Tales from the MidWest

What’s a work ethic?  It might mean these things:

  • I like working.
  • I don’t mind working.
  • I’ll work as long as I can find something to do.  Helping the host of the party set up.  Cleaning up afterwards.
  • Maybe work is good for my body, good for my mind, good for my soul.  So the more work I can do today, the better I’ll feel in the long run.
  • Maybe I’m thinking ahead to the day when, like my hard-working father, I won’t be able to work no matter how much I want.  So I’ll get in as much work today, because someday I won’t have a choice.

This kind of work ethic used to be called Puritan.  I’m not sure why, certainly not because it was Pure.  I think it had something to do with Pilgrims and Religion.  What in the world this means is beyond me.  But that’s what I was taught way back when.

Today the work ethic seems to be something you’ll only find in the history books.  I like to think that in the “back country” of the American Midwest, we still mostly live in the past.  Most of us are very modern, but many people here still think the old ways are best.

However, there’s a funny / sad story my brother-in-law told me the other day.  Brother in law shortens to Bil, so I’ll call him Bil.

Uh oh, out of allotted time.  There’s other work that needs doing.

Stay tuned.


Party like a Scientific Conservative

I’m a Sci-Con, a scientific conservative.  It’s not a party, it’s a political philosophy.  As far as I can tell, it’s new.  But it doesn’t tell you how to throw a party.

Political parties were invented shortly after the US of A.  Tom Jefferson gets credit for being the most political, and used every trick in the book to secure fame and fortune, including inventing the first political parties.

One of the basic beliefs of being a Sci-Con is that political parties are bad, in and of themselves.  It doesn’t matter if they are blue, red, green or black.  Any party that exists for the sake of the party works against democracy, works against the good of the public.

Yet there is some good in having a party.  For one thing, a party can present a “platform,” fighting for specific laws or directions that the government should take.  The party also helps integrate many people for the sake of improving the chances of making change.

So how does a political philosophy incorporate the practical necessities of having a party, without accumulating all the negative baggage?

We allow for the creation of a Sci-Con party that is position specific.  If a Sci-Con party must be created, we give it a name, such as Sci-Con Gun Control.  And let the debates begin.  From those debates and specific position is developed, and all the resources of that party focus on that alone.

Along with that, we add a clock.  Say, ten years.  Whether or not the Sci-Con party hasn’t made any headway into the issue by then, it simply disbands.  The goal is that some kind of improvement to society is made within that time frame.

The fundamental point is that the goal is specific, the work focused.  No extra money spent on lobbyists or fancy conventions.  Focus on one problem.  Define it, get everyone’s input, and work to make it better.

Is this going to be slow?  Of course, that’s what makes us conservative.  Is this going to be hard?  Yes, but we’re not afraid of hard work, especially if it costs us less money and pain in the long run.

So, that’s how a Sci-Con throws a party.  Not exactly beer and nachos, champagne and petit-fours, but still a party.

It may even be fun.


Vote Against the Evil Empire

Voting isn’t just when your government says it is.  Voting isn’t stuffing the ballot box and hoping the least worst politician gets into office.

No.  Voting is your eyeballs.  Voting is your feet.  Voting is the apps on your device.  And voting is your dollars.  Especially your dollars.

I have a cousin who’s an uppity up doctor, taking care of kids.  The other day she came to visit and used one of the new ride sharing companies to come out.

Here’s the problem.  For one, I know that the ride-sharing companies are effectively building their empires on the backs of people who 1) need ready cash, and 2) don’t take the depreciation of their vehicles into account.  Basically it’s a hidden subsidy operation, and history has shown that this kind of business model never lasts very long.

The biggest problem is number 3; this particular company has a history of exploiting women.  In fact they have some big problems with women they have trampled in the few years they’ve been in business.  Certainly my cousin knows this.

But she voted for them anyway.  She’s busy, doesn’t have time to worry about the hidden details behind all those layers of management.  And I certainly was not going to be the person to tell her.  After all, I’d much rather enjoy our short time together talking about her and her family.

Think about what you’re buying.  Think about who you’re buying it from.  And think through the implications.  It’s one thing to say we’re green and love the environment.  But to turn around and vote for those very same organizations that want to tear it apart seems a bit confused.


Voting for Fun and Profit

We need to start a reality show based on how we vote.

Are you thinking that trek, one Tuesday every year, to your local polling booth?

If you are, good for you!  You are the minority.  Most people don’t care about visiting the polling booth and casting their vote for a politician.  Our democracy is directed by a minority; but that’s normal.

Surprise!  That’s not the kind of voting I’m talking about today.  No, this is the kind of voting you do with your eyeballs.  Did you know you vote with your eyeballs?  Every time you get an advert thrust into your retina, and you spend time on it, that’s a vote.

Now, most companies can’t measure how much time you spend looking at that ad, but they do count your clicks (another vote) and more importantly, they count your dollars.

Yes, dollars are by far the best way to vote.  Every time you spend a dollar you are saying, I vote for you.

Who is you?

You is that product or service.  You is the person behind that product.  You is the entire organization that offers that product.  And you is the philosophy behind that product.

So think about how you vote.  Think about the YOU you are voting for.

Vote wisely.  And often!


Post Office Purgatory

True story.  Even the name of my friend is real, because how can you get better than the name of Mike in a story having to do with being tortured by well-meaning US post office protocols?

In fact, if I hadn’t been there to see the whole thing, I wouldn’t believe him.  After the fact, I’d wished that I’d taken video.  It was that good, and unreal.

Setup:  Mike is mailing a box of cookies and candy and a birthday card to his daughter.  She lives on an island.  He’s done this before, as she’s lived there several years.

He comes up with the box and the teller puts it into the system and says the system is rejecting the box.  It’s not the right box.

What?  I got this box from you guys! says Mike.  It’s rejecting the box, you have to get another one.

Like a good guy, he goes to the table and open his box, takes everything out, gets one of their suggested boxes (no charge) and seals it all up again.  He addresses it and back to the counter.

Box is good, but now the address is being rejected.  What?  It’s the same as last year.  We have a new system, maybe that’s part of it, but it says this street doesn’t exist.

Mike tries calling his daughter to confirm her address, and leaves a message.  The USPS employee, to her credit, is trying to get her system to work as well.  She finally suggests, that perhaps, a different box with that address could work.

Mike gets the different box, reboxes everything all over again, and comes back.  Strangely enough, the box and address both work.  Except for one small thing.

The price.

That’ll be $100.  What???  That’s ridiculous.  It’s cookies!  It’s never cost that much!

By now a supervisor hears what’s going on, and visits.  Looks over the situation, hears about all the boxes (3 so far) and comes to this conclusion.

The first box was the right size, but the wrong code.  There’s an entirely different box, that is exactly the same size (I know, I don’t get this either) that you have to use.

I’ve been trying to console Mike all along, and at this point I realize I need to buy him a bottle of sedatives.  He gets the “right” box from the supervisor, reboxes everything AGAIN, and gets to the counter.  The address goes into the computer.

Now it gets back to real surreal.  The employee has to ask all the exact silly questions all over again, for the fourth time.  Is there anything dangerous?  Do you want stamps?

NO NO NO!  Please just mail it!

The box did finally get accepted, for far less than $100.  Mike did eventually get out the door.  But neither of us were sure what to make of the situation, except that we need to avoid anything like that at all costs!


Titillating Camera Angles

My kindergarten was tough.  We had a professional artist teach us how to handle crayons.

Kindergarten wasn’t easy, back in my day.  In fact, if you couldn’t cut the mustard, literally, you had to repeat the year.  Mustard cutting was taught scientifically.

During my second year of kindergarten, with the same art teacher, I learned the laws of perspective.  That law is that all the walls of your room disappear into a point far away.

Of course, that’s the rule of perspective.  But we didn’t know that word.

What’s cool about the law is that it works in reverse.  Look at a picture, any picture, and figure out where the artist is standing when they drew it, or photographed it.

Well, you can do that for most artists.  Picasso and Escher left us standing on our heads.  Or is that scratching our heads?  Sorry, I’m digressing.

So there I was, at the gym, watching the “news” shows, and there are several that present us with beautiful ladies.  For fun, I traced back to see where the camera was sitting.  For one show, it was about at the level of the ladies eyes.  Very nice.

For another show, it was just about the level of their hips.

Their what?

Yes, their hips.  I looked again, and realized that if someone’s legs forgot where they were, for only a second, the camera would see a bit more than the lady.  Maybe more than the viewer wanted.

Hold on, I thought.  I checked to see what program was being presented.  Yes, it was a “news” show.  Guess what else?  It also happened to be the network that has all sorts of sexual harrassment claims going on against it.

Hmmm, thought I.  Is there a connection?

I, for one, don’t intend to watch to find out.  I’ve seen enough.


Are you on “The List”

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend down in Appalachia country over the weekend.  It was a delight, the countryside was beautiful, and everyone I met was not only a character, but someone I could easily spend time with.

One gentleman worked for the fire department, and told me a few funny stories about the plight of being the last county to get any upgraded services.  Their dispatcher was still referring to the color of a barn’s roof in order to give the emergency vehicle directions.  The fact that it was the dead of night didn’t seem to register.  Luckily, they figured out where they were supposed to go, and got there in time.

The sad part about our conversation was that the local officials had circulated a special list to these gentlemen, and the instructions that they were not to disturb those people on the list.  The meaning was clear.  These were special persons in our community, and whatever they chose to do, it was your job to look the other way.

As a student of behavior, we want to fight the propensity to judge a person, or a society on its choices.  I can tell you that the gentleman relating this story to me thought the list was an injustice, but we didn’t discuss it in depth.

More to the point, it’s likely that only the high and mighty are on that list.  If you are rich and powerful, then you are above the law.  That is what “the list” represents.  And all too often history has recorded events where such people commit great crimes against society exactly because they feel they are above the law.

So, consider the list at this county level.  And think about whether there is a list in your county.  Is there a list in your state?  Perhaps such a list even exists at the national level.

Are YOU on that list?


Scientific Conservative

Wow, that’s a mouthful.

It’s supposed to summarize my political philosophy.

First off, I’m scientific.  This means we use the process of meticulous definition, measurement, and questioning all assumptions.  This means being open about methods, experiments and conclusions.

What do you get for being scientific?  You get the absolute best way to learn.  Yup.  You heard me right.  As far as learning is concerned, science gets the gold medal.  Every time.

Secondly, I’m conservative when it comes to changing something as complex as our society.  I don’t trust any of the politicians, I trust the lobbyists even less, and I barely trust individual citizens to think.  Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.  Trust no one!  No trust!

What do I believe in?  Hard and fast data.  Facts.  A fact is something all of us agree upon.  That’s it.  If we don’t agree, then let’s figure out why using civilized dialog.

If Alice doesn’t agree with Bob about something, and it’s because she’s keeping her eyes closed, that’s her right.  But then Bob’s right to ignore Alice.

If Alice has her eyes open and has a great argument as to why she doesn’t agree, then that’s fine as well.  In this case, Bob and Alice and we will gather data together, or do an experiment that everyone agrees with ahead of time.

Will this process take much longer than what goes on today?  You bet!  And that’s what makes me a conservative!

It doesn’t mean I want to double the military or keep a hundred guns in my house or tell pregnant women what to do with their body up to the point where they give birth.  No.

Being a conservative means I take things as slowly as I can.  Being scientific means I make progress in a very specific manner.

So the next time your friends try to tag you for one party or another, and you want to throw them for a loop, let them know you’re of no party.  And that your political philosophy is scientific conservatism.  That will stop them in their tracks.  It’s been working for me for some time.

Maybe there is a way to create SciCon parties.  I’ll work on that one.


Flip Flop Fungus Fobia

Germs, they’re everywhere!

Unless you’re from Brooklyn.  In which case, they are JOYMS!

They are still everywhere.  On the ground.  On your foot.  In your hair.  ON YOUR SCALP!

Go take a shower and come back.  I’ll still be here.

dum de dum dum, ta da dee dee dum

Back?  Washed and clean?  Guess what?  You still got germs!  Ha!

They are everywhere.  They rain down upon us because there’s so many of them that FLOAT in the air!  Ooooohhh.  Now that’s scary.  And you thought being a skeleton or zombie was scary.  Ha!  Scary is reserved for germs.

And everyone gets ’em.  Zombies get germs.  Giant spiders get germs.  Even that alien thing that chews your heart from the inside, guess what, it gets germs!  And there’s a good chance that the germs living in your gut can take on any alien hands down.  Probably all 8 hands.

Here’s my take on it.  At the gym, all the guys are afraid of getting germs on their feet.  So they wear feet condoms, flat ones, flip flops.

And I don’t.  That’s because I’m:

  1. Lazy (true that),
  2. Forgetful (another thing to remember? kill me now),
  3. Don’t care (what can I say?),
  4. These guys are paranoid so the whole gym is fumigated every week.
  5. If everyone else is wearing foot condoms, then why do I need to?  I go free!

There it is.  Germs for fun and profit.  Well, not so much profit, but germs can be fun, especially for lazy germ-bags like me.


Feminine Foundations

Women think about relationships more than men.

From playing with dolls, pondering who is flirting with whom, personal hygiene, dress and makeup and adornments, in all areas women outperform men.


There are two main reasons.

First, we are all genetically programmed to want to be in a relationship (see yesterday’s post).  This is hard to fight, and it could be argued that the need for companionship is greater in a woman than a typical man, but I’m not going to do that here.

Second, women are smarter than men, for the most part.  As a result, they know that being in a relationship is better for them, and for the man (or other woman as the case may be, but for now we’ll stick with men).

Women, being smarter, recognize that they will bear the brunt of a long term relationship in terms of making children, managing a home, and foregoing earnings from not working.  As a result, we consider them “unemployed” while they know they are performing the most important job on the planet – creating the next generation.

Typically, men don’t get this.  Which means women have to work even harder to get men to realize the importance of being in a long term relationship.  So they invest heavily in clothes, makeup, jewelry, and emotions.

The flip side is that a woman also needs to know that the man is invested.  Which is why successful courtship SHOULD see the man making an equivalent investment on his part.

He should be the one traveling to see the woman, not the other way around.

He should be the one planning the dates and paying her way.  Why?  Because she has already paid in long term investment, such as dress and makeup.  He is only paying cash for the immediate expense.

And once she is in that relationship, what is she willing to do?  She is willing to bend more than he.  My husband wants me to cut all my hair so I’m not attractive to other men?  So be it.  My husband wants me to cover my entire body with a black cloth and nothing but a slit for my eyes?  So be it.  My husband wants me to stay at home and make babies?  So be it.

If a relationship fails, what are some women willing to do?  They take the blame.  They become outcasts, or worse, they make the ultimate sacrifice.  Women still set themselves alight in some places.

The romantic in me would like to see men step up their game, and learn to appreciate both the work and investment women make to create relationships.  I wish men would also be better taught to appreciate the value of relationships, after all it helps them live longer.

Finally, society needs to work on creating some of those old-fashioned rules we all used to abide, rules like treating people with respect, opening doors, and understanding the meaning of “no.”