Hard and Soft

Back many years ago, when number 1 son was born (on COBRA) we were left with something like eighteen thousand dollars to pay off, and no job.  Worse, not only didn’t Dan have a job (okay, he did, but his job didn’t pay him.  Yes, we should have sued, but we were young and stupid.) but I also had been sidelined by pre-eclampsia for almost a year and therefore had lost all my free lance translation clients.  (Also I wasn’t in my right mind.  I don’t know if it was pre-eclampsia after effects or post partum depression, which I also did have, but I had real trouble figuring out tough problems like “the clasp on this little baby garment came off, how do I get it back on?”  I’ll note I packed that garment without a clasp and three years later when I unpacked it the only thing I couldn’t figure out is why that had been such a tough problem.  So I probably wouldn’t have been all that good at translation.)

During this time we went to Portugal.  My parents paid, they wanted to meet the baby.

While there, when I tried to explain the bind we were in (as in, why we’d probably have to move, and why we might lose our house, and why–) I always got the same thing “If you were here the birth would have been free, and employers can not just pay you because they don’t feel like it.  Are you sure you don’t want to stay?”

I couldn’t explain it, and I couldn’t put it into words.  This was before my own personal political awakening, and the afternoon when things suddenly made sense and linked to each other, and I had a reason for my feelings.  What they said made sense.  If we’d lived there life would be a lot safer and a lot softer.  We’d not have debts except perhaps a house (which is what we strive for.  And that I intend to pay off as we conquer the health cr*p and I can fully write.  Also, when we are not paying for the boys any longer.  So, two years.) What’s more, beyond the government programs, we’d have the support of an extended “tribe” of family who would take a lot of the sting off being young and poor.  When we were buying sofas at thrift stores, my brother was just getting my mom’s old ones for free, when she changed furniture.

But even though we considered working there for a while, until we were back on our feet, I didn’t want my son to grow up there.  And I couldn’t explain why.

Relatives and friends told me that the US system was unjust.  I mean, when you’re unemployed it’s the last possible time you can afford the exorbitant premiums of cobra (From Dan’s last job.  The one he was in not only didn’t pay, it also didn’t pay insurance) for practically no coverage.  Wasn’t it much better that the state picked up everything, and you had no worries.

It was only years later, when the crunch passed, that I started glimpsing why it wasn’t a better thing to live in the soft state of being taken care of.

We paid off that debt in two years, you see, even though it was half of Dan’s annual income.  We just lived really cheaply, mostly off rice and vegetables with a little bit of meat to flavor it.  (And that went to Robert after he started eating.)  And then in another year we saved enough for a down payment. And Dan got another job, and I started trying to get published.  By the time #2 son came along, we weren’t rich, but we were rich enough to splurge on things like flavored coffee once in a while. Yeah, I still bought 3 turkeys on the sales after thanksgiving, when they were $10 and dismembered them and we ate them for months disguised as various things (I have it on good authority most of the veal scalopini served in restaurants is actually turkey breast) but we weren’t starving.

Now we’re a little crazy in how tough we are on ourselves to get debts paid.  And I’m not holding us up as some sort of an example, because it’s rather obvious when it comes to money we’re not all there (for instance, we have no consumer credit.  None.  Which means there is no piece of furniture in this house that was bought new, and there very rarely are any clothes we buy new, too.)

But the thing is, after that point, is when I stopped being afraid.  I’m still not absolutely sure we’re adults as adults are supposed to be, mind, but I’m fairly sure we can survive financially, even if we can’t help the boys as much as we’d like to (but that might be good too, as it prevents them getting sidelined by degrees in line fishing and underwater basket weaving.)

These days I don’t discuss our system with my relatives very much.  There is very little point, because they’ll never see the advantage of a “Hard” system versus a “Soft” system.  You see, they never went through the tight point and emerged into daylight on the other side.

The point is not just that if you pay for your own health care, yeah, it can suck hairy goat, but you at least get to choose what you want, and how far you’re willing to go into debt.  Other than the fact that it was probably doctor’s error in giving me too much pitosin to stimulate labor (an error that could happen there too) it’s quite possible that Robert or I or both wouldn’t have lived through that.  Sure, the original doctor was terrible and gave me too much pitosin, then refused to believe the contractions had stopped.  But given that error, the monitoring of the baby and the emergency caesarean were very, very good.  Though even they weren’t sure they could save us both, they did.

Our medical preparation is double the time and far more rigorous than in most countries with socialized medicine.  But also, the doctor is ultimately a professional who can be ruined and sidelined by a law suit.  Government employees in socialized systems are immune from that.  The system is soft for them too.  Which means it might not be worth the hassle of fighting to save both mother and baby, when the overwhelming chance is one of them will die.

But that’s not all.  It’s that going through those periods of extreme need and extreme struggle molds you, and gives you strength to go through other things, and even to seek trouble, in order to reach a worthwhile goal.  I don’t know if without those three years of extreme privation, I’d have stuck with it through the series of kicks in the teeth that were my early attempts at getting published (and that my career often turns into.)  But the habit of clenching my teeth and facing the storm was there, and I could fall into it again.

The problem with soft systems is that they’re against everything man was molded to be by evolution.  We’re built on a scavenging ape.  That means we thrive on strife.  If a scavenging species has too much to eat, it stops “working.”  This is because as pre-human and early human, if you went out hunting while you had a half mammoth rotting in the cave, you’d have no advantage, and you’d only deplete game and make it impossible to live in that area in the future.

Knowing that you’re not going through a tight time (we never came close to starving, though we once found ourselves outside a soup kitchen, considering going in.  But the people going in were so obviously worse off than us, that we went to bed hungry and then the next morning figured out some way to buy food [no, I no longer remember what] or, that is a 50 lb bag of rice and bulk frozen veggies.) ties right into that ancient brain glitch that says “plenty of mammoth, rest now.”

But the thing is man doesn’t live by food alone.  There is pride and sense of purpose in a job or even an occupation like ours.  Sure, life with someone else (or someone else’s taxes) looking after you is softer, and easier.  But in the end, you never reach for what could be.  You’re not even aware it’s possible.

I completely understand how not just our welfare but our subsidized class can resent those better off than they are.  To them it is a sort of sorcery.  A lot of them assume it is either because you were born better off, or because you know some secret they don’t know.  Half the nonsense of micro-aggressions and institutional discrimination comes from this sense that there’s something they don’t QUITE grasp, that they can’t quite figure out; some secret to success that’s being kept away from them.  And if you multiply that by millions, you understand why so many countries envy and resent and hate the US.  It’s because despite our “Hard” system which is SELF-EVIDENTLY worse for people, we produce more, we invent more, we innovate more.  And they can’t figure out why, so it must be some horrible trick/hegemony/colonialism/whatever the Marxists are yapping about nowadays.

Only it isn’t.  It’s just relatively (compared to the rest of the world) free individuals, striving to do the best they can in any way they can, because very few of us have anything to catch us if we fall.  That’s it.  That’s the whole of the secret and the magic trick.

Heinlein said you shouldn’t ruin your children by making their lives too easy.  The same goes double and writ large for your citizens.

Sure, we’re human, and out of charity, we will help those who have fallen and can’t get up.  But that should be a temporary thing, until they find their feet again.

Too much hardness can kill, and no one is suggesting throwing widows and orphans out into a snow storm.  But too much softness can smother, and keep you in a life of dependency and depression that is, in many ways, worse than death.

 

 

 

 

281 responses to “Hard and Soft

  1. Relatives and friends told me that the US system was unjust.

    This is true. All socio-political systems are unjust. The only question is how great will the injustice be and against whom (and in what ways) will that injustice become manifested.

    I find I prefer a system where the unjustness is overt and addressable rather than implicit and not up for discussion.

    • In what way is “If you don’t work, you don’t eat” unjust?

      • It’s unjust when you can’t work, because of sickness or injury. But then, that’s where charity comes in, and Americans are highly charitable…

        It’s also unjust when you can’t *find* work, but (1) the charity thing comes into play again, and (2) a lot of times, you can’t find work because government, in its infinite wizdom, thinks they can magically make work by burdening businesses with onerous regulations and then raise the minimum wage (all of which is done because we have to be just and fair!)…

        • I would agree that it’s uncharitable and unfortunate, but it’s not unjust. Keeping someone from working would be the unjust part, not the linking of working and eating.

          Remember that this law applies to pretty much every species on the planet. Plants have to grow to the light and the water, plankton have to move food into their mouths, higher animals have to hunt – even if they’re only hunting grass. The only life forms that it doesn’t apply to are those that have something else working for them, i.e. children.

          • Yeah, “unjust” isn’t the right word — but there’s something in the human psyche that makes it feel like it’s injustice when someone can’t eat through no fault of their own. It’s still just, because the “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” system is being applied fairly and even-handedly — but it isn’t fair in this case that the person with a debilitating genetic condition, who can’t work, isn’t allowed to eat. (Which is, as Alpheus says, where charity comes in). “Unfair” is a better term than “unjust” here.

            And although the human desire for things to be fair is the way that communism tricks the hindbrain*, that doesn’t mean it’s a desire we should never listen to. Because our desire for things to be fair is why we engage in charity and help the weak. It’s a desire that’s about 75-80% reliable in doing good — it just needs to have a counterbalancing check run on it by the intellect. (If I give charity to this person, what will the long-term effects be? Will I be helping him out of a temporary problem so that he can pick up the load and carry on? Or will I be enabling him to spend money on an addiction, or infantilizing him so that he never learns to function as an adult? Sometimes the best way to help someone is to REFUSE to give them money outright, and instead give them a job to do and only pay them when the job is done.)

            * Because communism would be a great system if it was run by omniscient, omnibenevolent beings who would never favor friends and family over strangers, and whose five-year plans actually took into account all the necessary factors. But as a system for humans, who are corruptible and can’t know everything, it sucks worse than ALMOST any other system known.

            • I should point out that I’m advocating for a just *system* not a code of behavior. The position of the legal system should be that you are entitled to what you worked for, no more and no less. What you and others choose to do with that is up to the individuals involved.

              • Very much agreed. Forced charity is unjust.

              • The position of the legal system should be that you are entitled to what you worked for, no more and no less.

                While I know that is not what you mean, this system would match up with the French one mentioned recently where the gov’t confiscated expensive stuff when the owner died.

                Heirs didn’t work for it, after all.

                • On the other hand, neither did the state.

                  • Ah, but the state is only there to serve the people, thus it worked for the person, thus it has some claim.

                    Even if all it did was provide legal framework, it worked.

                    • But presumably our poor fellow paid taxes his entire life*, so the state has been paid for its work. Digging a ditch once doesn’t entitle you to eating forever.

                      *perhaps you could build a system of government funded entirely by estate taxes, but I don’t think it would work that well.

                    • Now you’re going into what you feel is an appropriate level of repayment, which is far outside of the original format of “you are entitled to what you work for.”

                    • Not at all. An appropriate level of repayment is a necessary part of figuring out what your labor entitles you to. At least outside of hunter-gatherers. Nobody expects workers in the widget factory to get paid in widgets (excluding the trivial case where widgets are currency).

                    • Who put you in charge of other folks’ labor value?

                    • I’m not in charge. It’s up to the person selling the labor to determine if the price is right.

                    • You *did* put yourself in charge, though.

                    • Rather, it’s up to the buyer and the seller of labor to negotiate to come to a mutually acceptable price.

      • Because every human who ever lived was fed when they could not work– at the very least, when they were infants and children.

        To take a benefit, but not pass it on, is unjust.

        (Note that it’s when they could not possibly care for themselves, rather than “didn’t wanna.”)

        • And those children in turn cared for their parents when they could no longer work for themselves. But that’s based on love and familial ties and is fundamentally the giver’s choice. I’m not saying that charity should be outlawed, but the default stance should be to expect people to earn their keep. Nobody should expect to receive something they didn’t earn.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, IIRC when St Paul said “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, he was talking about people who could work and were wanting the local church to take care of them.

          Admittedly, those people claimed to want to spend all of their time in Prayer.

          • The USCCB’s footnote says that basically they were doing the “END IS NIGH” thing and had stopped working for a living.

            So sort of “wanted to spend all their time praying,” but sort of “we’re all gonna die and go to heaven tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.”

    • “Justice” refers empirically to a collection of cheap heuristics embodied in brain circuitry. Culture works within these contingent facts about human nature. Trying to catch this steaming mess in a philosophical net is a category error.

      As for sex or revenge, our passion for justice must be restrained, harnessed, and extended. The payoff is a civilization. Different modifications yield different civilizations, each with their unique set of moral sentiments derived from arguably the same substrate. (But see also V. Day for an argument that differences in the genome may also be in play.)

      That delicious feeling of righteous wrath we call self-righteousness presents itself as self-validating. This may be good enough for chimpanzees, but it’s not good enough for humans. It’s just another emotion.

      None of this mitigates my desire to decorate D.C. outdoor lighting fixtures with the purveyors of the current seditious attempts to subvert the electors. But it puts it in a larger context.

  2. I completely understand how not just our welfare but our subsidized class can resent those better off than they are. To them it is a sort of sorcery. A lot of them assume it is either because you were born better off, or because you know some secret they don’t know.

    You do know something they don’t know. You know through experience that it is possible to get to the end of the tunnel and into the light.

    • Well, there’s a secret. It’s called hard work. Hard work doesn’t always provide the benefits they resent, but not working hard nearly always keeps you from those benefits.

      • Even that isn’t all that hard. Show up to work on time (or early), do what you’re supposed to do (and more), work the job- not the clock, figure out how to make the job faster/better, and stay until the job is done.
        Don’t watch the clock, don’t take excessive breaks, don’t be the guy who stands around until he is told to do something, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, don’t bitch & moan (especially to clients), and don’t do just the bare minimum.
        All the above are simple things, but so uncommon these days.

        • All these things are obvious to you and me, but you’d be amazed (well, probably not) by how many people don’t understand them.

        • Don’t lean on the freezer, telling your manager that you are absolutely the hardest worker in the store, while your co-workers are scurrying around you trying to get everything done.

          • The moment you take a break is the moment you supervisor will drop by. 😉

            • There are many people in that store who work far harder than I do (managers and maintenance crew for starters). That woman was not one of them.

              • Was only referring to my own luck, which was I could be busting my rump, and the moment I paused a supervisor or customers would drive by.

                On work ethic: Our crews tend to work harder for some reason. One soft-spoken lineman, off helping restore lights after a disaster, blew his top when they got the line back up and the “bird dog” (an employee of the utility they were assisting who knew how the lines fed) said they’d connect it in the morning.

                They got the lights back on before they went in.

                • I remember the Christmas that I worked for a catalog, taking incoming phone calls. This was when computer ordering systems were working, but online ordering hadn’t really taken off yet, so we actually got a number of calls from people who were looking at the products on the website and ordering over the phone. (You could tell by the prefix code.) Your seat was assigned by whichever was open when you came off break or lunch, and one time I got put at the end of an aisle.

                  Now, we got points for upsell products, and if you were smart you figured them out at the beginning of your day, so that when somebody went to order something similar, you could ask them if they wanted this other product that was twice as much for only a small bit more. I was good enough that my supervisor told me at the end of the season that I had great numbers on that (the key was remembering to put in the upsell code), but that was the day I really got to shine, because every time a manager walked by and heard me try an upsell, they gave me something.

                  Note that this was a food catalog, and I was a wee bit poor at the time, so getting things like baklava and chocolate cherries and fudgy cake was awesome.

            • I found the best thing is to take your break when your supervisor does.
              Better still- make the coffee for break time.

          • Pft. When I was once fired for “not getting enough work done”, every single other person in the (small) shop said the owner was crazy.

        • It’s called “a work ethic” and it seems to be in really short supply in large parts of our population. I don’t think it is related to intelligence, but may be genetic to some degree – more likely social and family origin. The antithesis is “sloth”.

          • It’s frequently beaten out of people– if you do the job instead of the hours, you’re quite likely to be called into the office, informed that doing so again will get you fired, and get a formal write-up.

            Union sued “on behalf” of some people who took the extra two-three minutes to finish a job before taking their break. Violation of the contract.

          • I’ve seen lots of sociological studies that correlate lack of work ethics and short time orientation* with many different variables — and the one that correlates best is growing up fatherless. (The studies usually just say “in a single-parent household”, but in the vast majority of cases in America that means growing up fatherless rather than growing up motherless).

            It seems that the old stereotypes about mothers giving kids nurturing and teaching them empathy, and fathers giving kids structure and teaching them discipline, had something to them. Fathers can teach empathy and mothers can teach discipline, and some individuals are very good at teaching those things that are stereotypically the province of the opposite sex. But in the larger population, the trends fit the stereotype very well.

            Although there’s an alternative hypothesis that also fits the known facts, and can’t be dismissed lightly: that people who get divorced for frivolous reasons**, and who have thereby shown that they consider their honor and their sacred vows to be worth nothing, also do not teach their children about duty and honoring your obligations even when it doesn’t feel good. Because how can you teach what you’ve never known yourself? And so “[w]e make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

            In short: teach your children well.

            * Short time orientation vs. long time orientation can be seen in the classic exercise where a child is given a plate with a piece of his/her favorite candy on it and told, “You can eat this candy any time you want. But if you wait fifteen minutes before eating it, I’ll give you a second piece of candy, and then you can eat both of them. If you eat it before fifteen minutes are up, you’ll only get this one.” The older the kid is, the more likely he/she is to display long time orientation by deferring immediate gratification in exchange for more gratification in the future. See also: saving and/or investing money.

            ** I.e., NOT because her husband abandoned the family, or because his wife had an affair and now says she doesn’t love him anymore. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I distinctly remember reading that the VAST majority of divorces in the U.S. these days are for frivolous reasons.

            • Time sense, like common sense, is almost a superpower these days.

            • I distinctly remember reading that the VAST majority of divorces in the U.S. these days are for frivolous reasons.

              I think that is more an inference but we can get three things out of the statistics:

              1. The vast majority are no fault.
              2. The majority of the filing is done by women (about 2:1…I’m in the 1, go me).
              3. There seems to be a late 30s/early 40s sweet spot for women filing that min-maxs labor intensive parts of child rearing versus alimony and child support payment. There is at least one study (and I believe several…you don’t have to dive far into the manosphere to find references) that shows such economic min-max behavior does play a conscious role in some women’s choice of when and quite possibly if to divorce.

              From those three things you might infer the majority of divorces are frivolous (especially if you combine the widespread reading of divorce porn by women) but I don’t know of any direct evidence.

              • “Frivolous” doesn’t seem to fit a pattern of conscious predation.

                • I’m not sure how conscious the predation is or that it is seen as predation as opposed to “what she deserved for all he did to her.”

              • Last long-term study I saw, women did tend to file more often– but the percent stayed almost exactly the same from back before no-fault was possible.

                There’s also a nasty habit among modern adult males* of never doing the paperwork. They’ll just… sit there, and finally the woman files to formally cut off all financial links. My sister’s ex actually kicked her out of the house, there were witnesses that he was physically abusive, but she’s the one who filed, and went no fault because it’s cheaper. At least in Oregon, it’s really hard to prove any kind of fault unless you’ve got serious cash. (She was told that because she hadn’t left the house on a stretcher, it didn’t matter. That she’d be unlikely to survive to become divorced in that situation didn’t carry any water.)

                * An awful large number of the folks these days are not women or men, they’re adult males and adult females. No fault drives me nuts in large part because it enables ’em to hurt folks who are being adults.

                • There’s also a nasty habit among modern adult males* of never doing the paperwork.

                  That’s how I finally got divorced. First wife moved out, but never cut ties. In fact, every now and she called and needed me to do husband stuff (mostly involving money).

                  Then I met someone who eventually moved on because I was still just separated.

            • Oh good, there’s a reasonable upper limit. I recently read a description that made it sound like it was “wait until I get back” and to find out how long the kid would go they didn’t come back until the kid ate the candy. Didn’t seem right, but I hadn’t hunted down a better one since.

        • Aye.
          Keep moving – usefully.
          There is a name for when movement ceases: death.
          Literal or figurative.

        • There’s a local high school that is set up like a business—you dress accordingly, you get docked for being late, and so forth—deliberately so as to teach basic work ethic. It’s funded by various businesses who get the kids as interns a few hours a week, and it’s set up in those areas where the kids have never had the opportunity to learn these things from their families. I’d really like to see the success stats from this school, because they seem to be doing the right thing. (Catholic school, FWIW. I don’t think it’s run by the diocese, though, and I don’t know what, if any, theology they teach.)

      • And those dead end jobs at major retailers? My son started 2 years ago as a cashier at that horrible big box HQed in AR, well known by liberals for exploiting the workers. He’s now salaried management at age 26, working with people in their late 30’s to mid 40’s. How did he do it? Worked hard, did all their online training, worked hard, learned all the store systems so management was always calling him to troubleshoot, worked hard, learned all the other departments besides the one he was assigned to, worked hard….. and received a promotion every 6 months except for the last. Took him 8. Because he was competing with people much older then him. Had to move 2/3 of the way across country for the promotion. Another thing you might have to be willing to do to get ahead. If the jobs aren’t where you are, you have to be willing to pack up and move.

        • Yup. I did the same thing, moved from PA to MD when I found myself out of work, because I had a job offer in MD. You have to be willing to do what’s needed to support yourself and your family.

          • One of the reasons this recession has been so pernicious is that so many people ended up trapped in upside-down mortgages. Even if they could make the payments, they couldn’t move to where better-paying jobs were without taking a $X0,000 hit.

        • My husband’s corporate job started with his being hired due to warehouse experience, shipping & receiving. The group he works for even has internalized the concept that if you’re having to work excessive hours (more than 45 or so on a regular basis), you’re doing something wrong.

          • “if you’re having to work excessive hours (more than 45 or so on a regular basis), you’re doing something wrong.”

            Besides not arranging to meet the salesweasel who sold the project by underbidding in a dark alley? From my experience, every tech company routinely expects 45+ hours a week because if they actually bid the right LOE, the others who underbid would put them out of business.

            • yep. In tech that’s true.

            • Technically he’s at a tech company, but he’s working logistics. And weird procedural issues. (Yes, you can be intuitive about procedural design.) But they do have the corporate culture of salaried employees actually getting to enjoy family time, yes. But they’re big enough to do that. (You may be able to guess the company. Don’t worry about it.)

      • scott2harrison

        Even more than hard work, it is deferred gratification. It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you spend all your income the same day that you get it.

        • There are two things that make a person an adult: deferred gratification and willingness to take responsibility for your actions. If you lack either one, you’re just a child, regardless of your age.

          • Comments like this make me wish there was an up arrow or applause button.

          • This. I’ve long contended that the ability to delay, or even to deny, gratification of your desires is what differentiates adult humans from animals and children. This perplexes those Wiccan acquaintances of mine who ascribe to the tenet ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’.

            • The Rede is much harder than they think it is to keep, honestly. *shakes head*

              • I find the Rede much easier to observe in the breach than in the observance. As I was taught, is was “An (if it and should it) harm none, do as thou wilt.” And there is / was no conceptual limit to “none”.

                I try to limit myself to calling other drivers bad and evil names, rather than wishing harm upon them, though sometimes I do wish that they find the justice their conduct deserves.
                Not often, because I remember Thomas More ( or some other medieaval English priest ) telling another person that he hoped that even the Devil would receive the protection of the law, for if the Devil was without the protection of the law, all the rest of us would be worse off than that.
                JPDev

                • Causing harm or allowing someone to get hurt by inaction, or allowing a worse / greater harm to come to pass because of taking up an extremely nonconfrontational / pacifist stance, I remember reading, was also causing harm. A small hurt was forgivable, as opposed to the worse one, or so I read somewhere once. (Also, if one were to take the Rede entirely literally, you would not be able to eat – not plants, not meat.)

                  Wishing someone would get karma’s comeuppance or praying for justice isn’t the same as maliciously wishing for someone to get into a fatal car accident. Proportion seems to be part of the interpretation. At least in mine.

                  • Found a work around to the “I hope they get what they deserve!” type ill-wishing.

                    I sincerely pray that they not get anybody killed or seriously hurt. I can wish that people not die…and there’s a whole lot of scared they can get, which might stop them from being so foolish, without being hurt; I can trust Himself to figure out how it will work. 😀

                  • scott2harrison

                    The Rede’s actual grammatical meaning says that if it will harm no-one do whatever you want. It says nothing about what if it will harm someone. That would require the addition of something like “An it harm any do not.”.
                    I am not a Wiccan, so I have limited room to criticize, on the other hand I would trust few of the Wiccan’s that I have known to understand more than the simplest concepts.

                • It was that saint, though as portrayed in a movie/book rather than in proven fact, but all I’ve heard the theory behind it is one he’d support:
                  Alice More: “Arrest him!”
                  Sir Thomas More: “For what?”
                  Alice More: “He’s dangerous!”
                  Margaret More: “Father, that man’s bad!”
                  Sir Thomas More: “There’s no law against that.”
                  William Roper: “There is: God’s law!”
                  Sir Thomas More: “Then God can arrest him.”
                  Alice More: “While you talk, he’s gone.”
                  Sir Thomas More: “And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!”
                  William Roper: “So, now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!”
                  Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
                  William Roper: “Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
                  Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

                • I try to limit myself to calling other drivers bad and evil names, rather than wishing harm upon them…

                  I just realized one of the odd things about me – I don’t wish for harm to come to people. *I* might get the urge to hurt someone, and I definitely may call them unkind names, but as far as wishing for things to happen to people, I tend more to think that I wish the appropriate authorities were around to explain to them (with whatever normal consequences that would entail) the error of their ways. I simply can’t remember ever even thinking, “I hope you die in a fire” or “I hope you get hit by a bus”.

                  Note that this is not to make me out to be some sort of saint. I would NEVER make that claim. 😈 I just never realized that particular difference before.

                  • ‘s why the work-around works so well for me– I never want anybody to get hurt, so thinking about the actual results of “I hope you get what you have coming for you” when someone is driving like an idiot in a large metal eggshell makes it so I can truly desire what I pray for, even if I can’t sit there and pray something like “oh, Lord, please be super duper nice to those guys and make sure they have a delightful day!”

                • Yeah, the first ‘An ye harm no other’ part was explained to me shortly after I heard about the second part, and the whole made a lot more sense to me. Also that the ‘enforcement’ mechanism was the Rule of Return – that whatever you put out into the Universe is returned to you three times over.

        • Currently learning this one the hard way. Paycheck is assigned to bills as I get them and for now focused on chipping away at stuff. But I made mistakes and gotta learn from em.

        • Deferred gratification is the one I’m still trying to learn to my great shame.

  3. it prevents them getting sidelined by degrees in line fishing and underwater basket weaving.

    To judge by the amount which hits my inbox, online phishing must be a reasonably lucrative activity … although I question the utility of a degree in that.

    As for underwater basket weaving, I suspect that if you call it “performance art” and do it in the nude it might qualify you for multiple “genius” grants. (That might only apply to reasonably shapely women, however; having not been an aficionado of the artistic genre called performance I have only the vague impression that those few who’ve achieved some degree of financial success from it are those who might, in other circumstances, be termed “babes.”) At any rate, good branding is, in many fields, critical to financial success.

    • I read in the WSJ many years ago about an underwater pumpkin carving contest at Lake Perris in Riverside County, CA. Pumpkins float, so you have to hold them tightly and be really, really careful with the knife in your hand as you are on the left, right, and top sides of the pumpkin.

    • Hmmm. I thought it might be the skill of weaving baskets to be used underwater, i.e., ones that won’t float away, that won’t deteriorate from the aqueous environment, etc.

      • It might actually be the practice of weaving baskets while the baskets are underwater, in order to keep the materials pliable.

        But don’t quote me on that.

      • Somewhere I saw a photo of students in a SCUBA class sitting on the bottom of a pool, holding baskets, with the caption “Final Exam in Underwater Basketweaving 201”. 😀

    • Laurie Anderson, who is one of the few (only?) performance artists who are actually artists is not unattractive but I wouldn’t call her a babe.

      I would call her hard working and willing to experiment and learn from experiments that fail instead of whine. Given how much of her own gear she made she had no other choice.

    • phishing is extremely low cost per unit.

  4. There was a YA novel I read many years ago about a girl with a hyper-controlling father. The MC decided to risk earning money in order to do something different after high school despite her father’s plans (work in the family business), and managed to find a way despite her father’s attempts to stop her. Her younger sister let an older man seduce her on promises of taking her away and providing for her, and ended up still at home, even more under her father’s domination. (The father wasn’t evil, and he truly believed that he knew what was best for the girls, but he went way overboard. The mother had learned how to manipulate him, but the MC didn’t realize it.) That story stuck with me, as you can tell.

  5. Oft overlooked by the soft-headedhearted is the obvious fact that adversity builds moral fibre. I keep in mind an article read many years ago about volunteers being needed to shale the trees growing in indoor malls because the lack of winds kept them from developing the strong fibre needed to support their mature weight.

    One of the lessons taken from the two World Wars is that Americans were distinct for not “knowing when we’re beaten” and through that ignorance often achieving victory or, if not that, sufficient delay of our foes’ plans to defeat them. In situations in which French and English troops would have acknowledged the hopelessness of their situation and surrendered or retreated, American said “Nuts!” and fought on, holding out until reinforcements could arrive.

    I have been of late considering an American truism, one in response to assertions that the opposing team is bigger, better, stronger and — on paper — destined to win:


    That is why we play the game. Life is not a Fantasy League where everything is determined on paper. Eventually even the Cubs can win a World Series. And sometimes a wholly unqualified* person can win the presidency against the most qualified candidate evah!

    *Actual qualifications for the position: being native born and over the age of thirty-five. No other qualifications are established.

    • If you’re starting plants from seed indoors, there’s a process called “hardening off.” The traditional way is to move the small pots outside for increasingly long periods of time, but there’s a cheat you can do indoors, and that’s to use an oscillating fan to blow the plants around. Start off slow & low and later on, do higher speeds from different directions. Plants started that way tend to be extremely hardy when actually planted in the garden.

    • “*Actual qualifications for the position: being native born and over the age of thirty-five. No other qualifications are established.”

      This isn’t entirely true. You also have to pass through the Electoral College, which now-a-days means that you have to convince a lot of people that you can do the job, or at least you aren’t going to tank the country worse than other candidates. (This is why I didn’t vote for the guy, however relieved I was that the other major contender lost.)

      I have always raised an eyebrow to the people who have said “Trump is Evil because of X, Y and Z” and then followed up with “so vote for Hillary!” because every X, Y and Z that you could point out about Trump was true, and then some, for Hillary. The “qualifications” of the most qualified candidate evah! left much to be desired…

    • It’s gneiss to shale an unstressed tree
      as gneiss as cooking bacon
      The stress you see will find the routes
      Unbalanced force has taken.

  6. It’s like investment 101: the greater the odds of spectacular success, the greater the odds of spectacular failure. As risk goes down, so does the odds of success. I suspect the main drive of socialism isn’t so much concern for the poor, but that someone’s neighbor might do better.

  7. Been in that hole. Dealt with a wife suffering PPD.
    Stared long and hard at that application for WIC, et al.
    Been screwed by unethical and dishonest businessmen and bosses.
    Got that T-shirt. Bonus tip: it counts as +99 psychological armor.
    But now we both have REAL degrees with careers that pay very well.

    Butterflies NEED that fight to get out of their cocoon.
    it’s the struggle that energizes the juices for their wings.

  8. “The US system is unjust.” Really? Seriously? Umm… how about no?

    I’m sorry, but “unjust” is forcing someone else to pay for something you want because you won’t pay for it yourself. “Unjust” is expecting that you should never have to be responsible for yourself. “Unjust” is forcing people to give you their money at gunpoint (Yes, that is what taxes are. Try not paying them and see if you don’t end up staring down the business end of a gun on the way to the jailhouse) for something you should be providing for yourself.

    “But you don’t know what it’s like.”

    Bet me. I’ve been uninsured and afraid to go to the doctor. I’ve lain in bed with my toe swelling up from gout and gone to the store to by cherry juice to cure it because I couldn’t afford a doctor’s appointment and medicine. I’ve had a hundred and four degree fever that sent me home from work and took two Tylenol then passed out on the couch and went back to work the next day with no visit to a doctor. Yes, it sucks but if I did it they can too.

    No, it wasn’t “society’s” job to provide me with insurance then and no it’s not my job to provide insurance to anyone else now. That’s just the way it is. Taking what isn’t yours by force is no less wrong if you get the government to do your dirty work for you.

    • If you grow up in the European socialist mindset, then justice means “everyone has access to a minimum, no one has access to what other people can’t have access to,” at least in theory. I listened to a French tour guide explaining how much better the French system was because they had government-supported local produce and food and government-supported education and medical care and it was only fair to pay 60% of your income for such a wonderful system. And the nation had a magnificent historical patrimony because if individuals bought certain high-value works of art or properties, the government claimed them after the individual’s death, because they had become the property of all French. The individual was allowed to enjoy sole custody as a reward for bringing them into the “nation” or restoring them, but that only lasted for the individual’s lifetime.

      That’s not what I consider justice, but the guide certainly did, and she was incredibly proud of the system.

      • For some reason, I would like to say to this guide “But our system is better because we went to the moon.”

        Granted, some people have made a compelling case that this was the pinnacle of civilization, and I’m somewhat partial to that claim. *But* going to the moon has also pushed technology in ways that have benefited everyone in the long run.

        It isn’t just going to the moon. It’s nuclear power (you’re welcome, France!). It’s medical advances. It’s aviation (well, France was in the lead for a little bit, until the US Government stepped in and practically made all aviation patents null and void*…)

        Granted, our system harms our poor, but hopefully we’ll figure out how to end the obesity epidemic that plagues them. (I suspect that it might have something to do with the “welfare cliffs” that cause a family to lose net income when they manage to earn a certain amount, resulting in a dramatic drop in welfare benefits…so, in other words, our obesity epidemic is in part because we’re “softer” than Europeans give us credit for…)
        .
        .
        * I had no idea how bad the patent system enabled Orville and Wilber Wright to hold the aviation industry back until I attended a presentation on it just a few months ago. In order to catch up to European levels in the run-up to WWI, the US, for all practical purposes, voided all aviation patents.

        • Sad thing is that patent trolls are doing similar now. Just as patenting the idea of controlling roll by changing wing shape (as opposed to the mechanism used) is dumb so is patenting the idea of streaming movies.

        • Going to the moon wasn’t the pinnacle, just a local maximum. About the time Armstrong walked on the moon the Progressives had taken over the Democrat party and we’ve been spending the past 4 years fighting them off. If they keep acting the way they have, and the Republicans are even a little bit intelligent, we’ll finally have them beat in three or four election cycles and can get back to going to the stars.

          • And then along came the generation that found chanting “Money for food, not rockets” and “Legalize Abortion” were no contradiction whatsoever…

            • Perhaps if we persuade the various Arts Funds to make grants for large scale public art works on Luna, visible from Earth? Lunar emoji, anyone?

          • I am awaiting announcement of Trump’s pick for director of NASA. Rumours that it might be Newt Gingrich seem too interesting to be credible.

          • I’m perfectly fine with getting government out of space exploration, so I’d even be willing to either get rid of NASA or limit it to space probes.

            Having said that, government has to get *completely* out: it doesn’t count if we have a regulatory regime that completely strangles future endeavors.

            In particular, I’m convinced that thorium would be very important for at least exploring the solar system, but because it’s “radioactive” (with a half-life of 14 billion years, almost three times the age of the earth, the word barely fits) we can’t do *anything* with it — up to and including mining rare earths, because thorium is always found with the important ones.

            • Speaking of Thorium, I read a book written in 1952 where Thorium was of great interest as a fuel for spaceship nuclear reactors, and the mission was to bring a Thorium-rich asteroid to near Earth orbit for mining (you may wonder why bring it in – pretty sure it was to keep it secure from the protagonist’s political side’s opponents).

    • Jim, different definitions of unjust, which is why there’s no point talking to them.
      Think of it like a teacher in a school: if you know a kid is suffering from a tummy ache it’s unjust to give them a test.
      OTOH it is just to let adult individuals make their own mistakes and suffer from them to learn. It is just to give each person as much liberty as possible, and it is just not to take other people’s money to pay for someone else’s mistakes.
      But by “unjust” they mean “unfair” — again, think school.
      We don’t believe anyone has the right to determine “justice” for us. It’s best done by letting each pursue his/her own happiness.
      Again, there’s no talking across that divide.

      • And that’s exactly why we can’t let them redefine words to make their childish demands seem like what adults should desire.

      • scott2harrison

        I would say rather that if the kid is suffering from a tummy ache, it is inaccurate to give him a test as the results will be off.

        • Depends on the reason for the tummy ache. Because tummy aches can be caused by stress, or used as an expression for general unhappiness. (It’s not like a fever, which can be proven/disproven by a thermometer.)

          If a normally healthy kid has a tummy ache, you know the results are going to be off – “unfair”, as it’s posited. But if the kid has a history of getting a tummy ache every single time they’re confronted by adversity – tests, being called on in class, the deadline for handing in assignments, etc… sometimes the only “fair” thing to do is to give the kid the test anyway, instead of letting him psyche himself out of every challenge, while all the classmates have to watch him get off consequence-free and still do the work.

          And then he’ll learn that sometimes, even if he has a tummy-ache, he still has to pick himself up and do the work. And if he fails, that it’s not the end of the world: that he now is expected to pick himself up and do the work again.

          • scott2harrison

            My point was not that it was unfair, quite frankly I don’t care about fairness anymore. My point is that the supposed purpose of a test is to determine what the kid has/has not learned so that they can either relearn it, or advance to other stuff and that to do that the test must be accurate. Fair or not has nothing to do with it.

      • Think of it like a teacher in a school: if you know a kid is suffering from a tummy ache it’s unjust to give them a test.

        While driving me to work my wife got a call from a friend. My wife has known her and her husband since before they were married. They have a ten year old son. The husband has spent the past three or so years fighting cancer and his immune system was weak enough 8 days ago he wound up in the hospital with pneumonia. It is the friend’s birthday.

        Her birthday present, ten days before Christmas, was to have to make the choice to take her husband off of life support leaving her to raise their son alone. She called my wife so my wife could visit him one last time.

        There is nothing in that situation that is remotely just.

        Where do these morons think they will find the teacher who excuses him from pneumonia because it is Christmas? Who excuses him from pneumonia because it is his wife’s birthday? Who excuses him from pneumonia because his son is ten?

        How will a child who didn’t have to suffer the “injustice” (*spit*) of taking a test while having a tummy ache going to survive the injustice of losing a husband or dying never seeing your boy become a man?

        A weight lifter cannot lift 200 kilos on his first lift nor can a runner run a marathon on their first jog. Yet life is full of 200 kilo weights and marathon runs.

        Excuse them optional light weights and short runs now does nothing but leave them unready for the heavier and longer runs where there is no teacher to excuse them.

    • Reminds me of the big to-do that some Dem congresscritters made a while back about “living on minimum wage”. They bought stuff, took pictures of their receipts to prove how much money they were spending, and then whined and complained about how difficult it was to live on minimum wage, get a Starbucks coffee in the morning, buy lunch at…

      Wait…

      You’re living on minimum wage and buying at Starbucks?

      (note – I don’t remember if any of the congresscritters actually did go to Starbucks specifically, but Starbucks is indicative of the kinds of things that they viewed as “necessities”)

      • As I recall, it was trying to live on the food budget of the average SNAP reciepient (ignore for the moment that it is SUPPLEMENTAL nutritional assistance, thus the “average” reciepient has a job and other income to spend on food). Whole Foods was the one I remember being big. The idea that you might be able to live without the organic froofy varieties of most products (available at stores not nicknamed “Whole Paycheck”) simply did not compute for them.

        I remember watching these idiots and wondering if they were failing on purpose (wouldn’t be much of a publicity stunt if the ultimate conclusion was, “It’s not a lot of fun, but you can survive just fine”) or if these people were all raised by French poodles and had absolutely no clue how to live on a budget.

        • As I recall, it was trying to live on the food budget of the average SNAP reciepient

          They were also only doing it for a week. That means nothing carried over from buying in bulk when things were on sale last week or the week before.

        • Embrace the power of “and.”

          It’s also relevant that food stamps are monthly, not weekly, and you can accumulate up to 3 months in your account in my state. This is important for sales and cooking in bulk — scrimp and save until you can afford a large cheap cut of meat, cook for a long time on low, freeze most of the results, etc.

          I do think changing the program to allow people to buy Costco memberships (& similar) with food stamps would be a good plan, and easy to implement. I also think that allowing people to buy kitchen equipment with food stamps would be a good idea, but probably harder than it sounds. (Refrigerators? Microwaves? Stoves? Knives? Slow cookers? Pots & pans?)

          • I am lucky. Currently on social assistance now. I had almost all the tools I needed before that happened so I am good. As well I have been maintaining my Costco membership because of the bulk cheap items that I need every few months. I budget, scrimp, do with out, or do with lesser (no name brands vs. named brands). It’s not easy working with such limitations. Doable if you don’t need that starcrap or eat out every day.

          • Offer the Costco memberships in addition to the food stamps, have the government tell Costco what they’re going to pay for those memberships and require Costco to accept food stamps – Costco is a big proponent of Obamacare and higher minimum wages, let them see how it feels.

            As for kitchen equipment, if you’re on public assistance you can request an inspector come to your home and note what you’re lacking for a basic kitchen and have it supplied. There should also be local places where people can get lessons in basic cooking, cleaning, clothing repair. You know, home ec.

            • Costco is a big proponent of Obamacare and higher minimum wages, let them see how it feels.

              That is a strategic business choice that mainly has to do with erecting barriers to new competition and not ideology, also known as why big business loves big government.

          • This is actually something I’ve contemplated as a charitable endeavor, either on my own or as part of an organization like the First Class/Chief Petty Officer Associations. Specifically within the Navy, we have young men and women getting their first apartment, but have no idea what to even buy to set up housekeeping, and still less of an idea how to use things. Shopping at the dollar store or similar, a sauce pan, griddle/skillet, and a casserole dish shouldn’t be too expensive.

            I think next time I contemplate donating to a food pantry, I might include a “Kitchen Kit” or similar, since a lot of the things donated food wise are staples that might require preparation items that aren’t present in a lot of poor people’s homes (they certainly weren’t in mine growing up).

            Also, I wonder if the Fleet and Family Support Center offers cooking classes, or might be interested in doing so. I shall find out in a couple of weeks when we return.

            • but have no idea what to even buy to set up housekeeping, and still less of an idea how to use things.

              Between not having functioning families and the death of home-ec classes I’m not surprised but it still bugs me. I realized something similar a few years back when I noticed at any BDSM conference generally half or more of the classes aimed at submissives are about running and maintaining a household: cooking, budgeting, cleaning, ironing, sewing, and so on. Admittedly some are a bit grander than basic home-ec. A lot of these people are ready to be Butler, Housekeeper, or Wife (Mistress of the House but not that kind of Mistress) in a Victorian or Edwardian upper middle class or lower upper class household. I get a laugh all the time at the overlap between them and the supermom cultural (which has a very strong Christian component in many places).

              Still, it floors me how we’re having to teach people basic adult skills as part of a sexual sub-culture. What are we not doing for our kids.

            • They usually do, at least a couple of times a year– problem being that their timing usually sucks.

              I have a half-finished cookbook somewhere to introduce people to survival cooking, sorted by what equipment you have, and assuming nothing. Covers the how and why of food safety, etc.
              Half finished because I haven’t ever actually cooked with an electric skillet (cheapest one at Walmart, ten bucks on sale) before, and I had to try all the recipes as I used them.

        • available at stores not nicknamed “Whole Paycheck”

          My wife has worked at Kroger and Trader Joe’s. While the latter isn’t quite as pricey as Whole Paycheck it is expensive enough that we don’t buy nearly as much as we did there when she got an employee discount.

          Guess where she saw more SNAP usage at checkout? She even had to deal with plenty of it the night back in 2013 when East Coast SNAP quit working.

      • Also, “buy lunch at…”. Rule of thumb for a financially sound restaurant: take your food price and multiply by three for the menu price.

        I’m an odd person; when I worked outside the home (well, even now that I am at home), I rarely ate lunch. When I did have to, on twelve or fourteen hour days, I took my lunch in.

        Even now, every place that my kids have worked has had a refrigerator and a microwave. Leftovers don’t last long in the refrigerator here. (Now, they have not worked fast food places – but the employee discount there brings a person’s lunch, when they are actually working a full shift, much closer to reasonable cost.)

        • Rule of thumb for a financially sound restaurant: take your food price and multiply by three for the menu price.

          When I was on a very tight budget but was really bad at cooking for myself, I used to hit all the fast-food places with dollar menus. Two bean burritos at Taco Bell (about the only thing on their menu that I find palatable, BTW, but I do *like* their bean burritos) made for a pretty filling meal. (Plus a glass of water — no way was I spending my money on soda in those tight-budget days.) Not too many vitamins, but plenty of protein for $2, and I didn’t have to prepare it myself.

          In many cases, I’m pretty sure the restaurants were losing money on me: I think the dollar menu items were loss leaders for them to get people into the door. I still could have probably done better cooking for myself, but probably only to the tune of 50 cents per meal (AT MOST a dollar a day, since I never ate breakfast at restaurants, and usually less than a dollar per day). And I wasn’t in such tight financial straits that 20-30 dollars per month would have made a huge difference. Some people are, of course — but in my situation, even in those tight straits, I could afford (and was willing to pay) an extra 20-30 dollars per month to have someone else prepare my food.

          • Two-three years ago when McD was talking about raising prices and ending the dollar menu, some politicos in LA screamed because it would mean their constituents would no longer be able to afford food (per NPR). If I hadn’t been driving, I would have face-palmed.

      • These are the same people who couldn’t understand the outrage when Obama tried to convince the country that he understood the problems of the working class by talking about the price of Arugula, which probably goes for $5/lb, when you can buy a head of lettuce for $0.99 ..

        • Weirdly this turned me and my friends off arugula permanently. Even on the rare occasions that restaurants we go to offer it, or it’s on rock bottom sale in the supermarket… Arugula growers should sue him.

    • I sense another person who may yell at the radio when Everlast’s “what it’s like” comes on.

      What sanctimonious, manipulative, annoying pricks.

  9. My main exposure to socialism was as an LDS missionary in Scotland. When I or my companion needed to see a doctor, we got in, no problem! (Hurrah! “Free” health care.) But the doctors did the absolute minimum possible. And it felt like I knew more about basic health care than they did. (Doctor startled I knew what ibuprofen was, for instance.) We had to push for anything deeper.

    There were lots of other things that made me never want to live that way. I ran in to similar attitudes (do the bare minimum) in people in the projects in the States like the neighbor who got the power cut off because they owe $3000 and they hadn’t gotten that on the utility assistance plan yet, so they came down and used our phone to make some of those initial phone calls (and some to friends where they bragged about how much they owed and that they would probably not have to pay.) and then would turn her temperature up to the 80s so they could go around in shorts and t-shirt and be comfortable, because “hey. I’m not paying.”

    It has made it far easier for me to struggle a bit because I did not want to be like them.

    • I had my own experiences as an LDS missionary in the midlands of Great Britain (Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham, etc) and the experiences I had there didn’t endear me to the system either.

      I knew one person who had to wait for about a year to get a hernia treated; I never saw the hernia myself (I first met him in the hospital, shortly after his surgery), but apparently it was the size of a football.

      When I had a bike accident that shattered my front teeth, I couldn’t help but notice that the nurse stitching up my lip wasn’t particularly nice or caring, but the dentist was pleasant — apparently, when the government doesn’t guarantee dental care, dentists have reason to be nicer than nurses.

      I’ve had other encounters (both for myself and for others), but in general, it didn’t leave me thinking “boy, I sure wish I had that back home!”; looking closely at statistics has only reinforced that notion.

    • Your story about the doctor’s office reminded me about a story I read about a British man comparing his experience with an earache at a doctor in both Britain and America. In Britain, the doctor barely looked at his ear and just told him to take some painkillers and sleep it off. In America, the doctor checked the ear, nose, and throat, took samples to check for infection, and ultimately told the man to take some painkillers and sleep it off. The mostly British commentators on this article were generally in agreement that this showed how much money the American system wasted on tests that just told the same thing the British doctor had known all along. My conclusion was more along the lines of, “Why the heck did you need a doctor to tell you to take painkillers when you had pain? When I have an earache, I take some Advil and a long, hot shower, then lie down to let whatever was in my ear drain. Only if that doesn’t work will I suspect more is wrong and go to the doctor–who knows that I would have already tried the basics. If you want to talk about waste, how about the waste of needing a professional to prescribe simple common sense?”

      • And if there had been something more serious than just a simple earache, the British commenters wouldn’t have been commenting about wasted American dollars.

        • That was my thought as well…although now that I think of it, I’ve had some nasty earaches that I’ve always assumed were pressure-caused, and it hadn’t even occurred to me to take pain killers for it…

          • It has to be pretty dang debilitating before I’ll take pain killers, too.

            This is partly because I feel it’s unneeded, and partly because pain is there to tell you something. You DO NOT want to get in the habit of shutting down that mechanism without dire need.

            • “No pain, no gain!”
              “Pain is an indicator. It means, ‘Stop doing that.'”
              “And severe pain?”
              “That’s Nature saying, ‘I told you so!'”

              (Not quite, but I have had that conversation.)

              • Never forget, your body has a loooong memory, and holds grudges.
                Eventually, it will pay you back for the stupid things you did and ate as a stupid kid.

                • And I am exhibit A.

                  • Exhibit B here. My body- “Hey, remember when you used to think jumping off of roofs and moving vehicles was fun? Hope you like osteoarthritis in your knees! Remember when you ate like a starving coyote? Here’s some IBSD!! Paybacks a b%^$, isn’t it!”

              • I have a particular saying reserved for anyone that tries to tell me that pain is weakness leaving the body.

              • The thing is, “no pain, no gain” is actually TRUE if you have calibrated the level of pain correctly. As I type this, my shoulders are aching because of the heavy weight I lifted on Wednesday morning at the gym: I couldn’t manage 5 sets of 5, and had to drop the weight by 5 pounds for my last two sets (and only managed 4 reps for each of them). And now, because I put so much strain on my muscles, I have the muscle ache that everyone is familiar with from working out hard. That particular ache is a signal that I have put “micro-tears” in my shoulder muscles (at least, that’s what most people seem to call them) by pushing them to the point where they couldn’t do any more work in that moment. As long as I don’t push PAST that point and do major damage, then my body will rebuild the muscle and make it stronger — and so next week, I expect I’ll be able to do the full 5 sets of 5 at the higher weight. Then the week after that, I’ll raise the weight by 5 pounds for the first couple of rounds and try again, and so on. Over time, this ends up building stronger muscles — and that particular muscle ache is a signal that tells me that this is happening. So if I’ve calibrated the pain right, then I know from THIS pain that I’m getting stronger.

                OTHER levels of pain, though, would mean that I’ve torn something important and done myself an injury that will weaken me, so “no pain, no gain” is not ALWAYS correct. But when you hear that phrase, remember that there are different levels of pain, and muscle gain DOES require you to inflict that low level of pain on yourself in order to get stronger. If your muscles don’t ache a little the day after the workout, then you need to increase the weight so that you get to the right level. THAT’s the intended meaning of “no pain, no gain”. (And of the “pain is weakness leaving the body” comment, too — it’s true IF it’s talking about certain kinds of pain.)

                • Delayed-onset muscle soreness = you had a good workout.
                  Intense, rapid onset pain while lifting = STOP! (Types she who had a six-months recovery from a shoulder injury caused by too much weight on a machine too early in the work-out.)

                  • Yes. Absolutely right; I forgot to mention the important delayed-onset part. For me, I usually don’t feel any soreness until I wake up the next day, even though my workout is in the morning.

                • I figure there are different words for “sore” and “ache” and “pain,” so using one to apply to the others when you’re not being polite is foolish, because it screws up the information.

                  My hip aches because of the joint-loosening thing with pregnancy; when I roll over wrong, there’s sometimes round ligament pain (think like a stitch in your side while running, but doesn’t last as long– a second or two at most); when I walk on the ice too much, I ache because of the different balancing needed. If ANY of those switch around, I’m in red alert mode because something is wrong.

                  • There comes a point when a certain level of pain is expected and normal. I rolled my ankle a month back and definitely overstretched the tendons; I managed this in such a way that walking does not hurt at all but rotating my foot is cause for alarm. And taking my shoe off improperly is cause for extended cursing. I’m currently working down some low-grade lower back pain (half a year of it, so stretching and retraining the muscles will take about as long. And we *did* make sure there was nothing worse than soreness going on.)

                    I believe it falls under the category of “getting older.”

      • There was an experience my missionary companion had that was very like that. She’d rolled her ankle and it had swollen up to two or three times normal. It hurt. We went in. The doctor literally just poked it with a forefinger a couple of times and told her “Rest and paracetamol”. I was shocked. No manipulation to see whether it was a sprain or a break. No orders to wrap it, or elevate it. And definitely no x-ray to check for a break.

  10. Currently there is a sick UK filker with some kind of Really Bad Stuff going on. Should have gone for surgery right away, but had to wait a week in a provincial hospital because there “weren’t enough beds” in the big city hospital.

    Oh, heck no, that is not how you treat an emergency surgery in a first world country. No.

    • In America we are horrified by tales of the abuses inflicted in our VA hospitals. In England* those appear to be Standard Operating Procedure.

      The National Health Service used to address backlogs in the ER by stacking patients in beds in the halls, but that became an embarrassment. Now they stack them in cots in ambulances, which results in fewer ambulances in service (or hospitals having to buy more ambulances, hire more drivers => boosting the economy for the WIN!) and does nothing to improve patient outcomes which we in America are so naive as to imagine to be the essential criterion for rating hospital care.

      *And, doubtlessly, elsewhere, but the English reports are what I’ve read. Well, those and certain reports out of Canada where many patients eschew the local facilities in favor of crossing their Southern border.

      • My understanding is that specific regions in the UK are worse than others where hospital care is concerned. Liverpool in particular has a reputation among conservative blogs, with “euthanasia from hospital neglect” being nicknamed “the Liverpool path”.

      • What scares me is that consigning the entire country to that ‘quality’ of care doesn’t seem to concern THEM.

      • I know how good the NHS is at wasting money. While I was over there as an LDS missionary, I was technically on the NHS. About halfway through, I received a survey in the mail asking me to evaluate the OB/GYN services and how my first child’s birth had gone. If I, a single American with no history in their system of even using their OB/GYN services had received the survey, I can only imagine how many other useless copies they had sent out. Instead of actually going for the pool of people who had actually used it, they just sent it to a random selection of absolutely every female within a certain age range. If they could pick me out of their database, they could surely have limited it to women who had actually given birth or gone to the OB.

  11. Fifty pound bag of rice and bulk frozen veggies.
    The thing is you had the basic cooking skills to turn that into nutritious if rather bland and boring food that kept you and your family well nourished for what a week or two. The average SJW would demand either that you cook the food and serve it to them or provide them with their choice of microwave meals so they could take credit for cooking their own meal.
    Years ago during a layoff, after paying all my bills I had $5 to eat on for the next ten days. The five bucks bought a dozen cans of tomato soup and two boxes of Ritz crackers. I then went and claimed a five pound block of government cheese. Monotonous? Sure, but I didn’t starve.

    • Flour is also pretty cheap

      • Agreed. A 10 kg bag of flour costs me under $10, a little yeast, some sugar and I have bread. Loaf of store bought bread costs me over $2 at the local discount grocery store. Said big bag of flour will last me two or three months depending if I do other baking, and I usually make a loaf of bread a week.

        • When I could eat carbs without a full-body eczema outbreak, I used to bake all our own bread. It was easy to vary and make special bread with say raisins for the kids, for a very little money, and I enjoyed the kneading.

        • If you have the time and knowledge to forage and live in a small town or countryside most places also have a variety of edible wild plants and mushrooms. Perhaps not enough to live on, but enough to get some variety to your meals. And at least where I live fishing with a simple pole and hook can be done without permits.

          • Admittedly I have mostly limited my foraging to berries, especially blueberries. 🙂

          • Some years ago, I considered wild hog to stretch our budget. Never mind that I don’t like pork. This is the conversation I had with my wife, verbatim:

            “If I killed a wild hog, would you cook it?”
            “If I cooked it, would you eat it?”

            Fortunately, we didn’t have to try it. For one things, the local wild hogs are notorious for carrying a couple of diseases I don’t recall at the moment.

            • Trichinella? Okay, not a disease but a parasite. But anyway, one of the scarier parts when it comes to hunting your meat, both all the possible parasites and the diseases you may get if you are not careful. Well, fish isn’t of course safe that way either.

              • I looked it up. Brucellosis and pseudorabies. Only Brucellosis is a potential danger for humans.Pseudorabies can kill dogs and cats, though. Both can get into domestic hogs. I know of hog operations that had to slaughter their herds due to pseudorabies (which is not rabies).

                Trichinella was actually a low worry because we good our meat well done.

                • Make that cook our meat well done. Sigh.

                  • Well, it’s good too. 😀

                    My problem is I really like rare. I do worry about parasites and diseases, but still eat a lot kind of half done, if that, because I just like meat that way, and domestic animals are supposedly pretty safe here. I know it’s still taking a risk.

                    • Look into immersion circulators/sous vide devices. They keep your water bath at a very precise temperature, and if you drop your vacuum-sealed piece of meat in that water, you can literally cook it to a safe rare temperature and then sear off the outside at the end. It takes longer, but it is SO GOOD.

            • Trichinosis for one (actually a parasite). Heck, you can get that thru domestic pork, which is why you cook it thoroughly.

              • There are only a dozen or so cases of Trichinosis a year, most of which come from eating wild game, so please do yourself a favor and stop overcooking your pork chops.

                • Heh. That tendency to overcook has kept me from being sick a number of times. I’m sorely tempted to tell the story of the green hamburgers. And of why my parents and grandparent’s generation overcooked food.

                  Not for the weak of stomach; especially not for the weak of stomach while eating.

                  • I might suggest finding a food supplier with a somewhat better quality control system.

                    Granted, my position stems from the fact that I can afford to throw out any meat that decides to explore new portions of the color spectrum, but pork is just so much better when it’s cooked properly.

                    • Interesting that you brought that up. Some months ago my wife bought some soured sausage – you could smell it cooking. We took it back to the store, with receipt and unused portion, and exchanged it. Second attempt, same brand, same result. Back to the store again, This time we got a different brand, and it wasn’t soured.

                      This wasn’t the store’s fault in that it all came from a supplier. The unanswered question was whether it was packed bad, or if it went bad during delivery.

                  • And yet, talk about irradiating hamburger meat and frantic protests result.

                    The one meat product where one purposefully introduces the outside bits to the inside bits, thus moving the most-likley-contaminated meat to where one cannot clean it, and when one proposes a safe method for sterilizing all of it, panic ensues.

                  • Yeah, no. Not going to risk worms with teeth eating my eyeballs for the possible enjoyment of underdone pork.

                    It is possible to over-cook pork, but and if you’re good you can use a meat thermometer to get some pink in there while being more than hot enough to kill off the uglies, but it tastes great the way my dad cooks it so why bother?

          • I know several of the signs that say “this is poisonous!” for mushrooms. I’m pretty sure I don’t know all of them. I buy my mushrooms from stores or people who grow them.

            • I have just learned to recognize a few safe mushrooms. And one very poisonous, but it’s pretty safe to eat if you boil it about three times first (Gyromitra esculenta). I have gotten a headache from the fumes more than once though. And there is some new research which says it does remain poisonous even after that, just usually so little that most people won’t get symptoms. I think Finland is now only country where it’s legal to sell it fresh.

              But it’s just so good…

  12. Give me, O Lord my God, what is left Thee, that which no one asks of Thee.
    I do not ask Thee for rest or tranquility, either of soul or body.
    I do not ask Thee for riches, for success, or for health.
    So many ask Thee for these, my God, that none must be left Thee.
    Give me, Lord, what is left Thee.
    Give me what the others refuse.
    I want risk and anguish; I want fight and pain.
    Give me these, my God, once and for all.
    Give me the certainty that these will always be my portion, for I will not always have the courage to ask them of Thee.
    Give me, O Lord, what is left Thee.
    Give me what others do not want.
    But also give me courage, strength, and Faith.
    Amen.

    Not just for people that jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

    • “It’s perfectly safe to jump out of an airplane at 15,000 feet – no one’s shooting at you now.” Said by my adopted grandfather, who couldn’t understand that when the pilot (me) jumps out before the passengers do, people tend to get worried. He’d jumped D-Day, Market Garden, and Wesel, and was a Battered B*stard of Bastogne.

    • I’m afraid there’s no such critter as a *perfectly* good airplane, not even one fresh from the manufacturer. Best you can hope for is ‘airworthy’.

  13. Debt is bondage. I remember seeing a cartoon in one of my father’s medical journals. St. Peter was at the pearly gates, telling the recently deceased that they were sending him back until he paid off his student loans. It made a profound impression on me.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Remember “I owe my soul to the company store”?

    • There are uses for debt, to cover short term variations in cash flow or to pull future assets into the present. You just have to be aware of what you’re doing and manage it properly. For example, I pay for pretty much everything with my credit cards – which I (usually*) pay off in full every month. I get the reward points and a few extra cents of interest from the money sitting in my accounts all month. I just have to be aware enough to not spend more than I have.

      *There have been a couple of times when I’ve had to make only the minimum payment due to cash flow issues, but those have been temporary.

  14. Wait – number 1 son was born on COBRA – A ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world, though often thwarted by GI Joe?

    …The organization whose intelligence officer, a supremely beautiful and intelligent brunette just happens to have an uncanny resemblance to the lovely Mrs. Correia? With whom number one son is on friendly terms?

    …No wonder you get worried in a motherly way about his occasional evil overlordish tendencies, eh?

  15. My “guru” once asked me if I would prefer Justice? or Mercy. After some reflection I opted for Mercy, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see some folk get what’s coming.

  16. We CAN’T throw widows and orphans out into the snowstorm, because global warming has melted all the snow. So we HAVE to have socialized medicine and welfare! The TV said so!

  17. ties right into that ancient brain glitch that says “plenty of mammoth, rest now.”

    Oooh, you can hack that by putting the time into something besides food– either “make something nice from the mammoth, that won’t go bad” or “clean up the cave” or “go groom one of the others.”

    This has the problem that work is never done, but it also means that when you can’t go on– someone else might pick you up.

    • Note the difference between this and the “take care of everybody all the time” method– this way means that there isn’t time wasted trying to figure out who can do what, because the folks who can do their stuff are taking care of themselves, and taking care of the folks near them, and only the relatively rare cases where someone isn’t either taking care of themselves or someone else needs to be looked at.

  18. Slightly off topic. The Politico is running the following story about why Hillary lost Michigan: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/michigan-hillary-clinton-trump-232547
    Bottom line, Hillary and her campaign adopted a very top down, almost Soviet style of campaign management. State level campaigns were to do as they were told, don’t talk back- we know what’s best for you based on our computer model, so shut up.

    • Naive fool that I am, I thought such coordination between the Clinton campaign and SEIU’s campaign activities was illegal.

      Consider that by stirring up such furor over this “hacking” they are promoting the Democrat Party’s institutional interests over the national interest.

      • Hillary basically wrecked the Democratic party from the inside in order to avoid any unpleasant reprises of the 2008 Obama surprise.
        I believe that if she had won, she would have worked to make the party personally loyal to her- the story indicates that.
        We really dodged a bullet there.

  19. We got caught in the soft that was family insisting on helping…until they didn’t. It was like being stuck in taffy.

    • Did you know the Japanese have a word for a gratitude-debt that you get because you are offered help you don’t want or need, that probably actually hurts you, but you can’t not accept?

      I was kinda surprised at how few of the folks I know could see the use for such a word. If I had any kind of memory for vocab, I’d totally use it, instead of saying “family politics.”

  20. Larry Patterson

    The thing about the “free” health care in Portugal is the 35.5% social security tax. And doctors at government hospitals or official health centers are very poorly paid. Most are from South America.
    One good thing is courts here don’t allow contingency fees. That and the fact Sarah mentioned that you can’t successfully bring an action for malpractice means that private hospitals and doctors are way less than in the US. Insurance is cheap, too, as they don’t insure people who have a history of health problems.
    We love it here, but not the health system or other bureaucracies. (To qualify for a handicap sticker, for example, has so many hoops to jump through I didn’t bother.)

    • This. Right after we moved to Texas in 2006, tort reform was partially implemented by limiting “pain and suffering” awards to $250k. Malpractice insurance rates dropped, and so many doctors were moving to Texas that the State Medical Licensing Board had a three month backlog for over a year.

  21. Whoever’s “good authority” claims that most veal scallopini served in restaurants is actually turkey breast is full of b.s.
    22 years as executive chef, and never once in any restaurant, hotel, or country club kitchen did I serve anything other than veal in any veal dish.
    Turkey and veal do not taste anything even remotely alike, nor is the texture of veal and turkey breast even close to the same.
    I’ve even helped bar owners set up kitchens and menues- some where what are usually called dive bars, not in good neighborhoods and pretty much just neighborhhod/ blue collar working class bars. Not even they would try passing off turkey breast as veal escallops.
    There are many false claims about restaurant foods- Chinese restaurants serving dog or cat meat, spaghetti being rinsed off and re-served, scallops that are cut out of shark steaks/ halibut steaks, pork loin served as veal,and on and on.
    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the turkey breast served as veal claim.

    • MIGHT be regional. I know I was served turkey breast for veal at least twice long ago. Yes, you can taste the difference, but if it is covered in sauce most people don’t…

      • Many of the “false claims” are probably regional, and I’m guessing likely in areas where the particular food is not an ethnic staple, so that people are not used to eating it all the time and wouldn’t pay attention to variations in flavor, etc.

        Now, this is not from a restaurant which employed chefs, but I watched a manager at a restaurant where i was working scoop french fries off the floor into the basket and drop them back in the fryer for about 15 seconds, intending us to serve them. Now, were they safe at that point? Probably – I would have eaten them myself. But was I going to be at least partially responsible for someone ELSE possibly getting sick? Hell no. I dumped them in the trash as soon as the manager left the kitchen.

    • Oh, and it was a chef who told us that.

      • I have a chef friend who spent most of his 35 years in the biz in the greater
        Denver area-he’s never heard of the turkey breast as veal claim either.
        Not saying it can’t or hasn’t happened-just that no chef I know-and I know a lot of ’em, has heard of it. Between us we have most of the U.S. covered,and no one I know has heard of it.
        Sometimes,usually in smaller restaurants,the owner/cook/kitchen manager comes up with something like “we can get away with using x for y,and we’ll make a few more $$$”.
        Correctly costing out food,and pricing a menu is a lot of work,and must be done right,there are some foods that are break even or make a buck on each meal at best. The key is balancing those with foods that have higher profit margins.
        Anyone who resorts to ripping off customers deserves to go out of business-or get tarred and feathered.

        • This was in North Carolina.

          • Only places in NC I worked are the Outer Banks and Maggie Valley. A few friends worked in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg county fustercluck, and one lady chef I know worked in Raleigh.
            Those of us who are certified chefs and who are/were active in the local CIA chapters tend to know lots of the other certified chefs. It’s a small world when you’re running 4-5 star hotel and private country club kitchens. There’s not really all that many of either across the U.S. and the managers and executive chefs move around a lot.
            The restaurant/foodservice industry has a lot of “crazies” and more than it’s share of drug and alcohol abuse.
            I got out to save what remained of my sanity plus I was sick of going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark.

            • See, there’s probably the disconnect. My guess would be that a 4 or 5 star restaurant would not take the risk of a substitution like that. It’s more likely the wannabes that would do it.

              • We were in our twenties. We didn’t eat at good restaurants. And while our friend was a French trained chef, I don’t remember if he said “In the sort of restaurant I work at” or “in the sort of restaurant you guys eat at.” It was 30 years ago.

        • The key is balancing those with foods that have higher profit margins.

          Like potatoes. They hardly cost anything for a high-volume restaurant.

    • “Chinese restaurants serving dog or cat meat”

      It happens….. but not very often, because as soon as someone gets caught it makes the front page and they get prosecuted big time. I’ve seen no more than a couple in all my life.

      • Our kids tried claiming a local Chinese place went out of business because they were caught with frozen cats/cat meat in their freezers.
        Health dept restaurant inspection reports are public info-took me less than 2 minutes to prove them wrong.
        I’ve never read of an actual case of cat/dog meat being served-heard lots of claims-never anything thaqt was backed up by factual info.