The Mask (you’d better hope) I Live In

Christina Hoff Summers has a nice little piece on a new flick by Jennifer Newsom called “The Mask You Live in.”

It’s a take-down, to be sure, but it’s a pretty gentle takedown, and I think that’s appropriate.  I’m going to pile on as well, and equally gently – I won’t even put in my usual snarky pictures.

 Newsom, while hewing strongly to the weird anti-science cult of male and female psychological equality, is, I think, a fairly mainstream feminist, unlike an outright manhater like Hanna Rosin or Andrea Dworkin, or any of their ilk.  Unlike the latter crowd, Newsom’s not vicious – her work drips with actual, albeit misplaced, concern for young boys.

I’d like to suggest that Newsom’s work, though, is fundamentally dangerous, and while all reasonable feminists can look at somebody like Rosin and say “okay, that’s getting her grant money but really isn’t helping the conversation,” that what Newsom’s suggesting is not only misplaced, but if achieved would fundamentally overturn both society as we know it, and more importantly in this context, society as feminists would like it to be.

I won’t waste a lot of virtual ink on defending the assertion that men and women are cognitively different.  Any reasonable search through scientific literature demonstrates this — in spades.  I’m going to simply take a single “masculine virtue” — that of emotional restraint  — and lay out why it’s crucial that real feminists accept that what I put in quotes up there need not be heresy.

Sex:

Let’s talk sex and violence, because they’re big parts of feminist discourse.  Gals:  ever have one of those days when you’re just PINING to get home so you can trip your Significant Other and beat them to the floor, or walking around feeling like a cat in heat wishing you had a significant other to trip and beat to the floor?  Now, you personally may not have — you may have a very mild libido, and there are plenty of gals that do.  But there are plenty of gals who don’t, too.  I went to college with a gal who’d crinkle up her hands like a mock villain and say “LUST” and go hit stuff before grimacing and getting back to her Madam Bovary assignments.  Well, especially around ovulation, gals get those spikes because your testosterone goes up, right?  That’s why kissing is such a thing — your sex drive spikes after good kissing b/c you’re getting testosterone from the dude you’re kissing. 

Multiply that by a factor of not one, not two, not five, but TEN, and you get “the average guy’s average day.”

Violence:

Testosterone plays a part here, too.  Ever had a day when, to quote the many pictures floating around Facebook, you’re of the assumption that breaking that person’s face open with a stapler or screaming bloody murder at them at minimum sounds like a completely viable option?  When you’re walking around on a hair trigger getting ready to RIP THE HEADS OFF anybody who gets in your way?

Yeah.  Testosterone and its ability to turn you into a white-hot killing machine.

Multiply that by a factor of ten, and you get “the average guy’s average day.”  We’re not even talking ‘roid-rage here, just “business as usual.”

“Masculine Virtue”

  Here’s the part where I try to sell you on the notion that you as a feminist should not only not be offended, but maybe even appreciative of what I just put in quotes (and the implication that its gender-corollary might exist as well).  What do you call a male who gives easy and casual rise to his feelings without restraint?  Well, usually we call him to help him arrange his parole meeting. (We also call him “bad at sports,” but that’s a more trivial issue.)

Violence?  Prison is full of men with a heavy potential for violence and terrible impulse control.  Right or wrong, women often get cut slack for initiating violence that would land a man in jail or in prison.  Part of how that’s right is the fact that men are rocking denser bones and 40% greater skeletal musculature.  Contrary to Hollywood stereotype, there’s nothing physically difficult about an average man hitting another average man with something heavy and then stomping him to death, and if sufficiently angry, the average man is not only capable of killing the average woman with his bare hands, but trivially capable of doing so — the differences in strength and leverage make it a non-issue. Those narrow shoulders and low center of mass may be good for skeeball and hip throws, but make no mistake, a guy’s wide shoudlers and high center of mass means that even an untrained hook packs a lot of “owie.”

But most men never do that. The closest most men get to initiating violence is either defending others as part of military/law-enforcement, or else to swing their kids around by their feet while their mommies cringe and the  little turds cackle maniacally begging “do it again!” like a broken record.

Sexual impulse control?  A man should have the sexual restraint to be able to be so on fire with lust that it physically hurts, and yet behave like a complete gentleman while keeping his hands to himself.  And the vast majority of men do just that.  Now, we agree that women should have such restraint, too. 

If a gal gets to the point of trembling and shaking and hurting with lust and can’t help herself, we don’t freak out.  But we don’t merely encourage that same restraint among men — we MANDATE it. Society frowns on rape, and if you’re that brand of feminist with an expansive definition of rape  who defines “I’m burning with lust but know that if I touch her like X, Y, and Z, she’s won’t be able to help herself and will give in even though it really isn’t what she wants to do” as a form of sexual-assault-by-means-of-psychological-pressure, you also are MANDATING restraint as a masculine virtue (while simultaneously cutting your sisters slack for not having it, and classifying “well, she should have said ‘no’ ” as supportive of ‘rape culture.’).   You’re a feminist, but your differing standard means you’re not being an egalitarian.

Dworkin, Rosin, & Company hate men – they want to burden men with dramatic feelings of guilt for simply having a sex drive and wanting to look at a boob or a butt.  They’re not looking for equality with men — they want to destroy them.  But both society in general and mainstream feminism still agrees that this stuff needs to be controlled.  There are times when my wife will be very sad if I have no interest in looking at her butt…. but for most gals, most of the time, it’s “hey buddy, my eyes are up here” country, right? 

And that’s what Newsom, as part of the anti-science-equal-means-identical cult doesn’t get.

If you as a feminist want a world in which men don’t catcall, and you as a feminist want a world that minimizes boobstare, you need men to exercise and be good at emotional restraint.  If you want a world in which the 3% or whatever it is of men who do rape are as good at keeping their hands to themselves as everybody else is, and a world in which angry, frustrated, suffering men (the same ones who are way more likely to become victims of suicide) don’t haul off and knock the crap out of the women in their lives as an outlet, Male Emotional Restraint is both a Male AND a Feminist Virtue.  And rather than castigate society for how men teach their sons and brothers and male peers to develop it, perhaps a better take would be to find those who lack it, and help them to develop more of it.

The ancient wisdom of sausage

“Sausages without mustard is like war without fire.”

sausages

Yet More Infantilizing of “da yutes”

Saw this article at the same time as the daughter of one of my friends up in Canuckistan just became a teeenager, and all I could think was “Aww, not this shit again.” 

Let’s be clear.  There IS no such thing as a “teen brain.”

There is also no scientific legitimacy whatsoever to these arguments.  While some individuals mature (and age) more rapidly than others, the notion of the Teen Brain is bunk.  What there IS, on the other hand, is a fundamental insult built into our society.

It’s amazing how much “mature wisdom” resembles being too tired.  — Robert Heinlein

At or around 16, you’re an adult.  But chances are, you attend a government school, which under “no tolerance,” can do anything ranging from sentencing you to slave labor for swearing (aka, you swore in school, so now you must come in and help the District inventory its textbooks on Saturday) to expulsion for daring to defend yourself against an assailant (or, as colloquially known today, a “bully”: somebody who won’t be defused with words, yet who you are forbidden to counter with force). 

You’re sexually material, more or less as intelligent as you will ever be in your entire life, and just ITCHING to actually get out and do/see/achieve.

But

  • You can’t rent an apartment.
  • You can’t buy a car.
  • You may have wine with your dinner, if your parents provide said wine to you.
  • If you’re sexually active, you can’t have sex with anybody outside of an extremely narrow age range (and then everybody’s going to look the other way and pretend it’s not happening), or else your lover goes to prison.  If you’re not sexually active, you have a front-row seat for your clueless friends lurching from disaster to disaster, sometimes causing each other real harm.
  • You can’t start a business (because….) You cannot sign a legally-valid contract.
  • You most likely attend a school where you have less personal freedom than if you were in prison.

And people wonder why teenagers are angsty and pissed-off all the time.

600 years of financial history, and you people still think Central Banking is a good idea? 

By the time 90% of people are 16 or 17, they are adults in every sense of the word, but their emotional maturity is relatively low, not because there’s a “teenage brain,” but because these people have not exercised any meaningful responsibility or authority, nor suffered the consequences (positive and negative!) from having done so.  And by and large, that’s because society has forbidden them from doing so.  That’s mostly because years of schooling have been extended dramatically, so people aren’t getting married as early as they used to.  Teen marriages are rare now.

But those extra two years have also come to stand for “these are the years I experiment and make terrible mistakes while still being close enough to the nest that tigers don’t eat me.”

Make it to 18, however, and you get to hunt pop-stars.

So… what to do?

Pretty simple, actually:

  1. Avoid the obvious traps — motherhood? GREAT!  Single motherhood?  Not so great.  Does it beat murdering the baby? Obviously.  But the statistics speak for themselves.  Your absolutely charming friend who’s always making you laugh but whose life is a disaster and who always seems to bring out the worst and/or the lazy in others?  He’s fun, but he’s not your friend — enjoy his company…at arm’s length.
  2. Accept and Understand the opposite sex for who they are, rather than who you want them to be, and put some effort into figuring out who would make a good mate (even if you’re not going on the market yet, proper husbanding and proper wifing is a skill – being able to recognize IMMINENT-DISASTER-MAN/WOMAN is a very important skill).  Women are the gatekeepers of sex. Men are the gatekeepers of commitment. That’s why each tends to seek what the other offers.
  3. Have a plan – it will probably vaporize on contact with reality.  Life does that.  That’s not a bad thing — often it’s because reality gives you more and better options than you originally perceived.  Drift through high school and/or college?  Sure, if you want to be a barista.  Get the best education you can personally afford, and have some practical fallback skill upon which you can depend if things go sour.
  4. Be willing to bust your ass.  It takes ten thousand hours to develop a skill.  And that’s not ten thousand hours of half-assing, either — those who offer shortcuts are almost always offering a quick trip to kicking superficial ass.  Learn to do it the hard way. Boring doesn’t have to be bad — that’s a mental thing, and you can play judo with it.  Also, it teaches impulse control, and sadly, that’s every bit as important as those 18th-century stodges said it was.
  5. Pay attention to your elders — but don’t follow them blindly, either.  We know a lot, but … there’s no nice way to say this, so I won’t.  Quite frankly, the vast majority of us are a lot more full of shit than we want to admit, yours truly included.  A beard does not make a philosopher.  And society is in the middle of huge changes for which many of your elders are not only completely unprepared, they’re also completely in the dark about what’s actually happening, and why.  Many of today’s policies are biased heavily in favor of the aged (which is fine), but at the blatant expense of the young (that’s not fine).
  6. Know yourself.  And once you know your strengths and weaknesses, get out of your comfort zone.  Suck at math?  Deal with it, and start treating algebra like a jigsaw puzzle or crossword.  Good at math, hate talking to people?  Suck it up and force yourself to network, thinking about who you know might be able to help who-else you know.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and you can’t change and stay the same.  These and other cheesy aphorisms are actually really goddamned important things you have to understand if you don’t want to have somebody else dictating the terms of your life to you.
  7. SEEK RESPONSIBILITY.  And encourage your friends to do the same thing.  You cannot have “lessons learned” until you’ve actually got skin in the game and the prospect of a real win or real loss that can’t be papered over or explained away.  Even if it’s only a case of “he earned first-chair clarinet, and I’m stuck at second for another year.” 

Those who give you trophies just for showing up, who seek to coddle and infantilize you, however well-meaning they may believe themselves to be, are your enemies, not your friends.

Yes, I AM, in fact, looking at your ass.

In which I once more solidify my place as the least popular man in America…

I read something the other day which said that men get roughly the same endorphin rush off of looking at pretty women as women get from eating chocolate.

I have no idea if that’s true or not. But if it IS, it explains an awful lot.

Like why I’m sitting in the parking lot at the drugstore playing “amber lamb paper-bag-puppet” with my four-year-old girl, and stop to think to myself “yes, that is the definition of a bubble-butt, and I approve” before going on with the sorts of hijinx that makes four-year-old-girls snort and giggle — mostly Daddy being politically-incorrect and not letting visitors come in the house unless they wipe their butts after going potty.  And no, visiting puppet, “sometimes” doesn’t cut it.

Mistakes were made.

Mama never talks like that, but hey, Daddies are little girls’ introduction to Planet Male.

I was thinking about what I’d read when I went back to “let’s keep the kid giggling and screaming in faux-hysterical outrage” when I noticed a guy in a pickup truck, also in the parking lot… smoking a cigarette, and watching the same gal.  Now, let’s be clear.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong — as my four regular readers know, I’m not about to start apologizing for having been born with testicles, and I’m not about to lash into this other guy for being male either.  Because last I checked, that’s not a crime.  Yet. Mostly.  It’s not even a crime yet to say you’re a guy and want to get laid.

Despite her best efforts.

But it did occur to me that if there had been “eyeball lasers,”  or “eye lines” as my kid puts it, this gal, who was not exactly a looker but was by far the most interesting thing to look at in the drug-store parking lot  (in addition to having a perfect bubble-butt in spite of also having an adorable kid in tow — props to you, lady, whoever you are!), that there probably would have been two or three other lines going on as well.  Not all of the eyeball-lasters, of course, would have been fired by men.

Now, on the other hand, I’m not even vaguely apologetic about checking somebody out – for better or for worse, men judge women’s beauty based on their physical appearance.  Tell a woman that a guy is rich, and she instantly perceives him to be more attractive.  Tell a guy that, and he doesn’t give a shit – he may respect her for her achievements, or want to cadge on her bank account, but it will have zero influence on whether he rates her as attractive or not.  It all goes back to that whole perpetuate-the-species thing.

Ow.

A rich guy is likely to take care of your kids much better than a poor guy….but whether you survive childbirth in the era before modern medicine is pretty much a game of physical and genetic fitness.  Now take the above picture, and figure out what the male side looks like now that we’re rocking a 30%+ obesity rate (“just plain fat” seems to be around 75% where I live), and you can figure that there’s a lot of gals falling off the right-hand side of the cliff and screwing up the system.   And since we don’t have effective cloning tanks and still perpetuate that species by, you know, fucking — well, nowadays, that leads to problems.  One of which being, all the guys were looking at ONE gal, rather than all the gals – because, well, chubby-chasers are out there, but there are way fewer of them than there are obese women nobody wants to look at.  Oops. Judgments.  Yeah, that’s harsh, but in the actual real world, people make judgments constantly.  And they’re not all on the same page, either….

OUCH.

Not everybody’s comfortable with getting checked out.  This photo makes the rounds a lot.  Dirty secret, for those SWPLs who would never DARE to lower themselves to eat at a Hooters, is, not only are the buffalo wings really damned good, but for the most part, the gals working there are pretty happy and well-adjusted, too.  And it’s not an act — anybody who’s been in the restaurant business for ten whole minutes can tell when their wait-staff is actually glad to show up, versus when they’re looking to cut and run and will probably do a crap job on the side-work at the end of their shift.  But let’s look at the other gal in this pic for a minute.

She’s MISERABLE.

And let’s be sympathetic, rather than snarky to that.  The “misandry” folks are out to lunch here.  Emotions do not have moral value, and her emotions in this pic are deserving of considerable sympathy.  Empathy, maybe, maybe not, but let’s go there for a minute anyway, shall we?  Not all women are comfortable getting checked out, or comfortable getting looked at by men.  That’s especially the case when gals assume that a guy’s interested in a woman just because he checks her out (hint, ain’t so). If you’re a chick, and you know a dude, I guarantee you he’s checked you out.

Guys adore women who are comfortable with that and who can realistically accept guys for who and what they are, without assigning them false attributes (in either the positive or negative direction).  Gals are checking you out, too — only instead of your “display,” (biologically speaking), she’s checking you out as a competitor.  That’s why hell hath no fury like a group of plain women suddenly having to interact with a stunningly beautiful woman.  I’m not the only person who’s been a witness to rafts of just truly UGLY rumors and horrible gossip being spread by X women about Y woman for no other reason than that they can’t stand her being more attractive than they are.  It’s real.

A woman who’s not comfortable with living in a society of men checking her out?  Ouch.  Where’s she going to hide?

The answer here isn’t for anybody to apologize, unless you’re the sort of doof who stares at a gal’s tits while she’s talking to you, because what are you, fourteen?  You look at her tits when she’s talking to somebody else.  Sheesh, dude.  Have some class.  I think the answer here is mutual understanding and patience.  Gals need to understand that a lot of men think that women are, to put it bluntly, a royal pain in the ass, and that their interest in getting laid is the only reason our species even survives.  Checking women out is baked into the cake, and needs to be.  Ladies need to understand this.

And it wouldn’t hurt the dude in the pickup to realize that yeah, the gal with the bubble-butt and the adorable kid might have issues, doesn’t understand men, or, for whatever reason, isn’t really down with that, to be a bit more subtle and make her day a little easier in the process.  Compliment her earrings; talk about something adorable your wife did.  Communicating “I am not a threat” isn’t hard.  You don’t kick a man when he’s down, and you don’t pick a scab when it’s raw… a little mutual understanding and sympathy goes a long way.

How to make Tedium rock

“Oh, God, this is SO Annoying!”

How many times have you heard or thought that?

A lot, I bet.  I get it during data entry.  Or helping out the online gaming world I was involved with, when hundreds of item blueprints needed to be made.  Or, as every teacher knows and dreads… grading.

I mean, hell, that’s why Scantron exists, right?  Lazy teachers who “don’t wanna.”

Once you start down the Dark Side, forever will it control your destiny.

But there’s something about tedium that’s really neat.

Tedium is exciting.

Yes, Happycrow was voted “least in need of LSD” back in school.

Wait, What?

That’s right.  Tedium is exciting.  Here’s how it works.  No, really, what I’m about to show you will take the worst chore of your life and make it totally palatable, like putting mental bacon on it.

Take some really shitty, godawful, horribly tedious task.  The sort you’re doing to do, all the while your forebrain screams at you “DON’T WANNA DO IT.”  You’ll hate doing it.

Mostly because you’re letting your forebrain scream “don’t wanna do it” at you.

Now, here’s what you’re going to do.  DIVE IN.

While you’re doing it, pretend what you’re doing is a very specific form of dance or meditation, and focus on doing it as effortlessly and efficiently as possible.  Fewest mouse clicks, most effortless sweeping, fewest folds until the kid’s underwear is piled neatly, whatever it is.  FOCUS ONLY ON THAT.

About forty minutes in you’ll notice that your pulse is up, and you’re WAYYY more alert than you usually are.  And when you get towards the end of your job, your pulse is really going to go up, not just a little bit, but like you were watching the COOLEST MOVIE EVER.

Like this, only with sex, football, AND giant robots. And puppies.

See, the reason you get bored and hate doing tedious tasks is that they don’t do much for your forebrain.  Your forebrain would really rather be doing something else.  But.. you know, red paper, green stamp, blue box, what’s in it for Mister Forebrain?  Nothing, and it knows it, so it tells Miss Amygdala, “DON’T WANNA.”  And Miss Amygdala responds with “I HATE this, I’m SO bored, GOD, kill me NOW.”

And then you’re miserable for four hours AND did a shitty job, too.  Otherwise known as “force a small child to clean up their legos.”

But by embracing the tedium and focusing not on how stupid and robotic it is, but focusing on doing it as effortlessly as possible, your forebrain goes into “I’m the boss” mode, and monitors what you’re doing.  The rest of the brain could give two shits anyway, and by the time you’re done, so far as it’s concerned, you just did two hours of intricate dance and are PSYCHED ABOUT LIFE.  It’s like a triple-espresso and a rave all rolled into one.  You feel better, you LOOK better (bored looks old, and not “good old,” either].  Plus, you get clean laundry.

And a much better attitude, which people pick up on.  People are nicer to you when your body language says “I’m awesome and I just kicked ass!” than when it says “I hate my life and don’t want to pick up my legos.”

Yeah, nice to see YOU, too.

Direct Sales, Introverts, and the Onrushing Future

This post is going to ramble a bit, so bear with.  As usual, actual points will be made as the ramble unfolds.

There’s a couple things I want to do that are above and beyond where my salary is going to get me.  One of which is to either home-school my kid, or get her into a good private school, and the other of which is get my wife back to see her Dad in Hungary a lot more often than our middle-class salary can afford.  So as a side gig, I’ve started selling electricity on the side for Stream Electric, via their marketing arm, Ignite.  They’re basically the world’s biggest direct-sales electric company.

Currently we can sell in a number of states, and have put in a couple of nice tricks.  Just like Mary Kay that my Mom sold, and Pampered Chef that a couple of my buddies do now, they give cool bennies to their sales dudes — but instead of getting free makeup or cookware, so long as I can keep fifteen customers in good standing, they comp my electric bill – there’s a few technicalities and small print, of course, because our local (ridiculously-) hardworking poles-and-wires guys at Encore gotta eat, too, but it’s a great perk.  And in TX with it’s 105 summer days, that’s a bennie which is pretty freaking cool.

[obligatory spam] So if you read my blog and generally think I fail to suck, recommend me.  My kid and father-in-law will thank you. [/obligatory spam]

I like these guys, for a bunch of reasons, and in general, I like direct sales and network marketing.  Let me explain why… because there’s a deeper point about the future — we’re going to see a lot more of this.  Paying extra to your sales guy directly makes a lot more economic sense than slapping a banner on a stadium and hoping name recognition will keep your business afloat.

Stream and Ignite have a typical network marketing structure intended to help people get in by creating a sales structure rather than one guy trying to get a bazillion and a half customers, and part of that is because that gets you better customer service over time.  One of the things I’ve learned working in a sales office and learning how to fake being an extrovert (exhausting for an extreme introvert like myself, but it’s important for a person to get out of their comfort zone, especially if they ever do classroom/teaching/lectures, which, well, I do).  After all, if you get service through a huge corporation, and you have trouble with billing, what do you get?  A toll-free number and a hot date with Girl From Ipanema.  You’re my customer, and you have a billing problem?  You call me.  And I’ll get to work on making sure you get taken care of.  Which strikes you as the better deal?

Geezers tripping down Nostalgia Lane excepted, of course.

On the other hand, a lot of network marketing guys are, well, let’s be honest, Ponzi Schemes (cough-Herbalife-cough).  They’re mostly selling to the folks who sign up for them.  Stream isn’t doing that.  In fact, next spring, assuming the program’s worked right, they’re rolling out that to their customers directly.  Recommend enough folks who pay their bills on time, and you the customer get your bill comped, too.  In other words, they’re seriously doubling down on the idea that they want to really be a player with customers, not simply selling to their sales guys like some of the other, shadier mlm/network-marketing folks out there (That’s right, Herbalife, I’m looking at YOU).  In fact, as D Magazine noted a couple years back, their commitment to customer-base, rather than ponzi, growth nearly killed the company early on.

In this case, “Nothing fails like success” almost turned prophetic.

Now for me, who likes direct sales/network marketing, but HATE scams and bullshit in general (I mean, come on, my job as a history professor was more or less nothing BUT teaching my students to think critically and sniff out bullshit).  The interesting thing, in terms of reaching out and talking to folks hasn’t been talking to various sales folks (all of whom get this), but the fact that that most of my friends are ALSO serious introverts, several of whose reaction to hearing what I’ve been up to has been to immediately wall up and completely shut down ALL conversation for the space of fifteen minutes or so.  And one of the dudes to do this is himself a serial entrepreneur, (aka, somebody who gets this stuff!) who STILL couldn’t bear to hear it.  Which is really interesting, because I am completely convinced that introverts are the people most inclined to profit from this sort of thing, precisely because every man-jack of us is allergic to “bullshit for the purpose” and HATES being “sold at.”  Tell somebody who’s an extrovert “hey, this call’s not personal per se, I’m calling to see if you can help me out and pitch something at you,” and your extrovert goes “yeah, sure, hit me.”  Because she’s happy to hear from you in the first place — connection, not content, is her Gold Standard.

Your introvert goes “wait — the only reason you picked up the phone is to SELL ME?!  DIE!!

Introvert just before deploying her devastating EYEBALL-CANNON OF SCORN.

But in spite of that, I have hopes.  Part of which is, sooner or later, once you can get past an introvert’s amazingly-active bullshit filter (seriously, we can smell “fake” at fifty paces), they’re often intensely curious, and they’re also much more sensitive to how the people they’re talking to actually feel and what they need.  They just don’t like getting sold at.  Which brings me to the second part, and the question some people may be asking now… “wait, if the author himself is a hardcore introvert, why does he generally like network marketing?”

That’s because yours truly is a historian and has a somewhat-more-keen-than-usual sensitivity for change over time.  And part of that is the understanding that, prior to the 20th century, almost ALL marketing and ALL business, unless you were a farmer, a laborer, or in a few niche trades, was network selling.  Corporations have only been a thing recently, and corporations which could shove aside any and all competitors due to the price advantages of mass production and mass distribution networks, are quite new in human history.  Did you sell wool?  Make clothes?  Make bacon?  Chances are, you relied on word of mouth, and definitely the strict line between the commercial and the personal that we perceive in the beginning of the 21st century didn’t exist.  Because the entire middle class was made up of entrepreneurs — when there’s no such thing as a corporation, and your business was dead as soon as you were by definition, entrepreneurship was the name of the game.

This isn’t how your great-great-grandma sold pies. YUM, PIES…

The increasing decentralization of production in the 21st century changes things.  Yeah, we’re not quite to the stage of one-off custom cars and computers being competitive, and there’s a good chance we won’t get there because they’re a category good rather than an actual product.  Otherwise, though, have you noticed lately how “mass production” increasingly stands for “useless crap I don’t actually need?”  We’re entering a stage where we can shop out and find things which are the design and model we specifically need, and increasingly, we can go out and find craftspeople and cottage-industry people who can make us specifically the stuff we need.  Remember twenty years ago when shopping meant “let’s go to the mall and see if any of the crap there is actually something I would think about wearing?”  Yeah, instead, now you get kickass companies like Eshakti that let you get the insanely-cute dress you want without leaving your home, and which increasingly are built around letting you put together exactly what it is you wanted in the first place.

Seriously. Just LOOK at this owl dress. Is that not Teh Kyoot?

Facebook may be spamming you with all sorts of links you could give a complete rat’s ass about… but the whole “hey, I recommend this because I think it’s cool?”  Yeah, we do that.  And we’re doing a LOT MORE OF THAT.  I’ve referred potential customers to entrepreneur buddies of mine, potential creative gigs to my animator buddy, all sorts of stuff like that.  I do more of that than I can shake a stick at…because they’re my buddies.  Duh.

So, while the Arabs may be right about “getting sold” when they say “only the Devil recommends himself,” saying “hey, this OTHER guy is pretty darned cool, go buy stuff from him,” THAT is already well in swing. The historical pendulum is swinging back towards the middle, and blurring the lines.

Even among us introverts.

Though it’s still WAY harder to sell electricity than an awesome t-shirt about velociraptors.

Government Shutdown and Battlespace Preparation

So, we’ve been “shut down” (meaning not everybody is funded and working) for two days now.

The media, of course, is losing its little minds over this affair, but let’s put this in perspective:  the “shutdown” isn’t important, except insofar as those Republicans who aren’t wholly-owned subsidiaries of Wall Street intend to remind the country, and particularly the Beltway Bandits, of Constitution 101.  Aka, the House controls spending.  What gets spent, and on how much is directly controlled by the House, as an additional layer of defense both against executive usurpation, and against tyrannical laws which can’t be enforced without the lifeblood of currency.

That’s not really what this is about, however.  If it were, President Obama wouldn’t have laid down the “not going to negotiate” marker in public over a month ago.

The President laid down that marker because the debt-limit ceiling is upon us again, and he desperately needs political fortune to be blowing in his direction as he goes into it, especially after the debacle he suffered with Syria.  He needs to win something in order to have any leverage in the upcoming “what do we negotiate on the debt ceiling fight,” and right now, he’s got nothing.  All the Republicans have to do is say “same deal as last time,” and the Democrats suffer “cuts” across the board which are inherently painful, and which will truly hurt the Democratic coalition if it goes through, by forcing Team Blue to pick between which of its various constituents get to feed at the public trough — there won’t be enough money for all of them to do it, especially with the massive giveaway to the insurance companies, err, um, public health insurance, that Reid and Obama are defending.

Remember, a battle is where both sides throw the dice, because both sides think they’re the ones who will win.

The Republicans don’t care about a short-term break in non-essential services (outside of a few truly worthy things like NIH etc), if it demonstrates that They Mean Business when it comes to the debt ceiling.

The Democrats believe that if they can paint the Republicans, and especially the Tea Party types, as out-of-control radicals, that the public will back Team Blue when it comes to the Real Battle of determining how much debt the US is able to take on.  And this has extra ramifications — if the US can’t grow its debt, Ben Bernanke and the Fed will be forced to quit with their Quantitative Easing program (they can’t buy up debt which the government isn’t issuing, after all), thus resulting in the Wall Street stock bubble that it fuels going POP, and everybody’s pensions and portfolios taking a huge hit right before the 2014 elections.

Make no mistake, this is live-or-die, bareknuckled politics going on.  But it’s taking part in a larger context than the media bobbleheads will talk about.

Cherry Pie

AnnaMeggyesPite

Walkable DFW?

It could happen.  This guy definitely wants it to happen, and he scores a few good points.

They’re not panacea, however.  Like most urban planners, the author has a real problem — how to get from “here” (DFW as a non-walkable entity) to “there” (DFW, an area roughly the size of Connecticut, completely walkable).  Some of that is relatively easy, if the political vultures were to make the right choices — such as dismantling some of the decrepit and blight-inducing freeway interchanges on the eastern side of downtown Dallas.

Others, for instance, are not so easy.  Urban Heat Island and localized climate problems are definitely an issue, and while technological fixes are neat, they’re not ready for prime-time, usually failing horribly on economic grounds.  Underground heat-exchangers sitting beneath asphalt?  Great!  Underground heat exchangers that happen to be pipes… under anything… on Dallas’ heaving and buckling clay soils?  Not so great.  Notice I’m talking about local climate. If Anthropogenic Global Warming is real, then it’s also inevitable. Ironically, the only nation to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets was the United States, which refused to sign them.  Right now, sitting between 396-399ppm of carbon hasn’t seemed all that catastrophic to little old me; my roses and I would be fine with, say, 3-5,000 ppm.  In Dallas, what we need is exactly the same thing they needed at the turn of the 1900s.  Dallas wants for water and shade.  Give DFW water and shade, and this becomes a very comfortable place to be.  My front yard is a blighted deathzone in August when it’s 105 out, because it’s full sun.  My back yard in the same circumstances?  Hot but comfortable.

So what to do if you need shade, in aggregate and lots, more than, say, a yuppie designer patio?

It’s gotten so bad they’re selling patios with venetian blinds on top. No, really.

Let’s start with the shade.  The answer, unfortunately, ISN’T painting all of our roofs white.  I thought that was a good idea for a while, but it turns out that  when you paint your roof a light color, you’re actually heating the air above your town and making rain LESS likely.  Sure, you’re reflecting away the light/heat, but that heat has to go somewhere. And as any Texan will tell you, making rain less likely to happen is somewhere on the list of Things People Would Kick You to Death for. 

Planted in front of a white-painted house.
Or, “why do you hate trees?”

We have lots of warehouse space, and lots of yard and highway space, all of it with crappy brush grass that’s prone to burn, does little or nothing to reduce heat, needs massive irrigation, and if not carefully tended, becomes an eyesore.  The urban design people want to see lots and lots of downtown canyons.  That’s okay, if you have lots and lots of demand that will pay for it, and can do what pretty much all urban planners suck at, which is making an uptown or downtown which people who have children and are actually perpetuating the species want to live in.  Urban canyons have plenty of shade…but they’re loud and dehumanizing.  All that sound has to go somewhere, and having worked and lived downtown, I can tell you where it usually goes — straight into my blood-pressure readout.  Add heat-island effects destroying any hope of a breeze to that, and what you get is “polluted hell.” (Remember, boys and girls, cars may pollute, but construction vehicles and machines you need to build these huge cities, pollute a LOT).

Not how most humans define “relaxing.”

So, urban canyons and hives.  Not really likely unless urban planners rule the world, in which case we all get to run and hide from the bulldozers.  On the other hand, trees need a LOT of water, and they have problems.  They take a lot of water to get going.  They take a lot of TIME to get going, and until they do, they throw really marginal shade — at best.  And when there’s a storm, they tend to fall on things and break them.  While that’s not really a big deal in a pocket-park where the hip and childless are playing, for the rest of us, storm damage is a real thing.  They also can’t really be planted right next to sidewalks or building foundations, unless you want to lose your sidewalk or foundation.

Oops.

Compounding this, the elephant in the room is that it’s not the tenants driving this process.  For most of the big commercial structures (office buildings, warehouses, etcetera), the actual physical building is owned by big property management companies, and the people in them are simply leasing out space.

Thousands of office-goblins, slaving under the ever-watchful Eye of Trammell Crow.

So you can write and pontificate and blog away, but until you can sell your ideas to the Property Management Mafia, you ain’t getting nowhere.

Bamboo could help some, though, as could Crape Myrtles if used correctly.  Crape Myrtles are already everywhere, but can be unpopular because ever summer they dump a carpet of beautiful purple blossoms all over the ground (perversely but perhaps predictably, this is why we at Chez Happycrow like them).  Planted two-to-a-greenspace, they’re useless, but they can be planted as a checkerboard and allow for dense, consistent shade.  Of course, there’s still that “storm damage issue.”

(Oops. Also, not a crape myrtle, but couldn’t resist.)

Bamboo has a bad reputation because their roots/rhizomes spread (but so do normal trees), but they’re actually easy to control once you know what you’re doing, and plants like them have some real advantages:  so long as you’re taking care of your foundation and sidewalks, as any commercial property ought to be (CAM = Common Area Maintenance, aka, what the property appraisor had better not see you deferring until later), you can plant them right next to your building, no problem.  They start off a little thirsty, but nothing compared to normal trees — your regular property-maintenance sprinkers are plenty, and are plenty even if run only a couple times a week.  That’s much better than what office buildings spend to keep their grass green.  Meanwhile, they throw shade.  They throw serious shade.

A place I’d rather be than said urban canyon.

They also don’t drop branches on your head during a windstorm.  Depending on what species you plant, they grow either loosely or densely (and thus are GREAT for noise mitigation).  You can plant them in a tiny little dollop of green in your parking lot, or all the way around a building if you want to stick soft, relaxing indirect lighting on your windows, while also not running the chiller (read: industrial-strength A/C ) on your roof quite so hard.  Once established, unlike either grass or “normal” trees, they are also self-mulching, throw down leaves as they grow, rather than in the fall, choking off brush and crap which you otherwise have to pay guys to go out and trim.  And they love hot weather: if you want a shady, relaxing building whose tenants just love to renew their leases, bamboo lets you take that greenspace and turn it into relaxing, nigh-maintenance-free suburban forest for less money and less water than you spend to keep “basic, sun-parched grass” green and weed-free.

Which brings us to water.  Which isn’t quite the same thing when it comes to making a city walkable so much as it is making a city liveable.  The population of North Texas is exploding, and there’s absolutely no sign that it’s going to slow down until the Rust Belt and Left Coast recover from their nearly-religious attachment to the Blue Governance Model, and embrace a liberalism which actually looks towards the future rather than desperately clings to the 20th century (something we at Chez Happycrow have commented upon, oh, once or twice).  That means we need to stop pretending that we’re emerald-green Wisconsin, and start actually making our zoning laws work for the local climate.

Ah, Wisconsin, with its soft blue northern sky. Might as well be Nunavut compared to Dallas here, on the same latitude as Tripoli.

Unlike Minnesota, we are not a land of 10,000 lakes, and the way we waste water just to keep grass green in the summer is criminal.  Even more so because half the time, the only reason we do it is to keep the local zoning ordinances and HOA-Nazis off our backs.  Homeowners and property owners need the ability to let grass or ground cover be longer, because eight inches of traditional grass simply doesn’t hold enough moisture in the soil when it’s 105 outside for two weeks straight.  During a drought, it’s even worse — two years ago, I had cracks in my front hard that were 30 inches deep.  And I was by no means the only one.  We need the freedom to plant taller groundcovers on a widespread basis, if we’re going to keep moisture in the soil, use less water, and not get into giant political dogfights with all our neighbors, because we’re wasting water while trying to get theirs.  Not to give an excuse to the “car on cinderblocks, lawn looks like crap” crowd, but simply to be sustainable.  After all, the first step towards a truly walkable city (let alone gigantic regional metroplex), is to first have a city you’d actually want to take a walk in.

“Help me, Obi-Mondo Grass, you’re my only hope.”

Everything you know is….nearly obsolete.

We are living on the cusp of huge social change, as old-school governance models creak and die because they were designed for the world as it existed 120 years ago.

There are fundamentally three kinds of consumers:  those who spend to fulfill needs, those who spend as a status marker, and those who “embrace trends.”

Let’s look at the details.

What do we buy?
What we buy falls into four categories

Commodities:  (anything in your corner drug store) more exciting than “a stick,” but not by much.
Manufactured Goods:  (computers) people make it, and all but the poorest can afford one of variable quality
Luxury Goods:  (high-end cars, private planes) Some people can afford it, others can take on debt to pretend they can afford it, it’s economically irrational for most to *try* to afford it.
Unobtainium/Science Fantasy:  Sure, kid, you can have your own private spaceship.  If you’re daydreaming, or among the twenty wealthiest people on earth.  The blog on which you’re reading now used to be Science Fantasy (c.f. Ender’s Game), but is now Commodity.

 

The niche a given item inhabits changes over time, but the categories themselves don’t change much. 
A well-known example: the cellular phone.  Believe it or not, a simple thing like Caller I.D. used to be unobtainium.  I knew the guy who more or less came up with it in analog.  He earned a ton of money making it… for the Saudis.  Because you had to be that kind of rich to afford it.  So let’s extrapolate that out to cell phones.
Cell Phones have gone from Unobtainium (Dick Tracy comics and government-only projects), to Luxury Goods (c.f. “Gordon Gekko brickphone scene”), to Manufactured Goods (the explosion of cellphones in the 1990s), to today… when a base cellphone is a Commodity.  It’s now a basic consumer good, and by basic, I mean Basic.  There’s nothing fashionable about a cellphone any more.  Poor people have them.  Nobody thinks twice about poor people having them.  Good thing they do, too — they’re so ubiquitous that “payphones” have effectively ceased to exist.

Now mobile computing is moving down the same track.  It’s a luxury good that has moved into the Manufactured Good niche — not everybody has an iPhone or tablet computer, but those who want one can generally afford one.

There are fears.  What happens to employment when a factory cranking out manufactured goods can be run by a half-dozen people, and robots are doing all the rest?

Killer robots have already taken over the lucrative “be my pet” job.

This is a 20th-century fear based on linear projection into the future.  Looking forward into the lives of our children, it’s also a context error which will look truly absurd in hindsight.

*Most of the everyday goods that people need in order to live are Commodities, and overpriced ones at that.*  The only reason they cost eight bucks, as opposed to 40 cents, is because of distribution and marketing costs. 

Some things are never going to be Commodities.  Computers and Cars are a good example.  That’s because they’re not items — “car” is not an item like “box fan” is an item.  Look at a car from the 70s and a car from the early 21st century.  We call them both “cars.”  But there are huge differences in capability, performance, and durability between them.  The 70s car is effectively unsaleable today — even if one were manufactured on the cheap, nobody would buy it, because its reliability compared to any modern car design would be so low that it would be cost-ineffective to anyone except those hobbyists for whom “automotive labor” is a syonym for “fun.” (Sounds crazy, but hey, I write essays for fun, and I know people who think that’s outright perverted).  Computers are much the same affair.  There is a class of Category Good which will never be a commodity because it depends on Current Generation Capabilities.  In forty years, driverless cars may be mandatory as a fundamental safety feature.  After all, most rush-hour fender-benders are caused not by drunkenness, bad weather, or even texting, but simply by daydreaming – driving a car in bad traffic is so damned boring that people tune out and *forget to do it*. Capability-Defined Category Goods will never be commodities.

Monday morning, defined.

Thus, not everything becomes a Commodity.  “Base-level-cars” are getting there, but their approach is asymptotic and will remain that way, especially once we figure out how to allow your average car to zip down the freeway at 150+ safely. 

Luxury Goods aren’t going away for similar reasons, though one major type of Luxury Good, based on “this is not mass-manufactured,” is going to go away, because to a certain extent, “mass manufacture” is going to go away, in favor of “mass design.”  (Conspicuous and Status-Display Consumption, otoh, will always be with us).

The Unobtainium category isn’t going away, because as we identify a capability, we desire to exercise it, and many of those desires are unfeasible either technically, economically, or politically.

Technically:  Fusion is hard, folks.
Economically:  Richard Branson can afford a flying car.  I can’t.  Chances are, if you’re reading this, you can’t, either.
Politically: We can have limitless clean energy tomorrow — if our political masters would allow contemporary nuclear plant designs, which are safe and literally *can’t* melt down.

“Factories” are currently Unobtainium for the average guy, but stripped down, economically-inefficient factories called “3d printers” are now a Luxury Good, and set to become a Manufactured Good pretty soon.  Personal Factories knock the entire logic of the late 19th century’s technocracy right on its ass. Learning curves to use these personal factories are pretty shallow, and going to get more so. Past a certain stage, when that learning curve gets sufficiently shallow, “unsophisticated commodities” will no longer have to be purchased – they can be manufactured on demand.  And if the raw materials for same can be conveniently recycled once they’re no longer needed (either in-situ or by-service), then an entire class of relatively unsophisticated goods are going to drop from “mass production” to “produce-on-demand”:

1.  Low-fatigue parts (random appliance parts, hooks hangers, etcetera).
2.  Toys, trinkets, costume jewelry, and minor decorative items (organizers, small frames)
3.  Cases, small containers, easy-assemble bags, packs, and low-end footwear
4.  Children’s (plastic) cups, bowls, and low-end eating-ware.
5.  Building blocks for low-fatigue custom structures (doghouses, sheds, etc).

Once a few patents expire, higher-end materials, and sintering technology becomes as affordable as layered deposition, we add quite a bit to the mix which currently requires one to go to an outsourced print-shop:

5.  Home ceramics
6.  Low-strength-requirement applications in metal
7.  Utility/No-Seam Hardweather gear, and eventually clothing production

That’s an awful lot of stuff.  Add “direct metal laser sintering,” without all the voids which weaken sintered items, and I can 3d-model and print any basic garden tools I happen to need, too, as well as pretty much all of the archaeological replicas I personally would need for my experimental archaeology.  Now, I hear the objections, and they are Legion.  But economically, here’s the important one:  “3d printed objects will never be cheaper than mass-produced goods.”

That is the real argument.  And that argument is wrong, because it’s context-neutral, and human beings….aren’t. 

Cost of 3d Printing:  Appliance Aquisition and Storage, Materials and Storage, Energy, Effort (=time plus labor to create)
Cost of Purchased Good:  Mass Production, Marketing, Mass-Distribution and Storage, Labor Markup, Delivery and/or Time and Fuel to Go to Store and Purchase

It doesn’t take long to see Cost3dPrinting <= CostPurchasedGood once all the other inputs are down.  Retail is already catching it in the shorts, because let’s face it, most of us don’t particularly enjoy standing in lines or going to the store just to pick up random junk.  It doesn’t have to be literally more efficient than mass production for it to take off.  It merely needs to be more economically rational for me as the end-user, especially if it can be done in the background while I’m having fun.  Time isn’t money.  You can always get more money — but when your time’s up, it’s up.  Don’t know a single person who died wishing they’d spent more time at the store buying pillows.

Of course, most households are still going to spend their money on all the stuff that the government schlubs leave out of the CPI so that the Feds don’t wind up with a revolt in the streets — food, shelter, transportation, and of course the included-but-perenially-undercounted healthcare.  In the meantime, the 3d printer and its associated technologies are going to go from “something geeky” to “household appliance.” Only in this case, it’s going to be “that appliance which makes random crap you need.”  At that point, I may literally price my income in terms of manufacturing feedstock, rather than dollars.

Then, add the next step:  once they’re converting vegetable proteins to animal proteins, you’ll be able to:

8.  Easily print and cook your cheeseburgers.

Yes, for you nerds out there, at this point, you’ve essentially gotten to the step where your oven is 3d-printing you a pizza and then cooking it for you.  Early models will be clunky, but early models always are.  Meanwhile, that garage full of tools?  Museum items.  Sure, there’ll always be a need for somebody to have a joiner, a drill press, and a table saw… but it won’t be everybody.  Also, your garage is going to look a lot different, too.  An awful lot of our home architecture is based on some very, VERY old and inefficient “legacy” architectural ideas, that don’t necessarily apply any more.  Sooner or later, your typical stickframe house is going to seem crude, overbuilt, and much, much too heavy compared to what’s currently Unobtainium for the average guy and gal.

So what won’t change?  Well, that will be those things which are so sophisticated that we cannot engage in “reductio ad algorithm” to knock it down to Commodity scale.  And those will be the “Contemporary Performance Goods” like computers, cars, and “new stuff you don’t know you need yet” which must meet continually-evolving performance minimums to be considered worth using.  That’s not a pejorative, either.  A lot of stuff that you currently need to have a bunch of money to afford will cost a LOT less and employ a lot fewer people to make it.  That terrifies the central-planning crowd, and they handle it by forcing the currency to constantly devalue (remember, inflation isn’t a natural phenomenon — it’s something a bunch of dudes in a no-longer-smoke-filled-room decide on every year).  But those floodgates are going to open up.  Just as the average person is vastly more sophisticated and better-educated now than they were when Industrial Technocracy swung into being, the average person will be economically much more powerful, too, and eventually the differences in economic efficiency will force these changes.

Don’t worry about robots taking over the earth.
Worry about this kid taking over the robots.

It’s just a matter of time.  And while it’s a brave new world, it’s also a much, much better one.  Bring it on.

Things I learned on my vacation

..in no particular order.

  • It’s worth driving a hundred miles out of your way to avoid really boring countryside.  It’s worth driving three times that if it lets you hang out with an old buddy.
  • Junk food is “road food” for good reason.  A well-paced series of sugar spikes is just as good as roughing it on beef jerky and water, and makes you a better conversationalist.
  • Now I know why most truckers are fat.  “Car exercises” on long trips work stabilizing muscles you didn’t know you had. In bad ways.  Carcercising on short trips: good.  Carcersizing long trips: serious back pain.
  • Cure to being lonely in a crowd: realizing you’re not supposed to fit in with said crowd.
  • Sometimes the “spam filter” excuse is true – and somebody you’d written off come chasing you down the hallway calling your name.
  • If you have four hips, spandex is a not a good idea.
  • We all get older.  Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s “shit, that guy’s not looking real good, I gotta spend some time with him before it’s too late.”
  • If your colleague argues with you on Facebook, but won’t return your emails and doesn’t say hello when you’re facing each other with your hand held out — he’s not your colleague.
  • Even serious theologians think swords are cool.
  • Sometimes your mentors are wrong – but without them, you’d never have been able to discover that.  And they WANT you to improve on their work.
  • Only nukes will TRULY clean bugs off a windshield, but driving west into the rain at 80mph softens ‘em up pretty good, too.
  • It’s ALWAYS a good idea to make an extra stop at that place that does the extra-awesome donuts.

 

 

In My Copious Spare Time…

Why does this phrase always evoke knowing but quiet guffaws among all adults?

In my copious spare time, I will

  • Work on the second novel
  • Write the article due in June
  • Construct a farsetto di cordovano after the descriptions of Matteo Villani and various 14th-century images
  • “Un-fuck” the yard.  This is an ongoing process in the spring, but at least we have roses all over.
  • Excavate the guest room, finding space for all the old raw materials and re-enactor gear that I don’t get to use any more
  • Repair the house
  • Prepare for a giant road trip to the Medieval Studies Congress in Kalamazoo
  • Prep the presentation I’ll make to those guys
  • Write the “Persona in a box” guide to portraying a 1340s Hungarian soldier in Italy
  • Continue translating source material for the “Angevin” historical novel
  • Administer the game-world and satisfy player requests, etc
  • Call my buddy to help him work on his father’s legacy
  • Assist and be there for a grieving friend
  • Not neglect my daughter to do any of the above

and most of all, not take on any more bloody projects.

Sarah Hoyt’s having a bad week, and I suggested that we all link-bomb her by writing up our little “copious spare time” issues.  There’s a lot more that I want to have on that list, that I’ve simply shelved.  More skill at 3d modelling, improved language skills, writing up a manual of sabre for my instructor’s lineage, gaining the ability to write at least marginally-useful code in a 21st-century programming language, etc etc.

But what I’m really curious about is… where do all these other people get the time for t.v.?  I don’t mean watching it: I have something from Netflix running in the background all the time, while I’m doing other stuff.  Because dinosaurs.  Or zombies.  Or Curious George.   

Maybe what separates us “odds” out of the mix, no matter how relatively mundane the interest, whether it’s old cars, Incan astrology, or the age-old feud between Phlan and Melvaunt that doesn’t actually exist between because neither do Phlan or Melvaunt, is “are you happy to work like a beast, take care of basics, and then kick back?”  Or are you constantly stretching and pushing and doing?

Of course, other people I know, like my twin, have to constantly stretch and push and do just to stay current in their fields.  This isn’t some sort of psychological preening – I work less hard for money than a lot of other folks do, and might work harder there if I had the requisite skills.  But at the same time… how many people out there have “no more projects” as their New Year’s Eve resolution, every year, mean it, and have utterly failed it by February?

There’s something weird about people like that.  Being one of them, I ought to be able to say what it is, but, I can’t.

If you also hate “Admin Professionals Day,” let me buy you a drink.

“Secretary’s Day.”  Now “Admin Professionals Day,” because somehow, knowing how to type, think, and organize while taking dictation and handling administrivia worth a rat’s ass somehow makes you a “professional.”

This makes me want to puke,
but I get it in my mailbox every year.

 

I work as an admin.  I also worked as a teacher at a Community College, and DREADED “Teacher’s Day.”  Loved teaching; hated the administration-bloat cesspool that the modern academic “guild” has become, so private sector ho!

These are fundamentally unserious holidays devoted to the concept that somehow there’s something extra-socially-special about teachers and secretaries.  Yes, I’m a secretary.  I’m not a leader.  Don’t want to be.  I am, however, a KICK-ASS FOLLOWER.  That’s not a joke:  I am goddamned good at what I do, and what I do is get you promoted by freeing you up to focus on those things that earn you promotions and market-share rather than just getting wrapped around the axle with administrivia bullshit.  Leave that shit to me, Boss.*  I don’t measure my success with fluffy emails sent once a year by coworkers:  I measure them for my unit in hours saved and dollars earned.

Are secretaries important?  No, they’re not.  They’re necessary.  There’s a difference. A big difference.

Goddamn right.

Are teachers important?  Sure they are. If we redefine important as “we need these people.”

But so are these guys.

Roughnecks.

EMT dudes.

Sales dudes and dudettes.

Janitors. Yes, janitors.

Linemen.

These are actual hard jobs.  You try keeping society together for a fucking week without any of these guys.  And yes, I did include the sales dudes on purpose.  Go ahead, try it.  Saudi Arabia’s such a fucked-up society that they have to import these guys (and pay them ridiculous salaries to put up with Saudi bullshit), or else they’d fall apart.And you know what?  Not ONE of them thinks “I’m a special snowflake and deserve my own day and a cookie because I’ve got enough personal awesomeness to hold down my job!”  (Yes, Virginia, being a plain-jane secretary or teacher IS a cushy job.  Been there, done that, drawn the paycheck.  If it’s not cushy, then you’re doing it wrong or your administrators suck.) In absolutely no other job do we condescend to give people a special gold star just because they’ve got just barely enough work ethic to stay meaningfully employed.

These are leftover holidays from the 50s and 60s when 90% of the people working these jobs were chicks.  And a lot of them had to put up with a bunch of crap on the job that I’d bust your nose for nowadays.  (Yes, in fact, I have been felt up at work.  Next dude or dudette to do that gets their nose broken, and I’ll apologize to HR about it afterwards while filing a complaint on their ass).  Women in the workplace was no big thing until the Great Depression hit and everybody was in “minimalist survival mode” for twenty years.  Then the country sort of rediscovered that middle-class white women could work, too (give you five guesses who’d already been busting their asses and looking after their kids in the meantime, and the first two don’t count). 

Then feminism stepped in and said “hey, let’s make you equal AND special!” 

“You can be Equal, or you can be Special.  Pick one.”

“No, I’d really rather not. Plus, everything’s your fault.”

So.  I’ve spent the whole day with well-meaning people coming out of the woodwork to thank me for… all the shit I do because that’s my goddamned job, and smiling at people who don’t actually realize that the entire concept of what they’re doing is condescending as hell.  And I hate that.  I don’t need a pat on the back.  Because I have a little something called a work ethic.  I also have a bottle of Slivovitz, and I”m going to lift a glass of it tonight to all those people who have harder and tougher jobs than mine about whom nobody ever gives a shit or names a holiday.   

Rock on, dudes.

*Or, if you’d like to be the boss of somebody who describes being their admin this way, describe your situation and ask for my resume.  :)

The lucrative “self-aggrandizing bitch” business is apparently alive and well.

//EDIT: 7/31/2013 A couple days ago the subject of the article posted in the comments here with a rebuttal.  While said rebuttal entirely misses the point of the post, it does suggest that some of the facts behind the article may have been mis-reported.  See comments and Caveat Lector.

Okay.  Heads up.

I’m not gonna pull any stops on this one, so those of you with meek and tender dispositions, you really ought to go look at lolcats or something.  If you belong to that bizarro religion which holds that there are “forbidden words” which instantly reduce a fully-functional adult human being to a quivering, emotionally-traumatized train wreck, go look at LOTS of lolcats (also, get a life).

Also, I rang up $300 on a 1-900-get-maus line.

The Cute, it Burns, here.

Now, for the rest of you….

The more I think about this, I gotta tell you, the more I’m glad I married somebody from a country that’s completely batshit crazy about other things, but not neck-deep in the “female entitlement” virus.

So let’s get this straight:

  1. Man proposes.
  2. Woman says no.
  3. They break up, man finds true love, woman writes self-help book.

No, wait.

It was actually:

  1. Man proposes.
  2. Woman dismisses the proposal as insufficiently performative and of poor aesthetic quality.
  3. Man stays with her.
  4. Woman founds business to teach men how to propose better.

My wife proposed to me.  I didn’t know it at the time, because my Hungarian was improving, but I didn’t realize that variations on “can I wash your socks” are actually a deeply romantic (and thoroughly realistic) way of saying “I would enjoy forming a decades-long relationship with you involving vast amounts of sex and options on the creation of small squealing humanoids.”  I proposed to her, mere moments later.  It wasn’t elaborate.  It was a quiet, in the dark, whispered “will you marry me?” No preamble, no performance, no stupid expectation that a proposal is something that ought to require a degree in theatre arts.  So in the space of five minutes flat, each of us proposed to the other, and not only did it not involve careful preparation, we couldn’t even see each other.

Check this out (emphasis mine):

Despite the fact that her boyfriend Ryan Galeozzi got the proposal so wrong the couple are still together. Mr Galeozzi, her boyfriend of four years, is planning a second attempt.

Ryan, here’s a word of advice:

RUN!!  RUN LIKE HELL, YOU STUPID GIT!!

Let’s get something straight.  In fact, let’s color-code this for degree of reasonableness.

You propose to a girl, she says yes, you live happily ever after.  Great.

You propose to a girl, and she says no, it’s over.  Your relationship has just been chopped at the neck, and you should be seeing a great big sign that says “this woman may enjoy fucking you, but she has absolutely no long-term interest in you, and the relationship, such as it is, will never get any better than it did five minutes before you opened your mouth.” Other alternatives include “Yes, I actually would like to marry you, but we both know that you are not husband material.”

You propose to a girl, and she freaks out, and then comes back and says “yes,” okay, that can happen.  USUALLY it’s a big-old warning sign, but it can happen and work.

You propose to a girl and she turns you down because the proposal lacked sufficient drama and gravitas to be deserving of her approval.  Sir, your girlfriend is not “wife material,” but is, rather a solipsistic cunt.(fn)  

“Will you marry me?”

“Will you wash my socks?”

Let’s start off with something basic.  It’s been said elsewhere, most notably (and often) by the ever-helpful Susan Walsh at her site Hooking Up Smart:  Women are the gatekeepers of sex.  Men are the gatekeepers of commitment.

What this woman is doing is trying to be both, and the entire situation reeks of emotional abuse, to boot, as she slowly tolerates him setting himself up for a “second performance.”  Which, I suppose, is fine if your ideal choice in husband material is “spineless, easy-to-manipulate dweeb.”

Somewhere out there, a man is wearing this without irony.

If this dipshit will put the guy on hold for that long because his proposal was basic, straightforward, and sincere, how do you think she’ll handle the wedding?

“Well, you were pretty good during the walking-down-the-aisle part, but you yawned once during the sermon, and haven’t really perfected the whole ‘gazing adorably at me while a minister speaks to you’ bit, so… no, I don’t.  You can try again in a couple of years.”

Here’s a hint:  “getting married” isn’t the same thing as “being a husband or a wife.”  The first is an event.  The second is (hopefully) the rest of your fucking life.  (And since this is marriage, yes, we all hope that there’s a lot of fucking involved.  The species, perpetuate it.  Getting regularly laid is part of being a healthy and well-adjusted human being.  Even without the munchkins, it makes your marriage stronger anyway.  Oxytocin is real).

What washing his socks may lead to.

So let’s be pretty clear.  Sam Sheppard (that’s the gal in question, for those of you who didn’t RTFA) is retarded.  Not in the accidental, “we bend over backwards to be extra-kind-and-gentle because that kid can’t help it” sort of way, but in the sense of “this person has chosen to become one of the people who spread idiocy and misery far and wide.”  In the immortal words of the Reverend Bill Hicks, “these are demons, set loose upon the earth to lower the standards.”  By holding her approval over this guy’s head while simultaneously demonstrating that she’s got not the slightest bit of respect for him, what do her actions say about any man who gets into a decades-long relationship with her?  What is this guy’s life going to be like?

Pining for the grave? Check.

What man in his right mind would take a class from this woman for any other purpose than sardonic amusement?

I take care of my wife.  That’s part of being a husband. (Helpful hint, it’s the biggest part).  I bend over backwards to keep my wife from bending over backwards, pre-compromising, or any other thing that’s not getting what she wants.  That includes compromises.  Compromises in a marriage are shit.  A compromise means neither of you got what you wanted/needed.  Fuck that.  Think outside the box, and figure out what you’d need in order for both of you to fucking win.  People whose relationships are going to last intuitively understand that, and what they call “compromise” isn’t “each kid gets half a cookie.”

Ms. Sheppard, this is supposed to be a joke, you dumbass.

My wife takes care of me.  She loves the fact that I love being brought a cup of coffee.  Yes, Virginia, you heard that right.  My wife makes and brings me coffee without irony.  And guess what?  She’s right to!  I kill the bugs!  And “wifing” involves taking care of your husband every bit as much as “husbanding” is, well, husbanding.  Mister Dictionary’s already got that one covered.  And men need taking care of.  Chances are, no matter how strong, wise, effective, pick his “adjectives that complement her weaker points and help both of you to live better” strengths, the price of having 40% extra skeletomuscular mass is that he’s almost certain to croak and leave you lonely for a decade before you die yourself.  Brutal truth, but there it is.  Your man is very likely to have less time on this earth than you will, if only because of biology.  Now add a little socioeconomical trivia: who works in the vast majority of the dangerous occupations where you can be killed dead as a doornail just because of a random-ass mechanical failure?

Scentsy this ain’t, boys and girls.

Now, does that mean that the woman should have to come along and wipe the guy’s ass all the time?  Fuck no.  That’s the sign of a guy who’s being a shit husband.  But who’s gotta be Johnny-on-the-spot with the drugs and chicken soup when your spouse gets sick?  Yeah, pretty basic there, isn’t it?  The woman wants the man to be a kick-ass husband.  The man wants the woman to be a kick-ass wife (speaking heteronormatively here, but the principle holds true, just change the pronouns).  Being a kick-ass spouse means dedicating your life, for however many decades that happens to be, to another person, and giving every bit of yourself to that person.

What’s the chance that a woman who’ll string a guy along based on the aesthetic qualities of his marriage proposal is going to dedicate herself to being a kick-ass wife?

::cricket noises::

Yeah.  None.

Run, dude, run.

(fn)Yes, I used an intentionally-offensive word.  You were warned.  I’m perfectly equal-opportunity where disdain for moral reprobates of the male sex are concerned, too; witness here.  We reserve these words from polite usage because, as the Cistercian monk in combat boots taught me, the purpose of profanity is to shock, and to express that a situation has sufficient gravity to justify the deployment of said shock.  This is why “fucking” and “damned” are not profanity in the Marine Corps…. but “I can’t do it” is.

Progressivism: Ideology vs Strategy

Sarah Hoyt’s musing about Progressivism and its fellow travellers again.  That’s music to my ears, given my continual thoughts regarding Liberalism 5.0.

One of the interesting things about Progressivism that even many of its current adherents don’t understand… sure, some of them were just commies. But a lot of them weren’t. They were systemic thinkers, some of them BRILLIANT systemic thinkers, using the best available tools of their day. But the average man and woman in the 1930s had a sixth-grade education. They were, literally, not as smart (not conflating education levels with intelligence, but the well-known historical rise in IQs over the twentieth century).  They were trying to figure out how to solve the rough edges of industrialism and make things better, safer, and more prosperous in a time when your average man on the street (not the dim-bulbs who inevitably wind up in t.v. news vox-pop) literally couldn’t pay the intellectual “price of admission” to understand many of the issues.  Think political slogans nowadays are stupid?  Political slogans in the 20s were kind of dumb, and by modern standards, so was your average human being.

Progressivism as originally applied (in the 1920s rather than the 30s) isn’t really an ideology.  Communism is an ideology.  Socialism is an ideology.  Progressivism is a STRATEGY. 

  1. Research the problem.
  2. Devise a bureaucratic solution to the problem. (or in business, a technical one)
  3. Publish the solution and market it to society.
  4. Legislate the adoption of the solution.

Get the politically-disinterested technocrats running as many things as they can, to keep inane machine politics out of it so that you know the elevator inspector actually knows how to inspect an elevator, rather than just being the mayor’s shiftless nephew.

That is, quite obviously, not my cup of tea.  I’m libertarian, and in a world that wasn’t carrying all the stupidity and historical baggage of this one, would be an anarcho-capitalist (but that’s unsustainable on Earth, because most of its cultures regard it as absolute anathema.  On the High Frontier, maybe that will work better). But it’s completely defensible. The problem with the folks who want to turn back the clock is not that Progressivism is “wrong.” It’s no more wrong than feudalism: under the right circumstances, feudalism can make a comeback and be the perfect tool for the job. But right now, feudalism and progressivism are *outdated.* The tools have evolved, and bureacracies centralizing decision-making power is a quick way to wreck things rather than sustain them, because we’ve outgrown a system that can prosper under that sort of decision-making.  Cumbersome, unwieldy bureacracies were a “killer app” a hundred years ago:  today they’re a synonym for failure.

Though the 20th century probably had better music.

 Mercantilism once sounded like a good idea, too. Japan and now China have tried to ride high on that horse, but eventually, the mercantilists, physiocrats, etcetera, all discover that these ideas “kick superficial ass.” China’s survival won’t be predicated on beating the band as a world exporter (and China’s currency won’t be the global reserve, either: *no* heavy exporter can hold the reserve currency); it will be predicated on sustaining a domestic market, and satisfying all those individual demands that are currently suffocating under a blanket of literal and metaphorical smog brought on by bad governance and outdated intellectual tools.  “Progressives” are not Progressives.  “Progressives” are like people devoted to scientism: they have an emotional attachment to the tools and strategy of Progressivism, rather than a dedication to the safety and prosperity that Progressivism was intended to achieve.

Progressivism isn’t wrong, per se.  But the human race has simply outgrown it.  We no longer live in a world where a few experts swim in a sea of  uneducated masses.  Seriously:  check out what the bright bulbs are figuring that your grandkids need to be able to do (helpful hint: it’s not 19th-century-style Prussian factory-education dominated by rote memorization).  Trying to shove humanity back into the box of the 1920s and 1930s makes a lot of sense for the communists and other control freaks who suffer from anthropophobia and want to tell you that they own your children…but for the rest of us, the notion that Progressivism is going to have another heyday is simply silly.

Silly ideologues.  The map is not the terrain, the tool is not the appliance, and the strategy is not the game.

  • Featured Eyeballs

  • What’s today again?

    July 2014
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 124,360 hits
  • Recent Comments

    Yet More Infantilizi… on Everything you know is….…
    Yet More Infantilizi… on Dread for the Future: is it Cl…
    Yet More Infantilizi… on How to make Tedium rock
    Yet More Infantilizi… on The lucrative “self-aggr…
    Yes, I AM, in fact,… on How to get a bazillion visitor…
  • Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 221 other followers