Numbers are Fake News

How fake is fake?

Can you fake a cake?

How fake can a fact be faked, before it becomes an alternative fact?

A fake fact?

Can there be such a thing as a fake fact?

So many questions, so little time.

So I thought I’d have some fun playing with our minds in a totally different direction.

Numbers.

Are numbers real?

No, not real numbers, as in 1, 2, 3 and 4.  But are they in fact, real things within nature?

Spoiler alert…  they aren’t real!

How’s that for a brain bender?  Want to know why?  Check this out.

Go ahead and count something.  Jumping sheep? as you try to go to sleep?

Fine.  One sheep.  Two sheep.  That seems easy enough.

But wait.  Let’s sheer those sheep.  After all, you might like to have a nice woolly blanket to keep you warm while you sleep.

Now I have naked sheep.  Are they still two sheep?

Fine.  Two sheep.  Now, what if I cut their toenails?  Do I still have two sheep?

Yes?  Alright.  Now, let’s get gory.  Except that these are phantom sheep that only jump through my dreams.  So all of you sleep-sheep-lovers, please don’t get angry.

If I take the legs off the sheep, do I still have two sheep?  No?  Now we’re getting somewhere.

What if I only take off a bit of leg?  Better yet, how much leg will you let me remove from my sleep-sheep before it is no longer a sheep?

Forget sheep.  Let’s try a rock.

One rock.  Two rock.

What if my rocks hit each other and become three or four rocks?  How is this possible?

What if they bang about so much that they become a million rocks.  Are they still the same two rocks?

That’s my point.  Anything you choose is a thing only because we want it to be that thing.  Nature doesn’t work that way.  One sheep.  One rock.  One country.  One planet.  One star.  These are all made up in our minds.

The numbers that we use in math class are concepts that enable us to live better, understand Nature better.  But they are concepts, not real things you might find lying in the street.

Believe it or not, this is important.  It’s important because there is now a way to create numbers that is much more “natural” than our current method.  And I’m going to do my best to share that with you next time.

Until then, keep counting those sheep.

Have a great New Year’s everyone.

 

 

Stage Door

This isn’t the first time I review a movie.  But why should a movie be on a site concerned with studying behavior?

Movies are an art form.  The best art illuminates our humanity.  And the foundation of our humanity is how we behave.  Hence, the best movies are about our behavior.

Take this 1937 film called Stage Door.  It’s absolutely brilliant.  And in today’s #MeToo climate, it gains relevance.

The antagonist is a slimy producer who likes to “interview” many an upcoming starlet.  His name might as well be Harvey.  The young actresses are starving, yet they know what they may have to do in order to eat.  The allusions to their sacrifices are humorous.  But in the light of today’s revelations, they take on sinister connotations.

There’s a moment where last year’s star sacrifices herself for Katherine Hepburn.  Like Christ, Kay takes care of Katherine’s feet, gives her something to drink, and then ascends the stairs into heaven.

The film is also about the needs of the theater.  It’s about the desire of actors to be discovered.  It’s even about the trials unique to young women in a cruel industry.

More fundamentally, this movie is about the suffering an artist must endure to become a great actor.

Studying behavior does not have to be boring all the time.  There are times when studying behavior can be fun, and watching this movie is one of those times.  Please find Stage Door, watch it, and think it through.  I’d like to hear your comments.

 


PS: This is one of my favorite movies of all time, easily in the top 10.  It’s fast paced, extremely natural in feel, well directed, chock-full of raw talent and youthful exuberance.

 

Honest Sheriff

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend down in Appalachia country recently.  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 was the Sheriff of a neighboring county.  He related many stories of interesting arrests, puzzling homicides, and even emotional vignettes.

Of the latter, the story that should be more public was when he was interested in soliciting the vote of Mr. Big.  Mr. Big had too much money, even more power, and liked everyone to know it.  When our Sheriff wannabe went to visit, Mr. Big immediately reminded him who he was, and eventually proceeded to offer him a wad of cash to help the campaign, under the table.

Our Sheriff said, “I came for your vote.  Besides, you once gave me a contribution worth more to me than all your money.”

Mr. Big was thrown for a loop.  When?  We met before?  You asked me for money?  I remember everyone I buy off.

Years earlier, our Sheriff hit a bad patch.  Wife up and left, young son and he scraping to get by on a meager policeman’s salary.  He’d gotten to the point where he’d stopped eating to make sure his son was fed and the rent was paid.

They went to a fast food place that had kid toys in the boxes.  But you had to buy the box, and our Sheriff didn’t even have an extra dollar.  Mr. Big was walking by, and without taking notice, bought the meal including the toy.  Mr. Big left.

Our Sheriff didn’t forget.

Mr. Big immediately had a huge check written to the campaign, as much as the law allowed.  He also took out two full-page ads, on his own dime, stumping for our Sheriff.

Our Sheriff won and started doing great things right away, saving the county money and solving crimes.  He and Mr. Big became life-long friends, even up to the day Mr. Big passed on.

So, here’s to our Sheriff.  There have to be more out there like him.  I thanked him personally, and I’d like to thank all the others out there that have integrity, honor, and do the right thing.

Thank you.

 

Perfect Yoga Practice

My buddy tried yoga once, saying it was too hard.

I can imagine what happened.  Surrounded by nubile beauties, mostly women.  Bending like willows to the strains of music involving drums, harps, chanting.  Moving fast, yoga pants and tight shirts leaving little to the imagination, each breath bringing a whole new pose.

How can anyone meet these kind of expectations?

Most of us can’t.  That’s the whole point of American McYoga.

Here’s their sales message:

  • You have to work like this instructor to become as beautiful as they are.
  • You know you get your money’s worth because you
    • sweat,
    • are in pain, and
    • because you can’t do it right.

 

Guess what?  You CAN do it right, because there’s a secret they aren’t telling you.

There is no WRONG.  Whatever way you can move, that’s YOUR way.

That beautiful instructor?  That’s his way.

Raise your arms.  Lower your torso.  Twist those abs.  Do it your way.

I found this yogi, Mark Whitwell, and this particular video of his says it best.  Go to the 1:00 minute mark.

Whatever you do is right for you.  Learning to put your heart, your breath, your body and your movement together is what yoga is all about.

That instructor trying to cook you in that hot room?  They are trying to stuff you into a one-size-fits-all shoe.

Ouch!

Find yourself an instructor who lets you wear the shoe you want, the way you want.  Your movement, your breath, your body, it’s all about you.

Yoga is you.  The strange thing about this selfish exercise is that the more you do it, the more you become in tune with others.

I can’t explain it here, there’s no time, no room.  But if you’re one of those who have tried yoga and ran away, or are intimidated by fancy pantsy instructors, think again.

It’s ALL about you.  Forget the others, move the way your body lets you move.

Once you start moving, you’ll notice things, and you’ll start improving.

But, being a yogi, you’ll already know this basic fact.

You’re already perfect.  So practice your perfection.

Ommm.

 

Yoga is not Religion

Way back when I started learning yoga, there were no conflicts with religious types.

Then there was a flurry of religious types who were worried that their kids were being secretly converted by public schools into heathens.  Why?  Because those heathen school-teachers were teaching kids to do yoga.

Oh no!  Down dog in the classroom.  Tree pose in the gym.  Half-moons in the hallways.

What’s next?  Bloody sacrifices in the principal’s office?  Perhaps cannibalistic rites of eating flesh and drinking blood?

Hardly.  Getting kids moving in a non-violent, self-centered way makes for better kids, better community, and better learning.

A quick search this morning reveals that most of the religious voices have reached the same conclusion.  Yoga is not a religion.

Hooray!

Then what’s the problem?

The problem is that there’s nothing in those articles that comes out and says exactly what a religion should contain, such that yoga is NOT religious.

Sure, the Christian types refer to saviors and gods and the such, but as we have pointed out a while ago, religion doesn’t have to have these things.  A religion is a shared set of behaviors that helps keep a group together for a long time.

That means if you’re going to a yoga class with a bunch of people you like, with an instructor you like, and this goes on for a long time, you truly CAN consider yourself part of a religion.

The whole point of this exercise, and indeed, the whole point of us studying ourselves, is learning where to draw the line.  How long is a long time?  How many people should we include in our “bunch?”

A bunch of bananas is easy; Nature defines that for us.  But as people we appear to be super-natural.  So drawing those lines isn’t going to be as easy as if we were bananas.  Although there are many people I feel may be bananas.  But that’s another story.

 

Yoga Sandwiches Filling

A friend told me he tried yoga, but found the classes “too hard.”

Yoga can be considered a sandwich.   It’s easy to make a sandwich.  It’s easy to practice yoga.  Don’t let an ambitious instructor or your fancy-pantsy friends tell you otherwise.

Like the bread of the sandwich, yoga starts with something basic, something easy.

Those things are: Listening to your body, Watching your breath.

These are the most important two things you can do.  The more you do them the better you get, the better you feel.  That’s the foundation of yoga.  Do these all the time, while you’re doing postures, while you’re reading this.

Just breath.

What about the physical part of yoga?  How does that compare to your sandwich?

Sandwiches become famous for what is between the slices of bread, not the bread itself.  That’s too bad, because the bread is very important.  But if you want a pastrami sandwich, or corned-beef sandwich, or BLT, or cucumber, or grilled-cheese, or any other kind of sandwich you name it by what sits between those lovely slices of bread.

When you make yourself a sandwich, you put exactly what you want in the middle.  You want a pickle, go ahead.  You want a slice of lettuce, tomato, or onion?  It’s all you.  Only meat and a thin sliver of cheese?  Sounds great.  And it’s your creation.  Eat it up.

What about our “yoga?”  Do we vinyassa, do we ashtanga, do we hatha?

Guess what?  They are all still yoga, and when you are in a class, it’s all you.  You are not a sandwich being made at the deli.  Your instructor is not the sandwich maker.

You are the sandwich maker, and your yoga is your sandwich.  It is your breath that determines when you move, it is your heartbeat that determines how hard you are working, it is your body that decides what pose is proper for you to do, today.

So the next time you feel your yoga class is too hard, pause a moment and think about what you can do to make it easy, simple, and fun.

After all, it’s your body, it’s your sandwich, and your life.  Why not enjoy them as much as you can?

Thanks for reading!  Now, go do some yoga, then eat.

 

Yoga Sandwiches

A friend told me he tried yoga, but found the classes “too hard.”

How could this be?

The instructor made them do things a certain way, the pace was too fast, and some of the postures hurt.

Has this happened to you?

You don’t have to put up with this.  Only you make yoga hard, or fast, or even “right.”  No one should pressure you to do yoga any way other than YOUR way.  Not the instructor, not your friends, no one.

And it all has to do with sandwiches.

Yes, the lowly but lovely sandwich can be our guide to yoga.  How can this be?

First off, can you make a sandwich?  Even my little brother enjoyed making spaghetti sandwiches.  Two slices of standard bread, mass of spaghetti in the middle.

The foundation of every sandwich is the bread.  One slice on top, one slice on bottom.

The bread is the easiest component.  Even though it’s simple, you still have many choices.  Toast?  Grilled?  Rye or whole wheat?  Baguette or ciabatta?

The yoga equivalent of bread is also basic, something easy.  The two things you’ve been doing since the beginning: listening to your body, and breathing.

What’s this?  Since when is breathing and body-listening part of yoga?  Did your instructor never talk about these things?  No?

That’s sad, so sad, because yoga is so much more than physical activity.  The whole “moving your body” part of yoga is only a small fraction of what yoga is all about.  Don’t get me wrong, asanas or posturing is very important, but so is the rest of yoga.

In fact, the very first most important part of yoga is about YOU…

… getting to know …

… YOU.

The best way to do that is to be still, and listen.  Listen to your heart, listen to your breath.  Feel your breath, feel your heart.  Do these things while sitting in a chair, sitting on the floor, lying in bed, lying on the mat.  Do them at your desk, do them in a meeting.  Do them anywhere, anytime.

You’re doing yoga.

Here’s something I learned the hard way, and it still makes me smile.

At first I thought it was silly, refusing to do it.  Then I started doing it, as a joke.  Then I started doing it more, because I realized I was getting better at it.  Then I realized it wasn’t silly, and started paying more attention to it.  Today, I do it every single time I think about it.  Heck, I’m doing it even as I write this.

Why?

I calm down.  My heart slows.  I feel better.  I work better.  I live better.  I love better.

Practicing listening to myself made me a better listener, to myself.

This is only the bread portion of yoga.  Next time, the rest of the yoga sandwich.

Thanks for reading!  Now, go make a sandwich.

 

Homer and Hospice

This has nothing to do with cartoon characters named Homer; not directly, anyway.

Homer the First was a poet-entertainer who lived about 3,000 years ago.  The only works we have that are attached to his name are about the city of Troy, and then the adventures of a gentleman named Odysseus.

The reason he’s headlining today’s story is because he gives us intimate details about the behavior of people.  Today’s microscope is on how we deal with valuables worn by those who are dying.

I’ve heard that some people attending a funeral will steal things from the corpse.  In Homer’s stories, the same thing happens during battle.  One warrior kills another, and the next thing you know there’s a feeding frenzy around the dead body.  Everyone gets a piece of the victim, literally: helmet, shield, spear, lance, buckler, and so on.  The more famous the victim, the better the spoils, and the greater the enthusiasm.

Ancient history, never happens today.  Right?

Up until recently, I thought so as well.  However, Dad was in Hospice for what seemed his final days.  We all worked hard to make his stay as comfortable as possible, including almost everyone on the staff.  Certainly the vast majority of those working in this industry are on the short list for angels.

However, we made a tactical error.  We left him alone one evening.  The next day, his expensive hearing aides were missing.

Did they fall out?  They never fell out before.  If they did fall out, why did both fall out?

Did they get tossed into the dirty laundry?  A nurse checked ALL the soiled linens (yuck!), finding nothing.

Did he toss them somewhere in the room?  It’s a small room and we looked everywhere many times.  Nothing.

Here’s where it gets fun.  I talked with a policeman friend, with no relationship to Hospice, and he says portable computers and hearing aides are frequently stolen for quick street cash.  A $2,000 hearing aid would sell for $50.  Each.

Then I happened to be talking to a nice nurses assistant one morning, and she confided that hearing aides and dentures were the two most frequently “lost” items.

Dentures?  DENTURES?

Yes, there is a market for stolen dentures.

Stripping a dead or dying body of its valuables isn’t new.

What’s “new” is the fact that we are still doing this.  Our society hasn’t changed as much as we like to think.

As students of behavior, we can use this knowledge to our advantage.  It means we can learn from old stories, ancient cities, and buried civilizations.

As someone caring for his Dad in Hospice, I’ve learned something else.

Stay with your loved one 24/7, and share this information so that someone else can learn from our mistake.

May everyone rest in peace.

 

Painting by the Number$

This painting sold for half a billion dollars the other day.

Now you might be saying to yourself,

HALF a WHAT ????

And you’d be right to do so.  Mostly because every other person on Earth who heard this news said the same thing.

Is the painting that good?  Is the artist that famous?

No, the painting isn’t that good.  The guy who did it would never value it that highly.

The guy who did it is very famous.  Leo da Vinci.  Nice guy.  Smart guy.  Way ahead of his time.  His stuff hangs in museums, public and private.

But is his painting worth half a bill?

Guess what?  It depends.

If you wanted to have something pretty on your wall, or in your own museum, and you had an extra billion sitting around, what could you do?

You could buy this painting.

And that’s the point.  Someone DID buy this painting.

Here’s where the behavior bit comes in.

Someone, SOMEONE, had an extra bill burning a hole in their babushka.

Someone else, someone who already owned this painting, needed a few extra mills to keep the fires lit.

One sells, the other buys.  Everyone is happy.

Or are they?

Something * might * be wrong with society if it allows one person to amass so much money that there is a burning billion hanging around, not being very productive in general.

There is also the chance that something is wrong when so much money can be transferred, anonymously, legally, between two very rich people.

The vast majority of us live here in the lowest rungs of the economy.  We work, we spend money carefully, mostly, and dream about what we’d do with a million dollars.

There is a very small proportion of people who hold vast amounts of wealth.  Their decisions can help sway society, but do they make the best decisions?

In this case, the decision was made to hang a painting for a whole lot of money.  For all we know this was actually part of a money laundering scheme.  There is no way to know for sure.

When something with a small value suddenly acquires such a high price tag, we should open our eyes.

After all, that’s the only way to appreciate great art.

 

Stalling for Time

WARNING: Behavior means everything we do as people.  One of the things we do is go to the bathroom, or as most people put it today: poop.

Public pooping means sitting in stalls.  This article deals with sitting in stalls.  If you are sensitive to this kind of discussion, chances are you aren’t cut out for the dark underworld of behavior.  You’ve been warned.

Spoiler alert: Everything comes out alright, in the end.

I’m not fast, especially with this.  Age plays a role.  Take my word on this.

I have recently noted three incidents where I’ve entered my stall, seeing that someone else is sitting nearby.  Judging by only the feet, thankfully, they’ve been younger.  And men.  Did I mention that?

Here’s the fun part.  I’m all finished and cleaning up (hint hint) and my partner in poop is still at it.

In two cases the cause was evident.  One guy was having a conversation.  Ugh.  It was in Chinese so I couldn’t eavesdrop.  Another was playing a game; zoom sounds were his accompaniment.  Guy three was deathly quiet.

Now that I’m noticing this sort of thing, I realize it’s been going on all around me, so to speak.  There was even a guy at work who was known to spend a half hour at a time on the toilet, twice a day.  Did he think no one would notice?

My prediction is we’re going to see more of this, whether we like it or not.

Our mobile, our cell, our handy, or whatever you want to call the computer in your pocket, has become an emotional link.  As a society, we used to invest our emotional capital into other humans.  Now, the most exciting apps are those that act as emotional surrogates.  Google, tell me a joke.  Siri, what’s my horrorscope?  Alexa, find me a restaurant.

There are other words describing the behavior of giving pleasure to yourself, but I’m not going to go there.  Instead, I’m going to take the long view.

Time.  Time is the most valuable gift we are given.  When young we feel like we’ll live forever.  We celebrate 30 like it’s a major milestone.

So we learn to spend hours a day with our personal emotional surrogate.  It’s so important to us that we’ll waste that time, literally.

What could those three guys have done with that time if they’d behaved differently?  Would our employee still be with us if he wasn’t spending an hour a day, for whatever reason, in the bathroom?

We don’t know.  You and I never will.  However, there’s a good chance that students of behavior, many many years from now, will be able to look back and determine how good, or bad, “stalling for time” had upon our society.

For now, I can make a guess.  And for the moment, I’m keeping my hands off my phone.

Thanks for reading.