Category Archives: Jack Fisher’s Insights

I’m Officially Vaccinated! Please Do The Same

Today, I feel like I’ve just finished running a long marathon over rocky terrain through a snowstorm and with a pack of hungry wolves chasing me. If it sounds like I’m being melodramatic, I make no apologies. I’m just that excited and relieved because, as of this writing, I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Having watched with everyone else over the past year as this once-in-a-generation pandemic has ravaged the world, I’ve been anxiously waiting for this moment, like so many others. Most of us know people who have been infected or in some ways impacted by this terrible disease. The only way we’re going to beat it while minimizing further loss of life is through a vaccine.

I’ve covered the news surrounding the development of multiple vaccines for this disease. I’ve also made it very clear that I am not sympathetic to those who cut in line to get their dose or those who try to undermine public health for political or religious reasons. I know there was and still is a lot of drama surrounding vaccines. I’m willing to set that all aside for now.

Getting vaccinated after living through so many upheavals is a great feeling. For those who may be concerned, I can attest that the process is simple and quick. Those involved were kind, diligent, and professional every step of the way. I was in and out within a half-hour. I couldn’t be happier with how the whole operation went down.

Since I’ll still need a second dose, I will have to return. Having seen the dedication and efficiency of those involved, I am perfectly comfortable with that. I also encourage everyone, including those who hate needles, to make the effort to get this vaccine.

Check with your local government.

Talk to your family doctor.

Call up a CVS or local pharmacy.

Use this handy tool that I’ve linked to before.

Whatever steps you have to take, make the effort. You’ll be doing yourself, your neighbors, and your family a huge favor. I’m as sick of this pandemic as everyone else. This vaccine is how we’ll get out of it and get our lives back. Please make the effort. Regardless of your politics, religion, or ideology, get this vaccine.

I got mine and I can attest that it’s a great feeling.

Also, to all the wonderful men and women who helped develop this vaccine and other treatments, I sincerely thank you. You are all the true heroes of this pandemic.

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Filed under health, Jack Fisher's Insights, real stories

Updates, Previews, And Mishaps With My New Video Editing Software

Learning new skills can be difficult. That difficulty only compounds when you try to teach yourself. I know it’s cliché, but anything worth learning tends to be difficult. When it’s part of a genuine passion, however, it can even more rewarding. You just have to be ready to endure some setbacks and frustration.

I bring this up because recently, I announced that I had purchased a new PC with my stimulus check. Alongside that purchase, I also bought a new video editing software, Adobe Premier Elements 2021. While getting the new PC up and running was mostly a formality, learning to use this new software was bound to be challenging. I just didn’t expect it to be this challenging.

The thing is I knew I had to get new video editing the second I decided to buy a new PC. The software I’d been using on my old PC, Movie Maker 2012, wasn’t just limited. It had been discontinued. When it came to getting my YouTube channel, Jack’s World, off the ground, it got the job done. However, if you’ve seen some of my early videos, you can tell the quality was not that great.

I did what I could to make up for the software’s limitations. That included purchasing a new microphone and modifying a few images. The plan was always to upgrade to something better and, having done some research on what other successful YouTubers use, I went all in on Adobe Premier Elements 2021.

Now, after spending an entire weekend, plus a few days, just learning the basics of the system, I now realize I have a long way to go. To be perfectly honest, I overestimated the complexity of basic video editing. Everything from making proper transitions to inserting the right text to adjusting music volume has proven incredibly challenging.

I got stuck on several major issues. Most of them involved panning around certain images and getting the right text graphics in place. It took nearly an entire afternoon just to figure out how properly time each image or video. I eventually figured it out, but only after messing up at least a dozen times.

I’d hoped I could get by with the basics for a while before moving onto more complex features. I now know that was hoping for too much. My goal was to use this software to make one 20-mintue video, just to get a feel for how long it would take. I managed to complete that video, but it’s taking me a lot longer and I’m still getting the hang of numerous features.

As a result, I’m going to use the old software to complete a batch of videos that were already in progress before I bought my new PC. You’ll be able to tell by the graphics and panning which videos were made with the old software. This one video I made with Premier, though, will look different. It won’t be completely obvious, but the signs will be there. If it looks a little messy, then assume it’s due to me struggling with certain functions.

I hope to post that video soon, as it covers a fairly timely topic. Yes, that topic involves superhero movies and X-Men. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. After that, any new video that I didn’t start with the old software will use Premier. In time, I hope it makes a difference in terms of quality and visuals. If you’re not seeing that improvement, please let me know so I can keep working at it.

In the meantime, to all those out there who are also struggling with using Adobe Premier Elements 2021, consider checking out some free tutorial videos. I found this one below to be particularly helpful.

I ended up referencing this, and a few others, many times whenever I got stuck, which was frequent. In hindsight, I probably should’ve referenced these videos sooner. They probably would’ve saved me a lot of frustration.

Then again, that’s the price you pay when you try to learn a new skill by teaching yourself. I’m not a very good teacher in that respect, but if I can do this, then anyone can. Video editing is definitely a skill worth learning and one that’s sure to become more critical in the future.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Jack's World, technology, YouTube

Why I’m (Still) Hesitating To Make Plans For The Summer Of 2021

This is usually the time of year when I celebrate the end of winter. For months, I’ve dealt with cold days, long nights, and a frustrating inability to comfortably wear flip-flops when walking around my neighborhood. At this point, I’m ready for warm weather. I’m downright eager for it.

However, this is not a usual year. I still remember vividly how, around this time last year, I was making ambitious plans for the summer. I knew where I wanted to go, who I wanted to visit, and what I wanted to do during the hottest days of summer. This is fairly typical for me.

Then, the pandemic hit and I don’t think I need to remind everyone of how that messed up my plans.

Needless to say, a lot of plans in 2020 got messed up. Plenty of plans in 2021 have been disrupted as well. However, there is legitimate hope that we are turning the tide against this pandemic. We have multiple vaccines being implemented all over the world and more are likely to arrive in the coming months.

The end of this pandemic is in sight. I’m trying to take comfort in that. I really am.

After last year, though, I just can’t bring myself to be that optimistic. I had my hopes and spirit crushed repeatedly last year. I missed out on opportunities and big family events that still break my heart to this day. I can never get those moments back.

I still want to try to create new moments this year, but a lot has to go right for that to happen and after last year, I’m not ready to make such lofty assumptions. The less-than-efficient vaccination efforts have already done plenty to disappoint.

Even so, the trend lines for the pandemic are going in the right direction, for the most part. We can say with a straight face that the worst is behind us. That doesn’t mean the end will come as soon as we want.

Then, there’s the matter of new variants to the virus. That, more than anything, has me concerned about making summer plans. If just one of those variants proves to be a problem, then everything would be set back considerably. We might not be back at square one, but we would be pretty damn close.

So far, it does appear that the vaccines are effective against these new variants. The key term there is “so far.” If we learned anything last year, it’s that things can change very quickly and go horribly wrong in the span of a day.

I don’t want that to happen.

I hope it doesn’t happen.

It may still happen and a part of me can’t help but brace for that.

I still want to make plans for this summer. I want to go to the beach, go to the movies, visit friends and family, go to a baseball game, and enjoy a family barbecue at some point. Even if I can’t do everything I hope to do, I’d like to be able to do some of it.

I hope the world is healed enough by then to make that possible.

I hope everyone else gets a chance to make summer plans as well. We’ll just have to wait and see, once again hoping for the best while bracing for the worst.

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Update On New PC And New Video Editing Software (Courtesy Of My Stimulus Check)

A while back, I talked about what I planned to do with my next (and probably last) stimulus check. I recounted how my previous stimulus checks went primarily to paying down some credit card debt and completing some overdue repairs on my car. This time, I wanted to use my stimulus money on something bigger and bolder.

That’s why I decided to put it towards a new PC. I’d been using the same computer for over five years and it was starting to show its age. It was very slow booting up and started crashing constantly in frustrating ways. The time was right for an upgrade.

Well, I can now confirm that this plan I laid out is complete. This piece that you’re reading right now was written on my new PC and, without getting too deep into the specs or cost, I can already confirm that this was a great use of that stimulus money. It might end up being the best way I could’ve sent it.

That’s because, traditionally, when I buy a new PC, I don’t get the most expensive model. I tend to get something that’s relatively modest or mid-tier. I don’t think I’ve spent more than $1,000 on a PC or laptop in my life.

That changed with this PC. I won’t give an exact price, but I won’t say I bought the most expensive model either. I’ll just say I spent more than $1,000 on this machine and that old adage of you get what you pay for has never been more true.

The speed and efficiency of this new computer astounds me. I was genuinely surprised at how quickly it booted itself up and updated itself. Even though it still took a while to transfer all my files and programs to it, the speed difference is night and day compared to my old PC.

Some of that is just because of better hardware, but I suspect most of it is due to this computer having a solid-state hard drive instead of a traditional disk drive. For those not savvy on computer hardware, solid-state drives are the same drives you have in most tablets and smartphones. They have no moving parts and are much faster, but tend to have less space.

It’s a bit of a trade-off, but one I make gladly. In addition to being fast, this machine is almost eerily quiet. With my old machine, I could hear it humming from across the room. This one is so quiet that I’m not sure it’s even on when it’s in sleep mode. It’s that quiet. Based on what I’ve see so far, I don’t think I can ever go back to a traditional hard disk.

However, I didn’t just stop at getting a new PC. While I spent most of my stimulus check on the main unit, I used what was left to purchase something that I hope will be equally valuable. It involves new video editing software.

If you’ve been following my YouTube channel, Jack’s World, you’re probably aware that the quality is a bit limited. That’s mostly a byproduct of me being very new to video creation and having limited equipment. The video editing software I’ve used thus far has been a version of Microsoft Movie Maker that’s no longer being updated. If I want the quality of my videos to improve, I needed better software.

So, after consulting with some people much smarter than me in this field, I went out and purchased a copy of Adobe Premier Elements 2021. This is the software that most successful YouTubers use in some form or another. It’s very new to me. I’ve only started learning about its functionality and interface, but I’ve every intention of using it to make better videos.

For now, expect the next crop of videos to use the old software. When I finally get around to using Premier, I hope the difference will be clear. Along with the new hardware I have on this PC, I hope it leads to a major uptick in the quality of my videos. If it does, then that stimulus money will prove even more valuable.

I’m not expecting more stimulus money at this point. However, I’m already quite pleased with the purchases I’ve made. I hope others are able to make equally fruitful purchases. If you have any other stories about what you did with your stimulus money, please share them in the comments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some awesome videos to with newer, better tools.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Jack's World, technology

It’s Official: After Watching “Godzilla Vs. Kong” My Movie Watching Experience Has Changed

Sometimes, an experience you think is life-changing just turns out to be a fluke. You have one remarkable experience and you think it’s the start of a trend. However, it just turns out to be one experience and that’s it. Nothing ultimately changes.

I’ve had more than a few of those in my life. I thought playing “Final Fantasy X” would make me a final fantasy for life after the experience that game gave me. That turned out to be a one-time thing. It’s not out of disappointment. That’s just how things played out.

For that same reason, I wasn’t entirely sure if the experience I had watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” was one of those one-time experiences. Last week, I wrote about how it may have changed how I watched new movies. I did so knowing that this was a unique movie fraught with unique circumstances. I didn’t know if it was the start of something more.

To find out, I used this past weekend as a secondary test, of sorts. I knew “Godzilla Vs. Kong” was coming out on HBO Max, just like “Justice League.” I made it a point to approach that movie the same way I approached “Justice League.” By that, I mean I turned my living room into a make-shift movie theater to maximize the experience.

I ordered some pizza.

I got a six-pack of beer.

I closed the blinds, dimmed the lights, and prepared my couch accordingly.

Now, I need to disclose that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” was not a movie I was particularly excited about. Compared to Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” it’s the kind of movie I wouldn’t see in theaters on opening night. I’d usually wait a couple weeks until the price of a ticket came down and I could pick my own seat.

It still had all the makings of the kind of movie best enjoyed in theaters. It’s a big-time monster movie full of spectacle and explosions. That’s how it’s billed and, without getting too heavily into spoilers, I can confirm that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” delivers that spectacle in abundance.

As a result, I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as “Justice League,” but I still enjoyed the experience. Beyond the enjoyment, though, I confirmed something else. That experience I had with “Justice League” was not a fluke.

I can now say with relative confidence that my approach to consuming movies has changed. This experience of me turning my living room into my own personal movie theater is something I really enjoy. It’s something I want to make part of my movie-consuming experience.

By that, I don’t mean I’ll never set foot in a movie theater again. I still have every intention of doing that relatively soon, especially after I get a COVID-19 vaccine. I just don’t think I’ll ever do it as often as I once did.

It helps that “Godzilla Vs. Kong” came out on HBO Max. Last year, the powers that be decided they would release their new movies in both the theaters and on HBO Max. It’s a decision that upset quite a few people and organizations, but in terms of the bigger picture for the industry, it’s a real game changer.

Like Netflix joining the fray when Blockbuster was at its zenith, HBO Max may very well change how movies are consumed. Other studios are starting to buy in as well. Recently, Disney announced it would do a similar release with “Black Widow.” However, their release would be different in that streaming it from home will cost extra.

It’s a different approach, but one that’s following the same trend. Now, consumers have a choice in how hey consume new movies. They can either go to a movie theater or try to create their own experience at home. It’s a choice that probably wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for the pandemic that nearly destroyed the whole industry.

Be that as it may, I welcome that choice. Personally, I think the industry needs this to happen. Movie theaters and movie studios alike can’t keep clinging to a model that began before the creation of streaming media, 4K televisions, and Grubhub. At some point, they have to adapt to changing consumer habits. Now, they can’t avoid it.

I’ve already made some plans for how I’ll consume movies this summer. Even if all restrictions are lifted and everything goes back to normal, relatively speaking, I don’t think I’ll revert to my pre-pandemic approach to movies. I’ll start weighing my options.

For a movie like “Mortal Kombat” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” I’ll probably watch them at home on HBO Max. If I happen to get a date, I’ll probably take her to the theater. Since I can’t assume that’ll happen, my default will be using HBO Max.

With “Black Widow,” I’m a bit less certain. For now, I’m leaning towards seeing that in theaters. It’s not because of the experience. It’s more a matter of cost. If I want to watch that movie at home like I did with “Justice League,” I’ll have to pay extra. Now, for a movie I really want to see, I’m willing to do that. However, I have my limits.

I think $30 just to stream the movie from home is a bit excessive. It amounts to more than I would spend on a ticket and snacks at a movie theater. Even if the price was just $20, I’d still probably see it in theaters. Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been anxious to see this movie for over a year and I want to support it. If that means paying extra at a theater, I’ll do that.

Then again, if I could stream it for free on Disney+ the same way I streamed “WandaVision,” then I might have second thoughts. Given that I’m a lifelong Marvel fan, I might still go to the theater, just to show my support for the franchise. Since that’s not an option, I just don’t know.

For now, those are my plans and they’re always subject to change. I just know that, moving forward, my approach to experiencing new movies is very different. I suspect others are going through something similar. Even after this pandemic has passed, I expect certain movie-going habits to change permanently.

What will this mean for the industry, as a whole?

That, I don’t know. All I know now is that what happened last weekend with “Justice League” was not a fluke and “Godzilla Vs. Kong” proved it. Now, I’m contemplating how I’ll continue adapting my movie-watching experience. For that, I may need to invest in a bigger TV. In the meantime, I’d like to know what everyone else thinks. What has been your experience thus far with respect to consuming movies? Has it changed due to the pandemic? Do you expect it to change even more? Let me know in the comments.

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Filed under Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights, movies, television

Thought Experiment: What Would You Do If You Could Relive Your Life With Your Current Memories?

The older I get, the more I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed. I would’ve loved to grab my 15-year-old self by the shoulder, looked him right in the eyes, and told him that I had many wonderful experiences ahead of me. I would’ve maybe told him some winning lotto number as well, but that’s beside the point.

Most people who survived adolescents and found ways to thrive in the adult world appreciate the perspective of hindsight. It can be sobering for some, but bittersweet for others. When we’re young, ignorant, and inexperienced, everything just seems more overwhelming. We struggle to make sense of it all. You really can’t hope to understand anything without time, experience, and perspective.

I suspect most people have entertained the idea of sending messages to their younger self at some point in their lives. Even if it’s just to tell them who will win the Super Bowl this year, there’s a lot of wisdom we’d love to impart. Movies like “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day” demonstrate the power of having such hindsight. However, those movies only go so far.

It’s one thing to relive a single day with all your memories intact. An entire lifetime is on a much larger scale with far greater implications. It makes for an interesting thought experiment. Now, after a certain X-Men comic told a remarkable story with this, I’d like to pose it as a formal question.

What would you do if you could live your entire life over again with the same memories, knowledge, and experiences you have now?

It’s a question that is likely to inspire many different answers. Everyone’s life, circumstances, and experiences are different. Some people wouldn’t want to change much. They like how their lives turned out. Others would make significant changes, both for their lives and for others.

Since a scenario like this has so many implications, here are a few specifics to consider before answering this question. I’m going to try and answer it for myself, but I think it’s worth establishing a context, if only to avoid the kind of time travel paradoxes that make the timelines in “Back to the Future” so confusing.

With that in mind, here are the rules for this little experiment:

  1. When you’re reborn, you have all the memories you have up to this point in your life
  2. You’re aware that you were reborn and don’t suffer significant shock from being in a younger body
  3. You keep the fact that you have the knowledge of your future self secret
  4. You assume consciousness in your younger self at around five-years-old, which is when most children start to form lasting memories
  5. You can only be reborn and re-live your life once
  6. Your ability to recall your memories is consistent with your ability to recall general memories at this very moment
  7. You have no hint of knowing how different decisions affect the future course of events for yourself and the world as a whole
  8. The course of events still unfold as you remember them and don’t change unless you directly influence them

With those rules in mind, take a moment to contemplate how you would live your life the second go-around. What would you do initially? How would you change the course of your childhood? How would that change the course of your teenage years? What points in your life would you make radically different decisions?

For me, personally, there are many general aspects of my life that I would change, even from a young age. I would take a very different approach to how I went about everything from school to friends to my little league baseball career. Life experiences has shown me how flawed my mentality was during that time. I focused so much on outcomes over the process that it caused more frustration than growth.

I also developed a very negative outlook for much of my youth and during my teen years. In my defense, I had terrible social skills and some irrational anxieties that only became absurd with the benefit of hindsight. Armed with the experience I have now, I would’ve been a lot more hopeful and optimistic in approaching school, friends, and challenges. I think that would’ve helped me achieve more and learn more.

In terms of specifics, I freely admit that I would use my knowledge of the future for personal gain, albeit to a limited extent. I can’t remember specific lotto numbers for specific dates, but I can remember which teams won the Super Bowl and the World Series. I also remember which companies made the most gains in the stock market. As such, I would invest whatever I could in Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.

That would’ve made paying off my student loan debt a lot easier. It also would’ve spared me some very unpleasant experiences I had when it came to finding decent housing, both in college and after I graduated. Not having to worry about money would definitely have helped with a lot of things. I could use it to take additional classes, invest in my writing career, and avoid some major missteps, of which I’ve made plenty.

I imagine a lot of people would take advantage of that knowledge. Now, there are some arguments that making those kinds of investments and bets often end up changing the outcome, resulting in a time paradox of sorts. That might be the case if you randomly invested a billion dollars in Apple at a time when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, but I imagine it would take a lot to significantly change something like that.

This brings me to the most sensitive aspects of this thought experiment and one I’m sure more than a few people have already imagined. Having the benefits of hindsight means you can fix the mistakes you made in your youth, both in terms of decision and attitudes. What about decisions that might affect the entire course of history?

It’s one thing to profit from a bump in stock prices. It’s quite another to change a key moment in history. It’s the inescapable implications behind the butterfly effect. However, even movies like “Back to the Future” show that you can only affect the course of history to a limited extent. Even in the worst scenario, Marty McFly only messed up Hill Valley in “Back to the Future II.” He didn’t cause a nuclear holocaust.

If you only have your memories of the future and no other abilities beyond that, you’re still going to have trouble changing certain events. A lot of people would probably try to prevent the events of September 11th, 2001, but how would you even go about that? Would calling someone at the FBI or warning the airports be enough? Would going there and trying to stop it directly be effective?

At best, you’ll only delay it. At worst, you might get yourself killed. The same goes for any event. Say you wanted to change the outcome of the 2000 US Presidential Election or, depending on your affiliation, the 2016 Election. These events have many moving parts. There’s only so much you can do to influence them. Even if you shout the warnings from the highest rooftop, you’ll probably won’t be taken seriously.

There’s also the distinct possibility that changing these events will lead to something much worse. That’s what happened in the Stephen King novel, “11.22.63.” In the story, Jake Epping stopped the Kennedy Assassination, but that indirectly led to a nuclear war. There was even an episode of “Family Guy” that explored this concept.

It’s a difficult decision that I’m sure most would wrestle with. Personally, I would make an effort to avert something as terrible as the September 11th, 2001 attacks. I don’t know how I would go about it, but I certainly would try. I would probably do the same for things like the Columbine massacre or other school shootings, if only to save the lives that wouldn’t otherwise be saved.

As for other events, it’s hard to say and even harder to know the implications. If someone has a specific method they would use, please share them in the comments. I think they’re worth discussing.

These are just some of the issues you would face if you had a chance to relive your life all over again. Hindsight offers many benefits and perspectives, but it also comes with risks. You might be able to avoid the mistakes you know about, but you also might end up making others you didn’t anticipation and those could be far worse.

It’s still an interesting though to consider. As we get older, our perspective on the past and present changes considerably. We can never know how we would’ve acted with some added foresight. I like to think that I, along with most people, would’ve used it to become better.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, philosophy, Thought Experiment

What I Plan To Do With My Stimulus Check (And Suggestions For Others)

For anyone on social security or disability, getting regular money from the government is not a novel concept. It’s part of the social contract in many western style democracies. You work for much of your life. You contribute to society and the economy. Then, at a certain age, we make an effort to return the favor.

It’s noble and reasonable system, despite what some libertarians would have you believe. I have close family members who use it. I’m happy to pay into that system to help them.

However, the global pandemic that unfolded last year did a lot to shake up the system. I’ve covered some of those shake-ups before, but I’d like to highlight one byproduct in particular. As it just so happens, it’s one of the less dour results of this horrible crisis.

It has to do with money, specifically the money many people got in the form of stimulus checks last year. For many who aren’t retired or over 65, it was a big deal. The economic impact of the pandemic was nothing short of catastrophic. Even after nearly a year, many people still haven’t recovered. A few parts of the economy probably never will.

These stimulus checks weren’t meant to be a perfect solution. They were a band aid and some would argue they weren’t a good one. Personally, I disagree. I think it has opened people up to the idea that a government should take care of all its citizens, especially during a global crisis.

What a concept, right?

It is capable of sending everyone money. It’s just a matter of political will, which is always messy to say the least.

That will was enough to earn most of us two stimulus checks thus far. To date, I’ve received $1,800, with $1,200 coming from the first and $600 coming from the next. After the recent bill that made it through Congress, I received another $1,400.

Again, it’s a band aid. I doubt this will do much to fix the serious problems that many others are still dealing with, but it’s better than nothing. I certainly welcome this money. I even have an idea on how to spend it.

That’s noteworthy because, unlike the previous stimulus checks, I can actually spend this money on something non-essential. My first stimulus check went largely to paying down debts and a few overdue home repairs that I didn’t want to put off. The second went to some car repairs that I wanted to take care of before winter rolled in.

In hindsight, those were smart investments. The stimulus didn’t pay for all of it, but it did help ease the strain on my wallet.

This latest $1,400 promises to do more than just pay down my usual living expenses. As of now, assuming no unexpected costs come my way, I want to put this money towards something I know I’ll get plenty of use from.

To that end, I hope to put this money towards a new computer.

At the moment, I’m working on a computer that I bought back in 2015. Now, this computer has served me very well. I’ve made many videos and written many sexy short stories on it. However, for the past two years, it has shown its age.

It’s starting to slow down considerably. Just rebooting it takes way too long. It’s also struggling to handle the video editing software that I’ve come to rely on for my YouTube channel. If I want to keep making that kind of content, I need a better system that can handle better software.

It also doesn’t help that my previous PC wasn’t exactly top-of-the-line. It wasn’t cheap, either. I usually buy computer hardware that’s somewhere in the middle. This time, however, I want to buy something that’s a bit beyond that.

That doesn’t mean I’ll buy the most expensive system I can find. This stimulus money simply means I can buy more than usual. Hopefully, it’ll get me a system that’ll last a good long while. In addition, I hope it can handle some better video editing software, which I hope will show in future videos.

That’s my plan, for now. It’s always subject to change, a hard lesson we all had to learn in 2020. If you’re getting a stimulus check too, I hope you get to use it on something like this, as well. Maybe a new computer is a worthy investment. Maybe it’s something else.

Whatever it is, especially if you’re not retired, I hope it’s something useful. If you have other ideas on how to use this money, please share it in the comments. We’re almost through this mess. Some of us aren’t going to get a check like this from the government for years. I say let’s make the most of it.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, politics, real stories

I Paid Off My Student Loans, But I Still Support Student Loan Forgiveness

After I graduated high school, I was a mess. I was not yet equipped to charge into the adult world and start a career. I didn’t even know what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know where to begin.

That’s why I went to college. I didn’t go there thinking I would find all the answers, but it felt like the best decision for me at the time. In hindsight, that feeling was spot on. I really blossomed in college. I learned more my first year than I did in my past four years of high school. It’s there where I made new connections, developed my sub-par social skills, and started building my future.

For me, college was incredibly beneficial. At the same time, it was expensive. Even though my parents had saved up some money, I still had to take out loans in order to attend. I also had to work a summer job in order to help pay for it. Even after I graduated, I still had a sizable debt to pay off. I won’t say how large it was. I’ll just say I had to live at home for a while.

Eventually, I worked long enough and hard enough to pay it all off. Around 80 percent of my paycheck went just to paying down that debt. I didn’t have much money for anything else, but I sacrificed and my parents helped me every step of the way. By the time I moved out of my parent’s house, I was completely debt free.

I understand that makes me more than an exception to the ongoing student loan debt crisis. Some might say it makes me a freak, paying off my entire student debt before I was 26. I don’t deny my situation was unique and not everyone could’ve done what I did.

I personally know some people who attended college for the same years as I did, but graduated with way more debt. One girl in particular had over $100,000 in debt by the time she graduated, but it wasn’t because she was irresponsible. Unlike me, she had no major parental support. She was also going to med school, which is very expensive.

That kind of debt isn’t just big. It’s crippling. I can seriously impact your mental well-being. That’s not a trivial amount for college. That’s a goddamn mortgage for some people.

On top of that, we expect these kids to just start their lives and become productive members of society when they graduate? We expect them to do what their parents did, getting married and having kids despite the limitations of this debt and the cost of living going up?

Regardless of your politics or party affiliations, I ask you honestly. Is that reasonable?

I say it isn’t. In lieu of recent economic trends, I’d say it’s downright absurd. If that weren’t bad enough, there are still a bunch of older, less indebted people whining about how young people are too lazy and entitled. That is not a healthy dynamic.

That’s why I am totally in favor of large-scale student debt forgiveness.

I know that’s a politically charged statement these days. The idea of the government just canceling or forgiving a certain amount of student loan debt has become a legitimate political issue in recent years. Chances are, it will get worse.

Even with the recent global pandemic, the debt levels are increasing. As of this writing, the average loan debt per student is $37,500. That’s more than what I had and that’s from someone who had support from his family. I can’t even imagine how much harder it would be for those who come from poverty.

It’s not like canceling the debt would be that difficult. It might even be possible to do so by executive order. With a stroke of a pen, this financial burden could be lifted for millions of students.

Now, some might say that’s not fair to those who worked hard and paid off their debt. To that, I call bullshit. We’re not talking about forgiving the debt incurred from people who bought too many Beanie Babies in the late 90s. We’re talking about an entire generation who is trying to better themselves by going to college and getting an education.

Why not support them?

Why not make it just a little bit easier for them?

Would there still be a cost and consequence to canceling so much debt? Yes, of course it would. There’s always a larger impact to consider. I still believe the benefits outweigh the cost.

If ever there was a time to give a large swath of indebted students relief, it’s this. We’re coming out of the worst pandemic in over a century. We’re dealing with record levels of income inequality and a job market that is becoming increasingly limited. Doing nothing in a situation like this can be just as damaging as doing something wrong. I’m not a student anymore and I have no student loan debt, but I remember how relieved I was the day I paid it off. If we can share that feeling with millions of students in need of help, I say it’s worth doing.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic: One Year Later

At this time last year, the world was a very different place. There’s a running joke that people now refer to this as “the before times,” but in retrospect, it’s no laughing matter. The world, as we knew it, before the COVID-19 pandemic might as well have been a different universe. Honestly, I look back at those times with mixed emotions now.

Back then, we could go to a crowded movie theater and not feel unsafe.

Back then, we could go to a restaurant without a mask and not feel at risk.

Back then, we could go to a concert or sporting event and enjoy being surrounded by thousands of cheering fans.

Back then, we could decide to travel on a whim, going wherever we pleased without concern about what was closed or cancelled.

I long for those times, as well. I miss them as much as everyone else. Even with all the encouraging news about vaccines and improved treatment, the world is a long way from returning to those fanciful times. Some wonder if we’ll ever go back. I hope we do, but I don’t want to dwell too much on that.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because, here in America, we’re nearing the one-year mark for one things really went south. The COVID-19 pandemic may have begun in late 2019, but the world didn’t really start feeling the effects until February 2020. That’s when the news started to get scary and dire. That’s also when things started shutting down, from major sports to major events.

However, it really didn’t sink in until March 2020. That’s when it became painfully clear. This was not going away quickly. This was not some storm that would pass. It was not going to go away after a few weeks, despite what some claimed. It was when the harsh reality sank in. The pandemic was here and our lives were never going to be the same.

I remember where I was at this time last year. I was having coffee with my mother on a Sunday morning. She too had been watching the news. We were both concerned, but didn’t know just how bad it was going to get. On that same day, I started getting notices from friends and family. The next day, the state made it official.

Everything was being locked down. Schools were closing. Movie theaters were closing. Everything that wasn’t essential was being locked down. People had to either start teleworking or lose their jobs completely. Nobody could travel outside their state. Some states even began stopping people with out-of-state plates from entering. It was that serious.

It happened so fast. In just a few days, the world as we knew it shut down. We didn’t know how long it would last. We didn’t know how bad it was going to get, but it got pretty damn bad.

To date, over 2.5 million people have died from this pandemic. Millions more have been sickened and left to suffer. Numbers like that are impossible to wrap your head around. This pandemic crossed borders, cultures, and classes of all kinds. It didn’t matter what you believed in or who you voted for. You were still vulnerable.

It’s hard to overstate how much this pandemic has changed our world in the past year, so I’m not going to try. I don’t doubt that it will have a major place in future history books. It will also be a traumatic moment in our collective memories.

Regardless of your age or background, you’ve felt the effects of this pandemic. This past year has seared itself in your memory for all the wrong reasons. We’re at a point where we can barely remember what the world was like before all this happened. It’s a painful reality, but one we cannot and should not ignore.

I’ll definitely remember this past year. No matter how long I live, I suspect I’ll feel the effects of this year until my dying days. I don’t claim to know what will happen in years to come or how much the world will change from here on out. I just know that, one year ago, the world as I knew it changed forever.

We all took it for granted. We can look back on it fondly, but let’s not dwell on it too much. We can’t change the past. We can only effect the present.

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Remembering (And Learning From) My First Date

man-woman-first-date-smiling

We all remember our first crush.

We all remember our first kiss.

We all remember the first person we ever fell in love with.

These are pivotal moments in our lives. They help form the core of our romantic identity. Who we are and how we go about loving others starts with those moments. Ideally, we get better at them over time, as do our lovers. They aren’t always great. Sometimes, they’re terribly awkward. I admit I’ve had a few. As awkward as they were, I learned from them.

With that in mind, I’d like to get a little personal again. I know it’s been a while since I shared a little anecdote from my life. I’ve told stories about my sub-par flirting skills. I’ve also recounted stories that definitively prove how awesome my mom is. I like to think these are stories people can relate to and learn from. I hope this one is similar.

This personal story is about the first date I ever went on. It’s another one of those pivotal moments, but one that tends to be more mixed. Sometimes, a first date is a prelude to an epic love story that culminates in two people getting married, having kids, and building a life together. It can also be an unmitigated disaster. You don’t have to look far to find stories like that.

For the most part, first dates tend to be a mixed bag. They can either be utterly forgettable or a moment you treasure for the rest of your life. The story of my first date lies somewhere in the middle. I hope my now ex-girlfriend feels the same way because it was her first date too. She and I were both young, romantically inexperienced, and socially awkward. In a sense, our date was destined to be mixed.

That didn’t make it any less meaningful. In fact, it gave us an experience to build from, one that would serve us well throughout our relationship and even after we broke up.

It started out simple. I planned to take her to a restaurant at a nearby mall. She loved seafood and this was one of my favorite places. It was also the first date in which my parents let me borrow the car. It was exciting, but still nerve-racking. I saw it as a critical first step in our relationship. I wanted it to be part of a real love story for us. It didn’t play out like I’d planned, but it was still a story.

Before we even got to our destination, there was a setback. While driving to the mall, I take a wrong turn and end up in some office park across the street. Keep in mind, I knew this area well. I’d been going to this mall since I was a kid. Now, here I was, getting lost in familiar territory with a girl I’m trying to impress. It was not a good start.

Much to my ex-girlfriend’s credit, she didn’t make a big deal out of it. She even thought it was funny. I doubt she knew how much I was panicking. I remember gripping the steering wheel so hard, wanting this to be a dream I woke up from before going on the real date. I still put on a smile and tried to make small talk. I’m pretty sure I started talking about comics.

Despite that setback, we made it to the mall. We then make our way to the restaurant without incident. I’m still recovering. I’m also being extra-vigilant. I’m holding her hand, smiling at her, and staying close like a respectable man should. All the while, I’m trying hide how nervous I am. I know she was nervous too, but she wasn’t the one who got lost less than five miles from his house.

Things finally settle once we’re at the restaurant. It’s not an overly fancy place, but it’s no fast food joint either. It’s a place with waiters, menus, and a cocktail list. At the time, we’re both poor college students so this is a nice change of pace for us both. I tell her it’s okay to splurge a little. My parents even gave me some money. We certainly made the most of it.

It’s here where the most memorable part of the date played out. At first, I struggle to keep a conversation going. I’m still socially awkward. I met this girl on the internet. I’m used to having time to think my responses through before answering. It’s not an easy transition. However, after we ordered, something amazing happened.

We started really connecting.

I know it sounds corny. It may even sound mundane because it was a date. Connecting is kind of the point. However, keep in mind that this is my first date and she is my first girlfriend. I’m in uncharted territory. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. I’m just talking to this girl, trying to come off as the kind of guy she wants to be with.

Despite that inexperience, I managed to build that connection. We started talking about school. She started talking about her family. I started talking about movies, comics, and books I’ve read. At some point, I stop worrying about keeping the conversation going. I just talk to her like the person I’ve come to know from our interactions online. She really is that same person and that just endeared her to me even more.

The rest of the dinner goes great. I do recall eating a little too quickly and sloppily, but that didn’t matter. She ate the same way. I saw it as a sign. She also cursed a lot more than I did. She wasn’t big on making things too formal. She wasn’t trashy or anything like that, but she wasn’t the kind of person who censored herself. That ended up helping me navigate the night.

After we eat, we just walk around the mall together. I feel more relaxed. She’s more relaxed, as well. At some point, it doesn’t even feel like a date. We’re just hanging out, doing the kinds of things we like to do by ourselves. This time, we have someone to share it with. That, more than anything, is what made that date feel special.

It wasn’t a chore or some elaborate ritual. We were a young couple with a blossoming romance. We wanted to get to know each other and have a little fun. That’s exactly what we did. I learned a lot from that first date, both about the girl I was dating and the dating process, in general. If there are any lessons I hope to impart from that experience, it’s this.

A first date doesn’t have to go perfectly in order to be successful.

It can start off badly. It can even have a few setbacks. You can still make it work. You can even learn more from those setbacks than you would have, if everything had gone according to plan. I had a plan for that first date. That plan collapsed within five minutes of leaving my place. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing. It forced me to get back to basics on why I wanted to date this girl in the first place.

Even though that relationship didn’t work out, that first date set a good tone for us both. We were together for a good nine months after that. In that time, we had a lot of fun. We shared a lot of great moments, some of which I’ve recounted. There’s a lot I learned about myself during that relationship. It marked a major turning point in my social life.

Before that first date, I was still the same socially awkward mess I was in high school. I used to even joke about how pathetic I was because I’d never been on a date. Now, I couldn’t make that joke anymore. I also couldn’t say I was as socially awkward anymore. I’d gone on a successful date. You can’t make that claim without having some social skills.

That should give hope to anyone out there who feels like they don’t have good social skills, either. I’ve been there. I know how hard it can be to develop those skills, especially when it comes to dating. It is possible, though. I’m living proof of that. You just can’t stop yourself from trying. You can’t make excuses, either.

Those moments that I mentioned earlier are powerful and precious. After a year like 2020, you tend to appreciate them even more. Moreover, you can’t just wait for them to happen. You have to pursue them. It took me way too long to do so, but I did it. I encourage everyone else out there to do so as well. Hopefully, your first date goes even better than mine.

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