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.


Just Desserts

There are some French shows where dessert is the only thing on the menu.  These shows are at a higher level than what we’re used to seeing from other countries, because, well, IT’S FRANCE!

More to the point, little morsels of gastronomic delight can teach us more than making our saliva glands go into overdrive.

Here’s the short form:

  • Quality ingredients,
  • High standards in all areas,
  • Mastery of technique in everything,
  • Pride in one’s profession, knowing how to work as a team member, knowing how to be a leader, knowing how to handle stress, and always being supportive of others whether they are your competitor or teammate,
  • Either having the best tool for the job, or knowing how to compensate
  • Paying attention to all the senses, in visual aesthetics, variety of textures, the impact of flavors upon the tongue and the nose, and perhaps the most important,
  • Knowing how to savor all this work in small amounts.


How can all of this come about from one small tasty morsel?

Strangely enough, it does.  It’s all a matter of looking deep into the eyes of your culinary delight, understanding everything that goes into it, closing your eyes, and…

… letting your palate do the rest.

Bon Appétit


Harvey Women

A friend of ours showed us a 1945 movie from her collection called “The Harvey Girls.”  It reminded me of the strategy some modern restaurant chains use to get customers.  The difference is that then, the young ladies were far more “proper” and, with marriage as their only career path, may have done more to win the west than anything else.

As I watched one of the big dance numbers with many dozens of lovely young ladies.  I wondered if they had known any Harvey Weinsteins (#MeToo) back then.

I knew the answer.  Probably all of them.

The title of the movie took on a whole new, dark, theme.

As a student of behavior, I wondered if I could objectively estimate how many of those young women had successfully passed the casting couch exam.

  • I knew that some would have the strength to say no.
  • I knew that some would be lucky enough to skip the exam.
  • And I knew that there may have been some honorable men in the industry hiring a young women based on talent and looks rather than other features.

How do we measure the number?

We look at all the films for that studio, for all the studios.  We figure out how many of those young women made it from film to film.  The more movies in which a young woman appears, the better the chance she’d seen at least one casting couch.

Now, here’s the hard part for those who idolize actors like Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury.  These were young women who became legendary.  But they started out exactly like the other young women.

What are the chances they also passed the couch test?  What are the chances that their experiences led them to having a difficult life later?  Consider what happened to Judy Garland.  Perhaps the demons she was fighting weren’t all personal issues, but more like “personnel” issues.

Sometimes watching an old movie isn’t as much fun as it should be.  That’s the downside of studying behavior, we have to take the light with the dark.

Thanks for reading.


Size Matters, Not

There’s a groundswell of voices telling us that women have been abused far too long.

There’s also a spark of light forcing writers to improve the standards of writing.

Hooray.  The more people who tell their stories to #MeToo, the more super-actors who demand better scripts, the better for all of us.  EVERYONE.

In this case, the size of the movement matters.

But there is something else.  Our fascination with size in a different sense.

A standard joke among men is that the size of certain “parts” directly relate to how attractive they are to women.

Any comments, ladies?

Probably not, because it’s a “touchy” subject.  Truth is, they are being polite.  Size doesn’t matter.  If you’re married long enough, they’d be happy if it just fell off.

But unless you ladies speak up, the joke and the behaviors that are TOO aggressive will continue.

Ladies, don’t get smug.  Now it’s your turn.

Did you know that the greatest number of DD breast implants are done in Texas?  Did you know it’s one of THE most popular unnecessary surgeries?  Why do women do this?

Because they think (know) that their chest size has an impact on how many men they attract.

What they don’t know, or want to acknowledge, is that the TYPE of men they attract this way are not necessarily the type of men they want to be with.

Ladies, a guy who is going to love you is NOT going to list chest size in your top ten features.  Unless he can only count as high as ten.  In that case there’s a whole new problem.

So, the challenge to all of you who #MeToo and want better writing: Remind yourself, and others, that size does NOT matter.

Quality.  Not quantity.

That goes for your holiday feast, by the way.

Eat well, everyone.



Harvey Girls

A friend of ours specializes in the old days, and showed us a 1945 movie from her collection called “The Harvey Girls.”  The title takes on a whole new meaning today, but I’ll talk about that next time.

Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury are fantastic.  Performances by everyone else are equally fun to watch, despite the fact that these actors must all have been working at least a dozen films a year.

The fun thing about this movie is that it’s based on some truth.  As the railroads pressed westward, rough and tumble railroad towns would grow up around them, becoming regular stops.  Some even became cities that we know of today.

A restaurant chain started moving west along with the train.  Their secret ingredient?  Hiring only eligible young women to work the restaurant.  Each town that got a restaurant also got a dose of pretty young women.

The result?  Not so much rough and tumble anymore, but more of the birds and bees, if you know what I mean.  Instead of gunshots at night, they got church bells at noon.  Instead of bar fights they had domestic fights.

The real impact was that these towns became “civilized” as the number of young women came to balance out the young men.

Here’s the fun part.  Know of any other recent restaurant chains who have used young women as a part of their secret recipe for gaining customers?

I wonder what the coming of those young women did for their towns.  And I wonder if they ever saw themselves in comparison to the young women who truly did …

… Win the West.




Size Matters

There’s a wonderful groundswell of voices calling out to the world.

During this season of Giving and Getting, there tends to be lots of singing going on.  It’s important to let the Giving portion of the holiday spirit embrace these humble voices without drowning them.  These few words are my humble part of continuing #MeToo.

Our society’s fixation on “SIZE” (big trucks, big people, even big words) is part of the problem.  In the case of this movement, size does matter.  As many women as possible should shout out, and keep shouting out.

If you’re not a shouter, go ahead and whisper it to the ear of the internet.  Cool thing about the internet, it will even listen to you if you whisper.  No one may hear you, but at least it will remember you.

There’s another nice thing about the size of this movement.  It appears that some actors are trying to raise the standards of writing.  It will take time, but the more actors with clout that can stand up for all the actors who don’t have clout, the more it helps everyone.

Yes, everyone.  Wait, I’ll write this big.  EVERYONE.

Actors, movie management, people being entertained, kids who are being raised by the people being entertained.  EVERYONE.

Isn’t that crazy?  By establishing higher standards of writing, these actors can in fact help everyone.  No one gets hurt.  No one has to go away unhappy.  Except for those writers, directors, and producers who rely on hurting others.  And we don’t mind hurting those guys.

Do we?



Teaching Romance

Many people complain that romance is dead.  I usually hear it from my wife, but that’s another story.

What is romance?

I’m not going to bother thinking about that now.

Hmmm, that may explain my wife’s complaint.  I’ll let you do your own research.

My guess is that most of you would like to see more romance.

In that case, why don’t we plant the seeds of proper romance where they belong…

… in High School!

You heard me right.  After all, high school is where we start teaching sex-ed, right?

Whoa!  We teach it even earlier nowadays?

That doesn’t change my mind.  Maybe it’s even more important to teach the romance part early, then.

Kids are able and willing to learn.  In school, they are going to learn about these things anyway.  In my day we had street corners.  Today they have internet corners.  I think the streets were safer.

Along with hormones and organs, let’s teach them about long dates and conversations.  Alongside the stages of menstruation and pregnancy, let’s include stages of building a relationship.  And if we really must teach things like contraception and abortion, let’s include an equivalent “romance” section on divorce.

Now that I think on it, teaching about bad relationships and divorce may do more to lower teen pregnancy rates than any contraception program.  Imagine all the single parents just waiting for the chance to tell a whole classroom about their ex.

So the next time your significant other wonders where the romance is gone, you’ll have a ready answer:

They didn’t teach it to me in school.

Good luck with that one.


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.