Sit Fit

Yoga anyone?  Enjoy it now, because it’s also the very last posture exercise you’ll ever do.

Don’t believe me?  Check out “corpse” pose!

Honestly, there’s no better exercise than yoga.  My family knows I enjoy it, but I don’t try to push it on them.  I feel that it’s something everyone should discover and appreciate on their own.

This goes double for my father.  I’ve never ever been able to tell him anything.  Not when I was eight.  And now that I’m fifty eight it’s even more true.   I don’t take it personally.  He doesn’t take advice from ANYONE.

Last year he broke his back.  It took a month for the “doctors” to figure it out.  Then excruciating months of operations, manipulations, drugs and therapy.  It’s only been recently that he can walk without his cane.  But there’s still pain.

So the other night during our holiday dinner, when he complained about his back pain, I thought I’d make another attempt to help.

“Dad,” I said, “can I make an observation and maybe give you a little advice?”

He gave me that “you think you can tell me anything?” kind of look and gave me his version of a yes: “Why not?”

As an aside, my father NEVER answers questions or makes requests directly.  He only gives out questions and you have to guess his state of mind.  He would have made a great politician.

I explained to Dad that his back pain is probably due to years of neglecting his core, his abdominal muscles.

Back in the 1950s when he first had problems, doctors proscribed rest and heavy-duty girdles.  It felt good, but never solved Dad’s problem.  I remember many days every year where he couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain, or had to sleep on the floor.  And he always had the girdle.

Turns out the docs gave him wrong information.  The girdle supports you, but weakens your core.  Bed rest puts your spine in a relaxed position, but doesn’t make it stronger so that you can enjoy the rest of your life.  What Dad needed was exercise.

So Dad looks at me over the table and says, “So what can I do about it now?”

Here’s where yoga comes in.  “You can do it anytime, anywhere,” I say.

For instance, sitting at the table.  We have straight chairs.  I pointed out that he was slumping, resting his back against the back of the chair.

Dad, I said, try this.  I went through the various steps, yoga style, showing him that he could simply sit in a chair at the dinner table and still help his back at the same time.

  1. First, watch your breath.  Steady even breathing is the core of all yoga.
  2. Then, put your feet on the floor.  Take your shoes off if you can.  Bare feet are better.  Ensure that the midline of your feet are parallel.
  3. Press your feet down evenly, as if they had four corners.  Press the heels away from each other, gently.
  4. Put the knees at about right angles, so the ankle is under your knee.
  5. Very important here – tilt your pelvis forward as much as you comfortably can.  Like you’re tipping the top towards the table, putting a curve into your lower back.
  6. Breath in now and straighten your spine as you do.  Grow tall.
  7. Roll your shoulders back, letting the shoulder blades come together.  Like making a veggie dog bun in your upper back.
  8. Breath out as you roll your shoulders back, making sure that your lower ribs don’t jut out.
  9. Now rotate your arms outward.  I find it easier to do this by putting my hands on the table and turning them over so the back of my hand is on the table.
  10. Keep breathing evenly!  Remember, yoga is first and foremost about your breath!
  11. Check your lower ribs and tummy as you breath out, keeping that spine straight and tall.  If the ribs stick out, think about keeping the top of your belly button rolling down.
  12. Get back to your hands, and with your upper arms still rotated out, push the arms back and roll your hands so that the palms are on the table.
  13. Take inventory of all your parts, starting with the feet and working up to your head.  Breath.  Close your eyes if you can.  Think nice thoughts.  Or just keep making light table talk.

That’s it – you’re doing yoga at the table.  You can make it as hard as you want.  But it makes you stronger, and will help reduce back pain.

Dad took it all in.  To his credit, I could see him trying everything I had told him.  He looked at me and said “Is it supposed to be hurt?”

Dad, I said, it’s as hard as you want it to be.  You’ve let your core go all these years.  It might hurt a little, but getting your core stronger can only be good for you.

In my head I was thinking, Dad, you’re doing yoga.  It’s good for you.  You’re getting stronger.  And no one has to be the wiser.

I don’t know if he’ll keep doing it.  For example, he has one of the lazy chairs that lifts you out – and I think it’s the worst thing he could do to himself.  He’s almost 90, so he can do whatever he wants.

But I don’t want to live in his world of hurt.  So I do yoga.  Chair yoga.

For life.

 

New Fat Path

We’re driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for a traditional Christmas Eve gathering.

I’ve already eaten several holiday dinners every day this week.  With all the office parties, birthday parties, and generic holiday parties going on, it’s hard to even pretend to abstain.  And there’s people dropping by the office with the assorted mixed nuts, chocolates, cookies, and popcorn, and even beer! I can’t remember the last time I felt hungry.

As we drive along, I wonder what can I do?

I can say, “no thanks, mom.  I’d like a small portion.  No, no seconds, thank you.  Dessert?  No, none for me, please.”

None of these will work.  Like a game of chess I have to worry about what my words will do to my wife’s mother, my mil (mother in law for short).

I know I’m the only one with this problem, so let me describe it for you.  If I say the wrong thing while we’re at their house it could make my life very stressful for weeks.  If I really screw up I could make everyone upset, including my wife.  Chances are good that they would never let me forget it, either.  Heck, they still remember stupid things I said twenty years ago; things that I’ve long forgotten.

We’re parking the car.  What do I do?

What’s the downside?  So what if I eat too much?  You know, besides getting bloated and fat?

The burden I face is made much heavier because my wife and her mother are incredible cooks.  So it’s not that I’m turning down fast food; this is real gourmet dining.

What’s wrong with me pigging out?

As we gather our goods and start walking up the path, I think about Americans.  We’re a big country.  Not just Alaska and Grand Canyon big, we’re big and fat.  Americans are heavier than any other nation.  I don’t think that includes Canadians.

Americans are BIG.  How did this happen?

Well’ we have lots of money, so we can buy lots of food.

We make our food in factories, for the most part, so it’s inexpensive.

Generally, it’s not high quality, so when we get it served to us in a restaurant we get a lot.

Plus, there’s a good chance the food factories put extra sugar and other “ingredients” into their food encouraging us to eat more.

And let’s not forget the other side of life; the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads telling us to eat more, and that we are glued to our screens watching those ads instead of walking around our neighborhood.

All of these are known pathways to getting fat.

I know all of these paths, and I realize that what I’m suffering from is a brand new pathway.  I’ve discovered yet another force upon us that makes me eat too much.

Guilt.

Yes, you may nod knowingly.  Guilt is the icing on the holiday cake.

No matter your ethnic background or religious upbringing, there are few young women who can go through an entire holiday event without getting a dollop of guilt from her mother or mil.  Guilt is probably more of a tradition than turkey and mashed potatoes.

Now, here I was, being guilted into eating.  How?

You see, if I say too much or say the wrong thing, I’m screwed for weeks, perhaps years.

But if I keep stuffing my face and mumble things like “thish is deelishus” or “paff vu graffee” then it’s like getting a pass out of making conversation.

Even if I’m asked a tough question I have a way out.  For instance, my mil may ask if I like her new hair style.  I’ll just stuff more rib roast into my mouth and nod agreeably.

If I hadn’t been eating I probably would have said something really stupid like “I hadn’t even noticed” or “I thought it was a wig.”

We walk up the steps and into the room.  I’m greeted by incredible aromas and a glass of wine offered by my fil.

Guess which path I choose tonight?

Happy New Year!

 

All Fed Up

I attended an economic talk last week from a former Fed economist.  His name isn’t important, and what he talked about isn’t that great either.

It’s what happened at the very end of the talk.

He accepted questions from the audience, and on a lark I sent in my question.  I asked what his thoughts were about the crossing of the M2 and MZM curves I talked about yesterday.

Mine was the very last question!  And here’s what he said.

Velocity isn’t important.

I’m not even summarizing what he said.  That was how he dismissed my question.

Not important?  How long we hold onto money isn’t important?  One of the most fundamental forces working against the Fed and inflation isn’t important?

Better yet, one of the best behavioral indicators we have of monetary “stickiness” isn’t important?  What’s wrong with this guy?

Here’s what’s wrong.  He’s part of the old way of thinking, and can’t see the forest for the trees.  The old way of thinking got us into the savings and loan crises of the 1980s, the internet bubble of the 1990, and the Great Recession of 2008.

Fixing our economy, improving our society, and smoothing out our lives so that we can start planning our future more accurately is going to take a new way of thinking.  Paying attention to velocity is more important than an arbitrary number like unemployment.

And that’s why I’m all fed up.  And that’s why I went out and drank with my friends.  And that’s why I hope they don’t invite him back next year.

Now, let’s all get out there and make that money slippery!

 

Money Talks

Yesterday we talked about “sticky” money.  The fact that it sticks in your pocket for some amount of time.  Maybe a day, or maybe a year.  If it sticks in your pocket for a year, it’s very sticky.

If you’re really making lots of money, you might think that you wouldn’t spend money very fast.  But it’s not so.  Some people with lots of dough do double duty and get that money in circulation – fast.

And here is where the big picture comes in.  Our Federal Reserve Bank is like the Supreme Court of Banks.  They are the bank that all the other banks bank with.

One of the best things for us is that the “Fed” gathers great statistics.  The one stat that is most interesting to us is the velocity of a few forms of money.  The first type of money is the kind that us regular people keep around: checking accounts, savings accounts, what’s in our pockets and rolling around in the cracks of our cars.

The other kind of money is a really big aggregate.  It includes all the money that is tied up in stocks, bonds, fancy investments, and things like that.  It also includes all the money of regular folk.

As you can imagine, the aggregate money includes everyone.  So, the people with no money are lumped together with people with lots of money.  The result is that it shows us what the big money people are doing.

Enough talk.  Here’s the graph.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/datatrends/mt/page12.php

If you can see this, you notice the red line represents MZM, that’s the big aggregate.  This includes the people with lots of money.  The number starts out at 2.6 and has dropped down to 1.4.  This means that the big money people and all the regular people together spend their disposable dollars about 1.4 times a year.  Every 8.5 months.  It used to be every 4 to 5 months before.  What happened?

Meanwhile the M2 line shows what regular people have.  It dropped from 2.2 to 1.5.  This means that the velocity of regular money went from 5.5 months to 8 months.

The overall conclusion is that money is getting a whole lot stickier than it used to be.  But there’s another interesting thing going on here.

Look at the second quarter of 2001.  See how the red and blue lines cross?  For the first time since the Fed has collected this information, the MZM has gotten stickier than M2.  Why?

Notice how it’s in the shaded area.  That means the economy was in a recession.  Hmmm.

Is it possible that people with lots of money stopped spending it as fast as they used to?  It is possible that they like holding onto it, even more than those of us without lots of disposable income?

Of course it is.  Perhaps it’s because of legislation.  Or maybe potential investments have dried up.  But it shows that one of the forces the Fed is fighting is that people simply aren’t spending money like the should be.

When people don’t spend money, it means there is very little pressure for companies to increase prices.  And if they can’t raise prices, then there’s little inflation.  And if there’s little inflation, then there’s no incentive for banks to give us interest.  So no savings.

Worse, the biggest tool the Fed has for stimulating the economy is pumping money into it.  Into us.  But if we hold onto the money instead, then the Fed has a problem.  They have to pump even more money.  And that can cause other problems.

So, there it is.  Sticky money.  Some of it is stickier than others.  And it tells us that people with lots of money don’t spend it as fast as those of us with less.

The money is talking.  Is anyone listening?

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Sticky Money

Behavior.  It’s what you say when someone sneezes.  And why you say it.  And where that phrase come from.  And why.

Behavior.  It’s also about how our species evolved.  And how all species evolve.  And where the first life-like molecules came from.

Big behavior.  Bitty Behavior.  Where do you want to sit?

I like looking at the big picture, mostly.  Sure, why we “bless” someone who sneezes is interesting, but not as interesting as why those sexy Italians can’t seem to make any babies.

Here’s a big picture item.  It’s called velocity by the bankers and economists.  It refers to the “sticky” component of your money.

What does sticky mean?  It means that when you get a dollar of disposable income, it sticks in your pocket.

What’s disposable?  That means it’s not rent, phone, or other expenses you HAVE to pay or you HURT.

Disposable income is what YOU get to CHOOSE to spend money on.  If you have any left over.  Do you want a fancy sweater?  That’s disposable income.  Do you want ice cream with those eggs and milk?  That’s disposable cash.

But if you never spend that disposable income, if you keep it in your pocket or savings account, then it’s sticky.

If you gave me a dollar and I spent it instantly, then it’s not sticky.  If the next person also spends it instantly, then it’s also not sticky for him.  And so on.  In one year, that one dollar may have changed hands a hundred times!  If that happens, we say the velocity is 100.

But if I wait a month to spend it, and the next person waits a month, then that dollar has a velocity of 12.  See?

Here’s the bad news.  Today’s money velocity is between one and two.  And the overall velocity is going down.

What does this mean?

It means that people are making their money stickier.  It means that we hold onto it longer.  And it means that whatever money our federal reserve puts into circulation, it ends up being less effective.

Sticky money.  Not a rock star, but something sitting in your pocket.

It’s something we measure, and something we can learn from.  Stay tuned!

 

International Women’s ddDay

Yes, you read the title right.  Not just International Women’s Day (8 March 2016), but IWD with a double “d.”

No, that’s not the kind of double D that I mean.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.  First, let me tell you about me.

I’m a sensitive new-age kind of guy.  They call us “snags” for some reason.

It’s not easy being a snag.  Especially if you’re a boss.  And I am.  I have to be aware of other people’s feelings.  Yuck.

Most of the time I don’t have time to care.

Awwwww.  Did I hurt your feelings?

I’m sorry.  Now get over it and get back to work!

I’m not into hugs or big on emotional support either.  Toughen up!

But there’s a part of my life that has snagged my heart, hook line and sinker.

I have a daughter.

Oh, the feeling of love and attachment as that baby girl hangs onto my hairy arms will be with me till my last breath.

It got even better as we aged together.

Finger painting, the entire garage in permanent paint.

Jewelry making, ancient Egyptian style.  She pasted earrings on me one day while I was asleep.  A coworker finally pointed them out in the afternoon.

Puddle splashing, mud pie making, and chemistry in the kitchen.  All wonderful memories.

Yes, we went through a tough period.  She was discovering her own “feelings” and being influenced by “friends” I wished she never met.

But we got through all of those, stronger and smarter.

Today she’s a wonderful young woman with a bright future.

So what’s the problem?

The problem began even before her second birthday.

An aunt got her a box of glittery nail polish and assorted other glitz for her face.

Soon after, her mother and grandmother would spend what seemed like hours discussing her hair.

“So what,” you say.  “This is normal.”

Really?  You mean every mother does the exact same thing to every daughter everywhere in the world?  Have they been doing this since humanity was invented?

Wait.  You’re probably right.

Today’s woman, including my daughter, prides herself on being unique. Her dress, hair, makeup, and especially the shoes, they all add up to one very unique person.

Then what’s my problem?

Because my daughter, and women in general, complain that men constantly evaluate them based on their appearance.

How can they not?  Women work hard to make their appearance noticeable.

So when men, feeble minded for the most part, make comments about a woman’s appearance, why is it such a surprise?

It shouldn’t be.

And here’s my solution to start stopping the men.

Let’s combine International Women’s Day with a dress down day.  And not just “dress down,” but all women dress alike!

Why not?

Men already have something similar.  They wear T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.  And men dress like this most of the time.

Wait.  Women want something fancier?  Men, get out those suits.  Done.

For women the job is going to be a bit harder.  But they have to start somewhere.

“Dressing down” doesn’t have to mean dingy.  Make sure it’s comfortable, has good skin coverage without being a burka.  It has to be accepted across the world, without looking like it doesn’t belong.

How about a white button down shirt, baggy blue slacks, and black pumps?  No fancy hair, no earrings, no jewelry.  Oh, and absolutely no makeup.  Just you.

Can you handle it?  Can you handle the truth?

Yes, the truth.

Because when it’s just you, both men and women will be forced to know you as, well, you.

Don’t worry.  It’s only one day a year.

On the next day you can spend an hour on your hair, face, wardrobe and jewelry.

And men will notice, whether we’re sensitive or not.

We just won’t know who you really are.

 

Equal pay, for… what?

Americans are very much into putting dollar amounts on everything.

A gallon of milk.  A gallon of gas.

How much do you make in a year?  How much do you pay in taxes?

How much is your marriage worth?  How much does it cost to raise a child?

Yes, even children come with price tags.  The latest numbers claim that the average cost to raise a child up to (not including!) college is about a quarter million.

That means a family with four kids are millionaires without knowing it.

How about our lives?  Our experience?  Our brains?

These are also valued at some rate.  How much are YOU worth?

According to your employer, you’re worth what they pay you.

That’s right.  That’s your worth.

Which brings us to something we like to call the “gender gap.”

It’s always been true that women are less appreciated than men in the workplace.  Fewer of them are employed.  They get promoted less frequently.  Trained less.  And make less money.  The difference between the money women make and the money men make defines the gap.

What’s great about our American economy is that we can put a dollar figure on the gap.

Though it varies, women make around 80% of what a man makes, for the exact same amount of work performed to the exact same standard.

Why?

Here’s a boring and obvious reason; women say “yes” faster than men.

If all women were to stand as a single entity and demand equal pay, they would get it.

Let’s look beneath the first reason and ask this; why do women say yes faster than men?  Why do they accept less money for the same amount of work?

Hold onto your hats, kids.  This one is going to be a doozy.

Oh, and for the guys in the audience, prepare to be dope slapped.  If you’re easily offended, you can peal off now.

The reason women accept less money than men for the exact same work is because women are smarter than men.

Yes.  They are smarter, in pretty much all ways.  In general.

To start, they have bigger brains.  They remember stuff better, and have way better grasp of intricate social relationships that men will never have (or want I should say).

Consider Thanksgiving.  Have you ever watched an overworked young mother entertain her family, her in-laws and her own parents?  Add in the fact that some or all of them are dysfunctional and it becomes a great challenge.  Now throw in the fact that she also had to make and serve and clean up the entire mess, all at the same time?  This makes quantum physics look like patty-cake.

What does being smarter have to do with getting paid less?

Women understand the value of money better than men.

In other words, women value money less.  They value other things more.

Shouldn’t this mean that a women should demand more money than men?  All other things being equal, yes.  But everything is not equal.

Women also choose where to work based on travel times, coworkers, self-image and many other things that male economist’s can’t value.

Women know and appreciate the fact that there are so many other things in life far more valuable than money.  A wholesome workplace.  A good boss.  Happiness in general.  Romance in particular.  Friendship, children, family.  It may be that money isn’t even in their top ten!

So, men, the next time you hear about the gender pay gap, ask yourself this; what do these women know that I don’t?

Women, if you do value money as much as a man, just ask for it.  You’ll get it.  But chances are you won’t enjoy it.

Whatever your gender, if you don’t value money, then your values are in the right place.  In every single instance when you ask an ancient about the value of their life, they will confide to you that a happy life is far more fulfilling than a “profitable” life.

Finally, think about this.  Your tombstone doesn’t list your bank balance.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be buried with your lover.  Together drawing eternal lines to time.

Now that’s closing the gap.

 

Planetary Family

Have you seen the latest pics from Pluto?

AWESOME!

Mountains made of ice floating in seas of nitrogen.

Volcanoes?  Two, and counting!

Not just one moon, but four!

Not bad for a teeny world that used to be on everyone’s “A” list for planetary parties.

“Huh?” you say?  “Used to be?  What happened?”

Did tiny Pluto commit some kind of party faux pas causing astronomers to send it back to “the hood?”  The Kuiper belt hood, that is.

According to astronomy’s poster child, Neil “8 planets or bust” deGrasse Tyson, Pluto is “just” an example of a Kuiper belt object.  Therefore it shouldn’t rise to the exalted status of a “planet.”

Horror.  Shock.

Millions of school children have learned our solar system’s family of planets number nine since lowly Pluto was plucked off packed plates about a hundred years ago.

Nine!  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

And Pluto.

What happened?

Science happened.

Astronomers begged for, and built, bigger better telescopes with which to watch the wondrous heavens.

What did they find?

Stuff.  Lots of stuff.  In fact, they found so much stuff simply floating around in our own solar system that they were having trouble keeping track of it all.

That’s where Pluto got into trouble.

Pluto lives next to the Kuiper belt.  It’s a place where lots of other objects are floating about the sun.  Should all of those objects be “planets?”

In the smoke-filled back rooms of the International Astronomical Union, those power brokers to the stars determined that Pluto was too close to the Kuiper belt for us to trust.  Therefore, like the mafia, they decided to, … … … …, erase it.

“Pluto,” they said, “Pluto, you are dead to us.”

As the popular face of those anonymous power brokers, Dr. Tyson gives us their excuses.  Here’s the best one.

Planet is an arbitrary term.  Lots of things orbit the sun.  Asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, numbering in the millions.  The Kuiper belt.  The Oort cloud.  And all the stuff we shoot up there as well.

What about our own moon?  Or the two moons of Mars?  Should they also be planets?  Where would the madness end?

Astronomers got so confused that they said, “Enough!”  Planets are going to be only these 8, and therefore, Pluto is GONE!

Yes, Dr. T, it’s a good reason.  Yes, being a planet is rather arbitrary.  So, either refine the definition, or ignore it.  That’s logic.  That’s science.

That’s crap.

Dr. Tyson’s reason is the best reason why Pluto should be reinstated as a planet.  Our moon, the asteroids, the rest of the Kuiper belt, they aren’t planets because of one simple reason.

Family.

You read me right.  Family.

Being a planet has nothing to do with your size, age, or looks.  You’re a planet because we care.  That’s right.  Us humans care about you.  That’s all it takes.

Like a real family, it’s something you can be born into.  You can marry into.  You can be adopted.  Or maybe you’re a really really good friend who absolutely has to be at all the family events.  Because that’s what family is all about.  It our way of saying, “we care.”

Yes, we care about Pluto.  It’s got a relatively humongous moon!  Super-complex orbits!  Crazy weird and young surface features!

I suggest that we mount an all-out frontal attack on the IAU and their pretty boy Neal to get Pluto back in the fam.

And if they know what’s good for them, they’ll listen.  After all, remember how many years paleontologists tried to get rid of “brontosaurus?”

Guess what?

She’s baaaaack!

 

Dishwasher Delinquency

Yesterday I whined about society’s lack of work ethic.

I was pretty hard on young people because of smart phones.  And video games.  And social sites.

Fact is that the loss of work ethic goes beyond our youth, and goes further back than smart phones.  And I know where it all began.

Dish washing.

Way back in history, families would have dinner together.  After dinner, the kitchen had to be cleaned and got ready for breakfast.  One of these jobs was dish washing.

Plates and pans get dirty during dinner.  Wash them.  Dry them.  Put them away to be ready for the next day.

Simple job.  Perfect for kids.

Back in history, that’s what happened.  Kids helped.  When they were very small, they’d stand on a stool and watch.  Maybe splash in the water and put their dirty hands on everything as well.

Truth of the matter is that when they are that young, they probably caused more work than not.  But that’s fine.  Today we call this “on the job” training.

Later they took on the simplest tasks.  Drying.  Stacking dishes.  Maybe even collecting dirty things from the table.

They weren’t a lot of help, but it was something.  Still “on the job” training, but also learning more important skills: teamwork.

Later, they became big enough.  The big day finally arrives when the parent steps aside and says to the child, “It’s all yours.”

The collecting.  The soaking.  The washing, scrubbing, rinsing, drying, and stacking.  Maybe even the prep work for tomorrow’s meal.  The whole job.

When that exciting day comes, the child is truly excited.  Not only are they exhibiting true mastery over an entire adult job by themselves, but they are proving to their parent that they are worthy of their love.

Wait, there’s more.  The child is also proving that they can contribute to the welfare and well-being of the family.  They are showing that they are trustworthy and productive.

All these are sources of pride they will have for a lifetime.

We’re not done.  For as we all know, there comes a time in every job where the tedium catches up to our enthusiasm.  Routine eventually buries our excitement, and all the earliest joys are forgotten.

In front of us is an eternity of dinners.  All we see is an infinite pile of dirty plates.  What hope is there then?

We learn to fight the tedium.  We learn to hope when all seems lost.  We learn that our family needs us.  We learn that we must do our job, no matter how much we want to do something else, anything else.

And in that fight we learn something else.  We learn how to make the job fun.  We learn how to do it faster.

If we are lucky enough to have siblings, we may even learn how to work with others so that the job can be shared, or delegated.

Most importantly, we learn about ourselves.  we learn what it takes for us to hold unto a task and complete it, no matter how much it hurts.  We learn how to teach ourselves the tricks necessary to get through any task, no matter how small or large.

For that is what truly comes from dish washing.  Not only clean dishes, for those are only a bonus.  No, when a child learns to wash dishes they really learn self-respect, discipline, family productivity and family citizenship.

They are introduced to the principles of teamwork, job management, and maybe even personnel management.

So the lowly dishwasher job was not a minor job in our historical household, but a great teaching opportunity.

What happened?

Someone invented a mechanical dishwasher.

Household engineers, overwhelmingly women, were overjoyed.

Generations of children were spared the experience of hand-washing dishes.

Today we pay the price.

For it isn’t only the dishwasher.  It’s the snow blowers, the riding lawn mowers.  It’s word processors instead of typewriters, and being driven to school instead of riding a bike.  It’s allowances without chores.  It’s sleeping in hotel rooms rather than under the stars.

Every single one of our “labor-saving” devices have come with a social cost.  Only now, almost a hundred years later, are we beginning to feel the impact of those costs.

Join me and toss that dishwasher in the trash.

I will thank you today.

And your kids will thank you, too.  Someday.

 

Loss of a Nail

There’s a poem about a nail.

Not just any nail, but a nail that came loose at the wrong time.

That wrong time was during a big battle that determined the fate of the kingdom.

So, the nail goes bad.  It came out of the horse’s shoe.  The horse stumbled.  The rider fell.  The battle line flowed through the hole.

The enemy captured the army and took control.  Without an army, the king was thrown out.

All because of a single nail.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?  But it’s a great poem reminding us that everything is connected.  Everything.

I thought about this poem while worrying about how everyone is so plugged into their phones.  I can’t go to a restaurant without seeing at least one table where everyone is looking at their phones instead of each other.  Sad.

It’s especially sad when that table is a young family with kids.  The baby usually isn’t on a phone.  But I’ve seen a “baby tablet” for sale that teaches your baby good tablet etiquette.

Kids are so impressionable.  Habits they learn today will last a lifetime.

What are phones teaching them?  To play video games.  Chat with electronic friends.  Take shocking pictures.

What are phones not teaching?  Kids are not learning how to help their little brothers with their homework.  Or talking with each other, in real life.  Or playing outside collecting bugs, or looking at the stars and dreaming.

Our company has already seen the affects of this lifestyle choice.  We try to hire young people for production and administrative work like order entry.  So express interest, and we hire them.

If they show up on time, we find that most of them lack a work ethic.  It’s hard enough convincing them that it’s important to come to work on time.  It’s even harder to  get them to work diligently.  And almost impossible to stop them from playing on their phones even when they are sitting at a desk.

Lest you think that we don’t pay enough, let me say this.  We are very competitive in our area at twice the minimum wage.  We also have generous bonus and profit sharing plans, as well as full medical.  But these things don’t seem to make a difference.  And it’s not even the point of this story.

The point is that I realized the smart phones are not the true source of our problem.

No, the loss of a work ethic in youth comes from something that has been far more insidious. In fact, it’s been with us for many generations, way before smart phones.

What could it be?  Stay tuned.  Tomorrow.