“Sausages without mustard is like war without fire.”
All posts for the month October, 2013
Posted by happycrow on October 24, 2013
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.
- 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.
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.”
So… what to do?
Pretty simple, actually:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
Posted by happycrow on October 22, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
Posted by happycrow on October 10, 2013
“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.”
But there’s something about tedium that’s really neat.
Tedium is exciting.
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.
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.”
Posted by happycrow on October 8, 2013
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?
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.
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!!“
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.
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.
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.
Posted by happycrow on October 4, 2013
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.
Posted by happycrow on October 3, 2013
Posted by happycrow on October 3, 2013