin on. He loudly and gleefully exclaimed “THROW ANYTHING!” immediately before taking a skateboard off the wall and tossing that at the ceiling as well. The skateboard punctured a large hole in the ceiling about the size of a grapefruit, and sent debris flying across the room, as if a hand grenade had just gone off.

Recognizing the increasing rambunctiousness and potential negative consequences, Black Sam tried her best to calm Gavin down, but he insisted on becoming more destructive, repeating matter-of-factly “it’s my house, I paid for it, it’s my house, I paid for it.”

Gavin jumped a few times to gain momentum near his door before shoulder-checking into it akin to a hockey player. “Gavin! Gavin! Stop!” Black Sam attempted to plead. It gave Gabin momentary pause before he tried the maneuver again, this time from a greater distance. This time, the door window gave way, spilling shards of glass everywhere

“It’s my house, I paid for it, I get to do what I want,” Gavin explained.

At that point Nick arrived, and surveyed the now destroyed apartment. We explained to Nick the events that had transpired, and he was hesitant to even believe us at first, but when he saw just how drunk Gab now was, he knew we weren’t making it up.

The four of us danced around to some music for a bit more, with Gav putting back even more beers, barely able to keep himself from falling over. I made Nick eat one of the stale cake-pops that I had brought over by sneaking up and shoving it in his mouth. Every so often, Gabin would open the front door and toss firecrackers at some of his neighbors one floor below, who were talking outside.

Suddenly Gavin remembered that Black Sam wanted a hot dog earlier, so he stumbled his way to the kitchen, mumbling “I’m goonna make a hotdog. I’m gonna make a hotdoooog.”

Same immediately interjected “No! Gavin! You can’t! You’re too drunk!”

Nick grabbed Gavin around the torso and dragged him away from the stove and into the living room.

Gavin went limp and fell to the ground, slithering away while chanting in a high pitched voice “a fucken hah-daaaaaag, mofuckinhah-daaaaaag!”

He became adamant and started getting a pan out of his cupboard. “Gavin you’re going to burn yourself!” Sam warned.

“It’s my house I paid for it, and if anyone tried to stop me from making a hotdog they’re gonna leave!” Gavin warned.

As Gavin was about to turn on the stove, Nick and Black Sam managed to drag him back into his bedroom.

Suddenly Gab’s entire demeanor changed, he started struggling like a caught fish, trying to shake Nick off.

“FACK HYUUU, FACK HYUUUUU, FACK HYUUUUUUU!” he screamed as he ran through the house.

He took the frying pan that he previously put on the stove and tossed it by the handle across the kitchen.

He then ran into the living room and flipped an entire table filled with bottles, my laptop (which broke), and things things across the room. The table and everything on it crashed against the wall. Nick managed to catch up to Gavin and wrassle him to the ground.

While pinned, Gavin gave a beastly struggle while yelling ferally “FAACK HYUU, FACK OFFA ME! AAAAARG, GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

We finally got him to calm down by agreeing to go for a walk on the beach with him. Black Sam was the most shaken up and stayed behind to recuperate.

When we made it to the beach, we went to find the fireworks that we stashed earlier. While we were picking them up we noticed a small Asian man walking towards us. He stopped about 10 feet away. We didn’t know if he wanted some fireworks too or what. We kept walking and picking up more, and the man followed us again, stopping 10 feet away.

Finally he spoke up “Hey are you guys trying to shoot fireworks at my friends? I don’t care that you got them, I have a mortar in my pocket, I just want to make sure you’re not trying to shoot my friends.”

The three of us were very confused “Uhhh, no, we’re not trying to shoot your friends.” We assured him.

“Oh, okay,” he said before walking off.

We shot some roman candles over the ocean and calmed down Gabin, before heading back. When we got back to Gabs, We got Gab into bed and Black Sam made him eat a hamburger bun and drink some water (which he spilled all over himself). Gab finally fell asleep so me and Nick left him with Black Sam and took off.

It was the most memorable Fourth of July I have ever experienced.

Darkness on Identity, Politics, and Nationalism vs. Globalism

I decided to write this a few weeks ago when I noticed a more starkly growing divide in people’s views on the world. Particularly, I noticed that some people were pigeon-holing each other into one of a few bland viewpoints and deciding themselves why other people thought a certain way (usually for negative reasons). People trust me to be the logical voice in heated debates, and since I’ve been proven right time and time again, it was sort of an obligation for me to write about some subjects that have been getting some particular attention lately.

The first thing I want to talk about is identity, and it segways into the other things nicely. In the past identity might have been something that you “are,” but I’ve seen it more recently become something that you “use” or “be.” It used to be that one’s culture, appearance, or background is what others sort of “heaped on” to the individual, and that’s still true in a lot of cases, but the difference I’m seeing is the ratio of that to people actively defining themselves as something and seeking to be stereotyped for it.

I spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, (mainly because it’s one of the few social media sites I haven’t been banned from yet), and I’ve noticed a few trends: It starts with fun trendy things like “X identity breaks the internet,” “Y identity’s do it better.” Certain types will cling to and accumulate these badge-like labels on themselves. On profiles I’ve seen an increase in labeling one’s self based on identity rather than personality or characteristics. Instead of “I like X,” or “My hobbies are Y,” I see an increase of “I /am/ an X ethnicity, Y skin-color, Z sexual orientation,” as if this set of identities is trusted to present the person in a greater capacity than their individual characteristics. On top of that, the labels themselves that one sticks to themselves I’ve seen get more specific and more numerous. I think part of it is because that with how connected we are, we are finding that we aren’t all that different, and it’s increasingly harder to stand out from a crowd. The harder one can push this illusion of uniqueness through specific and extreme identities, the more interesting one can seem to be. I call this sort of thing a trend of “hyper-identity,” where one actively seeks to make themselves as “exclusive” as possible.

One controversial figure that often gets brought up in this subject is Milo Yiannopoulos. I’ve heard him say that in the modern age, suffering is so scarce that it has become a form of currency, and to create an illusion that one has suffering, they will use their identity as a tool. Milo himself uses identity in a similar way, however. When faced with accusations of racism or sexism he will often repeat the line “I like to suck black cocks,” which is sort of his own spin on the “I can’t be racist, my best friend is black,” line.

Why is this tactic attempted in the first place, however? For some people, an identity feels like a permission-slip to express thoughts that anyone should be allowed to express anyway.

One thing I find interesting is the concept as “passing” for one identity or another. In certain cases, when one can convince others that they are, or at least are more of than they are, a certain identity, they gain some sort of benefit or status.

In the past we had former black slaves or their descendants, if they had light enough skin, attempting to and sometimes having success at, passing as a white person. This would have given them more access and a higher position in society. This sort of passing-for-white(r) still exists in some cultures, and it goes so far as to have warranted a market demand for skin-bleaching products. Out of this sort of thing we get the stereotypical phrase some black woman get that they are “too pretty for a dark skinned woman.”

At the same time, we see something else happening, the difference being while I see the former phenomena deceasing over time, I see this slowly increasing over time: “white” people attempting to pass or emphasizing being something else. One prominent example of this is I’ve seen a lot of news about is Nkechi Diallo (formerly Rachel Dolezal), who identified as black.

I’ve also heard a joke that goes as follows: “What do you call 64 white people in a room? One full-blooded Native American.” The joke is that white people tend to be eager to state any Native-American heritage they have, even if it is small (1/64 in the case of the joke).

Now throughout history in areas where non-heterosexuals are marginalized, such as the US south, we’ve seen gay people attempt to pass as straight, sometimes even going as far as getting heterosexually married and starting a family, only to “come out” in later life.

There is also a stereotype that in order to advance one’s carreer in a Hollywood-related field one should pretend to be homosexual.

If we assume that in general people are logical beings, they only do what has a net positive value in utility. We have to ask the question “What would cause someone who is A to identify as B, or B as A, and what is the reason for the shifting in most desirable identities to be throughout time? Are we defacto or dejure creating a heirarchy of identities, and does that heirarchy change depending on location?”

Next I want to talk a little bit about my personal political views. Now I know I already made a blog about the responsibilities of a society and already touched on a lot of politics, which was met with great acclaim, but I’d been thinking about the specific role of government so I’ll expand a bit on that.

Now I’m liberal libertarian, or “3rd quadrant” on the political spectrum. Let me tell you what this means to me: I don’t believe in any type of enforced moralism. What that means is I don’t think that something that affects no one but one’s self can be considered a crime.

The role that I think government should have in one’s life is to make sure that they are protected from the consequences of other’s actions which they did not consent to. In other words, it should make sure the rice I’m buying isn’t actually made of plastic. It should make sure that no one is benefiting off of destroying a shared resource. A business should be taxed and subsidised appropriately such that the bottom line reflects the true cost to society. In other words, if one makes a widget for $1, sells it for $2, and creates $20 of pollution in the process, an unregulated free market says “do this, it is creating $1 of value per widget,” while each widget made is actually destroying $19 of value. It is the government’s job to reflect that “true cost” on the businesses.

There’s a lot of contention today about the role of countries, especially western countries, in regards to the refugees of other countries. This is an issue where I don’t think that we can objectively determine the right answer, like we can do with abortion.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that helping refugees is the “good” choice, I just also think that we as a country are under no obligation to be the “good guys.” It is a value judgment of a society whether they are willing to take on the added responsibility of helping others or not. Before WWII, the US did turn away a boat full of Jewish refugees, many of whom ended up dying as a result. In the allegory of the good Samaritan, we were the one of the people who kept walking. In essence, we have to choose between what’s the good thing to do, and what is best for “me.”

Lastly I want to get into nationalism and globalism. Within a society, the concept of specialization acts sort of like a “utility multiplier.” If there are n people, and everyone does 1/n of every job, then each job will be done at the efficiency of the average skill of all people in the society. If we assign each person to a job they have comparative advantage at, the efficiency increases toward maximum for the society. The same is true for countries. Countries have different types of lands, different cultural values, and different levels of education and skills which lends themselves to particular tasks. If each country acts in the global interest and allows the free market to determine what it has the most comparative advantage of doing, eventually the earth as a system reaches maximum utility.

Because of this, the optimal strategy is for all countries to adopt full globalistic policies. The problems only arise when human greed and shortsightedness are taken into account. We as humans naturally see some jobs are more prestigious than others. We want to believe that we are the best at everything, and therefore we might choose an inferior domestically-made product, which slightly disrupts the path of maximum efficiency.

At the same time, utility gains are not evenly spread out. Due to this, for a given country A, they might actually stand to have a utility increase if they can unnaturally force themselves into a different role, even if it causes a utility decrease of greater magnitude for the global system.

Businesses force a sort of prisoner’s dilemma on to countries. Business are made of people, but act like machines, they have only the goal of making the most money, and so we must assume that’s how they’ll behave. If all countries in the world demanded the exact same working conditions and environmental protections, then each would have a fair shot at attracting business and businesses would fall wherever most efficient; in this case, all countries win. If country A decides that it will settle for lower working conditions and fewer environmental protections than country B, then country A will have not only the businesses that would normally fall on to them, but also some that would have normally gone to B. In this case, A wins by having an abundance of business, generating more wealth for themselves, while B loses. If B then retaliates by doing the same thing, lowing its own standards, then businesses once again choose wherever is most efficient between the two, only this time, both A and B have lower standards of living than they normally would; in this case, both countries lose and businesses win.

In any case, we as humans are tribalistic beings, and we want to blame some “other” for our problems. Because of this tendency, leaders who play towards nationalism will always have an innate advantage over those who do not during elections. We like to believe that we’re being cheated out of our rightful slice of the pie, and that even if global utility decreases, our utility will increase once we get the portion that we are supposed to be getting.

Christmas Shenanigans with Erika – 17-19 December 2016

Erika and I hadn’t hung out for a while, so before I left for Winter Break, she decided to come visit San Jose for a few days to hang out.

First we went to hang out at Target, because she wanted to get new hipster gloves that let you use a touchscreen phone while wearing them. I suggested she just go with the classic hobo-style fingerless gloves, but she wasn’t too keen on the idea. While we were there, we checked out some necklaces and Erika told me about how in-fashion the chevron was.

We decided to have a snack at Starbucks. Erika wasn’t sure what to get, so I suggested this hot Italian sandwich; it turned out to be the best choice.

Next we went to my place to watch a movie. I knew that Erika liked Harry Potter, so I suggested this movie Imperium, which starred Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry Potter. Erika agreed, but little did she know the movie was going to be much more than she bargained for.

The next day we decided to check out Christmas in the Park (a first-time experience for me). While there, we tried some of the famous “Snowman Hot Chocolate,” which tasted amazing. I thought the little plastic snowman on top was edible and almost ate it! The weather was really cold, so the hot chocolate was much needed warmth.

We looked for some food to get next. We passed some fancy-looking hot dogs, but Erika wanted to check out some type of meat she saw while we were driving around earlier looking for a parking space. Turns out the meat she saw frying was even more hot dogs, so we decided to get some. They were wrapped in bacon and topped with onions and more. The guy said “ten dollars,” and Erika tried to give him a debit card but it was cash only. Neither of us were carrying cash, and the guy said to just take the dogs for free, but Erika literally went over to the nearest ATM and withdrew some cash so we could give some to the guy.

After that we walked around and looked at tall the trees decorated by the various local organizations. I noticed one of the trees decorated by a church, (the specific one I forgot), had a gay-pride rainbow flag planted near its base. I made sure to point this out to Erika and rub her nose in it with great glee. (She had a very conservative religious view on homosexuality which I often took jabs at her for.)

The next morning Erika came and picked me up to come to her fancy hotel to try the complimentary breakfast. We had bacon, eggs, potatoes, salsa, yogurt, and juice. As we were eating I asked her how she slept last night in her hotel. She said she slept pretty good, so I said “mas o menos?” (more or less), and she agreed.

Little did we know there was a lady eating next to us with like five heavy luggage bags and when she heard that phrase she immediately got up and started talking to me in Spanish. Now I’m nowhere near conversation level fluent, so I had to look back and forth between the lady and Erika to get her to translate what the lady was trying to say to me. The lady could plainly see this but insisted on speaking to me the whole time instead of Erika, which made it extra confusing.

So as it turns out the lady wanted me to help carry her bags to her husband who was outside somewhere, (they didn’t let people into the breakfast room after 9AM). So I agreed to carry the bags but I was like “the door better not lock behind me once I go out.”

Well luckily the husband was waiting right outside the breakfast room so I was able to pass off the bags to him without letting the door close.

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After breakfast Erika went to go visit some old friends in San Jose, but later that afternoon we decided to meet up again one last time before she left. We decided to take a trip to Hobags, (local slang for “House of Bagels”), which is a well known place popular with the locals. I’d never been there before so it was going to be a real treat for me.

Well we got there and they had like ten different types of bagels and twenty different types of cream cheeses. Erika got some cinnamon bagel with some fancy cream cheese. I got a cheese bagel with standard cream cheese. To my surprise it was very warm and soft. I’d never experienced a bagel like this before. In my previous experience with bagels, they’d all been room temperature and somewhat tough. I can definitely see why that place is popular with the locals.

All in all the weekend was a string of crazy adventures and first time experiences.