My emotional reaction to the US debt US debt is illustrated by the lists below. Please do not attribute the selfish nature of my lists below to my overall selfishness. I assure you that I am as selfless as an empty flower pot.

(These lists go from least important to most important.)
Things that I want to exceed my imagination:
7. The durability of my car.
6. My sex appeal.
5. My wife’s sex drive.
4. The popularity of my writing projects.
3. The balance of my savings account.
2. My good health.
1. The overall happiness of the entire world.

Things that I don’t want to exceed my imagination:
8. The amount of damage my parrot can do with his beak.
7. My megalomania.
6. My waistline.
5. My wife’s waistline. (She’s probably going to proofread this, wish me luck.)
4. The price of gas.
3. The instability of the economy.
2. My health problems.
1. The debt of the USA.

Jokes aside, the reason the debt of the USA is #1 for things that I don’t want to exceed my imagination is simple. I’m living in the USA. Almost all of the things that keep me happy and allow me to function as a member of modern society depend on the nation I live in.

I become concerned when the government can be compared to the victims of the sub prime mortgage crisis. It just doesn’t have the money to cover its obligations. The thing that makes this crisis all the more confusing is that instead of being in debt to a bank, it’s mostly in debt to its citizens.

Companies could take over the duties of governing and providing services if the nation went under, but history suggests that they do not care for my wellbeing even a fraction as much as the government does.

I don’t believe that corporations are inherently evil. Our current growth-based economy has no incentives built into it that would cause companies to care about my happiness. They do have to worry about whether I’ll buy their products, but that is only if I have a choice in the matter. Without a government to enforce antitrust law, what’s to stop them from taking away my choices? That thought bothers me and that is one of the many reasons why I want the government to survive this crisis. A crisis so big that I can’t even completely fathom it.


The world-record holding Rube Goldberg machine was made by Purdue University this year.

I love Rube Goldberg machines for many different reasons.

1. They are absurd.
2. They reflect the complexity of reality.
3. I see them as a reminder that even the simplest things in life can take a dazzling number of steps.
4. They are a form of moving art.
5. They require devotion from the person who builds them.
6. They require a lot of spatial and mechanical reasoning.
7. They are as unique as the individuals that create them.
8. To me, they are an expression of individualism and the capability of the human mind to play with the physical laws.
9. They are a physical expression of the concept of irony.

One of my favorite things to say when I see or hear of something absurdly complex that lead to a simple result is, “that’s Goldbergian.”

:/megalomania: If I was ever a CEO or an important management type, I would consider building one of these machines to hand out business cards or slide my chair out for me so I could sit down. People might think I was crazy for doing such a thing, but as my ingenuity was recognized by others and I gained influence, I would get the last laugh, the last cup of soup, the last tupperware container containing their ego. They would grovel at my feet as my subordinate comfort Rube Goldberg machine rubbed their back and made soothing gurgling sounds. :/end megalomania:

So, in closing, I like Rube Goldberg machines more than I like ciabatta bread dipped in roasted garlic olive oil, but not as much as I like brown butter sauce.

Temporal Gravestones.  A black and white sketch by John C Ricker.

A black and white sketch by John C Ricker

I created this image using a fine-point felt-tip pen. It took approximately 5-6 hours and is the image on the cover of my short story entitled “Precious Metal.”

This is a good example of my black and white hand drawn art. The errors I make while drawing become new paths and the image grows in complexity the way any organism does. I apply simple rules to the construction of the image and only break the rules when my inspiration demands it.

I started writing this the day before my dad’s 61st birthday. I had a rough childhood. I don’t mean that as a cliche, I mean that as a definite fact. There were times when I cried so hard for so long that my parents worried about me. I was teased to the point of insanity and I had motor problems that caused me to be seen as an outsider.

The emotional pressure from growing up in such harsh conditions was more than my mind could bear and I became an island. I shut off my emotions, I shut out the world and I festered in a dark corner of my mind, shunning sunlight for fear of getting sunburnt. My Asperger’s didn’t help this situation one bit and I became damaged beyond my ability to repair.

When my emotions did show up they manifested themselves as manic joy, crying fits, and powerful rage. I was stubborn about my worldview where I thought I was the one that had to fix a world that was clearly broken. When my dad challenged me to change, I fought back with a stubbornness that could cause a mule to try and find another path.

It was my father that met my stubbornness with a stubbornness nearly equal to my own. We gnashed our teeth, yelled, screamed and threatened until both of us were exhausted. It took a while for my dad to learn that taking me head on just didn’t work.

It wasn’t long after that that he started to show compassion and understanding. He started learning to keep his temper at bay. At first, it was a tenuous balance that he held. One confrontation would happen without him reaching my level of upset, only to be followed by another where he lost his temper. He made it a bit further before he realized that we needed outside help.

Patience was the next virtue that I tested in my father. For many months, I refused to go see a psychologist with him. I honestly thought that I had all the answers and that people who couldn’t see that were fools. Well, that’s the way I acted, that’s the play I put on so that I could forget how I actually felt about myself. The truth was that I thought I was worthless no matter what I accomplished or how much I told myself that I was the most brilliant person that ever walked upon this planet.

Before my dad could convince me to get professional help, we had a fight that scared both of us. I said things that I would still regret if I hadn’t learned how to let things go. My dad wasn’t proud of himself either. Hours later we apologized to each other and started to cry. I needed no more convincing and we started to see someone.

That’s when things started to get better for me. Together with my father, we worked on our communication. Instead of accusing each other over and over again until both of us were in a rage, we learned how to talk about our emotions without angering each other. I eventually saw a psychiatrist and got help with my panic attacks. That further improved things.

I saw a psychologist on my own for a while after my sessions with my father present had done all they could. My worldview was broken down and reconstructed into something I could sustain. During this time, my dad found meditation and developed his own healthier way of looking at life. When I was finished with my psychologist, my dad started to share his healthier view with me.

He told me to live in the moment. I didn’t know what that meant at first, but now I use that thinking whenever I get too fixated on the past or future. The truth is now is the only time you can be happy. If it’s the past, you were happy and if it’s the future you will be happy. It makes it very hard to be happy right now if you’re stuck regretting a decision you made or wishing things were different. I learned to plan for the future and learn from the past, but then let things be. There is only so much learning or planning I can do before I’m just wasting my time and mental effort.

I took what I could from the meditation he taught me and applied it to when I’m having panic attacks. When my mind becomes obsessive or panics I’m able to focus on quieting it.

When my dad went away on trips, he used to joke that he might die in a car or plane crash while he was gone. Those jokes inadvertently taught me about the transience of life and caused me to cherish each day even more. I might not have tomorrow. I might not be here five minutes from now. Carrying around regrets or wishing for something else limits my ability to use the time I have.

It’s obvious and yet I never thought about it. Revolutionaries exist on the internet and they can destroy or redistribute information, cause monetary loss and emotional distress, make ultimatums, etc. The main tool used so far by internet revolutionaries and cyber protestors is the DDoS attack. Well-orchistrated DDoS attacks can take sites down for hours, days, or even longer if the defenders are completely outstripped by their attackers.

The power of these internet movements cannot be ignored. Approximately seventy million people use Sony’s online services and they have been denied access for over 72 hours and Sony has now admitted that this outage was caused by an external intrusion into their system. That’s three days of lost purchases, three days of people not being able to use the online components of games that were just released. The longer this external intrusion keeps the Playstation Network offline, the higher the chance Sony will lose customers and revenue.

I’m not sure I would call what’s currently happening to Sony “hacktivism” because it has a more militaristic effect than what I normally attribute to hacktivism. This forced suspension of their services is more similar to what would happen if people were protesting outside of every place that sold Sony products and preventing anyone from purchasing Sony products. The difference here is that these activists may not ever face jail time for their protest.

The hacker group Anonymous has stated their motives many times and they have carried out various attacks, including one against the Playstation Network that started on April 6th 2011, but they claim no part in the current attack. Whoever the current attackers are, their motives have not been made public and their identities/affiliations with other groups may never be known.

Due to Sony’s secretive tendencies and the fact that many people don’t trust the electronics giant, some have suggested that Sony may be blaming hackers for the outage when it is actually an internal problem with their servers. I don’t think this is the case, but I can’t deny the possibility.

Regardless of the true nature of what’s happening to Sony, we are in a new era. Years ago, if someone posted something similar to what I’ve posted here, it would have been less believable. Activism, crime, and civil disobedience have been fully integrated into the internet and they will only get stronger as more and more of our lives become dependent on online services.

Summary of the future:
Problem = Civil disobedience on the internet is increasing in scale and severity as the internet grows to fill more parts of our lives.

Utopian future = Cyber disobedience could give individuals the power they need to stand against the corporations and large organizations that are consolidating the wealth of the world. The tactics of internet activists could gradually be coaxed into less destructive and yet effective ones as the legal system evolves to deal with cyber disobedience.

Dystopian future = Due to the difficulty of tracking down the people who are causing destructive attacks, the ones that are caught may face very harsh treatment from the legal system. As the severity of the attacks and the importance of online property increase, the penalties for this behavior would probably increase. Companies will probably pressure the government to crack down and, given the other factors I’ve mentioned, the government may go overboard by greatly increasing their surveillance of online activities.

I believe that the dystopian future is more likely because the government has repeatedly shown that it is unequipped to deal with internet-related issues. Governments throughout the entire world appear to respond to electronic threats with more fear than logic.

Update: Sony’s online services are still down and Sony has stated that they are rebuilding their system to strengthen their network infrastructure.

Update2: Sony has sent out an email saying that the hackers may have grabbed personal information including credit card numbers and expiration dates. The PlayStation Network is still down over eight days since it first went offline.