Category Archives: Social Rules

06072013 Euthanasia, Right to Die (From 2013)

Before reading, you should read the basics on euthanasia, doctor-assisted suicide, etc. It is easy to assume an understanding of what is being discussed.A recent case in Indiana involving a hunter who fell from a tree and was revived from sedation to make a decision about ending his own life brought this to me again. (He chose to die despite just having become a father.)

Striving for clarity and conciseness, I see no problem overall with euthanasia. Anyone who is aware of himself and choosing (or having chosen) to end his own life should be able to do so, independent of society’s ability to deny him the ability. I certainly don’t agree with any religious arguments which attempt to deny a person the ability to end his or her own life. Each person and family has the right toward self-determination. Having said that, my right trumps my family if a disagreement ensues.

After years of thought, I still have no moral argument that would persuade me that society is harmed by an individual choosing to end his own life in certain circumstances. We tend to offer more compassion toward our animals and pets than we do our fellow human beings. Unlike most people, I’m not limited to believing that only medical issues are grounds for choosing one’s own death, either. As with all defensible arguments, my beliefs are based on anyone choosing her or own death must be mentally capable of making such a decision or of making one in advance of circumstances arising, much like a living will.

(I’m always confused by the death penalty advocates who scream and wail about the necessity of killing criminals who balk at the suggestion that euthanasia is sometimes a worthwhile policy to support. They tend to stretch and exaggerate to include forced euthanasia as an objection. A reasonable middle ground is usually difficult for them to grasp.)

How Doctors Choose To Die

I’m specifically not speaking from my personal work history but rather generalizing from what I’ve seen in life. With my family and friends who have passed, the doctors who earn my greatest respect are the ones who will speak plainly and honestly about a person’s expectations and longevity. Almost without exception, these doctors have told me that they would not choose further treatment or excessive efforts for themselves or for their loved ones. Recognizing this and acting on it is not to be taken as a lack of respect or love for your loved ones; rather being able to make hard choices is the utmost in admiration in my opinion. It is possible to be both supportive and uplifting without being unrealistic. I see no reason that I can’t take it one step further and have someone end my life peacefully if I have made that choice clear. The last few weeks of many of the deaths I have witnessed have been anything but tranquil. We must live our lives prepared to pass out of existence, whether we enjoy the idea or fight it tooth and nail.

Passive euthanasia evidently is very common. In these cases, treatment is withheld. No direct action is taken to end someone’s life. I know that people can’t agree on the differences between passive and active euthanasia and voluntary/involuntary euthanasia. Without getting caught in the sinkhole of wordplay, I’m referring to someone’s right to end his or her own life, regardless of the semantics people enjoy using to complicate the issue. Should we do everything possible to extend someone’s life? How much is too much? Should cost ever be a factor? If not, who pays?

As for the entire “unfinished business” argument that many people try to use to dissuade people from being able to end their own lives, I think it is utterly without merit. Each of us has the right to chart our own course without concern for the interference of other people’s viewpoints. Each of us lives our lives from our own mental window. Thus, only you or I should be determining whether we feel our life is ending at the appropriate time.

If I have made arrangements to be allowed to die in certain circumstances, I would like to be able to make that decision. If my loved ones have made a similar decision, it should not be a public spectacle that occurs when I can do as they ask no matter how difficult it is for me. Our ability to leave when we wish to is one of the fundamental choices we have in life.

You can be certain that my general sense for me personally is that I would choose to die rather than degenerate slowly and inexorably, becoming a costly and prolonged coda to my own life.

Scott Adams Dilbert Blog Post

The Roebke Rule (Real-Time Accountability)

Over the years, I’ve been adamant about requiring accountability as soon as expedient. Don’t try to discipline me for something that happened a month ago – or last week. If it bothers you as a friend, co-worker or family member, bring it up. Most organizations have systems to address wrong-doing; people are paid to enforce standards of performance and behavior. Failure to promptly address wrongs only serve to endorse the behavior. (Justice delayed isn’t justice.)

Just as you don’t hit your dog with a newspaper for peeing on the carpet last week, I can’t stand it when someone is being held accountable for things that should have been addressed in the past. One’s memory of details fades quickly, especially in regards to trivial matters. If an issue isn’t addresses as important, it gets filed under “trivial” without consideration. Historically, societies have reached a general consensus as to what time frames are acceptable for coming forward. People’s memories are untrustworthy under ideal circumstances; memories tainted by personal dislike, individual agendas and simple time lapses can cause avoidable harm to everyone involved. We must also come to terms with the fact that many people lie frequently, for a multitude of reasons.

The “Roebke Rule” is the official name I added to this sentiment. While I’ve quoted this rule for years, I first put it in a blog in 2011.

You must bring up the alleged deviation, crime or injustice as soon as convenient. If it is important, you will use the myriad methods of discussion at your disposal to bring it up. You cannot wait until you are on the hot seat to shift the blame to someone else. If you didn’t bring it up at the time it happened, it’s problematic at best to dredge it out later.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve wanted to shake someone’s eyeballs out of their head for violating the Roebke Rule. When someone gets called on the carpet to be held accountable, one of the tried-and-true responses is to point the finger at someone else as a distraction.

It is such a pleasure to repeat this frequently and then observe the next person on the hot seat as he/she realizes that he/she can’t get by with trying to dredge up the past.

Further, when an alleged miscreant claims that he can’t trust those to whom he might have reported another person’s misdeeds to, I always invoke a list of alternate people with which they could have spoken. If they insist that no one was trustworthy, I point out that perhaps either they have an unhealthy cynicism toward their superiors OR they might not be in the right place. If someone has mistreated you, find a means to hit the aggressor in the face. We can’t sustain a society in which no one can be trusted with reports of misbehavior. It’s an unsustainable complaint when taken to its logical conclusion.

The Roebke Rule name originates from a supervisor I knew. As you can guess, his downfall was due to total disregard for the rule named on his behalf. He was held accountable for things that should have been addressed before, by people who already knew it was going on. A witch hunt ensued after-the-fact. People who demonstrated no interest in the subject came out of the woodwork once it seemed as if the powers-that-be had a scapegoat to pin much of their issues on. Those who should have taken their duty to protect everyone seriously failed to do their jobs. Please note that I’m not even addressing whether all the allegations were true or not – just that people knew at the time of the transgressions and fell silent, even those who would not have suffered any ill effects for speaking up, talking or taking action. This is doubly true for the supervisor’s superiors, people with the power to address issues without fear or reprisal.

Sidenote: This is another reason why anonymous surveys or critiques can be such a huge waste and cause harm to people and organizations. We must provide outlets for commentary without reprisal. Serious allegations, however, need a different method for resolution. Each of us must find a way to come forward when we witness or experience undesirable behavior. We also need to support people’s ability to do so.


P.S. Please note that issues such as sexual harassment can be much more complex than meets the eye. As with all generalizations, please avoid stretching this rule to encompass all possible scenarios. We must create a better system to address wrong-doing in our society. I know that there is an cyclical emphasis on these issues, however. I’m not unilaterally judging people who are mistreated by those with power. Those are shoes I can’t fairly wear. Each person and situation is unique. I cringe when I hear of people who knew of a sociopath or predator 5, 10 or 20 years before the perpetrator is exposed.



*Originally posted Feb, 2011…

05292013 Live-And-Let-Live Is Usually Not Quite True When People Claim It (Update)

Since I read a lot of blogs, status updates and news feeds, I’ve discovered a trend that I haven’t cleverly given a name to. I’ll work on thinking up something undeniable cool to term this trend.

Since I’m committed to avoiding perfectionism (and it shows!), I’ll explain it as best I can, off the cuff.

Many people purport to live a “live and let live” philosophy wherein they don’t criticize other people, judge them, or talk about what they don’t like. They talk about being optimistic, not judging, and giving people the benefit of the doubt. For many of these folks a cursory examination proves their contention of non-criticism to be untrue. Much of their opinion tends to back-handedly criticize what others believe, what they do, and how they live their lives. They use other sources to be the ones criticizing, saying that they themselves aren’t being critical, just that they fervently agree with those doing the criticizing. The people who seem to fly below your radar and get by without being called out are usually people with a better sense of humor or a lot of personality. Their criticism is ofter over-looked or mistaken for something else.

Really good writers can also clearly spell out their disgust at something or someone without being obvious. And while their criticisms aren’t specifically apparent to everyone, if you are paying attention a trend shines through. It becomes quite clear what irritates them and how their opinions fall.

But – if you use someone else as a source and it is highly critical of another person or group, the sting of negativity extends to your hearty agreement, too. There is a strong mathematical theorem that describes this behavior but googling it would exhaust me to no end.

There’s nothing wrong with this tendency – it is how the world often works. But you shouldn’t be disingenuous about not criticizing other people. You shouldn’t try to insist that it isn’t your ‘thing’ to judge or question how other people or groups do things.

To clear the decks, I full well acknowledge that I am a hypocrite and am well aware of my guilt at judging others. There’s no question whatsoever in my mind.

Alcohol Code of Silence

Advisory: some of my blog notes make it sound like certain people are evil or were solely motivated by malicious negligence. No one could be that evil all the time, not even in a movie. The written word doesn’t accurately capture the mood or specifics – it does, however, capture my terrible writing style and at least the basic idea of the meanness I’m describing.

The other day, I heard someone casually mention to another person that they were shocked that their niece admitted that her mom, the speaker’s sister, had driven her home drunk the weekend before. Like so many, I’m sure she had initially claimed to be planning to angrily confront the sister, call the police, etc. As you might guess, this never happens. The alcoholic is let off the hook in order to avoid a confrontation. Alcoholics are the worst people in the world to point out their shortcomings to. YOU will be the offender if you even lovingly try to bring light to the subject.

I know we are in the modern age, the 21st century. However, I think most people are blissfully unaware of just how common drinking and driving is. Certainly, patrol efforts and alcohol education may have made it less likely. Trust me when I say, however, that drinking and driving is as pervasive as Mountain Dew.

I won’t digress into the topic of how profitable the DWI industry is or how much money and jobs are tied up with the subject. 

If we aren’t going to require breath monitors in every vehicle, then if you are pulled over and have an alcohol content above the legal limit, I have another suggestion. Let’s call a second technician to the scene. He or she will then do a breath test AND take a sample of your blood. If you fail the breath test a second time on the scene, you shouldn’t be arrested. No, you should be arrested and taken immediately to a rehabilitation and detention center for 3 months. You will not only be required to do rehab, but you will also be required to work  during your tenure. (the blood test is for confirmation.) There will be no appeal of the rehab. No court appeals, no attorneys, etc. If you choose to get into a motor vehicle after drinking and are caught, you will suffer the same fate as anyone else caught. There will be no preferential treatment, concern about your job, etc. You will have to admit your error and be help publicly accountable for what you have done – no matter who you are. Your name and picture will be published in the papers, on the news, and on the internet. Everyone can and should be able to see it. Only then will the stigma of DWI become great enough to convince people to stop doing it.

We like to get in our metal boxes and drive, content to believe that most drivers don’t want to risk their own lives or their families lives by drinking and driving. Yet everyone has a friend or family member who was killed by drinking and driving, either as the guilty party or the victim. Isn’t this a little statistically ignorant to believe then that drinkers are behaving responsibly?

My dad was driving drunk when he crashed in 1970. It killed another member of my family. He had multiple DWIs, crashes and near misses, several of which included me as an occupant at the time. Statistically, I should have been maimed or killed on several occasions. He failed to learn his lesson. The same is true for my mom and so many other family members, too. 

I’ve always said over and over that everyone deserves a free learning pass for drinking – as long as no one was injured. It takes a tough lesson to get through to us. It’s the way we are wired. But after your one reminder to not do it again, all bets are off and you should be held to the fire for not learning your lesson.

With as much alcohol consumed in the United States, all I’m asking is for you to take note of how many people you know drink and drive. Don’t be confrontational about it, at least for a while.  Just observe. Note how many cars are at clubs, bars, liquor stores. Do the math and then ask yourself not why so many people are killed every year by drinking and driving; rather, ask yourself why there aren’t MORE killed.

Finally, ask yourself why we put up with it. If each of us absolutely refused to let our friends and loved ones drive even after 1 drink, the problem would eventually solve itself. If our family members get angry, tell them to come find us when they grow up. We are all enablers if we aren’t calling the police every single time we witness it.

11102013 What’s In a Name Part 2,345

 “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings (Music Video)

I re-wrote this, as I had several anecdotes spread around my blog posts. None of them were well-written and somehow I’m still not conveying the fun part of my name change. 

Changing my name was one of the best, most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Don’t let the overtone of grouchiness overshadow that fact. It’s like when you get a new car and everyone wants to see it – except that one mean friend or family member who wants to comment how shoddily it was built. 

When I changed my name, I wrote a letter to most of my family, letting them know, giving an explanation. I didn’t have too, of course, but I did. If they got a letter, it meant that I considered them family and close. Not being as dumb as expected, I knew that many people would decide I was crazy, resist, or ignore me. I was a weird person in general. There’s no use attempting to sugarcoat it. Normal wasn’t a word my friends would use to describe me. For most family members, my decision to change my name shouldn’t have been a surprise. I’d mentioned the desire many times during my early life.

My dad named me BobbyDean – one word. He didn’t want it split and he didn’t ask for the “Jr.” to be added to my name, as I was the second son. The hospital clerk made the changes. I was one of 2,347 “Bob / Robert” people in the family. He might as well have been following Johnny Cash’s lead and named me “Sue,” for all the confusion it caused.

Flash forward a few years. My dad died suddenly. Despite his good-natured ribbing about it, dad was okay with me changing my name. It amused him for several reasons. A couple of the family revisionists later foolishly tried to insist that he didn’t like me changing my name. It isn’t true, of course, and each time I hear anyone repeat the idiotic claim I pray for the ability to cause another person’s hair to spontaneously morph into a wombat. Dad laughed about me changing my name and told me at least twice he understood completely. About a month before his death when I visited him, he told me it wasn’t a great idea to give me his name, anyway, because no one used the right name and that there were too many Bobs, Bobbys, and Roberts in the family.

When the family put together the obituary together, they ignored me and my wishes… and those of my dad. They listed me as a “Jr,” with my birth name, both in the obituary and in the funeral arrangements. Instead of my legal name, the one on my driver’s license and birth certificate.

At the funeral, each person opened their handouts and read about my dad, a general description of his life, a list of family, etc. Except in my case, the people compiling the information decided that I wasn’t allowed to use my legal name, the one on my birth certificate, driver’s license and everything else in my life. They decided to ignore my wishes and put my birth name on everything, the name I had categorically rejected. They listed me with my birth name and “Jr.” on it, even though a few years had elapsed and they well knew it wasn’t a passing fad – and my dad’s opinion about it. So, at my own dad’s funeral, I was forced to work to ignore that my own family had given me a stupendous “F – U” middle finger with the obituary information, printed everywhere and in the newspapers.

When I returned home, my friends and co-workers were pissed at my “well-meaning family.” They couldn’t understand why family would be so demeaning to me at such a time in life. I couldn’t explain it to them, either. It was just stupid.

(Sometimes, people will say dumb things like “But you didn’t help pay for the funeral.” To which I reply: “Everyone knew dad wanted to be cremated. Are we really going to go down that road?” Does helping pay or not pay for a funeral give carte blanche to those who are paying to do and so whatever they want to?)

It was weird having people ask my name and me telling them “X” and that I was “Bobby’s son,” knowing that they wouldn’t know what the heck I was talking about if they used the obituary information.

Luckily, I was able to shrug it off at the time as a classic demonstration of stupidity, perhaps even misguided family honor. In the case of one family member, I still consider it malice, based on her words about it- and her ongoing insistence on being sanctimonious about it. I know all of us had just lost a family member and everyone gets a pass to a degree about what they say and do around such sadness and grief. But in my case, it was deliberate, not something brought about by cloudy grief. My dad died several years after I changed my name – it wasn’t the month before or even a year before.

That a couple of my family members decided to pull such a stunt reminded me of how petty and sanctimonious people will be. And to try to not let it poison my opinion of unrelated things in my life.

I’ve written before about some of my trouble with people being spiteful about my name change. The key component is whether a person is trying to acknowledge that he/she knows my name is X. I’m not belligerent about someone who forgets or who switches back and forth between “X” and my birth name. (Despite what some of the revisionists still try to claim.) I will let infrequent or occasional mentions of my old name go by without even a raised eyebrow. I’m not referring to people who knew me when I was very young and who weren’t around me afterwards.

I apologize for sounding grouchy. But imagine if random people in your life decided to call you “DonkeyBreath.” Let’s say it happened because you once had bad breath. But you fixed your teeth and fixed the problem. Fast forward 20+ years to a time where certain people still call you DonkeyBreath. Whether it is by name in an obituary, in church, on the phone, or shouted across the parking lot. Try as you might, as politely as you ask, people still call you DonkeyBreath. They do this even though they know that you still find it offensive. What kind of people are these exactly?

But I will give you a real example which demonstrates how spiteful some people can be. At church near my hometown, a family member was telling a story that involved me. She called me by my name, of course: X. My Aunt Ezra (name changed to protect the guilty) turned toward her and spitefully said “You mean Bobby!” The first family member turned toward and said “No, I mean X !” The key component of this story is that Aunt Ezra not only tried to intimidate someone in public at church, but also was showing deliberate spite about my name, decades after I changed it. Is this what you would describe as good behavior? It’s fine, though, as I practiced some spite of my own. During more than once church discussion, I’ve used my aunt’s name to talk about behavior I don’t like.For words such as “pious, sanctimonious, or hypocritical.”

(No one who knows me, works with me, or interacts with me, etc calls me anything except X.)
My birth name sounds stupid to me and to my wife. I don’t turn when people yell “Bobby” behind me. It’s alien to me. People who are in my daily life just don’t “get” why people would be stupid enough to persist in using the wrong name. To everyone except the offenders, it is immediately obvious that a factor of disrespect and rudeness is motivating people who try to call me by my birth name. When my wife and I get around family members who don’t even try to call me by name, it gets tedious and annoying very quickly. If I am not noticing it, my wife does. I appreciate her trying to ignore it and I also appreciate it when she finally has had enough and starts questioning people. It annoys her, too. We do the right thing – we never go on the attack about it. However, when enough abuse about it has piled up, we start politely pointing out the error with the name. If I choose to start disengaging and walking away, no one is going to tell me that I’m the one being rude. I’ve asked, asked again, made videos, asked again, explained and asked again. Many outsiders hear it or hear of people doing this to me and ask why I tolerate it, especially why I continue to put up with it for so many years.

“It’s not a big deal” or “You take it too personally” are both weak and rude ways to say that my feelings and right to be who I am doesn’t matter. “You shouldn’t be rude like that” is another way of attempting to mitigate other people’s rudeness at choosing to ignore my wishes. “Don’t be an ass about it” is a another idiotic method to insist that I don’t have a right to be irritated in the face of decades of this abuse. And believe me, it is abuse. The choice is yours whether to honor my right to be who I am or to engage in interpersonal warfare by convincing yourself that you are being anything less than an ass by calling me by a name that hasn’t been my name for over 2 decades. Well over 2 decades. Whatever claim my birth name once had over my life is surely long dead. Now that both my mom and dad are gone, it is more comical and depressing than ever that there are doofuses who still deliberately use the wrong name.

Several years ago, I made a video with captioned pictures, set to “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings. I sent it to several people and posted a copyright-free version to Facebook. Online, people laughed and laughed, all giving me praise for my lighthearted effort to get my point across. Many were incredulous that family members were still being so mean and thoughtless so many years after the name change. Several people went so far as to message or tell me directly that if they were in my shoes, they would disown anyone who continued to be mean to me about it, ESPECIALLY after I had put hours of work into the dvd explaining my point of view. They could tell that for many of my family members, I had asked them nicely up to 100 times. That’s beyond what anyone would claim to be reasonable. I had family screaming at me, sending angry emails or causing public rifts about it. I guess I don’t need to keep mentioning that – any family that would go so far as to publish the wrong name in another person’s obituary needs to seriously examine what kind of people they are. On those frequent occasions when my mom would get both angry and drunk, she would lash out about my name.

My wife, her sister and her mom all knew me by my birth name when I was younger. None of them had any real problem treating me like I deserved to be respected in regards to my name. Neither did my childhood best friend, several of my close cousins, all my co-workers, etc. Several of these people knew me by my birth name and had just as much claim toward difficulty toward adapting to my new name as anyone else did. But it didn’t occur to any of them to be an ass and try to be mean about it. That tells me that either some of my family members aren’t good people or just didn’t really care about me as an individual.

You have to try to respect me for who I am, even if your are convinced I’m a fool. If you want to interact with me, I meant. If you don’t like me or my name, then don’t feel obligated to pretend to – as none of us have enough time left in life to waste it on people who don’t really matter to us. Move along and have a good, rich life without me in it. You can’t claim to like or love me and still stupidly insist on calling me by the wrong name.

I only write about it because even though I now have lived over 1/2 my life as X, there are still “loved ones” in my family who still call me “Bobby.” They are getting to be rarer now, and not just due to time and age catching up. Rather, it gets old trying to defend such an indefensible attitude. They know they were wrong but can’t lash out much about it now, given that other family members will call them out on it. That wasn’t always the case.

People get a pass for a while, a year. Even 10 years. But 25? I don’t think so.

A Note About Miley (Not What You’re Expecting) (From Sept 2013)

This post is somewhat about Miley and the Video Music Awards… It’s not a letter “to” her. I wouldn’t presume to think that she would care what 99.99% of us could possibly say and certainly not someone like me.

Miley wasn’t dancing or denigrating herself for people my age. She was doing it for people her age. They will remember her performance, whether good or bad. Condemning her for what she did will not earn your respect from the younger generation – it will only alienate them from any attempt you might make to get through to them. Your chance to reach those kids will be diminished. Those kids don’t notice the content of your words so much as the direction of your wagging finger. In this case, your wagging finger is pointing toward someone entertaining and different, even if we label her as ‘vulgar.’ I guess I’m trying to say that you should teach by being positive about your goals, morals and lifestory, not by being preachy about Miley or even Elvis gyrating around on television. You cannot compete, much less win, a battle against the world’s craziness.
I mention Elvis because Miley isn’t the first and not even the worst in a long line of shock artists.

In our new, fast-paced connected world, none us has much opportunity to filter the world. It comes, unbidden, whether we are prepared or interested in it at all. Our personal opinions and even our greater surrounding societal opinions don’t slow the incoming stimulation. It is 24/7, intense, and takes no prisoners in regards to anyone’s particular personal tastes. It’s a fool’s errand to attempt to blackout much of the illicit or undesirable music, television or behavior in the world.

(I would be much more concerned as a parent about the constant warfare that our county and its allies find justifiable than I would about celebrities acting out for fame and money. My next concern would be explaining to my kids why so many homeless people live in the streets or why so many go to be hungry – in this county of waste and excess. Or why insurance isn’t available to every living person. Or why any adult citizen can’t attend a public university at no cost other than through taxation. We are certainly not living the example we claim we are following. I think my kids would see the hypocrisy more clearly than they would hear my words. My focus would be on the kids I could help shape – not on quixotic efforts to convince anyone in Miley’s shoes to behave differently.)

Shock value has always been an effective method to gather attention. Whether you think this is a good thing or not doesn’t affect the efficiency of being outrageous. Whether Elvis gyrates his hips or Miley grinds her gears for the world, it is ultimately Miley’s decision as an adult to do it. Let’s trust that she has someone in her life who will love her and help guide or even rescue her later if her life spirals out of control. Don’t worry about her legacy. That is hers to shape, independent of whether you or I like any aspect of it. Whether you think it is a good thing or not for Elvis or Miley, the reality is that, in part, you might be trying to impose your standards on other people. It is up to you to figure out a way to be a better and more desirable center of attention than people like Miley.
(Quiet dignity almost always loses out to outlandish excitement as far as the younger crowd is concerned.)

As for the Video Music Awards, how in the world could you expect to watch it and not be shocked? It’s MTV. Appearing at the VMAs has always been an opportunity to dial up the shock value and garner attention. It would never occur to me to let children watch it if I were concerned about their exposure to alleged illicit behavior. I don’t understand how anyone exposed to the entertainment industry could expect anything other than something similar to what Miley did. Just who are these crazy parents who would be so oblivious as to allow it to be watched by their so-called “young children?” Any adult claiming that their young kids shouldn’t watch it should be using their control technology on their cable boxes to block the channels entirely. Isn’t that reasonable? Having MTV available on your televisions at home would be the greater sin, not that the content is undesirable for your kids. As the adult with the issue about exposing your kids to it, it is your job to assume that the world is simply stuffed with things you don’t like – and act accordingly.

(And please note, too, that in order to have watched the performance, you would have to be relatively more wealthy than most of the world to have had access to electricity, cable, extra-tier channels, and so on. In a world where many of these things aren’t even available to many, having raised eyebrows over a young woman showing her body on television is almost a hypocritical perversion itself.)

Although it won’t happen this way, Miley has so much attention on her right now that she could almost preach any truth she wants to – and get serious attention from the very people who many think were being subjected to smut by watching Miley’s VMA performance. For those who had nothing but negative criticism for her performance, I would argue that your entire collective life’s words, written or oral, cannot begin to approach the level of POTENTIAL reach that Miley now has. I know we would all like to think that our efforts will bear better fruits – but it isn’t true. Because she received so much attention (however you characterize it), Miley could come out tomorrow and passionately get attention for any idea or cause that she values. Yes, it’s true that her popularity will undoubtedly fade. But if she is smart, she can now ride a wave of fame and money to any destination she chooses. It’s also true that her destination will probably not be one most people would find meaningful – but it might. She might finish her entertainment career with enough money and clout to eradicate homophobia, or to convince the world to stop fighting so many stupid wars. Or, she might convince them to listen to music and tap their toes a little more often.

Between concerning myself with someone like Miley dancing half-naked onstage or thinking about the consequences of explaining justifiable war to the next generation, I would focus on fixing the need for war and greater societal problems. As with warfare, there will always be the “next shock” to come along and take the shock value to even crazier heights.
Miley makes a point. She’s well aware that what she’s doing is controversial and many people hate it. In the scheme of things, though, which of the issues I’ve mentioned rates more attention? But which will you be talking about around the water cooler or in church?

11052013 #Hashtag – Just Another Evolution in Language

 Fallon and Timberlake’s Infamous Hashtag Skit
The link above is for the viral take on hashtag usage invading spoken language. 

It is the way of the world for new things to be despised. New words and ways of communicating are often the most hated. It’s always been that way and probably likely will continue to annoy people. Most of the changes are driven by younger people, regardless of how older people or entrenched concerns react to them.

As for the ” # ” or hashtag symbol, it is a very useful communication tool when used properly. The hipsters and octogenarians of our world would have us believe that any usage of the hashtag is dumb and that it doesn’t add any meaningful content to our language.

And they are quite wrong. Like any meme or idea tool, the hashtag is only as good as the people using it. It would be a better tool if people would stop parroting the same tired “it’s stupid” mantra before learning how it is supposed to work. If you are on the “I hate hashtag” bandwagon, you are going to be seriously tested – as the hashtag is a part of our culture now and likely will not disappear from usage, at least for a long time.

As someone getting older, these new means of writing and communicating can be confusing and hard to adjust to. I can either choose to attempt the transition or be left behind. As an amateur linguist, it is my obligation to stop trying to keep language static and uninteresting.

Hashtag Wikipedia Page

I don’t expect the haters to google the usage and etiquette of hastags – but they should. You can’t creatively criticize something if you don’t understand it. I know that we often do – but we look foolish when we do. 

Before being crucified, I’d like to mention that I don’t appreciate people who are misusing the hashtag symbol. It’s just another way to communicate poorly when over-used or used improperly.

Like everything about our inefficient language, though, the # is an evolution of content and context. Our language in every sense has been nothing short of a long revolution and evolution of usage.

04092013 Quality, Qualicide, Perfectionism


Lately, I’m encountering ghosts from my “quality past.”

When I worked at a huge multinational meat processor, I taught dozens of 1 and 2-days quality classes. I also administered the pay-for-skill-and-knowledge component that involved testing and evaluation. The version taught at our location was based on the revived Crosby method in the 90s. I taught many more classes in Spanish than English, probably about 7-to-1.

Overall, even though the effort was doomed from the onset, it was one of the best things I was ever involved in.

(The premise of this type of quality hinges on accepting a new definition of quality. Instead of using it equally across different brands of the same car, for instance, you were required to look at things with a “conformance to requirements” filter. In other words, a Mercedes-Benz wasn’t necessarily higher quality than a Ford Escort, depending on one’s customer requirements…)

Before I digress like I am accustomed to doing, teaching these classes and doing the testing forced me to learn a significant amount of practical Spanish. My accent and inability to roll “rr'” dipthongs was horrific, but I plowed through, reminding myself that no one else had the right combination of English ability to navigate the program to the majority Hispanic workforce. Almost everyone in the program would be speaking Spanish, rather than the management language, English. I was “good enough” for the circumstances.

The class and testing absolutely forced me into a “good enough” non-perfectionist mindset. I knew even then that it was a little ironic to keep telling myself that “good enough” was more than enough in a class and learning system designed around quality initiatives.

Basically, when the quality program was launched, I wasn’t a key cog in the machine. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that I had been given the almost never-heard-of opportunity to write my own ticket and create the system to suit my own ideas. Granted, there were a lot of people involved. The reality, though, was that I had huge latitude in vetoing even required components. This was especially the case with the Spanish version of the testing and classes.

When I went to Minneapolis for quality training, I was the only hourly employee to be given the chance. My Spanish-speaking counterpart who accompanied me never once taught a class or led testing. I acquired a poor Spanish version of the proposed class book and took it back to Springdale with me. I spent weeks doing a very rudimentary redrafting of the entire book.

In the Spanish version of the class, I largely ignored the pie-in-the-sky elitist components of the entire program and used what I instinctively knew to be practical. After a few classes, I relentlessly threw out any aspect that didn’t work immediately or effectively. I listened closely to anyone who would take the time to explain their criticisms to me. If I detected boredom with some components, I discarded them or changed them to make them relevant to the people in the room. Many classes were in fact led by me but directed by the participants. I can’t express how fulfilling it was to see people step up and take the reins and lead their coworkers, especially when they were being creative. Several of these people surprised themselves by being confident and creative. The workplace we were in was known for fostering the exact opposite of this type of mentality. We were basically human beings doing mechanical work, for the most part. It is one of the reasons that programs such as Quality which rely on creativity were facing an uphill battle.

I encountered resistance from authority figures but ignored their commentary and edicts unless no alternative was given to me. Usually, though, I got creative and found ways around every attempt to make the classes boring and devoid of real significance. With the English version of the class, though, I couldn’t get by with doing the things that worked. I had to conform. Which led me to the realization that much of the observable output of the class, at least through management’s eyes, was totally incorrect, as the language barrier prevented them from properly “seeing” the class and how drastically different the class could be when compared by language.

Life is largely a series of repeated events, I’ve noticed. Things I’ve learned before come back around to be learned again. Being in social organizations can be frustrating because there are large meta issues which bear striking resemblance to what I’ve already went through.

02082014 Child and Domestic Abuse Isn’t Caused by Alcohol

My dad is the gentleman on the left…

I gave up trying to edit this blog post. All errors or poorly worded areas are my fault. Thanks.

First, I was a victim of child abuse and alcoholism. And all that accompanies this type of story.

Second, most people would probably agree that my point is obvious; yet it’s not.

Breaking news: adults who abuse their children tend to also sometimes suffer from substance abuse. Their tendency to abuse is not due to their substance abuse but rather exacerbated by it. Drinking does not cause normal people to commence abusing their children anymore than drinking suddenly makes a person want to publicly rant about Jewish people or burn white flags on their neighbor’s lawns. The root of it was already present, seeking release.

Take away all the alcohol, drugs or substances and the abuse remains. I don’t doubt that drinking removes inhibitions for many adults and allows them to abuse; but alcohol in itself is not the culprit.

Anyone who is on the verge of committing child abuse cannot honestly say that the lack of alcohol is the only catalyst missing from their intention of a crime. If they were to say this, they already need treatment for psychological issues.

(Removal of all alcohol would not eliminate child abuse, if the argument is stretched to its longest possible scenario.)

In a world of my choosing, everyone would have access to free mental health care, regardless of income.

In a world of my choosing, anyone having committed documented child abuse would be required to undergo rigorous evaluation as to when and if they would ever be permitted to have their children again. Anyone already convicted has already demonstrated their lack of normalcy in this regard and the presumption would be against them. In a world of my choosing, if you abused your spouse, one of the many requirements would be lengthy and difficult counseling (among other things).

As a victim of abuse, I can rant expertly on the stupidity and cruelty of abuse. As a victim of a family of alcoholics, I can rant expertly on that, too.

The difference for me is that most people who drink do so responsibly, in my worldview. It would be very easy to exaggerate and shout for prohibition of alcohol. But it would be irresponsible on my part. Each of us is responsible for how and when we imbibe, and whether we do it too much.

In a world of my choosing, anyone could ask for and get free substance abuse treatment. Anyone.

It is a crime against personal liberty to abolish the availability of alcohol simply because those pitiful creatures who abuse other people suffer from its use.

This sort of thinking leads down many dark roads wherein adult citizens are treated as inferior creatures who would otherwise run amok absent a parental government watching them.


No Will? Cremation

I would like to establish a centralized system where people could indicate their preferences regarding death – and they chose not to do so, society would determine the course of action for everyone not making the choices. 

As for burial versus cremation, if you die without having expressed your wishes, everything would default to cremation.

If you don’t take the time to register your wishes, as well as setting aside the finances to pay for your specific choices, you should be cremated. Lack of doing so would constitute an agreement to be cremated. Dragging your feet about it or superstitious about planning your death? Sorry, we decide for you: cremation.

Unlike everyone else, I would figure out a way to let people smarter than me establish a database for everyone. Each person would be able to document their wishes regarding “do not resuscitate,” and living will-related decisions, whether they wish to be cremated, buried, and the general circumstances and details for either choice. Each person would indicate how their choices are to be paid for upon their death. Everyone would also be able to streamline much of the will process by making choices or delineating their choices on the database. This might anger lawyers and others whose livelihood is affected by simplification, but these are changes that should happen regardless of economic impact.

Any lack of clear indication about your wishes after death defaults to cremation. Lack of the ability to pay would allow for our tax dollars to put you to rest without financial debt or family stress. I think that it would be beneficial to our society if everyone could be guaranteed a decent cremation in the absence of an expensive and elaborate burial. I think that over time a lot of people would opt for cremation once they noticed that it didn’t cause the earth to spin off its axis or the universe to implode. The financial appeal would be obvious for anyone who has ever suffered when someone they loved died and had to face they economic difficulty of it.

We are all going to die. I think we should have systems in place to encourage and require people to at least express their general inclinations so as to avoid the confusion and stress of it all when we die.