House Divided by 30

My wife skillfully redirected a simmering fight by calling me the “yin to her yang”, which she later described as extending an olive branch. It hit a soothing chord in my amygdala and I followed along like a puppet, suggesting we were like Shaq and Kobe. That made her feel good too, hopefully thinking about championships trumping differences rather than a one-way ticket to Miami.

So our Friday night was not only salvaged but elevated to the tune of Bud Lights and rosé, the first 45 minutes of Ryan Gosling and Chris Pine building sexual tension in “The Gray Man”, and her seducing me in the bedroom in a surprise swap of subject and direct object.

We’re doing great. We have a strong marriage.

We’ve had some monster fights. The conclusion several times was we need therapy, but inevitably feelings recede too fast to overcome inertia. I am no longer mad over our most recent conflict and concede it was a well-that-escalated-quickly moment.

I was upset about water bottles. She didn’t acknowledge the severity of the issue, and I made it known we shouldn’t feel boxed in by this dream house we’re building, that we could sell it for an immediate profit.



Naturally she wanted clarification on what I meant, and I just kind of reiterated we didn’t have to keep the house and feel trapped. It was mostly bravado and anger, but I also spoke truthfully my remaining life feels short, and I’m not the type to accept being unhappy without doing something about it.

I’ve gone there a few times during arguments and will remember to pump the brakes next time. It’s not productive, and I’m starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. Comedian Akaash Singh has a great bit about the difference between fights early in a relationship, when the sky is falling and you question whether you’re going to make it as a couple, and fights during a healthy marriage, when you can feel free to storm off before anticlimactically returning to your shared residence.

My wife and I have been married seven years and have two young children. That’s called overhead. Deciding to turn this ship in another direction is going to take more than a water bottle.

Just so you know though, there are eight water bottles for two kids. They each break into four pieces except the YETIs, which justify their price tag by consolidating into three. That makes 30 parts I was staring at trying to integrate into an efficient formation in the top rack of the dishwasher. They don’t dry easily either, and I correctly assumed no one but me would make the consistent effort to keep the straws and mouthpieces matched properly.

To be clear, these are reusable bottles filled only with water for two tiny bodies. Do our kids have like, multiple heads? 

I thought my wife and I had agreed this new house was the perfect blank slate to start being intentional with our purchases. Our parents aren’t hoarders but they have accumulated so much stuff over decades, the functions of certain areas of their homes are compromised.

Most problems in life don’t happen overnight. They are the result of repeated behavior. I don’t want to gradually fill this house with stuff we don’t want. I don’t want to live that way. Clutter and waste both stress me out, which is a challenging combination when there is a package at the door every other day. 

What I desperately want to avoid are Monica closets, which can take the form of boxes, cupboards, drawers, under the bed, entire garages, any space where unneeded things are stored haphazardly in oblivion. I hate Monica closets because they’re dishonest. They allow the pretense of tidiness at the cost of organization and responsible consumerism. 

I am anti-materialistic at the cost of pretense. Check out this sick outfit from head to toe:

  • Her new hat covering my $15 haircut
  • Unintentional whiteface thanks to mineral sunscreen purchased on sale at Target
  • A perfectly fine woman’s shirt, one of myriad she wore sparingly before discarding
  • Cargo shorts that have lasted so long they’re back in style
  • Dress socks possibly from a 99 Cents Only Store in 2010, if not earlier
  • Boat shoes from Nordstrom Rack, 2009 vintage



Meanwhile the UPPAbaby stroller in the background is a more easily foldable version of a $1200 one we already have. I was not consulted on the essentially redundant purchase. We have two giant strollers that could double as golf carts for kids who like to be held or roam.

My wife and I differ on many things, and it can be hard. The one just begging for professional help is validating emotions. I genuinely struggle to reconcile this with attributes I admire and want to cultivate in us and especially our children: problem-solution thinking, logical and fair analysis, both high self-esteem and expectations, growth mindset, good decision-making and behavior independent of ephemeral feelings.

I know the modern school of thought is men have been conditioned to suppress emotions to appear tough. I’ve read Brené Brown and dig the idea of seeing vulnerability as strength. I understand sometimes people just want the space to be heard rather than hear my attempts at solving their problem.

But I also need to be authentic to who I am. I want to make things better. My wife knows I’m a dead end for complaining about work because after empathizing with her discontent, I don’t see what else there is to say except speak up to your employer about what can be changed or find another job.

Let me cherry-pick what I consider a shining dad moment. Magna-Tiles are colorful, snappable toy pieces that come in big easy shapes, kind of like Legos for dumb kids. Mine really like them, no offense to my offspring or anyone else’s. (But they probably can’t read if Legos are too hard.)

My 4-year-old was adding to his magnetized masterpiece when part of it collapsed. He started screeching in frustration these hilarious pterodactyl sounds and was ready to go Bobby Knight on anything within reach.

His mother started her usual nurturing spiel, describing what he was feeling and how it’s OK to feel that way, how she feels that way sometimes too. No noticeable effect. 

Then I launched into some shoddy explanation about the weight of the roof and load-bearing walls. And wouldn’t you know, not only did Joffrey calm down instantly, he was fascinated and engaged in a conversation about it.

Now, this was a lucky edge case diffusing a tantrum with architectural curiosity, but I see proof of concept. I want to prepare my kids for the world out there that does not care about their feelings. My wife rightly points out we should make them feel safe at home to explore feelings precisely because the world out there does not care, that if I shut down those conversations they will stop coming to me for them.

The philosophies aren’t mutually exclusive of course. It’s just hard to find the right blend sometimes. My hope is our children will benefit from having two often unlike-minded parents, maybe take the best of both, and remind us to see it in each other.



Writer’s note: The only email you will get from me is one post per month for free until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Occasionally when candor exceeds nerve, I hide a post from the website so only trustworthy subscribers can read it.

Three Single Days

I was left alone with my two children, combined age 5, for 72 hours. It wasn’t too bad because I had the lowest expectations and surrendered all entitlement to do anything productive, enjoyable or restorative.

This is the obvious key to a happy life, especially as a parent, which some low-key geniuses naturally grasp while others like me have to work at. Expect nothing and be surprised and delighted when good things happen. You might not end up the most accomplished or rich without a demanding mentality, but you almost certainly will be happy if that’s the goal.

Not to say happy should be the goal. There’s this fun, trolling retort to all the millennial-targeted self-help around happiness:

What’s so good about being happy?

I’ve heard the topic described as fulfillment vs. happiness or happiness vs. highs. I like the word “satisfying.”

We’ve all been on vacations and party trips and had moments gazing out at a body of water, just the right amount of drunk, practically floating in bliss. These are highs that by definition recede. Otherwise wealthy folks or really anyone with a decent 401(k) and no dependents could never be unhappy.

To me, a satisfying life means your routine feels good and right: exercise, food, sex, work, interactions, leisure, errands, housekeeping, intellectual stimulation. All or most of these things have gotten better for humans over time despite what you might see on the news. All or most of these things take a staggering hit when children are born despite what you might see on Instagram during holidays.

Thus it makes sense birth rates are dropping. Life is getting better, so there’s more to give up when kids crash the party. Do they bring meaningful happiness or fleeting highs along with that six-pack of DHA Omega-3 milk?

You could say happiness, that kids make the day worthwhile and everything else is just highs. You could also say the opposite, that kids reduce daily quality of life and mask it with bursts of oxytocin during warm-fuzzy moments.

I don’t have a clear opinion with such limited experience – sorry if it seemed like I was building toward a conclusion. My guess or hope is kids under the age of 5-ish are more about highs than happiness, but then this possibly starts to reverse as they get older and loosen their hold on your time and headspace. But that could be survival optimism from someone who’s pot-committed.

Survival mode was the game during those three days of single parenting in triple-digit Texas heat. Without my wife there, I was more acutely aware of a feeling of unrest, this baseline anxiety that never goes away as an adult in charge of children. We just learn to live with it.

There is always something to think or worry about, a mental treadmill on incline 3.5. Sleeping and eating should be two of the more effortless, even pleasurable tasks in life, yet I can only look forward to the day they don’t monopolize planning and execution priorities.

Until then, they are a model of loss aversion – hating to lose more than loving to win. The triumph of the kids devouring my pasta for dinner our first solo evening was dwarfed by their rejection of steel cut oats for breakfast the next morning. A good night’s sleep is quickly forgotten, while a bad night’s sleep lingers and compounds.

After strategically timing his outbursts to keep me out of R.E.M. state throughout the first night, my 20-month-old was due for a legitimate nap the next day. I took him to the mini theme park known as the Frisco Public Library, stimulated and tired him, kept him awake on the long drive back, got a little food in him, and anticipated the perfect nap and some recuperation for me. It lasted 37 minutes.

The laughable silver lining in their needing so much attention and supervision was it left no time to be demoralized. It would be demoralizing to see a chart showing duration of peace and quiet. The time between tantrums, demands for engagement, doing something that needed to be stopped, not doing something that needed to be done – was so short it was almost useless.

These teasing micro-breaks put just enough fumes back in the tank to keep running, and they were supplemented by incredible highs. The stuff you remember forever. I have watched this video of the boys reuniting with their mom at Dallas Fort Worth International, pushing 9 o’clock on a Sunday night, at least eight times.

I hate how I nearly ruined it with my ugly voice and commentary. This was basically when Toby truncated what could have been the greatest scene in the brilliant history of “The Office.”

Both my sons are mama’s boys because they intuitively prefer unconditional love to analysis and iteration. Being away from their life source even for three short days was difficult for them. My 4-year-old announced he would chase her airplane in a garbage truck and hugged my leg every time he thought of her.

He also seemed to step up for his little brother in a departure from his default tormentor vocation. He comforted him during cries for mama and not only shared toys but played together. They built their first fort under the dining room table, a beautiful milestone toward invalidating my one-child proposition only six months ago.

There was even a fun role reversal in a public bathroom when the little one figured out the aggressive-sounding toilet flush unnerved his alpha sibling in a vulnerable position.

Even while being sleep tortured at who knows what time, walking the toddler back and forth in his blacked-out room, I had a moment. I used to have to support his oversized cranium against my sternum as the bobblehead nodded off.

This time he brushed off my hand whenever I laid it on his head and even his back. He barely fit against me anymore. I wondered if this might be the last time he fell asleep in my arms and couldn’t remember his brother’s last time. I tried to soak it in.

At the library, I staged the most nostalgic pic. My oldest looks so much more like a young boy than a toddler now.

He’s in that short window, obsessed with dinosaurs without understanding fossils and extinction. When I think about how life is kind of short and only about half of mine will overlap with my sons’, it’s almost unbearable. I have no doubt there will be times in the future when I feel desperate to have one more needy weekend with them.

My wife goes out of town again in two weeks, which isn’t far enough in the future for that feeling to kick in. I’m neither looking forward to the grind nor completely dreading it either. I expect it to suck with some satisfaction.


Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Three Keys to the Evergreen Wedding Bod

I told myself enough, training would begin today. And then I proceeded to inhale a ton of sausage nachos and banana bread for breakfast. The good news is this might be the tipping point in accumulated guilt that launches a streak of perfect diet days leading up to a baller oceanfront wedding next weekend. I don’t know if self-hatred is mentally healthy, but it’s dependable fuel for achieving goals.

My new $200 Kenneth Cole suit – Macy’s suits are never not on sale – is made of stretchy fabric, so it should fit fine unless the tailor gets too aggressive. I just want to be ready if it makes sense to pop off the shirt (Van Heusen, $20 on sale, basically begging to be ripped open).

I don’t recall ever undressing at a wedding except mine, but I’m picturing a sensuous ocean breeze, staggering views on bluffs, rhythmic waves crashing below. The groom told me they were getting screwed on the alcohol package and every guest including children would need to put down 6.5 drinks to recoup the cost. My god, I need to hit the quads too because the pants might be coming off.

They won’t. Neither will the shirt. I tend to invent extra motivation from time to time, but the truth is I don’t need it. I like to keep in shape. You might have assumed I tapered off with so much time elapsed between abs pics.

This was two days ago. I am still in striking distance. One good week and the dictionary will be full of definitions again.

Photo credit: reluctant wife

Yes I am still here, raging against the aging machine. I turn 39 next month, and the older I get while maintaining ab visibility, the more credibility I should accrue for you to listen.

I already outlined the main idea, but there’s some stat about the number of times something has to be repeated to sink in. So I’ll say it again in a slightly different way and add two more thoughts.

Together these three things will change your body, guaranteed.

G.O.A.T. Workout

The greatest workout of all time is simply the one you won’t skip. I haven’t had access to a full gym in almost five years and any kind of gym in more than three. These days my workouts are 35-45 minutes all in, by rule on any day I spend in front of the computer. So essentially five days a week.

I jog to a playground and do bodyweight exercises or use my dad’s 20-pound dumbbells and online workouts in the backyard. Nike Training Club is an exceptional free app and indication of how much money the Swoosh has to burn on branding.

The point is it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it. I would love to get CrossFit-jacked or basketball-shredded, but such a schedule is not sustainable with two working parents and two young children.

Even if the hours were available, the effort might be too much for me at this point. I would have to get up for it each time rather than just do it without thinking much. There is a different barrier to entry being locked into class times and commuting to a facility, versus rolling out of bed and breaking a sweat in whatever way I feel like.

In other words, the key is to remove the decision element and treat exercise as a constant like brushing your teeth. Whatever you can do to make it routine. Even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood before every shower, that’s better than hitting the gym hard and stopping, or not starting anything at all.

Switzerland Meal

Still the most impactful principle is accepting that meals can have different purposes. Taste is only one reason. Sometimes what you eat is dictated by a social gathering or what’s available at home or a commendable habit of not wasting food.

Not every bite of food needs to be a culinary experience. Many bites should be considered a natural function – feeding the body nutrients and satiating hunger. For this you need a go-to Switzerland meal that’s neutral in taste, unprocessed food without added salt or sugar.

My workhorse is lentils and garlic in a cooker with steamed broccoli or kale. I’ll also bake chicken, seasoned but not salted. Salt seems acceptable in and of itself, but it also makes everything taste better and tempts overeating.

I feel like I recently stumbled on a cheat code in topping chicken salads with sweet potatoes or fruit instead of dressing. You can’t get much healthier than raw vegetables and clean protein, and the natural sugars are delicious.

To the untrained palate, a Switzerland meal tastes like crap. But really it just tastes like what it is: vegetables, fruit, meat, legumes, oats, eggs, nuts. The processed stuff arguably is what tastes like non-food.

I used to call eating healthy like this the Lexus way as an ode to the carmaker’s slogan “relentless pursuit of perfection.” That makes it sound more difficult than it is though. Again, none of this tastes bad. It tastes more like nothing, except pure food. You eat it and move on. You stop asking yourself what you’re in the mood for all the time, and eat for nourishment more often.

As a bonus, every Switzerland meal resets the taste buds. So if you do grab KFC or Domino’s for the next meal (which I do regularly), it tastes even better because of the contrast.

Just Drink It

This last one is so obvious it shouldn’t even be a thing. Your body needs water or you die. Give it water. I don’t understand why hydrating needs to have anything to do with stimulating taste buds. Do you need flavored air too?

I’m skeptical even of the ubiquitous sparkling water cans. Why does your water need to have a peach mango twist? It doesn’t seem innocuous to me despite zero calories. This encourages displacing the taste-chasing mindset onto one of the most neutral, natural functions of all. We are built to drink water. Stop effing with that.

I don’t want to overplay the starving-kids-in-Africa card, but it is true around the world many people don’t have clean water. Meanwhile I can stick my fat head under the faucet in Texas and drink enough for all of them. If we put the amount of money my wife spends on weird canned water, Starbucks and alcohol into the S&P 500, that would be a separate retirement plan.

I’m not saying we can’t enjoy life because of global poverty, but there should be an awareness if the goal is to take care of the body. All these products are superfluous. Childhood is the time for fruity beverages. It’s childish to drink Coke. Adults drink water and alcohol purposefully.

Drink plain water. It will be OK.

Really all three points are the same idea, indisputably healthy habits that may seem intense at first glance. But then you try them and realize they won’t kill you. And after a while, it almost feels like it will kill you not to keep them.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Miles High Salute

I complained to my wife about having nothing to write about this month, so she suggested the topic of how much I love her. Ehh… we’ll get to that.

She did earn real MVP honors last week taking care of the kids while I enjoyed a three-night trip to Denver with my two best childhood friends. One of them is a rising star in stand-up comedy and podcasting, so we got to play entourage while he headlined and crushed five sold-out shows.

If it weren’t for the average bedtime of 4 a.m. being six hours later than my ideal, I could get used to this: flight and suite at The Ritz-Carlton covered by my buddy, open tab in the green room, girl from a bachelorette party asking to meet backstage. (She somehow remembered my comedian friend from high school even though he didn’t go to hers, and did not remember me, even though I did. I guess fame by definition makes you more recognizable.)

Oh and breakfast buffet in the United lounge, which I know doesn’t require celebrity status, but I’ve been flying Spirit the last couple of years while prices and my family size inflated. Buying four plane tickets with one click is a breathtaking expense. I don’t understand why Spirit is hated on for nickel-and-diming when they essentially itemize the cost and charge for what you actually use versus charge for everything without asking.

I’ve been dying to weave this tip into a blog post as a courtesy, and here’s my chance: There is no need to pay for assigned seats on Spirit when traveling with children. I’ve rolled the dice like three times and concluded they always will keep at least one adult with the child. They have to put everyone somewhere and should be happy to allocate an adjacent middle seat no one wants.

The only issue would be if all window and aisle seats were pre-purchased, but I just don’t see that happening on a Spirit flight. People go to Wal-Mart to get the job done, not for the shopping experience.


Anyways, I shared a thought with my non-comedian friend while attempting to put on a gold chain with a black turtleneck, my self-proclaimed entourage outfit that was intended to be ironic although no one got the joke. He has two older kids and knowingly agreed with my amateur hour reflection.

I said when you’re away from the kids, all daily tasks demanded by their existence are gone. What you’re left with when thinking about them is the essence of it all, a pure and intense love. With the noise and clutter stripped away, you realize how much you love them. I know the idea of absence making the heart fonder isn’t groundbreaking, but I was almost startled by how I felt.

When I walked in the door after the trip, the 3-year-old gave me a coy grin while keeping a side gaze on the TV. After a few minutes, he launched into a patented nonsensical monologue about garbage trucks punctuated with his patented slow blinks. Then he instructed me to carry him outside so he could deposit a trash bag in the bin.

The 1-year-old came down later from a nap and gave me a surprised and delighted, feces-eating grin that stayed plastered on his rosy post-slumber face for what seemed like a full minute. I caught the tail end of it with this pic but swear it was twice as wide in the beginning.


Of course the honeymoon didn’t last long, as much as we all wish you could bottle euphoric perspective in Denver rather than just the gummies that facilitate it. The little one crapped in the bathtub, which might sound funny if you don’t empathize with the challenges of cleaning all surface area touched by contaminated water: tub including sides, plastic boats with unnecessary crevices and ridges, squeeze toys with tiny holes that create festering, undrainable cesspools inside, an eight-page waterproof but not poop-proof Disney book.

It’s such a shocking power move to defecate in a bathtub. Simply no regard for others. The boys combined have only done it a few times, so my brain didn’t immediately process what happened. For a split second, I was irrationally thinking brownie or cookie. Later I had to clean refried beans out of his bib and definitely thought turd.

Thus my Rocky Mountain high gradually subsided into the normal state of contradictions. I love cuddling poop boy so much but rolled my eyes at the 5-in-the-morning wake-up calls and phantom fever that sent him home from school.

My heart lurches with tenderness every time his brother pronounces a dinosaur name — “Iguanodon” out of his mouth sounds closer to NBA player Bojan Bogdanovic’s last name — yet I don’t have the stamina to play Ross Geller and answer incessant questions about what modern foods various extinct dinosaur species eat. (I at least try to stay consistent with carnivores and herbivores, but from there need to take liberties. Brontosauruses eat oatmeal and velociraptors eat hamburgers, FYI.)

I am so proud of his verbal development and Mandarin vocabulary including words I don’t know, but usually by the end of the day I’m begging him to watch TV and give me some quiet. The bonus of my respite in Denver is seeing the full heart behind this ambivalence with clearer eyes.

Also, there was a hot personal trainer at the Ritz, but she was busy and I love my wife.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Searching for the Bell

I got a job that feels like home and such a great fit, which I know is not as interesting a story as losing a job. It’s worth sharing though, if only to update the kind folks who helped and offered to help.

How humans before the internet found jobs with anywhere near efficient allocation of talent is beyond me. Gen Z probably feels the same way about dating, so I suppose you don’t know what you don’t know.

We millennials do know though. I remember applying for my first newspaper job out of college by sending my fledgling portfolio in those manila envelopes with a clasp that folds through a hole at the top. I used a paper cutter to splice articles from internships and The Daily Northwestern and photocopied them in black and white onto 8.5×11 paper.

College kids these days wouldn’t know what to do with a Xerox machine. It probably looks to them like a tanning bed for their uncalloused hands. Yes I am fully aware I’ve become the miserly middle-ager in cargo pants shaking his fist at the next generation, but I make no apologies for it because a) cargo pants are just so practical for the rigors of parenthood and b) these kids will never know how easy and hard they have it.

I posted on LinkedIn a few hours after getting laid off and ended up with over 35,000 impressions. Certainly those weren’t all unique or actual reads, but even a fraction would be more productive than posting a résumé on circa 2006.

An old coworker I hadn’t traded even one electronic word with in seven years immediately sent me an opening at his company and offered a referral. A complete stranger at a big tech company reached out to do the same. I had Zooms and calls with friends I hadn’t seen as far back as those manila envelope days 17 years ago.

I interviewed with that first company and felt it was a lock. I got rejected. Fortunately I had another shot the following week at what seemed like a dream gig, thanks to a referral from another former colleague. But I bombed the last part of a poorly designed live test over Zoom, ironic because this was billed as the system design portion of the interview. Lest you suspect sore loser-ship, I crept on LinkedIn to see if anyone has been hired yet. Nope.

Those two rejections hurt, yet it was still all good because before that live test another company had asked me to interview. I considered it a backup at the time, but now I needed to bring the heat. I rocked their SAT-like cognitive assessment, bonded with the hiring manager over studying abroad in Prague, and figured I scored bonus points by scheduling a 12:30 a.m. interview with a team member in India to give her a break from after-dinner meetings with North America.

I got rejected from that one too. This was the nadir for me. I started to wonder if job openings were being flooded with applications due to layoffs, and it might be a while before I land something.

With one wife, two young children and zero home equity, I had just put down a deposit a month earlier to build a beautiful house in a neighborhood we felt lucky to squeeze into given the market. There was still plenty of time to get a job to be able to close the loan, but the thought — along with an email sitting in my inbox from the lender asking for pay stubs — provided some low-grade anxiety background noise.

That night my dad picked up the ultimate pick-me-up, a heavy bucket of KFC, saying he pitied us because I couldn’t get a job and my wife couldn’t get on a plane. (Her seat was given away on an overbooked flight in San Francisco.) He declared every time I got rejected he would bring home a consolation dinner, and next up was Taco Bell.

It felt a bit tone-deaf for motivational support, and plus we’d likely order through the app linked to my credit card. Nonetheless I liked the vibe, and it might have helped limit the wallowing over that surprising third rejection to about 45 minutes.

Then I pumped myself up, and it was game on. Those referrals had inflated my confidence in getting a job easily. I failed at that, and I was floundering as a trophy husband with my Spock-like Great Clips haircut and increasingly vulgar, always rebuffed advances toward my wife between her conference calls.

I hadn’t really started an actual, professional job search. Once I set my OCD mind to something, it’s hard for me to think about anything else. I could be the greatest dad if there were objective metrics to track against.

After ramping to a few dozen applications, I had almost more interviews than I could handle — 10 in play or already offered when it came time to decide. It probably was more tiring than actually working. I prepped comprehensively for every round and channeled all the energy I could through the webcam to mask my introversion.

Every morning I bobbed my head to Eminem’s “Till I Collapse”, an uncanny anthem for the unemployed. My kids, ages 3 and 1, have been conditioned to shake their wrists in an endearing version of rap hands during the haunting instrumental intro.

’Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you got to search within you, and try to find that inner strength
And just pull that *stuff out of you
And get that motivation to not give up, and not be a quitter
No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse

We never made it to the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. I signed the offer letter two months to the day I got canned. Severance and fully paid COBRA benefits covered the whole family through March, so the timing was perfect. I don’t want to deal with health insurance.

This company I joined, a public benefit corporation, challenges the fee-for-service model that almost by definition screws our health care system. Doctors and hospitals are paid by quantity of treatment, completely divorced from the health of the patient. As one medical resident put it, they get paid more to cut off a person’s foot from diabetes than prevent diabetes.

Chasing big mission statements isn’t as important to me at this point in my life as stability and the opportunity to build my career and craft in Salesforce. I get the whole package in this new position, from a technical architect in house to managing a user base five times my previous org’s.

Plus health care generally is more insulated from recession and interest rates than tech. You never know though. If I need to be on the hunt again, I know I can turn to Marshall Mathers, Yum! Brands, people who help, people who give you a chance, and an obvious reminder… to paraphrase another millennial reference by the name of Chumbawamba, the absolute best part of getting knocked down is getting back up.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Power of One

My top New Year’s resolution was to stop complaining about kids, which effectively ends this blog. It’s worth the dropoff in content if I can rewire my brain to interpret the daily grind of parenthood as enjoyable, meaningful or at least productive.

I’m doing well with the resolution and might try to keep it forever, but I do have a parting shot. It’s most definitely not a shot at my second son, who is nicer to me than his Oedipus-complex brother. If he were the older one, I would still feel the same way.

Stopping at one child is an extremely underrated option those fortunate enough to conceive should consider. I know that really leans into my Communist Chinese roots, although our balloon-enthusiast frenemies overshot the goal and recently crossed the threshold into population decline.

When I brought up the merits of one-and-done to my Ph.D. entrepreneur friend, he quickly pointed out the human race would die out. It took me a second because I don’t have a doctorate, but yeah that makes sense. To maintain the same population level, everyone would need to replace themselves, i.e. two children per couple.

Otherwise you have a languishing top-heavy age distribution without replenishing the worker-age tax base to support stretching life spans. Well, sucks to be Japan. This isn’t Handmaid’s Tale. You should do what’s best for you and hope the robots figure out the rest.

One kid makes so much sense to me. Most of us parents didn’t have an inexorable urge to give up our pre-family lives. The reason why people are having kids later and later over time is because quality of life without them is increasing over time. Life can be pretty good — with more diverse and arguably unforced sources of fulfillment — when not consumed by raising offspring.

If there weren’t biology-directed boundaries, I suspect many folks wouldn’t get around to having kids until their 40s or 50s. I certainly was never one to leave the bar before last call (or being kicked out).

Ultimately the strongest impetus is fear of regret and ambiguity, not knowing if one day you’ll look around unhappily wondering what it would have been like to have kids. Just one will take care of that for you though. The wonder, conjecture, imagining all goes away. Adding a second child won’t do much more in that category.

I’ve heard no one runs two marathons. You either run one and cross it off the bucket list, or uncover a calling and run a bunch.

Almost all my friends, acquaintances and randoms encountered chose to have exactly two kids. A common answer to whether they want to go for a third is an expletive concatenated with a capital N-O. This is often backed by surgical guarantee on the male.

Riddle me this, if having a third would be so bad, was the second really necessary?

I know I don’t have any real friends because no one cared to warn me how much harder it is with a second child. The closest was my buddy who casually mentioned when we were a month out, “You know the second kid takes it to like level 20 right?”

Cool man, I’m glad you tucked a cautionary note in my luggage before I boarded the Titanic. I heard there might be a global pandemic coming along too, so I’ll be sure to stock up on hand sanitizer.

Especially for an introvert like me who needs to recharge alone, the toughest part about the multi-child life is a lack of recovery and restorative time. One parent can’t go take an effing break. The hamster wheel is always spinning. Sometimes the r.p.m. is insane; most of the time it’s manageable. But the thing just never stops.

Multi-tasking does not suit me well. I get stressed out when two people talk to me at the same time, a favorite pastime of my in-laws. I’ve been told I have the ability to make people feel like they’re the only one in the room (most recently in a video job interview when they were the only one in the virtual room). It’s a great side effect of having a one-track mind.

But the flip side is the inflated discomfort I feel when unable to concentrate or take my time to do something well rather than good enough. That’s what happens with two kids. Instead of focusing on one and trying to ace the test, you just want to survive two and pass the test.

You jump from one thing to the next and a lot more things in your mind while trying to physically finish one. Brushing a squirming child’s teeth while using my leg to barricade the other from suicide divebombing off the bed gets old before the first repetition.

There is always a certain level of anxiety humming in the background. I am acutely aware of this because of the uplifting feeling when the kids are dropped off at school and the absolute dread when they can’t go. Every parent has downplayed or blatantly ignored symptoms to send their child to school because the alternative is just so taxing.

Frisco, Texas somehow had five straight days of school closures this month because of icy weather. Bookended by weekends, that made it 10 days with children ages 3 and 1, which adds up to like six months in perceived time. Looking at the clock every day and trying to burn hours even though those hours were needed for other things was excruciating.

Trading off with one kid would have been a lot more fun for all parties involved. Call me shortsighted when the two are old enough to occupy each other, but there still will be fights and mass destruction to manage. They already can’t be left alone together because of bullying and antagonizing. The honeymoon phase pictured below lasted like two months.
Basically the added cost of a second child is not offset by the diminishing returns. It sounds callous to put it that way, but again, this is no reflection of my second baby. It’s an observation about becoming a parent for the second time.

You can gauge the diminishing returns to some extent by comparing the number of pictures taken of the two kids before age 1. With the second one, I don’t think my wife ever took the n-month picture on time.

The meal preparation. Every bite of food for the first one had to be organic. I fed the second one In-N-Out fries, and he threw up that night.

The childcare. The first one didn’t go to school until one and a half. We dropped the second kid off with defrosted milk at 12 weeks.

TV. We tried to shield the older one from screens as long as possible. The younger one plays in the foreground of Disney Plus movies, and if he wants to pay attention, I consider that efficient supervision.

I cannot emphasize or repeat enough I love them both equally. I’m just trying to point out what appears to be an underutilized life design choice. Having an only child is a way to hedge against the risk of regret without exhausting resources.

You still get the benefits, experiences and boxes checked going from zero to one — while preserving more of that former life. It could be the best of both worlds.

Going from one to two is more uphill in terms of incremental benefits and quality of life versus costs and mental wellness. Everyone would agree there is an ideal number of children for them based on their family and wants, and I would be shocked if there weren’t more true one-and-dones out there rather than arbitrary two-and-throughs.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Old Man and the Son

There was another marital quarrel — my “enthusiasm” was taken away for the day, as if I haven’t surrendered enough already — and the usual parental malaise. Those are easier to write about than everyday joys, the little highs we’re quick to forget. I’ll try. It’s Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

For some reason, this silly, mundane four-second high isn’t quick for me to forget. I think about it compulsively, and my eyes got misty the first time I told it to my wife.

I was killing that slow shot clock in the early morning with my 3-year-old on a big-boy playground in L.A. It was a weekday during our trip, so elementary school kids started sprouting out of nowhere before classes started. The place was soon overrun.

Last time we checked, my son was in the 11th percentile for height. So there he was on this sprawling playground, literally a midget, traversing the chaos with tunnel vision while kids double and triple his age raced around him and admirably avoided absolutely steamrolling him.

He looked like Simba in the fateful stampede. I was bracing myself for a Mufasa-like demise as I tailgated him up, down and around the towering main structure modeled after a spaceship theme.

As he climbed a ladder in the middle of it, I called out “To infinity and beyond” in Chinese. That’s our jam. We watch the “Toy Story” movies on Disney+ with Mandarin audio and English subtitles. Every night I recite the first part of Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase and crouch down. My son then hops on my back and says the rest while holding out his arms in wing formation all the way upstairs to bath time.

He jumps off furniture the same way and wears Buzz pajamas and underwear. “Toy Story” was our liberating gateway from mind-numbing YouTube videos of garbage trucks to the mind-blowing creativity of Pixar. “Toy Story 3” also offers Mandarin dubbing on Disney+ and gets the loop treatment in our household.

Chinese is a cacophonous language to most native Western speakers, including me. When my mom and aunt have any conversation, my anxiety spikes because the volume and staccato are so jarring. I was shocked to count the same number of syllables in the translation of “To infinity and beyond” as in English. I swear it sounds like 10 sentences.

So I was blurting this out while my boy climbed the ladder, and he didn’t acknowledge it. I figured maybe he was distracted, or maybe this was one of those milestones. There was always going to be a time when he was too cool for his old man. It seemed premature now, but the thought crossed my mind that surrounded by these big kids, my son didn’t want to respond to some stupid Toy Story line in choppy Chinese from his dad wearing cargo shorts and boat shoes with socks.

It’s OK. I wasn’t mad about it. I could appreciate his social awareness and learning to read the room.

But as my little boy got to the top step, he stretched out his stubby arms like wings and lunged with his chest through them in a grand flying motion before scurrying to the next spot. He hadn’t been ignoring me. He was focused on getting to the top step because that kind of stuff is still hard for him. Because he’s still a baby.

In hindsight, no child can be a) too cool for his old man and b) require his old man to wipe his butt for him so Buzz Lightyear doesn’t get organic comet streaks. They are mutually exclusive conditions.

No child can be too cool for his old man and have to sit on a petite toilet seat placed on top of the regular one, so he doesn’t fall through. Something about the angle of this double-decker setup ensures his poop lands outside the water every time. It makes the bathroom smell like a Stagecoach porta potty in late afternoon.

I can tell when the payload is coming because his facial expressions basically transport me to the journey through his colon. His eyes lock with mine and subtly dart back and forth as if he were just finding out I betrayed him.

His lip comes up in a half-snarl while the rest of his face both freezes and trembles. Most of the time drool drips from his mouth onto his potbelly.

And here’s the kicker: While persevering through this natural phenomenon, my son feels the need to extend his hand to me, his dutiful servant waiting to wipe his little anus in downward dog position. We clasp hands thumb over thumb like Bertier and Julius at the hospital while he continues to push. Left side, strong side.

It’s almost degrading, this grotesque multi-sensory interactive experience forced on me as a member of his support staff. Yet I don’t hate it. There is something sweet and funny about our absurd ritual, his innocence and resulting extreme level of no f’s given.

I think it makes me love him even more. I am thankful that for all my griping and wishing these stages would go by faster… they don’t. And every now and then a bit of nostalgia can set in even before the kids take flight.


Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

The Drudgery of a Shocking Parental Contradiction

I’ve noticed a damning indicator of the effect of children on wellness. The parent who spends more time with them in a given time period typically is in the worse mood, while the other one feels more alive but guilty.

When I’m with my kids, I find myself willing the clock to go faster to reach naptime or bedtime or schooltime. When I’m not with them, I want time to slow down and feel intense deadline pressure to enjoy, to get things done, to live. Because when they wake up, my life on a basic level gets worse.

What does this mean? I can’t seem to decipher the contradiction. How can I love my kids more than anything, but hate being with them? There is an Eminem and Rihanna song called “Love the Way You Lie” that hasn’t aged well, but the conflicting supercharged emotions speak to me.

When my kids are at school or asleep, I think of them with such fondness I sometimes need to actively resist the time suck of pulling up cute pictures of them on my phone. I love getting lost in their faces and replaying their voices and giggles in my mind.


Yet almost as soon as we’re together — I mean within minutes — the steep diminishing returns turn negative. I simply don’t need that much time with them. You can eat cheesecake for only so long.

It’s excruciating. The first two-plus hours of the day from around 6 to 8:25, spanning predawn darkness and hot Texas morning sun, feel like I’ve lived an entire life. Think about how slowly even just 60 seconds go by when assembling a three-piece puzzle with an 8-month-old, or hiding under a suffocating bedsheet from imaginary rain with a 3-year-old. It requires so much effort and tedium.

When they finally go to school, I really haven’t done anything I want to do: exercise, eat, sleep, work, crap, shower, brush my teeth, unload the dishwasher. Presumably, none of these things are more important than family time as long as I eventually get to them. But they all feel better to do in the moment rather than be imprisoned by my thoughts while supervising children.

That’s a weakness of mine exposed by parenthood. I do not have serenity. My mind is a circus. My meditation attempts are a joke.

There is a funny experiment that found a significant percentage of folks would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit in a room alone with their thoughts. I prefer not to deaden my consciousness with Instagram or TikTok, addictions which likely prey disproportionately on parents bored out of their minds by young offspring.

Then again I often end up repeatedly scrolling ESPN or The New York Times and concede I’m only a slightly better person in that respect. If you check ESPN frequently enough the headlines don’t change, it’s worth asking whether you’re living your best life.

Sometimes I will actually look at pictures of my kids as an escape while they’re right next to me. The implication is the idea of children and what it all means is better than the reality and day-to-day.

Like I said, I can’t figure it out and should probably outsource to experts. My buddy sent me possibly the greatest article I’ve ever read. It should interest any parent or potential parent, in other words every adult on earth.

By the way, I know a ton of people who struggled or are struggling to get pregnant. We’ve had a miscarriage. I recognize hearing me complain about healthy children might be unbearably annoying, so let me just offer two thoughts if you’re still reading: a) Never give up; I believe it will happen for you and b) Try to appreciate the extreme benefits of not having children in the meantime.

I still can’t believe in this Covid-reconfigured workforce, some people can roll out of bed at 8:57 a.m. and not be late for work. They can go to bed at 1 in the morning and still get eight greedy hours of sleep.

Plus when adults with no dependents clock out of work, they can do anything. There are no children to watch, and no tasks created or backlogged on account of the children. I mean, that’s a crazy difference in time, like living an extra 30 percent on top of uninterrupted sleep. The problem is they will never appropriately value the freedom until it’s taken away.

One of the many useful concepts in the article is bifurcating happiness into how you feel in the moment versus how you might feel thinking about your life in a rocking chair with a beer.

“I think this boils down to a philosophical question, rather than a psychological one. Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?”

– Tom Gilovich, Cornell psychologist

It’s a brilliant question. I remember a transcendent potty training episode when bedtime was dragging late, and I was hungry and tired with a million things to do. My son climbed onto the stepstool facing the toilet, pivoted 180 degrees, pissed all over the place like it was a Vegas alley, hopped off and slipped on the urine, hitting his head on the floor and triggering a tantrum.

At that moment, I was near a meltdown. Looking back now, the memory isn’t so bad. And looking back in 15 years when I’m unable to help him with his JavaScript homework, maybe I will be nostalgic for a time when he needed me so dearly.

I’m not sure this amounts to a life of purpose or meaning as referenced in the article. A more cynical view would be kids consume so much of your day, there’s no time or energy to define sources of meaning, let alone pursue them.

That’s not the Holy Grail answer to meaning in life. That’s distraction so you don’t have to confront those kinds of questions. In a way, kids are both the electric shocks and the reason why you need them.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Diamond in the Meat Loaf

I had our annual birthday conference call last month with my two best childhood friends, born five days apart. One is a millionaire who lives in a high-rise in Manhattan when he’s not traveling the country. The other timed the unhinged housing market flawlessly, doubling his equity in L.A. and parlaying that into a 5,000-square-foot Texas home with no mortgage for the rest of his life.

What about me? Oh we don’t need to talk about me. Let’s talk about you, and we can get to me later.

I’m about to move in with my parents in Plano, Texas, shortly after my 38th birthday. You might picture me screaming at my mother for meat loaf, but they don’t have basements in Texas and the closest outcome in this household would be beef lo mein.

My wife and two young children are coming with me and will support negotiations with our landlords to swap Netflix password for Costco privileges. The numbers don’t quite add up, but I don’t know how you put a value on culture.

Same thing with stock portfolios. Can you really put a dollar amount on being a shareholder in a company? Yes, by definition you can. In an exquisite case of greed, hubris and naivete overriding risk aversion, I dropped $200,000 into individual stocks rather than low-cost index funds. I am currently down 85 grand and available to teach return on investment to any aspiring finance MBAs who want to get a leg up on the competition.

Where did it all go wrong for me? My mom would say it’s when I turned down Brown University and later refused to course correct by becoming a pharmacist. Stay in your lane, landlord.

This is maybe a defense mechanism kicking in, but most people probably agree wallowing in the past and what-ifs yields rapidly diminishing returns if any at all. I saw this quote by The Last Psychiatrist in James Clear’s newsletter that almost floored me by how much it made sense:

“The goal of adulthood is to let go of the other possible existences and to make the best of the one. A successful adult is one who understands that it doesn’t matter which life you ultimately pick, only that you live it well.”

I buy it, I really do. There are infinite ways my life could have diverged from this one: different college or dorm, cities or social circles, spouse and kids, career and income. I did not choose the path that resulted in the most money, and neither did you. I did not marry the person resulting in the wildest sex or make the friends resulting in the biggest laughs or embrace the religion (or lack thereof) resulting in the deepest wisdom — although mine score high and I love them very much.

All the variations aren’t so much different outcomes as they are just different packaging that life comes in. They don’t move the needle on happiness as much as how you live your life, whatever it may be. (I know I need to back up the armchair preaching here and apply it to my struggles with parenthood.)

Take this Depp v. Heard monstrosity. My wife told me not to comment on the verdict because I know nothing about it, and yeah I proudly know next to nothing about the case except the clear conclusion Johnny Depp’s life is not perfect.

Now here’s me sitting on the armchair thinking the movie star life seems pretty close to the pinnacle — banging supermodels, partying around the world, ransacking the Whole Foods salad bar without so much as a glance at the scale. I got a kiss on the lips from an African model while studying abroad in Prague in 2005, and I can tell you that life path has its merits.

But without blaming or absolving Depp for whatever happened, I believe the bigger impact on his quality of life is how he lives his movie star life rather than his choice to be a movie star versus something else. In other words, he could be better off living the accountant life well (which would entail no regrets about forgoing other paths) than living the movie star life poorly. You hear these stories of lottery winners ending up miserable and paraplegics living their best life, and they’re not implausible.

The intention is not to use celebrity misfortunes to prop up my self-esteem. I’m trying to reflect on why I feel good most days, even giddy, for a middle-aged man who soon will be asking his parents to extend curfew and waiting until they fall asleep to make out with his wife of six years. MA! MEAT LOAF!

I guess I feel like I’m living my particular life well. Yes the house will be a circus and nuisances unavoidable. But I also see this as a sort of bonus time with my parents. My dad has been looking so old lately on FaceTime. Asians age better than most for a long time, and then it’s like they catch up overnight.

It doesn’t feel quite right your parents put so much into raising you, and then you graduate college and meet up 2-3 times a year. If I were staying in Southern California, I wonder how many more hangouts I’d get with my dad. Thirty? Forty? That’s not a countdown I care to start.

So now comes an atypical bonus round with my parents in which we’re under the same roof again while they’re still in good health, and I have some maturity and experience, plus their precious daughter-in-law and grandkids. I am picturing unfettered dinner dates with my wife, Blue Bell ice cream for the kids after pool time, tennis with my high school friends, bringing a book on shopping trips with my mom, hazing my dad and brother with Shiner Bock, and supercharged summer and winter breaks with the L.A. grandparents.

Meanwhile, we should be able to rapidly accumulate savings in the absence of rent and California cost of living. Our school commute goes from 80 miles a day to 10, from $6.80 per gallon to $4.80.

It’s definitely a scrappier plan than I would have imagined 10 years ago or even 10 months ago, given the yet-unreconciled dual rises in interest rates and housing prices. And I realize many folks aren’t blindly lucky enough to be able to use a cheat code with supportive parents. This is my one life though, and I intend to live it well.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email, and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does Nothing Ever

Dang it school shooting, I was halfway through a solid blog post about a big life move but couldn’t get Uvalde, Texas, out of my mind. Twenty-one murders was too high, and the age group too low for a father on a business trip away from his two kids with a combined age of 3. Had it been, say, four high school deaths, I easily could have kept going.

So I started a new post on everyone’s favorite topic of gun control, then stopped because I didn’t want to bore you, tried to get back to the original one, but just couldn’t pick up steam again. It’s like when you’re erect and ready to shoot, Jack, and then one of the timeless “Dark Knight” movies comes on in the background. You’re distracted persistently enough to warrant a hard stop. And when you decide to get back to it, the mood and focus are just ruined.

I already wrote a scattered memo about guns after the 2017 Vegas massacre. It’s not perfectly coherent, yet sensible enough I could just recycle it every few years. Uvalde was the first mass, mass school shooting since I became a dad though, so it merits some supplementary thoughts.

My proposal is to allow bazookas for sale. That way the children don’t have to be scared before they die. It’s more humane. Sound good, Senators?

I don’t understand why, or at least I don’t want to understand why this needs to instantly turn into red team versus blue team. Offering two flawed political parties and telling me I have to adopt all the opinions of one of them and argue without nuance against logic and productivity seems pretty close to the opposite of freedom.

When it comes to gun regulation there should be less slogans and rhetoric and more scientific method — like those fourth graders were learning before they were executed. We have all these variables that potentially affect the level of gun violence and no perfect solution. We can sit there debating hypotheticals. Or we can test, collect data, learn, iterate, improve.

If Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos had his profits depend on reducing gun deaths, can you imagine the innovation, efficiency and bias to action? Progress would be made by end of day Wednesday, or somebody would get fired.

Can’t we just try something, anything? I’m not opposed to arming teachers if you think it’s practical and scalable to expect our most overworked, underpaid, nurturing professionals to add to their résumé the ability to win shootouts against sociopaths with rifles, body armor and a death wish.

Perhaps focusing a little farther upstream might be easier. Take these assault-style rifles. I have to use that clunky term because gun zealots can’t get past the semantics. They say there’s no such thing as an assault rifle. The ones used in these mass shootings were semi-automatic, one bullet per trigger pull.

Automatic weapons, a.k.a. machine guns, fire bullets continuously or in bursts when holding the trigger down. They have been severely restricted and essentially banned since 1934.

Well shoot, that sounds to me like a proof of concept. The Second Amendment makes no exceptions for machine guns, yet no one is mad about those not being sold at Walmart. Hey if you’re basing the right to bear arms on the need for a “well regulated Militia” to defend against tyranny, I would think machine guns are table stakes. Good luck with your peasant semi-automatics when the tanks and drones come rolling in to your driveway.

But no, that would be insane. It’s quite obvious the right to buy a fully automatic military weapon is outweighed by the risk of one showing up in a school, grocery store, church, movie theater… who knows where will be next. Same with grenades and yes, bazookas.

Obviously it’s not as obvious for everyone when it comes to assault-style rifles. Really we all agree that gun control in some form does and should exist. We just disagree on where to be in the mass-kill-capability spectrum, which maybe ranges from the muskets the Second Amendment was actually referencing to whatever our government is sending to Ukraine.

So all we need to do is calibrate, fine-tune if you will. That doesn’t sound so bad. If you let the loud outliers cancel each other out, I wonder if there is a nice chunk of the American public that isn’t so far apart. I think there are more team players out there than it seems, gun haters like me who are willing to live with them so others feel safe and happy and gun owners who are willing to jump through more hoops to get them so others feel safe and happy.

Ultimately, no matter how constitutionally free the society, we all give up something for the greater good every day, whether it’s observing a speed limit even though you’re capable of driving faster safely or holding in that fart in the elevator even though you feel like it’s rising into your chest.

Suppose we shifted slightly on that mass-kill-capability spectrum and prohibited ammo purchases over a certain amount, unless they’re consumed at the range. Or go bigger and ban assault-style rifles again, this time without lame loopholes. We could then look at gun fatality rates and have a more substantive debate on whether removing these is worth the tradeoff in freedom, utility and costs.

We are currently trending in the wrong direction. The CDC announced guns finally surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 killer of children and adolescents. Woohoo, persistence pays off.

If you just can’t bear to leave those pretty rifles at the range, then let’s test a stringent application process instead. This should be Harvard level if you happen to be an 18-year-old male. I need to see grades, community service, extracurriculars, references bro. There can’t be any doubt you have something and someone to live for. Ideally you’ve gotten laid a few times.

Maybe CIA level is more appropriate. I mean, these guns are so intense. This is sensationalistic to bring up, but I can’t imagine what an AR-15-style rifle does to these poor children’s bodies that their poor parents need to give DNA swabs just to tell them apart.

I can imagine, and so can you. One hundred and forty-two bullets fired by a boy whose balls probably hadn’t dropped all the way yet. That is cray-cray AF. Remember, not an assault rifle, an assault-style rifle. This is an incredibly important distinction because they have very, very different purposes.

An 18-year-old legally purchased two of these, compelled basically an entire police force to stand down for an hour, killed basically an entire classroom, and we can’t look at basic, partial regulations? Perfect need not be the enemy of good enough or slightly better.

Of course we can’t prevent 100 percent of these. Of course the root of the problem is mental illness. No mass shooter is of sound mind.

So let’s tie the two together. Anyone who wants to buy an assault-style rifle has to show mental fitness. You need a doctor’s prescription for certain drugs; you need a psychologist’s evaluation for certain guns.

I know it’s not as easy as tossing oversimplified ideas onto a whiteboard, but it’s also not as hard as it seems either. You just do it.

Australia is often cited as an example:

1) There was a terrible mass shooting.
2) The government passed new laws.
3) No more mass shootings.

The morning after Uvalde, I asked my Australian coworker about this. I expected a longer answer from an Excel wizard business analyst, e.g. depends on how you look at statistical significance, the data model, yada yada. But he just said… Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went down.

Cool, man. Thanks. I don’t feel stupid. There’s nothing stupid about gun deaths being so high in America you can barely see the other countries on a chart to scale.

My nonchalant colleague also told me to look up an Australian comedian who absolutely destroyed the stupidities around how we react to gun control. Savage Aussie, get up off me.

I see your comedian and raise you with our great American legend George Carlin:

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Yes I’m aware of the difference between the mean and median, another thing those kids might have been learning before they were executed.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.