12 Rules For Life:  Return of the Jordan (Final Part of the Review Trilogy), Charles Atlas, The Simpsons . . . and Being a Man, The Definitive Review

“No. Not yet. One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi

DSC01497

The Boy in full Vader get up.  He looked at me and said, “You are my Father, John Wilder.  Can I have more cake?” and then force-choked me when I said no, three pieces was enough.  So I cut off his hand.  That’s good parenting where I come from . . .

As promised, this is the final part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK) and the second part here (LINK).  Quotes, if not otherwise noted, are Peterson from the book.  Sorry for the delay – the flu was busy attempting to eat my lungs.  I’m better now.

 

I strongly recommend this book – and get no money if you buy it at this time – in the future, who knows?

Rule 9:  Assume That The Person You’re Listening To Knows Something You Don’t

If you listen, most people are really not boring.  Okay, some are.  But they are mainly parents of children who haven’t graduated from high school and anyone from Iowa.  Everybody else is interesting.  Dr. Peterson talks about how he sat down with a woman, and within minutes she was telling him she was a witch.  And not only that, a witch whose coven regularly got together and prayed for global peace – a world peace witch.  By day?  She was a minor bureaucrat; I imagined a driver’s license lady.  Not who you’d size up to be a witch.  Oh, wait.  EXACTLY who you’d size up to be a witch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of people for my job.  I was never bored once.  But I had people blurt out amazing things in the interview.  “I got fired for stealing.”  I was hiring for a position that had lots of financial responsibility, and maybe kinda lax oversight.  No job there.  “I hated my co-workers.”  Yup.  Big points for working well with others.  Again, people will tell you amazing things if you just shut up and listen.  Dates were interesting, too.  Had one date where the girl’s plan was to go off and find herself in the Peace Corps after she’d just gotten out of a relationship with her husband who had buried a bus so he could grow illegal weed.  Yeah, that night was an early exit.

But few enough actually listen (I’ve been guilty of that myself, lots of times) without responding – i.e., defining the problem for the speaker.  Even worse is defining the situation for the speaker – Peterson discussed a woman who was unsure if she had been raped after continually getting drunk and going home with guys.  He could have defined it as “yes” or “no” for her but that would have prevented her from sorting it out herself, which was crucial to helping her.  He used this example to point out that being too intrusive in a conversation often warps it in a manner that changes the framework for the other person . . . and prevents them from getting better.

Peterson listens, because his theory is that people talk to simulate their reality.  Humans are the only critters that do that – simulate entire worlds with our words and model the results of present actions into the future.  When we run these simulations, we often simulate the words and behavior of others – I know I have a pretty accurate simulation of The Mrs. running.  It’s over 98% accurate.  The Mrs. likewise has one of me, too.  We have tons of conversations with each other without even speaking to each other, because the other just our simulation.

Honest listening – turning off the simulator – is required for real conversation.  Our filters and feedback contaminate the discussion.  Once we get to that honest listening stage, we can have Real Conversations – Conversations where we truly hear each other and can create new knowledge, and sometimes solve our own problem.

Rule 10:  Be Precise In Your Speech

Dr. Peterson begins with a discussion of the coming obsolescence of laptops.  Most of our laptop experience is located outside of the laptop – it’s only a “single leaf, on a tree, in a forest . . .”  Our laptops feed from all of the other computers out there – from the Facebook© servers to the wonderful servers that bring you Wilder, Wealthy and Wise and that Japanese cooking site you don’t want your wife to see that you’ve been to visit after she goes to bed so you can dream about sushi.  Those exist outside of your laptop – and your laptop only pulls information from them.

But we don’t inhabit that forest.  We inhabit a simplification of that world.  In our world where we give objects purpose and meaning – we don’t let them simply exist – we give a car purpose – it must take us from one place to another.  A light switch ceases to just exist – it gives us light, and in a blackout part of us is shocked (pun intended) when the switch doesn’t bring us light.  Peterson feels that precision is required so we down drown in the vast amount of detail that surrounds us.

Our model gums up when violated.  I used a light switch – Peterson uses a cheating spouse – inviting Chaos in.  Peterson then pops some Yeats in the CD player for good measure:

The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Speech is required to sort this chaos out, to make sense of it, to dispel it.  A night light might also be nice to scare the rough beast away?

“Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean.  Act out what you say so you can find out what happens.”

Rule 11:  Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

Skateboarders are pretty talented, and Peterson spends some time discussing their skill, and the methods by which they optimize risks, which is crucial, Peterson felt, to growing as a man.  Unfortunately (in Peterson’s opinion) there are adults who what to spoil all the fun by putting in features that make skateboarding impossible while also looking ugly at the same time.

Those adults are then (at least by proximity in the chapter) compared to a friend that Peterson had.  Peterson’s friend (also discussed in earlier chapters) had a problem:  he hated mankind.  He came to no good, making himself a victim at every turn, and learning to hate beautiful, successful people.  They seemed to make him even madder.  Dr. Peterson then followed up with a description of a TEDx talk by a professor . . . who also hated the human race.  These self-appointed judges spoil the fun . . . and the risk.

And the result?  Boys are being pushed out.  25% of college degrees granted are in the fields of healthcare, psychology, education, and public administration.  80% of these degrees go to women.  Peterson feels that this is Not Good.  If projections hold, there will be very few men in non-STEM fields in the next few years.  And this is bad for women.

Huh?

How many college-educated women consider, say, a plumber a great catch?  Some, to be sure, but not many.  When it comes to marriage, women tend to marry someone either at the same social/economic status or of a higher status.  As those guys disappear?

Marriage becomes something for the rich.  The rest of the girls get hookups in their twenties, and a basket of cats when they hit 33.  If they have kids, the results are similarly grim – because single parent families are statistically inferior in every way to dual parent families.  So those rich kids?  Yeah, life will be better for them.  Because they have two parents.

Maybe patriarchy isn’t so bad?  Feminism is a creation of Marxism (per Jordan), and between that and post-modernist thought – we’re trying to fundamentally remake civilization in ways that may not be as stable as civilization created over the last 11,000 years or so.  And Marxism led to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.  And that idea became the most deadly idea of the entire 20th century – killing more people, primarily their own citizens than any other idea.

Peterson REALLY doesn’t like Post Modernism, either, since it’s a philosophy that says there’s no truth and makes the claim “that logic itself is a merely a part of the oppressive patriarchal system.”

Boys are boys, but society is trying to force them to be girls, per Peterson.  Which is really, really wrong.  Biology is a huge part of what makes a boy act like a boy, and a girl act like a girl.  Then, a large amount of (enjoyable) discussion about ancient gods and Disney© animated movies.

Then we get back to Peterson, talking about when he worked on a railway crew.  Peterson uses these (amusing) stories about men and how they want particular behavior from other men:  Do your job.  Don’t whine.  Don’t be a suck up.  What to men want and value from other men?  “Be tough, entertaining, competent and reliable.”

atlas

The above ad is from comic books, literally all comics books, of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I sent away for as similar set of books.  You, too can learn Karate for only $19.95.  If you can learn karate by yourself from a book.  With a poor work ethic.

Peterson (really) feels that the Charles Atlas ad captures a lot of human sexuality in seven panels.  Women want tough men.  It’s here that he combines The Simpsons and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same hilarious paragraph.  Lisa Simpson doesn’t want Milhouse, dude, she wants a kinky billionaire.  Or that bad kid from Springfield Elementary.  Or a dude that will keep you safe on the beach.

Because women want men.  Tough men.  And you get men through risk.  Through . . . skateboarding.

Rule 12:  Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

Peterson baits and switches here – starting with a discussion on dogs.  But he brings back to cats, and also to the theme of the chapter – human suffering.  It will literally suck to be a human.  People die.  People suffer, sometimes horribly and inexplicably.  But, somehow, Superman™ needs Kryptonite© – this suffering makes life, well, not interesting, but certainly not fake.

It’s a worthy chapter, and my summary is short because I’m not one to use Peterson’s tough times, and I rarely write about my own.  I’ll give you my bullet point summary:

  • Dogs are Happy
  • Cats have Terms and Conditions for Love
  • Enjoy Both Dogs and Cats – They Have Purity of Being
  • Because Life Sucks

CODA:  Not The Led Zeppelin Album

Peterson caps it off – again, buy the book.  I’ll just ask you – what do you want for yourself tomorrow?  What about next year?  Who could you be if you really tried?

So, that’s it.  It’s a pretty long review, and I’m glad you stuck it out this far.

Pluses of the book?  Amazing philosophical content.  Easy read.  Original thoughts.

Downside?  Chapters could be more evenly edited to tie the content together, and follow the old rule – tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  There are several chapters that I read a second time after about a week to write this review, and being prepped with the previous read and knowing what to look for, I enjoyed the chapters much more.  Maybe this review will act as a guide you can use when you go through it to look for more content that sparks your interest.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Peterson also dictated this book – many of the passages sound like speech turned into text, though I might be wrong since I’ve heard a LOT of Peterson speaking but very little of his written stuff.

Overall verdict:  totally recommend it.  Best way ever to confront Vader.  And then the Ewoks burned my copy – because they stopped making Star Wars® in 1983.  Wonder what would have happened if they had made a sequel or two?  I’m glad they never did.

12 Strong Movie Review, Exploding Tide Bottles, Rifles, and Significance

“Good Lord!  We can’t get them.  I never figured on having to shoot through dirt!” – Tremors

 shoosting

Good times.  Not pictured:  plastic Tide® bottle.

How many of you remember that perfect day?  That wonderful day where the Sun was shining, everyone was in harmony, and you lost yourself in the activities you were engaged in?  Those days are significant in their perfection – days that you remember now and that you’ll remember when you’re 50 or 60 or 70.

I imagine The Boy and Pugsley will both remember watching their dad’s form silhouetted in front of exploding Tide® laundry detergent bottle at least that long.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the place where I think I’ve been negligent as a dad is in not taking The Boy and Pugsley shooting often enough.  Shooting is fun, but it also teaches patience and persistence.  How do you get good at shooting?  By shooting.  Nobody’s great at shooting coming out of the box, but by patience and practice you learn to get better – and the feedback loop is literally supersonic – you can see the result of your efforts nearly immediately.  And you have to be patient.  And disciplined.

Two weeks ago we went shooting, and had a great time.  We brought only .22 rifles (I’m sure that in California these are registered as assault weapons or orbital bombardment cannons or something) that time.  It was about 40˚F out (-371˚C for you living in Great Britain) so after a while (400 rounds or so) we decided to go and get warm.  But a good time?  Absolutely.

metric

I have no idea where this meme came from, but I bet it wasn’t Europe.

I’d been watching the weather because it’s no fun shooting when it’s colder than a brass monkey in the fridge on the dark side of Pluto.  We couldn’t go Saturday, since The Boy was busy with athletics.

Fortunately the weather looked good for Sunday.  And on Saturday night we got home early enough to rope in Pugsley and go see 12 Strong.  12 Strong is a true story about the first Special Forces (Green Berets) unit into Afghanistan after 9/11.  It’s rated “R” primarily because it features Americans being unambiguously good, moral, and upright against unambiguously evil people even though it stars an Australian as an American Special Forces Captain (Chris Hemsworth) in a clear case of cultural appropriation.

12_strong_keyart2

I’m pretty sure Warner Brothers wants us to share this image, since it gives sixteen buttons to share it . . .

The movie was good, in a “I love America and the values that it stands for” way as shown by the bravery of the troops, the fidelity of the spouses, and the idea that a promise made is one to be kept.  In this movie there are no politics of division.  And the American men and many Afghani men (almost every character in this movie with more than two lines is a man) were brave.  And it didn’t try to discuss deeper issues – it had the decency to allow us to have and believe in heroes of flesh and blood.

How good was the movie?  Pugsley is 12, and is now contemplating how he’s going to become a Green Beret (a little less likely for The Boy – I think he’d rather create nuclear-powered x-ray space lasers).  Scary for a dad to think that?  Yeah, it is.  But boys grow up, and the responsibility of holding a rifle is sobering for a 12 year old, given its sheer destructive power.

My ranking on the movie?  5/5.

Okay, back to shooting.  Today we went shooting again.  It was one of those fun coincidences that as we left the house “Freeze Frame” by The J. Geils Band was playing on the radio . . . Pugsley started doing a dance when the lyrics, “shoot, shoot . . . deedle leedle lee” kept repeating since I think he was excited about going shooting, or “shoosting” as we called it, in an homage to Lisa from Green Acres®.

However, we also brought two additional things that we didn’t bring last time:  an AR-15 I’d bought from a friend several years ago that I’d only put about 20 rounds (for New York readers – that means I’d shot the rifle 20 times) through.  The Boy had NOT liked shooting it several years ago.  Scary.

Also, I brought explosives with the explicit idea that we’d shoot them and create a series of explosions.

I know what you’re thinking.  More on that later.

The Boy and Pugsley each jammed out a few hundred rounds of .22 down range.  Then I pulled out the AR-15.  An AR-15 shoots a .223 caliber bullet – really only slightly larger than a .22, but whereas a .22 comes out of the barrel at 1600 feet per second, a .223 comes out of the barrel at over 3,000 feet per second.  And a doubling of speed is a quadrupling of energy.  (Really closer to 8 times, since the bullet is larger.)  For all of you purists – we are NOT getting into the difference between a 5.56 and a .223 in this post – go get technical somewhere else.

The Boy and Pugsley each shot the AR and pronounced it . . . amazing.

So, I thought, perhaps it’s time to mix up the explosive?

Sure.

We tried to use the .22 to initiate the explosion.  You were supposed to be 100’ away . . . and we shot at it for a ludicrous number of shots (it was about 2” x 1”, so it’s not that small of a target at 100’).

Nothing.

The Boy went downrange and checked.

“You went clean through it twice.”

Hmm. I put another explosive packet together since the powder had leaked out of the first through the bullet holes.  I stuck it on the side of a plastic Tide® laundry detergent jug – one of the big ones that does 5,000 or so loads of laundry.  I took a shot with the AR.  Hit the Tide® jug, and the explosive fell off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  I went down range and put the explosive back on.  Walked back.  Shot, and hit the jug again.  And knocked the explosive off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  Again.

I finally determined the add-on sight that I was using wasn’t even remotely accurate, and pulled it off to use the basic sights (“iron sights”) that come with the rifle.  Frustrated, and thinking the explosive was a dud based on the previous experience we’d had with the first packet, I stuck the packet back on the jug, and then moved back and I took aim at the explosive stuck to the Tide™ jug not 20’ away from me.

There was a flash.  Lots of smoke.

And the Tide® jug . . . ceased to exist.  Gone.  Left this plane of existence.  The only thing left was the label.  I could see something that looked like tiny orange fragments of plastic jug, but only a few.  But the jug?

Vanished.

Wow.

I felt my face.  Small particles of dirt or unexploded explosives were imbedded in a dusty patina all over my face.  Thankfully I was wearing glasses and hearing protection.

So, the explosive did work.  And 100’ was certainly a much better idea than my 20’ – I’m guessing something about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread?  I walked back to the firing line.

The Boy:  “How on EARTH can that be legal???”  His grin was huge.

It is, at least where I live.  Your mileage may vary depending upon what location you live in.  US Federal law allows this explosive to be sold because when they sell it, it’s two compounds . . . a “binary” explosive.  You have to mix the compounds yourself.  And you can’t transport it after mixing (without insurance, permits, etc.).  You have to use it for personal, non-commercial use.  And . . . you should research this yourself.  I believe in California they will ____ your ____.  And you don’t want your ___ to be ____.  Very uncomfortable for your _____.

No.  Seriously I think they’d call that a felony.  But where we live?  It’s Sunday afternoon.

Hint:  Google® “Tannerite©” – although Tannerite™ wasn’t the manufacturer of the stuff we used, it’s the easiest search term.  This is NOT a law blog – you need to figure out if this stuff is legal where you are.

So, it is legal here.  That doesn’t mean it’s always used in a smart – one gentleman filled a lawnmower with a binary explosive, shot it, and it promptly lopped off a leg.  But that’s the definition of freedom – not stopping idiots from being idiots.  If we go too much further down that road, every surface in every house will be mandated to be made of Nerf®.

Regardless, the Tide® bottle was gone and I still had all of my parts.

Second shot?  We taped an explosive packet up to the plastic cylinder the explosive originally came in.  The Boy took aim with the AR, and . . . first shot it exploded and likewise disappeared into another dimension.  I went to check for more things we could blow up in the car we brought (it was The Mrs.’ car) and was rummaging around in the back seat.

And found a Wal-Mart bag containing two pounds of thick-cut bacon and three pounds of hamburger.  Sitting in the back seat.  Of a car The Mrs. hasn’t driven in three days.

Pugsley:  “Oops!  Guess I forgot to bring that bag in.”

Normally I’d give him a much harder time about leaving $30 in meat to rot in his mother’s car, but in this case?

We had explosives.  And guns.  And meat.

It’s even better if you imagine they’re singing “gone shoosting”.

Two explosive charges and the bacon was unrecognizable.  One charge took care of the hamburger.  Both The Boy and Pugsley were dead-on in their shots, hitting the explosive charge on their first shot in almost every case.

We picked up the exploded stuff (left the bacon and burger for the coyotes) and packed up and went home.

But the bigger perspective?

I was talking with another dad the other day – he was coaching a group of kids at the same sporting event The Boy was at.  We talked back and forth.  He was coaching his own son, which he felt was really the toughest coaching he had to do.  But, he indicated, he thought he’d keep coaching even after his son was done.  He really enjoyed it (and he was a good coach – his team did well that day).

“You know,” I said, “it’s not the money.  It’s not the things you do to things that matters in this world.  It’s the opportunity to be significant to someone – to give them training and experiences that change them for the better.  And these kids will remember what you did for them and how you changed them, coach, for the rest of their lives.  Now that,” I paused, “is the definition of significance.”

“That’s pretty well said,” he responded.

“Yeah, I’m Noted Internet Humorist John Wilder.”

And these perfect days can be the perfect days that will form memories for The Boy and Pugsley that will reinforce their character forever.

I wonder how many perfect days I’ve got left?  Not too many if I stand too close to too many exploding Tide® jugs, so I think I’ll avoid those from now on.  It would be good to be around to see what happens with The Boy and Pugsley . . . Green Beret or not, I’m sure I’ll be proud of both of them.

Scams, Your Momma, and Cheap Speakers

“You were right about that computer scam.  That was a bad idea.  I’m going to take the blame for it, I decided.” – Office Space

DSC02749

I’d like to report this sign for false advertising.  The town was not made of Cuervo® nor did they make Cuervo™ there.

Back a few decades ago . . . .

I was in a college classroom, after class.  A bunch of us were sitting around talking and Joe jumped in.

“So, guys, the most incredible thing happened to me,” said Joe.  “I was at a Burger King® and I had just finished eating.  I was walking back out to my car, and this guy in a van stopped me.”

I think I jumped in with something to the effect that very few good things happen when a guy from a van approaches you in a Burger King™ parking lot.

Joe ignored me and continued, “He had these speakers in the back of his van.  He had dropped them off at a rental, and he had mistakenly signed two extra out.  If he took them back to the shop, they would have fired him for checking the extras out.  These are $1000 speakers! Each!

“I got them for $300 for the pair!  They sound totally awesome with my stereo!  I had to run to the bank to get the cash, but I got them!”

I smiled.

I had just read in the local newspaper that there was a scammer group operating around the metropolitan area of Moderatelylargecity, East Westeria near where we lived.  They were selling speakers worth about $50 a pair out of the back of trucks at fast food restaurants.  Cash only.

I thought to myself – “Hey, Joe likes the speakers.  He really likes them.  And if you tell him it was all a scam, he’ll hate the speakers and feel stupid.  Is it hurting anyone to let him think he got a deal?”

Joe was a nice guy, and I successfully held back my inner jerk (on that far distant morning).  I’m betting Joe has no idea to this day.   Maybe I should call him and tell him?

And of the bunch of us talking, Joe was by far the nicest guy.  Probably the most moral.  If you read this blog you KNOW it’s not me.  (Yes, I know John Wilder’s halo is firmly askew – but it’s in a roguish Captain Mal Reynolds way.)

The world is full of scammers.  Many of the scams are legal, just like the one your mom pulled on your dad.

And how do I know so much?  Yeah.  I got scammed.  More than once.  The first big scam occurred when I signed a contract when I was pretty young (20??) that wasn’t a good one (for me) but it only cost me $1000.  For a membership in a buying club.  To buy things at factory cost.  When I had no money to buy things at factory cost.

Thankfully, it was financed with monthly payments of like $50, which was a lot back then.  But looking in the rear view mirror?  That $1000 was cheap, and the payments made it better.  I got to feel stupid not one time, but EVERY SINGLE MONTH when I wrote out that check.  Now?  I try to look through my lens of past stupidity to evaluate every single deal.

Recently I responded to an email from a “group” that appeared to be tied to a professional association that I am a part of.  Mistake.  Set up an appointment and it turned out I could join this “group” for only $200 per month.  This would be awesome!  This would help me advance some professional goals that I was interested in.  Well, $200 per month plus a $250 startup fee.  I was discussing the opportunity with them on the phone:

Me:  “Well, how often does this actually work?”  (I was expecting 95% or something.)

Jim Q. Salesdude:  “You can understand that we don’t keep statistics on our success rate.  But most members are active for more than a year . . . .”

And I’m sure he’s telling the truth.

The average person that would be wanting this kind of opportunity could afford $200 a month.  And the process would likely take months.  So, yeah, I’m sure he’s telling the truth, because he has people who can afford it buying . . . hope.  I looked up the company online, and saw very few positive reviews – most indicated it provided them no help whatsoever.  Heck, I can just go the bank and get $200 in ones and at least be able to make a fire out of it.  Why should I give them $2650?

But what are the signs of a scam?

  1. Hard sell/won’t leave you alone. – This is often the number one sign. The salesman has money on the line – you money.  If you sign up?  They get money, and it’s likely that they’re morally flexible in the first place.  With this opportunity listed above, the salesguy is getting sort of clingy.  He’s very insistent – like a psycho ex-girlfriend level insistent.  As long as he doesn’t come to my house in the middle of the night and shave my dog completely bald and then take a magic marker to him, I think I’m okay – nobody wants that to happen to them twice.  He called me today even after I told him I wasn’t interested.  Even sent me an email to reschedule on my calendar after I ditched his call.  When in full hard sell mode, they make high school sophomore girls who just got dumped in public look stable.
  2. Implication that this is special, or maybe kinda illegal. – In my case, this was supposed to be a backdoor link for “special access.” I was approved after describing my experience in a single sentence, and then told how special I was.  Alarm bells!  This is also an incentive for you to be quiet after the scam is over – not everyone gets special access!  I’ll give you a heads up:  there is no Secret Nigerian Prince and no one has picked you to get a special offer because of what you’ve done.  You’re not that special.  And your kindergarten teacher doesn’t even remember your name.  Mine does.  But that’s because of the knives.
  3. Payment for things that aren’t usual. – Back (farther) in the past The Mrs. and I attempted to get an agent for a book we’d written. We found one who loved us and loved our book!  This agent also wanted to . . . charge us.  We believed in our book.  A bit too much.  Thankfully, we were only out several hundred dollars on that one.  There’s no way you should pay an agent, and no way that you should pay people for “super special professional opportunities.”
  4. Too good to be true (threats and promises). – One salesmen talked about how people who bought “Brand X” (his competitor) often got fired. I liked the guy, but made sure that I’d never buy that particular product.  I respond poorly to threats.  I respond much better to treats, which is nearly spelled the same way.  Treats are better:  Like sausage.    Wine.  Beer.  Some mixture of wine, bacon, sausage and beer.  In a smoothie?
  5. Quick response required. – If you don’t act today, you can’t get this deal! If someone tells me that?  I walk.  No deal is that good.  Have to act tonight?  Hmmm, I’ll pass.  If it’s a good deal where both parties will benefit, it will be available tomorrow, like your mom.

Nigerians and internet scammers look for stupid people.  Why?  You can keep them going forever.  That’s why the emails from the “Nigerian Prince” have spelling and factual errors.  If the person reading the email has enough brain cells momentarily clear the fog and do a Google® search for “Nigerian Prince” – well, that’s way too bright for the scammer.  They want them stupid (certainly) and rich (would be nice).  Since most things in the third world can be bought for about six dollars and handfuls of the wrapping paper the locals call money (sometimes including the local parliament) – you are rich if you live in America.  Even if you make minimum wage.

Scammers sell empty hope, which makes them equivalent with your state’s lottery board.  Last night I dreamed I was talking with my brother.  And mentioning how Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and I were friends.  Heck, I even had Steve’s phone number in my phone.

And I woke up, and was briefly sad that I really wasn’t friends with Steve Martin.  See how sad that was?  I bet you’re crying and sobbing that I was so disappointed.  That’s what selling empty hope is.  That and assuming that your parents really loved you.

I’ll leave you with this:  You can’t scam an honest man.  If you stick to honest reward for honest work and honest value?  You’ll never be CEO.

But you’ll never be scammed, either, if you also remember never to trust a five year old or a dude selling speakers out of the back of a van at Burger King®.

Washington: Musk, Patton, and Jack Daniels all Rolled into . . . the ONE

“I, George Washington, born in 1492, freer of the slaves, and the first president of this, our country, though savagely impeached for the shooting of Abe Lincoln, I will lead us into the demise of all humans!” – Home Movies

Washington

General George Washington, 1776, when he was about 44 years old.  44 years old, a billionaire, a war hero from the French and Indian War, and now commanding a rebel group fighting the largest superpower in the world.  Hmmm.  Maybe that’s why all that stuff is named for him?

There is a time for fighting valiantly and dieting.  Then there exists the Thanksgiving/Christmas nexus.  I’ve been generally trying to minimize the carb content of what I eat, but Thanksgiving?  Yeah, I’m having pumpkin pie.  And stuffing.  And mashed potatoes.  And might drink a bit of gravy.  Just a quart or two.  Not from the gravy boat – I have standards.  I have standards . . . and a mug.  A great gravy mug.

Yes, I have willpower, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are more difficult times to stick to diets.  So, I don’t.  And I don’t spend a lot of time feeling guilty about it, but it’s also a good time to reflect that eating different things changes my mood.

If I’ve had enough potatoes to feed the Soviet Army, I know that I’ll feel differently both physically and mentally.  Sugar is similar. Ditto with bread.

So, how do I feel different physically?  For me, when I eat carbs I tend to retain a LOT more water.  It’s my theory that it’s used to think out my blood so it flows better than maple syrup.  When I jump back into the low carb regimen, I know that for the first few days I will dump water faster than the democrats dumped Al Franken.

I’m pretty sure that the extra water does NOT do anything really good for me.

How do I feel different mentally?  Again, for me the low carb (very low, like none) zaps me into a state of clarity and stability.  Stuff just doesn’t bother me as much.  And I seem to get better sleep.

But one thing that’s wonderful about the Holidays is . . . George Washington.

George was really tall for his time and place, and strong enough that he could crush walnuts in his bare hand.  British walnuts.  And he was known to party (from teachingamericanhistory.org):

First Troop Philadelphia City
Cavalry Archives, 1774
City Tavern
George Washington
Entertainment of
15 Sept., 1787

Light Troop of Horse, September the 14th 1787

To Edwd Moyston .. Dr.
To 55 Gentlemans Dinners & Fruit
Rellishes, Olives etc………………………………………..  20  12   6
54 Bottles of Madera……………………………………….  20   5
60 of Claret ditto……………………………………………  21
8 ditto of Old Stock…………………………………………   3   6   8
22 Bottles of Porter ditto………………………………….   2  15
8 of Cyder ditto……………………………………………..  16
12 ditto Beer…………………………………………………  12
7 Large Bowels of Punch………………………………….   4   4
Segars Spermacity candles etc………………………….   2   5
To Decantors Wine Glass [e]s & Tumblers Broken etc..   1   2   6
To 16 Servants and Musicians Dinners……………………   2
16 Bottles of Claret…………………………………………   5  12
5 ditto Madera……………………………………………….   1  17   6
7 Bouls of Punch…………………………………………….   2  16   
£89   4   2

 

If you study the above, you’ll see that George Washington and 54 of his best buddies had 114 bottles of wine, plus cider, beer, and 8 bottles of hard alcohol.  I’m thinking our Founding Fathers were knee-walking drunk at this point – you can see that they got well into the “smashing the bottles and glasses” part of the party.  And it was the equivalent of something between $15,000 and $20,000 that he spent on the party.

George liked to party.

And he liked to party at Christmas, which brings us to eggnog.

Now, I must tell you that I really, really hate eggnog.  Hate it with a passion.

Or I did, until I had George’s eggnog.  And it just so happens I’ll share his recipe with you (this will be the 306,001st place on the Internet that you can get it):

“One quart ye cream, one quart of ye milk, one dozen tablespoons of ye sugar, one pint of ye brandy, ½ pint of ye rye whiskey, ½ pint of ye Jamaica rum, ¼ pint of ye sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

And it’s amazing.  It tastes just like Christmas.  And George was right – making this stuff and drinking it on day one is NOT advised.  It tastes . . . strong.  But after three days in the fridge?  Amazingly smooth.

So, not only was George a billionaire president general that defeated the world’s largest and best trained armed forces?  He knew how to party.

Here’s to you, George!

How I Met Your Internet

“I told him that I had a daughter and he told me he had one, too. And he said, “Never give up on family.” And I didn’t. I took his advice. My God, the universe is random, it’s not inevitable, it’s simple chaos. It’s subatomic particles in endless, aimless collision. That’s what science teaches us, but what does this say? What is it telling us that the very night that this man’s daughter dies, it’s me who is having a drink with him? I mean, how could that be random?” – Breaking Bad

DSC00395

The Mrs. took this picture during a particularly pernicious rainstorm.  They tell the kids to stay inside during a thunderstorm.  Meh.  If I get hit by lightning I’m buying a lottery ticket.

So, this is the 100th post.  I think the best way to deal with this is to skip the structure of wealth, wisdom, and health for this post.  The discipline of structure is nice, and I’ve learned a lot of things by doing it, but it’s nice to vary from that structure from time to time to be spicy, like taco-flavored kisses.  So, here are some random bits of fog from my brain.  Some of these may end up as posts at some point . . .

  • If someone is cloaking a concept in really, really confusing language, they’re lying or trying to cover something up.  The desire to create an impression contrary to truth requires that they twist the language to the point of ripping.  Using bigger words and confusing, academic phrasing are just camouflage for the lie.  For example:  At a dinner party, a gentleman was talking about overpopulation.  His solution?  Reduce the population by a billion or so through “caloric restriction.”  He was confronted by another guest . . . “You want to starve a billion people to death?”  Yup.  Really happened, according to the article.
  • If you depend on someone to give you money or things so you can live, they control you.  This is why welfare is control.  This is why parents get to make the rules.  This is why bosses can be arbitrary, and the Hollywood predator gang could stay so safe, for so long.
  • There is no objective morality without a belief in a higher power.  Without that, we’re all just meat and cells.
  • Children need enough privacy to grow, enough structure to grow well.
  • Youth is rarely wise, but it might be smart.  My brother, John Wilder (yes, we have the same name – just different parents – my family tree looks like an inkblot) talked about how his company had hired a 30 year old CFO.

Me:  “He won’t last a year.”

Bro:  “He’s smart.”

Me:  “Yeah, but he’s got a LOT of growing up to do.”

The guy flamed out in a year.

  • I don’t know why wisdom costs us so much pain and difficulty in life.  Is it because, like divorce, it’s worth it?

Rorschach, Copyright DC Comics

How my family tree would look as a superhero. © Certainly DC Comics, Fair Use Claim, Will Remove on Request

  • Liars lie.  The only thing that stops them is when they get caught and something tragic happens, and mostly not even that.  I’m not sure why they do it.
  • Cowards are the most dangerous of men.  They will quickly befriend you even when you don’t deserve it.  They will desert you at the first sign of an angry mob.  And they’ll join the mob.
  • Being close to a coward is bad.  But you can always count on a coward being a coward and acting like a coward.  Having a liar close to you is worse.  They might tell you pleasing lies for a time, and you might forget their nature.
  • You are the average of your five closest friends.  Choose wisely.
  • People say, “Kids tell the truth!  It’s natural.”  Oops, I meant people who never seen an actual child say that.  Kids lie as soon as they can figure it out, as any parent can tell you.  No, I didn’t eat that cookie.
  • Between the ages of 10 and 14 are the only times you really have to parent.  Before that, it’s teaching.  After that, it’s supporting.  Something happens between the ages of 10 and 14 that determines whether or not the kid goes bad.  They’ve learned how to inflict pain and but haven’t learned empathy or kindness or responsibility – they’re a group of snotty acne-covered psychopaths.  This is why middle school age children are such miserable creatures, and once you win the battle as a parent you can hit the autopilot once they hit high school.
  • Underarm hair grows back.  A reputation doesn’t.  In other words?  One drop of snot ruins all the eggnog.
  • Always take an offered breath mint.
  • We waste a lot of time.  (I include me in that.)  Ben Franklin said, “If thou loveth lifeth, wasteth noteh time, for that is what life is made of.”  And a big part of that waste is in pursuits that produce . . . nothing.  I’ve been accused of being a “hillbilly” for fixing a faucet rather than buying a new one.  In my defense, my name isn’t Billy.  And I could fix the faucet for $5 and an hour of time, and some cussing and bruised knuckles.  And I know how to fix a faucet now!  A faucet that was last manufactured in 1980.
  • Buy new faucets instead of fixing them.
  • You can’t reason with someone who’s acting out of emotion.  And you ESPECIALLY can’t reason with a crowd of people who are rioting.  Fight reason with reason.  Emotion with emotion.  And rioters with force and/or Optimus Prime®.  Thus the following is the best thing to wear to a riot (LINK) (and no, not getting paid for this link):

optimus-prime-costume-hoodie.main

  • Reason is something we use to convince ourselves that what we want is wise and, well, reasonable.
  • Cultures aren’t all equal in the output they produce.  Some cultures produce much more violence, less wealth, and much less freedom, and some even create all three negatives at once (Venezuela).
  • I invented a gravity cannon.  It consists of two huge counter-rotating cylinders of the matter from a neutron star (this stuff is denser than a Kardashian at 900 pyramids of weight for a single teaspoonful).  Thick cylinders, but hollow.  I think it would only require a dozen or so neutron stars to build.  To shoot it, you have to jam the inner cylinder into the hollow outer cylinder.  The result is a vortex of gravity that might stay stable enough (if the cylinders are rotating fast enough) to slam into your enemy – an invisible ring of gravity death travelling at them at whatever speed you slammed the cylinders together at.  It would also create a massive black hole and a huge gamma ray outburst that would roast a turkey from 100 light years away.  Is it impractical using a dozen solar masses and the approximate energy put out by our galaxy in any given year for one shot at an enemy?  Possibly.  But maybe I need a government grant to study it?  We wouldn’t want Russia to have one and us not.
  • There is bacteria growing on the space station.  On the outside of the space station.  While it’s in space.  I sense a 1950’s B-Movie:  The Fungus from Mars.
  • Tip well.  Show gratitude when it makes sense and when you can afford it.  Give a hard working waitress a $10 tip on an $8 dollar bill?  They’ll mention it for days.  Where else can you make someone so happy for so little?

Hope you’ve enjoyed the first 100 as much as I have.  See you Monday!

Your Passion is Stupid

“No, not unpopular, they just have a more selective appeal.” – This is Spinal Tap

DSC00962

Okay, there’s a time when your passion of throwing big rocks in the river should be followed.  That’s whenever you’re at the river.

Pop Wilder was a banker.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking, John Wilder is the banker’s son, summers in Maine, winters in Switzerland.  No.  Summers in the forest cutting firewood in Colorado, winters in Colorado on snowmobiles fifty miles into the back country.  Okay, winters were better than Switzerland, at least since the CIA stole the secret of the Swiss “hot chocolate” technology and weaponized it in Swiss Miss® cocoa packets.

On occasion, especially after a few bourbon and waters, Pop Wilder would get a bit melancholy.  “John Wilder, you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up, but don’t be a banker.”  Although by any measure, Pop was successful.  And he was passionate about his work.  He left every morning before the Sun came up to open the bank.  He got home two hours after the bank had closed.  He unlocked the place and locked it back up.  He never took more than 10 vacation days in any year, and I never saw the man take one day off due to being sick.  (An aside:  I’m stunned that’s the first time I came to that realization – I haven’t taken a sick day off since 2000.  Wonder where that stubbornness comes from?)

Pop Wilder, you see, wasn’t the “snort cocaine off a stripper’s butt” type banker, but rather the “small town banker that drives a car to work that’s eight years old.”  I think he might have not abused his power enough . . . I’m not sure.  What’s the use of having power, if you don’t abuse it?

What always bothered Pop Wilder the most was when he had to explain to a person who wanted to borrow money that he wouldn’t lend it to them – he didn’t think the loan was based on sound collateral, or the borrower’s income wasn’t enough to cover their living expenses plus their debt.  He was proud at the end of his career that he’d never had to foreclose on a single home.  To him, the act of lending money was a moral event – you didn’t burden a borrower with more debt than they could pay.

That didn’t make the borrowers who he turned down happy.  They were (understandably) upset that Pop had crushed their dreams, but in the process, he’d done them the biggest favor of their lives.  In a weird way, his “no” had saved their financial future from the siren song (read The Odyssey or watch Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou (LINK) if you missed that reference) of their dreams and passions . . .

One of my favorite things to see is the garden variety successful person who’s being interviewed.  Let’s pretend it’s me, since I’m rich and semi-famous:

Oprah:  “What’s your secret, John Wilder?  How did you get to the pinnacle of success and yet maintain those superb washboard abs?”  (Oprah bites her lip.  Perhaps I should have not worn such a tight shirt.)

John Wilder:  “I followed my passion, Oprah.  My passion is all consuming.”

Fade to Clip of Me Synchronized Snowboarding Off the Top of Mount Everest Accompanied by an Actual Yeti.

You’ve heard that, too:  successful people telling you to follow your passion.  I probably heard that two dozen times between high school and college.  Follow your passion.  Invariably it was by short salesmen who were in suits while I was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt.  And I was (really) thinking about going skiing or checking out the girl of the week.  My passion did not and does not involve being an old man in a suit.

Hopefully you haven’t done followed your passion, because your passion is stupid, unless you are the ghost of Steve Jobs.  Steve, you can follow your passion.  Only you.  Namaste.

I’m sorry to tell everyone else a simple fact: your passion is stupid.  And my passion?  My passion is stupid, too.  Maybe even really stupid.

The Mrs. and I have been married roughly since the invention of dirt.  We’ve thought about opening our own businesses several times, and even produced a business plan or two.  All of them have been based on things we like, things we are passionate about.  We’d discuss, fine tune, get the spreadsheets ready, and then decide if we were passionate about it.  As you’ve hopefully read in the fine pages of this blog before – the best deals are the ones you don’t do.  We’ve passed on most of the deals.

But one in particular we got all of our ducks in a huddle, got a small business loan application together, and went off to the local bank to ask for a small business loan with our spreadsheets and our plan and our proposals and estimates and projections.  I didn’t go to the meeting – I was at work.  But The Mrs. walked in, and the banker didn’t blink an eye before he got to his response.  “No.  Not now.  Not ever.  Please pretend we’ve never met.”

The Mrs. was upset when she got home.  I shrugged, and we decided to carry on without opening that business.  About a month or two later we read in the local newspaper about how someone had opened a business that was nearly exactly what we’d planned to open up.  They did a detailed story on the place, nearly a full page, with color pictures.  Amazing amounts of free advertising.

That business closed up before six months had passed.  The banker who said “No” had saved us $55,000 of loaned money.

Oh.  I get what Pop was doing.  Rather than helping people live their passion, he was saving them from their passions.

The people who say that you should follow your passion are generally not passionate about the thing that they’ve done, whether it be roasting coffee beans or creating BookFace®.  No.  They’re passionate about success.  They’re passionate about their business because it brought them success.  It’s like pretending you like Tootsie Rolls Lollipops® for the outer candy shell.  You don’t.  You like the center.

And that’s the secret of success.

I am passionate about playing the guitar.  I love to do it.  Unfortunately, my guitar is as good as Johnny Depp’s personal hygiene or money management skills.  So, of course, I devoted my entire career to playing bad guitar?  NO.  I suck at guitar.  I will never be good at it.  But . . . I do math and science-y things really well.  I have the intuition on that stuff that Eddie Van Halen has for meth guitar.  Maybe not that good, but I found that the combination of the math stuff and the science stuff and the planning stuff and the intuitive grasp of physical systems and processes (with a dash of normal human empathy) pops me into the top 0.1% (hint, that’s the only place the money is).  That combination allows me to win where other people would lose (in certain situations).  And in one instance the application of those skills allowed an IPO to go through that netted a company a billion or so dollars.  Yay me!

And winning in situations like that makes me passionate about combining those skills.  So, am I following my passion?  Well, I’m following my success, which is a lot like following passion.  Except following my passion would make me bankrupt because my guitar is only slightly better than my singing.

So it comes down to . . . what are you good at?  I mean, really good at?  Not what you’re passionate about.  Let’s face it:  you can be passionate about drinking bourbon, WWE, MMA or anthropology, but none of those things are helpful unless you’re part of the 0.1% AND you can figure out how to win/make money with that skill combination.

Can you make money with it?  Most things you’re good at don’t pay any (really any) money at all.  You’re in the top 0.001% of the world at trimming nosehair?  No.  Next.  Your skill should translate into actual income.  What does the best person in the world at what you’re good at make?  Can you live on 1/10 of that?

Okay.  You’re good at it.  It’s a rare skill.  You can make money at it.  Good money.  Now your challenge?  Get better at it.

Most people take a decade or more of really hard work, over 10,000 hours, to become world class at a skill.  Generally, the longer they execute the skill and the more they work at it, the better they become, peaking in their forties or fifties.  These aren’t physical skills – those peak about 24, and take a big nosedive once you pass 30 or so, and if your skill is there, strike quickly – age will pull you away faster than you anticipate.  What I’m talking about are mental skills that are honed by experience.

Passion?  No banker will lend on that.  They’ll lend on experience, skill, and excellence.  Be passionate about those and the world will allow you to snowmobile in Colorado in winter . . .

People will call you lucky.  Just smile and ignore the sweat.

Loneliness vs. Being Happy. A choice?

“When a man of Scotty’s years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him.  His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship’s engines.” – Star Trek

DSC02625

The Boy at six.  How much fun is Christmas?

This week the Internet has been aTwitter® about loneliness.  It’s part of the cycle – it’s Fall, so it’s time for peak talk about being lonely.  Weight loss stories go year ‘round, but they peak after Christmas.  And the stories have a kicker.  “Loneliness is worse than ______ (obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, or, heck choose your own favorite disease to fill in the blank).”  The most recent article that I read seemed to focus on middle aged men, but I think it goes much deeper than just loneliness.  I think the roots are back to Hope.

When was the last time you were so excited that you could hardly sleep because of the day ahead?  That’s Hope.

I’m old enough I enjoy giving stuff more than getting it, but I’ve observed that kind of Hope, that level of anticipation most recently in The Boy and Pugsley.  The Boy is seventeen, and really surprising and delighting him at Christmas is difficult, now.  But Pugsley is twelve and would have the Christmas tree up in early September if we’d let him.  Pugsley dearly loves Christmas, and that spirit is alive in his heart, even when The Mrs. and I play Scrooge and Grinch®.  The Christmas Spirit (which is really just super-concentrated Hope) is naturally strong in the young.

I’ve recently discussed Scott Adams’ Formula for Happiness (LINK),

Happiness = Health + Money + Social + Meaning.

How does it apply to the young?

Health is (generally) a given.  When a child is sick enough that he leans over the side of his bed and throws up in his brother’s pants (which just happened to be on the floor there because they shared a room), he tends to remember that.  (My brother, John Q. Wilder, was not happy.)  Youth and vitality go together, since they haven’t had time to wreck their health yet.

Money is a hit or miss.  But (generally, again) money issues don’t weigh heavily on the mind of a kid.  They know that times might be tight, but they have no perspective to keep them up at night worrying about money.

Social?  In all but the extreme cases, kids have plenty of chances to interact with other kids and make friendships that last a lifetime.  Even shy kids.  They might not be friends with the popular kids, but they can have friends.

Meaning?  Yes, but like kids, it’s pretty shallow.  Being good is near enough what constitutes meaning for the younger set.  Meaning often comes from adequate performance and parental praise.

But as people get older (past their thirties), the equation changes.

Health:  Yearly you are reminded of increasing limitations, stronger eyeglass prescriptions, and less hair (except on the back, where it grows thicker than an Amazon rain forest).  Ow.  My hip hurts.

Money:  Generally people are better off financially as they get older, with the caveat that their peak earning potential may be in the past.

Social:  Friendships may have worn away through long hours and distance – most social contacts might even be at work.

Meaning:  Meaning likely comes from work, spouse, or volunteer organizations, or, in some cases, just making it to another birthday.

What role does hope play?  Hope is looking forward to time with friends and family, having goals big enough to be worthy of chasing, having plans of things you want to do and experience.  These things lead to enthusiasm and excitement in life.

What does the opposite side of the Adams Equation look like?

Despair=Poor Health(No Hope)+No Money(No Hope)+Alone Socially(No Hope)+Meaningless Existence(No Hope)

Despair leads to all the bad issues:

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Sadness
  • Pain (real, not like needing a safe space in college because spaghetti is cultural appropriation)

It’s a lot like being a fan of a California NFL© team.

A sudden cratering of any one of the factors in the Equation of Despair can bring about a vicious cycle, leading to spiraling sadness.  This despair is dangerous – fatal if long enough and deep enough.  How many widows die within a month of their husband?  How many men die a month after retirement?

Whereas Hope can put you in a bad place and make you stay for too long (bad job/bad marriage/Raiders® fan), Hope is of then the only thing that will keep you alive when things go horribly wrong, as they absolutely will from time to time.

I think the key might be in being able to look at the world, not through the jaded eyes of experience, but by being able to maintain that sure Hope of a six year old on the night before Christmas . . .