Useful stuff I have learned, to pass on

If you are out of touch with people for decades, in many cases, it’s for a reason. And that’s okay. I have rekindled a few friendships of old, but just a few. As I see it, we rekindled them because they were worth it to us.

Until you start analyzing what you are told with an eye toward why you were told it in that way, you’ll just be doing as you are told.

Doing a flawless job is not profitable, so you should not expect it from contractors. To get a flawless job, you have to learn enough to do it to your own exacting standards.

If the contractor doesn’t get back to you about a job you want done, it means that his other work is easier money for him. Whether he doesn’t know how to solve your problem, or just thinks it’s an unpleasant job, or has too much work, your job just is not very important to him. That’s okay. Find someone who wants the work.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, except when dealing with people.

Your home inspector will always miss something really important. That is just how it is.

We spend ridiculous amounts of time contending with dumb situations in our living spaces. Many involve electric outlets that are blocked or hard to reach, cables in the way, stuff that we keep bumping into, or some other irritant. Fix the damn things. Especially if it has to do with electrical access. Extensions cords and power strips are too inexpensive for their lack to impact your comfort.

If you don’t learn very basic biology, chemistry, and physics: your food will spoil, your cleaning fluids will react oddly, and your projects simply will not work. And you will not understand why.

It’s not your imagination, nor is it paranoia. In many cases, they (whoever they are) really are as stupid as they seem. Or as evil, depending on the situation.

When government appoints a ‘czar,’ don’t expect anything. (They don’t even know that the proper term is ‘tsar.’ Also, last time I looked in a history book, being the tsar didn’t end all that well.) Appointing a czar means that government really has no idea what to do, and doesn’t think much can be done, but needs to make a gesture that is meant to signify taking the issue seriously.

A lot of people believe that you can solve problems by making laws. Laws are only as effective as compliance and enforcement. To lawmakers, society is a board, laws are a nail, and they are a hammer–and they will never see any other path. I told you they really were that stupid.

Smarter people than you and I have figured out how to make money off everything. Someone is always making money. If you refrain from enjoying life because you can’t stand that, you will waste life.

You don’t have to be immune to crime, including police crime. You just have to be an unattractive target.

Democracy is an illusion. There has never been a society run by anyone but the powerful. Even when people made determined efforts, it soon reverted back to oligarchy. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be happy; it just means one should be realistic. One might hope for the powerful to be reasonable, less than totally greedy, and somewhat sensitive to the issues of those without power.

All revolutions replace the existing unpleasantness with a greater unpleasantness. That’s because the first people executed after a revolution are the idealists who truly believed, who must die so that the opportunists who smelled dominance and bandwagoned up can promptly pervert the entire cause they all supposedly fought for.

No for-profit entity behaves ethically for long except under the lash. The only reason our precious corporations are not currently in the sex slavery business is because they see no advantage in it. The only reason you are alive is because there is no corporation who thought your death was worth the risk and trouble. Ethics don’t factor, but expediency does.

If you find love, true love, give it all of yourself unto the grave. If it is not worth dying for, it is not true love.

If you are bright enough, you will eventually realize that much of your early education was designed for social control, not knowledge.

The greatest error males make is in fearing the rise of women’s strength. Women’s strength reaches out with affection and joy, if only the males will accept it and embrace it, and it would make their lives far better. Yet they decline.

This may explain why the enrollment at colleges is trending near 60% female. If that’s any guide, on a level academic playing field, they are brighter than we are. If we were smarter, we wouldn’t be afraid of equality.

The greatest error females make is giving away their power by caring too much that someone will say mean things to or about them. The woman who fully liberates herself just doesn’t give a fuck.

Most people, in the end, will follow and do as they are told.

Pay your debts and your bets, and no harm can come to you. There is no mercy upon a deadbeat or a welcher. If anyone ever has to remind you of a debt or a bet, and you feel no shame, I feel it on your behalf. And if you can’t bear that, do not borrow and do not bet.

Your influence with the young is in proportion to the degree that they believe you support and encourage them. The second they lose that faith, your influence is over. Thus, if you are old, always encourage the dreams of youth.

If you’re young, and have a dream, get your ass in gear soon. You will put up with things at your age, in pursuit of a dream, that you will not put up with at forty, so this is the time. You can’t really lose, long term. If you attain the dream, great. But even if you do not, in the process, you will learn great skills and have great stories to tell, so do it. Close this browser and go do it.

Not everyone has a story to tell; not everyone should write. I’ve read too much dull narcissism to think otherwise.

You can use Murphy’s Law to make your life better. For example, suppose you get in an accident. Sucks! Now, one of two things will tend to happen next. You will either pump up your coverage in some area–in which case you will turn out not to need it, and end up throwing away money–or you will not, and will likely soon get in another accident in which you wished you had the coverage. See how great this is? Wasting money is bad, but not nearly as bad as a crushed front end. I follow this principle in much of my life.

If there is a word you might dump from your active vocabulary, it is “should.” Most statements involving it are statements of idealism (laudable but unrealistic) or impotence (because what ‘they’ should do is immaterial, since they won’t). Better to deal in will and won’t, can and can’t, does and does not.

The trouble with conspiracy theories is that so many of them are so dumb that it obscures the real ones, since ‘conspiracy theorist’ has become a term of scorn. Truth: a few are valid, many are just stupid.

Beware of people who just repeat bromides as if they represent received truth. If you stop to dissect them, most fall apart. If you’ve heard the same argument-ending statement dozens of times, you should be dismantling it to find its flaws.

As people age, and contemplate an end of life that probably involves cancer and dementia and incontinence, they may just stop giving a damn. If you wonder why elders can be so tactless and blunt, it’s because they have less to fear. No one’s reaction can pain them as much as getting up in the morning.

The woman’s world is a world of change, far more so than the man’s world. This accounts for very many things. The failure of both genders to understand each other–or the impulse to take gender generalizations too far, thus departing from reality–is at the root of much conflict. You do not have to share your opposite number’s world view in order to rate it as equal in merit and good sense to your own, thus worth your respect. You have but to deem it rational when viewed through the eyes of its holder.

Most apologies are requests for enablement of future bad behavior. Few represent sincere pledges to change. If refused, the latter will understand, since the latter are taking responsibility. The former will always become angry or dismissive, because they hate like hell when their little game doesn’t work as designed. You were the vending machine, they deposited their quarters, and they didn’t get the soda, so they kick the machine. The worst legacy of religion is the insane notion that everyone must always be forgiven. No! It must not! Forgiveness must be earned or it doesn’t amount to a thermos of urine.

The lower one’s self-respect, the worse the quality of people one attracts. If you are trying to build self-respect, you know you are succeeding because the users and parasites will dump you, telling you that you’ve changed (and it’s not meant as a compliment).

If you’re blessed with a good sense of humor, be glad, and use it. “She made waitresses smile and grocery checkers laugh” would be a wonderful epitaph.

A society that cossets children and protects them from all risk also protects them from all learning and maturation.

We have few social problems that could not be remedied by impartial, universal early education that worked just as well in the ghetto and the village as in the wealthy suburb. However, it would take twenty years of sustained effort for the gains to show. Therefore, it won’t happen until we Americans develop a national patience and perseverance toward long-term goals. I do not see us doing that.

Quality-oriented people who take pride in doing it exactly right will always draw the ridicule of those who just slap it together. That’s just how it is. You can learn a lot about someone by watching how carefully they turn their vehicle into the correct lane, or come around a corner without shortcutting through the oncoming lane, or measuring ingredients.

If you live long enough, you will get to watch society fabricate a false version of the history you lived.

The time to be nervous about markets is when you can see that people are doing something dumb. Minimum-wagers talking about winning in the market? 1987. Venture caps throwing sacks of money at anyone with a ponytail and a domain name? 1999. Banks lending money to people who obviously couldn’t pay it back? 2008.

Spending is not the problem. Waste is the problem.

A lot of common questions are fairly stupid, such as ‘what is the meaning of life?’ The meaning of your life may differ from mine, for example. You would be so much better choosing a worthy meaning for your own life and following it.

When elders tell you how much better the old days were, ask them how they liked their three TV channels on their black and white TVs, their party lines, their nuclear drills in school, and their 25c/minute long distance calls. Also ask them about the joy of the library card catalog over Google, major cities with the air quality of Beijing, conscription, and not being able to plug in multiple phones (or move the one you had; it was hard wired). Some things were better, yes, but some were much worse. Did you have to type all your college papers three times on an electric typewriter? No? Be glad. I did. Every single one.

If everything happens for a reason, then someone explain to me what could have been the reason behind the Holocaust. And if everything is a divine plan, explain to me why I’d give homage to an entity who planned the Holocaust.

Want to get smarter? Learn to spot when people are conflating several questions into one. A lot of simple-sounding questions really need to be broken apart in order to answer them sensibly.

Also, look out for words that have different valid meanings from different mouths. For example, ‘respect.’ There is a shading of respect that includes fear. There is a shading of it that includes love. There is a shading that includes a certain admiration without affection, often for a skill or personal quality. I respect the police, for example, in that they can ruin my life or kill me outright. I respect my wife in that I hold her morality, skills, and personality in such high regard that I desire no other woman as my special partner. I respect the skill and creativity of a renowned artist, even though I have no idea what people are seeing that I cannot see. Thus, if you let someone tell you what respect means in simplistic form, you surrender the narrative and permit them to impose their own narrow definition on you. A number of words are this way.

If people’s opening approach to you is ‘give to me,’ might ask them: “Any plans to give me anything in return?” Usually, they don’t. Me, I prefer to give unasked, in which case it was my choice, and I don’t feel that question roiling about inside.

Discussion is too precious to cast its pearls before the swine of conversational terrorism. The worst kind are those who misrepresent what you said, thus always forcing you to backtrack and reclarify. I just don’t talk to them.

There’s usually a lot of social pressure to whine about the weather. I suggest resisting it, and bearing up as tough as one can.

You are not required to be your relatives’ enabler of bad behavior. That brother-in-law who’s a drunken racist? The other one who’s a deceitful gaslighter? You are not required to make nice with them. You can choose to, but if you do, you are choosing pain. For what gain?

In family situations, it is very hard to change perceptions because all the old roles and viewpoints are like comfortable grooves into which everything falls. Take it from someone who refused to run in his designated groove.

The doctors are just people. They are people who, in most cases, went through a protracted and hellish initiation process. Sometimes, they just don’t know the answer. If you ever find one who has the integrity to admit it, you’ve found one of the good ones.

Don’t get so hung up on a tax advantage that you forget what it cost you. When we paid down our mortgage, more than one person sounded astonished that I would willingly pass up the mortgage interest deduction. The deduction’s tax benefit was far less than the saved mortgage interest would have cost! Furthermore, they didn’t even consider that maybe our deduction didn’t exceed the standard deduction. There’s a lot of really bad financial advice out there.

Court is pretty much set up so that the winners lose and the losers lose more. Better to arrange life so as to stay away from court.

Happy holidays to all the dear and faithful readers of the ‘Lancer. I have appreciated your time and attention in 2015 and before, and I hope this blog will continue to provide you with interesting content going forward.

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