Category Archives: real stories

How Watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” (May Have) Changed How I Watch Movies

Throughout the pandemic-fueled horrors of 2020, I speculated on multiple occasions how movie theaters may never fully recover. I don’t doubt for a second the movie industry, as a whole, will adapt to changing markets and trends. However, the movie-going experience, as we know it, was suddenly in doubt.

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Many people far smarter than me have expressed concerns and made equally dire predictions. How things ultimately play out remains to be seen. The 2021 summer movie season will be a major test for theaters, as a whole.

However, there are already signs that the industry has changed forever. It started with “Trolls World Tour” last spring, which ditched theaters together and debuted online exclusively, turning a healthy profit in the process. Then, Warner Brothers escalated things even further by saying all their 2021 movies will release simultaneously within theaters and on HBO Max.

On top of that, Disney is also trying their hand in simultaneous release. They announced that they’ll be releasing the long-delayed “Black Widow” both in theaters and on Disney-plus. While you’ll have to pay extra to see it on Disney-plus, the result is the same. Movie theaters are suddenly less relevant in the movie-viewing experience.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this is for the industry.

It’s also hard to overstate just how big an impact the pandemic has had on the movie industry, as we know it.

It may very well be the case that “Avengers Endgame” was the last true blockbuster. We may never see a movie gross that kind of money ever again. That, alone has many implications.

However, I don’t want to focus too much on those just yet. Instead, I want to talk about my own movie-going habits and how they have changed recently. Like so many others, I was very excited to watch Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” on HBO Max. I built my entire Saturday night around watching it.

There’s a lot I can say about this movie. If you want a full review, you can check the YouTube video I made for it right here.

Beyond my excitement and reaction to that movie, I felt an impact beyond the general experience of seeing a movie that so many had fought to get released. This really didn’t come off as just me settling in on a Saturday night and binging a movie from a random streaming service, which I’ve done plenty of times before.

My experience with “Justice League” was different.

I feel like it may affect other movie-going experiences in the future.

To explain why, I also need to explain what I did to prepare to watch that movie. I didn’t treat it like watching any other movie on HBO Max or any other streaming service. Instead, I went out of my way to recreate the movie theater experience.

I closed the blinds to my windows.

I dimmed the lights in my living room.

I even ordered a pizza and got a six pack of beer. That’s not typically what I get when I go to a movie in the theaters, but since this was a four-hour movie and I wasn’t bound by theater rules, I wanted to make the most of it.

After all, this movie wasn’t ever coming out in theaters. If I wanted that experience, I had to recreate it myself. It was not exactly a perfect duplicate. I don’t live in a fancy house that I could turn into a make-shift movie theater. I haven’t sold enough novels yet.

Despite those limited resources, the experience I created for “Justice League” was both effective and personal. It allowed me to basically consume a new blockbuster movie in my own unique way. While I didn’t expect that effort to have too great an impact, I can say not that it definitely changed the experience.

This wasn’t just me re-watching a favorite movie of mine.

This wasn’t me watching a movie that I saw in theaters.

This was me creating my own experience for a new release.

When all was said and done, I found myself planning to do it again. I may ultimately do it with all HBO Max movies that come out this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t see some in theaters, but watching Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” showed me what a more personal movie-watching experience could be.

It also left me somewhat conflicted on how I’ll see “Black Widow” when it comes out. Before I saw “Justice League,” I had every intention of watching it in the theaters, like I’ve done with every Marvel movie since “Iron Man.” Now, I’m not so sure.

Do I go to a movie theater, buy my favorite refreshments, and watch it like I used to watch all new movies?

Do I try to recreate what I did with “Justice League” and consume movies that way?

I’m honestly torn. I still enjoy going to theaters. I don’t exactly have a big screen TV that comes close to matching the screens at a movie theater. I also don’t have a 3-D TV that can take advantage of that feature. However, I can’t sneak a six-pack of beer into a theater or pause the movie when I need to take a bathroom break.

There are positives and negatives for both. I’ll certainly attempt to refine my movie-seeing experience at home with future HBO releases. In doing so, that may ultimately make watching a movie from home more preferable to watching it in a theater. As a result, me going to a movie theater might become a rarity.

It may be the case that Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” was a one-time thing that I’ll never recreate. If not, then I’m very curious to see if others had a similar experience. I’m also curious to see how this will play out as the world emerges from this pandemic and the movie industry seeks to rebuild. If you had a similar experience Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” or something similar, please share it in the comments. I have a feeling the way people consume movies and media is bound to change considerably in the coming years and not just because of the pandemic.

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Catholic Priests Defy The Vatican To Sanction Same-Sex Unions (And We Should Cheer Them On)

I tend to be very critical of organized religion and those who take religion to extremes. I make no apologies for that, but I do make an effort to be fair. That’s why I go out of my way to highlight that most religious people, regardless of the religion they follow, are generally good, decent people whose faith genuinely enriches their lives.

That’s worth acknowledging because people can do genuinely good things in the name of their faith. It’s a beautiful thing. Just look at someone like Fred Rogers. That’s religious devotion at its finest.

I know I don’t highlight those stories enough. In my defense, the stories of people who actually practice what they preach and do genuine good for the world rarely makes the news. Then again, the news relies almost entirely on doom and gloom these days, so that shouldn’t be surprising.

That makes the effort to highlight the good a lot harder, but it’s still worth doing. To that end, I want to highlight a good story about religious people that stemmed from a bad story about a religious institution with a history of unholy behavior.

Recently, I bemoaned the Vatican’s decision to essentially cling to their traditions of marginalizing LGBTQ people. They still call homosexuality a sin and refuse to bless same-sex unions. Never mind the fact that Catholics still get divorced and eat shellfish, the Vatican still refuses to embrace change.

At a time when religion, as a whole is in decline and support for LGBTQ rights is growing, this just feels backwards, even by the standards of the Catholic Church. However, not all those who identify as Catholic feel the same way.

Even though the Vatican is set up as the central power of the Catholic world, there are those who go against that power. A few priests are daring to defy the Vatican and I want to take a minute to acknowledge their boldness. This is what Reuters has reported.

Reuters: Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

Whether you’re religious or not, let’s take a moment to applaud these priests. They’re doing something that Jesus himself once did. They see a powerful institution doing something wrong and they’re protesting that by doing what’s right.

In the process, they’re providing love, tolerance, and acceptance to a marginalized group that has suffered plenty, often in the name of religion. You can call that ironic, but I prefer to call it heroic. They have to know on some levels that they’re going to get in trouble for this.

They are likely going to get criticized. They’ll likely face protests from hardline conservative Catholics who cannot tolerate any deviation of any kind from certain traditions, no matter how outdated or intolerant they are. The fact these priests still went through with it says a lot about their character, as well as their faith.

It’s also worth emphasizing that what they’re doing is commendable in ways beyond the religious angle. They are just a small group of individual priests. The Vatican is a vast, powerful organization with immense wealth and influence. They have the benefit of being able to say with a straight face that their authority comes directly from a deity.

That’s a power that many governments envy. Some claim they’re inherently divine, but the results are often less-than-divine.

That power matters because it means they can change if they wanted. It would be a lot easier than what these rebellious priests are doing. The Pope could just come out and say that homosexuality isn’t a sin anymore for the same reason eating shellfish isn’t a sin anymore. He did it with purgatory. Why not do it with homosexuality?

That’s the problem with powerful organizations, though. When they’re powerful, they have the luxury of taking the path of least resistance. The easiest thing for powerful organizations to do is not change. It’s much less strenuous on the people and the systems around them to just keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

It keeps them in power.

It means less work for them and those who support them.

It means less thinking, contemplating, and second-guessing that maybe they’re doing something wrong.

At best, it’s lazy. At worst, it’s callous and negligent. Contrast that with the Catholic Priests who dare to go against such power. They know what they’re doing will bring consequences. They know they’re going to upset some powerful people, but they do it anyway.

That’s brave.

That’s bold.

That’s a level of spirit that religious and non-religious people alike can respect.

Regardless of your affiliation or your opinions of Christianity or Catholicism, take a moment to acknowledge that these men of faith are doing something great. They’re offering love and acceptance to their fellow human beings, even though they’re marginalized and demonized. It’s probably the most Christian thing they could possibly do and I, for one, salute them. I suspect Jesus would, as well.

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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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One Year Ago: The NBA Cancelled A Game Moments Before Tip-Off (And The End Of Normal Began)

It’s amazing to think of where we were at this time last year. It feels so long ago. It might as well have been another century. The simple experience of going out, hanging out with friends, or attending a sporting event seemed so casual. Being in a crowded arena with cheering fans never felt unsafe. It was just loud and roucouse.

That all changed in March 2020. That’s when the world, as we knew it, started to fall apart as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. I already recounted my own experience when I felt the impact like everyone else. I have a feeling everyone has their moment when they realized this was not going to just blow over easily.

However, if there was one moment in which everybody realized that this was serious, it was when major sports leagues started shutting down. Suddenly, this activity we turn to for an escape was no more. These were billion-dollar leagues who had plenty of incentive to keep playing, regardless of what the news said. The idea of any major league shutting down seemed unthinkable.

The unthinkable finally happened on March 11, 2020 when the Utah Jazz were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in a major primetime match-up on ESPN. The arena was packed. People were cheering. Nobody was wearing masks or socially distancing. They were all just ready to escape the news and have a good time.

The game was still scheduled to play. The pre-game show happened without any indication that something was wrong. The players had warmed up and were ready to go. Then, there was a delay. A bunch of officials began discussing something. Nobody had any idea what it was about. Nobody would’ve suspected that the game, the NBA, and the entire sports world was about to shut down.

Looking back at that moment, it seems so ominous and eerie. It might have been the last glimpse of “normal” that we ever saw. Just watch the highlight posted by ESPN that same night. Watch as the world, as we knew it, changed before our eyes.

I’m not a huge basketball fan. I don’t follow the NBA as closely as I follow other sports, like baseball and football. However, seeing this gave me chills. It still does. Listening to these announcers talk about basketball, the season, and the importance of this game seems so surreal.

They have no idea what’s about to happen to the league and the world.

Nobody in that arena knew, from the players to the people serving drinks in the stands.

It really was unthinkable, a game being suspended this close to tip-off because of a pandemic. When it happened, it was the first domino to fall in the sports world. Everything after that just built on the nightmare that unfolded throughout 2020.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you still understand on some levels how much they mean to people. The world may seem crazy, but we always had our sports and our movies to escape. We never thought things would get so bad that it would all just shut down. Then, it happened and even after an entire year, we having recovered.

That scene in this highlight of a packed arena with cheering fans and no masks seems almost unattainable now. I still believe we’ll see something like this again, hopefully later this year. Right now, though, it’s an eerie reminder of the day we all realized things were about to get much worse than we ever could’ve imagined.

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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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My Newfound Fondness For My New (Memory Foam) Mattress

There are certain products we should regularly replace or upgrade. Our phones, smoke detectors, toothbrushes, anti-virus production software, and underwear come to mind. Those are obvious and most people don’t need to be reminded of that. There are some products, however, that not everyone upgrades regularly.

It varies from person to person. For me, I certainly prioritize upgrading my phone, my clothes, my passwords, and other essentials. One thing I tend to negate, though, is my mattress. I freely admit that I slept on the same mattress for nearly 15 years before I replaced it. After that, I didn’t even think about replacing it.

That changed recently when I noticed my mattress sagging in the middle. In the past, I would’ve shrugged that off. Then, I started waking up with a stiff neck and in odd positions. The longer I put it off, the worse it got. Since you can’t really work around getting regular sleep, I decided to finally upgrade. I even managed to save some money so that I don’t have to buy something cheap.

That is likely the reason why my old mattress started sagging, by the way. I bought it because it was cheap and not because it was the most comfortable. The old adage of you get what you pay for really applies here. When you start waking up with a stiff neck every other morning, you feel it even more.

This time, I dared to splurge. I had a budget, but it was larger than last time. That meant I could try some of the fancier mattresses, like those that use memory foam. I’ve seen them advertised before. I tend not to believe those fancy adds that claim they’re that revolutionary. I’ll just say that, after lying on a few, I found one that was comfortable and bought it.

I won’t say how much I paid for it. I’ll just say that it was at least double the price of the last mattress I bought. Again, you get what you pay for and after the first few nights on it, I came to appreciate adage even more.

I wasn’t expecting much when I slept on it the first night. I’d have been just happy to wake up without a stiff neck. I might have set the bar low, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating the results.

I love this mattress.

I love how comfortable it is.

I love not waking up feeling stiff or sore.

I don’t want to come off as a shill for a particular brand, so I won’t mention which kind of memory foam mattress it is. I’ll just say that I’m legitimately impressed. I didn’t know sleeping on a decent, non-cheap mattress could feel so good. I might have learned that lesson the hard way to some extent, but I’m glad I learned it. I know the world is a crazy place right now and the economy sucks for a lot of people, but everything about it is only made worse when you don’t get quality sleep. A good mattress won’t fix everything that’s keeping you up at night, but it’ll definitely help. Keep that in mind the next time you’re thinking about which product in your home you’d like to upgrade.

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Buying My First Bitcoin: My Reason And Experience

I talk about the future a lot on this site. That’s because, in general, the future excites me. I genuinely want to see some of the emerging technologies under development manifest. From advanced artificial intelligence to hacking our own biology to sex robots, I think these developments will lead to some major upheavals in society and I want to be around to see them.

I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see all of them, but I want to make the effort. I want to experience the future and not just speculate about it.

This brings me to Bitcoin. Now, before I go any further, let me disclose that I am not one of those hardcore, uber-libertarian Bitcoin fans who see Bitcoin as the technology that will bring down corrupt governments and banking cartels. I’m also not among those who think Bitcoin is a total scam. For this technology, I try to keep my perspective balanced.

I see Bitcoin the same way I see email. It’s basically a digital form of a tangible thing/service that we’re familiar with. Email was a supplement to regular mail. Bitcoin is simply a supplement for money. Email didn’t end all forms of regular mail. As such, I don’t see Bitcoin ending all other forms of money.

As for the technology behind it, I’m no expert, but I definitely see the value. Bitcoin, unlike other currencies, has no boarders. It has no middlemen or central authorities. It doesn’t require a big bank or some other financial institution to authorize it. All it requires is an internet connection and a smart device with an app.

Beyond the money, the technology behind it, most notably the blockchain, has some exciting applications. It promises to change the way we process, manage, and scale big data. It has the potential to create secure, decentralized operations that can’t be run from the top-down by the future Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

Even if you think Bitcoin has no inherent value, I hope you see the value in that.

Now, I have been following news about Bitcoin since 2013. I remember the first time it became a major source of headlines. It was primarily associated with black market economies on the dark web, namely the Silk Road. That was not necessarily a good association, but that didn’t stop Bitcoin from growing considerably in both value and use.

However, I didn’t invest in it or seek to buy any Bitcoins. Some of that was mostly because it was still so new. I wasn’t sure what to make of it and I didn’t necessarily trust the early Bitcoin wallets. It also didn’t help that some of the early Bitcoin exchanges went completely bust.

I understand this era still created plenty of Bitcoin millionaires. Those people are the lucky ones. Even after 2013, I don’t think we’ll see Bitcoin create any more millionaires like that. I still watched Bitcoin with a skeptical eye. I didn’t want to buy in until I could be sure it was able to weather these upheavals.

In hindsight, I think I waited too long. At this point, I think Bitcoin has proven its worth and its utility. It’s been around for more than a decade now. If it were a bubble or a scam, it would’ve failed long ago. Even if I’m late to the party, I can safely say that I have finally joined in.

Granted, I didn’t put my whole life savings into Bitcoin. I decided to start off small and honestly, it was a lot easier than I thought.

Here’s what I did to get my first batch of Bitcoin money.

Step 1: I downloaded a basic Bitcoin wallet, namely BRD. It’s the simplest, least cumbersome wallet I could find.

Step 2: I compiled about $100 in cash. These were just a bunch of $20 bills I had in my drawer. They were actually bills I got from Christmas cards. Since I buy most of my stuff with credit cards and my phone, I really didn’t have much use for them.

Step 3: I went to a gas station up the road from my house, which had a Bitcoin ATM. I used that ATM to purchase $100 in Bitcoin. It took less than four minutes.

That’s it. That’s all I did. I didn’t have to give my bank account number to anyone. I didn’t have to give my credit card number to anyone. I just took some bills that I probably wasn’t going to spend anyways and turned it into digital currency. I have every intention of purchasing more down the line.

In terms of loose change or extra bills, I believe Bitcoin is actually better than just letting that paper money gather dust. Unlike bills, Bitcoin’s value actually has the potential to go up. That’s something paper money rarely does.

It’s a key part of Bitcoin’s legendary volatility. That sort of thing turns a lot of people off and I understand that. They don’t want to wake up one mourning and find out their money lost half its value.

However, I would counter that paper money would lose that same value, but just over a longer period of time. It’s like owning fruit. It’ll only ever rot. It’s never going to get fresher. Bitcoin is a bit more like a game of cards, but with the odds in your favor.

Sometimes the value goes up.

Sometimes the value goes down.

Overall, due to the scarce nature of Bitcoin, its value is inclined to go up.

That $100 was only going to get less valuable sitting in my drawer. At least with Bitcoin, there’s at least a possibility that $100 could be worth a lot more later this year. Compared to what inflation does to money, I’ll take those odds.

For now, I just wanted to share my experience. I genuinely believe that Bitcoin and the technology behind it is going to be a big part of our future. It may not completely replace money, but it will improve on what we’ve got.

I’ll share more stories as the year unfolds. In the meantime, I’ll leave everyone with this little anecdote.

The first known Bitcoin purchase was on May 22, 2010 when a man named Laszlo Hanyecz bought a pizza for 10,000 Bitcoins. As of this post, one Bitcoin is valued at $32,711. That means someone payed $327,110,000 for a pizza.

That must have been a damn good pizza.

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Winter Wonderland Memories: The Blizzard Of 96

It’s the middle of winter. Unless you’re living in a tropical or semi-tropical climate, it be depressing. Outside, it’s cold, it’s barren, and the simple act of going out to get the mail requires too many layers of clothing.

It’s not my favorite time of year, to say the least. After Christmas, I’m pretty much ready for winter to be over. In a perfect world, there’s one single snowstorm from Christmas Eve until the day after Christmas. After that, we go right into summer.

Sadly, we don’t live in that world. I live in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This is an area that doesn’t see the kind of snow you’d get in places like Buffalo, Boston, or Chicago. We’ll get a few flurries and snow showers here and there, but it’s nothing that you need to shovel.

In fact, a major snowstorm is fairly rare in my area. When it does it, people get a little anxious. I have friends and relatives from up north who think it’s hilarious that we freak out over a mere six inches of snow. Having spent some time in places like Buffalo, I see why they feel that way.

However, every once in a while, my area gets hit with a storm that even people from Buffalo and Boston think is serious. They don’t happen every year. We can sometimes go several years without a storm that will dump more than ten inches. Even among those storms, there are some that were so bad that we remember them for years to come.

Well, in the spirit of winter, I’d like to share one of those memories. I imagine anyone living in my area around this time has similar memories. That’s because I’m going to talk about one of the worst blizzards my area ever got. It doesn’t have a name. We just call it the Blizzard of 96.

Admittedly, it’s not a very original name, but make no mistake. This was a storm that left a hell of an impression from New York to Washington, DC.

I remember this storm for many reasons. Most notably, I remember it as one of those rare storms that earned us an entire week off school. As kids in grade school, that was our primary way of measuring how severe a snowstorm was. In hindsight, though, that did not do justice to just how big this storm was.

Again, I live in an area that does not get storms like this regularly. We can handle a few snow showers here and there. This storm dumped over two feet on us in the span of three days. Even by Canada standards, that’s a lot of snow.

My memories of that storm still stand out, more so than most. One of the most vivid was just the night before the storm rolled in. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on the couch with my dad. We were both watching the weather forecast like it was the World Series. My dad, who had seen his share of snowstorms, just looked at me and said, “Here it comes.”

I went to bed that night with just some light flurries coming down. It was barley enough to coat the tops of my parents’ cars. I then woke up the next morning and it was a total white out.

Every inch of grass and every inch of road was completely covered.

Every tree and bush was covered.

It was a hell of a scene. As a kid, I was just excited because it meant school was definitely cancelled. It also meant my friends and I were going to have some winter fun. However, that’s where I once again underestimated this storm.

The snow was so heavy and got so deep that normal winter activities like sledding and snowball fights were impossible. We couldn’t run around in it. The snow came all the way up to our waist. We couldn’t sled in it because it was so fresh you just couldn’t get any traction. It was really unlike any storm we had ever been through.

At one point, and this is another memory that stands out, we just decided to climb into the back of my dad’s truck and sit in the snow-filled back like it was a hot tub. I don’t remember who’s idea it was. I just remember it was snowing so hard that we just couldn’t come up with another way to enjoy it.

That blizzard ultimately became the storm by which I measured every future snowstorm. In the years that followed, I lived through more major snowstorms, some of which were larger than the Blizzard of 96. However, none of those storms have left the same impression. I don’t know if I’ll ever encounter a winter storm that will have that kind of impact. Hopefully, before it ever hits this area, I’ll have long since retired to a tropical climate.

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Recounting A Special Christmas Gift (And What Made It So Special)

The holidays are a special time of year. Even in a year like this, we should appreciate that. If anything, a year like this should help us appreciate it even more. Even if we can’t have big Christmas parties or shop in crowded malls, the spirit of the season is something to cherish.

I certainly have a fondness for the holidays. I’ve made no secret of that. I think a year like this has inspired me to get more personal and share more holiday joy than usual. If it helps distract us from how awful 2020 has been, I’m happy to contribute.

To that end, I’d like to share a personal holiday memory that is near and dear to my heart. It’s also fairly recent, so I won’t rely on the kind of child-like excitement that comes with getting your first bike or video game console.

That being said, I still rank my first Super Nintendo as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, but that’s a story for another time.

This particular story happened just last year, long before we knew 2020 was going to crush our spirits. It involves a very special gift that I received from my brother. I’m not sure if he reads this site regularly, but he knows better than anyone why this gift was so special.

To set the stage, I need to explain some of my family’s holiday traditions. Ours aren’t that unique. Me, my siblings, and their significant others all gather at my parents’ house. We all bring our gifts, put them under the tree, and make opening them this big shared event. It’s simple, but it hits all the right holiday tones.

Traditionally, my family knows what to get me long before Christmas. They know me well and they know my tastes are simple. Get me some comic books, some superhero apparel, or something related to football and I’m a happy guy. I like to think I’m fairly easy to shop for.

That didn’t stop my brother from going the extra mile this year. As it just so happened, his was one of the last gifts I’d opened. At that point, I was already a happy guy, swimming in new comics and clothes. This last gift, however, caught me by surprise in a very personal way.

I still remember holding the seemingly innocuous box. It didn’t look like anything elaborate. For all I knew, it was another comic or Blu-Ray movie. I just casually opened it. That’s when I saw it.

It was a framed picture.

Specifically, it was a picture of my grandmother, who had passed away just a few years ago.

Seeing her again, even in a picture, hit me in a way I didn’t respect. Even though she had been gone for years at that point, seeing her again reminded me of how much I missed her. It was somewhat jarring, but in a good way.

I just remember taking the picture out, holding it up, and looking at it for a good long while. I might have disrupted the overall jolly spirit of the room, but I think they understood why.

My brother, along with the rest of my family, knew how close I was to my grandmother. They also knew how hard it was for her during her final years. I visited her regularly and I watched as her health declined. It wasn’t easy, to say the least.

It helped that this particular picture that my brother framed was taken shortly before she fell ill. She was still smiling, as lively as any woman in her 90s could be at that point. Seeing that look on her face, even if it was just in a picture, was enough to make my heart skip a beat.

I almost broke down, but I managed to keep it together. It helped that my older sister came over and hugged me. She knew how much my grandmother meant to me, as well. It was a powerful moment, but one that made both that gift and that Christmas extra special.

That picture my brother gave me still has a prominent place on my shelf. As I write this, it’s right behind me. It still brings me comfort to this day, seeing my grandmother in that picture. For that, I’ll always be grateful to her and to my brother for giving me such a special gift.

Bro, if you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making that Christmas special and for going the extra mile in giving me that gift. You’re the best!

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