Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Role Playing Game (RPG) Week: 3 of 6

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to part 3 of our RPG week. In the last post I wrote I talked about general stuff like Dungeons and Dragons drama in the 80's, dice, and getting into RPGs with Robotech.

A friend had introduced me to Robotech via the RPG book (the source book) and I fell in love with both Robotech and the concept of the RPG. As I got more and more into Robotech the RPG grew into more than just a basic game. This was a universe I was really into and being able to take on the role of a character in that universe was a big thrill.

For some reason I seemed to fall into the role of the GM (Game Master) when we played. I am not sure why but I guess that's a compliment. I would come up with stories that my friend would experience complete with maps and NPC (non-player characters). Since I liked to draw anyway the whole map making aspect of RPGs was just icing on the cake. My friend also got a couple of his friends into the game too (but in a much less enthusiastic way) and we had a four player game a few times. The two other guys would argue a lot so in my frustration I would make bad things happen in the game because of their real life arguments.

During all this time I would make weekly trips to Heroes Workshop in Fort Worth to look for Robotech stuff. Anime was still called Japanimation at the time and was somewhat hard to come by. Since Robotech was past it's heyday it was just as hard to find as some of that Japanimation. Most comic book stores did carry the RPG books since they were still fairly new. The prices (for me at the time) were just too high so I rarely bought the new RPG books.

As a side note to the RPG books... I blogged about the Robotech Fanzine Protoculture Addicts a while back which gives more detail about my history with Robotech. Well one of the founders of the fanzine went on to draw for some of the later Pallidum RPG books. Just and FYI there...

I played the RPG until my friend lost interest. He found the all mighty beer and soon lost interest in most of what we mutually enjoyed. I was still in high school and I soon found a new friend that liked Robotech, James. James, his brother Joey, and his sister Susan went to school and we all hung out together. I eventually got to playing the RPG again with James and Joey. I can't remember exactly but I do want to say I Susan played once (maybe). We played the 3rd part of Robotech called 'The New Generation'. I basically copied the shows storyline and applied it to their adventures. We played on and off for several months and ended with a big send off where I basically forced the character to sacrifice themselves in order to take out the enemy base.

When we finished playing Robotech I started looking into Dungeons and Dragons. Robotech was my 'gateway drug' into the evil, satanic world of D&D...

There's not much to say really. As I had suspected all those years D&D was NOT satanic or evil in any way. In fact I found it a bit confusing at times (all the rules). D&D had been developed in the 70's and had gone through many changes and was up to the 2nd Edition rules by the time I got into it. It needed to evolve and grow to give long time players enough to keep them interested. I started off with a box set and learned just the basics. I got James to play with me but we only ever played a couple of times. You see, we had discovered something else that was quasi-RPG... Warhammer Quest!

Let's start off at the beginning... Hero Quest was a board game developed by Games Workshop (a UK miniatures company) and released by Mattel as a sort of 'gateway drug' into the world miniatures gaming (an off shoot of RPG gaming). Games Workshop had a successful miniatures game series called Warhammer (and still does to this day). Games Workshop had an off-shoot of Warhammer called Warhammer Quest which was a 'dungeon crawler' type game. It is a game that takes place in a dungeon as opposed to the big battlefield like Warhammer.

I got into Hero Quest after I bought one at the Kmart I worked at. My friend Barrett and I played the crap out of that game for almost 2 years. As I now write all this out I find it interesting how I had these different parts of my life segmented off. Barrett and I played Hero Quest at the same time as James and I were playing Robotech RPG. I find it funny how the 2 never came together. I think we probably tried and Barrett wasn't into the Robotech RPG and James wasn't into Hero Quest. Anyway, as it was intended to do I was seduced into harder stuff by the seemingly innocent Hero Quest. I found the 'real' version of this dungeon crawler... Warhammer Quest.

Join me in my final part on Friday as I write some more about Warhammer Quest and my other RPG thoughts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Role Playing Game (RPG) Week: 2 of 6

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

This theme week (Role-Playing Games) came about from a few discussions with my friend Adam having to do with our RPG past. It occurred to me that I would like to write some thoughts I have about running games. I decided to start with a quick history of me and RPGs. It didn’t remain quick. When I had two posts worth of material, and wasn’t done, I called Nathan and said, “You want to do an RPG theme week?” He agreed and here we are. I say this to explain why it is that I seem to be leading up to talking about running a game, and probably won’t get to it this week. I will though. Without further delay, here is my first contribution to the RPG theme week.

It might be questionable whether or not I can really write an article about the dos and don’ts and the goods and bads of playing the tough role of Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM). For instance, if you just thought, “It’s not that tough,” then you’re probably better at it than me.

I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), and numerous other Role-Playing Games (RPGs) for over two decades now. I’m not even sure if I’m even all that frequent of a player in spite of the longevity of my run. I’ve played enough to have opinions though, so I have that qualification. I would say that about 30 to 40% of my time playing RPGs (pen and paper as opposed to video game) has been as a DM or GM. The other 60 to 70% has been spent as a player with a wide range of DM and GM ability on the narrative side of the table. I say table, but a large amount of my RPG time has been spent sitting on floors, and rolling dice on books. Please be aware that as you continue this article, a lot of my focus will be on D&D, but I will discuss other games as well.

Throughout all of this, I have always read the game books and various articles on the subject of running the games. I have noticed when the person in charge has done a good job of being in charge, and when they really haven’t. I think in many cases, I’ve also noticed the good and the bad in myself over the years. I ran some very uninspired game sessions in the early days of playing and I’ve run what were probably over inspired sessions in the later days.

Before I start dealing with more specific things, I want to say that I’m somewhat opposed to modules. This isn’t a full on disgust or hatred with modules as much as I’ve always been more interested in the creative side of games. In my mind, particularly when I was younger, this meant creating most aspects of the game, the setting, the characters, the situations, etc. Even with that basic feeling, if I ever got hold of modules or ideas, my brother and I usually found ourselves compelled to try it out. I think much of my better understanding of the game came from the study of the work of the professionals.

Let me start with the years of the Dungeon Crawl. A Dungeon Crawl adventure is almost the default of D&D games. It’s where the player characters (PCs) walk into a cave and go from room to room finding monsters, traps, treasures, locked doors, riddles, and all other forms of things. In some ways it can feel a little contrived, but it allows for a very easy way to plan encounters and make them somewhat linear if need be. I think as long as I play D&D, I’ll like a good Dungeon Crawl.

My parents bought the original red box set. My brother and I sat down at the kitchen table with our mom and dad, and we went through the sample adventure in the player’s guide together. Then my dad DMed the group adventure in the DM’s Guide. I guess my parents weren’t all that interested in the game, even after that session, but my brother and I were hooked for life. We started making dungeons to run each other through, and we even started building a rudimentary storyline.

I remember feeling somewhat lost back then. I was always trying to figure out how to make the adventure more adventuresome than just going room to room and slaughtering monsters. I later heard the term Monty Haul adventure. Monty Hall was a game show host (Let’s see what’s behind door number one!) and the term was meant to describe a style of play which was kill monsters for experience points (XP) and get treasure and magic items to make your character powerful. My brother and I played the game somewhat similarly to that, but luckily we did a pretty good job of following the charts, and our characters were pretty well balanced with the game play. The typical Monty Haul experience tends to create characters that are too powerful and players who are bored because there is no challenge. The effect was different for me though. I was interested in creating a continuing plot and developing characters, but I found myself often at a loss as to how to accomplish that.

By the time that my brother and I started playing the Robotech RPG, my skill at creating adventures hadn’t improved much, and we tended to play the game a little too much like Battletech, but we did try.

Strangely enough, right around the same time, I was looking through a catalog of some sort and read about a game called Paranoia (it was in its Second Edition at the time) and I had to get it. It seemed so quirky from the description. And it was. Oh boy was it. The game opened up so many possibilities to me as a GM. The problem was that the game defied many conventions of other RPGs and I couldn’t tend to keep players involved for more than a session or two. I probably needed to ease them into the craziness a little better.

In fact, I have a special tip for Paranoia. Explain to the players that they will only be playing their character for one adventure, and that next adventure, no matter how well they do; they will be playing a different character, because the likelihood of their character dying up to six times this adventure is high. Tell them that the goal is to have a good time first, entertain the other players so they can have a good time second, and then third, if they get around to it, survive.

The problem I ran into almost every time I played was that people would be in a very serious mindset about accomplishing mission objectives and killing enemies, neither of which happens very automatically in the Paranoia universe. They would also take the attacks of other characters on their characters as attacks of the player on them. It was a mess, and as a GM, I had no idea how to reel everybody in. Paranoia is still this amazing game of possibility that has never been realized for me.

This seemed like a suitable place to end the first part of this. Join me Thursday when I continue to discuss my RPG history. In the meantime, check out Nathan’s recollections.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Role Playing Game (RPG) Week: 1 of 6

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to another fantastic theme week here at According To Whim. This week's topic is RPGs or Role Playing Games. For those of you who don't know Role Playing Games are essentially board games without the board and with a lot more detail. I really doubt any of you don't know what a RPG is so that explanation should be enough. This week Chris and I are going to talk about different RPGs we have played and some of our most memorable moments.

I got my start with Role Playing Games in the early nineties (or VERY late 80's, I'm not too sure). All during my child hood I had heard of RPGs but it was usually in a very negative connotation. During the 80's RPGs were labeled as evil and dangerous in the general, ignorant public. Being a kid I knew better (of course). I do remember my first real encounter was my Dad's roommate in later part of the eighties. He was really into RPGs and had all these Dungeon and Dragons boxed sets all displayed in his room (which I didn't go in, but could look into). I thought it was weird that they were all set up in a display setup, like a store or something.

Dungeons and Dragons was the 'big player' in the RPG field and almost everything I knew about RPGs at a younger age involved D&D. In the 80's TSR (the owners of D&D) released a toy line and I remember seeing these toys and was able to finally get some when they went on clearance. I had the Dragonne, Hook Horror, the Warduke figure, and the Fortress of Fangs. I was so amazed by the level of detail on the Fortress of Fangs.

One of the big draws (for me at least) early on was the use of cool dice in RPGs. In the mid 80's the neighbor who lived next door moved out and the new people had a kid so we played alot at their house. In their driveway I found about six RPG dice. A huge 30 sided one and few smaller ones. I still have them and they are still awesome. When I opened my shop in 2003 I bought a 'pound of dice' bag off Ebay and bought some more expensive sets from some other company to sell as well. The 'pound of dice' bag (wich you can still get) are generally fine but there are usually some irregualar ones in lot.

So back to the late 80's / early 90's. My friend Eric in High school brought me this RPG book that he thought was cool. It was Robotech. This was my first real venture into the world of Role Playing Games. He got it from someone else and thought it was cool and that I should look at it. Not only did that event start my enjoyment of RPGs but it lead to an unhealthy fascination with Robotech.

Now for those of you who don't know what the heck Robotech is, here is a brief history: Robotech is a cartoon from the early eighties. It was actually from Japan and was transported to the states with some rewriting and reediting of the animation footage. In the later part of the 80's Pallidum (an RPG company) produced a Robotech RPG. It took the robots and equipment and gave them 'stats' so you could use them in a game. There were some basic rule that weren't too hard to learn and poof! you could now be in the Robotech universe. One of the things that attracted me to the RPG was the cool drawings where gave the cartoon a real life look. From there I started reading the books, watching the show, and getting everything I could get my hands on that had Robotech on it.

Tomorrow Chris will start his series of blogs in this week of RPG posts and check out my next part on Wednesday when I will write some more about Robotech RPG and my entry into the world of D&D.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Most Important Goal

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Nathan wrote recently about our need to set goals for 2012. He wrote about the part where we revisit old goals and see if they are still relevant today. The truth of the matter is that I think that I had a full year of almost accomplishing nothing. The odd thing is that I did do a lot of work on a lot of different goals. I even accomplished a few. The problem is the comfort zone.

The reason why I think all the self-help gurus make a big deal out of stepping out of your comfort zone is not because we all need to grow as people and whatever. I think it’s because we all have goals somewhere in our heads that we never get to. Year after year we think that we need to do one or more very particular goals, but they require a little discomfort or a little risk. Maybe even a lot of discomfort or a lot of risk, but if you have a goal that is that crazy then it’s possible you should either drop it or reevaluate it to find a less risky, less painful approach.

The biggest problem I have is the amount of stuff I want to accomplish. I can never seem to reel it in. I can never seem to find the exact focus that I need to accomplish something big. I just keep doing bite-sized portions of each goal hoping that one day the goal will have no choice but to be accomplished.

Beyond that I have a problem of time. I think the most important goal that I could have is the most important goal I set last year, which is to devote the amount of time to accomplishing goals that I really need to. I was doing this at the start of 2011, and I was accomplishing many things. Then somewhere along the way I got burned out with the number of hours I was working and I found myself becoming less and less diligent about making sure I was spending eight hours a day on project work.

I have a job that allows that kind of focus, so eight hours a day may not be reasonable for everyone, but I think that in the long run, finding a reasonable amount of time for you that you can spend on your goals each day is probably the most important goal. You don’t have to keep yourself on a time clock if you’re good with time and naturally fall into a routine when you’re working on a project. If you have the focus to work on something every day, then that is probably more your goal, spend some time each day furthering your goals, and make good leaps of progress frequently.

For me, I have to be a little more intentional about the time. I was working a fire watch at the start of the 2011 at an apartment building for seniors. It was all indoors, and you had to have access to get in. Since it was a fire watch, I wasn’t there to walk around knocking senior skulls together (because they don’t really form gangs or claim territory). I was there simply to walk the building once and hour and make sure there was no smoke. It wasn’t hyper-vigilance. It was just how the laws read. If your sprinklers are out you need someone to walk around once an hour. I used the time to read “Watership Down” since I was limited by what I could do. I was at that post for 12 hours and I kept track of the time I spent reading. It wasn’t quite eight hours, and that was the ideal situation for spending that kind of time on a project or goal.

I believe I could have done better this year, and it’s because I’m not convinced that I spent the amount of time that I feel I should have working toward goals. I know I did a pretty good job most days, and I know that if I would just pick a goal at a time, I could do better at completing projects. But since I tend to be all over the place, my most important goal will be to make sure that I spend eight hours a day working on projects and goals, whether it’s something long term and serious (building a publishing empire) or short term and somewhat frivolous (reading books published by current publishing empires). The point is to spend the time on it, so that I know that I’m making the right amount of progress. I mean, if I spend one third of my life on projects and goals, I think I can say I gave it a real try, right?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Forty-Seven - A Little Gratuitous Everything

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

LARRY: Chris isn't dead.

(Nathan and Miguel lean over a bit, looking back into the main chamber. Chris’s body is missing.)

MIGUEL: What?

NATHAN: How?

LARRY: I transformed the bullet into something else at the last moment. You might want to stay around a little longer.

MIGUEL: Let’s just get Chris and go!

NATHAN: We can’t go back in there. It’s raining bullets.

LARRY: Not for long.

(Larry turns around, facing the room. Suddenly, the guns everyone is firing turn into cats and the bullets in mid-air turn into mice. There is a general squeal from some of the females in the room, and then a cacophony of cat yowls, as twenty felines squirm to get free.)

LARRY: Let’s go!

(The three run back into the cave as the cats scratch their way to the floor, some chasing mice, some running for cover. After the general confusion, everybody was kung-fu fighting. Those kids were fast as lightning. Shag, Dentre, and the Century 21 agents suddenly discover they are back on even terms and join in the melee.)

PROFESSOR: No!!!!!!

(Everyone near the professor turns to look at what has the normally ice-cold professor in such a tizzy. The professor is looking at the T.A.C. – Thought Amplification Cannon where Chris is sitting at the controls.)

CHRIS: Laugh at my nakedness, will you?!

(Chris puts the interface helmet on and fires the cannon at the row of naked clones of himself that are still standing goo-eyed off to the side. Chris’s thought is shot into the clones and they come alive with a purpose. All then jump down and run into the fight.)

QUINCY: Ewwww.

(Quincy expresses the same thought that everyone who is fighting a naked Chris clone has. They dodge left or right, trying to avoid the clones’ naughty bits only to be caught off guard to punches and kicks. No one wants to fight a naked person, so the clones take the advantage of their opponents’ unwillingness to come into contact with someone else’s genitals.)

LARRY: Quick!

(Nathan turns to Miguel to urge him along, but doesn’t see him anymore. Miguel rushed out into the fight when the guns disappeared. Nathan shrugs and starts to follow Larry, dodging in and out of the groups of fighting people. They climb over the rubble of the collapsed wall and join Chris at the T.A.C.)

LARRY: The professor wants me to use the cannon to project my reality-altering thoughts at high-level government officials... like the President! Then he was going to use “speed freaks” like Chris to be couriers to ensure his new regime would dominate the country!

NATHAN: He said the cannon wouldn’t work without all that glass or whatever but Chris just used it!

LARRY: It takes a lot of power to project thought over long distances. The longer the cannon is switched on the hotter it gets. If he would have used it any longer it would have blown up or something. Quincy and Stubby haven’t collected enough glass to insulate it enough for the professor’s grand scheme of governmental overthrow.

(Suddenly, Larry is grabbed by the neck by the professor.)

PROFESSOR: You little twerp! You agreed to help us!

(Larry makes strangled noises until Nathan shoots a fist into the professor’s face. The professor’s wheelchair rolls back down the steps of the T.A.C. and falls into the fist fight, unable to come at them again.)

NATHAN: Why is COLBALT here?! What do they want?

PAUL: They want the weapon as well.

(Paul is standing where the professor was and he’s holding a gun. His face is streaked with tears.)

PAUL: I struck a deal with their group. The International Association of Realtors found out about the T.A.C. last week and knew that professor wanted Chris so we intervened and brought you to our safe house.

NATHAN: That was only last week? Sheesh. It seems like nine months ago...

PAUL: When it became obvious that I needed to get in closer with the professor, we staged my little show of powers at the gas station.

NATHAN: What?! You don’t have powers?!

PAUL: No. We bought one of their agents and staged the whole thing. Things were going fine... until Garrett!

(Paul starts crying again, the fresh image of Garrett and Angelina playing tongue hockey burns in the back of his eyelids. While all this is going on a bit of rock dust falls on the console and Larry looks up to see Chris hanging from the support structure at the top of the cave. He is inching along towards to the dampening generator, which is mounted in the middle of the cavern.)

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – EPICENTER OF AN EPIC BATTLE – DAY]

LARRY: Looks like your friend is trying to get himself killed again.

(Nathan looks up to see Chris playing first grade PE class, except a few hundred feet above a very hard floor, which is really more of a second grade thing.)

NATHAN: The dampening field. He has to turn it off so he can use his powers again.

LARRY: Um, yeah. Something like that.

NATHAN: Wait, how did you use your power to stop that bullet from taking out Chris?

LARRY: The two of you still haven’t figured that out yet, have you?

NATHAN: Figured out what?

LARRY: That dampening field doesn’t actually lower the ability to use your power. It interacts with your mind so that your doubts in what you can do keep you from performing to your highest ability.

NATHAN: Ok. Can you speak English for a minute, Larry?

LARRY: Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull?”

NATHAN: No.

LARRY: Have you ever read any self-help?

NATHAN: No, have you heard of Cliffs Notes?

LARRY: Yeah.

NATHAN: I get the Chris Notes version of all the self-help stuff.

LARRY: So you understand the concept of limiting yourself.

NATHAN: Chris, be careful! Um, you could say I’ve had it explained to me a few times.

LARRY: What would you say if I told you that your ability to read minds is still there, but your brain has been trained to not believe it?

NATHAN: Your lips haven’t been moving this entire time.

LARRY: Exactly.

NATHAN: You have telepathy! Amazing!

(Larry sighs.)

NATHAN: Wow! Miguel is really getting into his new skill at fighting.

(Miguel falls back against the mounts of the T.A.C. and hits his head. He looks up at Nathan.)

MIGUEL: Suddenly, that song “Hurts So Good” makes so much sense to me. Chris is right. Rick Springfield is awesome!

(Miguel rushes back into the fight as Nathan yells after him.)

NATHA: That was John Coug… oh, nevermind.

(Nathan looks back at the Chris hanging from the support beam trying to turn off the dampening field a few hundred feet from the floor. Oh the excitement. If the narrator didn’t have to remain impartial, I might just wet myself. Of course, if this episode doesn’t end soon…)

PAUL: Why aren’t you paying attention to me!?

(Nathan looks at Paul.)

NATHAN: Oh, sorry man. You do have the gun…

(Nathan notices that Paul is actually yelling across the room at Angelina, who is doing something… well, um…)

LARRY: I’m really too young for some of the crap I’ve had to view today.

(Grrrl 2 looks in Larry’s direction and blushes.)

LARRY: They didn’t know I was standing there.

(Grrrl 3 and Miguel are facing off against each other.)

MIGUEL: I can’t really figure out which side the three of you are on.

GRRRL 3: Neither can I. I’m more of a follower.

(She punches him in the face.)

MIGUEL: You really know how to treat a guy.

GRRRL 3: Your wife doesn’t commit domestic abuse against you?

MIGUEL: Nah. We have a good marriage. No violence to speak of.

(She punches him again.)

MIGUEL: At least I won’t be coming home with hickies.

(Nathan is watching Chris slowly making his way to the dampening field. Paul is watching Garrett dampening Angelina’s field, and Larry is watching a You Tube video on his iGadgetoftheWeek.)

LARRY: I’m not sure why I got this thing. I already have seventeen other iDevices that can check email and watch You Tube videos.

NATHAN: Whoa! You have one of those! Holy cow! Those are amazing! Can I touch it? Can I hold it? Can I watch a video?

LARRY: I remember now. I was in the store and I was acting as dumb as that. And then I bought it. Hmm. No wonder I haven’t fully transcended beyond this world yet.

NATHAN: I remember reading the catalog about that. It has the most powerful speakers of any handheld product out there. It has a bullhorn mode.

LARRY: Really? I’m only to page 322 of the alphabetical list of features, The Backscratcher. It is amazingly helpful.

NATHAN: I started reading the list of features for when I can finally qualify for the home equity line of credit to afford it. I’m on page 528, Dampening Field Nullifier. I have a plan.

LARRY: You mean to nullify…

(Nathan grabs the iDevice.)

NATHAN: Yes, to root Chris on with the bullhorn!

(Nathan pushes a set of buttons on the touchscreen, and within thirty seconds, he asks Larry for his security code. Then he pushes more buttons, until finally thirty seconds after that he has turned on the bullhorn.)

LARRY: Don’t you think it would be better to nullify…

NATHAN: I’m sure you have other iDevices that you can watch You Tube on, Larry. This is more important.

(Nathan holds the iDevice to his mouth, and speaks words of encouragement to Chris, the resulting volume so loud that ALLCAPS only begin to give you an idea of how loud it is.)

NATHAN: WAY TO GO, CHRIS!!!!!! TURN THAT DAMPENING DEVICE OFF AND WE’LL GET OUT OF THIS YET!!!!!!!!

(Everyone stops fighting and looks at Nathan. Paul and Larry are covering their ears from the decibel level. Even Angelina and Garrett look for a second and then start smooching again. All the surviving mice drop dead, and the cats run out of the cave as though being chased by dog.)

MIGUEL: Oh good. I was tired of tripping over pussy.

(Everyone laughs at Miguel’s joke.)

MIGUEL: See, Chris! Everyone loves dick and fart jokes! Where’s Chris?

CHRIS: I’m up here, hanging on for dear life, because someone just scared the crap out of me, causing me to slip and almost fall to my death!

NATHAN (through the bullhorn): BUT YOU’RE DOING GREAT, BUDDY!!!!!!! ONLY A COUPLE OF MORE INCHES TO GO!!!!!

(They all hear a moan of agreement from Angelina. They all look briefly at Angelina and Garrett. Get bored. Look back at Chris. The professor is particularly interested.)

CHRIS: Motherfucker, Nathan! Stop trying to help me! The vibrations from that thing are making me lose my grip!

(Miguel starts dancing and Cabbage Patching.)

MIGUEL (singing): I got those good vibrations!

(Everyone stares at Miguel like he’s on crack.)

MIGUEL: See, Chris! No one thinks that outdated cultural references are funny!

PROFESSOR: Nathan. What kind of friend are you? You root your friend on just a little, and then literally leave him hanging without more encouragement. Why, it’s no wonder he’s given up on his pursuit to turn off the dampening device.

NATHAN: You’re right. How selfish of me. RAH RAH RAH!!!!! SISK BOOM BAH!!!!! GO CHRIS!!!! TURN OFF that damn dampening… What the hell?

CHRIS: Nathan, I will come back and haunt you! I swear!

NATHAN: Hold on, Chris. I can’t hear you over the ringing in my ears.

LARRY: No need to blame the queers, Nathan.

(Nathan punches a bunch of buttons trying to get the bullhorn switched back on. He watches as some other feature turns on.)

NATHAN: Oops that’s the Dampening Field Nullifier…

(Chris is suddenly standing in front of Nathan. He grabs the iDevice, runs off, hides it somewhere, appears again in front of Nathan again, and slaps him.)

NATHAN: What did I do?

(Chris rushes off again. He doesn’t reappear. Nathan looks at the professor and the combatants.)

NATHAN: I wish I knew if this was another one of his odd plans, or if he has really abandoned us this time.

(All the combatants shrug at Nathan, and start fighting again. Miguel can be heard yelling “Yeehaw” as he punches a redneck clone that staggers in front of him.)

NATHAN: Well, I guess he’s not…

(Chris appears in front of the professor with two swords.)

NATHAN: Nevermind.

CHRIS: Here’s the way I see it, professor. We have to fight to the death. If not, you will never admit defeat, and we’ll keep getting dragged back into your conflict.

PROFESSOR: Ok, but it has to be a fair fight. You can’t use your super speed.

CHRIS: Agreed.

(Chris and the professor face off, and soon swords start clanking.)

NATHAN: Ok, while they’re doing that, Larry, we need to do something about…

PAUL: How could she do this to me, Nathan? Didn’t I treat her like a queen with the freeze dried rations, and Star Wars videos?

NATHAN: Paul, if I was gay, that would be my ideal situation, but listen, man. Why are you pointing the gun at me?

PAUL: Because I’m sure that she’ll be sleeping with you next. She seems to want to sleep with every man she comes in contact with.

CHRIS: She hasn’t fucked me yet.

PROFESSOR: You’re not a real man, Chris.

CHRIS: I’ll help you in a minute, Nathan. I need to stop a smack talker here.

NATHAN: I’m really not sure how he’s survived so many years. Paul, forget her. Move on. Find something else to focus on. Like the T.A.C. here. It really needs to be dismantled.

PAUL: You’re right.

NATHAN: Good. Finally someone is thinking…

PAUL: But I’m not dismantling it. I’m taking it for the International Association of Realtors.

NATHAN: The I.R.A?

PAUL: No, I.A.R. Pay attention.

NATHAN: Well, that’s ok Paul…

PAUL: But first I’m going to kill you before you get a chance to fuck my girl!

(Nathan groans.)

(End Episode Forty-Seven)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Being a security guard

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Well hello there! I'm sure you are online this 'Black Friday' reading interesting things instead of giving into the hysteria that is the beginning of the 2011 Christmas Shopping Season. In that case, let's have a Black Celebration!

Today's blog is a recollection of some of my exploits as a security guard. You might not think that it's too exciting but there were a few interesting bits that I thought you'd like to read.

I got my start in the security field in 1993 when my brother told me about a contract security company in Dallas that he was working for (but working in the Fort Worth area). He encouraged me to try it out and I did. I started my new job after working at Kmart for several years so the change was nice and the experience was very different. I began working at several different posts in the Fort Worth area. Once place I would have to stand around all day in one spot in the burning sun while at another I would stand around while employees entered and left a PC manufacturing plant, using a wand on them to make sure they weren't stealing (that sucked). They finally got me a semi permanent spot at a building right across from the Water Gardens in downtown Fort Worth. You can read more about it in a series of blogs I wrote back in March. Long story short about the building next to the Water Gardens is that it gave me lots of reading time but not much excitement.

A few months into that post I got transferred again to Houston General Insurance company (see the blog above for alot more detail about that post). During this time I had run of the place in the evenings and had lots of fun reading books, writing, playing PC games, poking my nose into every part of that place, and other fun. A couple of times the fire alarms went off and that was unnerving. I set the fire alarm off once by being a dumb ass and putting the elevator key (a long metal stick) into the 'fireman phone jack' in the stair well. I don't know what the fuck I was thinking. Anyway it freaked me out when the alarm went off. There was no one there at the time so I was alright. Once someone called an escort service and sent a woman to the building and the guard on duty took her up to the floor she was requested to go to (to model lingerie). After getting there and discovering that there was no one on that floor she left. Now the guard on duty was a Seminary student and this was very upsetting to him. I had a good laugh though. There was a period of time when I worked during the day there and we had medical emergencies. Since building management was there I was relegated to standing out at the parking lot entrance to flag down the ambulance or firetruck.

Several years later I got another security job and there were many shenanigans that I got up to with Chris shooting Season 1 of the public access show. You can read all about those in this blog. Other than those instances were I was the culpruit of the mayhem I would often pass cars parked on the side of the some of the backstreets with the windows fogged up. I'm sure the people in those vehicles were praying or something innocent like that. I would also see cars go park behind some of the empty business so I would get out in front and go into the building and sneek a peek at the people through windows. I got to see some BJs in progess and some people making out and such. I am sure those were married people (to eachother) and what I thought were BJs were infact medial testing. She was just checking  his area for some medical reason. I never busted any of these people. I am sure there are guards who enjoy doing that sort of thing but I was more of a live and let live knid of guy. They weren't doing anything to the property so I was fine with it. I would be parked someone nearby afterwards when they would leave so I am sure I scared a few of them, te he he.

If you prove to be reliable and dependable you can make it far in a security job. A lot of people get into the field but are generally flaky (usually depending on the pay) so someone who can be relied on will get lots of opportunities to get into good posts. The pay is not so great but it's better than busting your ass at retail and making less.

I have noticed that many people can't handle being a security guard. Some people need that interaction with other to feel fulfilled in their job. For someone like me the quiet of a security job was welcome. It was just me and my thoughts. All that 'me' time allowed me to do a lot of brainstorming and such. I guess this type of job is good for the creative type of person.

Being a security guard for several different companies has given me a great range of experience and some definite opinions about the industry. I never worked as an armed guard and I would never want to. We live in a day and age where people's lives are cheap and there are many who wouldn't loose a night of sleep over killing you so my opinions are about the unarmed aspect of security. I believe it's an easy job that requires little (as long as you are at the right post). Working for a contract security company you will probably get shifted around to a lot of different (good and bad) posts but all in all your job allows you to do a lot of nothing while doing something (if that makes sense). Even if you are patrolling you have alot of thinking time. If you can write (or text or whatever) you can do much even at the most annoying posts. The requirements for a security job a little and most people can do it (unless you have a serious criminal record). All in all it's a fairly easy job that offers a lot of alone time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nathan's Debt: A What If

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Last week, I discussed my thoughts about Nathan’s goal to get rid of his credit card debt once and for all, and his choice to take me on as his accountability buddy. I spoke from a point of view of a few honest truths regarding the situation as it was, and it was probably the more radical thoughts that earned me the comment that was left within 24 hours of me publishing the post. The comment was:

Hey Nate,
Whatever you do, don’t let this retard near your finances.

I wish I could say that I was the one who came up with that comment. It was funny to me. I’m not sure how much of the Enemy of Debt posts that this guy has read, but at the very least we can be reasonably sure he read that post. What I’m trying to figure out is what I said that was wrong in this guy’s eyes.

Look beyond all of the reality show rhetoric that was having to do with the blog series, and all you have is me saying something to the effect of: Nathan wants to get rid of his credit card debt, and my advice to him is to earn more and spend less, while taking what he has treated as his disposable income for years and paying his bills with it. What exactly is retarded about that?

That’s ok though. I know that I wasn’t being exactly that clear about it. I was talking about turning Nathan’s life into a drama filled mess that would be interesting to write about. I also knew that Nathan wasn’t going to be entirely on board with the idea of having a life that was a drama filled mess. We did talk the other night though when I went to visit him, and I’m happy to report that at this stage of the game, he is at least willing to sacrifice to get through the year successful in his goal. I will write about what we talked about in another post that will be part of the opening episodes of “Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt” Season Two.

For now, I wanted to add to the feeling that I’m a chaotic financial retard by discussing how I would have gone about trying to get all of Nathan’s debt paid in the course of a year. At this time if you count credit cards, student loans, and other loans (personal, cars, house) Nathan has around $137,000 in debt. He and his wife do not make that much in a year, and even if they did, they do still have to eat and pay their bills. I joked with Nathan and said that he could keep the internet, but only so he could eBay. Then he pointed out that he can’t take IT calls from home without it. I conceded that it counts as a necessity then.

After Hours IT – Nathan has the ability to take the phones at his job, and he gets paid pretty well for it when he does. If I had my way, he would literally have the phones all 366 days of 2012. He might choose to do that anyway, who knows, but talk about the easiest way to increase his income over the year.

eBay – There is a part of me that still wants to tell Nathan to go absolutely stupid with eBay over the next year. The problem is that I’m not convinced that there is enough of a market out there for him to sell enough to almost triple his income for the year. If we were trying to pay all of his debt though, I would tell him to do much more of this than I am going to tell him to do.

Handyman Stuff – I would tell Nathan to start putting out the word that he can do many home repairs. He has two series of posts about fixing his house and his mom’s rent house. I would also tell him to take on any landscaping work he could get during the summer. The problem is that he works all day, so he would have to leave work and use the remaining sunlight to do that, or he would just not have days off on the weekend. I would probably have to help him.

Cutting Back – This one is pretty obvious, and is part of the two main strategies: earning more and spending less. When I was dealing with Genghis, he had no spending money out of necessity. In a strange way, even though it’s not completely out of necessity, I think Nathan should use the same strategy. I feel he should become reacquainted with all the stuff he’s bought over the years (since he’s still paying for a lot of it) and not buy anything new at all. His wife says that she realizes that she won’t get her $5 coffee anymore, and Nathan realizes that he will be brown bagging it.

Selling Stuff – Aside from the regular eBay business, I feel that Nathan should liquidate half of what he owns, particularly the half that will sell for a reasonable amount. We’ll have to have a talk about any savings he has that isn’t in a retirement account, like the stock he has. I would have him sell those off at some point in the year to get rid of debt. Selling personal stuff would be with the promise to himself that once the debt was gone, he could buy anything he wished to own again, but this time using cash.

Selling the Stuff that Can’t Be Paid off by the End of the Year – Here’s the part that I think Nathan would never go for, but it would be part of my plan if I was trying to get him completely out of debt. I would have them drive their current car payments until December 2012, and then, with enough money in the bank to pay off the difference and to buy good used cars, I would have them sell the cars. Starting in January 2012, I would have him looking for a good undervalued house near his work that needed repair to sell at its actual market value. I would have him sell his current home, even if it’s at a loss, and have him move into the undervalued house. Being Nathan, he would be compelled to fix it up, and by the end of the year I would have him sell that house too at a profit, and then find a place to rent, knowing full well that it would take him about two years at that point, having no debt and no payments, to save up enough to buy a small house for cash.

This won’t happen, of course, not all of it, at least. It would be an interesting ride. But at the end of the day, no matter how uncomfortable any of this makes anybody feel, all it is saying is for Nathan to do two things: earn more and spend less. I would never advise him to do anything extremely speculative to try to pay off a little debt. The two most speculative things in this “extreme version” of attacking his debt are doing lots of eBay and buying a house to flip.

The eBay is something he’s been doing for years, and he doesn’t lose money doing it. The house flipping would be reasonably safe, because even if he couldn’t sell the house he bought, they would still have a place to live. And let’s face it, $137,000 at 5% annual interest is $6,850 a year. He’s already losing money just by staying in debt. Nothing I’ve said is all that risky to his financial future compared to staying in debt.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy a job you damn dirty apes!

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This blog is a companion piece to Chris' Occupy blog he posted yesterday. Chris makes some good points... in fact his well thought out ideas are probably the ideas that these hippies would come to if they just stopped their free hate festival and really sat down and thought about it. His ideas certainly give me pause for thought.

Chris states that he is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I am more of a social and fiscal conservative. I have a few skewed ideas that don't belong in one camp or another but for the most part you can label me a conservative.

The first knee-jerk reaction to these protests is negative. The comments Chris relays from certain conservatives are fairly accurate as far as those initial thoughts go. When I see them all I am seeing is a bunch of unwashed young people who want a handout. They want government to come in a punish rich people and give it to them. That initial reaction from me is that they want the government to give it to THEM, not the poor in general, but them specifically.

If you take a few minutes and go online and look up some of the 'interview' videos of these youngsters you will find mostly 'Jay-walking' type videos. They give the most ridiculous and uninformed answers as to what they are doing and why they are even there. Now, just like Jay-walking segments I am sure the people who post these have to discard many correct and well-informed interviewees to get the popular, funny stuff. BTW I remeber Howard Stern used to have segments like that Jay-walking (which I'm sure is where Jay Leno got the idea). These videos (of the Occupy crowd) only further enforce the idea that these kids are ill-informed and are just wasting time.

The steps that Chris outlines in his blog are right on the money. The biggest one that stuck me was idea that we should be shopping at more mom and pop types stores (or at least, not the big powerful chain stores). This use of the power of the consumer would really cripple mega-conglomerations and make them change their ways (or loose too much business). I don't think twice about shopping at Walmart, Home Depot, or eating at McDonalds. Imagine how much money I spend at these places combined. If I spent that money at smaller establishements (and other did too) that would really change things.

If you notice in my last paragraph that that idea and many of the ideas that Chris puts forward rely on MANY people changing their ways. Chris talks about voting for who you really want, not along party lines. That's fine and all but you have to get others to do the same. I voted for Chris (no lie) in the 2008 Presidental election becasue I didn't think either real candidate was worth it. Some would say I threw away my vote and it's all my fault we have one of the most useless Presidents of all time in office but I disagree. I am doing what I should have done but is it useless most other people do it. The real difficulty is getting others to realize and take that step... oh no here it comes again.... and get out of our comfort zones and thing can and would change. Looking for the government or a President to change things for you will never work.

The Occupy movement is the symptom of the issue of unbalance in our nation. It will never be a solution. Not that everyone should be 'balanced' and have the same amount of money etc.. but that those rules and laws in place that have been abused and incorrectly used (including our lawmakers) should be brought back into line and corrected so this nation will function in a way that give eveyone something... opportunity. Not money, not an unfair advantage but the opportunity to do what they can to make their lives mean something and be successful (in which ever form that may take).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupying a Fence on Wall Street

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I guess it’s about time that I wrote my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, even if I don’t have that many. Let me start by saying that in most cases I’m a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Mostly, I’m just a fence sitter. People seem to think that fence sitting is not making up your mind about something. I’ve been accused of not taking a side so that no matter what I can say that I was right. I’m not sure how that works with the accusation that once I have an opinion about something that I can’t be swayed, but that’s ok. To me fence sitting is more like not choosing a side immediately. You sit in the middle and look at all sides and then you figure out where to go.

As near as I can tell, Occupy Wall Street is a liberal movement that sprung up because our liberal president didn’t bring about the change that he promised. This of course interests me, because the conservative side of the argument seems to want to attack the protesters as though they were singing the praises of Obama. I think if I was going for a conservative spin I would be like, “What we have here is real Americans using their first amendment right to peaceful protest to speak out against being misled by people in power. The interesting part is that they are liberals who are upset with their liberal leader for not delivering on his promises.” Bam. Suddenly we have President Perry for four years.

But the conservative news… oops, I mean the conservative opinion mongers have trouble speaking in a way that rises above elementary school taunting. Instead of saying, “The protesters have interesting ideas that don’t agree with my opinions on fiscal responsibility,” they come out with the equivalent of, “The protesters are ugly and their mamas dress them funny.” They say things like, “These are a bunch of unemployed hippies.”

Normally, this type of tactic is used to deflect thinking from the actual issue. It’s the same thing as taking on our national deficit by saying that it’s liberal spending, but then not being willing to cut spending. The weird thing is that I see another odd paradox in the unemployed protesters argument. If nearly every one of those protesters are actually unemployed, then doesn’t it speak to just how bad unemployment is in this nation. If I was going for the conservative spin again, I would say, “It’s no wonder these liberals are protesting their own president, they want jobs, but there aren’t enough jobs created under this administration.” But no. They say, “These are just a bunch of lazy slobs who decided that they would just take their unemployment checks and go protest.” This is a weird argument because it more or less says that the unemployment rate isn’t our president’s fault because the unemployed won’t go get all the great jobs that are available.

My problem with the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that I’m not hearing anyone talk about what the actual problem is, you know, aside from trying to shame people into not using their first amendment right to free protest. The problem is that even if you agree with the Occupy Wall Street beliefs; asking the government to fix it is the wrong way to go. If you agree with it then as a society, and, for those of you who vote, as voters, we should be dealing with the gap between the haves and the have nots on our own, not asking the government to fix the problem. If you agree with it then we should be lowering the basic power scheme of corporations ourselves, not asking the government to fix the problem.

If Occupy Wall Street is outrage against 1% of the population controlling 38% of the wealth, if Occupy Wall Street is an outrage against the excess wealth of corporations, then this is what the 99% of the population should be doing.

Step One: Save money. Work two jobs for a while and live off the income of one. If you’re married or living with a partner, live off the higher of the two incomes and save the rest. If even half of our society did this, we would have a significant middle class again.

Step Two: Seek out small businesses for any purchases you can make through small businesses. The fact is that major corporations will lose all of their power to influence the government through lobbying the moment that they are profiting, but not excessively profiting. You don’t need the government to fix that.

Step Three: When you do purchase through large businesses, find as many as you can that operate in a way that is ethical and pro-consumer. I don’t think that we really care all that much that corporations have a lot of money. They provide jobs. We need jobs. I think that we don’t like corporations that misuse the money.

Step Four: Use the charitable donations tax break to lessen the need for government programs. Be sure to pick charities and non-profits that make things happen that you wish to see happen without losing too much of their donations to operations costs.

Step Five: View yourself as a profit center. This ties into Step One, but I want to give it its own section. The biggest problem that I see right now, as money goes, is that we would be afraid to work for a company that handles its money the way that many of us do. We would be afraid that we would show up one week for our paycheck to find out that the company was in bankruptcy. Saving is simply the way that we profit as workers. Example in Step Six.

Step Six: Avoid loans and credit as much as possible. The problem with interest is that it is money that is being paid out that isn’t being earned. Technically, it is a service, but it’s not a service that does something for you specifically. It’s not like hiring someone to mow your lawn or fix your car. It is simply purchasing something now as opposed to later. That’s all. I talked about being a profit center in step five. Let me ask you this. Would you start a business where you buy a product for $1 a unit and then sell that product for 95 cents a unit? No. You wouldn’t. You would be basically giving your money away, right? You wouldn’t even turn around and sell it for $1 a unit would you? That’s a rough equivalent of what you do when you work and then spend your whole paycheck without saving, and especially if you incur loan or credit debt while you’re at it.

Step Seven: Make your vote count. I’ve heard dumb people say that if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to bitch. My take on it is that if you vote for someone you don’t really back, you might as well have not voted. Rather than blindly voting down party lines, how about if you sit down each election and ask yourself, what are the three most important issues to me right now? Then when you vote, vote for the candidate who actually works (rather than just speaking about doing it) toward making your three priorities a reality. Even better, don’t vote for those who don’t. At the very least, even if you feel compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils, make it an informed decision. It may not make sense to some people to bitch if you don’t vote, but to me it makes no sense to be lazy about voting and then bitch about what you’re stuck with as leaders.

In closing, I just want to say that I get what the Wall Street Occupiers are upset about. The social liberal in me wants to even agree with them. A people oppressed by financial inequality are still a people oppressed. The problem is that the fiscal conservative in me doesn’t agree with trying to make the government fix the problem by punishing, through higher taxation, those who have made the kind of money that the Occupiers are angry that they aren’t making. It just seems like there is a contradiction in there somewhere, because the moment you tax the corporations at a higher tax rate, the lay-offs will begin, and the rehiring at a lower rate of pay will follow. To me that doesn’t fix the earnings gap.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visiting some goals for 2012

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Goals are important. Setting goals are fairly easy and give you an overall view of what you want (whether is for the upcoming year or goals for one day of your week). I like goals. Chris likes goals. We both try to set goals and accomplish them over 10 week periods (as you may have read about in this blog in the past).

Today's post is about my goals for the upcoming year. We haven't really discussed goals recently (like we used to) mainly due to Chris' extreme employment situation. We usually sit down and list goals we want to accomplish individually and then list goals we want to work on as a group (According To Whim). These goals will be anything from painting the house to paying off a bill to reading a certain number of books.

I will admit we have a hard time accomplishing a lot of our goals. That doesn't mean we should just ditch the idea of setting goals. I think that the process helps focus you on what you really want and any sort of forward motion is good (even if you don't accomplish it). Chris is really big about goals that push you out of your 'comfort zone'. This is some goal mumbo jumbo he read in one of the many books he has memorized about goal setting. I hate that term: 'comfort zone'. I hate it because I know it's true. If you want to accomplish something major it almost always involves coming out of your comfort zone. A comfort zone might be anything that make you 'uncomfortable'. Me getting off my ass to drive to Fort Worth to shoot some stuff at the haunted house was a bit of coming out of my comfort zone. I think that some of these experts in goal setting dont' think it's worth bothering with unless you are coming out of your comfort zone. I believe that any goal that you set out to do and accomplish is worth the effort.

We haven't had our 2012 goal talk yet. I briefly discussed it with Chris on his way out of the house last night. He came over for a few hours to play (and teach me) Back Gammon, eat dinner, and talk a little about my debt reduction stuff. I told him I had a few ideas for goal setting for 2012 and that we need to have that meeting. During one of these meetings we will go over what we had as goals for the last ten weeks and year and discuss why we failed to meet some of them and what we want to do for the coming year.

My 2012 main goal is to get out of credit card debt. This is a goal that Chris has discussed in one of his last posts. He is going to help me stay focused on getting this debt take care of. That is my main goal but there will be several other goals that I will set for 2012, all of which I haven't even thought about yet. One of the things I will do is go back and look at the yearly goals I have set for myself over the last couple of years and see if any are still pertinent and should come forward.

The only other goal I have is some what large but doesn't require me to come out of my comfort zone too much so it should be easy in the long run. I want to take all the videos we have on YouTube from Season 1 of our Public Access Show: According To Whim and re-encode them into DIVX format and re-upload them. When I started uploading back in 2003/4 I was using the Windows Media Player to encode videos and that along with the compression that YouTube does it made all those videos look really rough. I have 166 videos up there and about 75% are in the old compressed codec and they look awful. This will mean we will lose our total 'view' count (which is at 102,000) but this is minor when you consider it's the content that is important, not the views.

I will come up with more goals and we will try to keep them but will probably loose out on a few. That's just the way it works. I will try though.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Longer Daily

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

We recently had a theme week, and I mentioned that I wanted to write a bit about the untapped well of potential that was the theme week. This is basically the idea that a theme week, when chosen well, provides a topic that both Nathan and I can get three posts out of. In the year of 2011, where we set out to post daily, a few more theme weeks might have been helpful for getting us through.

I also wrote a post at the start of the year discussing the trouble with daily goals. For some people a daily goal is the most helpful tool, and for others, like Nathan and me, it can be a burden. The problem is that we both tend to get focused on certain things for a while, and then we become focused on other things for a while. That is why the daily blog, when not officially a daily blog, tends to sometimes not be posted to for months at a time.

There were a number of things that we tried to do to help us get through the year, but they were met with varying degrees of success, including the degree that isn’t success.

Reserves – The idea was that we would always have so many reserves in place that we could choose the better of the posts to post. The problem is that we often ended up using the reserves as emergency posts when we didn’t have time to write one, and rebuilding the reserves seemed difficult. The odd thing is that when you’re publishing with such high volume, things like reserves and scheduled posts have a way of cycling through quicker than you expect. You might have eight reserves one week, and two weeks later, you have two left, wondering what to write.

Every Other Day – We split the writing duties pretty evenly. Most weeks Nathan took Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I took Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. This made sure that we each wrote three posts a week, and that neither of us would have to write more to achieve our daily goal. What about Saturday, you ask.

The Serial – While Nathan had a “sorta-like/hate” relationship with the serial, by year’s end 52 of the 365 days (about 14%) will have been days that we didn’t have to come up with a topic to write about. Sure, we needed to come up with the next part of the story, but we had a topic. This also allowed us to have a semi-consistent schedule for posting without having to figure out whose week it was for an extra post.

The serial is actually where the point of this post started. When I went to Nathan’s a couple of weeks ago, we had a brief discussion outside before I left. I said, “I’m presuming you won’t want to do another serial next year, unless you have some idea that you haven’t shared.” He told me that I presumed right. Then he asked if we were going to have the same daily goal for the blog next year. I told him we didn’t have to. Here are the reasons that I think that continuing to write a daily blog is probably a bad idea at this point.

Interest and Number of Topics – The biggest problem is that Nathan has been burned out on it for quite a while now. He has said that the burden of coming up with topics has been rough. I agree. Though I don’t think we’re having trouble coming up with topics, as much as we’re having trouble coming up with topics that we’re interested in writing about. I’ve gotten to a point where one of my weekly features (that has been put on hold for theme weeks and other stuff for a couple of weeks) is me going through all the topics I brainstormed and writing what I can about each. While it has made for some interesting writing here and there, it is not the ideal writing circumstance. I haven’t been burned out, but I haven’t been getting quite as much enjoyment from it.

Volume – Another thing is simply that when we write, we don’t tend to ever do 200 word bursts that sometimes passes as a daily blog. Even Seth Godin will write blogs that are readable in less than a minute, as well as blogs that take a few minutes to read. Nathan and I tend to write at least a page every time we sit down to write the blog. This became such that I started limiting myself to avoid really long posts. If I ever hit the 2,000 word mark, I would turn it into a multi-part post. When I did the “Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt” feature, rather than try to write everything that happened as it happened, I limited myself to 1,200 words, and just didn’t fret that the events I was posting were often a month gone by.

Promotion – The thing about a daily blog is that it’s probably pretty pointless when you aren’t trying to get people to your blog to read. We do write some good stuff (we write some stinkers too) but we’re not focused enough that we get many consistent readers. I think there is a readership out there somewhere, but until we try to find that readership, I don’t think they will find us. We had a lot of goals at the start of 2011, and many of them fell prey to my goal of finding enough work to pay my bills. One goal that I had with the daily blog was to find a daily readership, but it’s hard to do when the best you can do is put tags on your blog.

I spoke with Nathan recently to determine what we would do with the blog in 2012. My suggestion was that we each try for seven posts a month. This would keep the blog consistently updating while not being quite as burdensome on us. He wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to focus on the other things we’d not completed this year. I told him that the irony of that is if we’re doing things, we’ll have material to write about. That was one of the problems with topics. When we got together with Miguel at the Water Gardens to re-shoot some footage, I didn’t have to rack my brain for what to write about. I had a whole four hours of activity to discuss, and it was probably more on topic for a blog that’s supposed to be about our creative work than the blog has been most of the year.

We’re not sure what we’re going to do in 2012 as the blog goes. It seems like it will be unscheduled, and that we’ll only post when we have something to post. I feel we should have some sort of schedule, be it: seven posts a month; or six, five, or four posts a month; or a minimum of one post a week from each of us. Something that keeps the blog from not being updated for weeks and months at a time.

At this time, I still have the CTFU brainstorm topics that I can go through. Depending on how involved Nathan wants the new “Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt” to be, I have that. Nathan will likely have stuff to write about once he isn’t feeling a deadline pressure to find something to write. And I’m sure that if we get back to project work in the coming year, there will be that. I’ve thought that perhaps Nathan and I can do some writing sessions together, whether it’s when I come over or maybe over the phone where we take a set amount of time to write so much in order to generate material. We’ll see.

At this point though, the purpose of this post is just to say that we won’t be posting as much next year. If you read our blog with any regularity, but haven’t ever commented, now might be the time to comment. While we’re almost certainly not going to do daily writing anymore, it might be more motivating to have some sort of schedule if we know we’re being read. At this time though, the time pressure of three and a half posts a week is too much.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Forty-Six - The Gang's All Here

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

CHRIS: The professor can’t get away with this, guys. What do we do?

MIGUEL: You’ll have to turn off that dampening field, and then you can quickly run around and untie us, and tie all of them up.

CHRIS: But without my super speed…

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: But without my super speed, how do I get to the dampening field without being stopped? I was only ever sufficient at football.

MIGUEL: But you were good at running plays.

CHRIS: But only with…

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: But only with the kids in my neighbourhood. I probably wouldn’t do well now.

MIGUEL: You’re presuming they are better than you. Do you think our captors are trained in football?

(Chris looks at Angelina.)

CHRIS: Some of them, maybe.

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: What Nathan! Unless you’re going to say something helpful…

NATHAN: Where is part one of this episode?

CHRIS: Motherfucker. Go to credits.

(The credits come on. Think “Saved By the Bell” meets “American Idol” with Chris and Nathan running around doing wacky stuff… animated. They’re animated. And Miguel is trying to keep up with their heroic deeds, but he keeps getting harmed in cartoonish ways. The song sounds an awful lot like something Queen would do, but is sufficiently different enough so they don’t get sued. At the end of the credit sequence, Chris and Nathan are standing there with Miguel, and an anvil drops on Miguel. Chris and Nathan give thumbs up to the camera, and we see Miguel’s hand coming from under the anvil also giving thumbs up. There is a poster of George Lucas taped to the anvil.)

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

(Chris has rushed back, after tying up loose ends, only to find his compatriots tied up and himself the victim of the “power negation ray” that has killed his super speed ability. The professor, Quincy, Stubby, Paul, the Grrrls, a few surviving Redneck clones, and Chris’s 10 naked, mindless clones stand in Stubby’s cave hideout. Nathan, Shag, Miguel, Dentre, and the pantsuited Century 21 agents stand in a huge circle, wrapped with thick ropes.)

PROFESSOR: Now Chris, how many times have I told you to just get the fuck out of my way?

CHRIS: I can’t help it. I figured out your plans and had to do something about it.

PROFESSOR: Really?

CHRIS: Yes. By the way, just for clarification, what are your plans?

PROFESSOR: They don’t include you.

(The professor pulls out a gun and points it at Chris.)

CHRIS: Really? I thought you didn’t want to kill anyone.

PROFESSOR: Usually, but you are so insufferable that I feel I need to.

(The professor fires. Chris doubles over in pain.)

CHRIS: Shit that hurt!

(Shag sees something red then turns his head away. Chris curls into a fetal ball and stops moving.)

QUINCY: About fucking time!

PROFESSOR: Well, Stubby? How does it feel?

STUBBY: I don’t know. Kind of a let down really. I had hoped to more or less humiliate him until he couldn’t bear to live anymore. I guess I’m satisfied.

(The cluster of tied up prisoners keep Nathan and Miguel facing the opposite direction, away from Chris.)

PROFESSOR: Stubby, you and Quincy get back to glass collecting. The T.A.C. needs more insulation if it is going to project Larry’s thoughts all the way to Washington.

(Chris stirs then moans out in a fading breath.)

CHRIS: Ohhhhh. Thatssss it.....

(Chris exhales loudly then stops moving again.)

PROFESSOR: Cripes.

(He looks at Stubby and Quincy and they jump.)

PAUL: Where is Angelina? She’s been missing for a while now.

PROFESSOR: How do I know? You’re her dog, go sniff her out.

(Everyone splits up to do their own thing while the prisoners stand silent. Nathan and Miguel are stunned at what happened.)

NATHAN: Oh man...

DENTRE: Hang in there.

MIGUEL: I need to get free. I have more ass to kick.

SHAG: Calm down, mannnn.

MIGUEL: You don’t understand...

SHAG: I know. Chris was your best friend and you want to avenge his death.

MIGUEL: No, I love fighting! It gives me focus, it makes me powerful. Chris’s death only adds fuel to my fire. I want to take them all down!

(Miguel struggles against the big rope to no avail.)

PAUL: Hey!

(The shout is so loud that everyone in the cave stops. Paul has pushed a pile of boxes to the side and Angelina and Garrett are making out like bandits... as in they are kissing a lot, not stealing or making great profit on some business venture.)

GARRETT: Mumhmhummmmm.

(Garrett is unable to talk with Angelina’s tongue in his mouth. She stops and turns to Paul.)

ANGELINA: Don’t be mad, baby. It’s only business.

(Paul is totally confused by this statement as he tries to play it back in his mind several ways.)

PAUL: What in the hell does that mean?

ANGELINA: Highest bidder.

PROFESSOR: Shit.

(There is a huge explosion overhead. The wall between the main chamber and the chamber with the T.A.C. in it collapses, making one big room. From overhead shouts resound and ropes drop down. Men in military gear descend and the battle starts anew).

DENTRE: Everyone, back up!

(The tied up prisoners start to shuffle back out of the way of the action. A voice can be heard over the noise.)

ERIC: Take them down boys, but don’t damage the gun!

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

(Chris and Angelina struggle, rolling around on the ground. Miguel holds Paul back with a hold he learned by watching the gay wedding episode of “professional” wrestling. Nathan is watching Chris’s struggle with a look of appalled interest.)

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: You won’t get away this time, Angelina!

ANGELINA: I’ve got you right where I want you.

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: Unless you know some amazing move to stop me, I don’t see how you have me where you want me. After all, I’m on top of you, wedged between your legs, and you’re doing all you can to get me off.

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: Nathan, not now. I just realized I may be experiencing a fantasy come true.

NATHAN: Chris, did you read the first part, or just copy/paste it?

CHRIS: Motherfucker. Sorry, folks. We’ll be back after these messages.

(We see Nathan sitting at a kitchen table looking at a bowl with mild dismay. Chris walks on screen.)

CHRIS: Is your cereal getting you down?

NATHAN: Yes.

CHRIS: Did it used to bring joy to your morning, but now it feels like a chore to get through it?

NATHAN: Yes.

CHRIS: Then…

NATHAN: Although, you were laying it on a bit thick with that whole “joy to your morning” bit. I’m not sure I was ever all that excited about it.

CHRIS: Ok. We got it. Can we get back on script?

NATHAN: Sorry.

CHRIS: Then try new Rick Springfield cereal.

NATHAN: Rick Springfield cereal!

CHRIS: Yes. Now you too can have the fruity taste of Rick Springfield in the morning. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask our celebrity endorsement.

NATHAN: Oh my god! You got Rick Springfield to endorse Rick Springfield cereal?

CHRIS: No, he passed. But we have Martha Quinn, former Veejay on MTV.

MARTHA (clearly reading a cue card): How delicious is this cereal!

CHRIS: We had to keep that line generic, because it’s going into all the General Mills product line commercials.

NATHAN: I apologize if I seem ignorant, but what exactly is a Veejay?

MARTHA: Like a Deejay, but with videos.

NATHAN: Like Disc Jockey, but Video Jockey?

MARTHA: Right.

NATHAN: That makes sense, but how were you a Veejay on MTV? MTV doesn’t show videos.

CHRIS: Nevermind that right now. I just want to tell everyone to go buy some Rick Springfield cereal from your favourite grocery store, on this short list of participating stores.

(There is a list that includes a Skaggs Alpha-Beta in Wilmington, Utah, and a Winn-Dixie in Toronto, New Jersey. And that’s the whole list. Then a jingle that sounds an awful lot like “Jesse’s Girl” comes on.)

CHORUS: I wish that I had Rick Springfield cereal!

CHRIS: We all need it!

NATHAN: I need it too!

(And now back to…)

CHORUS: Flash Ahhhh!

(We come back, and we’re at the lagoon. We see Miguel running along the shore in his red shirt and white hat.)

MIGUEL: Skipper! Skipper!

(Nathan comes running out in his blue shirt and white hat.)

NATHAN: What is it, little buddy?

MIGUEL: Chris has been killed.

NATHAN: That’s not possible.

(The professor wheels out in his wheelchair made of bamboo and coconut.)

PROFESSOR: He’s right, Skipper. I shot Chris.

NATHAN: Professor, no.

(Dentre and Shag walk up.)

DENTRE: We’re Ginger and MaryAnn.

NATHAN: Which is whi… oh, it doesn’t matter. Where’s Mr. and Mrs. Howell.

GARRETT AND ANGELINA: We’re over here.

(They look over and see Garrett and Angelina dressed as millionaires, sitting at a table.)

GARRETT: Ah yes, Lovie. Let me count out your money to you.

(Garrett has a wad of bills, and he starts counting, and slapping them down on the table.)

GARRETT: Four. Eight. Fifteen. Sixteen. Twenty-Three. Forty-Two.

(Paul jumps out as a witch doctor.)

SHAGGY: Zoinks! Run, Scoob!

SCOOBY: Ruh Roh!

NATHAN: Would somebody please tell me what the hell…

(Michael Emerson walks out.)

MICHAEL EMERSON: I’m here to reprise my role as Benjamin Linus. And this is my sister Lucy.

(Chris walks by.)

CHRIS: I love Lucy.

NATHAN: Wait! Chris!

CHRIS: Such a great Candlebox album.

(Larry walks up to Michael Emerson.)

LARRY: Aren’t you in a new show?

MICHAEL EMERSON: Why yes, Mr. Reese.

LARRY: My name is Larry… and Reece is spelled with a “c.”

NATHAN: Chris! What is going on?

CHRIS: Well, since I’m no longer needed as an actor, I’ve been put in charge of the writing. I thought we needed more pop cultural references.

NATHAN: No! No! I refuse.

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

PROFESSOR: What do you refuse, Nathan?

NATHAN: No one else saw all of that?

PROFESSOR: Larry’s power is reaching a prime, and it’s being wasted on your lame hallucinations. Quincy and Stubby need to hurry up. Eric needs to call off his men. Garrett and Angelina need to quit swallowing each other’s tongues. I want order!

ERIC: I think it’s a bit late for that, professor.

MIGUEL: Nathan, I’m starting to think that we’re stuck in a never ending cycle of misery.

(A bullet grazes by Miguel, ricocheting off the wall of the cave, and bouncing off of Shag’s platform boots.)

SHAG: Hey now. All I can see is this wall, but I don’t think I like what I’m not seeing.

MIGUEL: Like no matter what we do, there will never be a true victor.

NATHAN: It can’t be that bleak, Miguel.

(A bullet slides through Nathan’s hair, and also ricochets off the cave wall, and also hits Dentre’s funny bone, not hard enough to break skin, but hard enough to make him scream in pain.)

NATHAN: That was a bit close, Eric!

MIGUEL: That’s what I mean. Five seconds ago, the professor was clearly the victor. Five seconds before that, Chris was the victor. Now, Eric seems to be taking home the prize.

(They watch as Garrett and Angelina scoot away from the gunplay, all the while fondling, groping, and kissing each other.)

MIGUEL: In a manner of speaking, Eric is taking home the prize. In another, less PC, manner of speaking…

NATHAN: One thing has changed though. I’m devastated that Chris is dead, but at the very least… If we can just get out of here. Once we’re gone, we have no reason to come back. No one here cares about us, and Chris was the one who kept dragging us back into the conflict. We just have to get out of here.

MIGUEL: But I kind of like fighting. A lot.

NATHAN: But you also like sitting in your underwear and reading gossip on theforce.net. You can’t do both.

MIGUEL: You make a good point.

NATHAN: Now how do we get out of here?

MIGUEL: Quick! I got the grappling hook to catch.

CHRIS: That would be fine, if you’d attached the rope properly.

(Chris pulls on the rope. It comes away from the grappling hook, and falls to the ground.)

MIGUEL: Damn it. I’m sorry Chris. I really thought I could get us away from those Kamikaze robots.

CHRIS: It’s ok…

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: It’s ok, Miguel. You did your best.

MIGUEL: But I really thought I would save the day.

CHRIS: You may still…

NATHAN: Chris…

CHRIS: You may still surprise us all by getting us out of here.

NATHAN: Chris! This makes no sense with what was just happening.

CHRIS: You’re right, it doesn’t. Sorry. I really thought that by the time we got here, the plot would have worked itself around to this point. Can we see the Rick Springfield cereal commercial again?

(The screen goes to a technical difficulties screen. Chris and Nathan can be heard arguing just below the music. Nathan seems to think that they are running a little close to the wire for the serial being over for Chris’s shenanigans. Chris is defending himself that he really thought he could get ahead of the game a little, and that he didn’t know it would ruin the flow of the story. Then we seem to be back to the action.)

NATHAN: Now how do we get out of here?

(A bullet hits the floor right by Nathan’s leg.)

NATHAN: If certain assholes would quit shooting at each other!

MIGUEL: I have an idea.

(Miguel starts twitching like he’s spasming. He finally topples himself over, dragging everyone else to their knees, and with his face to the floor, he holds his hands up away from his back as far as he can. Nathan looks at him like he’s lost his mind. Ten seconds pass. Then another ten seconds. As another ten seconds pass, Miguel can be heard saying something that is very muffled by the dirt he’s eating, but sound an awful lot like, “Hurry the funk up.” Or maybe not funk. Then suddenly another stray bullet gets awfully close to hitting Miguel. It instead cuts right through the ropes that bind his hands.)

NATHAN: Amazing!

MIGUEL (wiping dirt from his mouth): Let me get my legs untied, and then I’ll untie the rest of you.

(Miguel does as he promised. Everyone hits the dirt as the stray gunfire picks up.)

MIGUEL: I don’t know about the rest of you, but Nathan and I are leaving!

(Miguel and Nathan stand up to run away. They start walking like Egyptians as many stray bullets try to take them out, but they finally make it out of the room.)

MIGUEL: Oh for the love of Clinton. That was the worst 55 seconds of my life.

NATHAN: Let’s get out of here, before they try to top it.

(Larry steps out.)

LARRY: Wait guys, I have something to tell you. You might find it important.

(End Episode Forty-Six)

Friday, November 18, 2011

On having renters 11

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Yeah, yeah, I know you are getting tired of this handy-man type blog but it keeps me going and helps me figure out what I need to do next so clam up! For those of you who don't know this is a series of blogs about me renovating my mom's rent house after some renters tore it up (really bad). If you want to learn more you can start here at this first blog.

I am starting to see the end of the tunnel here people... no really. I can see things moving a little faster and sooner rather than later I will get the kitchen floor done then we can get carpet. This is a late week post since I actually went to to my mom's on my Birthday to catch up on some work.

I started my day by hitting Home Depot to get more stuff. I bought 2 new doors (for the hall and master bedroom), a folding door for the master bedroom closet, a piece of tin for the outside skirting, a piece of plywood for the kitchen wall, parts for the washer connection, some white primer paint, and a couple of smaller items. The total was almost three hundred, sheesh. They were too overpriced on a couple of things and they don't cut glass so I will have to get those at Lowe's.

Most of my extra long day (5 hours this time) was painting. I started by using that primer on the ceiling of the bathroom. Old water stains keep coming though the paint no matter how many times I paint so I got this primer that is supposed to stop stains. It worked well, but not perfectly. It is good enough though. I then took the primer and painted the weird wall in the kitchen because it needs to be white and it is showing some stains aw well. Then I painted the upper half of the bathroom (the dark green part). While that was drying I started painting the other green wall that's in the kitchen (the one that was red that I talked about time before last). I then took the brown paint and painted the rest of the red that was in the house. I am talking about that wall in the living room. That more expensive paint did the job in only one coat. Awesome!

Most of my time was taken up with painting (especially all the edges) but I also tried to do a few other things. I took a look at leveling the back of the house so the kitchen floor would be more level before I tried to pour the leveling agent on it. After just a couple of minutes I gave up and decided to just let the leveling agent do it's job. I also didn't get any progress on the washer connection since I needed some PVC glue. I will have to bring that back next time.

My mom stopped by and we picked which flooring she wanted for the kitchen. I got 3 samples at Home Depot and she picked the most expensive one (of course). I will go back and get that next time I go there (but after I level the floor).

All in all I spent the most time painting. I am having to paint EVERY surface in this house... it's that bad. I still have a couple of walls in the kitchen and the lower half of the bathroom to do as well as the ceiling the living room. I am hoping I can just touch that up and not have to paint the whole thing.

My visit tomorrow will encompass more painting and some work on the plumbing stuff with some additional prep on the kitchen floor. THAT is the biggie, that damn floor. I am really worried about.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nathan Stout - Frenemy of Debt

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

If you are familiar with my “Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt” feature, you will know that I tried helping out a friend, who I gave the alias of Genghis, who got himself into a particularly bad place financially. He was facing eviction, getting his vehicle repossessed, and possibly even divorce. I saved him from all of that, but probably only temporarily, because he’s an idiot.

While I was doing that, Nathan talked to his wife about me looking at his finances and directing him in the same way I was directing Genghis. Why would he ask that? I think it’s because a person who has no emotional investment in your money can be a lot more objective about how you spend it. If I have one goal, which is to get Nathan out of debt, then the decisions I make with the pieces of his puzzle will be the logical, mathematical decisions that none of us, and I mean none of us, can make with our own money. Some people can detach a little bit from their role of spender and their role of decision maker, but we all have at least a small emotional attachment to the money we earn, the money we spend, and the services and possessions we acquire.

I’ve been thinking about Nathan’s situation since the last time I went to his house. I’ve had a few small conversations with him. Right now, I’m not sure what the best steps are to take. My problem is that I’m not really sure what Nathan wants to accomplish. If I were to set the criteria for the Nathan’s Debt feature, I would set the goal very high. I would want to pay off all of his debt by the end of 2012. To me that is a challenge that would make for a very interesting year. I even know more or less how I would go about it. It would all be very uncomfortable for Nathan. Yep.

Nathan has another idea in mind, and it’s one that isn’t quite as interesting to me. This is evidenced in Nathan’s post about the credit card game. He said, “Chris will want to go after my cars and home and such but I am more interested in getting rid of the credit debt.” Don’t get me wrong, Nathan has enough credit card debt that if I merely set out to get rid if it during 2012, there would be enough of a challenge. My problem is that I wouldn’t really need to give much advice.

I want to clarify that I’m not a financial advisor. When I say “give advice,” I don’t mean as a professional. I’m more of an accountability buddy who strong arms his friends into doing what they should by being a dick. When I was dealing with Genghis earlier this year, I made him agree to do what I said because he needed more income (so he had to do what I said and get a second job) and I would have to loan him money (so he had to do what I said so that I got paid back in a timely manner).

With Nathan, the problem is that I will have no real reason to strong arm him. Nathan makes enough money to pay his debt. The only reason I would tell him to find more income would be to speed up the debt reduction, not because he would lose his house or vehicle or marriage if he didn’t. Nathan makes enough money that I won’t have to loan him money. The only reason I would loan him money is if we were going for a very lofty goal where every little bit was going to matter. This means that I don’t have to be an outright dick if Nathan gets whiny about not having any money. I would simply say, “You have plenty of money. Do what you want.”

It’s a different world, Nathan’s finances as opposed to Genghis’s, and it will require different tactics. The biggest issue I see is that, yes, I do want to go after his cars and his house. Niccolo Machiavelli described an archer in his book “The Prince” (I’ve read only part of it). This archer, in order to hit a distant target, had to aim his arrow very high so that when gravity pulled the arrow down it would find its way to the target. I feel that gravity will drag down Nathan’s arrow as well, which is a fancy way to say that the higher we aim, the more likely we’ll hit his target.

The thing is that the higher the aim, the more I’ll actually have to do. In 2003, Nathan and I discussed his debt. My advice was to charge no more on his credit cards, get a part time job at Taco Bell, and pay everything he made at the part time job against his credit cards. That somehow turned into a comic book shop, but that story has been told on the blog already. That’s been my advice all along. Go no further into debt, and pay off your debt. The truth is that if he just wants to pay off his credit cards, then that’s pretty much all I’m going to tell him. If he doesn’t want to do anything more than take on some overtime at work and do support calls all year, then that’s pretty much all I’m going to tell him.

That’s just a basic debt snowball. Any of the financial gurus will tell you the same thing. Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, David Bach, “Lord” Brian Tracy, and Suze Orman will all tell you that to get out of debt, you go no further into debt, you pay down your smallest debt quickly, and then you apply the money you were paying on that debt to the next smallest debt, repeat until you have no more debt. That won’t make for an interesting blog post. I just wrote it. It only took up a paragraph.

“Survivor” wouldn’t be all that interesting of a show if the concept was: You have to survive in the wilderness, but if you ever need a shower or a hot meal, just stop by the mansion.

“The Biggest Loser” wouldn’t be all that interesting if the concept was: The first person to lose 15 pounds wins.

“Hoarders” wouldn’t be very interesting if the concept was: We’re going to make you get rid of a couch that your mom thinks is ugly.

If Genghis had called me up and said, “I’m broke. Can you pay my rent,” and then he paid me back from his next two checks, I wouldn’t have even got a single post out of it.

What I’m trying to say is which of the following concepts would you actually write about if you were a writer and read about if you were a reader:

1. Nathan has $50,000 in credit card debt and makes a combined income with his wife that is very comfortable. He will pay $600 more a month on his debt each month and at year’s end will have only $42,800 in credit card debt. (Not even worth mentioning.)

2. Nathan has $50,000 in credit card debt and makes a combined income with his wife that is very comfortable. He will apply his wife’s income to his debt while living off of his income and at year’s end will still have some credit card debt, but not as much. (A little interesting, but nothing that everyone in America shouldn’t be doing anyway, since I’m a proponent of living off of one income and saving the second, smaller income.)

3. Nathan has $150,000 in debt altogether and makes a combined income with his wife that is very comfortable, but nowhere near enough to pay his regular bills and pay off even half of that debt. We say fuck that! By year’s end we’re going to have it all, every single bit of it, paid off! (Now we’re interested. If he has more debt than his combined annual income with his wife, however could he actually pay off all his debt in a year?)

The thing is that even if we just go after the credit cards, Nathan needs to realize that if I’m going to do it “Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt” style, I’ll be showing up (whether physically or by phone) when he gets his paycheck, and throwing everything he makes at his debt, literally. But in order to do this, his wife has to be on board. Why? Because they would have to live on her income while using all the money he makes to go toward debt for this to even start being interesting.

The problem is that the debt has not gone away in the last eight years, which means that much the way that Genghis wasn’t handling his finances in a way that accomplished his goal of having a place to live, a car to drive, and a wife to argue with, Nathan also isn’t handling his finances in a way that accomplishes his goal of not having credit card debt. The difference between Nathan and Genghis is that Nathan makes enough money that financial gaffes won’t end him up on the street. Nathan hasn’t saved enough that losing his job won’t end him up on the street though.

This isn’t meant to be judgmental. If my dad were to sell the house I’m living in, and cut me off from loaning me any money, I’ll be couch hopping and hoping my car doesn’t break down. I think Genghis is an idiot, yes, but I only believe Nathan is a little unfocused when it comes to money.

What this comes down to is odds. Human interest stories are not interesting (which being “human interest” requires at least one human and something interesting) unless they overcome some odds. If Nathan pays $200 a month extra on his credit card debt the odds are in his favour to have his credit card debt paid off in 21 years (that’s 21, count them, Nathan, 21 yeeeears). If Nathan pays $1,000 extra a month on his credit card debt the odds are in his favour to have his credit card debt paid of in 5 years. There is no overcoming the odds.

What if the goal was to pay off all the credit card debt in a year? Is that against the odds? No. Here’s why. Even with a comfortable combined income he and his wife would have to live off an average household income. A 40 hour a week, minimum wage worker makes $15,080 a year, which is considerably less than what she makes. While this would be a bit of a struggle for people who are used to making more, it’s a struggle that many people in our country manage to survive each year. Now it’s a little bit interesting, but not excessively interesting.

What I want is for Nathan to look at these figures. I told him I would make him uncomfortable, and here it is; the discomfort. I want him to realize that if he looked at the $200 extra figure and said, “I’m good with that,” there isn’t much that I can do to help him out of his mess. If he looked at the $1,000 extra a month and said, “I’m not ok with that,” then there is still not much I can do to help him out of his mess. I know for a fact that living off of her income, while throwing all of his income at the debt, makes him uncomfortable, but if he was willing to do it, I could help him with that. It’s still not as interesting as I would like it to be, but at least I would know that he and his wife were serious about getting rid of the credit cards.

The reason I say this is because at the start of 2011, Nathan said that he was willing to go after $20,000 of his debt. That meant paying about $768 from every paycheck on his debt. His wife had little to no income at the time, admittedly, and he did try for a couple of months, but he ended out the year with a couple of thousand in savings and investments, some medical debt, and a new truck complete with payments. He set out to get rid of $20,000 in debt, and ended up further in debt than he started, and this was even after she started working again.

I’ve talked for years about stepping out of comfort zones, and Nathan hates when I say it. He likes being comfortable, and I don’t blame him. I like comfort too. I could step out of some zones myself. The problem is that Nathan’s comfort zone looks like this: try pretty hard for a while, feel some ephemeral need to spend money, stop trying and increase the debt level. If going after 40% of his debt in 2011 was too hard, almost anything I tell him to do will be out of his comfort zone. As far as doing a feature where I tell him what to do, it means that I’ll be making him very uncomfortable from day one, even if I’m pulling punches. If I’m going to do this, I need to know that he’s going to fight his inclination to retreat back into his comfort zone, and that he’s going to fight the good fight for the entire year. Genghis lasted around three months, and the moment he was no longer facing immediate eviction, it was too much for him.

When we were in the shop, and I realized that we were in over our heads, I told Nathan how much money we were going to have to make through eBay sales if we continued to have very little walk in business. I was just reporting the facts as they were, but it knocked the fire out of him, because I was just talking about keeping the shop open. It wasn’t even going to pay us for our time at the shop.

I think that this post might have a similar effect on Nathan. I’m just reporting the facts as they are. $50,000 worth of credit card debt will not go away very quickly without a lot of sacrifice and a lot of focus. Genghis, having a comparable problem if you scaled the figures, was miserable for three months having no money for anything that even remotely resembled a luxury. Those stupid cigarettes were about all he had, and he wasn’t getting enough of those for his taste (read: addiction).

What I’m saying is that if we’re going to go after Nathan’s debt, I think we should really go after it. I don’t feel that being half-hearted about it will accomplish anything. I’ll do a more detailed analysis of how I would attack Nathan’s debt if I was in his shoes, and had me as a resource to help, if Nathan still wants to attack his debt after reading this. But for now, I’ll just say it like this, if I was in Nathan’s shoes: I would cut my lifestyle down to nothing. I would do as much at home eBay work as possible with the help of my pal Chris. I would sell a lot of stuff with the promise to myself that I would purchase it again later for cash. I would be intent on having no debt left as of December 31, 2012. That’s the simple version of it. The question is what does Nathan actually want his goal to be?