New Jersey to Utah by Train

Aboard the California Zephyr

My lease was up in New Jersey at the end of September 2020, so I decided to move to Idaho to save on rent, take an extended break from work, and be closer to family during the COVID-19 pandemic. I drastically downsized by selling or getting rid of most of my furniture and possessions, shipped a few boxes of stuff I wanted to keep to Idaho, and then took Amtrak trains from Newark, NJ to Salt Lake City, UT.

What Form of Government Gives Common People the Most Power?

What system is best for preserving rights and guarding against those who wish to consolidate power for themselves?

In his most recent letter, my dad shared some thoughts and asked a really interesting question that I’ve been pondering on for the past few of weeks. I decided to share and respond here, mainly so that I could link to some sites and graphs in my response that I found to be of interest, but also to ensure it’s legible!

Why I’d Rather Rent

Home ownership just doesn’t appeal to me

A good friend of mine messaged me the other day about some drama they’re going through involving a duplex they purchased a year or two ago. It was another reminder of how happy I am to rent.

Latter-day Saints and Anti-Mormons

Part I: A lie is a lie, even if it’s about something you don’t like

I was raised in a family that were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and like other children of Latter-day Saint families, I was baptized at the age of 8. My mother was also raised in a Latter-day Saint family, and my father was a convert to the Church in his 20’s.

Air Traffic Control vs. Space Shuttle

We’re coming in a bit hot…

Last week’s first SpaceX crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS) got me binging on spaceflight-related articles and videos lately. Although I knew the space shuttle somehow returned to Earth by gliding in for a landing like a plane, I really had no idea how this transition from orbiting spacecraft to atmospheric glider worked. I imagined it could make for a pretty unusual conversation with air traffic control (ATC) though:

QAnon Quackery

A socialist perspective

Recently, I received the following text from a family member eager to share a compelling video they had viewed. This isn’t the first time I’ve been sent a link to QAnon-related content, but it has been a while (especially since I ditched social media) and I was a little surprised that this stuff is still making the rounds. I don’t know if this is due to the conspiracy theory gaining something of a ‘second wind’, or if it just never really subsided like I had imagined, but either way I’ve finally decided—reluctantly—to address it here and share some of my thoughts.

Helical Scan

Why is that shiny thing inside the VCR crooked?

Did you ever look into the open door of a VCR (if you were old enough to have access to one years ago) and wonder why that shiny round component inside looked crooked or ‘lopsided’? I remember thinking that as a kid. It looked like it hadn’t been mounted correctly.

Civilian MREs

Another COVID-19 quarantine survival technique

In the military, we often ate ‘Meals, Ready to Eat’ (MREs) in the field. After taking inventory of my freezer today during the ongoing coronavirus quarantine, I realized that microwave dinners are basically just MREs for civilians.

Who Creates Wealth?

By Jonathan Rowe and David Bollier / The Missing Sector

Jonathan Rowe and David Bollier raise some really good thought-provoking questions in this article about economics, ‘the market’, and its insidious creep into every aspect of our lives. They ask, “Is everything for sale?” It touches on the need to create boundaries on the market’s “relentless creep”.

We Are Living in a Failed State

By George Packer / The Atlantic

In this great article, Packer hits on many points and thoughts that echo my own. The true tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic’s affect on the US isn’t the virus itself, but the woefully inadequate response led by incompetence, decades of cuts to public spending and infrastructure, privatization of public resources and services, and political squabbling.

Programmers Imagine the Most Ridiculous Ways to Enter a Phone Number into a Form

By Keith Collins /

A co-worker encountered a form on an internal site the other day where the input field for an alphanumeric ID was set up erroneously as an integer field with a step value. Whenever he tried to enter his ID, the field stripped the letters and rounded the remaining numbers to the nearest 10,000 or something dumb like that.

The Consumer Feedlot

Welcome to the BigMac Nation

I think a feedlot is a great analogy for how I often feel about our consumption-obsessed society. With the never-ending onslaught of advertising, marketing, media, branding, and debt-fueled consumption, I feel as though I’m living in a feedlot rather than an actual real country.

I Think It’s Done

Our floor is really struggling with this quarantine cooking thing

I smelled smoke and heard some commotion in the hallway on our floor, so I stepped out of my apartment to see what was going on. Some other people were already trying to figure out what was burning. At some point, someone must have called 911 because the alarms hadn’t gone off, but the fire department showed up.