Bored Shenanigans Podcast – Episode 115


This is the after election discussion episode so if you are tired of all that bullshit, skip this one. Maybe there will be another episode at some point for you to listen to instead.

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Welcome to Bored Shenanigans.

Welcome to Episode 115: BS Election

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled Carl Sagan Day with an Election

It is November 9th and that usually indicates the annual post of it being Carl Sagan Day. But in the light, or lack there of, of resent events and this years political landscape as a whole I am Canceling Carl Sagan Day do to a lack of critical thinking, rationality, and skepticism.

But here is a link to the first years, and here is a link to the second years

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us-then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

This is not just because of our new president elect but also because of all candidates that made it this far and, particularly, the way it was all handle by the public. Credulity abounded at all sides and when someone finally says the truth it is lost in the chants of rhetoric (which a great leader once said “judge a man by his action not his rhetoric”).

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Setting aside all policies, Trump would make statement the would challenge the most skilled of contortionist by putting his foot in his mouth while his head was up his ass and gazing at his own navel, patting himself on the back and shrugging all at once. But were, you or I to do that it would be a failing of character but for him it is quote “him telling it like it is” even though the numbers don’t support that. PolitiFact, love or hate them, has evaluated 331 claims by Trump. 70% were found mostly false, false, or pants on fire. Compared to Clinton’s 293 with 26% being some level of false or Obama’s over the course of 8years 596 also at 26% false. This is not an endorsement of them being better choices it is more condemning the lack of accountability or more aptly the wanting there to be and willingness to accept accountability on the claims he made. Johnson and Sanders were nailed to the wall for not being able to back up there more outlandish claims.

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

Scientific American got a list of 20 “refined by a group of scientific institutions representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers” and graded the 4 major candidates with 5 being the most points that could be award (one question was not graded because it was on immigration and they felt if was outside the scope of the magazine to pass judgment on that topic) for a total of 95 points. The scores are as follows Trump 07; Clinton 64; Johnson 30; Stein 44. Now it is not a requirement for a leader to also be phd in the sciences but in a complicated world of climate change, vaccine denialism, and growing reliance on the STEM field it should be a requirement to understand the scientific processes and hold respect for it.

“Those who seek power at any price detect a societal weakness, a fear that they can ride into office. It could be ethnic differences, as it was then [Alien and Sedition Acts], perhaps different amounts of melanin in the skin; different philosophies or religions; or maybe it’s drug use, violent crime, economic crisis, school prayer, or ‘desecrating’ (literally, making unholy) the flag. Whatever the problem, the quick fix is to shave a little freedom off the Bill of Rights.”

Everyone was wiped into a state where the prevailing moods were fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. They all wanted this. Everyone of them. And we all felt it. Trump wanted you to fear and hate foreigners. Clinton wanted it to be Trump. Johnson wanted you to fear government. Sanders the wealthy. Stein…. um… well…. I don’t know want she want… I did not pay that much attention to her… Lets just say it was novelty welcome mats she wants us to fear. It became an election about negatives and differences. No one wanted to lead they wanted to win. So reason had to take a back seat.

“Education on the value of free speech and the other freedoms reserved by the Bill of Rights, about what happens when you don’t have them, and about how to exercise and protect them, should be an essential prerequisite for being an American citizen — or indeed a citizen of any nation, the more so to the degree that such rights remain unprotected. If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.”

Carl Sagan mainly stuck to science and skepticism in his writing and tried to inspire a sense of wonderment in the grand future we could have. But occasionally he would turn the themes of critical thinking towards politics and the best example I can think of is his book ‘Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark‘. (Which I have it on good authority if you google it followed by ‘pdf’ you can find it to read for free). Now, sadly I have not reread it recently so I can’t call this a full BS Adult Book Report but for this special purpose I should be fine. If you are going to read one book from Carl Sagan or on the topic of skepticism or science communication this is the one. In it he goes through how we know what we know in science and more importantly how to detect when someone is trying to deceive us with false science. It also talks about why people are willing to believe in weird things and how they get deceived and not in a negative way. A basic primer on skepticism. It, though prone to tangents at times, is not written for a science major or someone in the deep end of skeptic moment. It is for the beginner and has enough topics for you to find one of interest for you. But also, he takes the time to explain why all of it is important, not just personally, but to a nation and world as a whole and that is were the political and social studies comes from. In it he speaks highly of the Founding Fathers particularly Thomas Jefferson, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. He thinks leaders should be intelligent and the citizens should be even more so and I can’t disagree with that. He also thinks our freedom our constantly under the assault of be removed, either by those seeking power for powers sake or by those seeking to profit through tricking us, I also cant disagree with that. And his solution is simple and obvious after all of this: just be aware.

We have failed Carl Sagan. We are letting the candle burn out and the cold, unforgiving dark creep in. People are distrusting science and letting the comforting myths of old sink in. It is almost a joke but there are people in the first world that believe in a flat earth and there is no excuse for that. The “religion of nationalism” has taken holed were a political party is more important than political good. But there is time turn back. And we can’t predict the future. Maybe it is not as bad as it seems and we will have a great next 4 years. Only time will tell. Maybe it was all a ploy to shine a light on how easy it is to be deceived (please, please let it be that…..) I will leave with a few more quotes from Demon-Haunted World that I find appropriate but could not find a place for otherwise. 

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…”

“When we consider the founders of our nation: Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others; we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders. They were well educated. Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history. They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility. They were fluent in the English language. They wrote their own speeches. They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles. They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week. They knew what to think. They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election. They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living. They were able to bring out the best in us. They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science. They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future — not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory.”

Ryan S. Brewer is the co-host and editor of the Bored Shenanigans podcast (when he releases one) available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of Brewer’s Shitty Writing very sporadically here or as episode descriptions. Also he has nothing else to enjoy anywhere else, but you can find Cody’s poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or the Faceyspace. 

1984 Review

1984

If you want a review of George Orwell’s 1984, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

The setting is of no consequence and the characters are irrelevant. Unless, of course the Party deems it to be.

In that case it would take place in London, England part of Oceania around the year of 1984 roughly 30 to 40 years after, what appears to be, a world wide revolution that followed an atomic war. A world that started diverged from our timeline near WWII. We follow the daily life of Winston Smith who’s job is to rewrite history, a younger girl, Julia, who’s rebellion is purely of self interest, a man of privilege and orthodoxy and both ally and adversary, O’Brien, and finally the true protagonist of the story, Big Brother, the omnipresent embodiment of the world in its totality. Or, if it was recast today, a blogger, a millennial in every hipster of the word, a priest (perhaps either Catholic or Scientology), and Steve Jobs.

People have said that Orwell was afraid of our privacy being taken away by force and had no idea that we would willfully give it away with things like Facebook and other social media sharing platforms or through voting and accepting security measures to “keep us safe” that forfeiting privacy and freedom But, I think, THAT was exactly how he thought it would happen. That they would be tricked and rewarded and scared into giving up what they hold dear and not just by their leaders but also by their friends that were duped as well.

For what I think of it as a book, for a deep subject it should be an easy read but that might be because it repeats it’s self a lot. So, if you don’t understand a concept you will have a second chance to wrap your head around it. But if I had do give any big criticism it is that when talk about Winston’s life as it does not relate directly to the rest of the world, it can drag a bit. Lucky, Orwell is more interested in the world than the characters and almost seems to have wanted to write something akin to Plato’s Republic but did not know how to do that so he did it in a more stranded novel form. Or maybe thought Winston, Julia, and O’Brien would be a guise in which the the message could exhibit itself to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an idea. I personally like the book within a book style of writing. Something about a fictional nonfiction book really appeals to me. It happens in the book version of Starship Troopers, and in a movie called the Confederate States of America (it is done as a BBC documentary about a the south winning the civil war)

This is part review and part analysis because I do tend to ramble on. So if you do not want that here is your jumping of point.


The world of 1984 would be described by us a totalitarian, but by O’Brien as the exact opposite, English Socialism, and by the writer of a book within this book, Emmanuel Goldstein, as Oligarchical Collectivism, which I personally think is the closest. The politics, morality, and economics of Oceania are the main interest of the story of 1984. So much so that it required there to be another books within it; the above mentioned manifesto of Goldstein. One thing to note is that everything in 1984 is unreliable. Winston’s memories of his childhood before the revolution, news broadcast, O’Brien’s speeches on Party doctrine, and Goldstein’s accounts of the rise of the Party and how it appears to function; there is not outside the Party. Even the Victory Gin is not gin; it is Saké! It is also conceivable that Oceania is not bigger than England and the rest of the world is carrying on in the usual manner, similar to the North Korea situation.

There are three levels of society: the Inner Party about 2% of the population, the Outer Party about 13%, and ’the proles’ about 85%. Only Party members have the constant monitoring by the telescreens (a TV that watches back) and the Inner Party are the only ones “permitted” to turn them off for brief moments. The Party views the proles as energy to run society at best or slaves at worst. But it is not the kind of slavery that has chains. Throughout the book it is said if there is any hope to bring down the Party and Big Brother it lies in the proles, but it is also pointed out that the proles are kept too busy or otherwise entertain and preoccupy to revolt. They just don’t want to because from their view nothing is wrong. They go to work and get paid, come home, read a book or go to the bar, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. They live. Sure the conditions are not that great to our modern day western standards, but its seams that they live about an average life for someone in say, the industrial revelation or, well, Europe in the early ’40.

It actually looks like, to me, that the prole are the most free and it is the Outer Party that is the most oppressed and the Inner Party is somewhere in between. If anything can be believed there is no Capital of Oceania, and other than Big Brother (who I doubt is real) there is no true leader, and there are no laws. But as this is a Dystopia, something is wrong with all this freedom. It is an Idea that is in charge. I think at one time the revolution was a good thing and meant a lot of good for the world, a lot like in Animal Farm , it got perverted and out of hand. I think there is not government at all. I think it is everyone collectively, out of an imagined fear made manifest, doing what they think they have been told to do. Like the Borg or ants they do what they do because of the Collectivism part. I think the early years of the Party were so effective that they did away with there own founders and laws and now the Party only exists to exist.

O’Brien said the Party is “interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.” I don’t think that is true particularly because of what he says later “the individual is only a cell? The weariness of the cell is the vigour of the organism. Do you die when you cut your fingernails?” it exist to exist and power is a byproduct. Your liver does not have high morals of keeping you alive and functions to do that; your lungs aren’t striving to impress your heart. They all are doing their own thing, oblivious to each other, and it happens to keep you alive. In the same way I think the various Ministries and organization do what they do because that is what they do. The Inner Party is no better off than the Outer Party in any meaningful way. And the proles care just as little about the Party members as the Party cares about them. If they are in hell, it is one of the Twilight Zone ironic hells of their own making.

I know this was long winded (this is actually the shorten version) and I apologies for that. Let’s just say that I am overcompensating for the fact that Cody does all the article and political ramblings on the website. I have more I could say, maybe there will be a tie-in segment in an upcoming episode?

I don’t know what all this says about me but I will leave you with a revelation that Winston had about the book he read that is both profound and one of the best and scariest things to think about when you read a book yourself or hear people talk about books they liked:

” The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”

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Ryan S. Brewer is the co-host and editor of the Bored Shenanigans podcast (when he releases one) available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of Brewer’s Shitty Writing very sporadically here or as episode descriptions. Also he has nothing else to enjoy anywhere else, but you can find Cody’s poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or the Faceyspace. 

Burmese Days Review

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“But the whole expedition -the very notion of wanting to rub shoulders with all those smelly natives -had impressed her badly. She was perfectly certain that that was not how white men ought to behave.”

 

Burmese Days was George Orwell’s first novel, published in 1934. Set in 1920s Burma it follows a timber merchant and the people that ripple in and out of his life. The motivations, while important are far less pertinent to this story than the interactions within it. This story does an excellent job showing what life was like for natives and Europeans living in imperialistic Burma.

The setting that Orwell builds here is fantastic. He goes to great pains to have the reader see what the interactions between the natives and the colonists are. It becomes clear that the colonists do not see the natives as equals, but rather tools and resources to be used to their own end. It also becomes clear as the novel progresses that Orwell loved Burma. His descriptions of the environment and the geography are so vibrant that it becomes clear that he truly loved it there.

The thing that I found most interesting in this novel was it’s ability to highlight the degrading British Empire. In this work it is obvious that years of rule by England have worn down the Burmese people. Corruption exists at a casual level as everyone is vying to gain a little bit more wealth or power. Though subtle and laced throughout, this theme shows early signs of what would become indicative of Orwell’s writing. He does a commendable job showing what a long period of rule from a far away state does to a group of people.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was simple to follow and while a bit dull in parts, the ability it had to keep the reader engaged. The infusion of Burmese culture never let you lose sight of the setting of the story and was tastefully sprinkled throughout. I read this book in about two days and found it to be worth the time spent. For those Orwell enthusiasts like myself, give Burmese Days a try.

 

“It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life.”

 

 

Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

George Orwell Complete Poetry Review

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-…Nothing believing, nothing loving,
Not in joy nor in pain, not heeding the stream
Of precious life that flows within us,
But fighting, toiling as in a dream…-

 

I’ll be honest, this collection of poetry wasn’t what I expected. More accurately it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I desperately wanted left leaning, anti-totalitarian verse draped in social satire. I wanted elegant lines questioning the very intention of imperialism. I wanted first hand experiences of humanity falling into mob mentality. I really wanted to fall in love with this book.  I wanted to be as infatuated by this collection as I’ve become with Orwell’s essays and novels. I wanted this to be the shining gem of Orwell September. I wanted this to be something, it was never going to be.

For a little background, this collection was published in October of 2015 after being withheld for many years by Orwell’s estate. By the author’s own admittance, he never held much fondness for his poetry.  This book gathers some of his earliest writings from his youth  all the way to his later life. It does a commendable job of prefacing them, so the reader can more fully appreciate the events of Orwell’s life. From the standpoint of historical interest and curiosity’s sake, it is fun to see how much his style evolved, but that is about where the fun ends. The poetry just isn’t very good.  In the words of  Dione Venable, the editor of this collection, “Orwell wasn’t a wonderful poet, but in his poetry he’s gloomy, he’s funny, he’s happy, he’s sad, and in the last things he wrote, you feel his pain.” As you read through it, you see him experimenting with  various styles and rhyme schemes but few ever seem to really resonate.

Now that the negatives are out of the way, there are a few pieces in this collection that are quite good.  In particular I enjoyed Ironic Poem About Prostitution and As One Non Combatant to Another. The dark satire that reverberates in these works is familiar to the fans of his writing. They provide a glimmer of what I had hoped for when I found this book. Other than a few lines from a smattering of poems, this entire collection left me feeling a bit flat. It was eighty two pages of mediocrity. I appreciated seeing another side of such a highly exalted author. I enjoyed seeing small shades of his excellent novels in these poems. Unless you’ve read everything else he’s ever written or your inquisitive nature just can’t let this one go, I would suggest you just pass on it. Sadly, this is the first Orwell I’ve ever read that I can’t really recommend.

 

 

Pagan
So here are you, and here am I,
Where we may thank our gods to be;
Above the earth, beneath the sky,
Naked souls alive and free.
The autumn wind goes rustling by
And stirs the stubble at our feet;
Out of the west it whispering blows,
Stops to caress and onward goes,
Bringing its earthy odours sweet.
See with what pride the the setting sun
Kinglike in gold and purple dies,
And like a robe of rainbow spun
Tinges the earth with shades divine.
That mystic light is in your eyes
And ever in your heart will shine.

 

 

Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

Animal Farm Review

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With Orwell September in full swing, how could we neglect one of his most well known works?  This novella takes place on a rural English farm in which animals begin a revolution to overthrow their oppressive farmer. Deeply symbolic and easy to follow, it is simple to see why Animal Farm is so highly regarded.

This novel was mandatory reading when I was in high school. I didn’t really understand or care for it then. It seemed highly overrated and somewhat stupid. I recall making ignorant, snarky comparisons to the movie Babe. The allegorical use of animals to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Stalinist era that followed, didn’t do much for me. Looking back I feel this book was mostly presented as anti communist tome and the deeper issues inside it were outright ignored. I remember discussions about who each character represented, but it was taken with a misguided slant toward patriotism and not a study of political structure.

I feel one point my high school literature teacher missed was how good this book is at explaining how the state works to anyone. Written in a direct and easy to follow form, it does an commendable job of illustrating the cycle of tyranny. Showing the reader how honest, well meaning ideas are agreed upon and slowly manipulated by the powerful and intelligent over the less powerful and less intelligent. Good intentions are quickly forgotten when one group can gain at the expense of another. The social and political constructs in this book are so true to life that the reader is forced to draw parallels to the ones that surround them. 

Dystopian novels rarely show the decline and fall, instead you usually see society at the lowest form. Animal Farm takes great pains to highlight multiple instances in which you see the society breaking down. You feel the plight these animals suffer as more and more things are taken from them.Orwell pushes the reader to ask if the revolution was worth it, or if the animals were better off with the farmer in charge. It alludes to a multitude of political theories and schools of thought, plus highlights how many changes a charismatic leader can make.

This book is goddamn great, truly goddamn great. I rediscovered it a few years after high school and it has been one of my favorites since that time. You can read it in an afternoon  without trying too hard, but it is the sort of novel that stays with you. If you didn’t like it when it was a mandatory read, I believe it deserves another chance. With the upcoming election season be political, read some Orwell. I believe that you will truly enjoy the time spent. Animal Farm proves that while all books are equal, some are more equal than others.

 

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Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

Moments Like This Never Last

 

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The Misfits are the greatest band of all time. I can state this with utmost sincerity and fervent devotion. Their ability to blend horror themes with fast paced punk rock have made them musical icons. The fiend skull logo has become quite familiar and has snuck it’s way into multiple venues of pop culture. Even the those unfamiliar with the music will recognize the brand. As with any long lasting, group they will go through multiple incarnations. I’ve caught a lot of heat from purists for not decrying one “era” over another but honestly there is nary an “era” of their music I don’t enjoy. From the early 70s to the rebirth in the late 90s to the latest incarnation featuring just one founding member. They strike a part of my person that few other artists seem to. As the lineups have changed, I’ve followed any former member’s current project with interest simply because of their association with The Misfits. This band is infectious and fantastic.

Last Sunday, Denver’s Riot Fest was big news for any fan of The Misfits or any fan of punk rock in general. For first time in thirty three years the founding members of Glen Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein ascended the stage. Accompanied on drums by Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame, the anxious crowd was stunned as they flawlessly performed twenty songs spanning their ‘77-’83 catalog. One of the most influential and charismatic punk bands of all time had returned to fill the world with their signature brand of macabre music. With this concert in Denver going so well there are already rumors of a full scale reunion tour happening.

This performance makes me exceptionally excited. I’ve followed the hype surrounding this reassembly with the kind of glee only a gushing by a punk rock fan boy can. Years of lawsuits and personal barbs thrown by band members at one another made any sort of reconciliation seem highly unlikely, yet here I sit glowing in the happy aftermath of a reunion. I desperately want a nationwide tour and a studio album and am I am giddy with the notion of seeing the original crew live on stage together. So few truly quintessential musicians pass through a given time period, but with such positive news coming from this year’s Riot Fest, the opportunity may be closer for us all.

If you find that your current music choices are lacking songs about vampires and Martians perhaps you should start growing your devil lock, get your fiend club membership card ready and enjoy some mighty fine Misfits here and here.

 
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Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.