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.


Pastry Insights

Look into my eyes.  Can you see my soul?

Now listen carefully, can you hear my stomach?

If you answered no to the first question and yes to the second, then you’re on your way to becoming a good skeptical inquirer of human behavior.

We’re not even sure if we can define the soul.  Someday I’ll get around to it, but now there’s more important work to be done.

For I love dessert.  And there’s a good chance that you do, too.

The best desserts in the world come from France.  Have a problem with that statement?  Let’s fight it out.  Preferably over cafe and a mont blanc.

Here’s some of my best evidence, a French contest for the best pastry chef in that country.  We’ve watched three seasons so far.  It’s incredible.

This is a culture that puts a high priority on quality ingredients in small amounts.  They prioritize taste first, technique second, and aesthetics third.  But their standards in all those areas are much higher than, say, in the USA.

They have fun in the area of competition.  There is respect shown in the arena among competitors, and much greater respect shown to judges.  Judges not only act as the experts who are not challenged, but also as mentors; they help the contestants during the shows.

Finally, these contestants have dignity in work ethic and chosen profession.  These are people who may only be 21 years old, yet have 7 years of experience working in a restaurant or pastry shop.  They are proud to be in the profession.  It’s a profession that they can make a decent living, raise a decent family, and have a decent life.  There is no “get rich quick” scheme, and no “exit strategy” to go along.  Just hard work and good products.

I can remember a time when the USA had many of the same ethical standards, but they seem to be lacking today.  I haven’t watched a US based cooking contest for some time, but they don’t seem to breath the same air as these French programs.

Watch if you dare, they are guaranteed to make you hungry.  Warning: No English subtitles.  It’s more fun if you understand the French, but it’s not necessary.

Bon appetit!


Dad’s Pads

Studying behavior can be fun.  We can talk about funny things like clowns; and how they used to be funny before Stephen King got a hold of them.

We can talk about intimate things, like what different cultures do in the bedroom.  I’m not going to talk about those things here; I’m a PG kind of guy.

We can explore the breadth of all history, dating back to the Narmer Palette, or Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; and link those ancient texts back to what happens today.

Finally, we can explore some of the minute things you and I do on a daily basis.  Many of which can be funny.  Funny perhaps to other people.  This is one of those times.

Dad is in the neighborhood, and I visit him when I can, usually when he needs help.  He’s almost 90, so he needs help.  Some of those times, I try to help him access something on the internet.  You may understand how much fun that can be.

He says; what did you do there?  Show me again!  Let me do that!  How does it do that?

Bless his heart, at least he tries.  But here’s the gross part of his behavior.

He has a tablet that he likes using.  My brother thought it would be great to give him one of his old ones, letting my brother upgrade.  He’s thoughtful like that.

So, when I go to help my father using his pad, I always forget what I’m in for.

Instead of sliding my finger effortlessly across a slick glass screen, I find that I’ve touched something bumpy, something hard, something sticky, something that rolls under my finger and won’t let go.  Something other than glass.

GROSS is usually what I say next.  I’m getting better.  Now I say it under my breath.  It wouldn’t matter anyway, he doesn’t listen to me.  He hears me fine, he just doesn’t listen.

The next thing I do is run the tablet under the faucet.  If you’re my brother and you’re reading this, it’s true.  The tablet still works, but trust me, the faucet treatment is required.

After a minute of scrubbing the tablet is ready for me to operate normally.

At that point I only have to worry about where the heck he’s moved all the icons.  But that’s another behavior.

Sticky screens as a part of human behavior.  Wonder what our smart home of the future will think of that?

Thanks for listening!


Another Tale from the Midwest

What should be yesterday’s post wasn’t much of a tale.  It was more of a setup, talking about the midwestern work ethic.

For some reason, many people are afraid of work.  Sitting around while others work is a growing specialization.  I know because I’ve hired a bunch of people like that.

My brother in law, Bil, isn’t like that at all.  He likes to work.  He’s not afraid of it.  He’s always looking for a challenge.

One day, in a past life, he was working on a big project involving making a complicated piece of equipment.  Even though it was a big project for his big company, it was a small part of a huge government contract.

As a reward for his hard work, Bil’s company let him go along to the integration meeting, where several other companies would come together and put all the different pieces together.

As it turned out, this meeting was on one of the coasts, and involved lots and lots of people in suits, and engineers with fancy equipment.  Much to everyone’s horror, when all the pieces were lined up to be bolted together, the holes didn’t match up!

Eeek!  Eegads!  Such confusion and horror?  What are we to do?

First, Bil checked his components against his prints, confirming that his holes were exactly where they were supposed to be.  Then he sat back and watched the performance.

Yes, performance.  Because for a full four hours, all the other participants sat around blaming each other for the mistake.  They focused on who to blame.  They read the contracts to see how much money this was going to cost.  They worried that it would somehow impact their bonuses.

Bil was amused.  No one seemed interested in figuring out how to solve the problem.

Around lunch time, one of the younger engineers walked over to Bil and asked him if he’d thought of the problem.  Bil said yes.  He asked him if he thought he could fix it.  Bil said yes.  He asked how long it would take.  Bil said about 1/2 an hour.

All the other biggies took a lunch break.  A real long one of course, on the government’s dime.  When they got back all the holes lined up just fine.

Bil didn’t tell me if he got any extra thanks for his work.  But he did mention that one of the coasters came up to him later and made this interesting comment:

You Midwesterners work too hard.

That was it.  Bil didn’t quite get it, and neither do I.  But for that guys information, both Bil and I intend to keep working as hard as we can for as long as we can.

After all, who’s going to pay the taxes for that guy’s medicare?


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.


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.


Crazy Driver Tales

Does anyone else out there feel that drivers of today are way worse than of yesteryear?

I can remember when my mother got a ticket for not using her turn signal.  Today it doesn’t surprise me when I see a police car make a turn without using a signal.  Normal civilians only use them about half the time.

So, if you, my Gentle Readers, are interested, I’m going to start compiling a list of crazy driver types that I have cataloged over the years.

Today’s driver is the “Wide Body.”  A wide body driver is someone who drives like their car is verrrrrry wide.

I saw this happen while walking past the library.  There’s an admittedly sharp turn for cars to make there, but this gentleman driving a compact car made the turn as if he were a 48 foot semi.  He took his sweet time, he went very wide of his own lane, and drove in the opposite lane for about 50 feet before finally merging into his own lane.

If I hadn’t seen it I would have thought it was a joke.  If he had been driving a truck it would have been a sweet turn.  Perhaps he is a truck driver.  I’d like to think a professional could maneuver a vehicle in the right way, no matter what.

So keep an eye out.  I’m sure you’ll meet your own wide body soon.