Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

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Making Money Like A Millenial: A Few New Ones

It seems like it has been a millennium since I wrote my last Making Money post. See what I did there?

All jokes aside here are a few new things I have tried recently to create some cash flow.

Heleum by Uphold: I jumped into Heleum back in its early days (i.e. last December) when crypto was riding high. I took about $100 of my Steemit money and put it into Heleum. It quickly tanked.

Heleum is a great concept, basically it does all the work of a broker for you. You put your money in and Heleum “launches” it out as “balloons”. These “balloons” are small amounts divided into different currencies, and not just cryptos. Heleum trades in several fiat currencies as well. Heleum’s algorithm watches the market and moves your balloon from one currency to another. If it works correctly in 30 to 90 days the balloon will “pop” at a profit.

In the six months I have had money in it, I have had one balloon pop. The profit of $1.79 was reinvested into a new balloon. The rest of my balloons have sunk and what was a $100 investment is now $30. I put a little more in when they announced some major upgrades to the algorithm, so far it is also in the red.

But. I have hopes for them. Uphold itself is a great wallet and exchange (albeit a little limited in its currency range). They have invested and continue to invest into their Heleum product and I think in the long run they will get the kinks out and the platform will be successful. Besides, hodling for the long term is the name of the game in cryptos. I bought in during a “high”, so of course I am going to suffer a bit in the low.

If you are interested in joining Heleum use my referral code here.

Robinhood: Robinhood is an app which allows laypeople like me to buy and sell stocks with no (or low) fees. Stocks are less risky than cryptos for the most part, although Robinhood does allow you to purchase a few cryptos as well.

I joined it thinking it would be a bit like Heleum but with stocks. I was wrong. Unlike Heleum, the user has to initiate the purchases and trades. So while it’s easy to use and you don’t pay fees, you still need to do your research and make sure your purchases are wise. I can see someone losing a ton of money if they don’t know what they’re doing.

So far it’s been fun. I don’t have a lot to invest, but I picked up a few penny stocks and my investment has stayed pretty level for the short term.

Note: sign up using a referral (hint hint mine) and you and the referrer get free stock. I didn’t know about this until it was too late and missed out. Perhaps some of you can help… 🙂 I have made a couple of referrals and it’s been fun getting a few stocks I would not have thought to buy for free. Click this link to get the app with my referral!

SoloLearn: this is an indirect way of making money. SoloLearn is an app where you can learn basic skills in several computer languages for free. It won’t give you a degree or anything but it is a stepping stone to further learning.

Right now I am learning SQL, a database management language. From what I have been told by an acquaintance in the field there is a high demand for Database Managers and if one can become proficient in SQL they can easily land a job paying $30/hr part time.

It’s boring, honestly, but the payoff potential seems worth it. I’ll keep you posted on my success or failure (probably this winter, when I have reliable internet).

The last few are Steemit centered:

Steepshot: for lack of a better way of saying it, Steepshot is the Instagram of the Steemit universe. It’s still in Beta so it has some problems occasionally, but for the most part it is just as easy as it’s non-paying counterpart. If you aren’t into blogging but you still want to jump on the Steemit bandwagon, this is a great way to do it. Post pics, get paid. Pretty simple.

DTube: again, for lack of better comparison, dtube is the YouTube of Steemit. I know many people make money on YouTube, with this the money is a direct result of how popular your videos are. No affiliate linking, no marketing, just upvotes. I haven’t done much with this since I’m not much of a video maker, but I have seen tons of people succeed on it.

Busy: Busy is Steemit, just under a different team. But it offers a few features that Steemit doesn’t. Busy allows plankton and minnows to determine their voting percentage, which is a big deal if you are limited on voting power. It also allows you to upvote your post when you post it, something which disappeared from Steemit mysteriously. Probably my favorite thing about Busy is that it allows you to create a footer to go at the bottom of each post, this is super helpful when you have a site or service you want to promote.

Anyone out there have any more suggestions for ways to grow income with little to no monetary investment? I am definitely interested in trying new ways to make money and telling everyone about them. Let me know in the comments what you think I should try next!

If you’d like to read the rest of the series start here.

The Mysterious Death of Francis Degen: Part 3

If you haven’t read the previous posts, you might want to go back now and read them. Otherwise, you might be a bit lost here.

When our story ended last time, Francis Degen was dead. His blind wife Helene was given charge over his estate. And his body was exhumed but nothing found.

“Fifty dollars and other valuable considerations. ..”

But what of the faithful servant Hugh McNeil?

Well, shortly after Helene was made administrix of the Degen estate, McNeil had her power of attorney signed over to him. Within twelve days of Francis’ death, Helene sold him the Belmore property for “the sum of fifty-dollars and other considerations.” Between March, 1890 and February 28th, 1891, Helene and Hugh dutifully took care of settling Francis’ estate.

By the time of his burial, the stock Francis held was worth $1,000.00. His land shares and mining shares were worthless. His deposits in Marble Bank amounted to $1,900.00 and he had a note owed him by W. L. Raht for $700.00. Without considering his furniture the estate amounted to $3,600.00. For the time, this was a comfortable sum of money (though not the $22,000.00 quoted by one newspaper of the day). Helene was declared sole heir of the entire amount.

Helene died March 6, 1891 at 91 Guernsey Street in Brooklyn, exactly one week after settling her husband’s estate. Her body was supposed to have been taken back to Florida for burial, but no records exist to indicate such a burial happened.

“Final discharge from said administration…”

According to newspaper reports written after her death, Helene and Hugh had come to New York hoping to get treatment for her lost eyesight. They apparently made several trips between Florida and New York in the months after Francis died. During one November trip Helene had a will drawn up.

This will of course left everything to McNeil. However, Helene never actually signed the will. The will was marked with an “X”. Her nephews, Eric and Frederick Rothgart contested the will in September of 1891. In early 1892, after several delays, witnesses came all the way from Florida to appear in the case.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 4 o’clock Edition, May 25, 1891

The first witness called to the stand was Bernard J. Douras, the attorney for the will. He testified that he drawn up the will for Helene at 195 Guernsey Street. Witnessing the will were George Wilson and Morris Barnett.

Mr. Douras was a friend of Hugh McNeil and met Helene through him. According to his testimony Helene wanted “Mac” to have all her property when she died. The will was signed on November 29, 1890. There is dispute about whether the witnesses actually saw her make her mark or if they were in a separate room at the time.

Mr. Douras further testified that Helene “had told him twenty-five times at least that “Mac” was entitled to her estate.” She also told him that Francis had reletives who accused her of having poisoned Francis. She had no relatives of her own, according to Mr. Douras, and she wanted everything to go to McNeil.

The case was decided in McNeil’s favor and the nephews filed an appeal in Clay County. The attorneys weren’t too interested in fighting hard for Bavarians who were on the other side of the world and the case didn’t make it much further. McNeil was the sole heir of the Degen estate.

Not only do we not know what happened to Helene’s body, we don’t know much about Hugh McNeil after this whole ordeal. The last record I have been able to find is an 1892 census record indicating the he lived in New York with a wife named Anne. No previous records indicate that he was married.

Was Anne a trophy wife for the 54 year old heir to a small fortune? Was Hugh a secret lover to Helene during the year they spent together in Rutland before traveling out to meet Francis in Utah? Did they plot Francis’ death together? Did he betray her and poison her into blindness? Did they poison Francis as is relatives suspected? Did McNeil trick the blind widow into signing her fortune to him, or did she still love him and the mark on the will was truly hers?

There are many unanswered questions. Perhaps some of Joseph Degen’s descendents can answer them. Anyone know a Degen? Maybe they know where Helene is. Maybe they know what happened to McNeil. Maybe they would want to restore the grave of Francis Marion Degen to its former glory.

We can only wonder…

Absence and Fondness Of Heart

There is an expression well known to people who go long periods of time without their significant others.

Absense makes the heart grow fonder.

Well, does it? I mean do you really want that other person around more when they are gone? Do you love them more when you are separated?

My marriage has been a test of this theory for some time. I used to go out once or twice a year on two week assignments, then I took a job that had me gone for two weeks at a time several times a summer. Now my wife has that same job and she spends a week or two away at a time. We won’t even mention the long days at her own station which make her home life basically just sleeping, eating a meal or two, and perhaps marital intimacy if the exhaustion isn’t too much.

Do I miss her? You bet. Do I pine about her lack of presence? No. What’s the use? Do I love her more when she’s away? Not really. In fact we have both found that the busier you are in a period of absence, the less likely you are to have strong feelings about the situation.

If anything, absence actually makes presence more difficult. You get used to a routine without that person. You get used to keeping certain emotions bound up. You stop thinking too much about the situation (and the other person) lest it become painful.

Then they come back. Your routine is muddled. You emotions are stirred. Where there would have been pain is now an empty hole into which you shovel your excitement over the reunion. Absence didn’t make the heart fonder. It kinda made it numb.

With the return comes the feels. Strong feels. So you bicker. Bouts of fighting interspersed with intense passionate embrace. All those emotions that you buried with busy-ness now find themselves naked in the laziness that comes in the arms of your lover. Your heart is no longer numb, it wants to explode.

You confuse your excitement with the negative feelings you had in the absence. It feels like panic, so you seek to suppress it. But your heart won’t let you, so you stutter over your thoughts and words and apologize profusely over the smallest of disagreements.

Absence doesn’t create fondness. There isn’t really a fondness growing at all when she is away. Instead, there is a ton of awkwardness rising up and waiting for the return. And oh so much passion.

I don’t want her around more when she is gone. I just want her to stay more when she is here. Honestly, I would rather she never leave. Especially it it’s only to build up some sort of elusive heart fondness.

Because that doesn’t actually happen anyway.

Music and Art Monday, June 11th 2018: Evolution

Sometimes I am a bit hard on myself. OK, much of the time I am a bit hard on myself. This goes for all things performance related. Life is performance based. We all strive to perform the best we can, at whatever we do, and sometimes we tend to beat ourselves up if our performance does not match our expectations.

Some things are easier to compare than others. If we are lifting weights we can see progress from lighter weight to heavier weight. If we are running we can watch our mile times shrink. Other things aren’t so tangible. Some things are so gradual that we hardly notice the change at all.

Painting is one such thing. Skill growth is so gradual that you won’t see changes over a short span of time. But if you look back you will see drastic differences.

Nicole, Acrylic on Paper, 2016
Nicole, Oil on Canvas, 2018

Or you may see no difference at all..

After the Bath, Acrylic on Paper, 2014. My first painting.
The Room, Acrylic on Paper, 2017

Sometimes you just have a change of perspective.

Fine Cigars, Acrylic on Paper, 2016
Fine Cigars Revisit, Acrylic on Paper, 2017

Sometimes your details get sharper.

Selfie, Acrylic on Paper, January 2014
Selfie, Acrylic on Paper, June 2014

Frequently you change the way you see yourself.

Self Portrait, Acrylic on Paper, 2014
Self Imposed, Acrylic on Paper, 2016

The evolution of our abilities isn’t always linear or perfect. We ebb and flow in our talents. Sometimes we meet our own expectations, sometimes we fall short. But we should always keep going…

The Mysterious Death of Francis Degen, Part 2

In my previous post I told you about the founding of Belmore City and the promise it gave its many investors, including the retiree Francis Degen. In this post we meet the man who lies in Belmore State Forest.

Francis Marion Degen was born in Bonn, Rhenish Prussia on October 10, 1829 to parents Johann Heinrich (John Henry) and Anna Helena (nee. Hittorff) Degen. He spent his childhood as Franz, Francis would be the name he adopted as a 20 year old immigrant to the United States.

Passenger list of the Isaac Bell

In late June of 1851, Franz and his 23 year old brother Joseph set sail aboard the Isaac Bell from the port in La Harve, France. They arrived in New York City on July 2. Other records indicate that Francis may have come to America in 1847 on the ship Emigrant.

Whether he came as a 20 year old or a 15 year old, in his first years in the United States, Francis moved to High Lake, Pennsylvania, and became a leather merchant. Joseph meanwhile became a dentist and settled in the Bronx, New York.

Lydia Helene Rothgart was born around 1834 in Alsen, Schleswig Holstein. She came to America around 1854 and soon became acquainted with Francis. They married in 1857. Because Francis was an engineer, the couple moved to West Rutland, Vermont, to get involved in the marble mining industry.

There is one record of a Francis M Degen joining the Navy late in the Civil War. The enlistment record shows him enlisting in November of 1864. Whether or not he saw action in the final months of the war, or even if this is the same Francis M Degen remains unknown.

Francis M Degen, Stone Cutter

While in Rutland, the Degens met Hugh McNeil, an Irish immigrant and marble stone cutter. McNeil would become a trusted confidant of the Degens until the end of both their lives.

Francis was a successful engineer in the Rutland mines. In 1880 he decided to take his mining knowledge out west to the silver mines of Frisco, Utah. Helene and McNeil stayed behind in Rutland until Francis had set up a home in Utah.

William Raht’s Patent

While in Frisco, Francis became friends with William Raht, a patent holder for a process to treat ores. Raht would later be a witness to Degen’s will, drawn up in 1887.

The Degens enjoyed their time in the rough town of Frisco. Francis joined the Freemasons there, along with McNeil, and became the Junior Warden of the number eight St. John’s lodge. Interestingly, for reasons not recorded, Hugh McNeil was dimitted from the lodge in 1882.

Francis worked as an engineer in the Horn mine and accumulated quite a bit of wealth as well as stock in the Globe Mining Company. He already had several deposits with the Marble Bank in Rutland, he added more money to his estate in Utah.

The mines of Frisco suffered a massive collapse in 1885. While they recovered in late 1886 and early 1887, Francis decided it was time to move on. He decided that Belmore City, Florida was the place he wanted to retire.

Hugh was sent to the Degen’s lot in early 1889 to set up a homestead and plant an orange grove. Francis and Helene came to the property late that year but their retirement was short lived.

In December of 1889, Helene went blind, whether from illness or stroke or something more sinister, we will never know. Six weeks after her blindness struck, on February 12th, 1890, Francis dropped dead in the family garden. He was laid to rest on the homestead.

In his will, Francis left his entire estate to Helene, “in consideration of the faithful service (she had given him) in accumulating (his) property”. Despite her blindness she was naned admininistrix of the estate.

Given the sudden nature of his death, his brother Joseph asked for an examination of the body for signs of foul play. Six weeks after Francis died his body was exhumed and an autopsy performed. Records indicate that chemists found nothing amiss and Francis was decided to have died of heart failure.

Stay tuned for the real crazy story…