Charlie's Blog: September 2023


Corollary To The Grand Unifying Theory

The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.

I have written previously about my Grand Unifying Theory, and there is a corollary to that theory. The definition of a corollary is that it is something that follows naturally from a proposition. With the GUT, you discover what to do and follow. You also discover what you should ignore. That corollary is as important as the theory itself. I will now explain.

You can't know everything. We are swimming in a vast ocean of information and knowledge that is available to us. But if you don't know what you're seeking, it's pointless having all of that information. It doesn't do you any good. Information only becomes valuable when you begin selecting what to ignore.

The best example I can give on this truth is my conversion to Roman Catholicism. I have spent decades reading and seeking after religious and philosophical truth. That seeking represents the survey stage of things. I have been varieties of Protestant, an atheist, and even a devotee for a time to the ancient Stoic philosophy as a coping mechanism. Then, I stumbled into Roman Catholicism. It was the answer I was seeking. It came to me at a similar stage in life as Saint Augustine.

When I became Catholic, I tossed out a lot of books I knew were garbage. Today, I don't waste time reading anything from Protestants. I know to ignore them. Whatever is happening in the world of Protestants holds no interest for me. I can say the same for Buddhism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Islam, and all secular philosophies, sects, religions, or whatever. I don't need to know the wrong answers when I already have the right answer.

There are two basic types of knowledge--the necessary and the trivial. Most knowledge is trivial. You will hear this from high schoolers and college freshmen taking classes they know they will never use in their lives. The argument is that learning Shakespeare, Spanish, and algebra will make you a well rounded person. Most people want to learn what will make them a lot of money. This would be necessary knowledge.

Necessary knowledge is relative to the individual. Home economics is great for someone who wants to be a homemaker but not so much for someone who wants to be a welder. This is why they throw a variety of subjects at you. Each person has to find his or her thing.

Once you have found what is necessary after surveying the options, the next step is to ignore the trivial. This is a hard task. Trivial knowledge can be entertaining and even enlightening. Watching a documentary about the Mongolian Empire won't do much for you in the present, but it is fun to watch. Should you ignore that documentary and others like it? Like I said, this is a hard task.

A better example would be learning an ancient dead language. This requires discipline. Suddenly, without the fun aspect, it becomes easier to decide against learning that language. It is fun reading Sherlock Holmes but not so much fun studying forensic science. I wouldn't study that stuff unless I was working in a crime lab.

Trivial knowledge should be fun. If it isn't fun, then it needs to be necessary. And, if it isn't necessary, it needs to be ignored. This brings us to the Grand Unifying Theory.

The trivial and the necessary exist in the worlds of various disciplines. Today, sword fighting is trivial. People prefer firearms. Learning how to be a samurai in our age would be a waste of time and life. No one needs to be a samurai today. This art has been edited out of our modern society. Samurai arts are interesting trivia, but they are not necessary for modern warfare or self-defense.

In my original post on the Grand Unifying Theory, I used the example of the granny shot from basketball. Once you have settled on that as your free throw strategy, should you also practice the overhand shot? Why would you? You would be a fool to do that. Why abandon or supplement what works?

It would be nice to know everything, but this is impossible. Once you acknowledge this, you come to the inevitable conclusion that knowing what to ignore is more important than knowing everything. Wisdom is not vast intelligence but selective ignorance. You choose what not to know. That takes courage because you have to live with the consequences of those choices. What happens if you run into a samurai with a drawn sword? Hypotheticals like this undermine confidence in selective ignorance. On the other hand, what does the samurai do when he runs into Billy the Kid with a gun in his hand? We can play this game forever.

When it comes to necessary knowledge, you have to choose the probable over the hypothetical. You are unlikely to face Bruce Lee in the street, but you are likely to face a violent untrained thug. Knowing how to deal with that likelihood is a better use of your limited time.

Once you have established what is most probable, you need a strategy for that situation. This brings us to the complex and the simple. Complex strategies tend to fail while simple strategies tend to succeed. Ignore the complex and choose the simple. This is the Grand Unifying Theory. Win at checkers instead of losing at chess.

When it comes to the trivial, it should be fun. When it comes to the necessary, it needs to be simple and to work. Ignore everything else. That is the corollary to the Grand Unifying Theory. It is also my lifestyle. I would like to say I planned it this way, but I didn't. I just learned things that were either necessary or fun for me. It is only now in my analysis that I see what I have always done in my life. I suspect that you, Gentle Reader, have been doing the same thing, too.


Golf Versus Bowling

The bowling alley is the poor man’s country club.

I have never played a game of golf in my life. I have played mini-golf many times with friends and family, but a true golfer will tell you this doesn't count. I went to the driving range once with a friend where I learned that golf is a game of skill, and it was a skill that I did not possess. I also despise golf. It is an expensive game for rich people. My disdain for the game of golf can be explored in full here.

Bowling is a different story. I have lost count of the times I have gone bowling with friends and family. I stopped bowling in the nineties when I injured my wrist. That wrist has never been the same, and it has killed my ability to send a bowling ball down the lane. I have tried, and it was pathetic. This is sad because I think bowling is a great sport and social activity.

I was never a serious bowler. I didn't bowl for a league or spend countless nights working on my game. The reason for this should be obvious. I didn't have the money or the time for that sort of thing. Bowling is relatively cheap in comparison to golf. But it isn't cheaper than walking which is the closest thing I have to a sport now. Walking is free. Bowling is not free.

Bowling is in serious decline today. I call them bowling alleys not bowling centers. Whatever you call them, they are going out of business all over the place. This has caused some people to try and explain the phenomenon such as Robert Putnam in his book, Bowling Alone. Putnam argues that American society has become more individualistic and uses bowling as an indicator of this individualism. People lack a sense of social cohesiveness which is why they don't belong to bowling leagues. This extends to other things like declining membership in civic organizations. I don't buy Putnam's argument.

Sports and games have a certain fad quality about them. Right now, cornhole and pickleball are all the rage. I can't explain their popularity. Then, there is golf. As bowling has declined, golf has grown immensely in popularity. This is odd considering that golf requires massive chunks of real estate that must be maintained to exacting standards. It is an expensive game that is difficult to play. Yet, my mostly rural county has three golf courses. Our one bowling alley closed years ago and has been demolished. Why is this?

Once upon a time, bowling was more popular than professional football. A professional bowler could get rich from the sport. It was a big deal. The decline in bowling began in the 1980s and has fell over a cliff since then. This coincides with the bull market in stocks and the tech boom. People became materially better off, and I think this had an effect on the culture.

Bowling is an activity for blue collar people. The industry is at pains to tell the story that white collar people are into bowling, but I don't see it that way at all. In the popular mind, bowling is something for factory workers and their wives. The culture hates blue collar people. Both political parties hate the working class now. It has never been rougher for people who work for a living. Bowling suffers from this hatred for the working class.

Golf is seen as the sport of the elite. Naturally, people want to be like the elite, so they adopt their game. This includes working class people. I don't know how they afford it, but these working class golfers aspire to be something more than what they are. So, they golf. It's not complicated.

Deer hunting has a similar decline to bowling. This is because deer hunting is seen as a blue collar activity. Fishing has grown in popularity and seems to have escaped the same fate as hunting. This is because rich people fish, too. The choicest real estate in my county is on the lake.

People don't want to be seen as blue collar even if they are blue collar. Putting on a bowling shirt and hitting the lanes pegs you as blue collar. You are a working class stiff who can't afford to play the real game of golf. What was once a fun way to pass the time has become a stigma.

The decline of bowling and the rise of golf is just a symptom of the larger trend of people rejecting the working class and aspiring to join the middle class. As they say, don't dress for the job you have. Dress for the job you hope to get. This is why the young and stupid pile into four year universities instead of trade schools even if it leaves them unemployed and indebted for the rest of their lives. All of this is vanity.

I remember a fellow who worked the scale at a local recycling center. It was a blue collar job. But I noticed he always dressed well in a golf shirt and was keen on playing golf. The recycling place would call the cops on him later and fire him for theft and embezzlement. This was an ironic but not surprising end. This guy wanted to be a big shot instead of a nobody. Golf was part of the package. Theft was how he financed this.

I am terrible at making predictions, but I can guess at the future of bowling. As the economy sours, people desperate for work will turn once again to blue collar trades and jobs. When this happens, they will accept their status as working class people and drop all vanity. Golf will decline, and bowling will see a resurgence in popularity. I see this possible future as a good thing. This country has had it too good for too long. We are a nation of vain and stupid people.


Unpopular Opinions 5 (Super Size Edition)

I don't care what you think unless it is about me.

Once again, I am here to air unpopular opinions that are probably more popular than I realize. I don't do polls on the C-Blog or use comboxes, so I don't know. But these unpopular opinions do get read. I think people enjoy getting ticked off. With that mind, I am serving a double portion with this edition. On with the show.

1. Classification of people into categories is stupid.

I find the categories of introvert and extrovert to be useful in describing people. That is as far as it goes for me. If it isn't binary in form, I don't care. This would be something like the four temperaments, the alpha/beta/delta male thing, the Myers-Briggs personality test, astrology, and on and on. The ugly truth is that there are as many categories as there are people in the world. As such, these categories are worthless for knowing anything about anyone.

2. Air popper popcorn is the best.

I've tried all the methods for making popcorn. Stove top popcorn is pretty good until you scorch the bottom of the pan. Those dome globe oil poppers are too oily. Microwave popcorn is either undercooked or something that came out of an ashtray. That leaves the air popper. Popcorn comes out perfect from that thing. It is worth the money to get one. And you can season the final product to your specifications.

3. Fitness trackers are not accurate.

I do not use the FitBit, the smartwatch, or any kind of pedometer when I walk. I just time myself with a Casio digital watch. The reason I don't use these fitness trackers is because they are not accurate. You discover this when you wear two or more at the same time. They can be as different from each other as 400 steps. One guy said that his Apple Watch counted steps while he was asleep. I think this makes the information worthless.

Defenders of these gadgets will claim they just want a rough estimate of their step counts. Nevermind their obsessive-compulsive disorder over getting in those exact number of steps each day. I already have my rough estimate. It's called a watch. To hell with those fitness trackers.

4. Sudoku is a terrible puzzle.

I have played sudoku. It is pleasant to play on the easy levels. When the levels become hard, sudoku drives you to insanity.

I do puzzles and games for my brain injury, and I used to think harder puzzles were better for my TBI. The reality is that I do dumb stuff in my daily life that deals not with the complex but the elementary. It's like a Harvard trained doctor who amputates the wrong leg. He doesn't need to go back to medical school. He needs a Sharpie marker to mark the right leg. (My eye doctor did this before operating on my eyes. He put a harsh mark over the eye he was going to work on.)

Instead of playing sudoku or crossword puzzles, I do word finds which are incredibly boring and easy puzzles. This forces me to pay attention which is my issue. Most mistakes happen when people stop paying attention to the boring details.

5. Mechanical pencils are better than wooden pencils.

I have used both, and I prefer clicking the mechanical pencil to get more lead than putting a sharpener to the wooden pencil. Plus, the mechanical pencil stays the same length. It is torture writing with one of those pencil stubs.

6. Home speakers are awful.

I have never owned one of those Alexa things. You might as well live in a glass house naked with no curtains. I know people want to live like the Jetsons, but I am not one of those people. I am with the Flintstones. I don't want my appliances spying on me or talking back to me.

7. Alcohol is the devil's urine.

I do not drink alcohol. I have gone back and forth on this issue, and I am back to being a Baptist on drinking even though I am Roman Catholic. Jordan Peterson is right. What good ever came from drinking? When I want to be social, I drink strong coffee. It isn't worth talking to people who don't like coffee.

8. Ice cream cups are better than ice cream cones.

I don't eat ice cream except the non-dairy kind. When I do, I always eat it in a bowl or cup with a spoon. I never eat it from a cone. Ice cream cones are just invitations to sticky hands, arms, shirts, pants, etc. And if you like the taste of the cone itself, you can just crumble it into the cup or bowl. The world would be a better place without ice cream cones.

9. Eat a sandwich with a knife and a fork.

I am a convert on this issue. I will use my hands to eat a sandwich on the go, but I find it more pleasant to use a knife and a fork at a table to eat a sandwich. There is less mess and crumbs. My wife loves me a little bit more since I started doing this.

10. Armchair traveling beats the real thing.

My old man told me once that he preferred watching NASCAR on television than going to the track itself. Likewise, I would rather watch people traveling to exotic places on YouTube than going there in person. Before YouTube, I liked reading travel books and still like them now. I have traveled the world from the comfort of my chair at home. The only downside to armchair traveling is that you can't indulge the vanity of taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower and posting them to social media.

11. Memento is a terrible movie.

Somewhere in this film, there is a good story. Unfortunately, Christopher Nolan buried it in a gimmick. Using non-linear storytelling, Nolan tells a fascinating but ultimately unsatisfying story because you never know what happened even after you've watched it. If I need a puzzle, I will get out a Rubik's Cube.

Nolan was an idiot on this one. He would revisit this idiocy in Inception and Tenet. Those movies are horrible, too.

12. The Rolling Stones were better than the Beatles.

This one will get me a rainstorm of fire and brimstone from the Beatles fans, but I stop whatever I am doing to listen to a Stones hit. I can't say the same for a Beatles song. The reason the Stones were so good is because they tapped into blues music which is the best type of rock and roll that exists. You can never go wrong with the blues.

As for the greatest rock band ever, this would be Led Zeppelin. But that would be a popular opinion. We gotta stick with the unpopular opinions here.

13. Klean Kanteen is better than Hydro Flask.

Yes, I know. It's a water bottle. I would drink out of either one if I was thirsty. But Klean Kanteen was there before Hydro Flask. The only thing Hydro Flask brought to the water bottle game was a logo and slick marketing. I hate marketing which is why I prefer Klean Kanteen. I own four of those KK bottles. I own nothing from Hydro Flask.

14. New Balance is better than Nike.

I have worn both brands, and I have decided on the clear winner. This would be New Balance. I have been satisfied with every pair of New Balances I have owned. I cannot say the same for Nike. Nike is a gimmick and some slick marketing masquerading as a quality shoe.

15. Casio is better than Timex.

Timex is better looking, but Casio is cheap and works. I have worn both, and I like Casio watches better. I own four Casio watches now that I use depending upon the situation. I can own four because they cost so little.

16. Boonie hats are the best.

It is easy to get away with wearing a baseball cap. It is not so easy to do the same with a fedora or a cowboy hat. For some reason, you feel more ridiculous when you wear a serious hat. Enter the boonie hat.

The boonie hat is a floppy brimmed hat that looks a bit ridiculous. The irony is that you don't feel ridiculous wearing it. I can't say the same for any other brimmed hat. The boonie hat is a totally utilitarian hat meant to kept the sun off of you and the rain out of your face. I think boonie hats are the best hats ever made. They are the perfect hat for working in the yard, the garden, or going for walks or long hikes. I can't recommend them enough.

17. Chopsticks are garbage. Use a fork or a spoon.

I have used chopsticks before until it hit me one day that this was stupid. I hate chopsticks. Why do I bother using these worthless things? That's easy. People use those chopsticks to look hip and sophisticated in some multicultural way. The reality is that forks and spoons are the superior implements for eating. I am not going to apologize for this.

18. Dunkin' Donuts is better than Starbucks.

Starbucks is overpriced hot water filtered through an ashtray. I go blue collar when I drink coffee away from home and head to Dunkin' Donuts. Starbucks is a lifestyle brand masquerading as coffee. It isn't my lifestyle, so I can tell it like it is. Dunkin' is cheaper and tastes better. I also like the atmosphere at the Dunk. Starbucks is too serious for me.

19. A quiet evening at home beats a night on the town.

Because of drunk drivers and the criminal element, I don't go out at night. I don't go to the movie theater or any restaurants. I definitely don't go to taverns or bars. My idea of a good time is dinner at home and a DVD with the wife. This is our weekly date night, and we love it. (We get our DVDs used from the thrift store for $1.50 apiece.)

20. Quality of life is better than quantity of life.

I walk daily and eat a plant based diet, but I don't delude myself with fantasies of living to be 100. You can die at any moment, and I came close to doing that already. At that moment, I didn't think about all my good health habits.

I focus on quality of life instead of quantity of life. Eating right and exercising makes me feel good today. I don't overdo it because then you feel bad instead of good. If I wake up one day older, that's OK. Each day could be the last. Make that day a good day.

You are probably ticked off good and hard now. Or, maybe not. Perhaps it is a mixed bag of love and hate. Whatever it is, thanks for reading. I do get the view counts, and they are always good.

UPDATE: A reader shares that he thinks the Whirley Pop is a great popcorn popper. It cooks most of the popcorn and doesn't burn the corn. The air popper that I use doesn't burn the corn, but it leaves a lot of unpopped kernels.


The Charity of Many Shall Grow Cold

And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.

I wish that everyone in the world could experience a traumatic brain injury. I wish everyone would have their brains smashed up. I do not wish evil on anyone. I just wish people weren't so evil. What makes these people so evil is the naive and deluded belief that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Bad things only happen to other people, and they probably deserved those things. What is missing from these people and from the world is charity. Their hearts are cold and indifferent.

I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I live every day of my life trying to recover from the damage that a profoundly idiotic driver put on me almost five years ago as of this writing. That idiot doesn't care that he did this to me. He lives his life secure once more in the illusion that bad things only happen to other people. Nothing bad will ever touch him and his awesome life.

He is not alone in this delusion. You, Gentle Reader, probably share the same sick delusion. You probably read about crime victims and crash victims and cancer victims and think that only other people die. I will never die. I will never suffer. You are a fool if you think this.

People who have suffered have something that the rest of you do not have. They have compassion. They do not live under the delusion that bad things only happen to other people. They happen to everybody. Your turn is coming if it hasn't come already.

I have never had this delusion. I have known my turn was coming ever since I was a child and lost two of my cousins in a plane crash. I cannot remember their ages now, but they were probably five and seven. I think I was six at the time. I received my cousin's bike, and I never rode that bike without being reminded of his death. I was sorry that happened to him. I just knew the same could and would happen to me. Every person dies. Living right will never change this.

Since my injury, I have tasted the indifference and ignorance of so many people. I do not seek pity or even sympathy. I waste no time on feeling sorry for myself, so I don't need others to feel sorry for me. What I can do without is that profound stupidity that comes from that delusion that Job's false comforters possessed. This is terrible for you, but this is never going to happen to me. What utter fools.

It is better to suffer evil than to be evil. I have brain damage, but I have more sense than the imbecile that did this to me. I would never trade places with him. It is a tragedy to be that damn stupid.

I have done stupid things in my life. Suffering has delivered me from my stupidity. I cannot prevent suffering, but I do ask that it not come from my hand. I never want to live with that kind of guilt. Even in this, I know that a mistake on my part could hurt someone. That could happen to me, too.

I remember a fellow that drove drunk and put his brother in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He caused his brother to become a quadriplegic. This caused so much guilt in the brother who was uninjured that he was driven to suicide. That tragedy tears into my soul. I could have been either one of them. What happened to them could also happen to me.

The final thought is that there are people who have suffered, but it makes them bitter. They extinguish all charity from their own hearts and become the evil. This is usually the backstory of some comic book super villain, but it happens in real life, too. People who turn to Marxism have this trait. Because they didn't get the same breaks as the rich kids, they want to equalize the misery of all people except for themselves. The sick thing is that they disguise this as charity. It isn't. As for the rich kids, they live under the delusion that poverty only happens to other people and not to them.

Charity comes when we learn to love others as ourselves. The first step in that process is to see our shared humanity. When we think that bad things only happen to other people, it breaks the bond of that shared humanity. When we suffer, we find that shared humanity again. When I was in the brain rehab, I met a fellow who was more profoundly damaged than me. He was tasked with making a pot of coffee in the kitchen as part of his therapy. He gave me a cup of that coffee and asked me how it was. I was dying for a cup of java at that moment, and I told him sincerely that it was the best cup of coffee I had ever tasted in my life. And, it was. I appreciated what he must have gone through to make that coffee. When I returned home, I tried to make coffee myself. I did everything right except put water in the empty kettle that was cooking on the stove. I had compassion for that fellow in the brain clinic, but I also realized something else. That fellow was me. What had happened to him also happened to me.