Author: Jennifer A. Park

Investing in the Age of Trump

As retirement draws near, I have to be more thoughtful about how I invest my admittedly modest savings, and the election of Donald Trump has made this very complicated, to understate a bit. Like most leftists, I believe that his campaign promises will damage the American economy in the long run, by overheating the economy, and then bringing in a popped-bubble recession. However, it is clear that the stock market totally disagrees with me. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for instance, has skyrocketed from around 18,000 in early November to around 21,000 today.

If that sounds like a ringing endorsement of his promise to “make America great again”, however, we need to also consider the fact that the price of safe havens like gold and Treasury bonds have recovered much of the initial crash after the election.

This means that there is a bit of a split-personality going on in the market. Like the rest of the nation, Wall Street is also divided along partisan lines in their assessment of the future.

So, how is a middle-class soon-to-retire professional to cope?

I have asked one of my more level-headed lefty friends, also nearing retirement, and wealthier than me, to tell me what to do, and this is what they sent me a couple of months ago. Since I have found it helpful, I am posting it here, with some updates and corrections they wanted to make, to reflect recent events and data.


Investing in the Age of Trump

by anonymous

Trump’s seeming inability to quickly implement the major components of his economic agenda–tax reform, infrastructure spending, and health care reform–that the pro-Trump half of the market is betting on is a big source of complication. From the anti-Trump perspective, in the long run, this is a good thing, since he won’t be able to wreck the economy that quickly. From the pro-Trump perspective, however, in the short run, all of these promises have already been priced into the market. If he fails to deliver soon, the short attention span of the market will turn against him, and this will not be good for the economy as a whole, whether you are for him or against him.

To be sure, we can’t go all-in that he’s going to succeed, and we can’t go all-in that he’s going to fail. A good anti-Trump portfolio has to take a balanced approach. In other words, if you haven’t diversified, now is the time.

Here are the possible scenarios we need to prepare for.

Continue reading »

Journey through the States is now on Paperback!

PrintStates is now on Paperback at Amazon.

I originally wrote this book in 2014, partly as a joke—I figured nothing was funnier than America becoming a Muslim nation—and I obviously had not foreseen any of the political turmoil that have taken place in the last several months. I suspected such a thing might be possible, which forms the premise of States, but I was still shocked to realize that, if I had written it this year, I would have basically made the same predictions about our nation’s future, except with conviction and, ironically, incredulity.

The book imagines that, through a tortuous path that is over-explained in the book, America breaks up, with the bulk of it then becoming an Islamic Republic. What would finally divide this great nation for good? What kind of Islam would it need to be, and what would it be like for Christians to live in such a place?

But, the book is really about what life in America would be like if we should go back to the “good old days” of conservative imagination, from the points of view of ordinary people who probably would not choose to live in such as place, but would make the best of it. The conceit, of a pair of Christian teenagers traveling through the Muslim nation, is just to provide an outsider’s point of view, and also to create enough drama to keep the reader engaged.

It is, now, a cautionary tale.

As with all my books, bisexuality figures prominently in the plot, as do gender identity, health care, religion, transportation, and food. I did cop out on race, I admit, but cultural diversity remains a theme.

The book is available on paperback for $7.99; it will be increased soon. Purchasing the paperback version is supposed to make you eligible for a free Kindle copy; I have not tested this feature, so please let me know if it doesn’t work. Kindle copy alone is $5.99, or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited pays me by the pages read, so it’s a win-win deal for you and me. I occasionally run promotions with free Kindle copies of all my books; these are announced on Reddit. I’ve taken the book off iBooks, Nook, and Kobo; please let me know if you’d like me to reverse this.

 

A Snowflake Manifesto

I recently found out that the Ctrl-Alt-Right-Delete folks have been calling us leftists “snowflakes”. Of course, the fact that I found out about this means that it’s already way passé, but it did give me something to think about. Apparently, the right wingers think all the things that we leftists value about ourselves—our sensitivity, our flexibility, our considerateness—are shortcomings. Fair enough. The left is notorious for our chaotic messaging, incoherent strategies, and willingness to roll over for small victories. We are more concerned about not hurting each other’s feelings than we are about fighting together for what we believe in. By contrast, the right has perfected their art of lock-stepping and obstinacy, and that is, after all, how they swept this last election.

Still, there is an irony here. The right is currently spearheaded by the ultimate snowflake, a man who is more sensitive to criticism, more frustrated by opposition, and more fixated on trivialities than… Well, I can think of many categories of people who are stereotyped to be sensitive, but it would be an insult to every one of them for me to analogize our Whiner-in-Chief to them. This is why I’ve started tweeting with the tag #SnowflakePresident, along with many other tweeters, and every week we will surely have more reasons to do so.

At the same time, perhaps we have been going about this the wrong way.

What is wrong with being a snowflake? Snowflakes are gentle and fragile individually, but powerful in quantity. Snowflakes flutter about every which way, but can thoroughly cover the ground. Snowflakes melt away seemingly quickly, but can quench the thirst of an entire continent for months.

Snowflakes are beautiful both individually and collectively.

And each snowflake is unique.

So, much as the Ctrl-Alt-Right-Delete has worn the label “deplorables” with pride, perhaps we the left should wear the label “snowflakes” with pride. We do not agree with each other. We fall chaotically, clashing with one another more than we clash with our foes. We do not have a controlled message. Some of us stand up tall and some of us hide away meekly. Yet, in the end, we will cover the land; we will drench the land; and we will make the land rich with substantial, permanent waves of change.

Deplorability is an abstraction, a misunderstanding of a misstatement. And they are confined to a basket.

Snowflake Revolution will endure.

Even the Snowflake President is welcome to rejoin us, his original tribe, of course. Then being a Snowflake-in-Chief will no longer be an insult, but a label to be proud of. Something that will go down in history.

On Being a Twitter Troll

So, I tried my hand at being a Twitter troll for a few days. I’ve been posting incessantly, combing through trending topics, chasing after right wingers posting self-satisfied drivel, drafting some meme-candidates, and generally being a pest toward our Troll-in-Chief. And, man, is it hard work! I have a day job, a side job, a health thing, and other responsibilities, and I just can’t keep up with what it takes to be relevant here.

By the time I’ve spotted a trending topic of interest, it’s already on its way down, and, by the time I have a “clever” response, the time has past. Not only that, even if I am on time, I am quickly buried under dozens and hundreds of responses that are just as clever. All this means that, not having a following at all, I have to keep churning out junk, which means that even people who have deigned to follow me get sick of me very quickly. I don’t know how people do this.

Take @RealMikeDoughty, for instance. He is not only tweeting up to a dozen times a day, he is responding to a bunch of people who are tweeting to him, which means he is reading them. He even responded to me, a real nobody! He has posted 1,287 tweets since last October, which is like 100 a day. He is obviously keeping up with current events, and he has a weekly podcast to boot. Now, I suppose this is all he does, and he doesn’t have another job to deal with, so he has an advantage. Still, as much as I disagree with his point of view, this is pretty impressive.

I just can’t do it. I’m on a kick, so I’ll keep up for a while, but I will be done with all this pretty soon, leaving this arena for those who are better suited for it.

Hope you all enjoy it!

Writer

Another prompted writing that I don’t seem to be able to post on Writer’s Digest.


I’m thankful I’m a writer because, otherwise, these cocktail parties would be horrifyingly dull. When Jim and I walk in, and someone introduces me as, “This is Nolan; he’s a writer,” the room suddenly lights up, and all these dull business executives and their dull spouses have something quite a bit less dull to talk about. Jim is a writer, too, of course, but he writes things like reports, executive summaries, and research notes. He is quite good at it, and so are many of his fellow MBAs. But, I’m a bona fide published novelist, and that’s a lot more interesting than annual reports.

The truth is, so many of the MBAs are married to aspiring writers, and so many of the MBAs themselves have at one point in their lives been aspiring writers, their dreams dashed by life circumstances, parental pressure, and unfortunate lack of talent.

The truth is, I have an MBA, too.

“So, a novelist, eh?” said the new guy, whose name I’d already forgotten.

“Not just a novelist. An up-and-coming gay novelist,” said someone’s wife.

I’d rather think that I’ve already arrived, but whatever. “Except I only write about straight people.”

That always baffles them for a moment.

“Their lives are so much more interesting, you see,” I quipped for the hundredth time. Usually, people respond with something like, “What makes you say that?” or, “Surely, that can’t be true!” or, “I have a gay sister.”

This time, the new guy said something new, “Well, it’s because our lives are so dull, that we have to spice it up with things. Don’t you think so, honey?”

His wife didn’t nod. The other wife nodded. Actually, I think she is the colleague, and her husband is the wife. Whatever. He nodded, too. The new guy’s wife’s lips were tightly sealed, and they quivered a little.

The new guy continued, “I have a sister who is gay, and she has this all-gay all-fabulous life with her all-gay friends, and they look like they are doing all sorts of interesting all-gay things, but it’s actually quite boring and predictable, you know, deep down. It’s us seemingly straitlaced people who are into…” Finally catching the expression on his wife’s face, he stopped himself. “… Interesting… things… that novelists write about.”

I decided to help him out. “That’s what keeps me employed,” I said with a thick “gay accent”, which didn’t quite come out right. It was not my native language.

“We’re happy to be of service,” said the new guy with a sinister smile, back to his drunken, inconsiderate self.

The truth is, I only write books about gender-less alien races. If any of these dull people would bother to read my book… Actually, no, I’d rather they didn’t, because then I wouldn’t be able to joke about what I write. It’s not like the royalty check’s gonna be any bigger because an MBA buys a book.

Remembrance of Me

This was written for the Plotto contest week 3 at TinHouse.com. I haven’t written one for week 4, yet…

I’ve also posted an entry for the Writer’s Digest prompts. This week’s topic is “Mystery Cookie.”


“There’s your appointment… OK. All checked in… So… have you seen Remembrance of Me?”

Jonah sneered at the receptionist. Remembrance of Me was a new movie based on a novella that Jonah had written two decades ago. It had been optioned soon after publication, but a successful lawsuit by someone claiming to be the subject of the story—which was complete nonsense—had killed the project and plunged Jonah into heroin addiction, and, here he was, checking in at the methadone clinic for his weekly appointment. The movie concept somehow had been resurrected, but Jonah had absolutely no rights to it anymore.

The receptionist was still waiting for his answer, but, not getting one, gave up. “She’ll be right with you.”


The campaign volunteer was more than happy to give him a button. “Are you registered to vote?”

“Yup,” Jonah lied, contemplating where on his vest to put the button. There were already dozens of buttons there, and Jonah took care not to let any of them overlap. He decided to take off the button for John Edwards, and put the new button in its place. He handed over the old button. “You guys recycle?”

She took it cheerfully. “Sure! And, are you registered in Marion County?”

“No…” His mind clouded over for a second. “I mean… yes.”

“We have some petitions…” She reached for the clipboards behind her.

Jonah left.


The water pipes at the shelter had burst, which meant everyone was turned away. Jonah hated the shelter crowd, and doubly hated walking with the crowd.

“Hey, look! You saw Remembrance of Me, right?” someone asked.

“No!” said Jonah emphatically, but then realized that the question was not directed at him. The snicker that followed, he was sure, was directed at him, but then that’s what his heroin addiction told him; wasn’t that what his counselor would say?

So, he obeyed his heroin addiction that night.


The man who was leaving the restroom as Jonah entered almost pointed at him. That was for sure. But, some vague sense of decorum made him realize that it was best not to do that. Or to say what he was going to say.

Jonah growled at him anyway.

As usual, he did his best not to look at his own reflection behind the sink. Unfortunately, the mirror was very big, very bright, and very enticing. Jonah did his best to resist, and focused on washing the grime off his glasses, but, the act of putting the glasses back on made him look.

And there he was. He thus realized why everyone kept mentioning the new movie, without knowing who he was. The meticulously arranged buttons on his vest, his beard, his glasses, his baldness… he looked exactly the way he had described the main character in his book. Somehow, over the last several homeless years, he had subconsciously made himself over to look like that character.

Jonah scoffed, walked out, and never gave it any more thought.

The Hut

This was written for the Plotto contest week 2 at TinHouse.com. It takes place in a setting for a planned-but-not-yet-written book.


Kshtet surveyed the interior of the hut yet again. After the massacre, the village had been burned down, but many of the huts had survived, some standing alone, some in clumps of several or dozens, by the miracle of Gods…

No, by the miracle of One-God. Despite years of devotion to the words of One-Prophet, old linguistic habits died hard.

And despite years of that burning, heart-felt emotion… Emissary had called this feeling ‘Faith’, but Kshtet knew a better name: ‘Love’. The heart was not the only place where Kshtet had felt this feeling. Love for One-God, for sure. Love for One-Prophet, for sure. But, really, Love for Emissary.

The hut was quite well provisioned. All the food that spoil had spoiled, but there was plenty that do not and so had not. All the necessary tools of cooking, hunting, and cultivating were still there, too primitive for Forces to pillage. Even present were some weapons, primitive and rudimentary, but still capable of killing. Kshtet felt the weight of the peasant-claw in both hands. Just the right weight and just the right length. Sharpened with care.

The battle hadn’t been lost because the peasant-claws had not been sharpened with care. Neither had Believers of One-God been not faithful enough. Even if Kshtet’s faith, personally, might have been misplaced, Forces were not nearly as devoted… and were even more misplaced in their faith, of course. The battle had been lost, instead, because there were to be many more battles, and in the struggle was Faith, and Salvation.

Kshtet felt that heart-felt longing again. The only worthwhile Salvation would entail a reunion with Emissary, in life or in death. And reunion was one promise that Emissary had made. Kshtet just had to wait, and Emissary would arrive.


After rummaging around the other huts, and confirming that there were no other occupants in the village, Kshtet returned with some prize finds. Four unripe melons, and another one that was just about perfectly ripe. Dried meats. Lard-cheese. Fresh pelent leaves still growing in the ground. Some spices, including sep, putii, and knn, the spices of Three Gods, which the devotees of One-God used mixed together, for the three gods were all One-God.

Kshtet set the table for two, and prepared a Petap meal, the way that Parent had taught Kshtet over many years. Another act of defiance, since today was not Petap, and Forces forbade Petap meals on any other day. With the spices defiantly mixed together.

Perhaps Emissary would find this hut, by some miracle, or drawn by the scent of the spices, the scent that said ‘home for the holidays’ to all weary travelers. And there would be a feast. And reunion.

Kshtet smiled.

Phone 2

I’ve started writing stories with prompts from Writer’s Digest. This week’s prompt is “Smartphoney.” I’ve already posted one story there.


“In the old days, we had these things called ‘pick-up coils’. Stick it on the side of the phone and…”

“Shhh. Just get it back, Nolan,” barked Barbara through the in-ear comm.

Nolan didn’t really understand why they had to use this super-expensive technology. As it happened, the suspect had made the incriminating calls in his own office, and it would have been better to plant a cheap, disposable bug. But, no, they had to swap his phone with a replica, connect the real phone to a device that replicated his hand gestures and transmitted the screen images, which meant that the tech people wanted the super-expensive replica back.

He did like the pick-pocketing part of this investigation. His life had turned around thirty years ago when he had been caught snatching the wallet of an off-duty…

The elevator door opened. “OK, here we go.” Nolan walked into the executive suite, and smiled his winning smile at the assistant.

“Hey, Mr. Iwu,” the assistant greeted him with a flirty smile. “He’s expecting you.”

The security guard nodded and opened the door to the office.

“Thank you, Mr. Han.” Nolan flirted back as he entered. “And, thank you, Mr. Ralston.”

The guard nodded resolutely.

Nolan was surprised to see that the suspect was not at his desk. He was not anywhere in his office. “Mr. Beigi? Are you here?” The executive bathroom door was open halfway, and the light was on. Nolan moved closer and peered in. “Mr. Beigi?” He was not in there.

Turning back, Nolan was surprised to find the suspect sprawled on the floor by the desk. He ran over, and found a pool of blood by the head. He crouched down to take a closer look. There was a bullet entry wound. Probably a 9mm, and he saw the gun as soon he made this guess. “Shit!”

“What’s the matter?” Barbara asked.

“He’s dead.”

“Get the phone.”

“You’re cold, man,” Nolan acknowledged, and, as he did so, found the replica in the suspect’s hand. He picked it up, and reached for the real phone in his inside coat pocket, still mated to the replicator.

“Freeze!” said the authoritative voice of the security guard.

Nolan knew not to get his hand out of his pocket. He slowly turned his head around to look at the guard. “Hey, look…”

“I said, ‘freeze’!” He was visibly nervous. He wasn’t sure if he wanted Nolan to move his hands where they could be seen or keep them where they were.

“Look, I’m a Federal agent. If you let me…”

“Shut up!” He wasn’t listening.

“Let me just get my…”

The barrel of the .45 was now shaking. Tense. Nervous. Frightened. “Another word, and I shoot!

“OK! But…”

A shot rang out. Nolan had failed to appreciate how much of a threat he would appear to have been in the surveillance footage.

“Nolan? Nolan? What the…” Barbara’s voice faded away.

Couponing 3

I’ve started writing stories with prompts from Writer’s Digest. This week’s prompt is “Coupon Cutter.” I’ve already posted two stories there, and seem to have reached a limit, so I’m posting the third one here.


That was almost five years ago. I was the villain in the tale, with my Khloé-Kardashian good looks and bitch-wannabe attitude, rubbing the loser’s nose in shit every time I won, Joker-worthy smug grin always on my façade. My woefully inadequate challenger had the Nell-Jones pixie face and the feistiness of Hetty Lange, painfully shy and humble but formidable and beloved by fans and foes, her cocker-spaniel-like super-supportive husband always by her side at the starting line and the finish line.

There was not a single shred of doubt in my mind that I was going to win. And I knew I had clinched it when I saw her coming out of the Jo-Ann’s with three foam boards under her arm. Forty percent off was not going to get her nothing when Elmer’s three-packs sold for less than that at Staples. Rookie mistake.

And here I am, lying in bed, touching the tattoo of her name on the arm of that same super-supportive cocker spaniel, sound asleep.

“Please, don’t do that.” He is ticklish there. Something about an infection and scars.

“Sorry.”

He turns around, still sound asleep… appearing still sound asleep, with his tender, loving, devoted eyes closed slumberingly. “You’re thinking about her again, aren’t you?”

I try to hide my tears that he cannot see by blinking.

“It was not your fault.”

I don’t believe that. “I know.”