January 02, 2017

My Top 16 Songs of 2016

I listened to all the music this year, so you'd only have to listen to the best. Here are my Top 16 Songs of 2016:
Kanye West – Ultralight Beam
Joseph – White Flag
Bon Iver – 00000 Million
William Fitzsimmons – People Change Their Minds
Gungor – Hurricane
Radiohead – Daydreaming
Jesse Harper – Strangers (feat. Aoife O’donovan)
Billie Eilish – Ocean Eyes
Maggie Rogers – Alaska
Regina Spektor – Bleeding Heart
Bon Iver – 8 (circle)
Kyle Morton – Gestalt of Original Pain
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Kevin (feat. Leon Bridges)
James Vincent McMorrow – Rising Water
Gungor – The Great Homesickness
Wilco – Normal American Kids

January 01, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2016

Year 3 of giving up fantasy football and sports radio during my commute to read/listen to more books instead. Finished 23/25 I started this year. Asterisks* note my top recommendations, but everything in the first tier below is really solid. DNF means Did Not Finish.

*The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
*How God Changes Your Brain – Andrew Newberg
Based on a True Story – Norm Macdonald
The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket
Disrupted – Dan Lyons
Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
Cultural Literacy for Religion – Mark Benson
The Sin of Certainty – Peter Enns
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
Myth in Human History – Grant Voth
The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche – Robert Solomon
High Output Management – Andrew Grove

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future – Ashlee Vance
Finding God in the Waves – Mike McHargue
Originals – Adam Grant
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer
The Business of Writing for Children – Aaron Shephard
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman
How to Be Here – Rob Bell
How Google Works – Eric Schmidt
The Inevitable – Kevin Kelly
The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
The Outsiders – William Thorndike

Wages of Rebellion – Chris Hedges (DNF)
The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith and Idiocy – Rainn Wilson (DNF)

December 02, 2016

The Curious Case(s) of the Accident-Prone Irishman

This post has been contributed.

A few days ago, on November 24th, an Irishman won a personal injury claim. Nothing so strange about this sort of news, right? Personal injury claims are won all the time, after all. (And lost, of course!) Well, this one seems to have caught the interest of many people in the legal world. The case of this Irishman is slightly different from most. That’s because this personal injury claim was his ninth successful personal injury claim.

The man’s name is Anthony Lynch, and he hails from Limerick, Ireland. He’s 38 years old and has two kids. And Judge James O’Donohue of the Limerick Circuit Court awarded him €10,000 last week. (That’s around $10,618!) Judge O’Donohue has labeled Lynch “a very unfortunate, accident-prone individual.”

When you hear that someone has made nine personal injury claims in their lifetime, alarm bells might start ringing. Indeed, many people would jump to the conclusion that the man in question is repeatedly committing insurance fraud of some kind. It might be worth checking out some insurance fraud statistics for those of you who would jump to such a conclusion. You can read more about them at http://mademan.com/.

But Judge O’Donohue’s words certainly help solidify the idea that Lynch is, in fact, just really unlucky. Right? Well, I guess it depends on across how many years he’s been filing these claims. Records state that his first claim was made back in 1998, when he must have been about twenty. He was involved in a car accident, and was awarded €7,600 ($8,069) for his subsequent suffering.

Bearing in mind that he filed his latest claim in 2015, this means that he’s filed nine claims in the space of about seventeen years. This means he averages out at about one claim every two years. Which is definitely more than your average person! But how unrealistic do you think it is that someone would suffer nine injuries in the space of seventeen years? When you think about it like that, things don’t start to look that unrealistic. We may, in fact, be dealing with someone who is fully aware of his rights. When he is injured because of the fault of someone else, he takes action. This is something that’s actually not as common as it should be. A lot of people just let it be - which is, of course, a mistake. If you’ve suffered from the same, check out http://ankinlaw.com/.

A full list of the unfortunate man’s various past injuries can be found at http://www.irishtimes.com/. Before you continue to dismiss such claims, it’s worth pointing out that many of them were road accidents. Very difficult to fake, right? He is also on welfare for the various long-term injuries he has suffered from these incidents. In total, he has claimed €115,000 in injury compensation. That’s just over $128,000.

For some, there won’t be enough to convince them that this person isn’t just a “chaser”. But for many others, it might make you think about how often you really ever get what you’re owed.

November 25, 2016

Why Green Technology Is More Important Now Than Ever

This post has been contributed.

You could argue that the statement “green technology is more important now than ever” always renews its accuracy. Green technology is always increasing in importance. Because despite all the advances that we’ve made with environmental awareness and technology? Things are still getting worse. Green technology will be even more important next month than it is right now. It seems that we’re not actually taking that many positive steps towards eco-friendliness these days. Even the Paris Agreement, historic as it is, doesn’t quite do enough.

I know, I know: not the most optimistic way to open an article. But we’re not exactly living in optimistic times at the moment, it would seem.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States. I’m not about to embark on some anti-Trump tirade. He was villainized by the general media much more than his behavior or his policies actually warranted. But whoever you rooted for in the Presidential campaign, there’s one thing that’s for sure. We definitely got the worst candidate for the environment.

For all her flaws, Clinton could perhaps have been much easier to push to the left on the whole climate change issue. The media and scientists at large seem to have been thoroughly, almost arrogantly convinced of a Clinton win. What this means is that few people out there know what to do now that the 45th President is a climate change skeptic. No-one was really prepared for this.

Trump himself denied that climate change is a thing back in 2012. His Presidential policies included a defunding important environmental research. He’s also hinted at trashing the recent and historic Paris deal. (Fingers crossed he can be dissuaded from this, if only for diplomatic reasons.)

A recent interview sent a lot of mixed signals about Trump’s view on climate change. He made a lot of very vague comments. He even seemed to suggest an acknowledgment that humans “might” be causing climate change. (One step at a time, now, Donald.) But, in general, he seemed dangerously ignorant of climate change’s damaging implications. Yes, the media exaggerated Trump’s anti-humanist tendencies. There’s little evidence his Presidency would be a danger to human rights. But there’s one thing for sure: his Presidency could definitely be a danger to the environment.

This is why it’s more important than ever that residences and businesses invest in green technologies. We need to take this sort of action on a widespread scale. Green technology and business practices need to become part of the status quo. Events like the Andes Renewable Energy Conference should take on an added significance. If we all become more aligned with environmental causes, we can help keep this green economy strong.

And strong it certainly is. If Trump is as shrewd a businessman as he likes to claim, then he should soon recognize the foolishness of going to war against the war on climate change. Because if you remove the environmentalist concerns from the equation? You’re still left with something amazing. Clean energy and green practices have been helping boost the economy for years. Hopefully, he’ll change his mind soon. After all, the International Energy Agency predicted climate change to be irreversible by 2017 back in 2011. I can’t quite remember how far away 2017 is, let me go check my calendar…


October 23, 2016

What You Can Do To Save The World!

This post has been contributed.

There are countless threats facing the world today. Viruses like Zika and Ebola can spring up at a moment’s notice, poverty and all the problems that stem from it are still very real, and then there’s the ever-present threat of terrorism and war. One of the less talked-about threats, which is still very real all the same, is climate change. There’s no way of denying that climate change is happening now, so here are some of the ways you can do your bit to prevent it.
I’ll start you off with the simplest tip: talk about it. That’s right, just talk! Various studies have found that people have been talking less and less about climate change over the past few years. Sure, no one wants to be that irritating hippy who points out every little thing you do that could possibly be bad for the environment (man). However, if we don’t talk about climate change enough, we can contribute to a culture where everyone underestimates the effects of it, and the work that’s needed to be done to prevent further damage. Go out of your way to find out more about renewable energy, recycling and eco-friendly cars. Find out about the larger things being done around the world, like the Argentinian Renewable Energy Conference. By educating yourself and discussing climate change, you’ll contribute to a world where everyone’s doing their bit.

Source: Wikimedia
Next, have a look at your diet, and think about the impact it’s having on the world around you. A lot of people aren’t aware of the link between what we eat and the state of the world’s climate. However, if you can make a point to throw away less food or simply eat less, you’ll put a big dent in your carbon footprint. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization did a study in 2013 which found that if food waste ranked as a country, it would be the third highest carbon emitter in the world, coming after only the US and China. Cutting out meat completely is the best thing you can do in this area, but I wouldn’t say you’re obliged to do it. A good start would be reducing the amount that you eat steaks. A single calorie of store-bought steak requires 160 times more land than the same calorie in a potato.
Finally, consider getting involved in some kind of energy project in your local community. There’s something extremely satisfying about taking some of the market back from larger energy providers, even if you’re only doing it partially. When a community comes together and makes an energy product work, it not only reduces carbon emissions and helps the environment, but also has a noticeable positive impact on the local economy and sense of community. Although they may be a little invisible in your local area, I’m sure you can find a community energy project if you look hard enough. If not, there’s nothing stopping you from buying your own solar panels and starting a trend!

September 28, 2016

The Real Victims Of The War On Drugs

This post has been contributed.

I’m pretty sure that at in the future, our descendants will look back at how we deal with drugs these days with a tinge of sadness. America’s war on drugs has been responsible for hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of tragedies over the past 80 years or so. Things are changing now; albeit slowly. But there is still a lot to do to prevent more lives turning to ruin. It’s clear that drug policy reformers still have their work cut out, and the next decade or so might turn out to be a pivotal moment. Countless victims have been suffering for far too long - and I wanted to shine a light on those victims today.

The addict

Drug addiction is a disease, yet so many victims of this healthcare issue are treated as criminals. It means there are thousands of nonviolent offenders in jails all over the country. It means addicts will buy substances on the black market, which are often cut with all kinds of dangerous chemicals. And, it means that more people are prone to overdose because they are taking a drug in an unregulated environment.

The families

Families of addicts are often the innocent victims of the war on drugs. When parents, children or spouses become addicts, many physical and psychological traumas go with it. Children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts - or marry an addict. And it’s unlikely the cycle will be broken until we come up with a better way to deal with the drug issue.

The producers

Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are often created in developing countries to meet the demand in developed countries. As you can imagine, the conditions that producers work under are nothing close to regulated. The cartels and warlords from everywhere from Colombia to Afghanistan control everything. Local farmers and producers often have no choice but to accept payments - either under duress or because it is their only source of income. When you get caught with a bag of cocaine, a good cocaine attorney might be able to get you off a charge. But the cycle for the cocaine producer may not ever end, and if it does, it is often in death.

The police

The policy sets out the war on drugs, but it’s the police that has to enforce it. But those policies are a never ending problem, a drain on resources, and result in the deaths of good police officers. The last 50 years or so have seen an expensive all out war on drugs which just hasn’t worked. There have been no significant reductions in illicit drug use - or supply. And given that police officers are on the front line, it is putting them in a lot of unnecessary danger.

The taxpayer

While your average taxpayer will have an adverse opinion on a change in drug policy, I often wonder if they realize the real social costs. In 2010, the US government spent $15 billion on the war on drugs, and state and local governments spent a further $25 billion. Just think of what we could do with that money if the policy underwent significant change.

August 11, 2016

Why Every President Sucked: America's Undying Pursuit for a King (Hardcover Book Kickstarter)

Remember when I wrote those songs about why every president sucked? My brilliant designer friend and sister-and-law Lauren Meranda just turned the project into a beautiful hardcover coffee table book you can order. The coolest thing? She’s not trying to make any $ off the project at all – the Kickstarter is simply to fund the publication of the book, at cost. And if you help, you get the album, coasters and other cool rewards! So get a copy, and share this project with your friends – especially those who love to think – especially those who are teachers – especially those who love trivia. And we’ll get this book in people’s hands before the upcoming election. Thanks SO much for your support, and gocheck out the Kickstarter!