The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

I recently read ‘The Reason You’re Alive’ by Matthew Quick, it was a great quick read, and this video is about what I found interesting about the book. One thing that stands out, is that it is really good at giving you the perspective of someone you’ve likely never taken seriously.

The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick

The Year Without Summer

On April 10, 1815, Mount Tambora erupted, and this was the beginning of The Year Without Summer. It filled the sky with ash and other destructive things. As a result, there was a year without summer, basically, summer never came. This was mostly a result of the sun being blocked by the aftermath of the eruption. But many other things happened, which made life for many people across the globe much more complicated.

The Year Without Summer by Rachel Lebowitz explores that idea and brings in stories and references from other similar catastrophes. When the unexpected happens, people don’t know where to turn. And in the end, they end up turning into people they didn’t expect to be.

How I found The Year Without Summer

I found this book randomly but was very curious about the topic. Honestly, the book is a mix of mediums. If you are looking for a historical account, you aren’t going to find it here. That said, this book is a great dive into the issues and a long-forgotten past. If anything, it has me thinking about today, and what I should be doing to prepare for the future.

In a lot of ways, if you look at what is happening all around the world, it doesn’t seem that far off to fear something like The Year Without Summer. Recent news has flooding in China, fierce wind storms in America and a pandemic affecting everyone all around the world.

If you are looking for an interesting and experimental look at events from our collective past. Than The Year Without Summer is a great quick worthwhile read.

You can find the book on Amazon (non-affiliate link). If you are curious about how the world can change really quick, this is the kind of book your should be taking a look at. We often forget how quickly things can change, as life seems to stay the same, but if you were to take 2020 as an example, its very clear that life can change fast.

Finding Money On The Road

Check out my book!

You could say, I’m lucky when it comes to finding money on the road. I used to find lots of money, not only coins but bills, big bills, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s and even a 50.

It could have had something to do with how much I walked. I used to walk all the time, a couple of hours a day. But then again, it even happened, while I was on short walks with my wife in our neighbourhood after dinner.

At other times, I have even been known for finding money on the road while driving. I stopped the car, backed it up a little, opened the door and picked up three 5 dollar bills. My mother and wife were in the car and asked why I was stopping. They were both astounded when I showed them what I found.

My wife also has a collection of money she has found on the ground, loonies($1), toonies($2), dimes, nickels and quarters. If you were to add it all up the money she has found, it would amount to twenty dollars or so.

For full disclosure, finding money on the road is something that has been happening since I moved to the city, a little over five years ago. But in the last year or so, I’ve not been finding money on the road as much as I used to. My lifestyle has changed significantly, and I don’t walk as much. Also when I walk, I am with my child, so I tend to focus on her rather than the things going on around me.

Recently this happened.

My manager, who sits next to me, was organizing an office baseball game. He bought all the tickets and was collecting money from the people who had signed up to go.

On Monday, another co-worker, named Sarah came to his desk to pay for her ticket. I joked with them both by saying, “Can I use Bitcoin to pay for mine? Who even carries cash these days?”

Sarah replied, “I always keep at least $40 in my wallet. It feels like something is missing if I’m not carrying some cash.” I thought about this and realized that recently I haven’t been carrying as much cash as I used to, in fact, I rarely have any cash on me as I always use a credit card.

I told Sarah about how I always used to have luck finding money on the road, the details of which I mentioned above. I finish off my story by saying “Now that I don’t carry cash, I don’t believe in it the same way as I used to. That could explain why I don’t find it so much these days.”

Sarah and the manager laughed at my wishful thinking. Then Sarah said, “Now that you are seeing money changing hands, you can believe in it again. Hopefully, this will help you find cash again.”

Finding Money On The Road

Maybe this is a Real Thing

I agreed and suggested that seeing things happen made them more believable and likely to happen again. Sarah said, “Isn’t that kind of like when people say they are thinking of someone and then that person calls?” I wasn’t exactly sure about the connection but remarked that there was actually some research on that phenomenon. Some researchers had suggested that it was a real thing. When test subjects got a random call from a selected list of callers, they correctly guessed who was calling them more than would be expected by random chance alone.

After the conversation, I thought more about the idea and how I would need to go to the bank to get $20. At the same time, I didn’t want to do that, because I’d have to get way more money, and I didn’t want to be carrying around cash at work.

Then something happened.

The next day I picked up my daughter at daycare as I usually do. We stopped at a shop and bought some vegetables, then continued home. As it was summer, we always walked back, so this wasn’t any atypical behaviour.

Halfway home, I spotted something in the grass. I slowed down and took a look. It was a MetroPass, which is a monthly transit card in my city. I leaned over and picked it up, realizing that it was for this month, which was great as there was still a week left. I looked around to see if there was anyone it could belong to, but there wasn’t anyone about. That said 100’s of people could have walked past that very spot over the last day or so.

In the past, I had found a metro pass under similar conditions. I tried to list it online to see if anyone would claim it, but everyone who replied was trying to scam me. When I gave up trying to find the real owner, I brought the pass to the city transit ‘lost and found.’ The guy working there gave me a strange look as did the other people waiting in line. At that point, I knew there wasn’t a way to get the pass back to the actual owner.

At home, I left the MetroPass in the cup holder of my daughter stroller and started making dinner. When my wife came home, she said: “You left your MetroPass over here, don’t forget it.” I explained that it wasn’t mine and went through what had happened. She asked, “what are you going to do with it?” I said, “I’ll bring it to work tomorrow and see if anyone wants it for $10.”

Finding Money On The Road

A little while later, while we were eating dinner, my wife said, “I posted the pass you found online. Someone wants to buy it tonight for $20. Is that ok with you?” I replied, “That’s fine, I didn’t really have a plan for it anyway.”

After dinner, and after we had finished our chores, she headed to the subway station to sell the pass. When she came back, I was meditating with my eyes closed. She placed the bill in front of me, besides my timer so I would see it when I finished. Upon opening my eyes the twenty dollar bill was there, and I had ‘found’ money again.

At last, my long streak of not finding money on the road was broken. That said, twenty dollars is a decent amount of money and exactly how much I needed.

The icing on the cake.

The next day at work, I took my seat and waited for my manager to return from his meeting. When he did, I handed him the money and said: “You’ll never guess where this came from. I found it on the road yesterday.” He laughed considering our conversation from two days earlier, though I’m not sure he completely believed me. I said, “I’ve been blessed by the ‘finding money on the road’ gods.”

A little later, Sarah was walking by, and I told her about what had happened. She pointed out how seeing the money changing hands must have helped and laughed at the strange coincidence. I then made a joke about how it was kind of like magic and said: “The world we see has something to do with what we are thinking about in our minds. When we think about things, they happen.”

Another co-worker walked by and asked what we were talking about. I told him my story, and he replied: “As you get closer to nature, you notice more of those kinds of connections.”

Later in the afternoon, Sarah was walking by again. She turned to me and said, “I have to tell you something about our conversation from two days ago.” Sarah went on to say that someone who she had been thinking about sent her an email. She hadn’t heard from them for a couple of years, so it really was random. Finally, she pointed out that this was precisely how she had described my money finding situation earlier.

She said, “After our conversation, I went back to my desk and noticed the email. I was taken aback by our conversation, your coincidence and mine.”

But is it magic?

Some people may write off these stories as either being made up or being some kind of random chance occurrence. Although these are plausible explanations, they miss the point. This all did happen, and I have myself and two other witnesses to confirm the facts. But also, it was not just a random chance as it was meaningful to me in the context of what I had talked about.

The thing is, these kinds of synchronicities happen all the time. It is only a matter of us paying attention to them. Surely, they aren’t magic in the made-up sense of the word, cause that would imply they were some sort of illusion. But they are magical in the mystical sense of the word, which is something we often write off as childish.

There often seems to be some kind of magical force going on behind the scenes. It is not like everyone is always finding money on the road. I’d say, at the very least being aware or welcoming such occurrences helps them happen more frequently. So rather than writing off this story as something made up, see it as the basis for some kind of belief or magical way of thinking that can help you.

Try not to disregard these kinds of things, as they are real and happen all the time. If you want them to happen more often, you need to open your mind and be willing to let the magic happen.

Writing With a Typewriter

Check out this video writing with a typewriter. I was on vacation for a week and found a typewriter, figure it would be fun to try some stuff out on it. I had a goal to write a story, a kid’s story, so the typewriter gave me the perfect chance.

Writing With a Typewriter

The Day They Arrived

the day they arrived

I awoke to a loud sound in the night; it sounded like a plane, which wasn’t too out of the ordinary. Planes are always flying over our place. I went back to sleep. A few hours later I awoke again, this time I got up and walked to the window, the rest of the world was waking up. The sky was bright orange and pink across the horizon.

Down on the street, people were walking around, and cars were driving up and down the road as usual. I did my morning routine, of getting ready for work. I checked my phone a few times to see if anything interesting was going on. Social media was full of the usual pictures of food and people having fun. I twitted into the void about the noise in the night; I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

After packing my lunch and getting dressed, I headed to the door and said ‘goodbye’ to my wife and daughter. Outside people seemed more rushed than usual. It wasn’t that anything was different, rather everyone seemed a little more stressed. I figure it was because of the heat; it was hot last night and I always have trouble sleeping on nights like that

The subway was packed, and there were the typical delays. The heat seemed to be making everyone act a little less friendly than normal. Of course, the delays weren’t helping that either. At my stop, I got off the train, left the platform, and headed up to the surface. Almost right away, I noticed that my phone wasn’t connecting to the network. Though this wasn’t a total surprise, as my phone is old and always has problems connecting to the network. Today, as I’d done so many times before, racked it up to the heat, everything seemed to be a little off on days like these.

At the office I was a little late, most people were already in their seats. Around noon a co-worker sent me a message with a link to a youtube video, it was a blurry night shot. In it, there were things that looked like planes with lots of lights on the bottom. The scary part was that the whole sky was full of them. After watching for a few seconds, I got another message, “Looks fake, but it’s all over Reddit.”

I did a little searching and discovered some ‘legit’ sites were also showing the video. That surprised me, as it looked like one of those gag videos that gets passed around every once and a while. An article on CNN said it was recorded 250 km south of Paris at around 3:56 am. The report pointed out that they had decided to publish the video despite not being able to verify it. With a little more searching, I found 30 similar videos on YouTube.

At some point in the afternoon, I turned my head and looked out the window to my left. There was something strange in the sky, it looked like a jet, but wasn’t like anything I’d seen before. I turned to my computer, then back to the window, but whatever I’d seen was gone. I walked over to the window and asked my co-worker if she had seen something, she didn’t know what I was talking about.

A few minutes later, someone else sent me another article. This time it was about daytime sightings of ‘spaceships’ over cities along the east coast. At this point, people were taking the news seriously, and chatter in the office was getting loud. People were saying things like, “What the hell is going on?” “This can’t be real,” “What are these things?”

I decided to take a walk; all the gossip had become too much for me. I needed the break to get my focus back so I could get some work done.

Outside, the air was hot, and clouds filled the sky. I looked up because there was a sound like what I’d heard in the night, but this time it was louder and more direct. From behind a cloud, something grey pocked out; it was moving slow and getting bigger. My heart started to race. As the craft move beyond the clouds, I noticed two more similar objects behind it. They were moving slower, and whatever they were scared the living daylights out of me. I thought, “What the fuck?” At the same time, it felt like my soul leaped out of my body, and I started to sweat.

This all reminded me of a dream I’d had in the past. In the dream, I look up at the sky, and it is full of massive black triangle like ‘jets.’ They were organized like a flock of geese and moving slowly across the sky.

At this point, I looked around, and there were many more people outside, they are all looking up at the sky. Some faces are filled with disbelief, while others look consumed by stress. Still, others look like they are on the brink of losing their minds.

I rushed back into the building and headed to my office. As I was walking through the hall my phone rang, answering it I heard my wife’s voice. “I’m scared… Have you looked at the sky?” after a pause, she went on, “Can you come home?” At that point, my phone lost it’s signal and wasn’t connected to the network again. I tried restarting it, but that didn’t make any difference.

Back in the office, people were freaking out. Some were glued to the window; eyes fixed on the sky. Many others had already left or were outside seeing things for themselves. I looked at my computer, and there was an email from management. It read, “In light of the situation if you don’t have anything urgent, you can leave now.” I wondered, “What could be more urgent than this?’ As I finished reading the email, my boss stepped out of his office and repeated the message.

I packed up my stuff and headed for the door. The hallway was full of people now; everyone seemed to be heading home. When I got outside, only a few people were waiting for the bus. But I could tell they were packing in closer, so I pushed through to get as close as possible. When the bus arrived, I was able to get on. It was full, and no one wanted to get off, at every stop, more people pushed on. Looking around, many peoples faces were white as if they’d seen a ghost, others were crying.

At the subway station, I headed down to the platform; it was crowded. I had to wait for a few trains to clear some people before I could get on. The subway was hot and sticky, with so many people crowded in, the AC had stopped working.

Halfway home, the train stopped moving. The conductor said there was a problem with the train ahead of us. Fifteen minutes later, we pulled in to the next station. The conductor again, said there was a severe problem with the train ahead. With this news, most people stood still, but after 10 minutes, I gave up and headed to the surface.

Outside, the streets were full of people. There was a buzz amongst them; everyone was talking about what was going on in the sky. I looked up to see the same things I’d seen when I first stepped outside. I decided that even though it was interesting, I was going to keep my eyes on what was ahead of me. That seemed like a safer option at this point.

As I walked, I noticed that a lot of people were sitting on the ground or leaning against buildings. Some were crying; others had even passed out. The whole situation was freaking me out, but I knew my only options was to get home as quickly as possible.

When I finally got to my building, the front door was open, but the lobby was empty. The elevator doors were open, but they weren’t moving, the lights above said ‘In Service.’ Heading to the stairs, I climbed to my floor. Walking down the hall, I could hear the buzz of the news emanating from every door.

At my apartment, I unlocked the door and headed in. The blinds were closed, my wife and daughter were sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room. Her laptop was open, and she was watching the news from her home country, she said, “look at this.” We watched the feed, it was like what I’d seen outside but to the extreme. “Fuck! What the hell is going on?”

We made dinner and tried to eat, but neither of us was hungry. Our daughter was ok; she ate because she had no idea what was going on. Her only hint to the situation was the stress on our faces, but we tried our best to hide it. After putting her to bed, we watched more news to see if there were any updates. We both tried calling our parents to see if everything was alright, but our calls wouldn’t go through.

That night I tried to sleep but rolled around restlessly instead.

J-Squared

twins

Joan and Jane were born at 7:59 and 8:15 on a Tuesday morning. Two hours later their mother died. Two hours after that their father left the hospital and never returned.

Joan and Jane were identical twins. Due to the circumstances surrounding their births, they would both live two entirely different lives. That said, both girls quickly got adopted without complication.

Joan was adopted by the Smith’s. They lived in Alberta, which was far away from the location of her birth in Toronto. The Smith’s lived an honest life. Mr. Smith worked as a bus driver and maintained the family farm with the rest of his time. Mrs. Smith was a 5th-grade teacher at the nearby elementary school.

As Joan got a little older, she learned a lot about how to take care of the farm. Her parents appreciated her hardworking nature and dedication to their livelihood. As a result of this diligence, Joan got good at taking care of the family animals and the more labour intensive work like bailing hay. Every summer she would spend most of her days with her father doing farm-related work.

Although Joan’s family lived a simple life, they always encouraged her to take her school work seriously. She got straight A’s and read books when she had time to herself. She was a huge fan of science fiction and was always asking questions about how the world worked. Her parents tried their best to satisfy her curiosity but knew as she got older they would run out of answers.

Jane’s life was very different. She was adopted by the Carter’s who lived in Forest Hill, an affluent neighbourhood in Toronto. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a doctor. They were both very successful, but always busy with work. Because of this, once Jane was old enough to be left to her own devices, she was.

Jane’s parents instilled in her the idea that hard work was necessary and an essential part of a successful life. Even if she didn’t want to believe them, she saw it every day in the lives of her parents. Jane went to private schools throughout her childhood and did very well.

Jane also loved reading, and with her parent’s library, there was always something for her to pick up. Most of the books were non-fiction, but the variety was vast enough that she never got bored. Due to this, Jane never thought to ask for any books as there were always tones on the shelves. That said, she loved watching science fiction and wasn’t too interested in the things that girls her age typically like.

Both girls were excellent students in high school. They stayed out of trouble and always got excellent grades. Of course, there were times when their respective parents lost their patients, but that was often a short-lived affair. If asked, their parents only complaint would have been the occasional experimentation with drugs. Both girls figured they had kept it a secret, but their fathers always knew.

In addition to their experimentation, they were both interested in science and did well in math. The drugs may have had some influence, but they were both drawn to cognitive neuroscience. The science of the biology behind thoughts and how the brain works.

Joan’s grades were excellent, and she got into every university she applied. But even with the scholarships, she was offered, money was still a concern. So she decided to stay local and went to the University of Calgary.

Jane was in the same boat, and she got into every university she applied. But with money not being a concern, she decided to take a chance and went to UC Berkeley in California.

Both girls continued to do well at university. They were always at the top of their classes and known amongst their peers. Although they had a fair amount of friends, they usually chose to stay in and study or read. Over the years, they both had a couple of boyfriends and at one time or another a girlfriend. Regardless of who they dated, it was important for both of them to have someone special in their lives.

Their universities careers were similar. They learned a lot about their subject matter and finished at the top of their classes. They both also became interested in the mind-body problem. Which is a philosophical question that asks if the mind and body are different things? Are thoughts physical or are bodies mental? Or maybe there is something different that connects both of them?

When it came to practical things, they were both fascinated by machine-mind interfaces. It likely had something to do with all the sci-fi they watched. Regardless, mind-controlled limbs were going to be all the rage going forward.

As they both neared the end of undergrad, they were approached by their respective professors and asking if they wanted to take on a Ph.D. 

Jane liked where she was, so she took up one of her professors offers and stayed at Berkeley. Her focus would be on brain-body interactions. She was particularly curious about how she could use live brain activity to control devices.

Joan, on the other hand, wanted to make a more significant change in her life. She was growing bored of living at home, and due to her grades and area of interest could practically go anywhere she wanted. She ended up settling on moving to the University of Toronto.

Joan’s focus would be a mix of engineering and neuroscience. She was more curious about the neurological response to the movement of limbs. She decided to investigate how changes in positions, resulted in changes to states of mind. To do this, she would need to build artificial limbs and figure out how to get them to respond to user feedback.

Over the years, the girls work progressed with the typical ups and downs of academic life. The direction of their work, for the most part, stayed the same. However, they adjusted their research as needed and became more specific in their goals.

As Jane approached the end of her program, she had developed a non-invasive headset that was able to detect changes in brain activity. This activity was matched with body actions. In a sense, by recording activity and calculating patterns, she was able to make accurate predictions about expected arm and leg positions.

Joan ended up developing an artificial limb that could respond to cognitive signals. But, she had to use already existing technology to capture those signals. The technology was bulky and unmovable. However, it made great sense of what users were thinking and translated that feedback into movement. Her limb was also able to give feedback and keep balance despite the noise in cognitive signals coming from the headset.

Both ladies successfully presented their findings and were awarded their degrees. At the same time, they were both equally unsure of what to do next. Seeking some community feedback, they both submitted their research and headed to the ‘Brain Body Machine Conference.’ Due to their expertise, they would present in different streams and rooms, but would still be at the same conference.

Joan presented her findings to a half-full auditorium. It wasn’t that her work wasn’t significant, it just wasn’t as exciting as some of the other work presented at that time. Practicality makes the world go round but isn’t what grabs people’s attention.

Jane’s presentation was later that day, but unlike Joan’s, the auditorium was full of people. Her technology, though simple was groundbreaking for the community. The future applications seemed enormous and would fuel the bleeding edge of the growing industry.

After Jane’s presentation, someone approached her and said “You are impressive. I saw your other presentation earlier this morning. You’ve got your hands in lots of different baskets.” Jane paused for a moment and replied: “You must have me confused with someone else, this was my only presentation.”

The person looked confused but went on “I’m sure it was you. Well, I thought it was you. She had the same voice, hairstyle and look. I guess her clothes were a little different, but the style was the same.”

Jane stood there in confusion, and wondered how such a person could exist? She hadn’t met anyone like her before, nor had she heard of someone who looked like her either. Jane thanked the person for the compliment and took a walk to clear her mind. After stepping outside for a few minutes, she headed to the cafeteria to grab something to eat.

Jane got in line and picked up a sandwich and a drink. She walked along to the cashier and paid, then looked around for a place to sit. Jane scanned the room from left to right, when someone caught her eye. She looked again and noticed the back of someone’s head who was wearing a similar outfit and had her hairstyle.

Primed by the previous conversation, Jane headed in that direction. When she got closer, she could see the side of the other woman’s face. Jane couldn’t help but notice she was looking at a mirror reflection. She even had the same arch in her nose, and her eyes were the same shape and colour.

As Jane approached, Joan looked up and stared into Jane’s eyes and mumbled ‘WTF.’ Jane took a seat across from Joan and said: “I never knew that I had a twin?”

Jane and Joan knew they had both been adopted, but they had no idea they were twins. After that first meeting, they realized how much they had in common. They discovered that they liked the same types of books and movies. They also realized very similar things inspired their works.

When they got home from the conference and brought up what had happened with their parents, things were cleared up. The circumstances of their adoptions had been chaotic, so everyone thought it would be best to keep it a secret.

When it came to business, they realized that their works would go hand in hand. They also realized, that with a little bit of collaboration, they could turn their research into a fantastic business.

After some organization, they approached Jane’s parents and asked for an investment. They used the investment to create a company called J-Squared. In a short time, their company became the leading producer of mind-controlled prosthetics.

Korean Spicy Ramen Noodles Challenge

Korean Spicy Ramen Challenge

I took the Korean Spicy Ramen Noodles Challenge and I want to tell you about it. Over the weekend my family and I went to a Korean grocery store. This isn’t a new experience, as we often go to these sorts of stores. With our mostly Japanese diet, there are many ingredients that we can’t find at a regular grocery store, so a Korean one is our best bet.

One of the stores that we often visit tends to have free samples, when something looks good I always give it a try. For some reason, it must have been the time of day; there were more samples than usual. Often, they fry oyster mushrooms, but this time that wasn’t the case. Instead, in the same place, there was something different.

At the time, I was with my daughter and figured she couldn’t eat it, so I avoided the sample and walked around the store instead. As we finished up our grocery list, I told my wife we needed some Kimchi. She said “You’d be better at picking it,” so she distracted our daughter. Usually, my wife has the shopping list, and I’m the designated distractor.

As I walked through the store, I took the long way and grabbed as many samples as I could. When I got to the kimchi, I looked at the different options and opted for a smaller one. I love kimchi, but it tends to smell up the fridge before we can get through it. At the same time, my desire for it comes and goes, so I may eat it every day for a week, then not touch it again for months.

Here Comes the Korean Spicy Ramen Noodles Challenge

As I walked away from the kimchi, I realized that I was beside the free sample I had wanted but avoided earlier. The girl at the stand looked at me and said, “Korean Spicy Ramen Noodles?” I took a look at the noodles and picked up one of the cups. The girl handed me a small spoon. Without thought or consideration, I scooped up the noodles in one bite. As I chewed them, they didn’t seem all that spicy.

The girl watched me and said, “Aren’t they hot?” with a serious look on my face, I said, “Not much.” She smiled and nodded with a look of surprised, then said “Wow!” At this point, I’m not sure what happened, but I acted without thinking and said, “You know what? I’ll take one.”

I reached over and grabbed one of the packages of noodles, turned around and started to walk away. The girl called to me, “Wait. You get this drink for free when you buy the noodles.” I turned back, and she handed me some clear flavoured drink. Not knowing what it was or wanting it, I took it anyways.

Afterwards, I wondered why? Was it because she didn’t think I could handle the heat, or was it because I wanted to prove how strong I was? Maybe my ego or sense of self was being challenged, and I had to buy the noodles to prove something.

As I walked away and headed back to the cash registers, I felt a little bit of spice on my lips. After a few seconds of this, I sort of thought the flavour had gone away. Maybe my mind was somewhere else, and I wasn’t thinking about it.

When I found my wife she pointed at the noodles and asked: “What’s that?” Trying to justify my purchase, I said: “Oh these are the Korean Spicy Ramen noodles Micheal (my old co-worker) told me to try?” She looked at me questioningly, in the way she usually does when she doesn’t approve of the snacks I’m buying.

As we piled our stuff onto the cashier’s conveyor belt, I started to second guess the noodle purchase. And thought to myself, “why am I buying these?” When I lived in Korea, I could handle the heat, but that was a long time ago. More recently, we rarely have anything spicy. I also thought back to the last time I tried Korean Shin noodles. They are a less spicy variation, but even then I didn’t enjoy them as much as I used to.

While I reconsidered my experiences from the past, I realized my lips were getting hotter and starting to burn. I can’t be sure if they were getting hotter or I was paying more attention to them. Regardless, it wasn’t enjoyable, and it wasn’t only my lips; my whole mouth was now on fire. “What the hell did I eat?” I whispered to myself. “Why am I such a wuss when it comes to spicy food?” I thought.

The longer we waited in line, the more I noticed the burn. As the cashier started to scan the groceries, I realized I had no other choice but to give up. I picked up the noodles and drink and in shame said, “Please take these back. I can’t handle the heat.” As I said this, a sense of relief flowed through my body. The cashier took the food products without comment and placed them on the counter beside her.

As we walked through the parking lot, my mouth was still burning. But I felt better about not buying the noodles or having to eat them again. Inside the car, my wife pulled out Korean rice cakes and handed me one. Eating the slightly sweet chewy treat cleared my mouth of the spice and put me back in a normal state. I thought out loud, “This is the kind of Korean food I like.”

As we drove home, I came to realize that I failed the Korean Spicy Ramen Noodles Challenge.

Why Are My Horoscopes Always Right?

horoscope was right

You may be asking ‘why are my horoscopes always right?’ If so, then I’ve got a story for you. Most weeks I check out my horoscope, but this week my horoscope was right. It isn’t so much that I believe in them, or think they are real. But they are usually positive and motivated in some way. I know the argument, horoscopes are written so generally that they apply to everyone. I also realize that they come from random people on the internet, who get paid to make up positive statements. But these facts don’t concern me. No doubt they are valid criticisms, but they don’t have anything to do with why I read my horoscope.

Horoscopes Aren’t That Crazy

In a philosophical sense, there is no denying that the day you were born has some effect on the life you live and the person you become. For a quick affirmation of this, consider the book Outliners by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about how when looking at successful Canadian hockey players, a majority of them are born in the first few months of the year. From personal experience, I can verify that being born at the end of the year makes a lot of things more difficult. I played hockey as a child but was always smaller and weaker than my teammates. By the time I caught up in size, it was the next season and a new league. Once again I was one of the youngest kids on the team.

The thing is, much of life is influenced by coincidences of time. Sure they are often human conceptions, like age ranges for school or hockey teams. But, there is also something deeper to all this, that is not a human creation. Take, for example, the seasons. Being born in the summer versus the winter must play some role in the people we become. For one thing, consider the different foods our mothers may have eating because of the seasons.

All in all, it would be difficult to make an argument that could stand the strict regiment of science, but it doesn’t seem all that crazy a claim to make. When we are born during the year, has some effect on who we become. How much it matters in comparison to genes and other factors would be harder to quantify. Regardless, when we are born is a part of the equation. I’m not claiming that the things a horoscope says are right, only that there is some foundation behind the idea. After all, the idea of a horoscope must have come from somewhere, right?

Why Are My Horoscopes Always Right?

Now that we have our investigation of horoscopes out of the way, we can get to the story. A few Fridays ago, I was talking to my manager about work and asking him questions about our company. He seems pretty open-minded, so I can be honest with him. He knows that I like to write and am working on some books. While we were talking, I mentioned my dream was to write books as my job. We also talked about how I’ve been afraid to take chances and do things out of the norm.

In particular, we talked about houses, I said I’d like to buy a home, but they are too expensive in this area. He said I could get out of the GTA or move to another province where prices are more affordable. I said that was an interesting idea, but I couldn’t do it because my family wouldn’t be happy about it. With that idea, we got into talking about doing things because we want to live a life for other people rather than ourselves.

That point resonated with me, because after I had graduated from college, I considered moving back to Korea and teaching English. It wasn’t so much that I liked the job, but rather the different lifestyle and adventure. At the time, that was what I was seeking, yet, that was also the kind of change I was afraid to make. I didn’t pull the trigger because I was worried about what other people, my family and peers, in particular, would think of my life trajectory.

Back To Work

After the conversation and over the weekend, I was working on my book and editing a section related to being yourself. In that section, I talked about jobs and career paths. I point out that we sometimes do things because they are valued by others, rather than being what we want. The advice I was suggesting in the book, is the same advice I should be following myself, but am sometimes afraid too.

After those events, I returned to work on Monday and checked my horoscope, like I usually do whenever I remember it. For context, I work at a media company that publishes horoscopes every week, so those are the ones I read. To be consistent, it seems necessary to point this out.

Based on all the things that happened the week before reading the horoscope, it seems to make sense and be on the same wavelength as me myself. Again, I acknowledge that this is a coincidence, but it still seems too accurate.

Here is what my horoscope said:

You’re the first one to admit that you often end up living your life according to the expectations that others place on you, rather than following your own needs. The New Moon in Aries will stir up the independent spirit within you. No longer will you feel invisible. It’s time to stand tall and make yourself known as a mover and a shaker. Work out your own requirements and make them a priority. If your head starts to spin and your emotions swirl, you’ll know that you’re doing the right thing. You’ll soon be celebrating. My horoscope’s source.

Of course, this isn’t perfect, and I do look at them every week, so I have fifty or so chances a year to find a match. But still, this seems too accurate to be random.

What exactly it means was yet to be determined. But the coincidence of coming across this horoscope after having that conversation is far too significant to ignore. I had something big on my plate at that time, and that was undoubtedly influencing my perspective. But would that awareness make a difference, at the time it was still to be determined. Regardless, it would be a good idea for me to try to be more conscious and aware of what I want. It would be better for my sanity if I were to ‘live my life instead.’

The Horoscope Relates To My Life

It has been a few weeks since I originally wrote this story, but a couple of things have come to light. The first is that my manager announced that he would be leaving his job and moving to another province. An interesting turn of events considering the advice he gave me during our conversation. As for myself, I was oftered a great job, which if I were to do what other people expected of me, I would have taken. But knowing I need to do what is best for me, I decided to stay at my current job. Reason being, it gives me more time and less stress so that I can focus on my goals as a writer.

In some ways, this may seem like a leap. But at the same time, that horoscope helped put the job opportunity in perspective. I considered taking the job, and the reason was that in the rational perspective of having a successful IT career, it would have been the best choice. But that isn’t what I want, and that would be living up to other peoples expectations over my own. On top of this, the week that I was considering the job offer was one of the most stressful weeks in the last year or so. My head was spinning and my emotions were swirling. With that in mind, writing this story is more in line with my wants and desires. By writing more stuff, I am getting closer to the life I want.

Now that you’ve read my story, you might have a better answer to your question ‘why are my horoscopes always right.’ Surely things like this don’t only happened to me. Have you had a similar experience with your horoscope? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Bitcoin Made Super Simple

bitcoin

Did you know you don’t need to own a whole bitcoin? Parts of a bitcoin can be bought and sold.

If you mention Bitcoin or people hear about it on TV, they will ask ‘What is a bitcoin?’ The answer can be simple, or at least it seems like it should be.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency. Decentralized means there is no bank, government or individual who controls it. Instead, it’s powered by a network of computers that share information.

A cryptocurrency is a digital asset based on cryptography. You can think of cryptography as complicated math.

When people think of currency, they often imagine something they can hold in their hand, like a coin or paper. Handling with your hands is not the case with bitcoin, in fact, you can never have a bitcoin.

Bitcoins are on the block-chain. You can’t ‘have’ or ‘own’ bitcoins, rather you hold the ‘password’ to send and receive them .

You might be wondering, what is the blockchain. It is a chain of blocks. For bitcoin, a block is 10 minutes of transaction time. During this time transfers of bitcoin are recorded in a ledger. A ledger is a digital record of the ins and outs from different accounts. To keep things simple, you can see it as an online spreadsheet.

Say I send 0.005 bitcoin to my mom. The ledger would record: Rob -0.005 -> Mom +0.005 (March 5, 7:18 am)

The ledger keeps a record of all the transactions that occur over the 10 minutes of a block. During this time bitcoins are created, and the transaction is recorded.

During the block, math is done to create a long, complicated number called a hash. The hash then represents the block.

That number is created using the hash from the previous block. It also uses some other input numbers, but the details are not crucial for this explanation.

This new number and the previously created number are now chained together. You can look at one block and figure out the previous block number or hash. The linking goes on forever, all the way to the first block.

Where are bitcoins?

When people have bitcoins, it sounds like they are stashed on a computer or cell phone. On the ‘Big Bang Theory’ bitcoin episode, the guys talked about their bitcoins being on a USB drive.

This is a good metaphor but isn’t correct. You can not hold bitcoins, or put them on a USB drive. Bitcoins only exist on the blockchain, the ledger we talked about earlier.

Bitcoins are exchanged from person to person, but they never go anywhere. The thing that changes is the account or the keys.

When someone has bitcoins, they only have the ‘key’ or ‘password’ for a bitcoin address.

It may seem confusing but think of it like online banking. Your money is in an account. When you make an online payment, the money is transferred from one account to another. But along the way, no one ever holds or sees the money. For the most part, it is stored on computers and is only numbers on screens.

When you use bitcoin, you ‘sign’ transactions with your private ‘key.’ You then use the public ‘key’ of the person you are sending them too. In this case, the ‘key’ is like an account number. Afterward, the blockchain ledger is updated, and the coins are ‘moved.’ In reality, only the permissions on who can move the bitcoin changes.

There are many ways to store bitcoins, but all of them are secure ways of saving the ‘keys’ to your account.

The non-physical aspect could be a problem for some people. Bitcoin isn’t something you can hold, touch or see. But then again, any money in a bank account is the same.

How do you mine Bitcoins?

At the risk of making things complicated, let’s stick to the basics. Bitcoin works on something called proof-of-work. What this means, is that a computer on the network proves its dedication by doing work.

Every ten minutes or so, new blocks are created, for this, work needs to be done. The work consists of trying to figure out a huge number. The number is massive, but it doesn’t need to be perfect, only close enough.

During this time bitcoin transactions are recorded. A unique transaction is written showing new bitcoins that got mined.

There are lots of computers doing this at the same time, so whoever gets there first wins. If many computers get there at the same time, there is a little bit of randomness to determine who wins.

Proof-of-work means showing all the attempts or guesses at getting the right number. That processing is the work, and you could see it if you wanted to.

One way that people make this more manageable is by joining a pool. A pool is a group of computers that pool their computing power and distribute the work. The idea being that with more computers, it takes less time, as one computer doesn’t need to do all the work.

The rewards of mining is an incentive to keep the network alive. You can make money by supporting the system.

One last thing, every four years or so, the size of the reward gets cut in half. Smaller production, in part, limits the number of coins, but could also push up the price.

Who created Bitcoin?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of bitcoin. But, no one knows who he is. The prevailing view is that his name is a pseudonym for someone else or a group of people.

No one knows for sure, and there are lots of theories but nothing substantial. Regardless, whoever they are, they must be smart and knowledgeable.

Part of the mystery of bitcoin is the story of who created it, for now, no-one knows. But if that were to change, that could take away some of bitcoins magic.

How does the price get set?

People are more concerned about the price of bitcoin than anything else. But how does the price get set?

The idea is that there is a limited supply. At the same time, in the future, fewer will come into being each day. In time, there will be no more new coins.

With regular money, more is made whenever the central bank decides it needs it. With bitcoin, there is a predefined limit to the supply. In total, 21 million bitcoins can exist, and only that many will ever be.

The supply is also limited because many bitcoins have been misplaced forever. Meaning whoever owned them, lost the ‘keys’ to the account and will not be able to move them.

Scarcity is part of what drives the price, and people want to have something when there is a limited supply. Others believe that bitcoin is the currency of the future, so they keep it with the hope of getting rich.

It is hard to know how much bitcoin is worth. But for diehard fans, that is not the goal. They want to see a future where Bitcoin is part of our day to day lives. They want to be able to trade bitcoins for products and services, not money.

In this view, the price of bitcoin won’t matter. What will be more critical, is the price of things in bitcoin.

Should you buy bitcoin?

Don’t ask me! Bitcoin is too complicated for most people at this point.

Will it be worth something in the future?

If you are into the technology, it might be worth playing around. And if it stays around, it will get easier to use, and more people will jump on board.

If you want to become rich, that is another question. Some people believe bitcoin will be worth a million dollars, while others see it going to zero.

If you believe in the technology, it is something to try out. And at least if you understand it, you can make a better choice.

The Amazing Story of Someone You’ve Never Heard Of

amazing story

Edward Bryant grew up in the East End of London. His parents had moved so his father could work in a factory. Life was tough, the air was dirty and sights of poverty were all too common.

Edward’s parents were often too busy to notice him; he was one of many mouths to feed. Despite this, he had high hopes for himself. He saw a different future that could be his, he wanted to travel and leave the sad world behind.

He was able to sell newspapers. With hard work, he helped his family with some extra money, but his luck didn’t change. One day he found a job in the newspaper that offered a ticket to Canada in exchange for work as a sailor. He told his parents of his plan. They were reluctant to see him go but knew there wasn’t much future if he stayed.

The day before he was set to leave, he packed his few belongings. That night, as he slept he dreamed of the life he would soon discover. The next day, he woke up early, said goodbye to his family and headed to the Port of London.

The steamship was huge, it was the largest thing Edward had seen in his life. It filled him with hope. As he boarded the ship, he turned and said his last goodbye to his home. The days and nights were long, the work was tough and the rocking of the ship made him sick.

After two weeks the ship arrived in Canada. He was young and without skills, but luckily factories were desperate for workers. After searching, he found a job and a place to stay. With this, his new life in a new began.

When he started he was sweeping floors, but in time he proved himself. He moved up through the ranks, doing many jobs along the way. He was always moving forward and proving himself to the people around him. He became known for his ability and dedication.

A few years later, he had gotten married and started a family. He had also moved forward in the company and was now the foreman. He, his family and life were good.

He grew a great reputation in his community, he was popular and had many friends. He and his wife threw grand parties, and everyone was happy to be invited. He was one of the first people in his community to have a TV, so friends would always visit to watch. He was ahead of his time, but he stayed grounded, contributed to his community, and loved his family.

Life was great for many years, but as Edward got older, so did everything else. Unbeknownst to him, there was trouble at the factory. The owner was running late on bills and missing payments. Behind the scenes, the factory was in trouble, but the workers and Edward were in the dark.

One day there was a sudden and unexpected announcement. The factory was bankrupt and everyone was laid off.

Edward took this hard, he had given so much to the company and had helped bring it to where it was. Yet the poor choices of his bosses ended everything. Soon after the factory closed, and as a result of the stress in his life, he had a stroke. The timing was horrible and it changed his life forever.

His recovery was slow, but he had hope and a willingness to make things better. After spending the winter in their home and seeing the effect it had on his health. His doctor recommended they travel south to a warmer climate. Despite the circumstances, they knew it had to be, so he and his wife resolved to do it.

The next winter they headed to Florida, the weather did wonders for his health, but it was a difficult life. He and his wife were able to make ends meet by cleaning rooms and doing maintenance work. It wasn’t easy, but they were happy in the time they had together. They continued this routine for many years and built a life in Florida.

When he died, he was missed by his family and his community. They appreciated the great effort he put towards improving their lives. He is remembered for his great accomplishments. In particular, he started in poverty and found great success.

He proved that with dedication, hard work, and a strong will anything is possible. Even later in life when he had bad luck, he never gave up and continued to show great perseverance. He is fondly remembered to this day by his grandson.