Monday, January 4, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

The Politics of Paranoia, or

Put Randy Paul on the No Fly List

It's not terrorists who are out to get you, it's the TSA!

For those who haven't been following the latest in America's inexorable slide toward police state status, Rand Paul was subjected to a harrowing ordeal by TSA officers in Nashville after a body scanner detected an anomaly.
     From Paul's website: "On Monday, Sen. Rand Paul was scheduled to speak at the 2012 March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., but was improperly detained by the TSA and forced to miss the event." Maybe pro-choice TSA goons, lackeys for Obama, wanted to prevent Paul from delivering his message.
     From what I can piece together from various reports, here's how it went down. After the scanner detected an "anomaly" in the area of Paul's knee, a security officer explained that he would have to "pat down" (touch) the spot. Mind you, this is not an invasive "full body" patdown. It's a quick swipe of the gloved hand over the location of the anomaly. It's the same "patdown" a million uncomplaining passengers ("sheeple" to TSA haters) endure every day.

. . .this is not an invasive "full body" patdown. It's a quick swipe of the gloved hand over the location of the anomaly. . .

     Paul then stated he would prefer to walk through the scanner again. He says he stuck out his leg and pulled up his trouser leg for a visual inspection. The officer said that would not be an option.
     The moment a passenger refuses screening he or she becomes a "person of interest." His request for special treatment can't be entertained. They may not be a potential terrorist but someone in charge needs to resolve the issue. Thus began Paul's humiliating ordeal at the hands of TSA gropers. A supervisor was called to deal with Mr. Paul.
     Mr. Paul was placed in a glass-enclosed cubicle probably to await the arrival of local law enforcement to escort the senator out of the secure area. That was his "detention." The senator feels it was improper, which shows he thinks he should be exempt from screening.
     "I don't want special treatment," Paul told Fox News afterward. But in fact, he does want special treatment. TSA rightfully does not allow passengers who have refused screening, even a senator, to just wander off unsupervised.
     Paul states that in the past, he was offered the option of walking back through the scanner. More special treatment. Passengers behind him in the queue are forced to wait. Their luggage, meanwhile, sits out of reach on the x-ray conveyor. Screw them. Senator Rand Paul doesn't want his knee touched!
     Is there anything suspicious about refusing a patdown when you alarm a security device?
     Suppose evildoers* are scheming a way to beat the scanner. They want to perform a real-time test of their ingenious method for concealing a weapon or bomb component. They march through the scanner. Ooops! An alarm. No worries. Just refuse a patdown so security can't detect your contraband. Back to the drawing board and try again. Tweak your method until, voila!, you've devised a way to fool the machine!
     How simple is this? School kids can probably figure it out. So why don't Rand Paul and his dad get it? Who's paranoid--airport security or Rand Paul and his disciples? Shouldn't Rand Paul be on the No Fly List?
     It's a good thing the incident conveniently came along when it did. Ron Paul immediately dropped one of his signature money bombs and raised $250,000 in three days. Paul's crusade appeals to a hardcore group of malcontents, whiners and complainers who see themselves as characters in an Ayn Rand novel.

     I wonder, incidentally, what possessed Ron Paul to drop the "Y" from his son's name. Had the practice been in vogue decades ago we might have had Sand Koufax, Rud Giuliani, or Maur Povich.
     According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, it wasn't Ron Paul, but Randy Paul's wife who came up with "Rand," inspired of course by libertarian theorist Ayn Rand.
     Paul says the TSA should concentrate on passengers who have flown to Yemen or Pakistan recently and leave everyday Americans alone. So he wants to give TSA new snooping powers? Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.
     TSA haters dehumanize officers with terms like "goon" or "Nazi." Officers are demonized as child molesters and sexual deviants who enjoy fondling the genitals of strangers. They overlook the fact that thousands are military veterans, many of whom put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. A considerable number of career officers joined TSA as a patriotic response to 9/11. Many others are retired law enforcement. They think of themselves as dedicated security professionals.
     Calling this caliber of officer a goon or pedophile comes naturally to elitists who look down on the military and law enforcement. They figure people join the military or become cops (or TSA officers) only because they couldn't get a real job.

* I won't call them terrorists because Ron Paul, who wants to abolish the TSA, seems to think the terrorists have all retired and now work as street vendors peddling bootleg DVDs in Baghdad.

Patriotism: A New Definition

wacky RepublicansEvery morning, the first thing John McCain does is thank God he didn't win the 2008 election and get tagged the Great Recession's Herbert Hoover. Next on the agenda: Tune to Rush for any good news on the crusade to defeat Barack Obama. "Good" news of course being a dismal economic report or a sexy disaster like Mt. Rainier erupting. The more human suffering the better.
     Rejoicing when misfortune strikes our country is the new patriotism. When the BP gusher started spilling into the Gulf of Mexico there was unanimous dismay and, in some quarters, quiet gaiety because it was a new headache for President Obama. If the leak turns out to be less of a disaster than initially feared, groans of disappointment will issue from the "I hope he fails" crowd. Since Republicans have exclusive rights to define patriotism, this is the current version, subject to change with their political fortunes. With a Republican in the White House, we frequently hear that it's downright treasonous to disagree with the president's policies.
     The "I hope he fails" contingent has a field day when something bad happens to our country. Positive news brings out the real dismay. As long as things keep going wrong for the president, we win. If something good happens, it's a setback. Since Obama took office, Republicans now denounce major proposals they previously supported. It reduces politics to a knee jerk: Whatever Obama's for, we're against.
     Now we have businesses holding off from hiring because they perceive the president as "anti-business." In spite of the president's best efforts to dismantle capitalism, corporate profits have magically soared to a record high. Since most Fortune 500 CEOs are rooting for Obama to fail, they're not about to help him by adding jobs. According to Bloomberg, S&P 500 companies have stockpiled a combined $2.4 TRILLION in cash as of February 2011. They are clearly prepared to hold off hiring as long as they have to, until they decide conditions are favorable. Maybe they can hold out until Sarah Palin takes office.
     The best thing that could happen would be another terrorist attack. That might be the final nail in Obama's coffin. It would accomplish more than the fondest aspirations of Republican obstructionism.
     After 9/11, Americans were disgusted to see Muslim fanatics celebrating. American political fanatics may not dance in the streets but their elation over misfortune is no less shameful.

Share the Wealth! After winning control of the House of Representative and several state houses, Republicans have declared a sweeping mandate to refudiate progressive gains since Bush left office. They've jumped on the "share the wealth" bandwagon. The "wealth" they want to share is that enjoyed by public employees with fat union contracts and lavish benefits. They hope to deflect class envy away from the wealthy by demonizing public workers as lazy freeloaders, no better than welfare cheats. If you filter out the typical deception, distortion and disinformation, Republicans may have a point. Not about public employees sponging off society, but the need for a new era of lowered expectations for this group. A retroactive claw-back of rights and benefits is nothing but revenge, however.
     Higher taxes for the wealthy? Class warfare! Stripping public employees of their hard-won collective bargaining rights? "We all need to sacrifice."
     The nation cries out for a suitable scapegoat. Credit the Republicans for unearthing one that can arouse jealousy across a broad spectrum. Public sector largess is the culprit, not private sector penury. Using the budget scare, they are attempting a vast expansion of corporate entitlement while sweeping away a host of hindrances for their wealthy backers: unions, the minimum wage, OSHA, EPA, Obamacare, stimulus spending, infrastructure spending, financial regulation, consumer protection, green energy. The budget scare also gives them cover to zoom their crosshairs on all the familiar targets: NPR, Planned Parenthood, public education, gun control, abortion rights, gay marriage, campaign finance reform, separation of church and state.
     The goal is to create a bonanza by privatizing anything that isn't nailed down (including elections) and get business as far away as possible from pesky public scrutiny. They've armed themselves with pick axes and sledge hammers to pry up things that heretofore were nailed down. Business has always been big on cutting out the middle man, in this case the public. Corporations and lawmakers can do a much better job without the public sticking their nose in, demanding accountability and responsibility. That's so 20th Century. The Chinese aren't bogged down by such considerations. How can we hope to compete? We're inching ever closer to that fondest of Republican dreams: America of the Corporation, by the Corporation and for the Corporation.

Killing of bin Laden: Isn't someone who hasn't served in the military unfit to be Commander-In-Chief? How on Earth did this happen? Only a Republican could be conflicted about an accomplishment hailed as great for America. Something went right for Obama—Dang! Why couldn't it have been a tragic fiasco like Jimmy Carter's failed hostage rescue mission? The Republicans must be wondering what they did to deserve the dirty trick God played on them by letting a foreign-born Muslim socialist who didn't serve a day in the military hog the patriotic spotlight. I'm sure they're busy devising a way to nitpick, belittle, or somehow take credit for the successful operation.

Zero Job Growth--Yay! The Republican strategy of blind obstruction is working to perfection. The jobs report for August 2011 showed zero jobs created. The best news was the loss of 17,000 government jobs. Woohoo! Dragging out the debt ceiling drama was brilliant. The months of uncertainty (which Republicans claim to loathe) created the hoped-for drag on the economy. The only risk is that they might overdo it and put the economy in a pit they can't dig their way out of after 2012. The economy doesn't matter, nor does the country. All that really matters is the Republican (Corporate) agenda. A couple of supreme court appointments alone will justify any damage they do to the country the profess to love.
     The election of 2008 played perfectly into the hands of the Republicans. In fact, a plausible conspiracy theory could be built around the notion that the Republicans THREW the election once they realized the enormity of the financial cataclysm about to engulf the country. They might have told McCain,"Let him wipe the floor with you in the debates. Take one for the Party." When McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, it seemed like a desperate move, but maybe not desperate to win.
     In any case, losing the election could be the best thing that ever happened to the Republicans. No one in his right mind wanted to take on the nightmare Obama faced when he took the oath of office. Let him struggle with it. You don't just snap out of a near-depression in four years. Even Ronald Reagan couldn't have worked that kind of miracle. Meanwhile, we'll make Obama's life miserable. We'll block and hinder him at every turn. Convince everyone that George W. Bush was just an innocent bystander and play Blame it on the Obama. By stopping just short of wreaking worldwide financial havoc with their manufactured debt ceiling crisis, the Republicans showed they aren't hopeless lunatics. Just functional lunatics.

Strong Jobs Report--BOO! Republicans must be wondering just what the hell they need to do to kill the economy. To the dismay of Obama-haters everywhere a surprisingly strong jobs report was announced on February 3, 2012. The unemployment rate plummeted to 8.3%!
     Meanwhile, in a fit of class envy, the US House of Representatives voted to freeze the federal payroll for another year. Federal jobs pay too much, they said. The lavish salaries are "wasteful." Bringing federal pay down to the miserly level of the private sector--now that's a great idea. Something like bringing wages paid to Americans down to those earned by the Chinese.

     Do you believe the hogwash that American business is suddenly paralyzed by uncertainty? They're waiting for ideal conditions to materialize. News flash: Conditions are seldom ideal. If capitalist chiefs had waited for ideal conditions, corporate titans like Caterpillar, Boeing, Disney, Intel, GE, and Walmart would never have been founded. Too much uncertainty!
     Now were led to believe that all-powerful Captains of Industry have degenerated into Sniveling Wimps wringing their hands over the Obama agenda. If that's the case, they need to man up! Stop whining and start hiring!
     The real reason business isn't hiring is the US economy. I think we can all agree President Obama is no miracle worker. Even if he were, our crippled economy isn't about to magically snap back as it has in the past. There are no bubbles left to exploit. The whole "uncertainty" thing is just Republican propaganda to scare you and me into thinking health care reform is BAD, financial regulation is BAD, and a return to Clinton-era taxation on the wealthy will bring the nation to its knees. Everything BAD for business and wealthy taxpayers must be BAD for you and me. Government takeover of healthcare: BAD; corporate takeover of elections: WOOHOO! As soon as the Republicans "take back" America everything will be peachy again. I hope people who believe that will wake up and realize they are being cruelly manipulated. Thank you. (July 2010)

      Out-of-control spending and big government weren't a problem when Bush was president. When it's spending WE like, when it's gargantuan government on OUR side, not a problem.

Hidden Danger at the Beach

The commercials for household disinfectants provide a vital public service. They warn against a proliferation of dangerous microorganisms that threaten the health and safety of every child on the planet. One commercial illustrates a telephone seething with nightmarish microorganisms. The phone is just one household object that should be sprayed frequently so kids can't come in contact with those dangerous bugs.
     When I see kids playing at the beach, digging in the sand with their little buckets and shovels, I'm shocked that so many parents even allow their kids near the beach. Don't they realize the beach is a million times worse than the phone? Sources of infection at the beach include human and animal feces, bacteria from decaying fish and animal carcasses, sewerage, and medical waste, to name just a few.
A trip to the beach confirms how much the human body can really take. If we splash in the water and walk barefoot, we are exposed to a potential bubonic plague, an HIV epidemic. It's a wonder hospitals aren't overrun when beach weather is nice. How can the beleaguered mom hope to clear a child's body of all those infectious bugs? You can't autoclave the kid, after all. Thank God for those handy wipes and sprays. Too bad those moms in Africa don't have them. It's undeniable that the problem of dangerous microorganisms has grown worse over the decades. Back when I was a kid, in the 1950s, microorganisms were practically nonexistent. Things we touched had only mere traces of harmful bugs compared to today's infestations. In our day, household objects were practically self-sanitized. You never had to worry about touching the phone.

Our Aggrieved Society: Outrage Over Obama's Trash Talk

The president comes in for a firestorm of criticism when he badmouths Sin City yet again.

"When times are tough, you tighten your belts," the president told a gathering in New Hampshire. "You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage," Obama said. "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices."
     Read the hysterical reaction in this CBS News story. The testy comments of Mayor Goodman reflect a city with a big inferiority complex. Deep down, the city fathers and mothers know that, without the casinos, Vegas is just another Barstow. Not to trash Barstow!
     From the reaction, you would think that Obama took cheap shots at Vegas. He didn’t, however. He didn’t say Vegas is a hellhole, or that its residents are all degenerates. He didn't say people should stay away from Vegas. He put forth the modest suggestion that a weekend in Vegas might not be the best plan for financially-strapped families. The arrogant bastard!
     The president used Vegas as an example because Vegas has spent millions cultivating an image of wretched excess, a place for wild sprees and blowing wads of cash. What other city can lay claim to such a reputation? Maybe Atlantic City, but that august municipality is merely a blue-collar version of Vegas. If you say "gambling" or "casino," Vegas is the first place most people think of.
     Is this too subtle? Maybe Obama gets himself in trouble because his former career involved lectures to legal scholars who could handle subtlety. Nevada's elected officials are not so blessed. What? Did he say something bad about Vegas? I think he did! Let me jump on my high horse!
     A year before, Obama commented during a town hall meeting in Indiana, that corporations shouldn't use federal bailout money for trips to Las Vegas, the Super Bowl or corporate jets. Tourism and casino officials said the comment hurt the city as companies canceled meetings in Las Vegas and rescheduled them elsewhere.
     The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas had a convenient scapegoat when its closing was announced in Feb. 2010: Obama! A spokesperson said on local television that Obama had killed their convention business with his derogatory comments.
     Online forums were abuzz with Obama hatred. If anything, everyday residents were even more outraged. Vegas is a hotbed of civic pride. How dare Obama, or anyone else for that matter, say anything unflattering about our beloved city!
     Civic pride is a highly questionable sentiment. It's local patriotism. A case can be made for loving your country and wanting to tar & feather anyone who says it ain't great. But having these emotions over a city seems a bit warped.
     If someone calls your child ugly or slow-witted, those are understandably fighting words. Why get your feelings hurt if someone doesn't like your city? As I pointed out on the Yelp! forum, Vegas doesn't have a Retention Committee. If you decide to move away, people from the Retention Committee won't visit and beg you to stay. Cities don't have retention committees because they don't care if you stay or go. So why such affection for an impersonal metropolis?
     It's all part of the growing sense of aggrievement that permeates our culture. Righteous indignation has become the theme of everyday discourse. Don't just disagree, clobber your opponent with choice expletives. Blister them with a barrage of smack.
     Virtually anything becomes fodder for outrage. For example, do you know that people mistakenly call Sow Bugs “Sal Bugs”? It’s an outrage! How dare they?

Dealing With Raccoons

At some point in your life, you may have to deal with raccoons. The thing to remember is, don't panic.
     My raccoon encounter was in West Seattle. We had a nice basement apartment on a hillside. The view of Elliott Bay was smashing.
     One night there were eerie sounds from the bedroom ceiling much like the movie The Exorcist. It sounded like gremlins playing hockey. It went on for several nights. I cursed our dreadful upstairs neighbors, whom I disliked after I caught the guy stealing my Post-Intelligencer (now defunct).
     Then I happened to notice that the roof of the bedroom was not attached to the apartment above. The bedroom jutted out from the main structure. It turned out that raccoons were living in the "crawl" space above the ceiling. (The space was only big enough for raccoons or other small critters to crawl. I peered in there and saw quizzical beady eyes looking back at me.)
     I managed to locate a government entity (fish & wildlife or some such thing) to help me cope with the situation. This was in the early '80s. I believe that city & state governments are far less accessible now. Even if you could locate the appropriate agency, you couldn't just call them with a question.
     You can catch those raccoons, I was told. They offered to loan me a trap. Use marshmallows for bait, they said. Release 'em out in the country.
     Sure enough, the raccoons were suckers for marshmallows. The trap is a big wire box with a trap door at one end. When the raccoon wanders in for a treat, the trap door is sprung. I took my first raccoon over to Issaquah, which was rural back then. I followed a peaceful country road into the woods. I released the raccoon. He scampered off nicely.
     The raccoons that remained were up in arms over the injustice I had perpetrated on their family. In the night I heard various cries that sounded like the screams of a small child. I continued to catch them. One night a dog came by and harassed the poor critter. You have to guard your catch.
     Finally I caught the whole family: five, including youngsters. When you catch them, they may thrash, growl, and hiss. I suggest wearing good work gloves just in case. When I released the little guys, them seemed happy. I released them all in the same spot. Each dashed away in the same direction. I hope the family stayed together.
     Please don't feed raccoons or try to make friends with them.

Catching Crayfish

They are also known as Crawfish or Crawdads. Since we were country folk, we knew them as Crawdads. While a biologist would probably call them Crayfish, I'm pretty sure people from Louisiana would peg you as a fancypants if you said that in their part of the country.
     Crawdads are easily caught because they are tenacious. For no good reason, they will latch onto something with a claw. Their "claws" are really pincers of course. Cats have claws. If you look up Crayfish on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, pincers are called "claws." You get what you pay for.
     The secret of catching Crawdads is to take advantage of their tenacious nature. Take a length of string (kite string is fine). To one end, attach of lump of bread. Shape the bread into a ball and squeeze it onto the end of the string. Lower the string into a pond. It helps if you know there are Crawdads in the pond.
     Don't ask how we knew there were Crawdads in the pond (or mudhole) where we caught Crawdads near the country town of San Marcos, California. When you live in the country, knowledge like this gets passed along by word of mouth. The "pond" was a basin of stagnant, murky water. It was definitely not a swimming hole. The local swimming hole was Thibodeau's.
     The Crawdad pond, Thibodeau's, the fields and meadows, the farms and ranches, the mighty Eucalyptus, the two-room schoolhouse, and any anything else charming about San Marcos, have all been filled in, paved over, and bulldozed to make way for the finest in American schlock architecture.
     I heard they were fighting to keep Walmart from building a supercenter, as if that were the last straw, the one indignity they couldn't stomach, like a hooker who refuses to service clowns.
     Before long, you could lift the string out of the pond with a Crawdad holding on. It was as if the Crawdad said, "What's this string doing in my pond? Let me grab it." Then he would promptly forget why he grabbed the string in the first place. But he held on anyway, because Crawdads are all about grabbing things with their pincers.
     I'm not sure if the bread mattered much, but it helped sink the string.
     Since Crawdads are fresh-water creatures, you would think they would be easy to keep as pets. Mine always died after a day or two. It's the main reason I didn't become an enthusiast of the sport of Crawdad catching.
     I only tried eating Crawfish once, at a buffet in Las Vegas (where they were billed as Craw Fish). Besides the opportunity to stuff a lot of food down your gullet, a buffet offers the chance to try foods you normally wouldn't eat. Eating Crawfish involves a lot of peeling for the tiny morsel of meat you end up with. It takes several Crawfish to make even a dainty mouthful. I decided it wasn't worth it. At the buffet, people were lining up to fill their plates with the delicacy, so I was definitely out of step with gastronomic conventional wisdom.
     According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Crawfish are shunned by the Jews. They're not missing anything.

Corporate Matrimony

The long-awaited wedding of Gillette and Avon Products took place on Valentine's Day at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. The way was cleared for the ceremony when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals.
     "We're overjoyed that the Court finally acknowledged our rights," said Gillette's beaming adoptive parent, Procter & Gamble. "Corporations being born out of wedlock won't be such a disgrace anymore."
     Matrimonial attendants were Black & Decker (groom) and Kimberly Clark (bride).
     The bride was stunning in its gown from No Ordinary Bride. The groom was the perfect metrosexual in a single-breasted black suit and tie by Paul Smith London.
     The reception was held at nearby Disneyland. John Deere and Harley Davidson were seen canoodling in a corner, triggering rumors that June nuptials might be in the works. Since corporations are gender-neutral, nothing will seem amiss about two masculine companies getting married. Playboy Enterprises had too much bubbly and made a spectacle of itself. The company kept hitting on Seventeen magazine. Brinks Security had to intervene. After the dancing started Goldman Sachs was seen making the rounds of momentarily-vacated tables to scoop up unattended swag.
     Following the obligatory appearance at the reception, the newlyweds bolted for the airport and a flight to the Cayman Islands for their honeymoon.

Flattery Works?

Roos Vonk is a Dutch psychology professor. She studied groups of college students for her inquiry into ingratiation. The results were published in a landmark article Self-serving interpretations of flattery: Why ingratiation works in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, April 2002. Her conclusion: people are more likely to like you if you flatter them, even if the praise doesn't seem accurate or sincere.
     My real-life experience differs substantially from Dr. Roos's report. Early in my worklife, I made occasional stabs at complimenting female coworkers. My praise was typically greeted with a smirk, a sneer, a shrug, or even a derisive snort. I had the distinct impression they thought I was hitting on them. That was confirmed years later when I overheard two women talking about a coworker.

"He's always hitting on me."
"What's he do?"
"He's like 'you look so nice today' and stuff."

     Ingratiation is the scientific term for ass kissing. I was never good at it. Some places require that you call the chief executive "Mister." I could never bring myself to do it.
     I hate the thought of paying a compliment just to curry favor. My compliments were always sincere, not for hitting purposes. If a woman appeared to have gone out of her way to look nice, I would compliment her. According to Dr. Roos, my targets should have liked me more. They gave no indication that their opinion of me improved one iota. I did have one coworker, Felicia, who responded well to my compliments. She was an elegant and graceful woman.
     I learned one lesson in the art of the compliment. Never say "You look nice today."

"Oh, just TODAY? Any other day not so much?"

     I've seen more than one guy walk into that one.
     I forswore complimenting female coworkers on their appearance. I probably went two decades withholding compliments. Ingratiating myself to coworkers in other ways wasn't a problem. You could compliment someone on a good spreadsheet or a memo without inviting a giggle or a grimace.
Thanks to the Great Recession, I no longer have coworkers. Dr. Roos's study has made me reconsider my stand. If I ever manage to regain a foothold in the workplace, I may hazard a compliment now and then just to see if my social skills have improved.

Pictured: Roos Vonk (Rose Spark in English). Probably takes compliments well.

Bell's and whistle's are all good
Sometimes a cliché is finally the best way to make one's point. —Boris (Whatever Works)

Extra MileA few hoity-toity experts like to lecture us about using too many clichés ("wake-up call," "hands on," "level playing field, " and so on). Don't feel bad about using clichés. Those critics are just egghead intellectual types who look down on everyone from their ivory towers. It can be a real game-changer when you stop worrying about clichés and embrace them.
     Clichés are verbal shorthand, the common currency of everyday discourse. It's much easier to use a cliché than to suffer brain damage from composing something flowery that people may not understand anyway. For example, if you say "Our record matches our rhetoric" (for "walk the talk"*) people may be puzzled. What is he trying to say? They may want to throw you under the bus. Literally.
     At the end of the day, it's not going to make any difference that your memo or report is a masterpiece of supple prose if you don't get your point across. Only a legend like Warren Buffet can get away with crafting fresh prose for his annual letters to shareholders. His writing is breezy. He uses fancy words like "Orwellian." He's not a flashy writer, however. His writing is solid, like the meat and potatoes he thrives on. The above example is from his 2008 letter.
     Buffett doesn't want his readers to struggle through a thicket of buzzwords and jargon. Instead of "the good, the bad, and the ugly," he same up with "the great, the good, and the gruesome." But you're no Warren Buffet (with all due respect). Unless you can think outside the box like Warren does, you had better stick with the tried and true verbiage everyone knows and loves.

* Or whatever the cliché is (talk the walk, talk the talk, walk like a duck, talk like a duck, etc.). I never could keep it all straight.

(I couldn't resist misusing apostrophes above. Plural and possessive confusion is rampant, but that's a topic for another post.) January 2010

The Sea Lions Are Gone!

The sea lions that loiter at San Francisco's Pier 39 have suddenly vanished. No one seems to know why. Experts guess that instinctive migratory behavior made them go. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the sea lions will be back. Meanwhile, what's so great about those big fat noisy smelly creatures? I guess sea lion lovers are happy that they don't have to join an expedition to some remote preserve to enjoy viewing them. It's a free zoo exhibit right there at Fisherman's Wharf, along with the wax museum. (January 2010)

News story: Mystery Disappearance

Fire "Victims"
Angeles National Forest, Calif.

Survivors of a forest fire near Los Angeles are complaining that the U. S. Forest Service failed to protect their homes. One resident suffered burns because he ignored the evacuation order. In news coverage, he is portrayed as a "victim."
     "A lot of residents are incredibly embittered about the way it was handled," a resident is quoted in the Los Angeles Times.
     Forest-dwellers see themselves as a special class who are owed protection. They think it's up to the Forest Service and taxpayers to assume their risk for living in a fire-prone area.
     Another resident complained, "What will happen next time? Will we be simply left to defend ourselves again?" Anyone who chooses to live in the woods should consider the risk. Don't just assume you'll be bailed out when the inevitable happens.
     Why wouldn't these homeowners set up their own fire-fighting measures? My advice: Use some of that insurance settlement to invest in fire protection.
     Lost in the recriminations is that two firefighters died battling the blaze for spoiled, self-entitled homeowners. (October 2009)

LA Times: Fire Victims Whine

"Duck & Cover" Sneezes

My dad was a loud sneezer. The house shook when he let out one of his signature sneezeclaps. I thought it was hilarious.
     The theory behind a loud sneeze is that you need to maximize its effect. If a sneeze is meant to expel allergens or respiratory irritants, the sneeze should be forceful, helped by an ear-splitting shout.
     I'm not much like my dad, who made something of himself. Loud sneezing is one trait of his that I did copy, well into middle age. That was before I encountered a particularly annoying loud sneezer at work. His theatrical blasts were a play for attention. My co-workers bought into it, with their obligatory bless yous.* He was very taken with himself, especially his boorish sneezes. He made me realize what an ass I was to inflict my own bellowing blasts on others.
     I've resolved to cut back on loud sneezing. I've found that an understated sneeze is just as effective as one accompanied by a showy roar.
     It proves one thing: People can improve their behavior, even ossified old codgers.

*I have never said "bless you" when someone sneezes. It's one of many social skills I failed to adopt.

Much as I'd like to take credit for "duck & cover," I can't. I saw it here: What Does Your Sneeze Say About You? Annoying sneezes are just one sign of an alarming retreat of politeness and courtesy from our culture, which I address here: Courtesy is Contagious


Daniel Soderberg said...

The Sea Lions are now at Children's Pool in La Jolla!

Nothing worse than having to sneeze with a mouth full of food!

And the Supreme Court. They love eminent domain and coperate run elections. Two very destructive decisions, and they keep on coming. said...

To have a good look at people's outrage, just read the comments column of an online newspaper. The venom is especially potent because people rarely use their real names. Allows them to get extra nasty.

That cage is exactly the one I used to catch all those possums when I lived in P.B. Raccoons look a lot better than possums.

Rufus Quail said...

Nice to hear from a fellow varmint catcher.

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