Finding Favorites

I have a bit of a music addiction. Or love of music? Need for music in my life? I don’t know what to call it, but I just checked and I have 9,000 audio files in my iTunes account.

Keep in mind that this is music I’ve purchased from Apple as well as the songs I kept from the hundreds of CDs that I finally loaded onto my computer and then gave away.

So at some point I owned more music than that. And, granted, some of the files on there are foreign language files. If you want to learn Thai, I’ve got you covered.

(If I’m going to a foreign country for a vacation I try to at least learn the basics of hi, how are you, my name is, where is, how much is, how to count to twenty, and thank you. Which means I can sometimes randomly spout something basic in Czech, Greek, French, Spanish, Croatian, and Thai. But I digress. As always.)

There’s also a fair amount of classical and opera on there because I tried to be cultured at one point before deciding nah, not me. I like songs with lyrics I can understand.

Anyway. I have 9000 audio files in that account. 252 of them are on my favorites list which generally consists of songs that really make me feel something when I hear them. Some are sad, some are thoughtful, some are fun (so I smile and feel uplifted). They’re across a wide variety of categories from pop to hip hop to country to blues/jazz to rock to alternative and probably span seventy years of music.

And it occurred to me the other day that even though I have 9000 songs that I own and could listen to and that 250 or so have made it to my favorites list that it’s quite possible that there are other songs out there that I would also love that I’ve just never discovered.

Which made me wonder how I discovered the songs I did.

Back in the day it was pretty easy for mainstream music. You had the radio and that’s what you listened to in the car for the most part or at home. We had cassette tapes when I was young and then CDs later. But a lot of music time was spent listening to the radio.

Which is why I still try to listen to the radio when I’m out and about even though that is somewhat rare these days. I think I drive twenty miles a week if I’m lucky.

But that was always a curated “popular” list driven by the choices of that particular radio station so it was always limited.

I of course also had my parents’ influence. That’s where The Eagles, Jim Croce, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the like came from. And my brother. I got so I could recognize AC/DC every time it came on the radio and he was also the Guns & Roses source. And friends. That’s why I have fond memories of 2Pac and Salt-N-Pepa and Bell Biv Devoe.

I also at one point had a pen pal from Germany or somewhere like that who made me a mix tape of all sorts of bands I hadn’t heard before like Soup Dragons.

But at one point I’d also just randomly buy music that looked interesting based on the CD case. One of the songs on my favorites list is called Music Gets the Best of Me by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and the only way I found it was because I was in Australia and there was a two-CD collection called Mint 2 that I picked up because why not.

I did the same thing in Iceland. And I discovered Reggaeton music while listening to the radio in Puerto Rico.

Another artist I discovered (Lizz Wright) was because I walked into a bookstore and they were playing the artist’s CD. Some I’ve discovered via television shows or movies. My dad and I both discovered Nina Simone that way. It was the background music to that movie about a female convict who becomes a trained assassin and then escapes.

Nowadays I sometimes discover music because it went viral in some way. Like the song F2020 by Avenue Beat which took off on TikTok first and then was shared on Twitter. It took some time to get to iTunes where I could buy it.

I even discovered a couple via commercials that aired in New Zealand. And one from an America’s Got Talent audition.

I also troll the top 10 lists on Apple for both songs and albums. And I look through new releases to see if anything looks interesting.

I love to buy albums where I like at least two or three of the songs by an artist in case there’s some undiscovered gem on there that isn’t on a top ten list. Sometimes my favorites aren’t the most popular by an artist.

I’ve tried to use the Apple “artists like this” option, but it’s never terribly inspiring.

I also used to find a lot of songs in the weekly or monthly (I can’t remember) free song that Apple offered. And if I really liked that one song I’d go and see if I might like other songs by them. But that doesn’t always work. (There was a great free song I got from the Rizzle Kicks called Down With the Trumpets but then none of their other songs at the time had that same joy to them.)

Oh, and recently I also bought a song off of an advertisement for the song that ran on Hulu. (More commercials like that please.)

Why am I rambling on about this? What does this have to do with writing?

I think there are a few important parallels here.

First, someone can listen (or read) a ton and find lots of things they like and yet still never stumble across what would be their absolute favorite.

Second, a lot of the ways I’ve found music (and books) over the years are driven by the artist or company behind them selling someone else on the product. In a movie, commercial, tv show, on the radio, etc.

Third, being popular matters because it’s a quick and easy way to for someone to find you.

Fourth, and I didn’t mention it above, but price matters. Those Hulu commercials? I think there were four of them I saw during the time I was watching Hulu. I liked two of them, but only bought one. I didn’t want to spend $1.29 on the other one whereas I would have spent 69 cents on it.

Fifth, it helps if what draws people in matches with the rest of what you do so that they buy more from you.

Also, a final point. Individual tastes are eclectic. Every once in a while there’s a “like this tweet and I’ll post a song I like” trend that hits Twitter or I’ve seen at least one author do something similar on their blog and sometimes I’m like, “ooh, new songs” but more often I’m like, “hmmm, not to my taste.” So recommendations can be great, but they often fall short just because of the differences between people and what they like.

(I once asked a guy I liked to tell me his favorite song thinking I’d get a really good recommendation of something new to me and…no. It literally changed my entire perspective on him. Like, all the music in the world, and that’s your favorite? Oh. Hm. Let me now rethink everything I know about you.)

Anyway. Trying to figure out where/how you find the things you like is an interesting exercise, both as a person who maybe needs to expand their repertoire and as an artist hoping to find a broader audience.

I Support the WGA

First off, I have no skin in this game. Yes, I am a writer, but I am also in my mid-40’s and live nowhere near where this type of writing work happens so the odds of my ever being a WGA member are probably less than 1%.

But I think it’s very important that we as writers stand with those who remind the people who make a lot of money off of the product of our labor that writers have value. There is no television series, no movie, no animated whatever that exists without someone writing that story.

Writers are core and essential to the entire entertainment industry. We are where all of it starts.

So, let’s back up a second. What is the WGA? The WGA is the Writers Guild of America (as I understand it there’s a west and an east version). They describe themselves as “a labor union representing the thousands of creators who write scripted series, features, news programs, and other content.”

They are the reason there are minimum payouts for creative work in those areas. They negotiate so that creators receive residuals for the work they do. If a series like Friends runs forever and sells forever and generates revenues forever it seems pretty logical that the people who wrote that content should also be paid for that success. They are what made that series possible.

But with the rise of streaming and the general trend (not just in entertainment but everywhere) towards consolidating as much wealth as possible at the owner and executive level, it’s become much trickier to make a living as a writer in Hollywood.

(Note again, I am not part of that part of the industry so I may get some of this a little bit wrong. Don’t use me as your definitive source on terminology or issues.)

Basically, though, as I understand it, the WGA is in negotiations about some really nasty trends in the industry that are designed to squeeze out as much money as possible for the non-writer-owners and executives and to reduce the number of writers used and the ability to train the next generation of writers.

Everything I’ve seen about the negotiations makes sense to me. Someone needs to stand up for writers and address these issues.

And since the general public may see a stoppage in new content if there’s a strike, I think even us likely-never-WGA writers also need to show our support for our fellow writers and their strike if it happens. So that’s what this post is about.

I support the WGA and their efforts on behalf of their writers.

(On a side note, I had this epiphany this morning about this whole moment of time being crafted to put people at each other’s throats over sometimes legitimate issues all so we miss the fact that the very very top of the wealth scale are sucking up as much wealth as they can while driving us towards a cliff many won’t survive. And I don’t know how you fight back against that when it’s so pernicious and widespread and will only get worse with the new tools they’re going to use to put us at each other’s throats, but if you’re someone who’s like, “writers who get to write for Hollywood are so lucky they should just suck it up because look at me, I’m poor” miss me with that shit. You’re playing into their game with that crap. Attacking people who make $30K a year while indirectly supporting those who make millions a year makes you a fool and a stooge.)

Anyway. A few links:

WGA West website about the strike :

And where I get most of my information on this, John Roger’s Twitter which has lots of shared threads from others who can speak better to the whole thing:

Expectations vs. Outcomes

I think I mentioned before that last month I took a week and just sort of sat down and tried to figure out who I am and what I want in life.

What am I good at? What drives me and gives me satisfaction? What do I value?

It was a good exercise, because I think in this world that if you don’t really assess who you are and what you want that it’s too easy to be pushed around by the tides of what people tell you you should want. Or what society tells you is valuable.

And so it’s easy to get sucked into living a life that is successful by external standards and makes you absolutely miserable. For some people the fit is perfect and they never understand that conflict, but for others they can only fit into the common mold by hiding or cutting off half of who they are. And even the ones that can fit are sometimes exhausted by what society demands of them. (I see you married career women with multiple kids under five.)

But that’s actually not what prompted me to write this post today. What I was thinking about is how when I looked at my “failures” in life they were often driven by my expectations of what should happen instead of being objective failures.

I am especially bad about this when it comes to relationships. Essentially, if I’m dating someone and they show me that they don’t want to be with just me, I’m done. I walk away. I can be enjoying the time we spend together, I can feel strong emotions for that person, but my expectation is that if they felt the same way towards me they would just want to be with me.

I theoretically understand that the world is not perfect and that you meet someone and they’re probably dating others or have others in their life where things are complicated, but after a month or so my willingness to allow that disappears.

Which has cost me good connections in the past. Maybe if I’d just held back and been patient and let things develop a little further that person would’ve come around and we would’ve built some sort of amazing life together.

(Or not. I mean if you’re not all in at the start when all the giddy emotions are bouncing around, hard to believe you will be later.)

This applies to self-publishing, too. Because if I set aside others’ performance and judgements and the over-hyped expectations I was sold when I started down this path, I have objectively done more with my writing than most writers will ever do.

I’ve written sixteen novels. That right there is, objectively, huge. And doesn’t include the bulk of my writing which has been in non-fiction. I have also likely helped over 20,000 people learn a computer software that can expand their work prospects or help them better manage their lives.

But I continuously crush those accomplishments with my expectations of what I should have been able to do with my writing.

Even knowing that I don’t follow the steps you need to follow to do as well as I would like to at this (publish consistently, use pre-orders so people can just one click on the next one, write in a series in a popular genre, stick to one pen name, etc.), I still put those expectations on my writing.

I’ve spent a decade writing whatever I wanted, however I wanted, and just throwing it out to the universe. I rarely do big releases with lots of promo or advertising. This blog here is about the extent of my social media and networking. I did post on forums back in the day which did help at times and I am still in one private FB group and one private group elsewhere, but really, for the most part, I have just hung out with myself and done whatever I wanted for a decade with the writing. (Which has included advertising, I’m not saying I did nothing to sell my books.)

And I made over $300K in revenue doing that. Doing it all wrong.

I should be proud of that. But because I expected more, I’m not. Because I expected easy sales and six figures and to replace a job that was part of an entire industry that was built to extract wealth, I feel like I failed.

I have times when I’m tempted to just quit and walk away from all of it. To go back to some simple job that pays really well and just spend my weekends reading good books and watching TV shows or movies and eating good meals.

But that’s because my expectations were off. Not because my outcome was bad.

I’ve seen it said in a number of places by the old, grizzled writers who are still at it thirty, forty, fifty years in. There were authors with more talent than them who fell by the wayside. Those old-timers are still there, making a full-time living at it, because they stuck in there through the rejections and setbacks while those other writers walked away.

(And quite possibly those long-timers now have far more writing skill than the bright shiny stars that didn’t stick with it, because they kept plugging away and improving and learning. Also, just sticking in does not in fact guarantee success.)

Also, that is not to say that everyone can just keep going. Our world requires money, right? More and more with every day that passes. (My first apartment in Denver in 1996 cost me $400 a month and was a nice little one-bedroom with a washer and dryer in the unit. Now? Try $2000 or more for that same type of apartment.)

But back to the point. Expectations can ruin good outcomes.

And I honestly don’t know how to reset those expectations. I don’t know how to be objective about these things. I’ve never been particularly interested in okay or average or good enough. Even if it would make me happier to expect less or accept what I have, which I’m not sure it ever would.


If this all seemed a little too familiar, maybe step back and set aside the expectations and just look at what you’ve accomplished as if you weren’t you. Give yourself a quick moment to celebrate what you have done as opposed to what you haven’t done.

(I know. It’s hard. In my little look at my life that I did the only accomplishment I listed that I was “proud” of was triple-majoring at Stanford even though objectively I have done a lot of other things I should be proud of. But that was the only thing that truly pushed me to my absolute limit–the last two years of getting that degree while also working full-time–so it was the only thing that counted for me and my whacked out brain that expects too much all the time.)

Be kind to yourself. If you can.

I Wonder… (AMS Ads)

Yesterday I got so frustrated with what I was seeing on one of my AMS ads where I turned the Broad category match back on for “successful” keywords that I was seriously considering writing that stupid Amazon executive team email address to be like, “you have to be smarter than this.”

Let me tell you what I’m talking about.

I had an ad running for my book Access for Beginners which is an introduction to Microsoft Access. I don’t get clever with categories so it is in computer or business-related categories, maybe an education category. But all appropriate fits for what it is.

Here are some of the search terms that people used and then clicked on the ad in the last thirty days, most of which matched on the broad search term “how to use access”:

-amazon jobs work from home

-american culture

– basic sign language book

-books on increasing access

-commercial general liability coverage guide

-content and devices in my account


-digital music downloads

-etiquette lessons


-home maintenance book

-hotel housekeeping

-how to find accessible lodging

-huffington post


The list goes on. But you and I sitting here looking at the phrase I’m paying for “how to use access” and knowing it’s for a computer book or a business book or maybe under education can see pretty easily that craigslist and etiquette and insurance and hotel housekeeping are completely, profoundly irrelevant.

So irrelevant that I can’t even anticipate them and use negative keywords to prevent this from happening. (I did already have negative keywords around things like accessibility.)

My AMS ads spend is down tremendously from its peak because I refuse to pay for that kind of crap matches. And I was going to write one of those emails that was like, “please, for the love of God, you are a better company than this, fix it.”

But then I walked my dog this morning. And I got to thinking. And I realized that, yes, Amazon is a better company than this.

Which means they must be making money off of this.

So then I asked myself how? Why are bad matches like this profitable to them?

And I realized that it’s probably because it drives up the cost per click. If they really took into account the product being advertised and layered that onto the keywords I chose then I’d be competing with other individuals advertising books on Microsoft Access.

That’s a pretty small group of people. Even if I bid high, with the way they determine click cost I’d be paying a pretty modest click cost, most likely. (Which I should add, used to be the case.)

But by throwing the net as wide as they can, they put my bid up against people looking for books on how to speak Welsh (another click I had this month) and all the others listed above. That drives up the click cost because to even win the right to be shown I have to have outbid all of those other little niche categories, too.

Of course, people also have to click on those ads for this to work, right? Amazon doesn’t earn money unless someone clicks.

But the clicks are happening. Because I only see those crap results when someone clicks on my ad.

Is it frustrated customers who know those are paid ads and want to make someone pay for a shit result that wasted their time?

Or is it bot traffic that Amazon fails to catch or fails to reverse because allowing a certain amount of it makes them a pretty profit?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that those clicks certainly aren’t leading to sales. Whatever it is that drives people to click on those poorly-targeted ads cost me about $30 on that ad over the course of a month. Add that up across all Amazon advertisers and multiple ads, and that’s a tidy little extra bump in revenue.

(This, by the way, was an ad that was still marginally profitable despite that crap. And unfortunately part of that profit was on that very keyword.)

I don’t mind paying to advertise on Amazon. I’m a no one, I need to advertise somewhere and doing so on the largest bookselling site in the world makes sense to me.

But I do mind paying to advertise on a system that is potentially built to be deliberately inefficient enough to double my costs.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just pure incompetence. Or not paying attention to niche portions of their ecosystem.

I’d like to give that benefit of the doubt.

But I think it’s probably bad KPIs and the short-sighted pursuit of profit while missing the fact that this can only happen if either customers are fed up with bad ads or bots aren’t being properly controlled for, both of which are unhealthy long-term.

A Writing Pet Peeve

We all have things we don’t like as readers. I know my writing is certainly not to everyone’s taste. (Which is why it’s so important to find your readers, not just any readers.)

Anyway. I ran across one of those pet peeves today and I don’t think I’ve shared it here before, so thought I would real quick. It’s the “trying too hard to find another way to refer to someone” problem, which usually involves the use of “the” in front of some identifier.

There’s a very, very popular author who does this with their own character talking in first person, which is even more bizarre to me, but the example I saw today was actually with someone referring to a dog.

Here is the passage:

X’s crate rattled. I…looked down at her. The Golden nosed the latch again….I sat up and gazed at the dog….The retriever sighed and lowered her chin onto her front paws.”

What would’ve flowed right by for me is:

“X’s crate rattled. I…looked down at her. She nosed the latch again….I sat up and gazed at her….She sighed and lowered her chin onto her front paws.”

And, again, I certainly have my own writing issues, so not meaning to call out this particular author, but it is something that I as a reader find very jarring.

Both of the times it’s been noticeable enough that it threw me out of the story have been with trade-published books in first person, so maybe this is considered an acceptable technique, but it doesn’t work for me because I think it’s not good character voice.

I’ve had my dog for almost ten years and I never think of her as “the dog” or “the Newfoundland”, especially not interchangeably with her name and referring to her as she. I might refer to “the St. Bernard” when a dog I don’t know approaches, but not with my own pet.

In the same way I never think of myself as “the X” whatever X is, which was the other one I noticed. I think in that case it was “the Assassin”. But I might think of a stranger as “the cop” or “the doctor”.

Anyway. Something that bugs me I thought I’d share.

Mistakes Were Made (Affinity)

I may have mentioned before that I am not perfect? And that I figure things out but only to the point that I can do them without a lot of wasted time?

So, anyway, this week I was trying to figure out my next project and I thought I would tackle updating my Affinity books for Affinity 2.0 while I do so. At least the book formatting ones. As I mentioned, they moved things around and also changed the appearance of a few key things.

In the process of doing that, I realized I made a terminology mistake in the first books. I thought all the little dockable task panes they have were what they called studios. But they’re not. They call them panels.

My confusion came from the fact that they were all, in the original Affinity, listed under a Studio secondary dropdown menu. They changed that in 2.0 which made me have a lightbulb moment and realize that they have always been called panels and are considered components of a studio not the studio itself.


Sorry about that.

I don’t think it materially impacted anyone’s ability to use the program. At least no one has yelled at me about it yet. But since I’m fixing that error in this round and will probably do a bridging video for the video course folks, I did want to mention it as soon as I realized it.

Echo Words

One of the benefits of putting my cozies into audio has been hearing my writing. I usually do an editing pass where I have the computer read the entire book out loud to me, but it doesn’t deliver the same experience as trying to narrate the book.

Now, unfortunately, those books are already done, so I just have to live with what I’ve written. (Yes, I could probably technically edit them as I narrate them and publish new versions with tweaks, but that is the road to ruin and many a wasted hour that really, truly doesn’t move the needle.)

Hopefully, though, the experience of narrating those books makes me more aware of subtle issues in my writing.

One thing I’ll probably do less of in the future is include any sort of dialogue tags. I tend to be pretty subtle with them in the first place, I think. I don’t write lines of dialogue that are “he said”, “she exclaimed”, “he muttered”, “she replied”.

I might have one he said and she replied and then let them talk and move and trust the reader to keep up and have the actions indicate who is speaking after enough lines of dialogue that a reader might drift a bit.

But I think going forward I’ll probably do more physical action than dialogue tags. (Although that’s a different rhythm because it takes more words generally to include an action over a dialogue tag, so who knows.)

The other issue, though, that I’ve noticed in my writing is what I’m referring to as echo words. I’m sure there’s an official term for it somewhere, but I don’t know it off the top of my head.

It includes repeated words. I tend to use a word again shortly after I’ve just used it because it’s front of mind. But I also catch those in edits most times.

What I don’t catch all the time are the rhyming words. So I’ll have “lay” end part of a sentence and then “say” end the entire sentence or the paragraph. If they were in different positions in the sentence it wouldn’t be a problem, but when you create an A-B-A rhythm in the endings withing a paragraph it’s noticeable when spoken out loud unless the narrator breaks that somehow.

And I don’t catch as often words that are similar but not identical. I can’t think of a good example right now, but there have been a few times where I’ve read two paragraphs that didn’t repeat a word or have the rhyming issue but where words “echoed” one another, unintentionally.

If I deliberately used that as a literary technique it could maybe be genius. (The number of times in Spanish AP Lit class that we discussed those sorts of techniques in the writers we read…) But it’s not deliberate. So it sets up a dissonance rather than a resonance.

And, again, it’s subtle enough that it took narrating the text to notice it. I didn’t notice it the half dozen times I read the stories in my head or the one time the computer read it out loud. But when narrated for audio? By me? Oh, yeah. It was there.

So. If you have a story that feels off somehow and you can’t figure out why, try narrating it. Read it aloud, not in a monotone, but as a narrator. As the person telling the story. I expect you’ll find little blips like that if you do so.

It’s also good for dialogue if you’re trying to make sure it sounds like what a character would say.

That fast-speaking character probably isn’t giving one-word answers all the time. And the gruff and reserved guy probably isn’t going to talk for half a page. If you put yourself in the shoes of those characters and try to say what they’re saying on the page, you’ll get that in a way that reading in your head doesn’t do.

Someone Always Has It Worse

I am a worrier. It’s what I do. It’s probably the bad side of being a high Strategic, but I can always see the bad paths as much as I can see the good paths. And I stress about them.

It doesn’t help that there are certain things in my life that are not ideal.

For example, as of today my dog is 9 years and 10 months old and my vet has told me that if she makes it to 10 that will be bonus time after that.

The last week her back left leg has just not been working well for her. To the point that she sits up and then decides she just doesn’t have it in her to stand and lays back down. Or she does stand up and then stumbles for the first few steps while that leg decides to work.

So I’ve been wondering when to call the vet for that last visit. Because as bad as that is, she’s still doing her daily walk and eating all her food. Once she gets going, she’s okay-ish.

I don’t want to call too soon if this is just a temporary muscle pull. But I also don’t want to wait too long and put her through pain she doesn’t deserve.

A real concern. A real issue. Something that is not going to improve long-term. She is an old dog and that can’t be fixed.


Today I found out that a friend of mine unexpectedly lost her dog.

So here I am, worrying about my dog that is still making it through her morning walks okay and my friend just lost hers. My dog could still months. Maybe years. I don’t know. She does. For her, it’s over.

I have other worries or stressors in my life, too. But nothing like the friend whose adult child is currently traveling through a war zone. Or a couple others who are juggling high-stress jobs, sick kids, and lackluster husbands all at once. Or another who is dealing with a long-term illness and the end of an eighteen-year relationship.

Compared to that, my “I chose this path and in a year or two I will probably regret that, oops, but for now my day-to-day is actually pretty great” is…nothing.

It doesn’t mean my struggles or worries aren’t real. It just means I have a long, long way to go until I’m the one with the worst problems. And even then, someone out there I don’t know will have it much worse. I am past the age when certain horrific things could happen. I do not live in a country where other horrific things are a part of daily life. No matter how low my life gets, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the lowest one out there.

Again, doesn’t take away my personal worries or struggles. Just sometimes helps to put them into perspective.

Past Breakeven on Old Audio

One of the tricky things with self-publishing is knowing where to put your effort. Should you put your books out in print? How about large print? What about audio? What about video?

And, as is the way with self-pub, you will hear about someone who killed it doing one of those things. Which ups the pressure to also do it. Look at the growth of audio year-to-year, you gotta get in on that.

For me, I also like to learn something new each year. So I did print one year. I went wide one year. I paid for audio one year. I did large print one year. I did video courses one year. I did my own audio last year.

If nothing else, I figure I learned a new skill.

And some of those options paid off. Some…did not.

Back in 2016 I paid a narrator to have my first title put out in audio. And it did well! I think it broke even within a few months. So I put more titles in audio. And then even more. And…they did not all do well.

So here I am, seven years after doing that, and I just noticed that I have made $63 in profit from all of those older audiobooks where I paid other narrators to do the audio.

That includes one series that made $720 (on an expense of $625), another that made $680 (on an expense of $1140), one that made $20, and five that lost amounts varying from $140 to $570.

Ironically, the one that’s lost me the most money is also the one that’s my third-highest earner. It was costly to produce and never sold enough to make that back. Also, I found that my novels sold through ACX earned me the least per unit compared to my short non-fiction.

So, lessons?

If you keep going, ultimately you do hopefully slowly earn more money over time and break even or better than that on those early projects that didn’t pan out initially.

Writing very much follows the 80/20 principle where 80% of your income is going to come from 20% of your books.

Take risks, but never take risks so big you can’t swallow the loss if you get it wrong.

Keep an eye out for changing situations. That worst title is better now because it had a Chirp deal last year.

And remember that just because others are having success at something doesn’t mean that you will, too. Sometimes, absolutely, that does work out. But often they have different books or a different number of books or different resources they can throw at their titles than you do, and so they’re not lying when they say they did well with something, but they also don’t understand how your situation is vastly different from theirs.

But, anyway, yay, $60 in profit. It’s better than zero.

Root Cause Analysis

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a background in securities regulation. Meaning that for a while there I investigated broker dealers for rule compliance and also consulted with various financial institutions about how to fix issues with their regulatory compliance.

One of the core concepts of regulatory compliance is determining the root cause of an issue.

So, fine, whatever, that new account didn’t submit a tax form.

But why was that? Is this a one-off situation? Or is it a pattern of activity? If it’s a pattern, what is the pattern? Are the forms being sent? Why aren’t they coming back if they are? Is better follow-up needed? Or is there something else going on?

In one exam I conducted it turned out that the lack of a tax form for new accounts was a sign of unauthorized trading. The pattern was that it only occurred in one branch office and only among a handful of reps who had all come from the same questionable brokerage firm. The reason those forms weren’t coming back was because those customers never agreed to open that account.

That was a very important thing to understand and address.

But if you stop at, “Well another customer is late submitting their form” *shrug* you miss the opportunity to fix the actual issue.

Right now, in my opinion, the United States has a very large problem with failing to address the root cause of many of our issues.

Which is why, when a school shooting happens, like the one today, someone says, “Oh, better give teachers guns” or “Better give the cops better armor” or “Better do more shooter drills for nine-year-olds”.

Which, I don’t know, maybe feels good to a certain type of person. Look at us, doing things. We’re not just sending thoughts and prayers, we’re fighting back.

But it’s all a giant, ridiculous waste of money and effort that is not going to stop the shootings or save lives. Because not one of those asinine suggestions gets to any of the root causes of this issue.

What makes all this harder is that we’re a country that doesn’t want to discuss the root causes. Things like the ready availability of guns and gun culture. The ease with which someone can obtain a gun. The types of guns available. The mental health issues of some of these shooters. The inequalities that exist in our society that make some people feel desperate. Social media and how it pollutes people’s minds. Social isolation. The lack of communities.

I’m sure there are a hundred other factors if you keep digging. And that if you go to some of the people who deal with this on a regular basis, they could give you the list. They’ll tell you, “Don’t fucking arm teachers, restrict who can own that type of weapon or how about being more proactive intervening with individuals who are unstable.”

But on one side of the aisle we have the “ma freedoms” coalition who object to any hint that anyone would want them to limit themselves in any way to protect those around them.

You can’t take their guns, that’s one step from taking everything away. I once had a friend’s husband inform me that he couldn’t give up his semi-automatic because he needed it for when three men (not one, not two, three) broke down his door to assault him.

(Something that has yet to happen to him and is unlikely to happen. One of his three young children are far more likely to get ahold of that gun and use it.)

On the other side of the aisle we have the “just because” and “not all” coalition who will scream from the rooftops that just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they’re going to be a shooter. Not all people with mental illnesses are murderers. So we can’t discuss that aspect of it, because you’re insulting the people with mental illnesses who aren’t.

And so we just sit here letting children die and grow up in fear because we won’t fucking do anything about the factors in our society that drive this shit.

Instead we throw lots of money at people who then have even less of an incentive to stop the problem before it ever occurs because they’re making bank off of the deaths of children. Panic rooms. Special bullet-proof backpacks. Security assessments. Shooter drills. Behind everyone of those, someone is getting paid.

And we get to pat ourselves on the back for “doing something” while we all know that more children are going to die because we can’t fucking get our shit together and do the hard work of addressing the root causes and fixing them.

(And, yes, there probably has to be a transitional period in there where you are addressing both sides of things. What to do when a shooting happens and also how to keep more shootings from happening. It’s not a switch you can flip. The type of change needed here requires long-term funding and effort and probably won’t show full effects for years. But if we don’t start to address the push side of these issues it’s just going to get worse.)