iporn

mortality

Media Consumption and the Low Information Diet

I was listening to a podcast with Tyler Cowen. Tyler is a brilliant economist at George Mason University, a blogger at Marginal Revolution, and a cultural omnivore. The interviewer asked him how many blogs he subscribed to in his feed reader. The answer was 19. I was amazed at that answer, and I started counting the number of feeds in my Google Reader and stopped counting at 100. Is something wrong with me?

Lately, I've been trying to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, but I fail when it comes to media consumption. I am a high information person. The internet is like crack for me. I want to know everything and read everything. This can't be done, but I have fun trying.

Minimalists praise the low information diet. Less is more. But I can't get on board with this aspect of the program. I have tried. My recent bout of writer's block has come precisely because of this attempt to curb my media consumption. The dirty secret of all writers is not that they have original ideas, but they take old ideas and recombine them in new ways.

Minimalism is fabulous when it comes to material things. You don't need a lot of stuff. It is also great when it comes to design, aesthetics, and writing. You want things to be simple. But when it comes to non-material things like culture, knowledge, and the like, it leaves you with boredom and stagnation.

The best illustration I can give is a museum with plain white walls and open spaces but is filled with art and artifacts. The proportion of emptiness to fullness is such that the surroundings do not detract from the exhibit. This is how your life should be. We eschew some things in order to enjoy others.



Time and quality should be the limits of media consumption. Variety and depth should not. This means turning off American Idol and putting some Bach and Miles Davis on your iPod. These are ideas for formulating a media consumption strategy or an MCS. Here is my MCS.

I divide media into audio and visual. Reading, DVD's, and the internet are visual. They require my eyeballs. Audio does not require my eyeballs. These are things like the radio and my iPod. Because my eyeballs are free, I can listen to things while doing other things such as driving or washing the dishes. The iPod shuffle is the best device for this audio consumption because it is extremely small and unobtrusive.

Reading time is the time I set aside in the evenings for visual media consumption. I do this right before I go to sleep. This is when I peruse my Google Reader, empty out my email inboxes, and read whatever books and magazines I have on hand. I recommend having a backpack to carry your reading and listening materials in. My backpack is a camouflage hunter's backpack I bought from the sporting goods section at Wal-Mart. It is really cheap but rugged. I carry books, magazines, my Sony Walkman, and my iPod touch in that thing.

Saturday nights are for watching DVDs and television. I cancelled my Netflix membership, but I find myself sneaking to Blockbuster to rent stuff. Movies largely suck, but there is a lot of good television and documentary stuff out there. So, I will go back to my Netflixing and perhaps consider getting a DVR.

There is no end to the supply of media, so your limit on the intake should be a time limit. I am guilty of sacrificing my life on the altar of media consumption. Visual media consumption should always be kept on the borders of your daily living. For me, these borders are when the sun has set and all the work has been done. When my MCS is clicking as it should, I find I derive most of my information from the audio sources. (I really enjoy EconTalk while washing the dishes.)

I remember reading in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire that the vampires had to stop sucking blood before the heartbeat of their victim had ceased or else they would be dragged into the abyss of death with the person they had sucked dry. That is a vivid illustration I know, but it is a familiar knowledge to writers, readers, and drinkers which describes Anne Rice quite well. You have to know when to stop drinking the blood. In the case of media consumption, the same thing applies. You have to turn off the flow and step back before you fall into the sleep of death. For me, it is simply sleep. I will consume media until I lose consciousness. Gamers and programmers can relate to this.

I can't do the low information thing. The abundance of media is what makes me rich. But I can keep it from being a bad habit with my media consumption strategy. I just need to be disciplined in turning it off when I need to do other things.

hubris

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THE STATE OF THE UNION

I did not watch or listen to the State of the Union speech Obama gave Wednesday night, and I don't think I missed anything new from that shithead. It is clear to me and the rest of the country that Obama has learned nothing from the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's old seat. The country has learned something from Obama though. Barack Obama is an arrogant motherfucker who thinks the country is stupid. So, he doesn't consider that his ideas may be wrong. He concludes that he is not communicating them effectively. So, he must dumb it down further for us, simple folk. What a conceited bastard.

Obama is in hubris mode now. Unlike Clinton who changed tack and became a better president, Obama will continue to be a shithead. It is his destiny.

2. iPAD

This might be the next big thing from Apple, or it might be a failure. Critics say the new device is underwhelming. Then again, they were wrong about the iPod and the iPhone. Betting against Steve Jobs has rarely been a winning gamble.

I have an iPod touch, and I like it. I do three things on it--listen to podcasts, listen to music, and read books with Kindle and Stanza. The iPad is the same thing except with a bigger screen. I could see it being a hit with college students wanting discounted textbooks.

I don't know what Apple will do next in terms of gadgets. Television and game development are the only areas where Apple does not have killer products.

3. TEA PARTY CONVENTION

This is going to be a dud because people are deciding to make money off of it. This is the first "official" act of the movement in the way of institutional organizing, and I predict it will fail. This is because Tea Party people are a spontaneous movement of people concerned about fiscal responsibility. They aren't a political party or an action group. As such, politicos wanting jump in front of this parade and pretend to lead it will find themselves disappointed.

People are pissed off. Plain and simple. They don't need to be organized. They just need to be heard.

4. TONY BLAIR

Tony Blair testified before the Chilcot Inquiry that the invasion of Iraq was a jolly good idea, and he would do it all over again the same exact way. Why? To keep WMDs from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda. Nevermind that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Also, we need to invade Iran for the same reasons. Stiff upper lip. Pip pip, cheerio. Time for a spot of tea.

5. DEATHS

Howard Zinn-- He was a leftard, but he was also honest in his telling of history.

JD Salinger-- He wrote The Catcher in the Rye which I read years ago and promptly forgot. Not sure what people get out of that book.

Pernell Roberts-- Last surviving regular from Bonanza. That was a good show. I call my dream estate the "Ponderosa."
Alito was right. Obama is full of shit.

Google Trends

pernell roberts
Pernell Roberts is dead. Trapper John is gone.

apple earnings
Through the roof as expected. Steve Jobs is God.

saints superbowl
Go Colts.

obama state of the union
The union is in the shitter, and Obama bears much of the blame.

tablet apple
Goddammit! Hurry up and unveil the damn thing already.

gary coleman
GC is out of jail!!

SOC

Whenever I think writer's block is coming on, I have recourse to two features here on the C-Blog. The first is Google Trends where I try and write something witty or just plain stupid on the topics people are Google searching the most. The other is SOC which means "stream of consciousness." This is where I write about anything and everything as it pops into my head.

The thing that has been on my mind most lately has been my turn towards minimalism. For a long time, I have been frustrated by a lack of time, money, and energy. But as Leo Babauta points out in The Power of Less, you are never going to have enough resources to meet all your goals, ambitions, and aspirations. The result of all this wishing and wanting is frustration. It means nothing unless you make progress on your goals. By having too many goals, you end up achieving nothing. The power of less is where you achieve more by focusing on fewer things.

I am definitely someone with too many goals. So, I've been paring back on those ambitions. The thing I find difficult is deciding on what is important and what is not. I am thinking of nuking my Beshitted blog even though my brother thinks it is pretty damn funny. The reality is that I am out of ideas for that project, and I am not an artist, cartoonist, or whatnot. I write. That project is an example of where my ambition exceeds my resources. I would have been better served incorporating it as an irregular feature on the C-Blog. With that said, I think I will move those posts to the C-Blog and delete Beshitted. I will keep posting them as inspiration strikes me.

The other thing that has been on my mind has been being a blue collar man. The fact is that I can go white collar at will because I have a degree and opportunities. What holds me back is a great deal of ambivalence and dissatisfaction with that line of work. In fact, I can't even call it work since most white collar professions seem intent on nothing more than bullshitting all day and getting paid for it. Consider that all the blue collar people and people who actually work are paying to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street. I could care less what they do with their money or the money of their shareholders and clients. I do care when I am robbed to pay for their tomfuckery. I don't think I am alone in this sentiment.

I respect workers who turn out a product or service regardless if it involves dirty hands or office work. I respect owners and entrepreneurs who put their capital at risk. But I don't respect or admire people in financial services, the legal profession, or middle management who derive income not from providing something of value but from getting over on people. Whenever you deal with honest people, you feel like you got the better part of the deal which as any economist will tell you is the point of capitalism. You don't feel exploited in an honest free market exchange. Yet, when dealing with these slimebags, you always leave feeling like you just got your ass reamed out.

Most of my feelings about the way white collar work should be is informed by Vanguard founder Jack Bogle who believed in fiduciary responsibility. You can be honest and wear a tie. But it means taking the high road as opposed to getting over on the people you represent. I am tired of banks and financial entities who charge all sorts of fees for what? What do I get for these fees? What the fuck am I buying? The privilege of getting fucked over?

Over the years, I have been begged to do the following occupations:

-mortgage broker
-real estate agent
-stock broker
-life insurance salesman

All four of these occupations involve selling products and services that I would never buy for myself. I would love to work for Vanguard, but they are deluged by applicants from the other companies wanting to get the hell out of Slimeworld.

I would have an easier time ethically being a lawyer. Lawyers get a bad rap, but they are supposed to zealously pursue their client's interests. That's it. Ours is an adversarial system, and this is the way it should be. Unfortunately, too many lawyers go after the big cash in tort cases involving personal injury and other forms of ambulance chasing. They cross the line a lot on this shit, and it hurts the rest of us.

I have become a huge fan of Mike Rowe and his celebration and advocacy of the blue collar worker. I don't share his economic views because they are more union/mercantilist than free market. But I like that he and the Discovery Channel spend so much highlighting what I consider to be truly great jobs. They are dirty and sometimes dangerous. But the dirty secret is that blue collar work is extremely satisfying. There is something invigorating in getting a job done.

I had a white collar job once, and I hated it. It was the worst job I ever had. I was stressed and depressed from that job. But I'm glad I did it because it makes me value the work I do now.

Dishonesty and happiness cannot coexist. This is why people in white collar professions have such high job dissatisfaction. They are miserable. I know this misery very well. I have friends who had the same job I had who were just as miserable. This isn't a temperamental thing. It is universal. I think this is why employees at Goldman Sachs are urged to get rich in their thirties and get out of the company to "do good." This involves working in government or something else. I wouldn't call this good, but clearly, Goldman Sachs people have no interest in tomfuckery as a lifelong career choice. They get the money first then spend the rest of their lives seeing if they can find happiness. Clearly, the two are not intertwined at Goldman Sachs.

I like to think that Warren Buffett is an honest guy, but he has shown himself to be a crony capitalist like all the rest. He has had no qualms in looking to the government to be the backstop for his activities. He bet on the bailouts and invested in Goldman Sachs. He is a pure Keynesian. I have lost the last little bit of respect I had for the man. But I am digressing. . .

I like the blue collar way. I like jobs where you do something meaningful and honest. I admire guys who drive pickup trucks, wear Carhartt jeans and Dickie's workpants, listen to country music, and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life. I envy farmers, welders, iron workers, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, and bricklayers.

--END--

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All Jobs Pay the Same

Why do plumbers and doctors make similar amounts of money? Why do entry level managers make less annual income than the wage earners under their supervision? Why do CEOs make so much? Why do movie stars make millions when they don't work hard? Why do rock stars get rich when they don't have the work ethic to keep a job at McDonald's? Why do bricklayers make so much now as compared to 20 years ago? All these questions suggest a theory to me which will require a great deal of data crunching to confirm. The theory is this. All jobs pay the same on a risk adjusted basis.

The first element in a person's salary is supply and demand. When demand is great and supply is low, pay increases. For instance, when the internet was taking off in the 90's, IT people made killer money. Then, equilibrium reasserted itself and the pay declined as people rushed in to fill the demand. Meanwhile, blue collar jobs requiring skill saw wage increases as people opted for cushy office work requiring college degrees. The same thing happened in nursing with people choosing less dirty work to do. There is no acute shortage of doctors, but there is a shortage of people to swap bed pans and clean asses. The same thing applies to truck driving. Long haul truck drivers have many job opportunities because people don't like living in a sleeper cab.

People wanting to make good money can go chasing after work that is in demand, but they will end up being disappointed. This was the IT guy back in '04 I was doing work for who was thankful for his $37K a year job with a public utility. I asked him why wages had declined so much and he had one word for me: INDIA. But I think that is starting to change back the other way now. This phenomenon is known as reversion to the mean.

Supply and demand in the job market fluctuates constantly much like the stock market. As variables change so does the job market. The rises and falls in income serve as signals. If a job pays well, it brings in more and better applicants. If a job does not pay well, it attracts less and lower quality applicants. This is how a free market works. An art history major can bitch about making less than a Taco Bell manager, but that is just the way it is. Knowing a Picasso from a Renoir matters less than knowing how many tortillas to order each week.

I tend to slice and dice the job market into four categories:

-Labor
-Management
-Dealmaking
-Ownership

Each job can be delineated by the pay structure. Labor typically works for a wage measured by the hour. Management typically works for a salary. Dealmakers earn a commission or derive a cut from a transaction. Ownership takes their money from earnings. Generally speaking, labor makes less than managers. Managers make less than dealmakers. Dealmakers make less than owners. Owners make the big money. The reason plumbers, doctors, and lawyers make similar amounts is because they tend to be owners. Removed from ownership, they make a pittance. Doctors working in the labor category make a good bit, but you also have to factor in eight years of education and whatnot. On a return on investment basis, those doctors don't make so much. This may explain why those TV doctors rent instead of own.

The biggest factor in large incomes is not so much supply and demand as it is risk and reward. Owners make big money because they take big risks. Part of the reason crab fishermen on Deadliest Catch make so much for blue collar work is because they aren't really laborers but co-owners. They share in the haul for better or worse. This is also why plumbers who own their own businesses make doctor and lawyer type pay. They take the risks, so they deserve the rewards.

It is my belief that if you took all jobs across all my four categories and factored in for risk, they would all pay equally adjusted for risk. Let's consider the fast food worker with the server at Friday's. The server at Friday's makes more because he or she earns tip income. They take a risk that the fast food worker does not. One job is not more skilled than the other. But a server is going to draw more pay because they are being compensated by the fact that the only requirement for tipping is a social one as opposed to a legal one. In a recession, the server has felt a reduction in income as people eat out less and get tighter with their money. The fast food worker cruises along at the minimum wage. In fact, fast food work is probably the least risky job there is. They don't make much, but they are rarely unemployed except by their own choice. The manager of a fast food restaurant is more likely to be unemployed than the guy working on the fries.

Generally, people will not take on a risk unless they are compensated for that risk. This compensation must be greater than the risk free rate of return. This return could be the minimum wage or the amount of one's unemployment check. Doctors make really well but risk massive poverty over the course of their education as they take on debt and live below the poverty line. If they stop one semester short, they will be paying for it well into middle age. I would want a six figure income at a minimum to risk all of this.

Everybody wants to make a lot of money, and the way to do it is very obvious. Take on risk. Become an entrepreneur. Take a job selling real estate. Get on a crab boat. But what if we took a different tack? What if we sought to reduce risk instead of maximizing reward?

In 2007, the median income for US households was $50,233. If we cut this in half, we would have $25,116.50 for a person's individual income. If you make above this amount, consider yourself fortunate. You are in the top half of earners. But if you make only $25K per year owning a store, you are losing money. You are not being compensated for the risk you are assuming because you are earning the average income at well above average risk. This is why most entrepreneurs are better off working for other people.

The best way to reduce risk is to diversify. When it comes to income, the better strategy is not to get the highest paying jobs but to diversify income streams. This would be the schoolteacher who runs a Mary Kay operation on the side and spends summers working in a restaurant. This would be the machinist who serves weekends in the Air National Guard. I know people like this, and I have noticed a few things about them. They earn more because they work more, but they also worry less. It is a rare event that would make you lose two or more jobs at the same time.

A diversified income stream or DIS can be hard to pull off for some people. Some people don't want to work more than 40 hours per week. Other people work crazy schedules that make it logistically impossible. Then, there are family considerations. But for the people who can pull it off, the result should be an above average income at a below average risk.

These are all just theories in my head, and it would take Nobel Prize winning efforts to substantiate them. But anecdotally and viscerally, I believe that all jobs pay the same on a risk adjusted basis, and the best thing you can do is try and reduce your risk exposure through income diversification.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. SCOTT BROWN

The pundits will talk and the politicians will spin. But in the end, voter anger wins. The message to Obama is clear. Stop fucking with us. Stop with the socialism. Stop with the deficit spending. Stop with the bailouts. Just fucking stop.

Obama won't get the message, but he will get it again in November and in 2012. As for the people who voted for the fucker, you are all stupid. You should have known better especially after I told you so.

2. CAMPAIGN FINANCE

The SCOTUS rules companies can spend on election advertising. All it does is make the whole thing honest where companies were simply gaming the system to practice their First Amendment rights. This won't change much of anything IMHO. Corporation corruption of politics is like blow flies corrupting horseshit.

3. CONAN

The guy makes a classy and funny exit. I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction. That guy is going to do great wherever he lands.

On the flipside, Jay Leno is getting a lot of flak which I don't think is deserved. People portray him as a conniver, but this simply isn't true. All Leno does is work. That's it. NBC could have fired him, and he would have simply moved to the next job. We could say that Conan was the conniver taking Leno's job. The fact is that Leno could have saved us all this drama by being meaner and more conniving. But he isn't like this. From the moment he started as guest host on Tonight to the present day, Leno has simply given the bosses and the audience what they wanted. But giving people what they want is the surest path to being hated. Remember disco? You can say that Leno isn't funny, but you can never say that the man is egomanical, lazy, or mean. The man just shows up everyday and does his job.

4. WRITER'S BLOCK

At some point, I contemplate running out of shit to write. Current events provide enough fodder for me to write about, but I feel that I am running out of creativity. I still have my books to write, but I must admit that blogging on an almost daily basis does wear on me. Of course, I remember when Stephen King said he was going to retire. I have lost count of how many books he has written since that announcement. No retirement here on my part. Just a new challenge.

Minimalism is the End of Self Improvement

Self improvement is masturbation.
TYLER DURDEN

Everyone wants to improve themselves. They want to quit some bad habit. They want to develop some good habits. They went to organize and get out of debt and be more productive and get in shape. The result is frustration. There is a lot of self but not much improvement.

The answer to this frustration is to do less. I will elaborate.

-The answer to your money problems is to spend less and own fewer things.

-The answer to your weight problems is to eat less and better things.

-The answer to productivity is to eliminate the To Do list and do only the essential things.

-The answer to clutter is to own fewer things.

-The answer to fitness is to learn to live without constant distraction.

This does not mean that this path is easy, but it is effective. You can buy a dayplanner and color code your tasks and whatnot. But it won't get more stuff done. There are only so many hours in a day. You can buy all sorts of fitness gadgets, but people can't deal with the boredom of 10 minutes of push ups or sit ups which require no equipment at all. The more complex the solution is the less likely it will be to work.

The best way to go is to make a list of improvements and make it as simple and short as possible. Then, begin with a single change. Once you have made that change, begin with the next change. Take it slow but steady. For me, I only have four changes:

-Eat healthy.

-Run.

-Simplify all my affairs.

-Work 7 days a week.

That's it. My life is not perfect, but I notice that I have fewer problems than other people merely from the fact that my life is simple. I'm not into drugs or alcohol. I don't smoke. I don't own a lot of things which I used to see as a liability but now recognize as an asset. I don't allow people in my life that cause a bunch of drama.

There has to come a point in life when there is nothing left to improve. Being on a perpetual self-improvement kick is exhausting and dispiriting. It also smacks of narcissism. By simplifying, you make a concrete endpoint. You know that it is achievable, and this is very motivating. This is the end of self-improvement. Less is more.

White Collar Misery



I recently read an article about a guy with an engineering degree and an MBA who was working as a bagboy at Publix. (You can catch this article and many others on my Google Reader shared items page.) I did not know how to feel about the guy's situation. Was it comic? Was it tragic?

For most of us, I think we feel sympathy for the guy. We feel bad for people who experience a reversal of fortune because the same thing could happen to us. But I don't feel any sympathy for this guy. This is because I know he had a bullshit job before the downturn, and he has found himself where he belongs. This is the upside of a recession. Resources are creatively destroyed and reallocated to where they belong.

The joke goes that MBA stands for "Master Bullshit Artist" or "Meaningless Bullshit Accreditation." Essentially, all middle managers are idiots who can't run a business. If they could run a business, they would start a business and make millions. Instead, they go to business school to get this degree which signals that they know a lot of shit about business. They don't. They know a lot of jargon which they speak incessantly which has the same effect as the emperor's new clothes. And they utterly fuck up a company keeping real employees from getting the job done.

I found this comment on an article amusing:

MBA students are the scourge of this nation and will be leading the charge to its ruinous end. A graduating MBA expects to be making $183,500?!? Get your collective heads out of your collective asses. The average graduating physician [with ass loads of schooling and experience that trump your feeble education] won’t even receive that — and that’s for saving lives. Realize how worthless you are, then maybe you’ll be grateful that somebody will even give you a job to do your worthless tasks. Oh, and congratulations on furthering our broken system you wastes of oxygen.

This was a reply to the comment:

I will be getting my MBA this fall. True, I could “save lives” for less money, but I’d rather “spew bullshit” for more. From the comments, I know it’s the right choice. One thing business teaches you is that the job is worth what the market is willing to pay. Apparently, firms pay a lot for people to “play golf” instead of doing “something that matters.”
Some wonder why the ones who, in their opinion, do the least amount of work seem to make more money–others decide to join that group instead of whining and complaining about it.


There is a lot of venom there. The truth is that MBA wielding middle managers are worthless which is why you get some of them bagging groceries at Publix. The rest collect unemployment, live with mom and dad, etc. But if they are so worthless, how are they able to get paid so much?

The world abounds with bullshitters. We have televangelists, chiropractors, politicians, infomercial gurus, get rich quick scam artists, slimy salesmen, etc. Why do we think the business world is immune from this bullshit? It isn't.

I remember in my late 20's being sent to Phoenix for a month for corporate training by the outfit I was working for. I quickly saw it for the bullshit it was. I got a fat per diem and a condo to stay in. We spent the day listening to bullshit and the night drinking and watching basketball. All things considered, it was pretty sweet. It also added not one penny to the bottom line. It was a waste of money.

I did not get along with the guru of this retreat. We spent time analyzing the operation of the local hub, and there was a problem. The place was understaffed, and a trailer of goods had to be unloaded and sorted. It was a big account. While the guru and everyone else "analyzed" the situation, I got in the back of that trailer and unloaded the trailer. It took me 30 minutes. Problem solved. Needless to say, the guru was not pleased with my actions though he did pitch in to help me unload the trailer. He hated me but also admired me at the same time. I get this a lot.

On our final night in Phoenix, the guru and I were at the bar, and he confided in me. It was all bullshit. His job was bullshit. The whole program was bullshit. It is amazing what candor a few beers can bring. This was a guy who had threatened to send me back to Orlando on a plane agreeing with me on what I thought about it all. It was all bullshit.

White collar misery is the realization that what you do for a living has no authenticity. People are screaming for authenticity. This is why they buy distressed trucker's hats and jeans with the holes already in them. This is why they watch TV programs like Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch. But you can't buy authenticity.

What you do for a living has a direct bearing on your happiness. It isn't the conditions of your job or the long hours that make work miserable. It is the realization that what you are doing with your life is bullshit. The stockbroker who watches the blue collar reality on Discovery Channel knows what I am talking about.

You can make a lot of money from bullshit. Or you can end up bagging groceries at Publix. The reality is the MBA types took a lot of credit for business successes they had nothing to do with. It is only fair that they should bear the blame for the business failures.

But there is an alternate career path. This path is to go out and learn something useful or start a business providing goods and services that people are willing to buy. It might involve turning a wrench or drawing blood or coding on a computer. The world needs managers, but it doesn't need middle managers who spend their days shooting emails to each other, bullshitting in endless meetings, and preparing PowerPoints. You can fire these people, not replace them, and there would be a net gain to the bottom line because you wouldn't have to pay these people anymore.

Here is some real corporatespeak I gleaned from a website:

In a consumer driven society, we need people who understand business and think like customers – people who understand how to create comprehensive, measurable user experiences that drive solid results. . . there’s a strong benefit in hiring individuals with practical, hands-on experience and maturity… especially in competitive markets. However, as product commoditization places an increasing emphasis on the comprehensive customer experience, there’s also increasing demand for individuals with new skillsets; individuals who understand cross-channel experience management, integrated marketing, interaction design, usability, cultural ethnography, analytics and more.

What the fuck is "cross-channel experience management?" Like I said, it is the emperor's new clothes. It is all bullshit. This is the bullshit that our Publix bagboy was paid to spout for a six figure salary. I wonder if the cross-channel experience they are referring to is dodging minivans as Mr. MBA carts your shit to your car.

But there is something good about being a bagboy at Publix. It is an authentic job. There is no bullshit with that profession. As Mr. MBA put it, "No job is undignified." Being a bagboy is honest work. As someone who has done honest work for most of his life, I can tell you it feels way better than the bullshit work. A high salary is no substitute for an honest living.

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NOTES

1. The End of the Affair: The decline of the MBA will cut off the supply of bullshit at source

2. Confessions of an MBA Student

3. The Value of the MBA

4. He's 'the only bag boy at Publix with an MBA'

5. The Management Myth

sbv

nighthawks

White Guilt


Since today is MLK Day, I thought it would be a perfect time to address the subject of race in the United States. I will begin with the legacy of MLK.

Dr. King has a mixed history. Critics will point out that he was an adulterer and a plagiarist. But this merely puts him in the company of most Americans who cheat on their SO's and rip off the work of others. For me, the greatest scandal was that he was sympathetic to communism and found the atheism in it to be the only repugnant feature. Otherwise, I think the man did more good than bad. King shamed this country into change. Unfortunately, this shame is now to the detriment of the country. It has given us collective guilt and political correctness. These are two things I oppose.

I do not believe in collectivism; therefore, I do not believe in collective guilt. I look back over my life, and I cannot recall a single time that I ever owned a slave, lynched a black man, or denied a single African-American any of their human rights. I cannot feel guilty for things I did not do. Likewise, black people should not feel anger for wrongs they did not suffer. This is why I laugh when some black person mentions being in chains. Maybe I should go around talking about the persecution I endured under the English that drove my Scotch-Irish ancestors to these shores or the genocide of myself along with my Cherokee ancestors or the moneygrubbing capitalism of my Dutch ancestors. (Since I can't get much traction out of that Dutch thing, I will leave that part out.)

Black people have it good. They might endure some prejudice from individuals, but who doesn't? It might surprise people to learn that I have endured some pretty shitty treatment from black people who have found themselves in a power position over me and wanted to settle the historical score. But I have learned to shrug off a lot of shit because to be perfectly honest, the white folks in power don't treat me much better.

The reality is that being white doesn't make you a bad guy and being black doesn't make you a good guy. It is your actions that make you who you are. This is individualism. Black people today are in chains, but this is because they put them on themselves. When a black individual rises on individual accomplishment, he or she is often hit from behind from envious members of their race who cannot stand that one of their own rose above the collective. This all changes when this individual gains the top echelon and becomes the figurehead of racial identity. The most telling example would be Barack Obama who was derided as an Uncle Tom and acting white to get to where he is. Trust me, Obama had more support from the white folks than he did from people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. That is sad. But once he won the presidency, he became the Messiah. This is the same man who makes sure that his daughters attend the largely white Sidwell Friends school to keep them away from the thug life of DC schools and also makes sure that the thugs never get the chance to attend Sidwell Friends by opposing school choice. But I digress. . .

The divide today is less between white and black than it is between rich and poor. For instance, the justice system works great for rich black people but not so great for poor black people. Why did OJ get off while black people have been on death row for crimes they did not commit? Two words--PUBLIC DEFENDER. Why does powder cocaine get a lighter sentence than crack cocaine? Because crack is the poor drug. But get a scrip and a bottle to go with it, and you can be high all day and not worry about a thing.

MLK fought for equality under the law, but we don't have equality. We have a government that gives bailouts to rich bankers and fights wars to protect and enlarge the financial interests of corporations and rich individuals. We have elitist Democrats who sneer at someone like Sarah Palin not because she is pro-life or anti-government but because she is working class and rural. Elitist Republicans are no different. Yet, what is the accusation hurled at the Palin crowd? Bunch of racist inbred hicks. In other words, if you oppose TARP and high taxes, you are a racist. I wonder what MLK would say to that.

Today, the race rhetoric is used merely as the will to power in action. If you can put guilt on someone, you can control and manipulate them. Fortunately for me, I don't have any guilt. Obama is a piece of shit not because he is black but because he is a thief who steals my money through the IRS and gives it to Wall Street. But by playing the race card, Obama supporters can shut me up along with the poor black working class people. That is a neat trick.

It is plain to me how the elites use collective tactics to divide and confuse the issues while they universally fuck over the mass of American society. It is divide and conquer. This is the price of white guilt. We are all getting screwed, and black people think it is progress that it is a black dick reaming them out now instead of a white dick. The mind boggles.

art

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. NEW YORK TIMES

The NYT has a problem. It can't compete with free. It also can't make money for free. The solution is to not be free.

The internet has hurt a lot of industries that are the buggy whip makers of our era. Record companies are going broke. Newspapers are going down the toilet. Even producers of pornography are feeling the pinch. Where is all this headed?

The beauty of the internet is that it is not tied to a physical medium except computer hardware and software. The old physical medium created barriers to entry. Not everyone could afford a printing press or whatnot and did not have the distribution channels that big media had. The internet changed all that.

But television and radio are not hurt by the internet. In fact, television and radio are as robust as ever. This is because they make their money from advertising. This is also why Google makes boatloads of cash from search. The only difference is that Google is a freerider on the work of others. They don't create the content. They simply are the portal to that content.

I know that I won't pay for content from the NYT or from the WSJ either. I like their product, but I can get my news for free from other sources. They can charge subscription fees and go behind the wall, but I'm not going to pay for it. It is as simple as that.

2. HAITI

The biggest problem with the Haiti crisis is not the earthquake and the aftermath or any lack of compassion from the USA. The problem is making sure charitable donations go to the intended recipients. This is something that has bothered me for a long time. In their headlong rush to help out Haitians, people may not be conscious of getting fleeced by unscrupulous individuals and organizations. Then, there is the government that utterly fucks up everything it touches. The most notable would be Wyclef Jean who is reported to have pocketed a great deal of cash intended for charitable work. The fact is that people give for emotional reasons instead of intellectual reasons. I think people should evaluate their giving with the same insight they would use for a business investment. In other words, they need to take the emotions out of it. The way to accomplish this is through regular charitable donations made before disasters hit. Do your homework and ignore the news just like you would with investing in low cost index funds.

<http://reason.com/blog/2010/01/17/yle-haiti-ready-or-not

3. OBAMA

When Obama was elected, I said he would turn out to be an utterly worthless piece of shit as a president. People disagreed with me by telling me to give the man a chance. One year later, I don't hear that shit anymore.

4. CONAN

I don't know what Conan will do, but I know what he should do. He should go to Fox and put on the edgiest and funniest show that he and his staff can create. The one thing that has come out of this debacle is that Conan has a loyal fan base, and Fox would be stupid not to go after him.

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FRIDAY

1. NBC could have saved itself all this trouble by firing both Leno and Conan and letting me do a two-hour Tonight Show every fucking night. I can handle a ten hour workweek.

2. Haiti was a disaster area before there was even a disaster.

3. Haiti will recover faster than New Orleans which is still "recovering."

4. Harry Reid spoke truthfully, and the truth is what upset people. Obama acts white and got the vote. People should give Reid a pass and consider their own unspoken prejudice.

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Minimalism is the end of organizing

I really enjoyed this article, and since Leo does not copyright, I can steal and share.--C.

Minimalism is the end of organizing

By Leo

The rise of clutter has given birth to a whole industry: organizing.

We now have legions of professional organizers, whole companies that sell organizing products such as closet organizers, magazines and blogs on how to get yourself organized, and of course, the hand-held notebooks we call organizers -- and their digital equivalent, PDAs and mobile devices.

And while I have nothing against professional organizers -- they help people to find peace in lives of chaos -- I don't think they're necessary ... if you adopt minimalism.

Organizing is only necessary when you have too many things to easily find what you're looking for.

Think about it: when we organize a collection of books, it's because when they're not organized, we can't find the books we want. But if we had, say, five books, we wouldn't need to organize.

The same applies to anything that needs to be organized:

-Closets that have a minimal amount of things don't need to be organized.

-Tasks only need a complicated system or productivity apps for organizing if you have a lot to do. Focus on only doing a few important things, and you barely even need a list.

-Finances only need organizing if they're complicated. I'll write about minimalist finances later.

-Files only need to be organized if you can't let go of this need to organize them. With search so powerful these days, you can find things with a few keystrokes.

There are lots of other things that need to be organized, if they're not kept as simple as possible. I'm sure you can think of a few yourself. Consider making them as minimalist as possible, and the organizing will fade away.

http://mnmlist.com/minimalism-is-the-end-of-organizing/

negro

Is Malcolm Gladwell Full of Shit?



Yes.

I have read two of Gladwell's books and countless other articles, and I have reduced his tactics to these common denominators:

-Take a topic people are keenly interested in usually culminating in making a ton of money.

-Posit a "rule" for the phenomenon.

-Use cherry picked anecodotes as "evidence."

-Be slippery on committing to a philosophy, a strategy, viewpoint, etc.

It pains me to report that Gladwell is full of shit considering that I have tended to be favorable towards his writings. But I turn my skeptical spotlight on everything including people I might happen to like. In Gladwell's case, he is dying under the scrutiny. He is a charlatan.

The reason Gladwell is so popular is because he plays on people's desire for success. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell tries to explain mass popularity and trends which if you understood perfectly would make you insanely rich. In Blink, Gladwell tries to explain intuition which will give you an edge in figuring out things especially in predicting the future which will make you insanely rich. In Outliers, Gladwell tries to explain personal success which if you figure out will make you insanely rich like Bill Gates. Yet, after reading all this shit, you are left exactly where you were when you started--clueless.

Gladwell deals with randomness which is a subject near and dear to my heart, but he tries to give answers to things that can't be answered. Yes, Bill Gates worked 10,000 hours on being a programmer. So, what? I know I've spent 10,000 hours on being a writer, and I am still a failure as a writer. Like it or not, it boils down to luck. That is a hard lesson for people to hear, but there it is. I recommend that people read Taleb instead who offers no explanation for these things whatsoever.

Gladwell is simply a bullshitter. He does the same thing Tony Robbins and countless other gurus do except he gives a patina of respectability to it all by writing for The New Yorker and referencing scientific research. But he plays both sides of an issue. In Outliers, you can say success boils down to external circumstances or working your ass off. Or maybe it is both. Or maybe it is neither. Or maybe Bill Gates was just lucky to have a contact at IBM.

Everyone wants to be successful. I think effort counts for something, but to be hugely successful requires luck. That is the bottom line. These things are beyond your control. My advice is to diminish your expectations, don't envy lucky people, and find happiness in your work. Gladwell tries to explain the unexplainable. He delivers hindsight bias which does nothing for you going forward. The man is full of shit. One day, they will write a book explaining how he was able to pull off the trick.

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NOTES





Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THE LENO CLUSTERFUCK

Hindsight is 20/20, so I won't gloat too much over this fiasco. If Jay Leno had killed at 10, then we would be thinking way differently now. The important lesson to take from this is obvious. Conan O'Brien has a huge fucking ego, and he will leave this fiasco tarnished. His ego is the primary reason NBC agreed to let Leno go in 2009 to appease the upstart. OTOH, Leno seems humble in comparison due to his blue collar approach to things and the fact that he let NBC royally fuck him in this experiment without openly complaining though it was obvious he wasn't happy with it. My predictions? Leno will be back on The Tonight Show, and Conan will go to Fox where he will fail.

2. TEA PARTY USA

I hear "third party" tossed around a lot, but I think this is a dumb idea for the same reasons I quit thinking that the Libertarian Party could make a difference. A third party would be a disaster essentially making it easy for the Republicrats to continue with their wicked ways. The better way to go is remain in the GOP and make huge amounts of trouble.

Tea Partiers are not united on every front. Some support the war while others oppose it. Some want closed borders while others want open borders. This is a diverse group, but they do agree on economic policy. No more excessive government spending. No more deficits. No more bailouts. Cut taxes. This is the classic small government conservative-libertarian alliance. Any candidate that runs hard on these issues will gain the support of these people. The reason Republicans are in disarray is they turned their backs on fiscal policy during the Bush years.

3. UNEMPLOYMENT

Three facts stand out for me. The first is that government jobs have grown faster than private sector jobs and pay more. The second is that companies have been hiring more managers than laborers. The third is that real unemployment stands at 17%. What is going on here?

All of this is the direct result of Obamanomics and stimulus spending. Basically, people are getting paid to remain idle. Workers are getting unemployment checks. Government work is growing because government is growing. And management ranks are swelling because these are the jobs that pay more than unemployment and/or probably tied to management of stimulus projects. Otherwise, the "recovery" is an illusion. Underneath the bandage is not a healing wound but an infected sore on the verge of gangrene. The only thing Obama can do is claim credit for shit not being even more fucked up than what it is.

4. OBAMA'S REPORT CARD

Obama is almost one year in, and the conventional wisdom is that he is a failure as a president. He deserves an F. But the American people deserve an F for electing that fucker in the first place. They believed this lying piece of shit because they are gullible and stupid. Stupidity does not go unpunished, and we will suffer until 2012. But the American public can help themselves immensely this year by throwing out the bums in congress. Will they? Do morons outnumber smart people? Yes.

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obamanomics

DIY Culture

I've become interested in a lot of different things lately such as blue collar work and trades, frugality, and the minimalist lifestyle. Another element has been DIY culture. I will explain what this is.

DIY means "do it yourself" and fans of This Old House know what I am talking about. Basically, you learn how to build or fix stuff yourself with your own tools and your own hands. Well, this spirit of self-reliance is not limited to homebuilding and improvement. Subcultures such as skaters, indie rock bands, pirate radio stations, street artists, and the like produce their own stuff without help from the mainstream and the establishment. The irony is when the establishment comes calling.

When I consider that Apple began as a DIY project, I see a lot of possibilities. In our day, it has never been easier to do your own thing and get it out there in terms of creation and exposure. Thanks to the internet, independent artists, writers, and musicians can get their work to the masses. When I consider that my blog attracts more readers than I ever would have gotten from small periodicals back in the day, I am impressed by the opportunity. The cultural world is utterly democratic now.

This dynamic has always existed. All the exciting and good stuff happens on the fringe until it is discovered and moves to the mainstream. The key is not to sell out. What people forget is that what made people like something was the fact that it wasn't like anything else.

The champion of the DIY movement today is Jack White. Before he became a big thing, he was an upholsterer, and he was good at it. Somewhere, that simple work ethic translated to his music and work as a record producer. He retains that garage sound in his music which has gone missing in the overproduced pop world of American Idol and autotune.

All of these new interests of mine seem connected in some way, and I don't know why I have become interested in it. Maybe I am coming to terms with getting old or the fact that I am never going to be rich or famous. Or maybe it is the recession. But I find myself turning to a simple and earnest way of living. DIY is definitely part of that.

Here are some links to more on this topic:

D.I.Y. OR DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist

Make magazine

Beautiful Losers

heineken

mexican

music

counseling

work

party

fame

security

siafu

liberty

jesus

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Bill Gates At "Work"

How I Work: Bill Gates
http://money.cnn.com/2006/03/30/news/newsmakers/gates_howiwork_fortune/

Days are often filled with meetings. It's a nice luxury to get some time to go write up my thoughts or follow up on meetings during the day. But sometimes that doesn't happen. So then it's great after the kids go to bed to be able to just sit at home and go through whatever e-mail I didn't get to. If the entire week is very busy, it's the weekend when I'll send the long, thoughtful pieces of e-mail. When people come in Monday morning, they'll see that I've been quite busy— they'll have a lot of e-mail.

It amazes me how clueless the world's richest man can be. Basically, he spends his days reading and writing emails and having meetings. This is the bulk of what middle managers do all day long. They basically waste each other's time.

College Is a Waste of Time and Money

There is a lot of talk recently about a bubble in higher education, and I believe in it. Here are the facts:

-The cost of college has risen four times faster than inflation over the last 25 years.

-College graduates earn less and less.

-The degree itself is often worthless with students getting less education for the dollar.

Going to college is a money loser. An equivalent amount invested in low cost index funds or treasuries will yield a great return on investment. How did this happen?

The creation of the higher ed bubble is the same as the housing bubble, the dot-com bubble, etc. Bubbles come from easy access to credit. In the case of college, students take out loans which increases demand for education which increases tuition which increase more demand for credit such that what one pays for the education cannot be justified by the earnings they can expect to receive upon graduation. Eventually, unemployed college grads and underemployed grads will default on these loans. They manage to defer this collapse by going to grad school. The result is that colleges turn out more graduates than the economy needs.

I was talking about this with my brother who is a structural engineer. Engineers with a freshly minted four year degree are making a bit more than a draftsperson who requires no degree or certification whatsoever. On a return on investment basis, the high school grad who knows AutoCAD beats the structural engineer hands down. Why is this? Plus, there is greater demand for the draftsperson than there is for the engineer because supply exceeds demand for engineers. In other words, there are a lot of unemployed engineers out there. If you factor in student loan debt, the engineer is in the hole. Things shouldn't be like this.

Once upon a time, having a college degree meant a guaranteed job and a higher than average income. This is no longer the case. Today, a college degree means a debt burden and hoping to find a job but probably not in the field you majored in. Some fields like healthcare and IT seem to do much better than others, but you don't need a four year degree to become an RN or program computers. Most programmers I know learned their skills on their own out of necessity as their field grows and innovates so quickly that any four year degree you could earn becomes obsolete. RNs can get certified after completing a two-year program at a technical school. These folks can pursue a four year degree, but the return on investment hardly justifies the additional cost.

The best deal today in education is vocational schools and technical colleges offering job training. These schools have greater job placement, greater job prospects, lower tuition, and less time in school. Why don't more people take advantage of this? That is because the jobs you get when you leave these schools will be blue collar. We live in a culture that has degraded the working people, but the laugh is on us as these dirty jobs people end up making more money (and having more fun) than the college educated white collar people with their substandard salaries, heavy student loan debt, and maxed out credit cards.

The higher ed bubble will pop. It is unsustainable. College is a waste of time and money, and people are waking up to this realization. When I was in high school, they told us to go to college, and I did. But I'm going to tell the young people what the guidance counselors won't tell them. The world needs plumbers, carpenters, welders, diesel mechanics, and the like. There is honor in these jobs because they are honest and produce something of value. As for people changing careers, you could do worse than enrolling in a tech school and learning how to be a machinist or an automotive tech or a truck driver. As for you recent college grads with debt and no job, I'm sorry, but you are fucked. You were sold a line of shit. Society does not need you or your skills. Good luck finding a real job.

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NOTES



3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRVdiHu1VCc (Excellent vid from Mike Rowe.)



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Why You Should Give Up on Retirement

I don't believe in retirement. I think retirement makes no sense for anyone except professional athletes and career politicians. I know this cuts against the grain of societal expectations where freedom from work is deemed to be "the good life." But I have solid reasons for this stance. You should give up on retirement because it is bad for society, antithetical to your happiness, dooms you to poverty, and probably won't happen for you anyway.

Prior to the implementation of Social Security back in the day, people didn't retire except for a handful of rich motherfuckers who never worked all that much to begin with. An extended life of leisure in your golden years was never contemplated because it was never possible nor valued. This is because retirement makes no economic sense. Paying people not to work makes no sense. It rewards laziness, and please don't give me that shit that because somebody is old and has worked their whole lives they deserve to live off of other people's paychecks. The result is idleness and loss of productivity. In the aggregate, this leads to a net decrease in wealth. Always. When consumption exceeds production, you have economic collapse.

Social Security changed things. At the time, few were expected to even reach the age of 65. Social Security was a clever trick to fleece cash from people. It has become a Ponzi scheme which will collapse except Medicare will collapse first. The biggest damage from Social Security was a cultural change. People wanted to retire. Companies started offering pensions and the like. Wall Street got into the game with corporate and private retirement plans that were tax incentivized. The result was the now universal societal expectation that the last 20 years of one's life could be spent in idleness. It is 30 years now that 55 is considered "retirement age." With baby boomers hitting these ages, a third of of the workforce could become idle. But I don't think this will happen for the reasons I will explain later in this essay.

You can't have a third of your workforce idle for a third of their lives. It is not sustainable. This is why the combined costs of Medicare, Social Security, and pensions will bankrupt America. We already see this happening now with Detroit automakers being the canaries in the coal mine. To sustain it will require fleecing the rest of society which society won't like. "Euthanasia" will become a human right then, and geriatrics will be encouraged to exercise it with extreme liberality. This is preferrable to working?

But I don't think these doomsday scenarios will come to pass because people are waking up to these realizations. With the recent downturn in the stock market, people realize they don't have enough to retire on. Retirement checks are seen as being supplemental to a continued life of work, and this continued life of working is a good thing.

Work is important not because it makes money but also because it improves health and increases happiness. Work makes people feel vital and productive. It demands physical exercise even if that exercise is just walking from the car to the office. Work is an unqualified good. Why do people hate it so much? This goes back to that retirement mindset that has been the cultural byproduct of Social Security.

We have people in their 60's and 70's running marathons, completing triathlons, climbing mountains, hiking trails, and what have you. Yet, we consider it a travesty that these people should have to keep working in their golden years? Please. . .

I'm all for people saving cash in retirement accounts, but I think Social security and pensions should disappear. I think people should give up on retiring. The result will be a net improvement for society and for individuals. You should aim to work until the day you die and love what you do. Work is not a curse.

Critics will say they want to do other things in their lives like travel or write a book or whatever. I think the answer to that is not retirement but the sabbatical which I think employers would be willing to go along with especially when they need to trim their workforce during lean times but retain them for the fat times. The only drawback is that it is unreasonable to expect to be paid during these sabbaticals. But saving up for what Tim Ferriss calls "mini-retirements" is a solution.

My viewpoint is not shared by many, but it doesn't matter. When people hit 65, they probably won't be able to retire anyway, or if they do, Alpo will be a staple of their diet. Social Security will either be bankrupt or no longer indexed for inflation. Pensions will be toast. Private retirement accounts will be underfunded or decimated by the markets. The irony is that the people in the best position to retire will be the ones who have no interest in retirement. These will be the workers who spent their lives saving money, being industrious, and eschewing consumption.

Idleness is not a sustainable lifestyle. This is the bottom line. Retirement is idleness.


Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THE UNDERWEAR BOMBER

It is obvious that the Obama Adminstration fucked up royally on this one. When the guy's father actually calls the CIA to give them the warning and it goes unheeded, this speaks volumes. The reality is that bureaucracy is not the antidote to terrorism.

2. THE APPLE TABLET

Apple has a new toy coming out this month. Will it change the world? Or will it fail? I hesitate to make a prediction. Consumers are a fickle bunch. I just know that I feel no need to buy this new toy. Apple may be due to fail.

3. VODKA AND RUSSIA

The government is trying to raise the price of vodka in Russia to help combat the rampant alcoholism there. Needless to say, vodka consumption is a feature of Russian life. It is a holdover from the days of communism when the only hope you had was in a liquor bottle. While countries like India and China prosper, Russia languishes. Why is this? I will have to leave that one to the economists.

What I can safely say is that people are known by their drinks. For the French, it is wine. For the Germans, it is beer. For the English, it is tea. For Americans, it is coffee. Somewhere, I can make the case that a nation's productive output is tied directly to its consumption of caffeine and its eschewing of alcohol. All I know is that you can't get a lot done if you spend all day drunk off your ass.

4. GYM CLUB MEMBERSHIP

Gym clubs will do brisk business this month as people look to revolutionize their lives in an effort that will peter out by March. People don't keep their resolutions. Gym clubs know this which is why they will try to lock people into the longest term contracts that they can. That is the beauty of a gym. It is the one place where people buy something they are more than likely not going to use. My advice? Take up running. It will only cost you a pair of shoes.

New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep

Every year, people make resolutions. They resolve to change bad habits. Then, they fail. I have a better idea. Why not resolve bad thinking?

Bad thinking messes up your life way more than you realize. People have the wrong ideas about things, and it leads to making wrong choices or simply being unhappy. So, here are some resolutions that you can keep.

1. Stop envying lucky people.

When you see someone who has succeeded in an endeavor, you need to ask yourself one question. Was their success a product of luck or virtue? It makes a big difference. Trust me.

Imagine a lottery winner. He has won the $300 million jackpot in the Powerball. Upon winning, he declares to the world that he is going to take his entire fortune and buy more lottery tickets. At this moment, you would see this lottery winner for the colossal fool that he is. But what made him brilliant before this? He was just lucky.

Luck makes fools look brilliant and smart people look foolish. It is one thing to be brilliant and hard working and establish a Fortune 500 company. It is another thing to inherit that company simply because your dad owned the outfit and croaked. The irony is that both prospered largely from lucky breaks. For the dad, it might have been securing a government contract because he was friends with a politician. For the son, it was simply being born.

Luck plays a large role in extraordinary success. It is one thing to be a world class athlete. That takes talent but also a great deal of work. It is another thing to be a ginormous rock star with a drug addiction and a handler to make sure you show up for the show. We admire the athlete and lampoon the rock star. From this, we see that success visits both the virtuous and the slimeballs in equal measure.

Ordinary success is that success that is earned by repeatable virtuous endeavor. This is the achievement of the marathon runner who sets a new PR, or the blue collar worker who saves his money and buys a house. Extraordinary success is nonrepeatable and due largely to luck. This is the movie star with the lucky break or one of the Jonas Brothers. They might practice their crafts with diligence but so do cameramen and music teachers, but no one is paying them a million dollars merely to look good. The people to admire are those with ordinary success. They deserve it.

2. Stop being vain.

In my twenties, I noticed my hairline was receding. It didn't bother me that much because I don't like hair anyway. Then, I shaved my head. It didn't improve my looks one bit. But it did liberate me. Shaving your head is an act of defiance. This is why people who have no hair loss at all elect to do the same thing.

You don't need to shave your head to stop being vain, but you should accept the way you are. This is because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Despite getting uglier, women noticed me more after I shaved the melon. Many a female hand has run across this dome, and I am at a loss to explain it. There is no science to it. People like what they like. Therefore, it behooves you to like yourself exactly as you are. As you get older and uglier, this self-acceptance will become your strength. I find that the most beautiful people are the ones who wear their wrinkles, scars, and gray hair with pride.

3. Realize that your life belongs to you and no one else.

Whenever I run into some bitter geriatric, they always want to give me advice and tell me what the fuck to do. This is because as a single man with no kids I have a ton of options at my disposal, and these fuckers envy this. They want to hit the reset button on their lives and get a "do over." This is fucking sad. It is also damn annoying.

Your life belongs to you. It does not belong to me or anyone else. I can dispense information if you ask me, but your choices are your own. Never let other people run your life for you. And if you are one of those busybodies wanting to run the lives of others, do everyone a favor and mind your own fucking business.

4. Relinquish control over your reputation. It doesn't belong to you.

You can try and manage your reputation the way Tiger Woods did with his, but your reputation is not your property. It belongs to other people, and there is nothing you can do about it. As someone who has been the subject of countless rumors, gossip, innuendo, and the like, I can tell you that there is little you can do about your reputation. It also doesn't help when you fuel the bad press by lying about infidelities, drunkenness, drug abuse, sex orgies, and the like. I am prone to doing this just to confuse things as much as possible. The result is that when people actually get to know me, they are pleasantly surprised. I'm not nearly as diabolical as my detractors claim.

You can't control what others think about you. Just learn to shrug it off or even have a laugh at it like I do.

5. Eschew status.

People are very conscious of status. This usually involves four things:

-Educational attainment
-Income
-Size, location, and style of home
-Brand and cost of automobile

Status is a colossal waste. I'm not sure why people engage in it. I could understand if it made a real difference in the quality of life, but it doesn't. Stephen Hawking is way smarter than me, but I can walk and wipe my own ass. I think he would trade with me if he could. I would never trade with him.

The poor living in America today enjoy a lifestyle rivaling anything Queen Victoria had. In addition, the quality of Bill Gates's life is indistinguishable from yours or mine. He still watches the same crappy movies I do, but I suspect he might use an iMac instead of a Dell. He might get to eat some delicacy like sauteed bird poop, but I will stick with my grilled chicken. I suspect Gates eats grilled chicken, too. His house and car are probably way more beautiful than my shit, but I still travel and remain warm and dry in my home. I grant that he probably flies on a private jet while I am stuck in coach. Otherwise, his life is not much different than mine except for that iMac.

Status is a social thing, and that's it. It has a greater impact on other people's lives than your own. This is because it makes them hate the good things they have. Yet, I have met people with high status who envied the simple lifestyles of people who worked for them. If you are able to sleep at night without being interrupted by a phone call or nightmares of financial reversal, you have one of the best lives possible. As one writer put it, people work and save for their whole lives to retire to the simple life already enjoyed by poor fishermen in tropical regions.

Status is a poor subsitute for happiness.

6. Become indifferent to pleasure and pain.

Most of our bad habits stem from wanting to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Hedonists seek an abundance of pleasure while ascetics seek a life of pain. Both are erroneous states. The better path is the path of syzygy (a pair of opposites) where you live with both states. A good example of this would be hitting the weights hard at the gym and then enjoying a steak and a nap.

Pleasure is not happiness, and pain is not misery. In addition, pleasure and pain go together. Indulge in too much pleasure, and you end up in pain. Endure pain, and the pleasure becomes sweeter. This is why Gatorade tastes so good after mowing the lawn on a hot day instead of before. This principle is why we should have equal measures of both exertion and rest. People who adhere to exercise routines follow this pattern. People who do not exercise deny themselves sublime pleasures.

Conclusion

These are changes in thinking not habits. If they take hold, they should result in habit changes. But it takes no effort to change your mindset. You simply dwell on it and let the ideas change your mind.

Happy New Year.

Bear Grylls is a Fraud



I was yammering on the phone with my brother the other day about the usual macho bullshit--blowing the heads off terrorists, special forces ops, etc.--when he dropped the bomb on me. BEAR GRYLLS IS A FRAUD. He told me to google "bear grylls hotel" and my illusions of a great man were shattered.

If you watch Man vs. Wild (or Born Survivor in the UK,) you would think that Bear Grylls is a guy who goes into various wild places with himself and a cameraman and the barest of equipment and survives and finds his way back to civilization. This is simply horseshit. The reality is that he goes into places with a crew and films contrived scenarios and spends the night in a hotel. Seriously. He doesn't stay out there.



Other controversies include the fact that many of these remote places are not remote at all. One infamous clip shows that Bear filmed at a location not far from a road. Apparently, they just rode along, found a spot, filmed there, and that was that. Other bullshit includes a man in a bear suit, tame horses brought in, and capturing a "wild" rabbit to eat. Looking back on things like drinking water from elephant dung, it is obvious to me that Bear Grylls is a flim-flam man. He puts together scenes and outrageous stunts for the entertainment value. He makes good television, but good television and real television are not the same thing.

Here is an assorted list of links on the story:

1. How Bear Grylls the Born Survivor roughed it - in hotels

2. Bear Grylls, a Fraud?

3. Man Vs. Wild, Bear Grylls is a Phony

4. Man vs. Hotel: Bear Grylled

5. The Bear Grylls Wiki


This leads us to question Les Stroud of Survivorman. Is Les a fake, too? From what I can gather from the net, NO. Les Stroud is the real deal. Survivorman is not as slick as Man vs. Wild, and Les is not as beefcake as Bear. But he actually does spend nights in the wilderness alone. He has no camera crew, people in bear suits, or a Papa John's pizza delivery guy showing up. Les Stroud is the real deal.

Les Stroud bio

Discovery Channel disappoints me for airing Man vs. Wild. They should have Mythbusters do a show on Bear and debunk the guy. Let's keep the reality in reality TV.