Monthly Archives: February 2009

New Guitar #1

My Ministar Rokstar showed up Tuesday.

Nice and compact in a reasonably-sized zippered nylon bag.

I pulled it out and tuned it up. A few things struck me:
1) The tuning machines feel solid and precise.
2) If the true test of a guitar is how it sounds unplugged, then Ministar is on to something. They claim that since they have a ‘neck-through’ construction, i.e., they use a continuous piece of wood, that the guitar will have as good resonance as a full-bodied bolt-on or set-neck. And the Ministar concept gained some traction, I think, with that Gibson Holy Explorer offering, which doesn’t have much more wood to resonate. But I digress. The point is, the Rokstar sounds decent when unplugged.
3) The frets are smooth along the edges. My rule of thumb is: if the company takes the time to smooth the fret edges, it is a decent company that cares about quality. If not, it isn’t and doesn’t. We’ll see how it develops
4) The guitar doesn’t seem slapdash or low quality. It just looks like they used the cheapest/simplist method that WILL work to address any and all guitar-playability issues.

Well, I assembled it and plugged it in 2 days ago, and it’s okay.  There still is some getting used to, because while there is a block to rest your arm on, and a knee rest for the guitar, it doesn’t have the mass of a real, full-size guitar, so it does move around on you more.  Getting used to that may make my playing on a regular guitar more stable.

The sound is okay.  The P90 pickup basically just sounds like a humbucker with the tone turned down.  It didn’t sing out like Leslie West’s tone on “Mississippi Queen”.  Then again, this isn’t a name-brand boutique P90 pickup. 

In any case, it is well above “just good enough”.

I think it will be a very playable, very satisfying travel guitar.

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How Do People Do It?

I’m unhappy.

There are reasons, of course.  If you go back and read some of the entries on my old blog, you’ll get a good idea of some of the stresses I’ve been through over the last few years.

I’m not going to go into details, but my stress scores have been well above 200 for the last seven years straight, at least.

I haven’t had a serious illness yet.  Whew!

One of the most stressful parts of my life is being in the military, with the incessant assignment changes (and all the stress that comes with moving), deployments, etc.  And the insidious part of it is that it makes it difficult to establish and maintain close friendships.

I don’t really have any friends right now.  I have people I can joke with, or have a beer with, but no one with whom I feel I can relax and really open up.

I feel very alone.

But here’s the thing: I used to always have someone I could vent to…and I’d complain about work, life, marriage, what have you.  But I don’t want to do that anymore.  So my lack of friends I can open up to is pretty much self-imposed.  I know there are 3-4 people who would be glad to listen to me talk about my problems…but:

1) I don’t want to dump my problems on someone else

2) I don’t want to change any relationship to a whine fest; I have already lost one friend because I complained about my life to her way too much.

3) My wife considers it a betrayal if I talk to *anyone* about our issues.

…but I can’t talk to my wife about our issues, either.

 

Millions of people apparently go through life fine without being whiners, and aren’t upset about it.  They just deal with life.  Why can’t I?  Why do I feel the urge to go whine to someone?

Sometimes I think I still don’t understand how to be a person.

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There’s got to be a joke in this somewhere:

Quoting myself on another website:

Democrats/Liberals may spread their socialist ideology through their domination of schools, but they truly educate the populace about the efficacy of socialism every time they control 2 of the 3 branches of government.

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It Begins

I didn’t think it would happen so fast, but there is a real, undeniable logic to the rehabilitation of President George W. Bush’s legacy.

He was a great President.  It may take decades before most people realize it, but he was a great President.

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Filed under leadership/parenting, Link of Admiration, Politics

A Polite Society

So for my Masters Degree, I’m taking a class on Interagency Operations.  Despite the title, it seems to be less about government agencies and more about how humans interact in groups.  I learned quite a bit from “Bureaucracy” by James Q. Wilson.  I’m learning a little less from “Bowling Alone” by Putnam, but the basic theme is clear:

US citizens are becoming less and less socially involved.  We interact less.  We join groups less.  We help each other less.

That’s not really a surprise.  I remember when I was a kid, we used to run across everyone’s lawns as we played War, Cowboys/Indians, Spies, etc.  We didn’t hang out on anyone else’s lawn, but if it was in the way, we went across it.  Now it seems as if everyone wants privacy fences around their property.  I found my best friend by just going out and wandering around in a young-boy-attracting drainage ditch, and he was out there poking around, too.  I think that would be less likely to happen today.

It’s not the internet, although that doesn’t help.  People form groups across lines of interest that ignore geography.  I have friends from blogging that I will never, ever meet…or have only met once.

It’s not TV and video games, although that may have helped, because people see entertainment with the home as more cost effective and apparently more rewarding than going out and interacting with people.

I submit to you, however, that it was the Progressives, and especially Political Correctness that poisoned societal interactions and is in the process of killing US society.  I know, I know: you’re thinking, “Nathan, is there anything you can’t blame on progressives/liberals/Democrats?”  There may be some truth to that, and I realize I tend to do that or I wouldn’t have put those words into your mouth, er fingers.

But it seems to me that the penalty for social mis-steps is far, far higher than ever before.  It seems to me that it is too easy to sue someone for doing something you don’t like, it is too easy to ruin the life of someone who says something you don’t like.

Right now, teachers can’t hug students.  In today’s society, men are increasingly not allowed to be alone with children.  I assume that a male coach for a high school girls’ sports team is becoming less and less acceptable.  Men are assumed to be predators.  Whites are assumed to be racist.

And worst of all, there is more and more protection for jerks.  It used to be, if someone was being an ass, you could give them a poke in the nose.  Nowadays that would get you thrown in jail and sued.

So instead of a polite society where everyone is assumed to be honorable and trustworthy until they demonstrate differently, instead of a polite society where problems are dealt with immediately and appropriately and settled between adults* at the lowest level, we have socially-protected classes (who can say and do almost anything without fear of reprisal) and socially-detested classes (who must fear employment and legal reprisals for expressing opinions), and almost all disputes being resolved only through the involvement of authorities.

I think people are more and more afraid of interacting with fellow humans because the penalties for minor social mis-steps mean loss of income or loss of freedom (being thrown in jail), rather than having the worst be a short, sharp reminder of civility from which you can heal.

Or maybe I’m trying to combine too many different ideas into one post.  But I don’t think it is an unrelated phenomenon that as the actual legal rules are enacted to protect and encourage the Perpetually Offended, social interaction goes down.

 

*remember, punishment works best when meted immediately after the misdeed.

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I Agree, Sort of: You (unspecified) Don’t Deserve to be Rich

So says Matt Miller of the Daily Beast.

American capitalism is a meritocracy, they’ve always been told, a place where people basically end up economically where they deserve to. Yet you can’t open the paper nowadays without seeing screaming evidence that this notion is a fraud. Does former CEO Kerry Killinger deserve to retire to an island with $100 million after destroying Washington Mutual? Did Bob Rubin deserve his $115 million for making Citigroup a ward of the state? And what about the several thousand less-prominent geniuses across Wall Street who made off with less loot (but tens of millions nonetheless) peddling mortgage-related securities that produced illusory profits?

And that hits on the “sort of” part of my agreement.

Capitalism is not completely a meritocracy, but it is not devoid of meritocracy, either.  In fact, Capitalism is rather agnostic on the subject of meritocracy.

Capitalism, in my understanding, is based on a pyramid of responsibility/authority.  The basic idea of capitalism is that you generally don’t have to put effort into maximizing profit on any one sales item, you can accept a miniscule profit from any one transaction…but you attempt to maximize the number of transactions.  So the broader your customer base, the richer you get…if you are at the top.  Thus, the workers on the bottom don’t have much authority or responsibility.  They show up for work, and everything is taken care of for them, from calculating how much they should get paid, to arranging training, to providing a safe work environment, to withholding their taxes, to sick leave and unemployment…even health care issues, if their job includes that.  Basically, the lowest level worker is (consciously or unconsciously) seeking a life without risk…or where the biggest risk is spending more than they can afford on the meager salary that comes with risk avoidance.

Then the higher up you go, the more personal risk you have, the more accountability, the more authority, the more responsibility.  For the most part.

There are tracks/levels in the US version of capitalism.  There is the worker track, the crew chief track, the lower/individual management track, the management supervisor track, the owner track…and that’s just McDonald’s.  Different industries have different tracks.

It is possible to graduate from Yale and go right into the CEO track.  It is possible to be even more intelligent, creative, and capable, and yet still be stuck in the labor track due to circumstances preventing the graduation from high school.

Performance-based promotion (meritocracy) only occurs within a track.  To jump tracks, you need education or apprenticeship.  In fact, it’s pretty dang amazing that in the US, education alone can get you into upper tracks.  It’s pretty dang amazing that someone can (in my own personal experience) be an enlisted soldier, and then work hard to get a degree, and then once obtaining that degree, can be chosen to become a military officer.  No matter how good I had been as a soldier, I could not have become an officer without the degree.  But even with the degree, I had to apply to be accepted in the higher track.

Drawing again from my experience, I was excited about being assigned to an intelligence/analysis center in Hawaii.  I thought: I’ll work my way into being an expert on this subject.  I’ll report to my boss, who will report to the Pacific Commander, who reports to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (sort of), who reports to the SecDef, who reports to the President!  I’ll be 5 degrees from the President, and if I do well, my name will be known.  Then when I retire, I could get hired as an Undersecretary of Defense or State for my chosent subject area, and then can move up from there.  Get in the news a little bit for doing something good, and maybe I could be a later President’s SecDef choice.

Hah.

I found out, there’s still something like 13 layers, if not more, between me and the President.  I’m not sure if the Pacific Commander ever noticed my name on anything.  Most likely, I will never be able to jump to a track that gets me to the “appointment level” of government departments.  I could be hired by the DoD or DoS, but will never be appointed to anything…unless I do really well and get really lucky, and get promoted within the military to the O-6 (Colonel) level.  But that’s tough to do.  It really is another track (despite Colonels being a Field Grade Officer like Majors and Lt Colonels, full Colonels really are apprentice Generals).  Retiring from a Colonel spot usually puts you on a executive-ish track within the government…which is still a step down from the “appointment” track.

Running for President is the same way.  Although anyone can grow up and be President, most of us are not anywhere near the President track.  You can apply for higher tracks, like Clinton did by running for Governor of Arkansas, or be apprenticed (like the first President Bush was to Vice President after running the CIA and being an ambassador).  But it comes down to name recognition…and being in the right place at the right time.  If you want to be President, your best bet is to find a good district to run for the national House of Representatives.  Running for your state legislature is a lower track, and will never get you there.  Then if you succeed in the House of Representatives, you have to make sure you make a name for yourself…from there, once you have enough name recognition, you can run for Senate.  Since there are less Senators, you can really make a name for yourself and then try a run for the Presidency.  If you take off in the nomination campaign, you have jumped up to yet another track.   But despite this year’s example, being a Senator and depending on name recognition is not the best way…better to take your name recognition from being a Representative or (later) Senator, then run for Governor, because being governor is easier to present your case and record to be President.  Executives have better excuses for political mis-steps than Senators do.

But I digress.  The point is, it is all about levels, or tracks, or channels.

So these CEOs get the great salaries regardless of success or failure because they got on the CEO track.  Once there, you have obtained a “pay band” that will make you very wealthy, even if you screw things up.

So if you want to be rich, you should never just depending on doing your job well…you should do your job well in order to make the case for jumping up to the next higher track.

Do that, and the sky really is the limit.

Too many people don’t understand that they need to be looking to jump tracks…misunderstanding that may have more to do with “glass ceilings” than gender or race.

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Filed under economics, leadership/parenting, philosophy, Politics, Social Issues

Now is the Time on Sprockets Where We Ask Non-Politically Correct Questions…

On the previous piece about Octomom, a comment was left:

I blame Oprah for running shows on mothers who have 6+ kids in one go and receive public sponsorship from companies wanting to appear sympathetic. Clearly, octo-mom watched these shows and thought to herself how much free money and publicity she could receive if she topped the record by having eight kids.

That kind of triggered something for me.  The thought had been half-formed, but here it is now, 75% formed (and perhaps just enough to get me in trouble):

Do you agree that society (United States, at least) teaches women that they should get money for what they are, but men should only get money for what they do?

Male models are generally despised, as are men who marry for money, and men who are not “good providers ” (an term that is simultaneously archaic and yet appropriate for the way men are treated by “family” courts). 

There are certainly women who are successful and richly rewarded for what they do, yes.

But I really can’t see a man thinking like this.  Men don’t expect all of society to provide them with a comfortable life and extras for their kids.  In general, men expect to work for every single thing they get in life.  Is it any wonder more women vote Democrat and more men vote Republican?

Eh, there are a dozen ways you can poke holes in this post.  If you need help finding any, let me know in the comments and I’ll suggest a few.

Bottom line: This problem of being expected to get money/support just for the wonderfulness of being probably doesn’t infect that many women, and probably infects a number of men, too.  I just don’t like it.  I wouldn’t want my daughter thinking she can get out of a speeding ticket by crying, get special treatment from a salesman or official by batting her eyes, using her body to get cash, or combining attractiveness with ambiguous promises to string potential suitors along in order to get better treatment or romance.

I’ve seen it all too many times to count.

I guess that’s just the way it is.

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Filed under Badly-Thought Out Rants, rant, Social Issues, Two Kinds of People...