Facets of the Minimalist Movement



The minimalist movement is a voluntary simplicity response to the recession, and I think it is a relatively positive one. But like with all things, there is the good, and there is the bad. Despite being minimalist, there is a lot of diversity and overlap in this movement, so I toss out this diverse and overlapping taxonomy to describe these folks with some healthy criticism tossed in.

1. THE UNCLUTTERERS

The most basic form of the simplicity movement are folks who tidy up their lives. This is the gateway drug to the minimalist movement and can be seen on display at a website like Unclutterer. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't radically change your lifestyle. It just tidies it up a bit and doesn't eliminate the consumerism and what have you. The goal is not elimination but organizing. I like Leo Babauta's response that "minimalism is the end of organizing." When you get rid of the shit you don't need, there's nothing left to organize.

2. THE SIMPLE LIVERS

These folks are neo-hippies who read Thoreau, tend to be Luddites, eat vegetarian and organic foods, shop at thrift stores, grow gardens, and ride bicycles instead of driving cars. These people are more authentic and get a great deal of respect and admiration from me even if I don't buy into all of it.

3. THE MINIMALIST DESIGN FETISHISTS

Minimalist design fetishists are those who masturbate in front of an iMac, and there is no porn on the screen. They are into the minimalist aesthetic and like elegantly designed products and software and houses.



The problem with this approach is that it negates simplicity. That minimalist shit is expensive as hell and is about vanity as much as any other consumerist lifestyle out there. Where others go out and buy a bunch of shit, these people are obsessed with having perfect shit.

4. THE VAGABONDS AND SLACKERS

These are folks who tell you to go simple in order to quit your job and be a full time bum. What do you do for money? You blog about being a bum and get people to buy your shit on the internet. Everett Bogue at Far Beyond the Stars is the primary guru on this shit. He is like Tim Ferriss for the minimalist crowd. These folks minimize for the sake of travel and enjoying life. It is essentially the surf bum lifestyle supported by the internet.

5. THE TINY HOUSE PEOPLE

These are people who opt to live in 100 square foot or less. This is the opposite extreme of the McMansion set.



Most of these tiny houses end up on wheels to allow people to get around burdensome zoning regulations. I will just tell you like it is. These people are trailer park people with less space. They should just buy an Airstream camper and put it on a lot. I like their inventiveness and do-it-yourself spirit, but the reality is that they can afford to live in a bigger home even if it was one they built themselves.

OVERVIEW AND CRITICISM

Any minimalist will tell you that this way of life comes in different flavors. I agree. They must also agree that some of it is just plain dumb. Here is the way I think it should be done:

-Get rid of shit

This is the one point that all lifestyle minimalists can agree on. You want to eliminate the stuff you don't need from your life and stop living to acquire more shit. If you have to rent a unit from one of those storage places, you have too much shit. If it takes you an entire day to clean your house because you have to move all the shit around, you have too much shit. If you can't park your car in your garage because of all the clutter you have in there, you have too much shit. If you are making payments on anything but your home, you are an idiot, and you have too much shit. Get rid of as much as you can.

-Keep it simple

Whenever you design something, write something, or whatnot, keep it simple. Simple is not the same as perfect. All it means is eliminating the extraneous elements. Don't think Mies van der Rohe. Think Henry David Thoreau.



A simple life should be an authentic life not a sanitized life like in a museum of modern art. This is why I prefer the term "simplicity" to "minimalism." Simplicity retains the soul while minimalism in aesthetics cuts the soul out of it. It also allows me to buy used furniture and clothes from the thrift store.

-Work

When I think of simplicity, I think of the Amish or the Puritans and their work ethic. It seems so many minimalists want to be bums and equate working a job with some sort of dread and misery. They are only half right. Many people don't have real jobs but bullshit office jobs. No one wears a hard hat in Dilbert. This is because the misery is not on the shop floor but behind the desk. Guys like Tim Ferriss can extol working four hours per week because that is the sum total of the productive effort most of these people put out. Idleness is not the antidote. Idleness is the problem. If you can convince your boss to let you work four hours a week, he will be so impressed at the feat that he will eliminate you and give your four hours of work to someone else since what you did on a daily basis amounted to a bunch of nothing.

Simplicity isn't about being a slacker. It is about doing authentic work for a change.

-Live in a real house or apartment.

Big houses are dumb. Whether it is a mansion or a McMansion, you are just wasting resources on a status object. Conversely, you shouldn't trade the castle for a dollhouse. To me, the ultimate home is a simple cabin back in the woods sparsely furnished.

-Eschew big cars.

A big vehicle makes sense for some people. If you are a farmer, I understand the need for the big F-150. I will never understand the Cadillac Escalade. Outside of some agricultural or industrial necessity, there is no need to drive a gas guzzler. SUVs are just moronic. The Hummer? What the fuck is up with that?!

-Buy quality.

When it comes to products and clothing, I think durability and function should be the main considerations. I don't focus much on aesthetics. This is why I like Carhartt over The North Face. Stuff that lasts a long time and not dictated by fashion is cheaper because you can go a decade without replacing it. I still wear the T-shirts and work pants I first started with when my old man put my ass to work as a kid. Authenticity never goes out of style.

-Keep your hobbies and leisure in check.

I am all for having fun, but I don't think it should cost an arm and a leg in terms of money and time. Your leisure should improve you in some way. This means taking up running or learning a new skill or reading science and history. Leisure shouldn't be about expensive toys or spending weekends watching football games. The problem is that people engage in leisure activities that cost them more than enrich them. It's more about stuff than experiences or living vicariously through others while surfing the couch.

CONCLUSION

I don't know if I can consider myself a minimalist. That is a loaded term. What I can say is that I believe in simplicity and authenticity. This has been a change for me over the last couple of years. It represents a reevaluation of what constitutes the good life. I can have more stuff in my life, but I don't see where it makes my life any better. I see people living in McMansions, driving big cars, and making payments on toys they don't have time to play with, and I don't see the point. I just see people trying desperately to convince themselves that they are living the good life. But the good life is not making money but earning money doing real work. The good life is not struggling to make payments on a big house but being secure in a smaller home. The good life is not owning a $3000 mountain bike you never ride but going for a daily run in $80 shoes. The good life is not a ball game on a giant flat screen but a good book and time to read it. We already have rich and abundant lives. It is people who are trying to sell us something that have convinced us that something is missing.

SOC

I don't know where to begin with this one. I'm trying to get back to consistent blogging by having regularly recurring features. I have a blogging schedule, and Monday is my SOC day. I've learned from the example of Ian Fleming and other writers to be workmanlike. You have to treat writing like a job or else you won't get any writing done. Waiting for inspiration is dumb because you will find it is more fun to read other writers than to do your own writing.

One of the things that has been on my mind recently has been the salutary effect of apathy. Many who know me will have heard my canned lecture on the Greeks and happiness. I don't think all of the schools had it completely right or wrong but had some small piece of the larger puzzle. In the case of apathy, this would be the realm of the Stoics and the Skeptics. Philosophers dedicated to precision will take issue with me at this point and split some hairs, so I will simply make a general point about apathy and how it helps sometimes.

There is a great deal in life we don't control and can't control. What makes it worse is that we often know what is going to happen, and there's nothing we can do to change the outcome. As a friend once told me, wisdom is the truest form of pain. How can you remain in the backseat and watch the idiots at the wheel?

The biggest example I can give is the looming Tea Party Betrayal. I don't believe for a minute that the GOP takeover in Congress will amount to anything except to hamstring Obama for the next two years. Tea Partiers are just rubes who will get suckered again like they did with the Contract with America back in the 90's.

You have to stop caring. This doesn't mean that you stop working. I am always amazed at the patience of Ron Paul. He has been at this for close to 40 years now. You learn patience over a time period like that. It isn't the patience that comes from believing in some sort of inevitable victory. The fact is that there is no guarantee of that whatsoever. It is simply the patience of knowing you are right and will always be right.

Imagine being in attendance at a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. You can spend time trying to change these people. Or you can become stupid like them. Or you can do the only sensible thing which is to not give a shit.

Apathy is an escape. You have to reserve the right to not give a shit. It is disappointing to watch things unfold in the way you predict, but there is an upside to it all. You will have the opportunity to gloat. There is a perverse pleasure in that. You will get to laugh at idiots. Right now, I have spent the last two years laughing at the leftards for their support of Obama. I will get to spend the next two years mocking John Boehner. This GOP revolution will be no different than the last one.

I think change happens, but it happens in spite of what happens at the ballot box and not because of it. Clever idiots believe they wield some sort of power over things, but they don't. This is what makes them idiots. The thing to do is speak the truth and let the reality echo what you said.

I am routinely lumped in with crackpots and bullshitters because of my unconventional viewpoints. But I usually end up with the last laugh as my viewpoints are vindicated. And that's the whole point. Apathy allows you to laugh.

Apathy also allows you to be at peace, and that is the ultimate benefit. I used to stress over a lot of shit, but I have learned to not care. I have a friend of mine who is supremely laid back, and I suspect that this is his secret. He just doesn't think it is worth the toll to get worked up over shit.

Achieving this mindset is a matter of Eastern style meditation. I think of Zen masters and all that shit. When I am at work, I have found that the best stress reliever isn't to fret and worry but to work really hard. I don't do this so much because it results in getting a bunch of shit done. It results in the immediate sensation of flow and the endorphin rush that comes from exertion. I lose myself in doing. This is the supreme way to go. We associate apathy with passivity and inactivity, but it is better to think of it as indifference. It's like the athlete who is so zoned in that he loses track of the score and doesn't realize that he is winning the game.

The bottom line is that you simply have to do the right things. Whether you succeed or not doesn't matter. It doesn't change what you are supposed to do. It's like when I was in college, and I changed my focus from graduating to learning. The result was that I graduated and was surprised at how fast those four years went. It is a strange and wonderful feeling.

Quotable Quotes

Taking a trip for six months, you get into the rhythm of it. It feels like you can just go on forever doing that. Climbing Everest is the ultimate and the opposite of that because you get all these high-powered plastic surgeons and CEOs, you know, who pay $80,000 and have sherpas who put all the ladders in place and 8,000 feet of fixed ropes…you get to a camp and you don’t even have to lay out your sleeping bag; it’s already laid out with a little chocolate mint on the top. And the whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain, but if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.
YVON CHOUINARD

Living simply is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. It's about living an examined life where one has determined what is truly important and enough … and then just let go of all the rest.
DUANE ELGIN

Stop buying stupid stuff you don’t need. When you stop buying things, you need less income to survive. Most people are in debt because they spend a lot more than they need to.
EVERETT BOGUE

No one can magically create a 25 hour day, and all the lifehacking in the world won’t stop the ticking of the clock. Minimalism gives us the advantage of being able to ruthlessly eliminate that which does not contribute to our lives in order to more effectively spend our time, the most finite resource of all.
BRETT OBLACK

Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.
GEORGE CARLIN

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THE GOP PLEDGE TO AMERICA

I cringed when I read about this. I remember the Contract with America and what bunch of shit that turned out to be. Granted, I'm all for smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. The, I cringed at the neocon planks about funding the troops, buying more missiles, and keeping tough sanctions on Iran. What a complete load of shit.

The last time the GOP did this sort of thing they fucked us. They are now going to fuck us again.

2. LINDSAY LOHAN

I love this train wreck of a woman. She just can't get stay off that cocaine. Lindsay should do a reality show where she essentially snorts lines all day and stays in trouble with the authorities. I can't believe some clever producer hasn't made her an offer to document her self-destruction. Must see TV!

3. DRINKING IS GOOD FOR YOU

I was a bit amused that heavy drinkers outlive non-drinkers in a recent study. I think this may be as a result of the muscle relaxing effects of liquor that protects the drunk while killing all the people in the other car he plowed into.

4. AHMADINEJAD, THE 9/11 TRUTHER

Mahmoud believes 9/11 was an inside job. I bet he also believes that Obama has a fake birth certificate. And I am certain he is with OJ in wanting to find the real killers.

Friday Night Notes



Last night, I took my girlfriend out to eat. She usually works on Friday nights, and it has been awhile since we could go out with the rest of the normal people. It was a rare time for me to point out to her the parade of weekend warriors. As I was eating my pasta, a guy pulls up outside the restaurant with a sea kayak on the roof of his SUV. Immediately after, another guy pulls into a spot with a snazzy custom chopper. I told my girlfriend that people buy that shit purely for vanity. As soon as I spoke, a small crowd forms around the chopper to admire the object.

It is my belief that the primary reason these people pursue these weekend hobbies and endeavors is to show off. I estimate that chopper cost about $30K and was financed. That's a lot of cheddar for a gaudy piece of metal. But the crowd formed, so the chopper owner got what he paid for. The fact is that my town on a Friday night is full of just such spectacles like vintage cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. This extends into Saturday morning with the hunters and their gear, the mountain bikers, the RV people, and on and on. Come Monday morning at work, the question is the same. What did you do over the weekend? I think this Monday I will lie and say I went rock climbing or something. The problem with rock climbing is that there isn't a lot of stuff to buy in order to do it.

I think this whole world of weekend activities is stupid. Not a weekend goes by that I don't look with disdain on these weekend warriors with their various toys. I suspect Mr. Kayak's boat at the restaurant will never touch water this weekend. He had that boat on his rack to show off to people that he owns a fucking boat. Why carry it to a busy restaurant? Here's a website I enjoy laughing at. You have these eco tree hugging hippie types that reject the consumer culture and want to get out into nature. Yet, to do it, they have to embrace consumerism. The website is not called "ski junkie" or "mountain climbing junkie." It is called GEAR JUNKIE. Folks, it's all about the gear. THE GEAR.

You pick up any copy of Outside magazine, and you are going to see lots of well written pieces. But you are also going to see lots of gear reviews and glossy ads for shit that most true outdoor people can't afford. The fact is that people have gotten along in the outdoors just fine before The North Face and the REI catalog came along. But these days, you have to get outfitted for the endeavor with designer threads and name brand equipment. I doubt Hillary had a third of such stuff when he took on Everest.

I reserve my admiration for those low key types that actually do stuff on the weekends without talking about it or showing off their shit. They are the minimalists. This is why I find a certain affinity with runners, bowlers, and people who play chess or toss horseshoes. This is because their gear can fit in the space reserved for carry on luggage.

There is a relationship between the activities, the gear required, the marketing, the consumerism, the popularity, and the vanity. Take riding a motorcycle. Generally speaking, this is a low cost activity. You can buy a decent used motorcycle and see a lot of road for little money. It is good on gas. But you won't see a weekend warrior on these rides. They need the big fat Harley or the custom chopper that will see very little time on the road. Motorcycles fell to marketing, and now, riding these things has exploded in popularity along with the cost and the vanity. I have a friend of mine who is on her third motorcycle--a custom Harley. I keep my mouth shut, but I consider the purchase a waste. OTOH, I looked with admiration on an old Honda in a parking lot the other day. It had a lot of miles on it, and I appreciated that they made things that lasted that long.

I am a minimalist. I do voluntary simplicity. I believe in authenticity and value for the dollar. I just don't care for all this conspicuous consumption. It's stupid, and I think all these weekend warrior types are just a bunch of assholes.

The Renaissance Ideal Revisited




Jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than master of one.
OLD RHYME

In 1984, a movie came out called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. It is a dreadful movie and not worth watching. Cult devotees will scorch my ass for this criticism, but this essay is not about the film. I mention the movie because of the title character. Buckaroo Banzai is a Renaissance Man. He is a polymath. Buckaroo is neurosurgeon, a particle physicist, a rock star, and a race car driver. He is tops in all these fields.

Buckaroo made an impression on me as a kid because it was my first introduction to the world of polymaths. The only thing is that it is a small world. For Buckaroo Banzai, it is a purely fictional world. You can't be tops in all these fields of endeavor. You can be a generalist or a specialist, but you can't be both.

The problem with the Renaissance Ideal is an old one. There is only so much time, money, and energy at your disposal. I remember one of my bosses who was a triathlete as well as a corporate guy. He was a single guy who began as a gym rat but decided to take up triathlon. Needless to say he was in good shape. The problem was that by becoming a triathlete he ended up sucking at both triathlon and his work. He took a promotion to pay for his new hobby with the increased salary. He chafed at the time constraints. His boss hated his guts because he showed little dedication to the job because of his "avocation." And he was not that impressive as a triathlete. In short, he was crushed by his own unrealistic ambitions. I don't mean to denigrate the guy since he strived to achieve something. I admire anyone who would try such a thing. But he could not pull it off not because of a character defect but simply as a consequence of scarce time and resources.

Ambition has to be tempered by the reality of time, money, and energy. My triathlete friend could have gone back to being just a gym rat with no problem. Or he could have taken up just one of his disciplines such as running or cycling and pursued that to greater success. I was also friends with a cross country mountain biker who was damn good because he worked subsistence jobs and lived like a pauper and had a bike shop sponsorship. But the answer to the dilemma is the same. You have to simplify.

It is my contention that polymaths do not exist. A polymath properly defined is someone who demonstrates expertise in multiple unrelated fields. People who claim polymathic status engage in slippery definitions of the term "expert." I can be an expert in both drinking beer and eating potato chips, but these are not entirely unrelated fields nor are they even true fields of endeavor. When it comes to being both a top neurosurgeon and a particle physicist, that ain't happening. You simply can't occupy two peaks of endeavor at the same time. Even in related fields like road cycling and mountain biking, the champion in one is almost never the champion in the other. Lance Armstrong came close.

During the Renaissance, men like Leonardo could be experts in multiple fields because those fields weren't that developed. Those same men today would be considered generalists. When you consider that the typical engineering undergrad has a storehouse of knowledge that would dwarf Leonardo's understanding, you begin to appreciate how far we have come in human endeavors. It is also helpful to realize that Leonardo accomplished little in his life except to put down his ambitions in his notebooks.

It is relatively easy to know things in a variety of fields and be competent in various activities. This is the life of the generalist or the "jack of all trades." Most people are generalists. They can drive a car, cook a meal, care for a sick loved one, and hold down a job. But they are not race car drivers, chefs, doctors, or what have you. Even a specialist is a generalist in everything else he or she does.

The more appropriate term for people who have a broad range of knowledge and pursue various interests is not "polymath" but "philomath." A philomath is simply one who loves learning. This term definitely applies to myself as I have interests in music, history, art, literature, and so much more that I drown in all of it. But I'm not good at anything. I know a lot about economics, but I am not an economist. Basically, I read a lot on a variety of subjects. My only talent is as a writer. It is the only thing I am good at, and this collection of knowledge is simply raw material for my writing. Writers and especially journalists are people who take a keen interest in the world around them.

The problem with reading so much and so widely is that I am always tempted to jump into some field of endeavor. I remember reading Paul Theroux back in the 90's and wanting to become a sea kayaker like him because I read The Happy Isles of Oceania. But I got over that without buying a boat. I just don't have time or money for that shit.

This leads us to the hobbyist. The hobbyist is the dabbler. He does various things on the side. Even Theroux paddles as a hobby. But I frown on various hobbies especially those involving the purchase of a bunch of shit. Whenever I buy something, I also consider having to move it around, store it, etc. This is accumulation and clutter. But I am digressing.

I read so much about so many people in different worlds that I want to do the same things they do. When I read Taleb, I want to become a trader, polyglot, a mathematician, or what have you. When I read Chouinard, I want to become a fly fisherman, a rock climber, a surfer, and a businessman. When I listen to Jimmy Buffett, I want to fly seaplanes, strum guitars, write songs, and what have you. When I watch an episode of House, I want to go to medical school. There is so much to do and be that you end up regretting that you only have one life to do it all in.

The appeal of the Renaissance Man is that he does it all. He triples and quadruples a single life. The reality is that this man does not exist, and this feat cannot be accomplished. You can go learn seven languages, but by the time you get to number seven, you will have started forgetting the other six. And anyone who knows seven languages fluently is not going to win a Nobel prize in physics. These limiting factors came into play when I read about how Jimmy Buffett was going to get around to learning Spanish "someday." I think knowing how to fly and play guitar is pretty damn impressive.

I have replaced my Renaissance ideal with a blue collar model that is more realistic. In all my various jobs, I have discovered many who were jacks of all trades. This wasn't the product of ambition but necessity. Consider the farmer who ends up learning a great deal about hydraulics, diesel mechanics, horticulture, meteorology, etc. The fact is that most blue collar jobs are not specialties at all. Blue collar workers are generalists who might throw their weight in a particular direction. I think of Edgar Hansen on Deadliest Catch who runs the deck, fixes the engine and hydraulics, and does the odd bit of metal fabrication to keep the ship running. That's a lot of hats to wear. Edgar is always talking of quitting, and I wonder what he would do. But that is easy. He can transition to being a welder or a mechanic that doesn't require weeks at sea.

All of this has been churning in my head for awhile. Is it better to simplify? Is it better to specialize? What should your ambitions be? Here are some points I have reached firmness on:

-Polymaths don't exist.

They are either dreamers like Leonardo, undistinguished generalists, or career switchers who excelled in one specialty which they abandoned for another specialty. You can't be the master of everything. You can be the master of one thing and perhaps dabble in a few others. Anyone who claims polymath status is straining the definition of the term.

-Specialization is risky.

Being really good at one thing can be a very lucrative endeavor. Unfortunately, what do you do when your fastball slows down at age 40? What do you do the rest of the year when you're not selling Christmas trees? Generalization allows flexibility and adaptability.

-Temper ambition.

Time, money, and energy are limiting factors. Even an immortal billionaire is limited to 24 hours in a day and has to sleep. As such, you can be the jack of all trades or the master of one. Both strategies bow to reality. It is when you try to be the master of three that everything falls apart.

The bottom line is that the Renaissance Ideal is dead to me now. You can be a generalist or specialist, but you can't be both. And both have their benefits and deficits. But like the quotation said, ". . .though oftimes better than master of one." This suggests that the generalist approach is the better of the two.

Karma is seeing the irony

Karma is seeing the irony in random events.

HEROES-Eugene Fama

Gene Fama is a Chicago School economist, a co-founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors, and a windsurfer. His fame and infamy derive from his groundbreaking work on Random Walk Theory and the Efficient Market Hypothesis. He is both loved and hated for this. To me, he is a hero.

Fama changed the world when he used computer technology to crunch the data to come to the conclusion that beating the stock market was a sucker's game. Basically, no one anywhere at anytime is able to beat the market beyond what someone could do by pure chance. The theory Fama proffered was that the market was like a giant computer reflecting all available information in the prices. No one could get an edge. This goes against the conventional Wall Street wisdom that markets are inefficient and skilled market operators can exploit these inefficiencies for profit on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise.

Fama is proven correct year after year. Critics of the EMH point to bubbles or to Warren Buffett. Yet, the evidence is on Fama's side. Investors do better with passive investing. Buy index funds.

The EMH may be discredited in the future. Fama might have it wrong. But so far, you would do better betting with Fama than betting against him. Fama has many critics, but their livelihoods depend on him being wrong. All I know is that I don't waste my time with stockpickers or stockpicking. I just take the market return. This frees up time to do things like windsurfing.

SOC

I finished watching Season 4 of Dexter on DVD, and it has had a lingering effect on me. That show is fiendish because it makes me feel sympathy for a serial killer. Granted, he kills others like him, but this is like a piranha that feeds on its own kind but masquerades as a vegetarian.

Great art is about finding and creating beauty. Great music is about expressing the emotions. Great drama and literature is different. It disturbs us. It stays with us even after the ending. There are no easy answers. This is the element that I learned about in college called "moral education." This is what stories give us. They are situations and conflicts, and we must strive to resolve them. They help us to understand how to live our lives and to determine what we must value.

I don't know if Dexter is great drama, but it makes me think and reflect. Ulimately, can we redeem the actions of a killer? Or is murder always abhorrent? And isn't the death penalty a just punishment?

Another thing that has been on my mind has to do with formal schooling and informal schooling as well as training vs. education. My own knowledge is a mixture of the two. In many ways, I am an autodidact. I can say I have learned more outside of school than in it. My learning has never ceased. Unlike other people my age, I can be put right back into a classroom and not miss a beat. Sadly, most people stop learning when they graduate from high school or college. This is a shame. But it is their shame not mine.

I've also been thinking about bowling lately. I'm not interested in bowling as something I want to do though I have always had fun when I have bowled. I fractured my right wrist over a decade ago, and my ability to bowl is now hampered as a result. I'd have to wear a brace or switch to my left hand. But the appeal of bowling has to do with its essentially blue collar nature. Traditionally, golf has been the game of the wealthy and the white collar set while bowling has been the game of the blue collar man. Bowling has fallen on hard times and gets lampooned in movies like Kingpin and The Big Lebowski. Bowling is the Pabst Blue Ribbon of sports. This is why I predict that it will make a comeback in these rough economic times. Bowling is relatively cheap and family friendly. All you need is a ball and some shoes. Plus, you can eat crap food and drink beer at the bowling alley.

Quotable Quotes

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.
AYN RAND

It is clearly absurd to limit the term 'education' to a person's formal schooling.
MURRAY ROTHBARD

When unions get higher wages for their members by restricting entry into an occupation, those higher wages are at the expense of other workers who find their opportunities reduced. When government pays its employees higher wages, those higher wages are at the expense of the taxpayer. But when workers get higher wages and better working conditions through the free market, when they get raises by firm competing with one another for the best workers, by workers competing with one another for the best jobs, those higher wages are at nobody's expense. They can only come from higher productivity, greater capital investment, more widely diffused skills. The whole pie is bigger - there's more for the worker, but there's also more for the employer, the investor, the consumer, and even the tax collector.

That's the way the free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people. That's the secret of the enormous improvements in the conditions of the working person over the past two centuries.

MILTON FRIEDMAN

. . .a simplified lifestyle can be truly wonderful - you'll finally have time for the things you really love, for relaxation, for outdoor activities, for exercise, for reading or finding peace and quiet, for the loved ones in your life, for the things you're most passionate about. This is what it means to thrive - to live a life full of the things you want in them, and not more. To live a better quality of life without having to spend and buy and consume.
LEO BABAUTA

Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.
LENNY BRUCE

HEROES-Anton Krupicka



We live in a time of superstar athletes. You have guys like Barry Bonds who juice up on roids and belt out homers. You have others who do the same shit as Barry and deny it. Then, you have assholes like Lance Armstrong who will sue the shit out of you if you even insinuate that he took drugs. As if the doping wasn't enough, you have the other drugs, the drunkenness, the hookers, the rapes, the lavish lifestyles, the egos, and what have you. It is a bit sickening to behold. Then, you have a guy like Tony Krupicka. Never heard of the guy? Me neither until about a month or so ago. But when I read about him and his exploits, they made a lasting impression on me.

Krupicka is an ultrarunner. He is a winner of the Leadville Ultramarathon. He is a grad student studying geology I think. I don't know since he doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. I remember reading somewhere that he studied philosophy and physics. What a combination. And he runs. A LOT. He puts in 125 to 150 miles per week on mountainous terrain. But to see him do it tells you that he does it out of sheer enjoyment. If you have ever wanted motivation to go for a run, seeing the way Krupicka does it makes you envy that fucker and want to do the same thing.



The reason I admire Krupicka is because he is the antithesis of so many things. He is not a flashy athlete even in the world of running. He runs with minimal shoes and minimal gear. He has a low key lifestyle. He is an individualist and someone who clearly embraces voluntary simplicity. At one event, he stayed in a tent before the race. Sometimes, he wears a button down shirt to run in. He doesn't even make a good poster boy for high tech running gear. I don't see him getting sponsorship from The North Face. They would probably insist that he wear a shirt.

Krupicka is a primal animal. He is a free spirit. He is someone who enjoys life. This is why I have come to admire him in such a brief period. He lives the way I want to live which is a simple lifestyle combined with an endorphin afterglow with some cerebral stimulation thrown in.



The best word I can use to describe Krupicka is "authentic." Over the last two years, I have been rediscovering authenticity and learning about people who have this quality. So much of the world is just a bunch of bullshit. When I get tired of the bullshit, I think of Krupicka running in those mountains. It is another world out there. It is solace and escape. Krupicka doesn't wear headphones and jam to his iPod. It is just him and his thoughts out on those trails.

I don't see Krupicka as just some hippie space cadet. He seems like a down-to-earth guy. But I see him as a supremely happy person. He is a rare breed of individual.



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Krupicka's Blog--Riding the Wind
http://antonkrupicka.blogspot.com/



Tony gets a Wikipedia entry!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Krupicka

A Simple Kind of Man
http://running.competitor.com/2010/05/features/a-simple-kind-of-man_10093



SOC

I may have explained this before, but I will explain it again for new readers of the C-Blog. "SOC" is "stream of consciousness." Basically, I just write whatever comes into my head. It's sort of like those jam concerts The Doors would give where Jim would trip on acid and some good shit would come out. Or his penis would come out, and he would collapse on stage. That shit was kind of hit or miss. SOC is sort of like that except I promise to keep my penis inside of my pants.

I am getting old. I turn 40 this year, and I must admit that there have been changes in the C-body. First of all, I get acid reflux. It's not too bad unless I eat some really crappy shit. The second thing is that I always have some sinus thing going on. In the past, I could eat pollen, and it wouldn't phase me. Now, I always have some mucus ready to hock. Finally, I get aches and pains. Of course, I have always been involved in physical labor my whole life, so I can't remember a time when I didn't hurt. Otherwise, I feel like I always have.

In other news, they have added a "stats" tab to Blogger, and I see that Tim Ferriss scam artist article is still tops followed by "Love is Bullshit." I also managed to predict a hook up between Jesse James and Kat Von D that is now getting some hits. Otherwise, it is the same forgettable shit as always.

The other thing that has been on my mind lately has been McMansions. I don't live in one and don't care to live in one. I was just contemplating how bubbles create such extravagance and bad taste.

Anyway, I'm tired of writing this shit. Other things to do.

Quotable Quotes

I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends.
MICKEY SPILLANE

Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn't have any beginning or any end. He didn't mean it as a compliment, but it was.
JACKSON POLLOCK

I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.
STEPHEN KING

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that's no reason not to give it.
AGATHA CHRISTIE

Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.
SCOTT ADAMS

Media Consumption Diet



There is a lot of media out there. We have radio, television, game consoles, print, and the internet. We have iPods, iPhones, and Kindles. I can go on and on with the devices. We live in rich media times. But there are also problems with all this media. The main problem is that there is so much to consume and so little time. The resolution involves making choices, but we don't even have effective criteria to inform those choices. It is one big stew of good and bad. Picking out the bits that are bad takes more time than just guzzling the whole thing. I will endeavor to make sense of it and provide some solutions.

The first thing you need to do is establish the amount of time you will devote to media consumption. In order to set this up, you have to distinguish between two broad categories of media that I call AUDIO and VISUAL. Things like the radio and podcasts require only your ears while things like games, television, books, and the rest require your eyeballs. The reason this distinction is important is because you can enjoy audio sources of media with almost no ill effects on your time. You can work out, run, clean house, drive, work, or whatnot while listening to something. Audio forms of media are the high fiber veggies of the media consumption diet. You can enjoy as much as you like with virtually no detriment to your other activities.

Visual media requires your eyeballs which requires devoted attention. You usually sit down for these things. Naturally, this eats valuable time, and this is where people need to exercise discipline. I recommend doing this media consumption in the evening prior to going to bed. It should be the last thing you do. Reading or watching TV is a great way to unwind from the day. I call this time "Reading Time" though I will watch a DVD or play a game during this time as well. For me, this is 9 p.m. and lasts until I fall out from exhaustion which is usually 10:30 at the latest.

The bulk of your media consumption should be audio. I'm a big fan of podcasts, and I recommend iTunes and the iPod shuffle as the best way to enjoy this media. I have an iPod touch, but I use it sparingly since it is primarily visual. The shuffle has no screen. It is just buttons. I turn it on and do mundane activities or play it while waiting somewhere. It is small and handy. I put on a mix of information and music.

The next aspect of media consumption has to do with TEXT and IMAGES. People will always tell you that the book is better than the movie. They are right. Your visual input should primarily be text based. Reading a book or an article will enrich you more than watching a video. I recommend reading primarily during the week and leaving movies and TV shows for the weekend.

The next aspect of media consumption has to do with selection. Some media is high quality while other media is crap. No one wants to waste valuable media time on crap. The goal of media is to inform and entertain, so it helps to get the best bang for the time spent. I have no overall strategy for this since individual tastes and needs vary. But I do have a collection of tips:

1. Eschew celebirty gossip.

This shit is a waste of life. It is fun to discuss with friends and family, but you are better off letting the morons tell you about it than actually spending time listening about it or reading about it.

2. Eschew televised sports.

This shit is not much better than celebrity gossip. There is very little I have watched on ESPN that I remember today that still enriches me. But watching The Shawshank Redemption for the umpteenth time has always been worth it.

3. Eschew tech news.

You can spend a lot of time reading about gadgets, but here's the reality. Most of this new tech deals with creation and delivery of new media. But there really is no new media. It all boils down to art, music, stories, and information. Prior to the internet, I would check out books from the library, and I never exhausted that media source. New gadgets will only be a marginal improvement on what we have already, and you can count on marketing and commercials to let you know when those gadgets arrive.

4. Eschew televised news.

I get most of my news from NPR and the internet. Televised news requires your eyeballs and lacks depth. This is why only old people watch the nightly news. It sucks, but they are too old to know better.

5. Eschew complicated video games and consoles.

Kids love things like the XBox, but the games they play on there are just high tech boredom. They obsess over things like speed and the graphics. Yet, can they beat a grandmaster at chess? The fact is that the best games are surprisingly simple. I always thought soccer would be more fun if they had three goals at the end of the field instead of one. But in reality, it isn't. It is just a variation that adds little to the game. Similarly, video games don't get much better with improved visual elements. Like movies in relation to books, the best part isn't on the screen but what is going on in your own head. This is why chess remains so challenging while video games rapidly become obsolete. I wouldn't waste my time and money on the consoles. Play the classic games instead.

6. Eschew business news.

Don't waste time watching CNBC or reading the business pages unless it is required for your particular profession. This information is useful for stockpicking, but stockpicking is a waste of time. Read Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street to find out why. Your time is better spent indexing and learning how to manage your personal finances.

7. Eschew entertainment reviews.

The best movie reviews come from word of mouth. Listen to your friends when it comes to which movies and shows to watch. As for music, you are better off listening to the radio or podcasts that play a variety of new music. The one exception to this rule concerns book reviews. You want to read those since few people read books.

8. Watch more TV shows on DVD instead of movies.

Television has gotten better while movies have gotten worse. The result is that I watch more TV shows now on DVD than movies. The reason for this is because a TV series is more like a novel and is more satisfying. A movie only has two hours or less to tell a story, so the pace is brisk and the story is truncated. Movies are more like short stories which usually suck. Make your Netflix mostly TV series like The Wire or House or Dexter.

I can't give more tips than these because they become person relative at this point. But if followed, this advice should give you more bang for your time. You will enjoy your media consumption more and get more out of it.

The Status Game



I write about a lot of different topics on my blog--the bubble in higher education, people living beyond their means, the superiority of blue collar jobs, etc. But all of these topics have a common thread, and that thread is called "status."

Author Tom Wolfe says that status is what it is all about--getting it, keeping it, and eventually losing it. Everyone is motivated by status, and it figures prominently in Wolfe's novels such as Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full. Status produces a lot of drama and with it, a lot of misery.

The higher ed bubble is a case in point. We have parents and kids focused on getting that piece of paper. Tuition is skyrocekting. Debt burdens graduates. There are not enough jobs to justify the expense. It is a waste. But parents and young people do not relent. They want that piece of paper. Why? Status, baby. It's all about status.

Tell one of these students they would be better off learning a trade, and they will look at you as if you have lost your mind. Nevermind that there are plenty of jobs and money in the trades. There is no status. A plumber is a piece of shit no matter what he earns.

The same foolishness applies to the corporate world. People accept jobs they hate and sometimes at a reduction in pay just to get their foot on the first rung of the corporate ladder. It gets more lucrative as you move up the ladder, but it doesn't get more satisfying. You are not going to get the same level of satisfaction from a stress filled conference call that leaves your ass in tatters as you would from an actual accomplishment. This is because those white collar jobs are political and nasty while the blue collar jobs result in something real and tangible and of some benefit to another person. I know because I used to go home and drink myself to sleep and try to forget it all. Now, I go home knowing I did something.

Status is also the push behind all the material acquisitions people make that they can't afford. From McMansions to hulking SUVs to numerous high dollar toys, people buy a bunch of shit they don't need or even enjoy to impress people they don't even like. The irony is that it is people without money that fall into this trap.

The antidote to the status poison is simple. It is called individual pride. For instance, a carpenter should feel way better about himself than some Armani wearing Goldman Sachs slimebag. Even Lloyd Blankfein likes to claim that he is blue collar. But we know better. We give status to the slimebags until they go to jail, and we look down on the working man or woman who makes an honest living. But when some plumber unplugs our toilet or an electrician gets our lights back on, that is when we really appreciate them.

People should care nothing about status and all about virtue. They should care less about getting a position and more about doing a good job. They should care less about owning shit and more about doing things that really matter. And they should care more about how much they save and being financially secure than they do about what other people think of their house or car. The antidote to status is authenticity. Thanks to the recession, authenticity is coming back in a big way. Anybody can be a fake somebody. But you can't fake authenticity. Either you have it, or you don't. It can't be bought. It has to be earned.

Trade-offs




It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
H.L. MENCKEN

The other day I was having a convo with my brother about his college experience. For most people, college is a time of partying and experimenting with drugs and/or homosexuality punctuated by periods of cramming for examinations. For my brother who was an engineering major, it was a lot of hours and summers spent in the books. It was a trade-off. He could be a good student, or he could be a debauched hedonist. But he could not be both.

This is what Wikipedia says a trade-off is:

In economics the term is expressed as opportunity cost, referring to the most preferred alternative given up. A trade-off, then, involves a sacrifice that must be made to obtain a certain product, rather than other products that can be made using the same required resources. For a person going to a basketball game, its opportunity cost is the money and time expended, say that would have been spent watching a particular television program.

You only have so much time, money, and energy at your disposal. Making a choice to do one thing involves making a choice not to do something else. I call this the Principle of Preclusion. You can't be both a world class marathoner and a world class bodybuilder at the same time. One activity precludes the other. It also puts to rest any ambitions I might have had at being a Renaissance Man. Even Leonardo could not pull off that feat.

This preclusion principle makes me wonder why people have so many regrets in life. For many people, a regret is wishing they had turned left instead of right in the paths of their lives. But I find most of these regrets to be nonsense. Somewhere, my brother probably regrets not partying more in college and having more experiences. Meanwhile, there is a college dropout somewhere wishing he had buckled down harder in school and laid off the booze and the nymphomaniac girlfriend at least until he graduated.

The regrets people have are opportunity costs, and opportunity costs are infinite. This is why people with fewer choices express fewer regrets because their decisions were made for them. As people get older, they tend to get happier for much the same reasons. For others, the woulda coulda shouldas of life are more than they can bear. This is what led Michael Jordan to forsake basketball for a short lived and ludicrous career in baseball. The reality is that you can't be the greatest basketball player and a decent baseball player at the same time. One precludes the other.

It matters how we spend our time and resources. As Mencken points out, you can't be a great composer or a playwright and also be good at shooting pool or have a decent score in golf. This is why I think people with an abundance of hobbies are deluding themselves and wasting their time. My own free time is filled with reading and writing essays and fiction. I do this to such an extreme that my housekeeping has gotten really bad. My most recent hobby has been becoming a gun nut, but it is damn expensive. I estimate that the cost of a single meaningful trip to the range to be 50 bucks. Ammo is pricey even when you buy it from Walmart. The most I will ever manage is a monthly visit. Bowling is way cheaper. But I think firearms proficiency is a necessity as opposed to a hobby. It is more akin to getting daily exercise or doing upkeep on your vehicle.

Regret is one problem with trade-offs. The other is unsustainability. This is when people make a trade-off but refuse to acknowledge that a trade-off has been made. This is the person who opts to spend their days high on drugs but insists on living in a house, having groceries, electricity, etc. These people are a pain in the ass to everyone else. This isn't just bums. It can be people who seemingly have their shit together. I used to have a boss who was a triathlete. His boss was always in his ass because he spent more time training for his triathlons than tending to his career. The same thing can be said of the family man who spends too much time in the office. Here are certain trade-offs that many people refuse to acknowledge:

-You can't be in shape and also spend your weekends watching other people in shape participate in sports on TV.

-You can't drive to parties and clubs and drink heavily and keep a clean driving record.

-You can't be a good husband and also bang your secretary.

-You can't work hard and play hard. In fact, you can't play hard without sponsorship or poverty. And no, surfing for a couple of hours on Sunday is not playing hard. You're a pretender.

I can go on and on with examples. I find most conflicts come when people refuse to accept the choices they have made and the accompanying trade-off. These fools are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. But it doesn't work this way.

Every so often, some clever motherfucker will come along and claim to have beaten this whole trade-off thing. He may even write a bestseller telling how you can do the same thing. Usually, it involves diet and exercise without effort, loafing instead of working, getting rich quick, and learning how to be at peace with a bitch wife. I would tell people they should go straight to the horse's ass if they want horseshit.

The hard truth is that most things in life worth having or doing is accompanied by hard work and sacrifice. To have money to invest, you must consume less. To have fitness, you must abandon the couch. To lose weight, you must toss the Twinkies. On and on with the trade-offs. This is why simplifying your life is so effective at improving your life. By letting things go, you free up resources. You aim more at the things that truly matter to you. You focus on your strengths and capitalize on them. You have fewer regrets because you know happiness does not come from more options but from more accomplishments. You quit rethinking your choices because either way you were losing something but also gaining something.

Beethoven sucked at billiards. Goethe sucked at golf. But they were good at what they did. Maybe they regretted not doing those other things. I don't know. But those regrets make no sense. Life is full of trade-offs, and you can't escape them. It is only in our daydreams that we can have it all and do it all. To be real, you must simplify.

Is Simplicity Overrated?




Simplicity Is Highly Overrated

Why such expensive toasters? Why all the buttons and controls on steering wheels and rear-view mirrors? Because they appear to add features that people want to have. They make a difference at the time of sale, which is when it matters most.

Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity. You do it too, I bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.


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Don Norman is wrong.

Mr. Norman makes the case that consumers prefer features and choose them over products with fewer features. Added features is good marketing. But is it a better product?

Consider the shovel. It is essentially a blade and a handle. You can have various blades such as a pointed blade, a flat blade, or a broad blade for shoveling snow. The handle can be long or short. It can be made from fiberglass, wood, steel, or some space age polymer. But ultimately, it is a shovel. It will not be enhanced with a GPS navigation system or having Bluetooth capability. It is a goddamn shovel. Its worth is judged ultimately by how well it removes dirt or snow and by how long it will last. The form of the shovel follows its function. Adding more to it is just stupid.

There are ways we can enhance the shovel, but they have nothing to do with function. They have to do with aesthetics. Some punk rocker might want a purple and pink shovel. Someone else might want a dragon emblem on the handle. In the aesthetic realm, there is room for endless variation. Regardless of these flourishes, the function of the shovel is not impeded. Now, back to Don Norman's argument.

A feature of a product either pertains to its function or to its aesthetics. Aesthetics is neutral. But if it concerns function, the added feature must enhance the function. If not, it is extraneous and should be eliminated. Evolution follows this dictum as it eliminates things like legs from snakes. If you don't need it, you don't need it. Get rid of it.

In the realm of software which Norman is addressing specifically, the argument becomes a bit more complicated as software can be modified for specific applications. People want features because they can imagine possible scenarios where that feature might be useful. But these should not be called "features" so much as "options." Car makers learned this a long time ago. Some car buyers want the Sirius satellite radio in their ride. Others like me, don't want Sirius. What Norman is arguing is that putting a winch on a Buick is good marketing. No, it isn't.

People always want to modify and personalize their products because their needs are unique. A shovel can be simple because it performs a basic function. Other things like cars and software need a certain flexibility to fit unique consumer needs. But simplicity still reigns. The needs of a 30-year-old working man are going to be quite different from the needs of a 60-year-old life insurance salesman. This is why GM makes both Chevy Silverado pick ups and Cadillacs. Trying to put both of these products together doesn't make much sense, but I have seen some strange combinations like the Lincoln pick up truck.



The one company that has made simplicity a cornerstone is Apple. Apple makes minimalist inspired products. Generally, they work with few flaws, and they are very elegant in their aesthetics. But Apple does not always get it right such as with their round mouse above. The thing looks beautiful, but users found it very difficult to use. It didn't fit their hands well and became aggravating as it would spin. As aesthetically appealing as it was, it was not fulfilling its function. Recently, Apple made an iPod shuffle without buttons. It has now returned to buttons. The new one looks almost identical to the old one. That product cannot be improved anymore except with increases in storage and battery life. It is perfect.

There are a lot of products like that. Shovels are one. Bicycles are another. The basic geometry of a bicycle has remained the same for a century. Some innovative designer tries wacky new designs, but no one buys those crazy geometry bikes. Those bikes are gimmicks. Likewise, most of the features added to products today are gimmicks. They sell a bit of product in the short term, but they become an embarrassment in the long term. Simplicity endures.

In design, form must follow function. This rule cannot be broken. You can't have a shovel without a handle or a blade. A compass and an alarm clock in the handle might be nifty, but it is stupid and extraneous. Having your name etched in the handle might be useful. But the rule is to keep what is necessary and eliminate what is unnecessary. That is the rule. This is the essence of simplicity. You avoid both the extremes of deficiency and excess. Norman's argument is for excess, and he justifies it because excess sells. Well, simplicity sells, too. But the enduring products are those that have performed well. Frivolous consumers might want frivolous products, but these people are idiots. Trim their credit card limits, and they become very sensible and want enduring value.

The Cult of Leisure




When significant numbers of Europeans began to visit the new world in the early 1800's, they were amazed with the extent of the transformation (Rodgers, 1978). Visitors to the northern states were particularly impressed by the industrious pace. They often complained about the lack of opportunities for amusement, and they were perplexed by the lack of a social strata dedicated to a life of leisure.

History of Work Ethic

There have been certain great advances in the wellbeing of humanity. The first point is when our primate ancestors left the trees to forage abroad and to hunt game. This lead to finding richer stores of calories and the explosion of intelligence in the species. The second great advance occurred when hunter-gatherers abandoned their nomadic wanderings to work their livestock and land. This lead to the explosion of civilization. The third great advance occurred during the Protestant Reformation when work became valued for its own sake instead of seen as a curse engaged in to prevent starvation and poverty. This lead to an explosion in commerce, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern age.

These great advances may seem unrelated, but they all have a common thread. They were innovations in the way of working. They were all moves from subsistence to surplus. The result was a dramatic increase in prosperity and wellbeing. What holds true on the social level also holds true on the personal level. Those with great work ethics such as immigrants experience dramatic increases in their personal wellbeing. People who work hard do better. They enjoy their lives more. They have better levels of health. They consume less and enjoy greater financial security. But despite these truths, the work ethic is under assault by a school of thought I refer to as the Cult of Leisure.

The Cult of Leisure is a throwback to the days before John Calvin and the Puritans changed their world with their work ethic. The Cult of Leisure believes that work is a curse. You work to pay bills, and that's it. Work is the antithesis to life. The result is that they work as little as possible, and they do the least amount while on the job. They revel in their weekends, holidays, and vacations. They obsess over their pay and their benefits and getting paid vacation. And they spend money they do not have on toys and getaways. The result is that they tend to be impoverished, angry, and what have you. These are the miserable complainers on your job that don't do anything but believe they deserve more. And if you ask them, they are the hardest working folks on the job, but anyone else who works harder is a dumb ass and a moron and a sucker.

The Leisure Cultists are just lazy fools. They see no relationship between labor and wellbeing. They derive no joy or pleasure from their work. As much as they pursue the good life, it eludes them. That is the irony. The leisure lifestyle is unsustainable. Work is where it is at.

Government doesn't help matters. Laws and regulations limiting the work week make it harder for the workaholics to enjoy themselves beyond 40 hours a week. For salaried employees, they are harangued constantly about the work/life balance as if work was anti-life. But work is life. Work is how we express ourselves, serve others, provide for ourselves, and experience flow. Work is happiness.

Mark Twain best exemplified the difference between work and leisure with his famous story of Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence. The difference between work and play came from the obligation. A farmer tills the soil and curses while a vegetable gardener gets on her hands and knees to weed plants and enjoys it. What is the difference? It is the obligation.




Being obliged to work is what makes people hate to work. This feeling of obligation comes from the necessity to work in order to live. But you have to eat to live, and no one hates eating. No one hates sleeping which is also necessary to live. Yet, we hate working. Work is anathema. Why?

This is simply an attitude of the mind. People hate work because they are cultured to hate work. They see it as drudgery. They see people who work as fools while praising people in the idle class of corporate management and government bureaucracy. Much of people's infatuation with expensive toys is to show they belong to a higher class of leisure. Ultimately, leisure is status.

People don't have fun on vacations. I know I don't. When I was a kid, I dreaded family vacations. Vacations were supposed to be fun, but I found most of the time I was bored out of my mind while trying to get away from my old man's incessant bitching and whining. I used to dread the summers. At some point, the old man abandoned the vacation thing. I've never had another vacation in my life since I was a kid. I am quite happy with this. When deprived of work, I go home and read and tend to my chores and wish I was back at work.

I don't care about status, so I don't care about vacations. I don't admire people with positions. I admire people who work hard. One of my private heroes isa man in my town who runs a service station six days a week and tends to his rental properties on his seventh day of "rest." He also likes to party hard on a Saturday night dancing late into the night. He is well into his sixties. They will probably find him dead with an oil filter in his hand. I envy people like this.

Throughout the history of work, the Cult of Leisure has been the status holders and seekers. In medieval and ancient times, it was the aristocracy. In our times, it is the technocrats and bureaucrats and the politicians. Even the mode of dress delineates the lazy from the hard working. Lazy folks wear starched white shirts, polished shoes, and ties. Hard working folks wear denim, steel toe boots, and hard hats. But despite the wardrobe, the work ethic is a mindset not an occupation. I know some information workers who put in a lot of hours and love it while I know some blue collars who are absolute slackers. Jay Leno has a cushy job, but he brings a blue collar work ethic to what he does.

The reason work is seen as a curse is because it is considered demeaning. It is a loss of status. There are people who remain unemployed because they are too proud to take a lower position somewhere else. They would rather sit at home collecting a check and hoping someone will reward this idleness with another high paying position. Taking a lesser job marks a psychological turning point and a loss of status. Having to work hard indicates that you are poor and need the money. This is called "wage slavery." Nevermind that slavery is a relic. Everyone refers to working for a living as some form of slavery. But people have the option to quit. They just don't have the option of having other people pay their bills for them. In essence, they want to be slaveholders since it is the rest of society that must work to pay for these slackers.

The Cult of Leisure is strong. Consider this wild idea--working seven days a week. To do such a bold thing would be a revolutionary act. No days off. Just working. Your friends and family will think you are crazy. You won't have time to do the "fun" stuff like watching football games or otherwise goofing off. But where is the loss? People react strongly when I tell them these activities are a waste of life. But what do you get from this idleness? You don't get rest. This is what you get from sleep. You don't get knowledge. This is what you get from reading and study. Basically, you get nothing.

Human beings are not machines, and even machines need downtime for maintenance. But leisure time should be limited. It should not consume valuable productive hours or resources. The pattern of life is such that leisure and social interaction happen in the evening. This is the legacy of agriculture. Culture and leisure activities comprise a large part of existence and are important. This blog is the product of leisure. But leisure costs. It eats up time and money. This is why leisure can only be a small part of your life. It can be a greater part if you are willing to live in poverty. This is why poor people are noted for their addiction to daytime TV and why the Jerry Springer show is so goddamn awful. It is the unemployed and the human garbage that watch this programming because they are slackers with no jobs. This is the good life?

As I enter this Labor Day weekend, I am a bit nauseated that we celebrate working people by not working. On a personal level, I can't take it anymore. My own wish is to work more. Work makes me feel better. It makes me feel vital. It keeps me busy. It makes me happy. The reason I don't work more is simple. It is the social pressure. Fuck it. I am unconventional. I reject the Cult of Leisure. It is time to work more and feel good about it.


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NOTES

1. The Cult of the Job

2. Protestant Work Ethic

Blue Collar Issues

I write a lot about the blue collar lifestyle here at the C-blog, and I talk about it among friends. In these conversations, certain issues come up again and again, and I'd like to take the time to discuss some of them.



1. UNIONS

I despise unions. As a libertarian, free marketeer, and a citizen of a right-to-work state, I see unions as being both unjust and detrimental to the economic wellbeing of everyone including union members. Basically, unions violate the rights of people to freely associate by banding together and using extortion and intimidation to get what they want. If you cross a picket line, you get your face smashed in. And union workers wonder why companies choose to outsource. But you only have to look at the economic wasteland of Michigan to see where unionization leads. I hear they are trying to become a right-to-work state.

Unionistas don't want to compete in the free market. They don't want a market wage. Tbey want a protected wage. They are the mercantilists of labor. But when unions have their way, their pay grows exorbitant. Their benefits and pensions become a burden. And companies that get unionized end up going bankrupt. This is precisely the reason why Detroit automakers have fallen on hard times. In other industries and public service, unions become a burden as workers get paid more and more to do less and less. This drives down the living standards of everyone else. Granted, the union member benefits, but then he bitches because he can't afford a new American car. He ends up buying a Hyundai. Meanwhile, non-union workers make more money by offering more value for the dollar with enhanced skills and more work.

When given the freedom to choose, workers overwhelmingly reject union membership. They don't want a union. They don't want the union dues, and they don't want their working relationship determined by a third party. This is why unions always oppose employee choice. If unions were so great, all blue collar people would join them freely. But unions benefit lazy worthless fuckers who spend more time bitching than working. For the ones who work, they see this disparity and know the truth.



2. SAFETY

Blue collar jobs can be dangerous. This is a fact of life. I can't sugarcoat it. One of the appeals of a show like Deadliest Catch is the danger the men face on the Bering Sea. As I write this, some miners in Chile are trapped in a mine and will probably not get out until Christmas. Without a doubt, working in an office does not present the same hazards as working in a blue collar occupation. But there is an upside to the danger. It attunes your senses like nothing else. This is part of the reason that blue collar jobs yield more flow than white collar jobs. You are always aware of your surroundings. You are always anticipating something happening. This is stressful, but it is the good stress. This is the excitement office workers try to find on the weekends by rock climbing, surfing, and riding motorcycles.

This was highlighted for me watching an episode of World's Toughtest Fixes where Sean Riley helped some guys replace a transmitter on one of those insanely tall towers. Just watching that episode gave you tingles of excitement and the thrill of danger. Riley enthused that he couldn't believe guys get paid to have that much fun. Clearly, this is a guy who loves heights.

For the white collar worker, there is danger, but it is artificial danger. They never know when they are going to get the pink slip or get fucked over by the boss or a coworker. The result is stress that never ends. Where the blue collar worker experiences excitement and flow, the white collar worker experiences dread and misery. This danger is mostly mental which actually increases it. Since there is no external stimuli, there is no way to respond. The survival mechanism goes haywire and years of this stress leads to coronary artery disease and a heart attack. The blue collar worker goes home to rest and relax with a beer and some great stories to share with the family. The white collar guy homes to his scotch to keep worrying all night. A blue collar guy might fall to his death, but the white collar guy jumps to his death.



3. WEAR AND TEAR

My brother is an engineer and works at a desk most of the day. One day, he told me he was suffering from back pain. Being blue collar, I asked him what he had been moving to cause the injury. He told me he hadn't done anything except sit at his desk drawing plans. I told him the back pain came from sitting on his ass, and I recommended a standing desk. Nowadays, he sits at a desk, but he works out like a fiend on the weights to counteract the sedentary nature of his work. Naturally, he has calluses and hand issues from the barbell.

I hear a lot of talk about blue collar work creating too much wear and tear on the body. It supposedly uses you up like the way a machine gets worn out. This is not exactly true. Unlike machines, bodies heal. As you get older, healing takes longer. But blue collar people experience the same wear and tear on their bodies as athletes performing sports. The alternative is to find a sedentary occupation and get fat and out of shape. My reasoning is that you are fucked either way, so it is better to wear out than rust out. The problem isn't your job but your mortality. We all have an expiration date. Blue collar people choose to use up their bodies before that date.



4. HEALTH AND FITNESS

The stereotypical image of the blue collar guy is a gnarly dude that smokes Marlboros and drinks beer and eats greasy food in diners and truck stops. There is some truth to this. I work with people who don't take care of themselves. One guy even had a part of his lung cut out because of cancer, but he still continued to smoke. But I also work with people who hit the gym and watch their diets. I've worked with blue collar people who don't smoke and participate in marathons and triathlons. Even on Deadliest Catch, you have Captain Keith who does triathlons when he isn't on the boat, and you have Captain Andy who is not a smoker and is into training horses. Having a blue collar occupation doesn't mean you have to suck on cigarettes or drink a lot of beer in a smoky bar. That is a personal choice and not a consequence of the job.

The flip side of being blue collar is how much shape you have to be in to do the job. The one thing employers look for in a prospective hire is their physical conditioning. Will they get the job done? Or will they suck wind until they quit? The fact is that many of these jobs will pay you to get in shape. White collar workers pay to get in shape.

That does it for blue collar issues.