Friday night. I blinked, and it was Friday night once more…

My landlords surprised me today by setting up an artificial Christmas tree with some lights and decorations in the living room. It’s cute. Thinking back, I honestly can’t recall the last time there was any sort of Christmas tree under my roof. It’s possible that never actually happened even once since I left Russia in 2003. Huh.

Speaking of my landlords: they’ve just discovered a get-rich-quick scheme: somehow, it’s taken them this long to find out about cryptocurrencies. (Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc) When I ventured downstairs to make a dinner snack, they very excitedly told me that crypto is the future of money, and that it’s an unstoppable investment that can’t possibly lose. Heh. I politely tried to walk them back from the edge of that particular cliff, but I doubt it worked. A few months earlier, I successfully convinced them not to hand over several thousand dollars in exchange for some sketchy course that would teach Mr.Landlord how to use Excel and set him up with a relevant job. (Or so they promised.) The thing sounded as scammy as you might imagine. Oh well, I just hope they don’t get a second mortgage for their newfound crypto dream.

And speaking of pyramid schemes, an online acquaintance mentioned a podcast that sounds absolutely riveting. “The Dream” explores MLMs and pyramid schemes by interviewing the organizers, the regular people who got scammed, the outside experts who study these things, etc. I typically don’t have the time to listen to podcasts, since that requires a big chunk of my attention, and doing little else, but I gave this one a try. The very first episode got me hooked. I look forward to sitting in one place and absentmindedly browsing Twitter for about 16 hours while I listen to everything they ever recorded. I’m relatively good at catching these scams myself, but the more you learn about your enemy, the better off you will be: there is no such thing as too much information when there’s an army of highly charismatic scammers out there.

…a long time ago, shortly after college, when Nevada’s economy was still in god-awful shape, I almost got involved with an MLM scheme. (They were selling sports drinks, I think.) I quickly gathered that my wannabe-recruiters (a young good-looking couple) were broke as a joke when we met at Starbucks, and they ordered plain hot water and made lemonade with their mystery powder. Heh. Or there was the time in Vegas, when I almost joined a little company that was selling some unorthodox type of retirement account investment. (“It never fails 95% of the time! Don’t ask us about the other 5%!”) It was a pretty exciting and interesting day, shadowing a guy who looked just like Nathan Lane in The Producers, until they had a big huddle with all their salespeople later that night. There were about 20 of them, with approximately 200 years of sales experience between them, and only one of them scored a sale over the previous two weeks. I’m not the wisest person out there, nor am I blessed with a lot of common sense, but I knew enough to skedaddle and never return their phone calls. I get a feeling I’ll fall in love that podcast.

In covid news, things are getting ugly with the vaccine prioritization. The American Bankers Association is lobbying the CDC to designate financial workers as essential workers, aka those who would get the vaccine right after the medical personnel and folks over 65. That essential category is not defined, and the process of defining will get messy. For now, the ABA’s proposal is to designate bank tellers and rural bank workers as essential. Given my innate cynicism, I’m positive that a lot of Wall Street traders will suddenly procure paperwork showing they volunteer at a random rural bank in their spare time. I’m curious how this will play out: will they actually go through with this? And if so, will people actually riot, or just accept that as yet another unavoidable humiliation? (Not sure if you know this, but not a single banker spent even a day in jail in the aftermath of the 2008 housing bubble.) Or maybe, just maybe, the ABA will withdraw their request and return to the back of the line. Low odds of that, but who knows. That’s unlikely but not impossible.

As the vaccine rollout gets closer, we’ll see a whole lot more of this. The upside is that future generations of sociologists and anthropologists will get plenty of research fodder on group dynamics, greed, and possibly the origins of riots. The downside is that we’ll all live through this mess here and now, without any chance to fast-forward, nor the luxury of distancing ourselves the way we always do when a historical event from decades past makes us feel just a little bit too uncomfortable.

Stay safe, folks, and enjoy your weekend, eh.