A Man of Principles

To save money, the economically challenged company I work for has made all employees (except the elite and privileged ones) take a mandatory week off next week. This includes the two company holidays of July 4 and 5, so the employee is only out three vacation days. I don’t really mind.

Next week is a good one to have off. My parents are visiting early in the week. I have a jazz gig and a Summerfest gig, both of which I will have more time to prepare for. The country band with whom I am playing Summerfest is doing a dress rehearsal show in Madison on the Wednesday evening prior to the Thursday Summerfest show in Milwaukee. Then Thursday night or early Friday morning, I will cruise up to the cabin and re-join my parents for a relaxing weekend of fishing before returning to work.

Originally, my employer was going to make all employees take a mandatory 10 days of PTO between now and the end of September. The outcry was so fierce from employees that they dropped this cockamamie scheme. Funny how human beings have this penchant towards free will and making their own decisions regarding how to live their own lives, rather than have that dictated by a soulless corporate entity.

That’s quite beneficial to me. I am going to Europe in October for two full weeks (10 work days). If I had to redeem those 10 days of PTO by the end of September, I would have very little left for my trip. So under the idiot plan that was dropped, I was going to have to cook the time off books to take my October vacation. I am going on that vacation no matter what. It will be so much fun. If my employer forces me to commit fraud, so be it. I’d rather quit than be denied my Europe trip. But you know me, I have no fear of THE MAN, and I stick to my values and principles.

I am a high quality employee and quite indispensable to the firm, even if they don’t know that or care.

Being Nice Will Get You Farther Than Being a Douchebag

On the short term, you can often get ahead by being a douchebag. But after a while, people realize you are a douchebag and won't help you. They will avoid you. Then you will find you are a loser. Some times douchebaggery seems to pay off when driving on the highway. Douchebag drivers are generally interacting, if you can call it that, with new and different drivers all the time. So they can take advantage of people (who don't know them) repeatedly and get ahead, like getting to their shitty job sooner, where they can be a douchebag to their coworkers.

But even on the highway, people despise douchebags. When douchebags tailgate me on the road, I will often be a dick (slightly different than a douchebag, because it is a transient behavior). I will drive a little bit slower to annoy them, or when I really want to piss them off I will speed up and then slow down, repeat. When I do this, it only takes about 3 seconds before the annoyed douchebag swerves left or right and passes me at high speed. Douchebag effectively disposed of, mission accomplished.

I know this doesn't actually accomplish anything useful, beyond getting the douchebag away from me and tailgating another innocent driver. It doesn't make the douche a better driver or teach them any lessons. It just makes them even angrier and douchier. So, I probably should just be nice and get out of their way. I am not perfect. But I am only a dick to douchebags. I try to be a well behaved driver to everyone else. If you are courteous to me, I will do the same for you.

Because if you are nice to people and always lend a hand, this is beneficial on the long term. You might not be as successful immediately, but you will build long term relationships that are healthy and not adversarial. Using the highway analogy again, when I am in the right lane and I see people entering the highway on ramp, I will slow down to make room for them to get on (unless they are clearly a douchebag...see above). When possible, I will merge left so I am not even a hindrance of any kind to them. On city streets, if I see someone trying to enter traffic, I will let them, if it is safe to do so. It is very satisfying to get a thank you wave from someone, even though they will immediately forget about me and probably not recognize my car if they ever see it again. But that's OK. Niceness kind of averages out over time. If that driver pays it forward, the world becomes a better place.

At work, I have some coworkers who are douchebags and some who are nice. I don't work with the douchebags unless I am forced to and without my expertise, their work suffers and they seem like slackers. When the nice coworkers approach me and ask for my help, I bend over backwards for them. It is a joy to help them out. They know it is about cooperation, not competition.

Mainstream media and advertising are both ideologically oriented toward a competitive capitalist mentality that says "eat or be eaten." It's all about getting ahead at the expense of the other guy and staying on top by consuming the latest in arbitrary trends. Consumers are made to feel insecure if they buck the system and don't invest in the latest fad. But it's an illusion. You can reject consumerism and not only be perfectly happy and fine, but even more so.

When it comes to health and fitness, you'll be much better off. Listen, you don't need some fake man-made shake to lose weight. Evolution has been fine tuning the human physiology for millions of years to thrive on natural foods found in nature. Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and wild caught lean meats, and you are eating the diet that was custom made for you by nature. Your ancestors did not survive for eons eating junk food. They ate what they found in nature and they adapted to it. The majority of human beings are adapted to a whole food diet. That is what adaptation means, that most of the population is adapted to something. So avoid the health and nutrition fads. Eat a whole food diet and ride your bike or go for a walk. Most of you won't, and that's OK. Just don't be surprised when you are fat and unhealthy.

We all need to be a little bit nicer and a little bit less douchy, collectively, as a society. The world will be better. Sometimes it seems like the world is 90% douchebags and 10% nice people. But I think it is actually closer to the reverse. More aptly, I think it is like 10% douchebags, 10% overly nice people, and 80% neutral, neither nice nor douchy, just oblivious (Note: As with most things, I am basing this on the 80/20 rule...which in turn is based on the normal bell curve distribution with 80% of any count clustered within one standard deviation of the mean, approximately.). Oblivious is OK as long as it is predictable and as long as when there are interactions, these people err on the side of niceness.

Because most of us are in the oblivious category, we tend to only notice the extremes of douchiness or niceness and ignore the neutrals. So we have the illusion of douchiness being more prevalent, when it is only compared against the 10% nice people. Then it seems like the world is 50% douchebags. On top of that, the overly nice people sometimes aren't helping matters. When I bike commute, sometimes overly nice drivers will stop in busy traffic to let me pass, creating a very hazardous and UNPREDICTABLE situation. Recall that oblivious people are generally predictable and thus don't cause hazards. Overly nice people create an unpredictable situation sometimes and it creates cognitive dissonance, because you want to thank them for their niceness, but slap them for their poorly planned move.

Douches and overly nice people stand out because they are unusual. They fall at the extremes of the bell curve and so we notice them more when we encounter them. Another example of this phenomenon is airplane crashes. These are extremely rare. 99.99999999999999% of plane trips are uneventful and we don't even notice them. No one talks about how many safe flights there were every single day around the world. But one fatal crash everyone notices, and it creates an illusion for some people that plane travel is scary and unsafe. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You have more of a chance of being elected President of the United States than of dying in a plane crash. But the perception of unsafe plane travel is caused by paying attention to the extremes of the bell curve. Indeed, plane crashes are at the far extremes of the bell curve. You will encounter several powers of magnitude more douchebags in your life than plane crashes.

Your assignment for today is to try to notice all the neutral uneventful things around you as a proportion of the total. That is, make note of how many times today you DO NOT encounter extremes of the norm. Leave a comment if you are successfully able to do this. It is not at all easy.

Core Incompetencies Revisited

I am at a meeting at work and it is so demoralizing that I think it might actually be violating my civil rights.

I used to think college educated engineers must surely be intelligent and competent people. Then I got a job in corporate America. Now I am only amazed when I think an engineer can't get any more incompetent and stupid, and they impress me by taking it to a new low.

They seem to have a penchant for creating unnecessary crises and complexity where none is needed.

Parsimony is not a part of their vocabulary or work ethic. They make me want to take Occam's Razor and slit my own wrists.

It's Working

I think my self actualization is paying off in the form of a lot more game being busted upon me of late. This tends to happen in summer when my health and wellness regimen is at an apex and my corresponding physical attractiveness is on full display. This is a sign my regimen is working.

I Could Lose Ani DiFranco a Few Fans, and I Apologize for That

Most people that like Ani DiFranco don't understand why they like her, they just do. But more importantly, a lot of people don't understand why, at some level, they dislike her, but most subconsciously do. But I think I know why.

Her songs are fine and her lyrics are decent. But that raspy breathy voice of hers is damn cloying. It's part of her schtick, I get that. And most people overlook it, because the song writing is superior, and really the focus. Most people aren't musically literate enough to understand her artistic use of that breathy singing, as a rhythmic tool.

But once you become aware of that annoying hyperventilating breathiness of hers, which is on just about every song, it gets under your skin and her music becomes unbearable to listen to.

So I realize some Ani DiFranco fans who read this will now start succumbing to the phenomenon of noticing, and possibly obsessing, on that annoying, and frankly over produced, breathy raspiness of hers. They will hate me for making her fairly good music unlistenable henceforth.

Conversely, some people will still listen to it and either enjoy the hyperventilating lyrical embellishments or ignore it or simply not understand what I am talking about.

I blame her producers. They have clearly emphasized this respiratory trademark in her recordings, almost as if they have accentuated the vocal frequencies that target these aspirations. It may well be that Ani herself considers this a part of the tonal timbre and rhythmic embellishment of her songs.

And that's all totally cool, but it annoys the crap out of me, and I think it's a major reason why Ani DiFranco is not as popular as she should be. Like I said, the song writing is quite good. Some will argue that her music is too ahead of its time or too non-conformist to be popular. But I don't think so. Most people I think relate to her songwriting messages of social change and relationships, but they are turned off by those repetitive vocal embellishments that aren't really adding much. Maybe if it was used judiciously on one or two songs, it would be considered artistic. But as it is, it seems like overkill and something she can't control.

I don't like it. But I could be full of crap. Probably am.


With the threat of bad weather, I almost chickened out and did not bike commute today. But after I looked at the weather maps and forecast, I determined that I could probably make it in ahead of the weather. So I took a risk.

As it turned out, I made it to work a couple of minutes before this wall cloud rolled through, bringing a torrential downpour. Whew!

The rest of the ride up till then was muggy and there was some distant thunder and a few sprinkles. This encouraged me to keep up a good pace of about 14.5 mph. I had my smart phone and work clothes protected from moisture with plastic bags and my saddle bag has a rain slicker, which I placed over it. I wasn’t too worried about rain, but I am not a big fan of lightning, since statistically one is more likely to be killed by lightning than a terrorist attack (we really need a War on Lightning!).

The bike path was relatively deserted, and I had a realization.

Last Tuesday when I bike commuted, the weather was sunny and mild, in the low 70s. The bike path was cluttered with fair weather bikers. I had the illusion at that time that Madison was full of die hard bike commuters. But it really isn’t. There are only a handful of bike commuters and an overwhelming proportion of fair weather bikers.

The threat of rain today scared off all but the die hards. I do not consider myself a die hard, but pretty much a fair weather biker, who just happened to risk it today. Recall that I almost chickened out. But the realization I had is that Madison is no Mecca of die hard bike commuters. It’s a Mecca of fair weather hippies who are just as self interested as everyone else. Sure, some of them know that bike commuting is better for the environment, saving gas, and getting a lean sexy hot body.

But the risk of a little rain or lightning trumps their good intentions every time. Not that I am complaining. I like it when the bike path is not over crowded with imbeciles.

This may or may not be the major problem with Americans. They are not courageous in their convictions. They know what’s right, but they pussy out if there is any mild discomfort involved whatsoever.

This is probably why there are no mass protests at the State Capitol in Wisconsin. People are fully aware that the Rape-publicans are destroying Wisconsin’s infrastructure to make the rich wealthier. They know that mandatory vaginal probes for women seeking abortions is a form of institutionalized rape. They know that bail bondsmen are thugs.

But they also know that the Capitol Police have instituted draconian measures to crush any kind of constitutionally protected freedom for gather and protest. The average Wisconsinite will not risk arrest or jail or tear gas, no matter how strongly they may believe the Rape-publicans are nasty, creepy, a-holes with a penchant for buggery.

Either that, or Wisconsinites are OK with everything the creepy uncles in the State House have put in their state budget. But in my discussions with friends in Wisconsin, it’s clear that at least the people I associate with are adamantly against the corporate job killing policies Scott Walker has agreed to sign off on.

Those are my thoughts for today. Possibly, they are completely wrong. But I would love to see some riotous and civilly disobedient PEACEFUL protests at the State Capitol. It’s too late now though. The budget has passed. But once people start seeing how bad it really is, I hope they take action.

Actions might include, among other things, boycotting Madison businesses who support the budget bill and Walker and voting the bums out next election. I think the State Democrats have the right idea, taking the message to the people, advertising what the Rape-publicans are trying to do so people can choose wisely when they vote.

Passing the Buck Does Not Pay. Not Ever.

I have a coworker who I would swear makes it his mission in life to talk people into coma, as described by an ex-coworker. The guy moans and complains about everything and anything for way more time than is comfortable to anyone unfortunate enough to listen.

The irony is, if this guy would spend the same amount of time working instead of whining, he could solve all his problems completely and launch his projects successfully. But then he would have nothing to complain about.

He tries to pass the buck for his work on to everyone else so that when the work doesn’t get done, he can blame the other person for it. But it never works, because ownership for the work is his, and everyone knows it. He can bitch all he wants about how he passed the buck on to so-and-so. In the end, the failure of the project lands at his feet, because he owns it.

Meanwhile, he is sucking the very life out of his coworkers by bitching to them non-stop.

Some people need to be fired.

A Strange Rationale for Why I Do Not Want to Save the World

As I was bike commuting into work today, I was really happy when I was able to get off the busy, car-laden streets and onto the traffic free bike path. As I looked ahead down the straight path, as far as I could see, there were no bikes or even pedestrians. For a moment, I was a bit disheartened that there were so few unmotorized folks on the path aiding Mother Nature and contributing to a better world, especially on such a nice day. But that was rapidly trumped by my glee at riding on the paved and obstacle free throughfare that seemed made just for my passage through town to work.

As I cranked up my speed and fell into a relaxed cadence, completely free of automobile danger and idiocy, it occurred to me that it really wouldn't be very cool if a lot more people bike commuted. The narrow bike path would be cluttered with cyclists trying to navigate around each other and random pedestrians. If everyone biked, the bike commuting experience would be damn unpleasant. There are already times when the bike path along the lake in Madison WI is congested with bikers and runners and rollerbladers intent on enjoying the day, only to not enjoy all the other people out there ruining it. So I think the low proportion of bike commuters is perfect. If everyone did it, the joy and benefit of it would be ruined.

This is also true of healthy eating. If tomorrow, everyone decided to start eating local and organic, this would be ruined. There is no physical way to sustain the human population on organically produced food. There just wouldn't be enough to go around and supply and demand would mandate that already overpriced healthy foods became even more expensive. Commercial agriculture is required to support the exploding human populace and the vast majority of people have to eat a crappy junk food diet in order that a minority of health food elitist snobs like me can enjoy a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The same goes for bike commuting. Most people must (and should) endure angry and frustrating automobile commutes full of traffic and road rage so that I can enjoy a fun and stress free bike commute on almost deserted bike trails or zipping past long lines of gridlocked traffic with ease.

I sometimes wonder if any of those fuming car drivers see me whiz by and think, "You know...f this. I should really find a way to bike commute to work. I'd get some much needed exercise for my fat arse and avoid all this stressful soul crushing traffic, thus klling two birds with one stone."

My words of discouragement to them are, "Please don't." Because if too many people acted on this whimsy, it is just a matter of time before the burden would be too much for the bike trail infrastructure to bear and all the benefits to us bike commuters would be destroyed.

So I don't want to save the world. I want to save MY world, and it is just great the way it is.


The Genetically Modified Food Pros - Monsanto

The genetically modified food pros at Monsanto have done it again, with wheat breeding this time.

This company just cannot catch a break, and rightly so. Their failed and non-USDA approved Roundup resistant GM wheat has escaped into nature and may be interbreeding with non-GMO wheat, a fact that has anti-GMO foreign importers of wheat up in arms. Several countries are now refusing to import U.S. wheat until it can be shown that the Monsanto escapee has not infected the food supply. Way to help the U.S. farmer there, Monsanto.

The American mainstream media, always quick to give corporate America the benefit of the doubt, are saying there is no evidence this wheat has entered the food supply, even though there is also no evidence it hasn't, and you can bet Monsanto is going to do everything in their power to ensure that such evidence never sees the light of day. And if it does, they will surely fight it in court.

Unfortunately, government regulators are powerless against the corporate graft (money) that companies like Monsanto pay politicians to turn a blind eye. So get used to this kind of corporate irresponsibility in the future.

But the people responsible should see some jail time, in my opinion. Write to your politicians if you agree.