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.

 

Dating for Fun and Profit

Seriously, dating can be for both Fun and Profit.

How can I be serious about something I haven’t done for so long?

I choose to be serious.  I also choose to be funny.  It helps the medicine go down.

Hearing about dating disasters from my single parent neighbors, reading about direct accounts on social media, and seeing all the crazy dating services available tells me that the current dating world is way crazier than it was 30 years ago.

That’s too bad, because dating can be fun.

There was a time, you see, when dating had a few extra rules.  Rather than restricting us, the rules helped make things go easier.

This is going to sound fuddy-duddy, but one of the rules was that the man pays for the date.  All of it.  He also was in charge of thinking it through.

Feminists will flounder on this one, but hear me out Ladies.

The woman has far more to lose in the short run.  She’s got the biological clock.  She’s got the high standards society has set regarding appearance.  She’s got the bigger up front investment in clothing and accessories.  And she’s got an economic disadvantage in that her pay rates are usually lower than a man’s.

What does this rule get her?

She gets to see a lot more of HIS character.  How does he pay?  How does he tip?  How considerate was his plans?  What were his plans, were they things that you like, or places and food you’d rather never see again?  Were all his actions respectful, or did he treat you like a “regular guy” straight out of the gate?  Is he willing to travel great distances to see you?

Ladies, I’m sure you get the point.  In general, you are way smarter than he is.  I urge you to reinstate the rule.

Guys, there’s something in this for you, too.  You see, as a guy, I know of what I speak.

Let’s face it, you want to take her out because she’s, well, she’s got it.

Making you do all the work, making you spend all the money; that sounds cruel, doesn’t it?  You’re thinking to yourself, all this money, all this work, is it really worth it?  After all, almost all of you are just as broke as her.

I’m asking you to step back a moment and look at the older men around you.  There are those who found the right woman, and those who haven’t.  Which group do you want to be a part of 40 years from now?

Being the perfect gentleman gets you a great look into her character as well.  You’re in the planning stage, did she drop you some gentle hints?  (Think hard on this one.  Women are famous for dropping hints that guys can’t see.)  Was she ready at the time you set to meet?  When you open doors for her, does she say thank you?  Did she appreciate the places and food you made available, or did she register her disappointment?  Did she help the conversation along, or talk the entire time?

Gentlemen, I know this all sounds fairly complex, but here’s the deal.  Getting what you want as cheaply as possible just doesn’t pay off in the long run.  Look at your divorced friends and see how much it’s costing them today.

Start thinking about romance like an investment, a business proposition.  You want dividends to increase over time.  You want your business to grow, and maybe even have spin-offs.

So start thinking long-term.  Start thinking quality.  And start thinking about bringing back some of the old rules.

Let me know if you want to hear more.  I’m tired of hearing my neighbor whine.

 

How Much Does a Harem Cost

The wonders of technology FINALLY include an upswelling of women speaking out against sexual predators.  From movie moguls to MPs these disgusting men are being ferreted out, and it’s about time.

My personal thanks goes out to those women of #MeToo who are taking that very courageous step of standing up for yourself, for others, and for all of our daughters,

THANK YOU thank you thank you.

That said, even these disgusting events can teach us something.

First, as dispassionate observers of behavior, let’s appreciate how far most men have come.

We used to live in caves.  Like today, many wives were met at clubs.  Literal clubs.  Lack of hygiene and clothes required that most men use a club to knock their wives unconscious.  In all fairness, a few husbands may have been acquired this way.

Through the eons men have learned some manners, from those very same wives no doubt.  The Etruscan society may have been the first to practice sexual parity, but the Romans stamped that out.  None the less, concepts like the sanctity of marriage and monogamy became official, if not popular.

Not to say that there wasn’t some fraying around the edges.  We have lots of stories of people fighting the whole monogamy “fad.”  The funniest parts of the Canterbury Tales have to do with wives and husbands rethinking their relationships.

Today, the vast majority of men appear to respect the humanity of a woman.  On average, giving her room to move and grow; giving her respect to explore and create.

Second, part of us is primal.  All of us.  For men, that means they want women, all the time.

Sad to say, the largest industry on the internet is very likely pornography.  The vast majority of that is satisfying the appetite of “normal” men.  I try not to judge, but I wish it wasn’t.  Get a hobby!

This primal urge usually gets satisfied without anyone getting hurt, directly.  There are a few men who can’t handle the virtual world.  So they do nasty things and reveal themselves as monsters.

Those monsters without resources do things that we hear with horror: abductions, murders, mutilations.

Those monsters with resources are the ones we are starting to hear about today.  And here is where the harem comes in.

Third, being primal bears a cost.  For those without resources, this cost is being born by society.  We spend money and time and emotional turmoil in order to root out these monsters.

For those with resources, the cost is being delayed, or can be found in their payments to those women they have harmed.  The payment could be made immediately, in cash or in the form of a job or promotion.  The payment could come later, also cash, or abortion, or child care, or as a court case.  In the case of the movie mogul, his costs also include the loss of his career, and a number of legal cases being pressed against him.

Those with resources include the late Hugh Hefner, the man who helped define the modern version of popular pornography in his magazine and on his estate.  It appears that he actually maintained his own harem on his estate, sharing those assets with male guests.  Was that harem a cost center?  Of course!  Was it on his financial statements?  Very likely.

Finally, consider the harems of history.  One Pharaoh sired a century of sons.  We should assume there were an equal number of daughters.  Scheherazade saved many of her sisters by entertaining the Shah with a thousand stories.  As a member of the harem, she knew that he was killing one of them each day, yet still had a ready supply.  Lastly, the Emperor of China may have set the record.  The Forbidden City concubines were organized into levels and platoons.  There’s a good chance they had their own HR department with formal training programs.  Seriously.

Conclusion.  Whether they are a Saudi Prince, North Korean Dictator, or modern real estate president, the point is that men with resources will expend resources to have many women.  How much they are willing to spend is a real question that we should be asking ourselves.

How much women as a class, especially poor women, and society in general, are willing to put up with this, is a whole separate topic.

Thanks for reading.

 

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!

 

Money Talks, again

Hello Friend,

The last time I talked about money talking was with respect to the velocity of money.  Velocity is another way of saying we hold onto our money for some amount of time before we spend it.  Someone who is very poor spends money within hours, days, of getting it.  Someone who is rich and wealthy may hold onto it for years, decades, before putting it somewhere else.  Today the government tracks this “stickiness” indirectly.

This time the talking money is speaking directly to us.  Yes, in this high-tech information age of electronic funds and stateless money (go check out bitcoin) the money that you will have in your electronic wallet is going to be able to tell all about itself.

From the moment that it’s “born” into the world of commerce, that piece of money will know who owned it and what it was traded for.  Did the owner buy lunch?  Tasty.  Did the restaurant buy food.  Good choice.  Did the cheese vendor pay her truck driver?  Good move.  Did that driver buy drugs illegally?  Got you!

Talking money will do more than make our real wallets lighter.  It’s going to enable an enlightened government to find and shut down operations that injure society.  Not only will it be able to track the drug dealer on the corner, but find his supplier, HIS supplier, and eventually all the people who are part of the operation.

Tax dollars being wasted?  Your money will be able to find that as well.  If there’s a general getting a lucrative consulting fee for doing almost nothing, your money will know it.  Politician spending campaign contributions on a luxury hotel room for two, while his wife is spending money at home for groceries?  The money will know.

Notice that I highlighted “enlightened” above.  A government that is so inefficient, so corrupt, or so focused on its own success rather than that of society in general, that kind of government can’t be considered enlightened.  And that government will do everything possible to keep the money from talking.  And if the money talks, the government can make sure no one asks it any embarrassing questions.

Here’s the good news.  If technology continues, and if our society doesn’t succumb to some other great disaster (see tomorrow’s post), talking money will be inevitable.  And if there is only one enlightened government in this world, then it’s very likely they will show the way for the rest of us.

The sad news is that we could be doing this today, if we really wanted.  I want.  Do you?

Thanks for reading.

 

Foretelling Stories

My friend appeared in a local production of the play Vanya and Sonia, playing the part of Cassandra.

Cassandra is a fortune-telling housekeeper.  And my friend was brilliant.  Easily the most interesting person on the stage, playing her part with gusto.  Multi-colored headbands, crazy eye shadow, striped socks and funny sneakers, wild skirts with funky shirts.  Throw in some interesting jewelry and hairpieces and you get the idea.  And those are only the trappings.

What she portrayed was a half-crazed, half-possessed, but wholly compassionate dervish who transitioned from quiet domestic servant into a tornado of words and action.  In some scenes she danced about, flailing her sticks and feathers and other voodoo goodies to exact revenge.  And throughout the play she warns everyone of the nefarious “hooty pie.”

Fortune telling, soothsaying, and astrological prediction have been around as long as we’ve had questions about the future.  Many of us pay good money to know what our horoscope says today.  It doesn’t matter if it’s almost always wrong, because, sometimes, it’s right.  Right?

Oh, so many fancy shmancy people think that gypsy palm readers and tea leaf readers are absolute charlatans.  These fancy people are so full of themselves because they read the business news and understand advanced mathematics.

I thought of these things as I watched my friend scream and chant across the stage and into our hearts, and then I realized something crazy.  What if I was an alien watching this play as my first exposure to humanity?  How would I know that my friend was not truly a clairvoyant?

I wouldn’t!  Unless of course you provided me with absolute proof.

Being an alien, I wouldn’t trust your words, or the words of your friends.  I’d prefer hard data.  In fact, I’d probably really want to see it for myself.

As I smiled to my alien self, I realized that there was another type of human I wouldn’t believe.

Economists.  Yes, modern economists.  If I was an alien, and you told me that economists were the only people on Earth who could foretell the future, I simply would not believe you.

Yes, you can find me millions of people who watch their newscasts, who pass laws based on their words, or even set policy based on their massive calculations.  But can you show me and my alien friends true results of their predictions?  Better yet, can I see those for myself?

Is there even a scorecard that shows, unequivocally, that what an economist predicts today comes true tomorrow?  Or next week?  Next month?  Even next year?

Somehow, I doubt it.  Somehow, I feel that there is a vastly overpaid economist predicting the future, and doing it in a way that is boring and tiresome.

Meanwhile, on the stage stands my friend.  She is vastly underpaid, far more entertaining, yet her predictions are equally as valid.

As an alien, I smile.  As a human, I sigh and shake my head.  Then I sit back and enjoy the rest of the play.  By the way, if you go see this play, I predict that you will like it, too!

 

 

Fired Up

Anyone have a boss?  At work.  Not at home, and siblings don’t count.

I mean, do you have a person at work who decides how much to pay you and whether or not you still have a job?  That’s your boss.

Maybe YOU’RE the boss.  How many people report to you?  How many people report to them?  Do you have the authority to hire and fire all those positions?

Maybe you don’t, and you dream about the power.  Like King Midas dreamt about being able to turn anything into gold.  Be careful about what you wish for.

I have this “power.”  It’s not fun.  I get to go to work and be friendly with everyone.  I get to see everyone on their best behavior.

Then I hear stories.  So and so did this, or said that.  Always behind “so and so’s” back.  Ah, the drama.  Do you like drama?

I can’t stand drama.  I don’t need to watch it on TV.  I live it every day.

Let’s make this easy on both of us.  “So and so” is officially “Sue.”

So I eventually meet with Sue and what do I do?  I’m friendly and business-like at the same time.  And watching.  And wondering.  Am I going to have to fire Sue?

Meanwhile Sue is telling me about her problems, her sick parents, her troublesome kids.  I’m sympathetic.  And I’m still thinking to myself, will I have to fire you?

Finally, something happens that everyone sees, no one can ignore.  I’m going to have to call Sue into my office and find out what’s going on.

I want to ask her: “Do you want this job? Do you need this job? What are you thinking?”  But I can’t do that, either.  It’s not professional, and it leads her to the “right” answers.  No, I have to find out what’s going on inside her head, and hold her to her job description.

The problem is that the job description for managers is a lot fuzzier than for others.  So I have to hold Sue’s feet to a fuzzy fire.

I have to think about this every time I meet with my coworkers.  It makes for a very full day.  One of these days I’ll find a job without drama.  Chances are there won’t be any people involved.

 

 

Mental Accounting

Accounting is the profession of adding up money.  Accounting records are among our oldest.  Clay tablets recording Ahmet’s twenty bales of hay is among the oldest writing we have.  Keeping track of our money has always been important.  How could something so old be improved?

Within the last century a new kind of accounting has emerged.  It’s the kind of accounting that looks at the brain as real estate.  My brain.  Your brain.  Everyone’s brain.

Here’s how it works.  If you owned a piece of land in the desert, it would only be worth as much as you paid for it.  If no one else visited, or wanted it for any reason, it wouldn’t be worth much.

If you owned a piece of land in the center of Tokyo, then you would have something of great value.  Some land in Tokyo goes for as much as a million dollars a square meter.  That’s the same area you make when you twirl in a circle with your arms outstretched.  Many people want that land.

It turns out that inside our heads we also have real estate.  Today we call them “brands.”  A brand is something that a company owns and can put a dollar value upon.  Donald Trump isn’t only a person, he’s a brand.  Even the President of the United States is a kind of brand, not only as a person, but as an occupant of the office.

A search for popular brands comes up with this file.  It lists them by companies, but if you look for individual brands they are harder to find.  For instance, Disney is extremely popular, but how popular is Mickey Mouse alone?  What about the actor Harrison Ford?  I read that this last Star Wars movie makes him today’s most expensive actor.  That’s because he’s not only an actor, he’s a brand.  And you can take that to the bank.  Or, more exactly, HE can take that to the bank.

The reason he can bank his own brand is because you and I know who he is.  He occupies a little piece of our brain.

It’s possible that you may never have heard of him, but unlikely if you live in the US.

It’s possible you know more about him than just his name.  For instance, he’s also a pilot.

It’s possible you know very much about him: his birthday, his family, even his favorite color.

In any case, you have dedicated some amount of your own mental landscape to the brand of Harrison Ford.  The more of your brain you have given to him, the more his brand is worth.

So Disney was willing to pay billions of dollars for Star Wars because so many people already have the story inside their heads.

Disney itself is worth so many hundreds of billions of dollars because it has billions of heads filled with all of its storied brands: Mickey and Minney Mouse, all the Pixar characters, its entertainment parks, video broadcast companies, and so much more.

What other kinds of “brands” can we consider within our brains?  Concepts that aren’t so directly entertaining or profitable?

Consider these unconventional brands: Like the concepts of good and evil?  Right and Wrong?  The First Amendment of the US Constitution?  What about democracy in general?

How much of your mind is devoted to understanding nature, or working to fight things like injustice or hate?

Now that we can start accounting for what’s in our minds, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Which is more valuable to you: True Love, or Star Wars?  They are both “brands” and they both occupy some of your brain space.

I’m willing to bet you a lottery ticket that I know the answer.

 

 

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!