Diagrams of Power: Visualizing, Mapping, and Performing Resistance

Diagrams of Power: Visualizing, Mapping, and Performing Resistance, edited by Patricio Dávila.

Onomatopee describes the book: We draw diagrams to help us think, communicate and put forth what we think is important or what we want to be true. While some diagrams are seen as statements of fact, they can also further agendas by discounting other realities beneath a cloak of perceived objectivity. Diagrams of power work against representations that claim omniscience by speaking from a position, and making visible what and who gets represented and who does the representing. They also make us consider how we create and maintain relations between producers and receivers of particular forms of knowledge.

Diagrams of Power: Visualizing, Mapping, and Performing Resistance, brings together the work of designers, artists, cartographers, geographers, researchers and activists who create diagrams to tell inconvenient stories that upset and resist the status quo.

Iconoclasistas, ¿A quién pertenece la tierra? (Who owns the land?), 2017

I’ve reviewed books about cartography before. Like this one, these publications explore the work of artists, communities and activists who use maps as tools that give visibility and a sense of agency to disregarded issues. Who challenge dominant narratives, bring attention to neglected social problems, unearth hidden knowledge, reveal intricate connections, etc. In short, they reverse the top down approach to mapping.

This book is different from the others for several reasons.

First, it features the usual essays but also many transcripts of conversations between map makers. Guided by designer, researcher and educator Patricio Dávila, the exchanges reveal what makes these maps (or “diagrams”) invaluable: a sense of responsibility towards the people and territories visually represented, a close collaboration with these communities, the focus on a personal narrative rather than the claim of total (and totally unobtainable) objectivity, the need to distribute and make these maps accessibly to all, the importance of building multidisciplinary teams, the way maps can help even communities that need to remain invisible, etc.

And then there’s the cast! I already knew and admired the work of some of the artists, designers and activists involved: Burak Arikan, Joseph Beuys, Bureau d’Études, Teddy Cruz, W.E.B. DuBois, Forensic Architecture, Fonna Forman, Lize Mogel & Alexis Bhagat, Laura Poitras, Philippe Rekacewicz, Iconoclasistas and Visualizing Impact. I discovered others whose work and views were new to me: Josh Begley, Joshua Akers, Vincent Brown, Department of Unusual Certainties, Peter Hall, Alex Hill, Patricio Dávila, Catherine D’Ignazio, Fonna Forman, Terra Graziani, Lucas LaRochelle, Eliana MacDonald, Julie Mehretu, Ogimaa Mikana, Margaret Pearce, Sheila Sampath.

A quick walk through some of the works i discovered or rediscovered in the book should give you an idea of the breadth of perspectives and the diversity of voices Diagrams of Power presents:

Ogimaa Mikana, an (unofficial) street sign in Toronto that displays its indigenous name. Credit: Tyana Grundig

Artist collective Ogimaa Mikana pushes back against the erosion of indigenous presence in Canada. One of their most famous actions consisted in installing billboards, street signs and plaques in Toronto to remind/inform passersby of what the First Nation peoples called these places long ago, giving them back a history and a visibility. They also mapped indigenous communities whose presence had so far been left out of mainstream cartography and thus navigation systems.

“Income and Expenditure of 150 Negro Families in Atlanta, GA, USA,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

“Distribution of Negroes in the United States,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

W.E.B. Du Bois, the famous civil rights campaigner and writer, was also a talented infographics artist. In 1900, he led an all-black team who hand-drew stunning data visualizations for the exhibition, The Exhibit of American Negroes. The show, which took place both at the First Pan-African Conference in London and the Paris Exposition, also featured hundreds of photographs, patents and books by African Americans, a statuette of Frederick Douglass, etc.

Josh Begley, Best of Luck with the Wall, 2017

Critical cartography doesn’t tend to fall for data and its myth of totality. Josh Begley, however, makes a powerful use of data with a short film that travels across the US-Mexico border. Stitching 200,000 satellite images together, Best of Luck with the Wall reveals the vast scale of the Earth as observed from the sky, the artifice of national borders and the dishonesty of a politics that feeds on oversimplification and fear of the other.

Forensic Architecture, Iguala (satellite image) from The enforced disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students

Forensic Architecture exposes a cartography of violence from street corner to an entire state. Their work meticulously documents the events that happened in a small city of Guerrero in Mexico where, on the night of the 26–27 September 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were attacked by the local police, in collusion with criminal organisations and other branches of the Mexican security forces. Six people were dead, 40 wounded, 43 students were forcibly disappeared. We still don’t what became of them.

Collective civil society undertook independent investigation to help investigate crime and confront criminal impunity and failure of Mexican law enforcement. Forensic Architecture reconstructed the events and turned testimony, interviews, videos and phone records into data-points that can be explored on an interactive platform. The platform exposes the relationship between incidents and actors and gives members of the public a more nuanced and faithful narrative that contrasts with the inconsistencies and distortions presented by official reports.

Lucas LaRochelle, Queering the Map, 2017

Queering the Map gives the queer community a platform to record and share experiences and memories in relation to places. The website spans all continents and many languages and operates from the perspective that queer existence is resistance.

In the early days of the platform, Trump supporters came out to troll and spam the growing archive with pop-ups reading: ‘Make America Great Again, Donald Trump Best President.’ A group of queer coders came to the rescue of Lucas LaRochelle, removed the malicious code added to the site and increased its security to protect it from future attacks.

Burak Arikan, Islam, Republic, Neoliberalism, (Network of Mosques detail view), 2012

Burak Arikan mapped the 3 dominant ideologies of Turkey, Islam, Republic and Neoliberalism, and their respective areas of influence in Istanbul. Interestingly, the network of the 3000+ mosques in Istanbul is connected through overlapping call to prayer sounds which can reach ~300 meters in radius.

Visualizing Impact, Visualizing Palestine, Bethlehem Besieged

Visualizing Impact, Visualizing Palestine, AIRBNB benefits from Israeli rights abuses

Visualizing Impact‘s most famous project, Visualizing Palestine, is a growing body of data-driven tools that champion a factual, yet compelling narrative of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Their visuals covering political and humanitarian issues such as land appropriation, restrictions to movements, hunger strikes, water appropriation, Israel’s discriminatory transport system, child prisoners, etc.

The best surprise of the book was the chapter in which Lize Mogel and Alexis Bhagat look back at An Atlas of Radical Cartography, a collection of 10 political maps and 10 essays about social issues they had edited in 2007. Although they reflect on how much things have changed since then (at the time digital cartography wasn’t as accessible as it is now), it remains one of my favourite books both for its design and its content.

I also need to mention the essay written by geographer and information designer Philippe Rekacewicz. I was particularly interested in his reflection on the power of invisibility and why we don’t have descriptive cartography that would lay bare the way authorities and structures of influence function.

More books on cartography: Ecologies of Power: Counter Mapping the Logistical Landscapes and Military Geographies of the U.S. Department of Defense, This Is Not an Atlas. A Global Collection of Counter-Cartographies, Drawing the Line: Maps that shaped the 20th century, Book review – Visual Complexity, Mapping Patterns of Information, etc.

from Finance https://we-make-money-not-art.com/diagrams-of-power-visualizing-mapping-and-performing-resistance/

Should we buy this Benz?!

Should we buy this Benz?!

mercedes benz ml 320 cdi

So here’s an interesting deal that recently popped into my inbox!

A cousin of mine asked if any of us need a new car as he’s about to sell his that he hardly uses anymore (and we do! My wife’s is getting pretty decrepit!), and out of all the cars in the world it’s one of my FAVORITES from back in the day!

A Mercedes ML-Class SUV!

SO SEXY!!!! AAAHHHH!!! Even though I’ve never actually been inside one before or even *driven* one! Haha… But that’s exactly why I need your help today 🙂 My heart started racing the second I saw this and I can’t tell if my emotions are masking the actual situation here, or if it’s TRULY a good deal?!

I know they’re made well, and from what I hear are rather *safe*, but I just don’t know much about them and honestly wasn’t even in the market for one…

We were looking for minivans!! Haha… But now we’re both kinda excited – including my wife!! – so trying to take a step back more and really look at the pros/cons… If she had killed it from the start we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, but that just makes it even harder now! 🙂

Here are some pics, followed by the details:

benz ml320 front

benz ml320 inside front

ml320 benz inside back

ml320 benz back


  • 2008 Mercedes ML-320 CDI
  • V6
  • 21 MPG
  • All wheel drive
  • 7-speed shiftable automatic
  • Diesel gas
  • Sunroof
  • Heated seats (front and back)
  • Heated steering wheel (!)
  • Tow hitch (our Lexus doesn’t have one)
  • Navigation (not updated though)
  • Screens in the back seats for the kids
  • No major issues
  • Only two owners – with my cuz owning for past 10 years
  • Regularly maintained and serviced at Benz dealership
  • Really well taken care of

And then the two biggies:

  • Price tag: $5,000 (!!!) (For family members only – The KBB shows $7,000’ish which is what he’ll list it for if none of us are interested in it…)
  • Mileage: 140,000 miles (!!!)

Ackk!!! See my dilemma??

A hot car (my once dream car!) well maintained and super cheap, but at any moment can still break down and cost us up the keister in repairs…

And while I don’t know much about the cars themselves, I DO know they are not cheap to maintain. At least if you’re taking them to the dealership every time. (I called my local shop to see if they work on them, and they do, however they can’t get into the electronic side of things or other Benz-specific items so we’d be out of luck on anything outside of regular repairs/maintenance)

There’s a lot of other cons I can think of right off the bat too:

  • Diesel is not always the easiest to find
  • Diesel is more expensive than regular gas (about 50 cents it seems like), however cheaper than *premium* gas by also 50 cents’ish which most luxury vehicles take
  • We already have an SUV and they’re not the greatest on the environment (though not sure how different minivans are?)
  • They don’t have a third row like minivans do, although it does have a large trunk
  • It’s the opposite of stealth wealth, which I don’t like ONE BIT!! (Even though it’s only $5k!!)
  • I’m not a fan of black on black, but can’t really be too picky, haha…
  • It’s very possible I’ll hate driving it, which I’ll only know if I go to test drive it…
  • I’ll have to go partially across the country to get it as my cuz doesn’t live anywhere close to me (Road trip!!! ;))

We’re on day #3 of thinking about it, and I still can’t wrap my head around it enough to make a call one way or the other

A part of me just wants to say “F it – let’s get it done and have some fun!!!” But the other – older man – version of me is saying “Hoooooold on now cowboy, are you sure you want that anxiety dangling over your head like that??! You know it’s going to break down at some point, right?? And how ridiculous would it be parking that thing in your driveway – it’s gonna look like a damn luxury dealership!”

But then I also think about the long process of picking up a car from elsewhere and how annoying/tricky that can be without knowing the history or how well it’s been maintained, and all the different options and models out there, and yada yada yada, and that doesn’t excite me that much either…

I used to love car shopping, but now all the optimizing drives me crazy!! It takes me 10x longer to make larger decisions these days and I hate that about myself 😦 With this car here we have no choice but to either accept it as-is or move on! And that alone is quite tempting! Haha…

That’s my brain dumping for you today anyways, and now eager to hear what you think…

Would you buy this if you were currently on the hunt for a new car? Have you ever owned a Benz SUV before? Am I stupid for even considering this?? 😉

The one other silly thing I really like about it is that it has a few scratches already which means I won’t feel as bad when my kids get a hold of it, haha… All my anxiety with our Lexus dissipated after I hit that fire hydrant a few years back and it was great! Though never had that problem with Frankencaddy!

Thanks for listening, y’all. Let me have it!

j. money signature

PS: One other thing I should note is that my cousin offered to buy it back from us if we take it home and realize it’s not a good fit for our family after a month or so… which I’d hate to take him up on, but it does lesson the concern more… (and in which case I’d probably just help him sell it here then so it’s not being transported all over the place)

PPS: And before anyone asks, yes – I do miss Frankencaddy 😦 In my perfect world I’d drive around a beater all day long and be in bliss, but until my kids are on their own I have to keep my “dad” pants on and make sure safety/reliability comes first. The day they’re gone though I’m taking those pants right off! Haha… Hubba hubba!


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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/should-we-buy-this-benz/

Favorite reads this month 🍂🍁☕

Favorite reads this month 🍂🍁☕

fall leaves in water


Here are a bunch of my favorite reads I’ve starred from around the web this month…

Everything from email hacks to travel tips to financial simulations, velcro discoveries, wisdom of life, Twitter hacks, and even vertical graveyards.

If your life doesn’t get at least 1% better after reading these I quit 🙂

Grab some coffee and enjoy!!


arthur schopenhauer

The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer via The Rabbit Hole — “Excessive material wealth does little for happiness but we must be able to meet our needs or else we won’t have the luxury of time and space to focus on ourselves and what makes us really happy.”

A Frugal Person on a Bicycle Looks at 40 by Frugal Wheels — “I’ve interviewed artists, musicians, business leaders, athletes, scientists, categories I can’t even remember. I’ve written about murders, rapists, child molesters. And the sickly combinations of those crimes.  It’s been an interesting life so far. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.

I Made My First Million, and I’m Still Broke via Paychecks and Balances — “While I’ve grossed over $1,000,000 in the first third of my working career, I don’t have anything close to $1,000,000 dollars saved… I have only managed to accumulate less than 1/4th of it in savings, assets, or retirement funds.”

How George de Mestral Invented the Velcro Fastener via NY Mag — “In 1941, de Mestral was on a hunting trip and noticed that both his pants and his Irish Pointer’s hair were covered in the burs from a burdock plant. Where many might have brushed them off in irritation, de Mestral decided to study the burs under a microscope, more out of curiosity than sensing a new business opportunity… What de Mestral saw were thousands of tiny hooks that efficiently bound themselves to nearly any fabric (or dog hair) that passed by.”

eye test

The Financial Turing Test via Of Dollars And Data — “Imagine we could simulate the universe where each time you are born to different set of parents with a different genetic makeup. Sometimes you are born a man. Sometimes you are born a woman. Sometimes black. Sometimes white. Sometimes smart. Sometimes not… What would you do to have the highest probability of becoming financially secure regardless of your background?

4 Simple Techniques to Remember Everything You Learn via Entrepreneur — “In a four-month period, practicing for 30 minutes a day, you can expect to learn and retain 3,600 flashcards with 90 to 95 percent accuracy. These flashcards can teach you an alphabet, vocabulary, grammar and even pronunciation. And they can do it without becoming tedious, because they’re always challenging enough to remain interesting and fun.”

Eye-Opening Photos of Hong Kong’s Packed “Vertical Graveyards” on Hillsides via My Modern Met — “With space at a premium in the densely packed city, these cemeteries built into the surrounding mountains loom ominously over Hong Kong. Many of these terraced burial sites were built in the 1980s as a last-ditch effort to create more space in a city that is running out of places to bury the dead.”

The Living Cost Per Hour Calculation – Fun Game to Financial Freedom by Dividend Diplomats — “Occasionally, it is hard to see the impact you are making on a $100, $500 or even a $1,500 dividend stock purchase. Heck, I deployed almost $5,000 in August and I felt like THAT wasn’t even a ding/dent into the journey. Is there a better way to keep the atmosphere upbeat, positive and to continue to motivate and truly see the impact of each and every dividend stock purchase? Yes, yes there is! Enter – The Living Cost Per Hour Calculation!”

korean nightlife

Travel Without a Phone by Derek Sivers –– “Where you are is partially defined by where you are not. When you’re somewhere, you’re not somewhere else. But when you use your phone, you’re everywhere. You keep in touch with friends. You hear what’s going on at home. You see the screen exactly as you do anywhere else”

IT’S GOING TO BE A CLIFFHANGER by Josh Radnor— “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”

The Five-Minute Email Rule Completely Transformed The Way I Work via Fast Company — “We’re all drowning in email. And if you’re spending 15 minutes on every reply, no productivity system is ever going to save you. Not inbox zero, not batching, not turning off notifications—nothing. Your only hope is retirement. My rule: I never spend more than five minutes writing a work email. ”

A tip from @ZoeBChance that I didn’t even know you could do!

Twitter mental health tip:

Mute words and phrases, not just accounts. (You’ll still get news.)

Settings —>
Content preferences —>

muted twitter words


Happy filtered weekend!

j. money signature

Previous roundups if you’re not ready to start the work day yet… 😉


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/favorite-reads-this-month/

Children now average $30 a week in allowance?!

Children now average $30 a week in allowance?!

kid working for money

Saw this in a press release this morning and almost spit out my coffee!

  • Children average $30 a week in allowance

Daaaang!!! Inflation sure has gotten crazy over the years! That is exactly $29 more a week than I got as a kid, and $28 more/week than I got when I was a teen 😉 Which wouldn’t have even covered a measly pack of baseball cards so I was forced to go out and work a job! (And looking back maybe that was my parent’s evil plan all along?! Haha…)

My kids don’t currently get anything a week except for love and encouragement and some good ol’ quality time with dad, but the topic of money has started creeping up more and more now so it’s only a matter of time until we have “the talk.”

And if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure where I stand on it?

Do I just copy what my parents did and shell out $1.00/week per kid since it’s nice and easy and I came out relatively (?) okay in the end? Do I double or triple it and not put my kids through the agony of scouring $1.00 Target bins?! 😉 Or do I do what I see other finance bloggers doing and just tell them “you contribute to this house because it’s the right thing to do whether you get paid for it or not!” Haha…

Open to any and all opinions if you’re willing to share – I know you have some! It’s just as juicy as politics and tipping and maybe even religion! Lol…

(And I have to point out – my meager allowance in youth *did* come with responsibilities that my siblings and I rotated doing every week, which I 100% plan on implementing with my kids too whether we compensate them or not. I want everyone learning they need to help out around the house!)

Here were some more stats from the AICPA survey (American Institute of CPAs), which was the same place that brought us that Personal Financial Satisfaction Index from the other month too:

  • Kids are averaging $6.11 an hour to do chores, up 38 percent from 2016 (crazy!!)
  • Two-thirds of parents give their child an allowance.
  • Four out of the five parents who give allowance expect their children to earn it. (I like this)
  • 3 percent of parents say their kids primarily save their allowance

That last one there hit me even harder than the $30/avg stat (which, btw, *has* to be for older kids and not the younger ones I’m thinking, right?? And at what age do you start phasing this stuff out anyways??!).

If you swap that last bullet it means 97% of all these “kids” getting their freshly earned allowances are then turning around and blowing it!! Which is nothing out of the ordinary since again – they’re kids – but what a great time to instill some good ol’ fashion personal finance virtues in them while we’re at it! The benefits of saving, budgeting, spending wisely, giving, etc etc…

It seems like this was actually the MAIN point of that press release by the time I got to the end  of it (well done, guys!! You hit us with the shock and then snuck in the moral!!), and reminded me of an excellent book I was once passed that I now read to my own kids today:

“Three Cups” by Tony Townsley and Mark St. Germain

three cups finance book

(Only a couple bucks on Amazon* right now! Highly recommend! (*affiliate link))

Here’s the brief from their website – 3cupsbook.com:

“As new parents, my wife and I wanted to find a way to teach our children about money, so we agreed on using a weekly allowance to accomplish this. We thought it equally important to teach our children good values as related to money (saving, spending and charity) to help them develop positive habits early on that would last them the rest of their lives.

This was when we came up with the idea of using three cups. We’ve tried to teach our children that it is not how much money you have that is important, it’s how you use it. The three cups we have given them have led us on many wonderful adventures together and have brought our family a lot of joy. We hope you will experience the same joy, excitement and success using three cups with your children…”

“It is not how much money you have that is important, it’s how you use it.” <– That line there says it all! And it’s written in a way that’s super relatable – and doable! – for kids too. Every time we read it my boys want to go through the cupboards and start pulling out all our mugs 😉

I’ve never really harped on it and gotten them to actually *follow through*, but I’m thinking they’re finally at the age where it’s time to discuss this stuff more seriously, and perhaps this 3 Cups idea might just be a perfect starting point?

Imagine if you did this with your money your entire life???! And how much you’d have in saving right now AND impact in the world??

Not to mention how easily lifestyle inflation would have been kept away?!

In fact, you know someone else who does this that I just remembered?? Angelina Jolie!! She saves 1/3 of her money, spends 1/3 of it on living, and then gives away the last 1/3! Easier to do when you make “stupid money” as she puts it, haha, but still a damn worthy way to spread it around…

At any rate, food for thought today, and would love to hear how you feel about the whole “allowance” thing… Do you give any of your kids money every week? And if so, do they have to earn it? What did your parents do growing up?

I’ll report back on my own experiments as they go, but you can bet your sweet patookus I won’t be shelling out $30/week to any of my kids, I’ll tell you that much, haha… Ain’t nothing you need that badly that we don’t already provide! Plus – there’s something called “yard sales!”

See ya down in the comments…

angelina jolie kissing gif

On another inflation-related note, did you know the Tooth Fairy now pays out $3.70 on average per tooth?? It’s a wild time we’re living in, friends!!


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/children-now-average-30-a-week-in-allowance/

Lifestyle Creep… Isn’t That Kind of the Point?

Lifestyle Creep… Isn’t That Kind of the Point?

will work for freedom

[Morning! Please enjoy this guest article today from my boy Nick over at Side Hustle Nation who stops by the blog to share the evils – and perks? – of lifestyle inflation with us. Always gotta stay vigilant as it’ll get you good if you’re not paying attention! Help us out, Nick!]


Most of what you’ll find on the Internet are articles on how to avoid lifestyle creep and why it’s “the biggest threat” to your financial future.

Perhaps there’s some truth to that, but I think if you allow yourself to “creep” with intention, you, your family, and others can all be better off.

After all, isn’t that the point of making more money?

In this post, I’ll attempt to cover:

  • What lifestyle creep is
  • Why it’s potentially super-risky
  • How to consciously evaluate “creepy” decisions
  • The alternative: lifestyle optimization

What is Lifestyle Creep?

Before we get too deep into it, it might be helpful to offer up a definition of lifestyle creep. Lifestyle creep, or lifestyle inflation as it’s sometimes called, is the process of living up to your means.

It means increasing your spending as your income increases.

Let’s say you earn $50,000 a year. If you’re anything like the average American, you’ll end up saving a little over 5% of that.

Consider that 5% of $50,000, or $2,500, your annual profit margin for the year. In other words, your lifestyle cost $47,500 that year.

Now let’s say over the course of a few years you end up changing jobs, starting a business, or getting a series of raises. Now you’re earning $100,000 a year.

If you kept your lifestyle costs the same as they were when you were making $50,000, you would have just had a very profitable 12 months!

But in most cases, as you earn more, you start to spend more too. And that $47,500 lifestyle quickly becomes a $95,000 lifestyle.

It doesn’t happen overnight; it just “creeps” up on you.

It’s only natural — you can afford it!

A nicer car, a bigger house, better clothes, fancy vacations, expensive restaurants. Those are all common ways your lifestyle can begin to creep back toward that average 5% savings rate.

Why is Lifestyle Creep Risky?

Lifestyle creep has been called “the biggest threat to financial planning.”

But what’s so bad about rewarding yourself when you earn more?

The main issue financial planners and other money nerds get worried about is having enough. And “enough” is commonly defined as 25x your annual expenses.

Save that much and invest it responsibly and you’re theoretically set for life.

That means at your $47,500 annual lifestyle cost, you’d need to amass a nest egg of almost $1.2 million.

But at a $95,000 lifestyle cost, you’d need double that–almost $2.4 million.

And that’s the biggest risk and downside to lifestyle creep: it prolongs your path to financial freedom. And in some extreme cases, may even make retirement unattainable–at any age.

What’s the ultimate lifestyle upgrade? How about being able to spend your time however you want.

How to Avoid (Ineffective) Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep is often associated with a “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality. At its worst, it’s a rush to buy stuff we don’t really need that makes zero impact on our long-term happiness.

Indeed, researchers have found a surprising trend they’ve called “hedonic adaptation.” This explains humans’ tendency to return to a baseline level of happiness relatively quickly after things happen to them–good or bad.

It explains why people who win the lottery aren’t the happiest people on the planet. In fact, many wish they’d never won in the first place.

So how can you avoid unnecessary or ineffective lifestyle creep?

#1. Establish a Comfortable Baseline

Make sure your basic needs are met. If you’re hungry or don’t have a safe place to live, those are naturally “lifestyle creeps” that make total sense!

#2. Treat Your Household Budget Like a Business

Thinking about your budget and surplus income as household “profit” is my favorite way to re-frame spending. As income increases, we become more profitable.

To be sustainable, a business needs to make a profit.

Your household is the same way. You can’t lose money every year — or even break even — and survive long-term.

But businesses spend money too. They just spend on those things they think will generate a positive return.

Consider the same with your household spending.

Will that bigger house make you happier in the long-run? It’s possible. But it might also mean a snowball effect of higher utilities, maintenance costs, weekends spent doing yard care, and expensive home improvement projects.

#3. Sit on it

When you’re making a big purchase decision, or even some smaller ones, can you revisit it next month? Or next year?

If that inaction saves you hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, that’s worth a huge amount to your long-term financial independence.

This is a really important one.

Because of compound interest and the time-value of money, the longer you can defer lifestyle creep, the better off you’ll be down the road.

We have an inherent understanding of this. At retirement, an extra $500 a month invested when in your 20s will be worth a lot more than an extra $500 a month invested in your 50s.

After graduation, I was in a big rush to “grow up” and get a place of my own. Looking back, I think that was a mistake.

Living like a college student for even just another year or two would have made my personal profitability much stronger as a young professional.

How to Evaluate New Spending

In our house, we have a few frameworks we use to evaluate new spending.

Know What You’re Really Buying

The first is trying to determine what we’re really buying.

Are we buying quality time, sanity, experiences? Are we helping others? Are we taking away some significant pain?

This is inspired by Tim Ferriss, who recommended asking something like this: “How can I ‘waste’ money to make life easier or better?

If we can be confident our money will have a positive impact on our well-being or happiness, we gladly part with it. That’s one reason we travel as much as we do and why the kids go to daycare (more on that below).

Is it a One-Time Purchase or a Recurring Expense?

The other important consideration to make when evaluating new spending is whether it’s a one-off purchase or a new ongoing monthly expense.

Naturally, we’re quicker to make one-off purchases that make our lives better than commit to a new recurring cost.

Is it a Band-Aid or a Permanent Fix?

Does the purchase solve the root problem?

Or does it just mask a symptom?

If the problem is temporary, a “Band-Aid” solution is probably fine. But for longer-term problems, you’re better off buying a permanent fix.

Is it Easily Reversible?

Before I buy something, I almost always check the return policy. If I don’t like it or change my mind, can I get out of it?

On bigger purchases without a return policy, could you re-sell the item to another owner?

Does this Purchase Have a Snowball Effect?

Some purchases don’t end when you sign on the bottom line or swipe your credit card. Some end up costing you more for years down the road.

That bigger car? Yeah, it’s going to cost more to fill up every time you need gas. It’s going to cost more to insure. It’s probably going to cost more to maintain.

That bigger house? It’ll cost more to heat and cool. You’ll pay more in property taxes and mortgage every month. You might need more furniture.

But it’s not all bad — some “snowballs” are good. What if you move closer to work? There’s a positive snowball effect there of shorter commute times, less money spent on gas, more time with your family.

And that leads me to my counterpoint about lifestyle creep. What if we approached new spending as a chance to optimize our existence?

The Alternative: Lifestyle Optimization

If there’s one thing that gets me fired up, it’s the idea of optimization, progress, and improvement. (In fact, we gave our first-born the middle name Kaizen, meaning “continuous improvement.”)

So instead of blindly letting your lifestyle “creep,” consider how you can use your money to optimize your life.

What would that look like?

What’s the right balance of spending, saving, and giving?

Ramit Sethi argues that you should spend “lavishly” on the things you love, provided you ruthlessly cut costs on the things you don’t.

What could you buy to genuinely make your life (and the lives of others) better, not just today, but in the future as well?

That’s lifestyle optimization, and really that’s the whole point.

Where Have We Optimized?

While our household is still solidly profitable, we certainly spend more than we did a few years ago.

Here are some things we spent / are spending money on:

  • An e-bike. I freaking love this thing. We ride to preschool almost every day and I ride it downtown as well. So far it’s taken 750 miles off my car. (An example of a one-off purchase that saves money and brings joy.)
  • TSA Pre-check. This is a total unnecessary luxury, but it just makes me happy every time I go through security. At $20 a year for 5 years, including Global Entry, it was well worth it.
  • Running the air conditioning more. Even though the heat is usually pretty temporary, we’re more apt to cool off the house these days.
  • Renewable energy. For our monthly power bill, we had the option to pay a little more to use electricity from 100% renewable sources. It was an easy decision.
  • Health. Not that we ever ate really poorly, but we tend to buy supposedly cleaner, healthier food. I go to a weekly yoga class for flexibility and injury prevention. I started getting annual WellnessFX blood tests.
  • Books. I still get a lot of books from the library, but if I see a title on Kindle I want to read, I’m quick to order it.
  • Clothes. I don’t buy a lot of clothes, but when I do, I try and get something that fits well and will last. Sorry Old Navy!
  • Giving. This is still a work in progress, but supporting causes we care about is becoming a higher priority.
  • Slower travel. Recognizing that the transportation part is the most difficult part of travel for us these days, we’ve opted for fewer but longer trips if that makes sense. Fewer 3-day weekends and more week-long trips.
  • Daycare (see below).

Most of these aren’t huge expenses, but make us happier people.

Kids: The Ultimate Lifestyle Creep?

Daycare for our two boys is our biggest line-item expense at the moment — over $2,300 a month.

Save for college? How about save for daycare; it’s immediate and it sure ain’t cheap!

But that daycare is part of our lifestyle optimization plan. It allows our boys to learn critical social skills, interact with kids and adults outside of home in a safe and structured environment–and importantly, it frees up time for me and mom to work. Work, I should add, that we both find fulfilling.

Studies show that raising kids costs $200,000 on average–not including college. But if you dig into the numbers, a big chunk of that is in buying or renting a bigger house. That’s one reason we’re trying to delay that as long as we can.

Could Kids Be Saving You Money?

I saw one semi-depressing anecdote the other day. It was from a parent responding to one of those “how much it costs to raise kids” articles.

Her argument was that kids actually save her money — because she’s stopped traveling and eating out!

For some parents, high achieving offspring are their retirement plan! No pressure, little ones 🙂

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Are you sure that wasn’t me? Haha… Here are 7 ways my kids save me money ;)]

Where Side Hustles Come In

As your income increases, look for ways to optimize your lifestyle.

That could mean eating healthier. That could mean building an emergency fund. That could mean giving to charity.

But don’t just blindly spend more just because you can. Spend with intention and I’m confident you’ll be happier as a result.

How has your lifestyle crept over the last few years? Are you happy with your return on investment from the increased spending?


Nick Loper is the Chief Side-Hustler at SideHustleNation.com and quite possibly loves the hustle even more than J. Money… He’s also an avid skier, author, business nerd, podcaster, Seattle sports fan, and a parrothead. He can be found on Twitter at @nloper.


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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/lifestyle-creep-isnt-that-kind-of-the-point/

New $$$ Book Out Today + Giveaway: Choose FI!

New $$$ Book Out Today + Giveaway: Choose FI!

choose fi new book

Hey guys!!

Another book drops from our community today – and it’s a big one!

Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence

by Chris Mamula, Brad Barrett, and Jonathan Mendonsa

A copy you 100% want to own if you’re a fan of the Choose FI movement 😉 Or just FIRE in general! These guys have lived and breathed this stuff for years now, and this book is yet another extension of their message to get out there and TAKE CONTROL of your life. Something we’re all already doing here on $$$ blogs, but you can never have too much motivation! Or cheat codes to get there faster! 😉

So if you love these guys’ podcasts and/or blogs (ChooseFI.com // CanIRetireYet.com) you’ll def. want to pick up a copy of this, or at least try to enter for a *free* copy today…

choose fi book

Here’s more from Amazon:

Distilling the best of the popular ChooseFI podcast, this book pulls from the collective knowledge of those who have decided to build a lifestyle around their passions instead of allowing their finances to dictate their future. These stories demonstrate universal principles, giving you the opportunity to pick the elements that are the most applicable to your financial situation and “choose your own adventure.”

The book covers a wide range of topics that will help you build a strong financial foundation:

  • Developing a growth mindset
  • Defining your values and aligning them with your spending
  • Cutting years from your estimated retirement date
  • Questioning the status quo on “required expenses”
  • Cutting travel expenses and putting family vacations within your reach
  • Learning how to earn more and live with abundance
  • Updating the common accepted wisdom on college education and the debt associated with it
  • Cutting through the noise on investing to discover strategies that work
  • Showing how to implement investment strategies that enable the lifestyle you desire while controlling downside risk

Whether you have mountains of debt now or are recently debt-free and wondering what to do next, Choose FI : Your Blueprint to Financial Independence will give you the information to guide your next move.

For more info and book tours: ChooseFI.com/book

Want a free copy??

Tell us what financial independence means to you in the comments or email, and you’ll be entered to win. I’ve got two copies to give away today (physical for those in the U.S., digital if you’re overseas), and we’ll run the giveaway until the end of the weekend and then randomly draw the winners shortly after.

FI to me means being able to wake up and work on whatever *excites* me that morning – whether that’s a blog or passion project or simply growing out my beard! I’ve had glimpses of this splendor during my many sabbaticals, and the day it becomes a reality *forever* will be a rather glorious one.

And I hope you’ll be there right along with me 🙂


j. money signature

PS: I once met Brad years before the creation of Choose FI and he’s as real – and NICE – as he sounds, both in the show and at all the meetups he does around the country… A super sincere guy who genuinely just wants to help people get out of this damn rat race!

PPS: For those who aren’t as familiar with Chris Mamula, you might recall the blog  – Eat The Financial Elephant – which he used to run anonymously and we constantly shared on Rockstar Finance… Another really nice – and smart! – guy who continues to spread the good message in all his free hours of early retirement 😉 Here was my favorite article of his that’s still up online: “Dirtbag Millionaires”


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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/new-fire-book-choose-fi/

Net Worth Update Day!! How You Livin’?

Net Worth Update Day!! How You Livin’?

clock chalk

Morning gang!

That time again to update the ol’ net worth!

It’s a sad one for me this time around since it’ll be the first one in 11 and 1/2 years where I *don’t* share mine in all its naked glory (!!), but rest assured I’m still doing it in the background until I can figure out a way to divulge without breaking any promises, haha….

I can state though that so far no one has taken away our double comma membership card yet! So that’s something! 🙂 And while I still feel relatively the same as I did a month go – or even a decade ago – it is starting to sink in more and giving me that extra boost of confidence where I feel like I don’t need to worry as much anymore… A gift in itself really, since the whole point of watching this stuff is so one day you don’t have to anymore if you don’t want! And can get right back to the whole point of it all – LIVING!!

At any rate, I took the liberty of pasting other peoples’ money down below to continue the voyeuristic trend, and perhaps you’ll resonate even more with one of them as we’re all on differing journeys…

It never ends, but again the worrying can! So keep on stacking and tracking! Life awaits you!!


Debbie + Husband: $350k Net Worth

debbie's net worth graph


  • Me – age 38 (current salary $81K)
  • Husband – age 35 (current salary $29K)
  • Married Jan 2017
  • No kids (yet) and 1 dog

We moved across Texas in January this year for my new job and sold the house in February (net $108K). (Side note: Zillow stated our house was ‘worth’ $200K+ when we put it on the market but it only sold for $185K (asking price) because the realtor stressed this was market price (damn you Zillow for getting my hopes up).)

Since we moved we have been staying with my parents (I give them $500 a month to help them out). In July we signed a contract (you will see a dip this month since we had to pay 25% upfront for all upgrades) to begin building our ‘long-term’ home – construction should be finished in January 2020.

My husband had a very difficult time finding work that suited him or paid what he felt he deserved after we moved (previously he was making $66K). Finally in April he got a job paying $60K but the manual labor and long hours were not ideal. In June, after a long wait (he applied in April as well) he started working for my company and works part-time.

It’s a really great job but here you have to pay your dues, and only with time and experience can you move into a full-time job. The hourly rate of pay is the same it’s just the hours worked, so hopefully within 6 months he will transition over from PT to FT hours. Us working for the same company is great – I do not ever have to ask him what his companies policies are, what holidays he’s off for or how much the benefits costs, lol.

Before we moved his income paid for all his bills and the money we spent outside the home (activities, vacations, eating/drinking, movies, etc). My income paid for my bills plus all the costs associated with our dogs (we had two then) and the previous house which I bought prior to us getting married.

It might have been a weird arrangement but it worked for us during our first 2 years of marriage. We now combine expenses, but my breakdowns below do not include him yet (lol); only my figures since he has not built up any savings and only recently set up his 401K. At least I got him to contribute 10% like I do; our company matches 100% up to 5%. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Good job, Debbie!!!!)

We use a credit card every month for rewards, but pay it off each month in full so it is not listed. The proceeds from my house sale, as well as some extra savings built before then, is the reason our savings account has such a ‘cushion’. We plan on using only $50K (20%) for the down payment on our new home build when we close next January, as well as some for furniture and appliances that’ll be needed and then sit on the remainder of the cash. As life sometimes decides to take unexpected turns (like those two market downturns Oct and Dec). We plan on using the remaining funds wisely after we determine what our new monthly bills will be.

Attached is a graph of our net worth over the past two years, as well as a breakdown of September’s net worth numbers.

debbie's net worth breakdown

(Looks like she’s using our Financial Snapshot spreadsheet! Cool!)


Carla + Husband + 2 Kids: $800k Net Worth

I came across your blog via the Afford Anything podcast archive and Stacking Benjamins podcasts.

I really appreciate your emphasis on freedom, which doesn’t necessarily mean self-employment. I love my corporate job. I want financial freedom, but I don’t want to retire. I want to travel more, but I don’t want to be a blogging nomad. So thank you for your moderate welcoming space!

We’re in our early 30s with 2 young kids. We’re less than 6 years to our arbitrary magic number where my husband can retire without risk, which would mean (assuming I get no promotions or pay increases, and my husband’s business doesn’t grow at all) paying off our house in the next 18 months (AUD $1M*) then paying off my in-laws house (a AUD $320k* investment property we rent to them) another 2-3 years after that. We have planned for a family gap year in between though which will be a small step backwards.

Our current net worth looks a bit like this converted to USD:

carla net worth

We have cars but I don’t count depreciating assets in net worth.

I also haven’t included the value of my husband’s business because he is unconvinced he could sell it as a going concern. I disagree but am not an expert. Will be a nice bonus on top of everything if he does sell it when he retires. (EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s what I do with my businesses too – only count it once it’s sold as who knows what can happen with them or how much they’d bring in reality…)

*House prices in Australian cities are a bit crazy compared to average US city (excl. San Fran of course). For example our $217k investment is a tired old 3 bed a stone’s throw from the prison on the outskirts of the city. If we buy another investment we will buy in the US where we can get positive rental returns at a much lower price! Haha… But we borrow much less than the banks offered and will have paid it off in 5 years rather than 30.

Anyway, thanks again for your blog and podcasting. I had never done net worth calcs before, just focusing on mortgage balances, but the net worth really helped us plan out the next 10+years!


Sylvie + Husband: Income Graphs!

sylvie income graph

Hi J money!

The attached chart is my (blue) and my husband’s (red) income graphed over time (data from the social security portal). I thought you might find it interesting because there’s a lot about us and our careers that is reflected in the graph!

  1. He started working right after high school and gained experience on the job.
  2. I went to medical school, then residency, then started a “real” job as a physician.
  3. He changed jobs (and took pay cuts) when we moved several times for my training and career.
  4. He is much older than I am.

Thanks for your blog!


[EDITOR’S NOTE: What a cool thing to track!! Does anyone else do this?? Would make for a fun new thing to build into the ol’ spreadsheet 🙂 ]


Thanks for sharing, everyone!!

If anyone else wants to lay it all out on the table, just pass me a note.

Here’s to a fresh new month!

j. money signature

// For past snapshots featured before, click here
// For past net worths of my own over the 11+ years, click here


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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/net-worth-update-day/

A guided tour of Dublin’s physical Internet infrastructure

Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Paypal, Google, LinkedIn, etc. Each of these tech companies has chosen to install its European headquarters or at least major offices in Dublin. The U.S. giants, lured by a very advantageous and very controversial tax policy, have left their marks on the fabric of the city. They came with jobs of course but also with hideous office buildings, energyhungry data centers, rampant gentrification and rents Dubliners can no longer afford.

Photo credit: Paul O’ Neill

A tour of the Internet’s physical infrastructure in Dublin with Paul O’Neill. Photo credit: Harikrishnan Sasikumar

All these issues are regularly discussed in the national press of course but researcher, artist and activist Paul O’Neill wants to expand the IT debate to the wider geography of tech infrastructures. A few months ago, he started taking Dubliners and curious tourists on a guided tour of the headquarters, warehouses, data centers and other infrastructures the internet relies on.

His objective is to bring to light the kind of influence and power that hide behind the sheer banality of corporate architecture and manhole covers.

Photo credit: Paul O’ Neill

I’ve met O’Neill twice. The first time was during an online workshop with the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe. The second time was a few months ago when we were both in France for Nø School Nevers. That’s when i realised he was the guy a few friends of mine had told me about: the academic and artist who walked through industrial estates, Silicon Docks and availability zones with anyone wondering what the internet was made of. By the time i had realised what his research was about, it was already 2pm and i had to run to the train station. So i caught up online with him and interviewed him about his guided tours:

Hi Paul! You organise tours that uncover the physical infrastructure of the internet in Dublin. What got you interested in the topic?

For the last few years I have been interested in doing a project on the many big tech companies based here. I felt that there wasn’t too much critical reflection in Ireland connecting the actions and impacts of these companies internationally with their corporate offices in Dublin. Last year I attended Freeport, a summer school in Barcelona, organised by Bani Brusadin and led by the Share Lab. This programme detailed many different methodologies including the analysis of national Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and ranges. When I came back to Dublin I started looking at IP addresses for Ireland. I found that just under 33% of all Irish IPv4 addresses here were registered to Amazon. This compelled me to look at the operations of Amazon, in particular their cloud computing subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS). The reason for the high percentage of Amazon IP addresses was because of AWS data centres. Ireland is an AWS region (EU-West-1) and has at the moment approximately 8 data centres surrounding Dublin city.

At the same time that I was doing this research on AWS, I was also reading Ingrid Burrington’s Networks of New York: An illustrated field guide to urban internet infrastructure. Using this book, I began to search for traces of the physical internet within Dublin city centre. Through this process I was able to map the cellular towers in the city, as well as some of the fibre optic cables running under the streets – alongside the companies who owned or controlled them. The next step was to try to connect the physical internet infrastructure within Ireland to the rest of the world. To do this I started looking at the subsea cables that land here.

I was trying to figure out different ways, outside of ‘traditional’ academic and artistic settings, of disseminating all the information I had gathered. Taking inspiration from Spanish artist Mario Santamaria’s brilliant Internet Tours, I decided that this participatory tour approach would be the best way to not only share my research, but also to facilitate conversations surrounding the physical infrastructures and the different sites of power that they connect with and run through – be that a data centre in an industrial estate in the suburbs of Dublin, or in the corporate offices within the city centre.

A tour of the Internet’s physical infrastructure in Dublin with Paul O’Neill. Photo credit: Èrika Marcet

A tour of the Internet’s physical infrastructure in Dublin with Paul O’Neill. Photo credit: Harikrishnan Sasikumar

What is the most surprising things you discovered while researching the presence of the world’s largest technology companies in your own city?

I guess what surprised me most was what I already knew. Dublin, and Ireland, is a significant part of the internet’s physical and corporate infrastructure. AWS is not the only large tech company with a large physical infrastructural presence in Ireland. Google, Facebook and Microsoft also operate data centres here. This is on top of their corporate interests. Google and Facebook’s European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters are here, whilst Amazon and Microsoft have significant corporate operations. Most of these companies, alongside Twitter, Airbnb and Linkedin (all with EMEAs in Dublin) are all concentrated within close proximity to each other, in an area now referred to as Silicon Docks.

Photo credit: Paul O’ Neill

Photo credit: Paul O’ Neill

What kind of people are interested in the tours?

So far I have only done two full tours (they last 6 hours and take quiet a bit of preparation). The first iteration was for a group of artists, academics and activists, the second was for students from the School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe who were in Ireland as part of the Future Landscapes programme in NUI Galway. However, I’ve led a few mini-tours where people have heard about the project and got in touch. This has been a great opportunity for me to connect with others doing similar research here – I’ve learnt a lot from them and I’ll be incorporating their insights into further iterations of the tour. I’ve had other people contacting me from diverse professional backgrounds, everything from network engineers to actual ‘real’ tour guides, as well as interest from mainstream media – which was weird! Hopefully I’ll be able to get the engineers and ‘real’ tour guides on the next one, not as participants but as guest speakers/guides.

I am very eager to include other people’s expertise and personal experiences within the project. The last tour featured two guest speakers. The first guest, Ceilim Robinson, is a student and artist who grew up in Ringsend, a neighbourhood next to ‘Silicon Docks’. Ceilim spoke about his experiences of growing up in this area and how as a result of the tech companies moving into the area and the subsequent gentrification, he will never be able to buy a house in the neighbourhood his family have lived in for generations. Ceilim’s presentation was delivered outside of AirBnB’s headquarters. The second guest was Patrick Brodie, a PhD researcher based in Concordia University in Montreal. Patrick gave a fascinating overview of the history and development of the data centre industry in Ireland within the context of post-industrial society’s production centres alongside Ireland’s path to globalization. The participatory aspect of the project is important.

We are all, whether we choose to be or not, part of this ‘networked’ world, therefore we all have a part in its story. We can all be tour guides, and maybe in doing so we can take control of a narrative that is constantly framed within the context of ‘progress’, without too much reflection on the cost or consequences of this progress.

Would you say that you are reaching the audience you’re aiming for?

Yes and no. As you would expect, most of the people who have participated in or got in touch all have an interest or are involved in some aspect of digital culture. However, I’d really like to have people who may not have too much prior knowledge or awareness of the issues raised in the tour. I’d love to hear their insights and perspectives, whilst also hopefully demystifying both the language and physical infrastructures of tech, by literally pointing to, as Lisa Parks puts it, the ‘stuff we can kick’.

Photo credit: Paul O’ Neill

Where do you find all the data and information about the location, ownership and function of this infrastructure? Do you use wikileaks, pour through publicly available information, collaborate with other experts? Have you ever tried to contact these companies?

Let’s start with the IP addresses I mentioned earlier. I was able to determine this information using various IP geolocation websites, all free and accessible to anybody with a laptop and internet access. Although WikiLeaks released a document late last year detailing AWS data centres around the world, I had already found the ones in Dublin, although this was a little bit tricky at first. They were mentioned in national and local media but specific addresses were a little vague. I found the exact locations by looking through planning permission applications on various city council websites although even that was a little difficult. I was searching these sites using the terms ‘Amazon’, ’Amazon Web Services’ and/or ‘AWS’. However, many of the actual planning applications were made using the acronym ADSIL (Amazon Data Services Ireland Limited), once I figured that out, I could access the planning permission documents of AWS.

I was able to map various infrastructures within the city centre using publicly available data found online such as the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation website. This site provides the location of all the cellular towers in the country, who is using them, and for what. Tracing fibre optics beneath the streets was more problematic. I did a lot of walking, looking at/for manhole covers branded with particular company names and logos. I then put in an FOI request which helped me to get some (but not all) of the information I needed. To identify the various subsea cables landing in Ireland, I used online sources and also checked foreshore licences, which are similar to planning permission documents and are issued to subsea cable operators by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Overall, most of the information used in the tour was available online. Obviously every country is going to be different in terms of transparency, but you can really achieve a lot with a laptop, connectivity and of course time, which not everybody has unfortunately. The hardest part of the research process was collating everything into a coherent narrative that not only engages and entertains the audience, but also clearly links the technical with the social, historical and political dimensions of communications infrastructure(s).

Apart from approaching AWS for comment for an article I wrote for the Dublin InQuirer, I haven’t contacted any of the companies mentioned above. This may sound naive, but I like the idea of the tour as being a ‘people’s tour’. I’m pretty sure any contact with these companies would just result in them coming out with some sort of PR glossy sound bite. At the same, there is a need for dialogue with these companies… but that’s a job for somebody else!

Map of the 1858 trans-Atlantic cable route (Unknown – Howe’s Adventures & Achievements of Americans)

You mostly do tours in Dublin, right? Do you know if similar situations can be observed in the rest of the Republic of Ireland? In Northern Ireland? Or is there something special about Dublin?

The tour is obviously very Dublin centric as I live and work here. There are of course plenty of other tech related stories around Ireland. For example, Apple has been based in Cork since 1980. Last year it cancelled plans to build a data centre in Galway following numerous planning permission objections and challenges. Apple, alongside the Irish State, are also currently involved in a battle with the EU over a 13 billion euro tax bill.

In terms of more physical infrastructure like subsea cables, that’s even more rich in terms of history. The first transatlantic subsea cable dates back to 1858 and stretched between Valentia Island off the southwest coast of Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada. A consortium of companies, including Facebook and Google, are currently developing a new subsea cable on the west coast, which I assume will connect to their data centres in Dublin. I’m a little bit unsure of the North’s infrastructure to be honest. There are approximately 7 subsea cables connecting it directly to different parts of the UK and to the US. Although Dublin centric, I do include all of the above, and more, within the tour. I guess the ‘special’ thing about Dublin is not only the concentration of tech companies in one specific area, but the proximity of these corporate-tech sites of power to data centres, another critical infrastructural and site of power. Dublin is a small city, you can travel from the Silicon Docks area to many of these data centres in about 40 minutes using public transport.

I’m particularly curious about the cables. How easy is it to just go to the location where they emerge from the sea? Can you actually see something? Or are they all well hidden or maybe protected with care?

I’ve been caught! I spent a couple of days aimlessly wandering around Sandymount, a coastal area just outside the city centre, looking for a specific cable but couldn’t find any traces of it. This was at the early stages of my research. I’m pretty sure with all the information I’ve collected now such as admiralty charts and foreshore licenses ,I could probably find it and others. I did discover some online blogs/communities with people who were documenting different landing points, mostly in the UK. You probably know these already, but I would point your readers in the direction of artists such as Evan Roth and Femke Herregraven, or more academically, Nicole Starosielski, who have all done a lot more detailed research on subsea cables around the world. For the current version of tour, the specific location of them is not really necessary as the focus is more on data centres and corporate HQs, but maybe in future iterations…

One of the texts you wrote for Dublin Inquirer mentions that the Snowden documents “revealed that British intelligence, specifically GCHQ, had been targeting subsea telecommunications cables, including some with landing points in Ireland.” Maybe my question is a bit naive or stupid but could Brexit have any impact on the way this infrastructure (cables or others) can be accessed and used for surveillance?

Tricky question. My understanding is that if any state wants to access these cables, and have the means to do so, they will. Despite the horror show that is Brexit, I assume countries (and corporations) will still work together – and against each other- in terms of surveillance and monitoring, whenever it suits them. What I do think is interesting in relation to Brexit is the possibility of infrastructural routes being altered. At the moment, there is one subsea cable under development that will connect Ireland directly to France. This is not as a result of Brexit, but I do find it interesting. In the future will latency be sacrificed for geopolitics? Probably not, as latency, in my understanding, is ultimately all about financial gain.

How specific is Ireland, and Dublin in particular, compared to the rest of Europe, when it comes to facilitating the operations of the GAFA and turning a blind eye to its most opaque practices?

I’m slightly wary of discussing other European countries as I haven’t done much in the way of comparative research. As for Ireland, obviously we’ve been consistently aggressive in terms of attracting foreign direct investment through our corporate tax regime. It makes economic sense to have all of these companies here and does much to elevate Ireland as a ‘player’ in the international corporate tech environment. My take is that the Irish government are a little out of their depth in relation to the bigger issues surrounding these companies and seem to be too eager to please. As a result of GDPR and with so many of these companies having their EMEA HQs here, I imagine Ireland will increasingly be a focus point for all kinds of data/tech related issues, yet I’m not convinced that this has been given any sort of serious consideration in relation to potential long term implications and responsibilities. We do have an unfortunate and horrible history of turning a blind eye to the actions of powerful transnational organisations here…

What is next for your research? A book would be nice… Or maybe a map?

It all comes down to time. A book and/or a map would be great and is something I have considered. From a more short term perspective, I need to get all of the information I have collected online in some sort of open navigable way. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very interested in other people contributing to the project. It would be great if people started doing their own tours using some of my research but building on it based on their own research and experiences. There are so many stories in all of this, not just the big data/tech headline grabbing stuff, but also the perspectives of people who just engage at the interface level, or the workers who lay the fibre optics cables around the country, the people working in the phone repair shops and so on. I like the idea of a people’s history of the internet, or something like that. All of this is in the hope that we can generate a bit more understanding amongst ourselves surrounding all of these corporate-tech debates and controversies, and through this process of peer learning, make these companies more visible, transparent and answerable to us.

Thanks Paul!

Paul O’ Neill is a PhD researcher based in the School of Communications in Dublin City University. His research focuses on tactical media, media archaeology and hacktivism. You can follow him @AsWeMaySink or @CNodeDublin.

from Finance https://we-make-money-not-art.com/a-guided-tour-of-dublins-physical-internet-infrastructure/

My Name is Fern, and I Work at a Cemetery

My Name is Fern, and I Work at a Cemetery

angel cemetery statue

So a friend of mine recently told me she WORKS AT A CEMETERY full-time now (!!!), and after spitting out my coffee and then asking her a million questions, she was kind enough to write up a little ditty for us today which I’m beyond excited to share 😉

I’m very familiar with hanging out and visiting cemeteries as it’s one of the most serene places in the world!, but I’ve never known anyone to actually *have a job there*, so hopefully you find this as interesting as I did…

And then when you’re done, be sure to check out our post on what it’s like to be a MORTICIAN so you’re all set for Halloween this year! Haha…

Take it away, Fern!


I started working with a cemetery and funeral chapel last year in the great state of Minnesota.

My job there is multi-purpose. First, I am a Family Service Counselor who helps with families who are ‘At-need’ suffering a loss at that time. It’s my job to help them out with purchasing a cemetery space if they don’t have one already, picking out a marker (formerly known as a headstone), and arranging the cemetery costs, dates, times, and everything else that goes into planning a funeral.

I also often act as a grief counselor, social worker, and occasionally mind-reader! Some of the emotions that accompany death are as unsettling as they are bizarre at times.

Second, I work as a Preneed Specialist and sell people funeral plans for the future. Sometimes the plan is for Mom or Dad who are in a nursing home and need to spend down their assets so that they can be taken care of by Medical Assistance or some other public program. Sometimes it is for the person themselves because Mom or Dad or Grandma just passed and they got a front row seat to how ridiculously expensive passing can be!

Prices can vary from around $2,000 for a simple cremation, to $20,000 or more for a nice traditional casket burial service.

The first choice to make is whether you want to have a full traditional funeral (with body) or a simple cremation or somewhere in between. As well as the kind of casket or urn you want, and if you prefer to have a memorial service or not.

If you do a traditional service, then you need to be sure that you have a space in a cemetery, the casket, a vault for the casket to go inside (which keeps the ground integrity… We once had a tractor fall into a grave before – not fun!), as well as the marker and funds for opening and closing the grave.

Funeral plans are indeed expensive, but there are many ways to work it out to your benefit. First off, by setting it all up now – while you’re alive – you’re guaranteed to get exactly what you want and save the trouble/emotions of loved ones having to deal with it later.

You will also be locked in at the current prices for almost everything*, and with funeral costs rising on average 200% every 10 years it’s something everyone needs to be paying attention to.

Unlike classic life insurance, a funeral plan is a set amount, similar to a car loan. When you make your decided number of months’ payments, it is yours and complete. You’re given a credit-card sized card to carry in your wallet for whoever finds you, and then all you have to do is show up! 🙂

And because this funeral policy gets made out irrevocably, and directly, to “any funeral home with interest”, it can never be taken away from the person who purchased it.

This definitely falls into the “spaving” category, however in the long run it’ll save you a ton of money and worry. I highly encourage you to look into it, and happy to answer any questions you might have.

– Fern

*Labor is usually not locked in since you can’t pay people the same rates today as you did 20 years ago.


I threw her a question right away on *how* it is someone gets into this line of work?!, and here was her response that sheds some more light on it… In case anyone’s looking to make a career move 😉

I have done many things to lead up to this job. Started out as a receptionist for a funeral home in 2004. Then worked 13 years as a teller, receptionist and customer service person at different banks. Got a job as an insurance salesperson last year (FROZEN calling and AWFUL!!!) which I got my insurance license for – and turns out the license was necessary for this job too since the funeral plan is insurance!

I have also been a personal care attendant for a few years which has helped prepare me well for the emotional side of things. I’ve always had a heart to help people which is the biggest pre-requisite in my mind for this role.


What other questions can we ask her?? Have any of you already booked your final resting place??! 🙂 Or did it for any loved ones?

Any tips/advice you can give us noobs?

While I HAVE already picked the location I want to be buried at, I have yet to actually sit down and run the numbers or even go through the millions of variables there are… Other than knowing I want a traditional burial and hopefully one in a *family* plot too so my loved ones can join me – provided I haven’t embarrassed them too much by then 😉

Fern – in your high-end $20,000 cost up there, does that include family plots or just solo rides? Can you just buy the lots for now and then deal w/ the rest later?

[UPDATE: From Fern: $20,000 is for a solo ride. Cemetery spaces are totally variable based on location.]

I have a friend who’s not only secured his own grave for him and his wife already, but also went ahead and placed TOMBSTONES on it with birth dates and messages and all! Even though they’re both still very much alive and kicking! The only thing missing is their death dates, and every time I pass by it I’m reminded to pick up the phone and call him, haha… (Which may or may not be his freakish plan?! ;))

At any rate, thanks for taking the time to intrigue us Fern, and everyone please have a fun – and safe! – non burial weekend out there!! Remember that none of us are dead yet, so soak it up while you can! 🙂

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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/working-at-a-cemetery/

Paul Destieu. Like a trip inside the brain of a drum player

A couple of weeks ago i took the train to Marseille to see the first monographic exhibition of works by Paul Destieu at the Galerie des Grands Bains Douches de la Plaine. The French artist has an uncanny talent for mixing time, space, rhythm, movement and emotions in a single work. The result is not only visually pleasant but it’s also critical, lucid and witty. I had experienced many of his installations over the years (mostly during my visits of the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence) and was eager to see how they would fit together in a solo show.

Paul Destieu, Fade Out, Sans titre n.2, 2011

Paul Destieu, Fade Out, Sans titre n.2, 2011. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Paul Destieu, Fade Out (extraits), 2011

The show opens with a reference to one of Destieu’s most famous works: Fade-Out. The video shows the merciless burying of a drum set under gravels. The gravel hitting the percussion parts produces a rhythm section, which rapidly turns into a sound and visual chocking. It’s a bit like watching music being entombed alive. You’re upset but you can’t turn your gaze away from the spectacle until the instrument is completely covered and silenced.

Instead of a video or even a series of large scale photos from the performance, the exhibition presents us with only one still from Fade Out. Not even a big one. Just a photo that seems to suggest that there’s no need to dwell on past glories, that Destieu has far more than one string to his bow.

Paul Destieu, Météore, 2019. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Paul Destieu, Météore, 2019. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Which is sadly true for the musical instrument. The drum kit survived the barbarous burial to emerge again in one of the works exhibited in the gallery. Dismembered and suspended as a graceful mobile, it looks vulnerable. A kind of Calder kinetic sculpture powered by air or the push of a visitor’s hand. I wouldn’t mind a miniature version of it above my bed. The instrument still has rhythm and that rock’n’roll attitude but this time it’s purely visual.

Paul Destieu, Shuffle, 2014

Paul Destieu, Shuffle, 2014. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

I wish the Shuffle video was available online because it is difficult to communicate the hypnotising effect it has on viewers. So i won’t even try… Shuffle is a video that collects snippets of youtube videos that document the brief moment in which a drum player clicks his drum sticks together to set the synchronization beat and kick off a live performance. Destieu assembled the video footages to form a metronomic trip through rock history. You can get an idea of it over here.

At this point of my visit of the show, i was starting to wonder why the artist keeps returning to drums in his work and how he manages to constantly reinvent their functions and forms.

What’s so special about the drum? Maybe it’s not the instrument itself but the brain of its player. Destieu is a drummer himself and drummers, a Swedish research suggests, have fundamentally different brains than the rest of us. Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm found a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving. According to them, using all the parts of a drum kit to keep one steady beat demonstrates intrinsic problem-solving abilities. Well i don’t know what problem the artist is trying to solve but i certainly enjoy his responses to it!

More drum experiments follow…

Paul Destieu, Archive d’une frappe /​ Solo pour caisse claire, charleston et tom alto (detail), 2015. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Paul Destieu, Archive d’une frappe /​ Solo pour caisse claire, charleston et tom alto, 2015. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Archive d’une frappe (Archive of a beat) explores the materialization of sound and musical forms. Each of the sculptures records and decomposes the movement made by a drumstick just before it hits a cymbal.

The capture and the motion analysis of the musical gesture fleshes out the tensions between the musician and his instrument. Looking at the sculpture feels a bit like having the flicker fusion rate of a fly and being able to see the movement in slow motion. Or like propelling chronophotography in 3 dimensions.

Once captured, synthetized and 3D printed, the hit on the musical instrument is extracted as a physical counter-form both from the interpreter and the drumstick.

Paul Destieu, Silence, ça tourne, 2017. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Paul Destieu, Still from the video Silence, ca tourne!, 2017

Between a per­for­mance and a making-​​of, the video Silence, ça tourne was shot on top of the Lot valley, an area in South West France with vineyards, stunning landscapes and barely any human life. The sequences, shot at a different location each time, show the area from dawn till dusk. Each one starts with the video maker shooting in a mega­phone: Silence, ca tourne! The expression is french for the cinematographic command Aaaaand… Action! but it can also (and quite literally) mean “Silence, it turns!” The call can thus be interpreted as an injunction to stay quiet and enjoy the scenery of the Earth’s rotation on its axis and its slow revolution around the Sun.

It also sounds like a distant echo of the famous Eppur si muove which Galileo Gallilei is attributed to have muttered after he had been forced by the Church to recant his claims that the Earth moves around the Sun….

Paul Destieu, Still from the video Silence, ca tourne!, 2017

And since i’m on a “historical references à gogo” roll today, i also thought about the most famous painting of Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich when i saw the scene above. Just a man, a precipice, the fog and the landscape.

Paul Destieu, Light cube, 2010. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

There are many other works in the show. I’ll end with Light Cube #3 because who knew you could suggest architecture with a bunch of good old projectors? The installation plays with the oriented projections of empty slide projectors. Instead of offering the usual frontal, two-dimensional projection, each trapezoid is distorted in order to model the respectives sides of an architecture made of light.

Paul Destieu, Boucherie de l’avenir, 2018. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

Paul Destieu, Sans titre / Untitled, 2019. Exhibition view at Art-cade*, image courtesy of Otto-prod

There’s only a couple of days left to see the works. Paul Destieu solo show remains open at Art-cade in Marseille until 28 September. The exhibition is part of the pre-opening of GAMERZ Festival’s 15th edition.

A collaboration between OTTO-Prod, Art-cade*, Lab GAMERZ | M2F Créations & D.D.A Diffusing Digital Art.

from Finance https://we-make-money-not-art.com/paul-destieu-like-a-trip-inside-the-brain-of-a-drum-player/