Sunday, June 19, 2022

Losing the Rite of Passage

The following comes from an interview in 2012. I copied it here in case that site ever disappears (again - I think it wasn't there a few months ago when I looked).

Ernest Dempsey — Dave Scotese, founder of the online literary community 
Litmocracy, is a brain at work – whether online or offline. Dave is a software consultant whose interest borders on the language of advanced gadgets, philosophical matters, and the human situation in the broader context. Above all, Dave is a critic gifted with the faculty of looking beyond the obvious. No wonder then that a question I recently happened to ask him led us into talking about power and subordination. Dave pointed to Tolkien's popular fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings in which the bearer of the ring is influenced by its immense power, compelling him to venture into dangerous situations. What parallels we find in our lives with the motifs of slavery, possession, and power are the central element of the following discussion with Dave Scotese.

Ernest: Dave, let's get directly to "power". What does it mean to you and how do you relate it to "authority"?

Dave: Power, to me, is the ability to intentionally cause change. Of course, there are uses of the word that attribute it to things that can't have intention (powerful cars, powerful lights, etc.), but I'm assuming that you mean powerful human beings. So how does the ability to intentionally cause change relate to "authority"? Authority is two-faced. On one hand, the marriage of openness and intellect can make a human being into an authority on whatever subject the human wishes. I am an authority on the computer systems of my largest client. On the other hand, the marriage of secrecy and coercion can make a human being into an authority over other human beings. My father explained a distinction he'd heard from someone that this second kind of authority is "official" whereas the first is not. There is no office that recognizes the authority of an expert whose openness and intellect put him in the position he holds. Without an office to legitimize the use of coercion, however, the other kind of authority cannot exist.  How does the ability to intentionally cause change relate to these two versions of authority? Both kinds are effective at enhancing a human being's power, but one leads to war and the other to peace. Since I believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, it follows that over time, we move closer to peace.

Ernest: What determines whether a relationship—particularly between humans—is one of "master" and "slave"?

Dave: There are many factors that contribute to the division of people into slave/master relationships and the, unfortunately, small minority who refuse the game. At the top of my list are the conditions under which one is raised. While good parents will help turn their children into creatures who will always struggle against slavery, "effective schools" can turn them into creatures who offer up their liberty for security. When such creatures have their own children to raise, the parental efforts to raise free people are much weaker and it takes a loud minority to remind them that individuals do not own each other, and that happiness flows from choice.

The Rite of Passage seems to me to be a point in the life of a child where they are to choose the mindset: Am I to remain a slave to whatever force I think can care for me, or become my own responsible party? I am an example of a creature who will always struggle against slavery, because I saw that choice after I finished college and took the second route. I have enough faith in myself to take the red pill, so I did. I was once an employee; but, since I wasn't playing that master/slave game, I quit when I didn't like the conditions. The same group of people still uses my services, but I have to please them, and they have to please me in return in order for us to continue our relationship. Many people with jobs have replaced their parents with their employer, or their government. They have chosen the blue pill, perhaps because their childhood drained them of faith in themselves. I think most people can see that happen a lot in schools.

Ernest: Let's take the point a little deeper here. Do you see close similarity between the way a computer is programmed and how a child is led into, or away from, a particular way of living?

Dave: Certainly there is a similarity, but it's quite shallow. The intent of the programmer is met to whatever degree the programmer follows the deterministic workings of the machine. The programmer aims to arrange the computer to exhibit certain behaviors. Likewise, a teacher or parent aims to arrange a child to exhibit certain behaviors – at least the poor ones do – but the crucial distinction is the will of the child.  Computers have no will, but children do. The better approach for teachers and parents is to guide that will in achieving whatever goals it sets for itself.

Ernest: How have religions—and I mean organized, institutionalized religions like Christianity, Islam, etc—used and still use the average human through  authoritarianism and dominance?

Dave: Your question makes an assumption with which I strongly agree, but which many people will find offensive. The trick here is to help them see freedom in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote "the law of God is written on the hearts of men." It's actually right there in the book of Genesis too – to eat of the Tree of Knowledge is to claim for oneself a knowledge of Good and Evil. To avoid making a claim for yourself on such knowledge is to discard the gift of self-determination. This is what most religions unfortunately encourage by providing earthly authorities and books (books "authored" by God himself, according to… the books themselves…?) to interpret and explain "the law of God". While religions attempt to make people better at living together in peace, the individual people need to cross that Rite of Passage: if you think a behavior will do more good than harm, but it is "evil" according to your religion, which will you follow, your reason, or your religion? Which does your religion tell you to follow? Don Eminizer interpreted Nietzsche as explaining it thus: Religion tends to replace the self with a godhead.

Ernest: Now from a political angle. In our contemporary, mainly democratic world, we choose our own leaders—at least it appears so—and determine our own laws. Are we "free" in this sense, like living in "self-rule"?

Dave: What the voters of democratic states choose are not leaders, but rulers. Choosing your master does not make you free. It makes slavery more palatable. If that is what we are doing, and many of us appear to be doing that, then it doesn't make us free. "We" is not a conscious being, capable of intent, freedom, or "self-rule". Individuals are required for that. Speaking of individuals and government, Bill Thornton (of 1215.org, an homage to the Magna Charta) explains that a plaintiff is someone who holds a court. A court is a place where the sovereign (aka plaintiff) explains his own laws and then proceeds to publish evidence (to those attending court – a jury nowadays) that a defendant has violated those laws. The jury then decides, primarily whether the laws are just and reasonable; and, if they are, whether or not the defendant violated them and therefore deserves to be coerced into making restitution. If we ran things that way, then we could choose leaders (who can offer guidelines, but not enforce rules), but we wouldn't need elections (your leader doesn't have to be my leader), and we'd still be sovereigns, able to determine our own (individual) laws, and be free. Some of us already do that, and we recognize the state as a criminal violating our laws, but we have no court because there aren't enough of us. However, our number grows: Check out The Dollar Vigilante (http://www.dollarvigilante.com/), the Free State Project (http://freestateproject.org/), and the Fully Informed Jury Association (http://fija.org/).

Ernest: In general, does the contemporary education system—like that in America—serve to enable a child to grow into a truly independent person?

Dave: In general, nowadays, as I mentioned above, it tends to postpone or even suppress the Rite of Passage, leading to the slave/master mentality. However, for those with strong wills, either inborn or developed by wisely challenging parents (as I like to think of myself), school indoctrination can provide a child with opportunities for real learning about the mechanisms of the parasite (another term for "master"), as well as a bit of useful real-world knowledge. This, however, requires constant vigilance on the part of parents and students, lest they be sucked into the trap. For example, Student Body Associations (SBAs) are political organizations that students can apply for and possibly be accepted into, and then enjoy privileges that are available not through the efforts of the SBA, but through the efforts of those who support the educational institution (usually "tax slaves"). By providing the kids with benefits, this leads them to believe that such political arrangements are good. By letting them share in the perks of the master for a while, the slavery system buys their loyalty.

Ernest: Like the ring's power in The Lord of the Rings, is the human fascination with power or mastery a burden that makes life difficult for some segment of our population on this planet?

Dave: I suppose it does, but a warm sun likewise comes as a burden to the vacationer who has finished off his soda. It dehydrates him and will eventually kill him if he doesn't get another drink. If he does get another drink, the warm sun can be converted back into the pleasant life-giver it was in the first place. Likewise, the fascination with power is not the essence of the burden. The essence of the burden is an unwillingness to endure that Rite of Passage through which children become adults. The Ring encourages this unwillingness, either through coercion or the sharing of the master's benefits, and so freer people, whose freedom, by the way, makes them far more prosperous, suffer from hordes of slaves/zombies who, rather than thinking for themselves (fruit of the Tree), follow orders blindly. The Power of the Ring is "evil", but either Frodo or Smeagol could have tossed it into the lava before it took them over. Instead, they fought like children. Every individual has the power to enslave weak-minded people, and any concentration of such power (a state, the Ring) will attract those who wish to use it. Wars are fought in earnest for the tribute of the citizens (tax slaves) in the conquered territory. When there are no such citizens, there will be no point to (earnest) war. Dishonest war, on the other hand, encouraged by the sellers of arms, might still be waged. Better people discard the wish to use concentrations of political power because they recognize the much higher value of people who will always struggle against slavery.

Ernest: So can you think of some forms of power that are essentially constructive – that don't cause people to compromise their freedom?

Dave: The pen, as an open expression of intellect. That better kind of authority leads to "essentially constructive" power. For example, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense, which argued that the American colonies would be better off without Great Britain as a (parasitic) protector. His power came from his healthy understanding of things and his ability to write. Words themselves. Socrates, to my knowledge, never actually used a pen. He asked a lot of questions, and because his questions penetrated, he is regarded as an authority in philosophy. The names and ideas of the people who forced him to drink poison are all but forgotten, but the "Socratic Method" is still widely used to… free people's minds. The essentially constructive forms of power don't just avoid causing people to compromise their freedom, they actually encourage people to defend and strengthen their freedom. This power is based on the mind and its ability to reason, rather than the body and its ability to suffer.

Ernest: And my last question here: as I have read and experienced personally, in the state of creative imagination, we attain freedom—or at least have the illusion that we do. How do you respond to this view?

Dave: Watch the movie Brazil and pay attention to what the protagonist experiences at the end of the movie. His is the pinnacle of freedom. When you reach that place, you no longer have anything desirable to the parasites. When there's no one left for it to live off, it will die. I can't wait!

Ernest: Thank you Dave! It's always a pleasure to discuss questions with you. Hope to have another discussion soon with another topic of human interest.

Dave: Thank you Ernest!  I enjoyed your questions.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Dopamine Trap

Here is a list of things I do from time to time just because I feel like it:
Solve a Wordle puzzle and a Numberle puzzle.
Work on a Nonogram.
Play "Bricks 'n Balls" on our iPad.

There are many other things I could list but I am not listing them because they do not act as dopamine traps as far as I can tell.  A dopamine trap is a thing that will stop a person from getting stuff done.  It works by providing a schedule of dopamine releases.  The brain's default method of providing motivation to the experiencing being using it is to seek dopamine release, and it does an amazing amount of pattern recognition processing to find the things that cause dopamine to be released.

There are some rational foundations for my interest in some of the items in my list.  The puzzles in the first item work different parts of my brain and make for good practice.  Since they help keep me sharp, I indulge myself by playing them.  The nonogram works some important parts of my brain too, so that's also a justifiable indulgence.  There is one minor value related to brain health in the third item in my list, and that is the strategy development for getting enough points to get three stars.  I played the game for probably about 100 hours over the last five years before I realized that I should be using a strategy. Until then, it functioned only to relax my brain, and not even as well as taking a nap would have.

I wrote this to exorcise the time-wasting demon that I think of as "the dopamine trap."  My description of dopamine and how it relates to our brains is from memory and may be slightly inaccurate.  If you know better, please let me know!

Friday, April 29, 2022

What the Trashcan Told Me (4/25/2022)

After my yoga this morning, I stood, as usual, facing the sun feeling gratitude for my experience of life.  I opened my palms toward the sun and took several deep slow breaths.  Then I was done.  There's always a few bits of grass stuck to my hands so I rubbed them together to brush them off.  I turned to continue my walk but in the corner of my eye I saw what seemed to be a person so I looked at it and it was just a trash can.  Then I walked over to it, looked around it and in it and found nothing interesting.  Then I imagined that someone could see me and would come ask if I lost something. The following is how I imagined that conversation might go:

"No, I just noticed this trash can out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a person and I don't think those things are simply random so I came to investigate.  Maybe it was because... you need someone to talk to?"

He thought about it a while and then said "Maybe."

We stood there looking at each awkwardly as I watched his face relax from what seemed to be a grimace.

"My wife is pissed at me.  I don't really wanna talk about it but maybe you're right."

I looked at the ground which I can see is a habit of mine when someone tells me something that is sad for them.  Then I looked back at his face and saw that he was looking for words.

"Uh..." he said, confirming my interpretation.  He looked a little teary-eyed when he said "I actually prayed for help.  She won't answer her phone."

I stayed silent and looked away when he glanced up, and then quickly looked back to see him looking for words again.  I wanted to say "It's okay" to let him know that he had all the time he needed.  I was fulfilling the role assigned to me by misinterpreting a trashcan as a person.  I didn't say it, though, because he could tell and the silence was nice.  Perhaps it was a kind of respite for him.

"I cheated on her and she found out last night and now I'm locked out of our house."  He was holding back tears and stopped talking to suppress them.

I struggled with the idea that I was just there to listen and probably shouldn't say anything.  The words I wanted to say were banging on the inside of my head.  They were also changing.  I didn't know what to say anyway.

"I don't know what to do," he said.

"There are other ways to reach her.  Take an ad out on a billboard she can see, or make an apology and put it on her windshield.  I could keep coming up with ideas but eventually I'd have to charge you for them...  But not today.  Today I figure I should listen to you until you're done talking and that will make me feel like I did something worthwhile today.  So if I come up with more ideas and you like one, AND you're done talking, then I can continue my walk."

I watched him think about it.  I regretted making it sound like I wanted to continue my walk. I did, but I liked the conversation too. There were more words in my head, tempting me.  I gave in.

"You're probably not crying about her or being locked out.  You're crying because you have to hurt someone, either your wife or your mistress, to solve your problem.  The thing about relationships is that they make us better if we can tolerate staying in them.  Everyone fucks up.  Did you ever think she was too cold, she spends all your money, she's ungrateful or just mean?" His expression said yes but I didn't want him to feel like he had to admit it, so I continued.  "We can use these as excuses to hurt the people we love, but hurting them is always a fuckup, and if we're with someone really good, they'll bear the suffering and help us get better. So choose one of them."

"That seems so simple, but I can't," he said, after thinking about it.

Sometimes people tell me things I just don't believe and my strategy is to let their claim hang out, unchallenged, unsupported, and chill for a while.  I think about why they believe this unbelievable thing, and what they might think of on their own that would help them question it.  Sometimes this seems to make them think of it too, and maybe even say it.  Eventually, I figured he's just torturing himself with his inability to choose, so I broke the silence.

"You can't because you're sure that it will hurt one of them.  But then you're already hurting both of them.  If you don't choose, eventually the choice will be made for you, and maybe it won't be either of them.  Maybe it would be easier if you accept that you fuck up and one of them helps you get better.  Whatever you do, if you're going to be with someone, it should be someone who helps you become a better person.  And she should know that she does that, and she should expect better from you, and she probably does.  So give that to her, whoever she is."

We stood there for a few more seconds, both of us looking at the other and then away.  Finally, he said "Thanks," and walked away.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Meet More People. Open Your Mind and Theirs!

I would like more people to see themselves the way I see myself, as a bit of the universe capable of great joy, which realizes that potential and helps others do the same.  I think a great way to go in that direction is to introduce people to the ideas of voluntaryism, Stoicism, gratitude, humility, curiosity, meditation, and knowing oneself better and better.  I have a plan to do that on my daily morning walk. Perhaps that's why you're reading this.

Did I say "Hey, can I give you $10 to read something I wrote?"  Did I then hand you a business card, that said:

Thanks for accepting my offer.  I'd like to start a trend of people who meet in person trading cards like this one so they get to know each other and begin to see value in disparate views of the human condition.  I hope the $10 is enough for you to justify visiting [some URL], and if you see the value in it that I do, perhaps you'll make this same offer to someone else.

What will be at the URL?

Thanks for visiting!  You might have received $10 for reading this, but you certainly have that beautiful curiosity that makes you wonder what else is here.  I'd like to introduce you to the ideas of voluntaryism, Stoicism, gratitude, humility, curiosity, meditation, and knowing oneself better and better.  Each of those items is a link to something about the idea.  If you already agree that a more widespread awareness of and interest in one or more of them will do a "whole lotta good," consider spending $10 to give someone a business card like the one described above.  I bet it works with $1 too.

P.S. I don't have any such business cards yet, nor have I printed this on paper and stuffed the papers into envelopes to carry around tomorrow morning.  I did write what people would find at the URL, and the preliminary text for the business card.  It's progress!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Letter Two to my Future Self

Hello again,

I was just looking for something and ended up stumbling upon something I wrote about the etymology of "Hocus Pocus." If that link doesn't work, check webarchive.org.  I see that it has been saved twice since 2003 when I wrote it.  Just today, a new acquaintance read the previous letter and expressed her feeling that everyone should read it, so I am encouraged.  Thanks, Natalia!  What's amazing to me is that there seem to be parallels between my first letter and that write up about hocus pocus from 2003.

I sit here to ponder for a moment how I might express the parallels and I haven't found anything yet.  Okay, here's one: I treat each claim I make and its opposing claim with equal respect.  I did it in 2003 and I did it nine days ago.  It is my habit.  Okay, maybe not each claim, but at least the ones I think might be important.  I find great value in being precise and accurate.  There are often small benefits to it that we don't see until later, small benefits to treating opposing claims with the same amount of  respect, and also small benefits to being precise and accurate.  Precision and accuracy are different things.  I'll leave it to you to find the differences.

If you don't mind doing homework to get to know me better (or to more quickly regain the ground we lost if this brain already got re-integrated into the rest of the universe), you can visit my page on everything2.com and read through other entries I wrote.  Speaking of which, one of the impactful events in my life was "Nine Eleven."  I compiled a book about it, using the writings of others: Everything2 Remembers September 11, 2001.  In any case, I was inspired to write this letter when I rediscovered the everything2 website.  Here is the list of everything I wrote on that site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dear Future Me, Letter One

The sooner you start reading this, the better.  There are a lot of things to learn and it will take a long time to learn enough of them.  In this letter, I just want to give you some pointers.  Remember yesterday when you made some kind of decision about how you do something?  Maybe you have to go back before yesterday, or maybe you really did make that kind of decision yesterday, but you don't see it that way yet.  In any case, your brain stored it.  You'll wake up every day of your life until and unless you reconsider that decision and change it, and your brain will bring it up each time you need to do that thing.  That's how we all work, and I have been working that way since I was born.  I'm writing you this letter because that brain that stored all those decisions is going to wear out and stop working properly, and this body it uses to do my bidding won't do it any more.

People will tell you things and sometimes you'll believe them even if they aren't true.  We like to build up our sense of self as a person who "knows" particular things, but we don't actually know them.  You "know" your name, but if you choose to ignore people who use it and answer to a different name, then you'll really be changing your name, even if there's no legal name change.  It's not really knowledge, but your decision. You "know" that two and two make four, but again, you decided to use a definition of "two" and "four" that make it so. You "know" that if you drop an egg from six feet above the cement, it will break open when it hits the cement, but someone could catch it and drop it again from a half a centimeter, and then maybe it won't break.  In any case, what you know or think you know isn't what you are.

A guy named Jack Kornfield said "Wisdom says we are nothing. Love says we are everything. Between these two, our life flows."  In my experience, he's right, and so you can choose to be nothing or everything, honoring either the claim that love makes or the claim that wisdom makes.  Over time, you can honor them both.  This will help you have humility, avoid being egotistical or selfish in the way that degrades your experience of life, and it will teach you.

Think about the things you "know" as either definitions or working assumptions.  Be spry and adaptive.  Sometimes people will use words in a way different from how you use them.  Be curious and kind as you explore what they mean, and gently invite them to appreciate how you would interpret what they say given your way of using those words.  This opens up great conversations about language and understanding.  When you talk to someone who uses a particular word differently from how you use it, try to stick with their meaning, and use different words when you want to use it in your normal way.  This will help to avoid confusion and arguing.  The beautiful thing about a working assumption is that when you get the right kind of evidence, it's easy and natural to update the assumption.  If you pretend that your working assumption is something you "know," then you will resist some kinds of evidence that show imperfections in your "knowledge."  This is called "cognitive dissonance."

What you are is nothing and everything.  If you want to keep learning, remember that whatever you feel like you know can become ever more accurate if you leave it open to adjustment by calling it a working assumption.  Your skill at living will get better faster when you do these things, and I have one last request.

If you can put these two ideas into your own words and tell them to other people, and then ask them to do the same, we will have created an oral tradition.  It will be largely immune to the degrading influence of political authority and also to the petrification that happens over time.  These two forces, I think, have a strong negative effect on the experience of life.  At some point, I hope it will make sense that you and I are one, that we thought up this letter long before either of us was born, and that the wisdom of it wended its way through time, into my mind, out my fingertips, and now is something you can extend to our future selves.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Master Swindlers

This is a true story.  The names and natures of the characters have been changed to protect the innocent.

They set up a printing press in the back of a bank.  They each hired an artist to craft a boilerplate that contains a mark nearly impossible to duplicate.  They print IOUs for the bank to give its loan customers in order to charge those customers interest on the IOUs.  They found some mercenaries willing to accept the IOUs as payment.  The mercenaries threaten anyone that refuses to accept these IOUs as payment of a debt.  The master swindlers are named Sam and Earl.

The essence of this swindle is the ability to print the IOUs and then go buy stuff with them.  The bank and the mercenaries are only required because if people cottoned on to the scheme, they would be angry and demand retribution.  Sam and Earl have to be careful because if they print too many IOUs, their swindle will become obvious.  This has happened to several other swindlers, including fellows named Geronimo in 1922, Argus in 1989, and Ukiah in 1993.  Their swindles hinge on an ever more precariously balanced knife-edge called perception.  Sam has proven to be the best at this balancing act.

Sam and Earl have been doing this for several years, parleying their success into larger and larger amounts of control.  Banks that were able to resist the mercenaries have all but vanished.  People who used actual commodities or paper representations of actual commodities to pay down their debts to each other have also all but vanished.  The world has become Sam and Earl's oyster.

However, they have bumped heads recently becaue of olives.  The people that borrow and save their money using banks that Sam's mercenaries control and the people that borrow and save their money using banks that Earl's mercenaries control all like olives.  Olives are delicious, nutritious, and provide useful byproducts.  Everybody loves olives.  So owning an olive tree is a great thing, and lots of people own one or more.

There are people that use olives as money, but the olives are slippery and the weight of the olives you have to pay for a car makes olive-trading very cumbersome.  There are some, but not many.  Most people who own olive trees collect IOUs for their olives.  Some collect Sam's IOUs and some collect Earl's IOUs.  This is a problem for Sam because before Earl showed up, Sam's IOUs were the shit.  Everybody wanted them.  Everybody needed them.  They were in demand, and so Sam was able to run his presses and buy lots of stuff for himself and his friends without worrying too much about getting caught.

But as more and more people decided to trade their olives in for Earl's IOUs - namely Ira and his brother Ira - the demand for Sam's IOUs went down.  When Sam's IOUs go down in value, he has to print more of them to maintain his lifestyle.  It's starting to prove more and more of a problem for Sam to balance on the ever sharpening knife-edge of perception.  So, a couple years ago (2003), Sam decided to pay a visit to Ira.

"I don't want you collecting Earl's IOUs for your olives any more, Ira" said Sam.

"But your IOUs are not worth very much any more, my friend.  Earl's IOUs are very important to all the people that live near me."

"Well, Ira, then I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to tell my people that you have some terrible three-letter acronym that requires me to take over your orchard."

"Sam, you can't do that!"

But Sam did it anyway, and the mercenaries came, and the mercenaries dug up the irrigation systems and the olives began falling off the trees and decaying in the sand.  Then Sam's mercenaries installed a new irrigation system and took the olive collecting equipment from Ira's employees and told them how to use it (though they already knew) and when to use it (though they already knew) and where to use it (though they already knew).  And Sam's mercenaries told them to trade the olives for Sam's IOUs and not Earl's.  And they did this.

Ira is a mess.  He gets some sun, and it shines, but it does not warm him.  He takes baths, but they do not clean him.  He eats curds, but they do not fill him.  He is wasting away and the world blames Sam.  Sam admits that there was no terrible three-letter acronym, but claims that something was wrong with Ira's olives, and now it has been fixed.  The people are suspicious of Sam's claims, but he prints IOUs for them and they believe their prosperity is a result of his wonderful printing press and his amazing artist and his heroic mercenaries, so they bury their suspicions in holly and encase the holly in wood and laugh and sing about it all.

But Ira has a brother, and they have cousins, and friends, and these people own olive trees, and Sam is yelling that there's something wrong, something fishy, some short fuse, some nucleus of error that has spread to the other Ira's olives and threatens to spread to olive trees everywhere.  And Sam is right.  The olive trees are infected.  But Sam's game is coming to an end, because the only two people that had ever died from bad olives were Hiro and Nagasa, and the olives they ate came from Sam himself.

Swindlers - the best swindlers - do whatever it takes to keep their game going.  Earl and Sam are beginning to work together these days, because their squabble over whose IOUs are used to trade olives pales in comparison to the problem they'll have when people understand their scheme.  But Sam still pursues the Ira who still sells olives, and what happens between those two, we will have to wade into the murky future to find out.  But let us remember Sam and Earl, and do what we can to steer clear of them.  If we get mixed up with swindlers, we're asking for trouble.  Oh yes, Sam and Earl are in for trouble when this story gets out.