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Personal Singularities

One man's list of Herculean efforts and feats

(or, why I'm so very tired! Ha, ha)

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This page last updated on or about 4-28-07
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This page is dedicated to everyone out there striving to make their mark on the world.

Think about it: what have been the scariest, most time-consuming, and/or most difficult things you ever did in your own life?

Usually such a list (if accurate and honest) would encompass both your greatest achievements-- and most dismal failures.

But of course most of us would likely prefer to leave out the failures! Ha, ha.

But, like it or not, all such massive efforts combine to make us who we are-- and what legacy (if any) we ultimately leave behind.

Below is my own list. Maybe yours is better. But we’ll never know unless you compile and post it online too, will we?

  • Surviving high school; This may sound like a joke to some. But quite a few of my classmates literally didn't make it. And by that I mean they ended up in coffins before graduation. A considerably larger number probably just dropped out in order to avoid the box. Of course, I grew up in a more dangerous part of the country than most.

  • Building and driving my own supercar; Anybody who doesn't think this was difficult has only to examine the details of the project, and my driver logs.

  • Surviving homelessness; If you haven't lived it, you can't know what it's like to be truly alone and on your own against the whole world. I was lucky though: I had my supercar to live in and protect me.

  • Surviving college; Although my college days were decidedly more fun and less dangerous than my high school years, they weren't entirely risk-free. I ended up tackling college in two major and very different stints. The real risks to my life and well being turned out to be very different across all three of these school passages-- and so quite difficult to cope with at times. College can be a surprisingly lonely and frustrating place for some of us. It can also be incredibly difficult to maintain the motivation required to get through especially complex courses, such as may be encountered in the engineering disciplines.

  • Surviving the huge gobs of my life spent working regular jobs; I pretty much abhorred most of the traditional type jobs I ever held. In most of them I was severely underemployed-- or basically way over-qualified for the positions. So I was almost literally bored to death (such situations can present some pretty bad psychological stresses over time).

    Indeed, that's the main aspect of regular jobs which drove me into self-employment. I hated the boredom and lack of flexibility or mental challenge.

    My happiest moments in regular employment stints basically consisted of geeky computer work (when PCs were still something of novelties, and the internet had yet to become mainstream), and my time on construction jobs (due to the danger and adventure and sometimes awesome job tasks assigned). I also liked much about my earliest major job in life (gotten the summer I turned 15): washing dishes in a large, busy restaurant. It was physically demanding, and you could easily see what you were accomplishing. You also felt like a vital part of a team (for the whole operation depended heavily upon you recycling those dishes). And best of all, much of that team consisted of pretty and friendly waitresses of all ages, from teenagers like myself, to ladies nearing retirement age. Regrettably, no other jobs I ever held after that offered such a high percentage of women co-workers.

  • Corporate network administrator; I spent a year and a half killing myself at a relatively high tech corporation once. This was before anyone but select university and military scientists were using the internet on a regular basis, and email was still a rare thing even for businesses. Among other things, I designed and built a local area network (LAN) for our company, and implemented email as well as remote network connections for our engineers in the field. I also created tons of user manuals for all this for our employees, and trained folks to use everything.

    I had a love/hate relationship with this job. Some of it I absolutely loved, for it was challenging, pushing me to my limits at times. Especially when I had to find cheap and creative -- and fast-- solutions to problems which were posing major threats to the company's operations. Other bits of it though were downright awful. Such as basically being ordered by higher ups to act in unethical ways. And trying to accomplish what the division head wanted without being unethical (read: not lying).

    Being forced to perform unethical acts for dubious reasons is another thing I dislike about traditional style jobs.

    And no: the ethics problems I had with a higher up did NOT stem from my best friend/sometimes executive boss I call "Steve" in my online stories, but rather from his boss. As after a while Steve's boss began coming directly to me for some matters. And at that time I was too inexperienced in corporate office politics to realize the potentially negative consequences of such a move.

  • Learning the ins and outs of business and self-employment; Escaping the traditional tread mill of employment to work for yourself is rarely a picnic for anyone. There's always very, very few reliable and up-to-date guides for such transitions out there. And usually those who've preceded you are loathe to give away their own hard-won secrets-- often for good reason. Because most of the secrets to successful self-employment are perishable commodities, and expire faster as more people learn about them. Yikes! It also doesn't help matters that most business ventures simply don't work no matter what you do, and even if you don't make a single mistake in your pursuit of them. Plain old luck is a far bigger element to success here than anything else.

    It also turns out that some people are far better suited for self-employment than others. For instance, if you like socializing and negotiating, you might be a natural entrepreneur. On the other hand, if you're introverted, or prefer being a hermit-- plus never found a way to be comfortable at face-to-face negotiating or bargaining-- your path to self-employment will be rocky indeed. Not to mention heavily limited, income-wise.

    Unfortunately for me, I'm introverted, with strong hermit tendencies, and hate to negotiate! Ha, ha. And so as an entrepreneur, I've often found myself trying to run a business with one arm (and leg) figuratively tied behind my back. Yikes!

    • Horse-trader; This was the term often used for small business folk in my parts when I was growing up. When I decided to get serious about self-employment, I had to become a mix of 'horse-trader' and 'jack-of-all-trades'. For early on I really had little idea what I should do, or how.

      I took on all sorts of handy-man jobs, from weeding to auto repair to custom business artwork to sign-making to tax return preparation. I bought at yard sales and sold at flea markets. Bought large lots of stuff and sold them off piecemeal, using classified newspaper ads. Came across hard-to-find items or collectibles, and bought and sold those too.

    • The Complete T-Shirt Airbrushing Manual; Early in my entrepreneurial self-education stage, I decided it might be worthwhile to exploit my artistic capabilities via T-shirt airbrushing in the vicinity of some of the local tourist traps.

      I can't now recall what exactly put me on this track. But I located some related texts for study, as well as drove to existing T-shirt vendors to watch them work, and pick up clues that way. Eventually I invested in the minimum amount of equipment I could get by with, and struck a deal with a local spot in need of an airbrusher, and went to work.

      I quickly expanded my equipment arsenal with further purchases, and construction of custom-designed aids, as both appeared necessary or desirable, and my cash flow allowed.

      I would end up designing and building a special easel and wooden shirt forms, a hybrid air compressor, and a folding desk for the enterprise.

      Eventually, inspired by a local associate who had written and now supplied a vinyl repair kit manual for that industry, I wrote up and illustrated my own manual for T-shirt airbrushing, and struck up a deal with a Florida airbrush supply vendor to sell it among their offerings. They'd send me an order, and I'd print and bind the things myself, and ship them out (my computer system of the time was basically a Commodore 64 with printer). The books were relatively expensive, as brushing T-shirts could be very lucrative in the proper locations.

      I also sold newsletter subscriptions which offered updates to the manual, for those who were interested.

      I basically ramped up the manual business so I personally could get out of actually airbrushing shirts, and dealing first-hand with customers. Due to my hermit nature.

    • Dimensions128; This was my first major programming project and entrepreneurial software development effort. D-128 was a graphics program for a popular computer platform of the day. This was around the early to mid-eighties I think-- so even the much vaunted IBM PC (and Microsoft) hadn't yet won the platform wars.

      This turned out to be a classic case of a resource-starved startup being unable to get off the ground. I had no money for marketing and advertising, or even for many aspects of the development itself. I guess it's amazing D-128 brought in what revenue it did.

      Although I programmed both before and after D-128, developing D-128 would end up representing the bulk of my life experience actually writing code. For it was likely the most ambitious feature set in a single application I ever attempted on my own.

    • Do-it-yourself (DIY) aircraft projects and related matters; For a time I harbored ambitions of outlaw enterprises facilitated via the use of secret aircraft of bleeding edge design. I presently discuss those years and ideas in spots on-site like Me and my Moonshadow flying wing, The poor man's airship, and The Moonshadow flying wing pilot logs.

    • Project Friday and related presentations; In the very early nineties I created lots of presentation-style documentation regarding tablet computing and related items for Apple Computer, in back and forth correspondence with one of its vice presidents. For a brief time I was actually worried they were going to offer me a job(!) Ha, ha. You see, I did NOT want to move to California. So why did I first begin sending them this stuff? Because I hoped they'd implement the things (they had the resources; I didn't). Plus, I wouldn't have minded them writing me a fat check! Ha, ha. But I didn't want a job there.

      I called my central concept "Friday", after the old term "gal Friday", often used for an indispensable secretary or assistant. There were several nicely innovative concepts there. Or at least enough to get an Apple V.P. to correspond with me, and even surprise me with a long distance phone call one day(!) Yikes!

      After I became certain Apple wasn't going to do anything with the ideas anytime soon, I published much of the inventory in an issue of my FLUX magazine, calling the total package "Vaporware".

      Basically Friday was a design for a tough tablet computer which used flash memory for storage rather than motor drives, radiated circuit board heat out through its large, nearly unbreakable glass display, and possessed a shock absorbing and heat conducting liquid cushion between the display and the circuitboard. The circuitboard itself was sealed away from harm (utterly waterproof) inside the shock absorbing case. Friday utilized a virtual keyboard via its touchscreen display, when needed-- much like Apple's upcoming iPhone appears will do.

      That was just Friday itself. Once the V.P. showed such interest in my ideas, I added lots more to the original concept in the form of possible accessories. Including a cheap 3D scanner.

      But all that came to naught, I'm afraid.

    • FLUX magazine; I published an electronic magazine for a while, which people could either download off AOL or other similar software repositories, or get bundled on shareware CD ROMs. FLUX magazine was mostly oriented towards the Apple Macintosh, being in HyperCard format. Plus offered towards the end of its run the capability to be transformed into an application which offered unprecedented self-publishing options for users. Options which rivaled the functionality of today's World Wide Web, but predated it!

      Of course the actual World Wide Web-- once it became available-- was superior in many ways to my little software effort. Plus, Apple killed HyperCard and my experimental software effort with it.

      Although FLUX magazine was strongly Mac-oriented, there were also some Adobe PDF versions of the issues made available online and on CDs for PCs and UNIX workstations. The PDF versions of course could present only the text and graphics of the interactive HyperCard versions, and none of the extra software capabilities.

      It seemed logical to take my FLUX magazine efforts online in the form of a web site, once the internet truly took off.

    • The Pathfinder project; Pathfinder was/is basically an interactive software book, which answers questions posed to it by users. About almost anything.

      The book at its heart is my own interpretation and integration of the philosophical classics I Ching, Tao of Power, and Art of War.

      I'd been very impressed by my personal use and study of these classics for several years prior to beginning the Pathfinder project itself. I also felt I could add considerable value to the texts by updating them for our modern world, combining the three works into a single reference, and automating the process by which the tomes had been accessed over millennia past.

      I also felt I'd come up with an innovative solution to the biggest programming problem involved in making such a project perform as it was meant to. Perhaps only programming geeks will appreciate this: it involved achieving a truly random number, not dependent upon the flawed random function in mainstream computers.

      When I set out to bring this work to the masses, I actually had a few $thousands I could invest in the project, and even programming help too-- from my youngest brother. Unfortunately, we were still a severely underfunded startup, and I basically had to finance my brother's training in C language programming for a year to kick things off. We actually figured out an ingenious way to market and distribute our software, by releasing it in a demo version which offered users free access to its core features, with the option to buy a password to unlock the capacities to save files, export Q&A sessions as text files, archive questions and answers in a handy database sort of format, and print.

      But Pathfinder would answer all the questions you wanted with no password at all.

      Yeah, I know all that sounds plain quaint today, as even the major corporations do such things now. But back then we were one of the very first. And the practice was so new and unheard of that many shareware distributors and online software repositories balked at carrying such demos at all. Yikes!

      As if that wasn't a big enough problem for us, Apple released Mac OS 7. Pathfinder ran wonderfully in Mac OS 6. But 7 broke it. And my brother and I were too exhausted by our previous development efforts to immediately turn around and start them up all over again.

      However, out of sheer frustration over my lost investment, I personally hammered out a HyperCard version of the original C application, and released it into the wild. Not long before Apple killed HyperCard too, thereby making Mac users lose interest in such software altogether. Agh!

      I still on occasion use that HyperCard version of Pathfinder myself though. I keep an ancient Mac around just for that and another old Mac app or two.

      One of these days I hope to bring Pathfinder to the web. Whenever that "AJAX" stuff (or something else) works well enough to support it.

      My brother became a formidable programmer after his Pathfinder experience, eventually achieving some truly amazing things with his code, as well as making very good money for a while (at least two different enterprises were brought to life by his software; one became a significant threat to my hometown newspaper publisher, and the other turned into a TV shopping channel powerhouse). But similar to my own experience, he eventually burned out and had to take a hiatus from round-the-clock programming (being a geek coding commando can be tough-- especially for years at a stretch).

  • The Macintosh Internet Connection Kit; When the internet was still so new and young it was difficult even for geeks with money to access (early to mid-nineties I think), I got an offer from a local ISP: If I could show them how to get Macs on the net, they'd give me free internet access.

    At the time I already had America Online, but wanted direct and better access to the internet itself. For one thing, my AOL connection was long distance. So the free local ISP dial up would save me far more than the $20-$25 monthly internet access fee (I truthfully cannot recall now what the ISP fee was back then; but the long distance phone charges were horrendous). AOL had been fine for previous years, but was definitely inferior to the internet by that point. At least from what I could glean from non-internet sources.

    I used AOL itself to do the research required, and download critical software components. Then I began experimenting with our Macs. Within a week I had a rudimentary connection kit. In another week I had some printed instructions to go with it, which the ISP could use a copy machine to reproduce.

    Over succeeding months I further refined the software kit and manual to the point that it was as slick and complete as anything you might expect from a major corporation. I also ended up providing volunteer tech support for the ISP's customers of 13 east Tennessee counties for a time.

    Once I'd established my own web site, I even posted the entire manual (illustrations and all) online, so that Mac users worldwide could use them as a guide to get their machines connected to the internet.

    Eventually of course Apple made it easier for Macs to get online, and I was able to stand down my own efforts.

  • An illustrated speculative timeline of future technology and social change; One of my main ambitions since childhood was to write a science fiction novel. And not merely a sci fi novel-- but the sci fi novel. At some point though I realized I couldn't write a decent science fiction novel about the far future with what little I then knew about the possibilities. Sure, I'd read far more science fiction and technical literature by that point than most of my fellow geeks: but that still felt inadequate to me. So I decided to do some serious research into the matter. Because I wanted my novel to stand out for decades to come as a shining example of plausibility and accuracy.

    And so I spent YEARS putting together the future history timeline now present on my site.

  • The rise and fall of star faring civilizations; Unfortunately, if you delve very deeply into the future (or space itself), you soon must deal with the possibilities of things like alien intelligence, warp drives, and time travel too. And a possible future technological singularity, as well. So I expanded my research into those fields, too.

  • My science fiction novel The Chance of a Realtime; Gosh, but this thing has turned out to be a monster! More like several books than only one! Sheesh! And more than 17 years after first beginning the tale, it remains unfinished! Holy smokes!

    On the brighter side though, the lion's share of the work is not only complete, but available online for all to read! Hoo-ray! And the remaining few chapters are largely already written, with me needing only to go over them a few more times before posting them, too.

    The true source of this page is

  • Becoming a serious web site author and entrepreneur; Even today, this remains a far more difficult thing to accomplish than most might expect. Why? Because if you're not posting to your own custom domain, you risk having to start completely from scratch again later-- no matter how successful your initial effort. Because when you're posting on someone else's domain, that entity might claim ownership of your content, thereby stripping you of your own success should your material become popular. Or at any time the domain owner can change their terms and restrictions on what you're doing. Censor you, or worse.

    But it's no picnic ramping up your own domain, either. Indeed, it's much like a virtual version of using a metal detector to search for treasure in war-torn Iraq in 2007! Yikes! For the technical glitches and other maddening details of site creation and maintenance remain easily overwhelming today-- even for geeks, at times.

    And much of the above merely pertains to authoring content on the web. If you decide you also want to try your hand at some entrepreneurial e-commerce, you face a whole other level of difficulties.

    But even with all its problems, the internet today still represents one of the best opportunities available for 99% of the population in the developed nations which have access to it.

    Don't misunderstand me though: the real opportunities the internet offers us today are extremely limited. For example, only a small number of web authors can even get their sites to pay their own maintenance costs (break even financially). And far, far fewer authors actually make significant profits or income off their web efforts.

    But when you compare today's internet opportunities to the still fewer and even smaller ones of the offline world, your net chances for getting ahead look positively gargantuan! Ha, ha.

  • The enormous hidden costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance; Like many of my fellow Americans, I'd always been torn and uncertain about which political policies were best for us. For I saw things to like and dislike in both of America's main two brands of politics.

    Then I did all that research for my future timeline. And regarding the likely fate of technological civilizations. And I finally began to get a grasp on just which principles were wiser for a race like ours.

    Once the evidence began to appear truly overwhelming, I felt I had to publish it. Or a sampling of it, anyway. For I'd need several assistants and a couple years of free time to present the whole of my collected references here!

  • How to live well on very, very little; Although there's info here suitable for folks all across the financial spectrum from dirt-poor through middle-class, I tried to make sure to include things which might help even people literally living in ditches, with nothing more to work with than natural debris and man-made trash.

    Yes: this is my own stab at making a survival manual for the poor of all nations. Based largely on my own experience as an impoverished American.

  • The nature of luck, The super-rich, the 'plain' rich, the 'poorest' rich... and How to get rich in America; Like most Americans, I was raised to believe I could get rich someday, if only I worked hard enough, or was smart enough, or both. No matter how poor a family I was born into.

    However, the more real life I experienced, the more dubious those teachings seemed to become. As first-hand I witnessed smarts and hard work never ever making anyone rich. And an awful lot of the folks with really big money seemed to get it in underhanded ways.

    But still, as with the general uncertainty regarding political parties, for a long time I didn't really know what to think.

    After I'd also gained some years of experience as an entrepreneur, I had even more reason to doubt what I'd been taught about wealth. Plus, I'd encountered awfully stiff resistance in my own efforts towards generating a hefty income-- no matter how hard I worked, or how creative my ideas.

    So I set about doing some serious study into the nature of both cosmological luck, and the true American way of gaining wealth.

    I'd previously done a small speculative piece about luck (Normal luck). But by this point I was hoping to learn something which could improve my own luck in a significant way. Unfortunately, it appeared there'd been few comprehensive research efforts into the workings of luck anywhere, by anyone. So I decided I'd try my hand at compiling such a reference.

    It turned out that hard info on the wealthy and how exactly they got there wasn't widely or easily available either. So I ended up having to devote far more time to these matters than I'd originally expected.

    It didn't help though when the results were far worse than I'd expected, or hoped. YIKES!

    But maybe once enough Americans learn the truth of the matter, we can change things to make the American Dream truly an achievable goal, rather than only a fantasy for 99% of us, generation after generation after generation.

  • Writing up the accounts of my supercar days; In some ways it's seemed tougher to write about my supercar days than it was to live them.

    I truthfully never tried my hand at story-telling whatsoever until very late in life. I posted my first attempts online sometime around the turn of the century, I believe.

    Although I didn't begin writing the supercar accounts until quite some time after I'd done much writing already regarding my novel and various stories relating to my timeline, there was a definite difference between these things. For instance, my supercar stories are much more autobiographical and grounded in real-world events than my novel and many other items online. Too, I wanted the maximum accuracy possible in my supercar tales. But as the actual events occurred around 30 years before, and I hadn't thought much about them over all that time, I often found it tough to recall certain important details. In my science fiction such gaps can sometimes easily be filled with made-up stuff. But not so my supercar stories. For whenever I tried to fill a memory gap there with something created on the spot, it'd bother me to no end. For all sorts of reasons. Fortunately, the more of the stories I wrote, the more my memory was jogged, and I was able to go back and correct my previous lapses in the tales.

    Another way the supercar tales were harder to write than my other stories on-site was the real personal pain or loss or regrets associated with some of the actual events which inspired them. Plus the sometimes unwise (even foolish) or uncertain ethical nature of my own actions in the events. I often ran into problems regarding how I might comfortably present such things to readers. Thankfully, those obstacles too I finally managed to come to terms with, after sufficient writing and re-writing.

  • The ultimate breakfast manifesto; My most recent major efforts include story cameos and legend-building links: new entrepreneurial ventures leveraging my web site efforts in somewhat unusual and novel ways.

    But truth-be-told, my ambitions with these projects go beyond possibly helping myself to make a living; I'm actually hoping they'll be successful test cases for how small teams of individual artists and writers worldwide might band together to make a living online.

    As for just how Herculean an effort this last thing has been-- by the day I recently 'turned on' the virtual cash registers for these elements online, I'd already been toiling at them off and on for several years now, trying to figure out the practical logistics for such entities (as well as writing up the stories upon which these channels depend).

    One reason it was so difficult was that I had no existing model to copy from: I could find no examples of this particular business model already being in use.

I hope you enjoyed this list of my own toughest tasks and projects to date! Hopefully I'll have more to add to the list in the future-- even if it's only newly remembered items from the past.
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Copyright © 2007 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.
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