Do What You Can

When I was a kid, I used to get completely and thoroughly panicky before any big or meaningful test (and my idea of big and meaningful was somewhat skewed, looking back.) You see, no matter how hard I worked, no matter how much I studied, I was never perfect (now, there were several physiological reasons for this, including undiagnosed ADD and sensory issues. But of course I was never going to be perfect, anyway.) And then I would get back a test with an A which always shocked me. I felt like I’d pulled a great con on the world.

The truth of course, was that the teacher didn’t expect us to do everything perfectly. She had mental benchmarks for us to hit. (At least in elementary. After that we entered a crazy tiltawhirl where curriculum changed every month, and…. yeah. The indoctrination went on though.)

And when I first got married, I kept panicking at everything that needed to be done to keep the house running, and being sure I was about to mess up and it all would come crashing around my head. You could say that my expectations for myself were unreasonable — they were — because things never crashed and burned, though sometimes the laundry pile at the end of the bed is where we got all our clothes. (There is still a laundry pile. These days it’s mostly stuff waiting to be ironed or have a some mending done, though.)

And when I first had kids, I had persistent nightmares that I forgot to feed the infant and he died. (In that case, I should have run screaming for ADD meds, but hey. It was a subconscious self-diagnosis.) And there were days, like when I found older son eating croutons from the bag, because I was writing and forgot to make lunch; he was hungry and that’s what he could reach in the pantry. He’s 30 and married and living away from us, though, so I didn’t fail COMPLETELY.

I just always feel like I fall incredibly short of my standards.

Yesterday, while talking about something else, I told younger son I try very hard not to lie. He said “true, but your self valuation is so bad it’s an actual lie. Particularly of your own work. You write this incredible stuff, then act embarrassed because it’s not very good. It’s a lie, even if you’re lying to yourself.”

And maybe he’s right. I’m probably not the 12 year old trying to bluff the adult world that I feel I am.

Partly because most of us feel that way. Partly because we know how imperfect we all are.

Someone in the comments yesterday said that he feels as though a few very competent individuals are keeping civilization going. He’s not wrong. There’s a metric and ratio and a name for them.

According to the Pareto Principle:

More generally, the Pareto Principle is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. It can mean all of the following things:

20% of the input creates 80% of the result

20% of the workers produce 80% of the result

20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue

20% of the bugs cause 80% of the crashes

20% of the features cause 80% of the usage

And on and on…

(More at the link.)

This also means that 20% of what you do creates 80% of the results you see. But don’t drive yourself nuts looking for it, because it might change all the time. I remember something Glenn Reynolds said, which I overheard and which made a huge difference in my life “How did I get into being instapundit? By accident. Like most things in my life.”

Because, you know, that’s my experience too. There are things that require a crazy amount of work, and where I push like an insane person, and they fall into a hole and disappear forever.

And then–

Well, I got published (traditionally) because a friend talked me into taking a workshop, where I met an editor and pitched a series and–

I published Darkship Thieves by accident, too. You see, I had written it thirteen years ago. I’d sent it to every possible publishing house and agent and been rejected. Then I sold something else completely different to Baen, and they gave me a conference in the now defunct bar. And I did free content for my fans. I ran out of stuff on hand, started serializing the novel, and either the novel or the reaction of the fans meant Baen bought it.

Meanwhile there were years of seriously sending that novel out/trying to sell space opera and getting every door shut in my face.

Then there is this blog. I’m not yet sure if that’s a win, but it’s become a significant part of my life, and it was never something I wanted to do. It just started because an agent pushed me to have a blog. Of course she didn’t know sooner or later I’d write about things I truly cared about, which meant we parted ways which meant…. well, here we are.

Most of the big breaks in my life are not intentional. Even though I’m working in a targeted way towards something, something I do almost incidentally will bear more fruit and sometimes take me in another direction.

But yes, in the macro level it’s easy enough to believe that 20% of the people are doing the important work.

The thing is, these aren’t necessarily the people who work hardest/longest hours/most targeted. Sure, most of the time they are. And sure, competency matters a terrible lot, and there’s a dearth of it.

But it’s not necessarily so. And all those drones working madly along always think they are the ones holding up the world.

Actually part of the problem we have is that 80% of people are so maleducated they can’t be competent whatever they set out to be. They don’t even know what competence looks like. So they roam the world lecturing people about invisible privilege and the made up history of critical race theory, and then become convinced they’re really, really helping, that somehow, at a molecular level (so to put it) they’re making the world a better place.

Sometimes it’s enough if they’re not making it worse.

I am convinced that the left has read — or rather skimmed, as they usually do — about the Pareto principle and became convinced that they don’t even need 80% of workers, or that workers don’t need to work, because the other 20% can support them. AND of course that they and only they are qualified to decide whose work is essential. Then they decided to use a virus panic (which I think was organically created from China’s agit prop and the left’s desire to crash the economy and make everyone miserable, so they’d vote for their zombie.) to implement their brilliant system.

Which can’t work because they’re morons with illusions of competency.

The whole point of the Pareto Principle is that you can’t decide who re the 20% being effective. Or where the important work is being done. It’s an uneven world, you can’t make it even (or as the left now calls it, in their habit of changing terms, “equitable”) or manage it. Even you only 20% of your work is effective.

So, you know, this is a complete refutation of communism, socialism or even “managed economy.” You can’t manage because from the top you can’t tell what is effective and needed. All the workers look equally busy and sometimes the drones look way more diligent. And anyway only 20% of your managing bears the right fruit and does what you want.

The problem is the left will never admit that and will keep pushing buttons at random to try to make themselves the most powerful people who decide who gets to work and who gets to eat.

Which means they are making the world collapse….

Around us….

And only 20% of us can do anything about it, and only 20% of the time.

Well, there might be ways to increase that ratio, or at least make your work more effective.

1- Try to work with a purpose, and be aware of where you’re putting your effort.

2- Learn. Learn as widely and effectively as you can. Even if 20% of that is ever needed, you don’t know what 20%.

3- Be willing to try new work/do different things. If you’re lucky, when the main thing fails, one of those will catch you up.

4- Be cheerful in the certainty you are not in control. No one (human) is in control. Control is an illusion, and ultimately destructive.

Now go and work as hard as you can towards perfection. You won’t reach it. But 20% there is good enough.

To keep the world running.

298 thoughts on “Do What You Can

  1. I had a manager once whose comment on what decisions we could make was “If it doesn’t end in blood or the roof falling in, it’s your call.” That was a good job.

      1. Nope. Bookstore.

        I did get to evacuate the store once due to a broken and glowing fluorescent light fixture. Slowest evacuation ever—people could buy their books or put them on hold, while we had a guy on a ladder periodically hitting the fixture with the fire extinguisher. (We couldn’t shut off just one bank of lights, we had to shut them all off, and we couldn’t have customers in a dark store.)

        1. What happens if you pull out that thumb-sized silver cylinder? (can’t think offhand what it’s called; 80% of my brain is on strike after determining that it does no work anyway) does that light go off?

          1. Starter?

            One problem— most modern fixtures don’t use one. The one over the kitchen sink does (had to replace it) but the one on the kitchen ceiling doesn’t.

            1. I’ve heard mostly ballast, and a lot of home fixtures have them built in so if they die you end up replacing the fixture, Commercial ones used to always have them as a replaceable unit. Spent a summer as Janitors helper at the private high school I went to doing all sorts of stuff from emptying out lockers to replacing dead ballasts. Replacing a dead ballast is MUCH better than opening a locker to find some one left their last lunch of the year in their locker…

            2. A ballast is an inductor, an autotransformer that matches the impedance of the fluorescent lights to the 120V or 240V source, and damps out the current and voltage spikes caused when the mercury ionizes. The starter, or igniter, is a little gas-discharge tube that causes current and voltage spikes to help ionize the mercury when it’s cold.

              Modern LED lights are much less trouble, more reliable and more efficient. Also subsidized for the ‘Free Stuff!’ crowd.

              1. LED tubes need better subsidies, then… the 24″ ones for my kitchen light finally came down from $28 each, to a mere $12 each. (Weirdly, the 4′ for my barn were about $15 each, back in the early days.) Similar story for the non-tube shop-bright models. The 250W-equivalent in my yard light was $42, tho has since come down to about $20. $35 for the floodlight in the dog yard, tho more recently down to a more-rational $18. And so on. And not nearly the impact on my power bill that I would have hoped. (I have one incandescent and two Fl-tubes left, because reaching ’em requires a ladder truck.)

                Starter must be the other part you can unplug, that I was trying to describe. They must go bad too, since you can buy ’em at the hardware store… if you put an LED tube in the fixture, does it still need the starter thingee?

                I’ve learned a furious hatred of fluorescent tubes, not only because the light is ugly, but also because they don’t like the cold, go dim around freezing and quit entirely around zero (or warmer as they age), and worse because a while back one in the kitchen fixture tried to burn the house down, tho I caught it when it was still merely glowing red. (Seen that a few times with the screw-ins, too.)

                Also, the specs for the damn tubes have changed slightly over time, so the current tubes (of either type) don’t quite fit in the ancient fixture that will be a royal pain to replace.

                Bah. Back to candles. 😛

                1. The 24″ fluorescent over our kitchen sink has a perceptible buzz to it; several years back it seemed the tube had finally died and I tried replacing it with an LED tube … which wouldn’t light. Tried both i a different fixture and the original tube worked, so I replaced it in the sink fixture and twisted it a mite until its contacts contacted properly and it regained function.

                  I cannot return the LED tube and it won’t work anywhere else. I’ve considered returning it to its manufacturer with a suggestion of where they can put the 24″ tube but that doesn’t seem worth the requisite postage.

  2. Heh. I got Day Job, more or less, because I was trying to find the owner for two dogs who were loose. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s where it started. And when you look at me meeting Calmer Half, when I was in Alaska and he was in Louisiana, you may also note that I am either the recipient of the most unlikely accidents of good fortune, or occasional miracles.

    All of which I could have turned down, but I only got there by trying to do the right thing, and being cheerful and friendly to people (and dogs) I didn’t know.

    There’s a reason I got to Peterson’s rule about stopping to pet a cat in the street, and laughed out loud… in recognition!

  3. Your hits keep on coming. I was talking about just this with #2 son. One of the great lies is that success comes from hard work. This underestimates circumstances and luck. I do think that hard work means you won’t starve but “success” requires luck.

    In my field it requires being born to it or a willingness to make large concentrated bets, which is why psychopaths do so well at it. I’ve never been willing to make the bet so I’m not really a success. On the other hand, had I been born elsewhere than NYC to a father In the business I’d probably be a carpenter,which may not have been so bad

    1. I think the “hard work” in question is what makes luck possible more often than not. If you stay at home you’ll never run into luck. It’s when you get out and hustle you have a chance to run into something.

      How hard that work needs to be is the question. I have found How to Be the Luckiest Guy on the Planet in 4 Easy Steps. to be good food for thought on the topic. It’s not life alternating, but it might alter your daily routine a fraction. Trying to hit the four points in some tracked small ways is one of my Groundhog Day Resolutions this year.

      1. Hard Work is a component of success – it turns opportunity into avenue.

        Of course, it all defines how one defines success – if being a psychopath is essential to success that is perhaps not a type of success anyone should want.

        It also depends on how you define Hard Work, which in some cases means doing less and listening more (particularly important for parents who sometimes forget what the end goal of rearing children might be.)

        And sometimes Luck is what doesn’t happen to us, such as baseball star Ken Griffey, whose girlfriend got pregnant (with eventual first-round Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr.), forcing him to forego plans to attend college on a football scholarship and instead commence a minor league baseball career which eventually brought him to the Major Leagues. Because of that choice he did NOT attend Marshall University where he would almost certainly have been on that team plane whose crash (killing all aboard) was the inspiration for the 2006 movie, We Are Marshall.

        Sometimes LUCK is less where you are than where you ain’t.

        1. Of course, it all defines how one defines success – if being a psychopath is essential to success that is perhaps not a type of success anyone should want.

          This triggers the observation I made some years ago about how they were redefining psychopath in such a way that you DID actually have to be one to be successful– if you weren’t a dishrag, you were a psychopath.

          It scared me then, and it’s scaring me more, now.

          1. I have no regrets and I’ve been a success by most criteria, I’m still married to the same woman, all of my children are reasonably functional humans, I own my house and have a nice bit put by. What I’m not is stinking rich, which I could be. I’ve identified the opportunities but have never been willing to pull the trigger. Instead, I grind away. Playing any sort of game with me is boring for the other players since I just grind away.

            Still, in finance, we compare ourselves to the people who made big killings. We don’t count the many more who made the bet that didn’t pay off because they’re gone. In fact, the way to make the most money over the long time is to be consistently mediocre. That’s why index trading works. you just grind away.

            Psychopaths have the ability to not let the risk affect them and so can make the large concentrated bets. I’m pretty good at that but not good enough. Back in April when the markets almost failed I was a mess even though I was actually fully hedged going in. The stress broke me down and I ended up crying in my wife’s lap. Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be bond guys. Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such.

            Of course, many on the left are the children of the people who made the big bet and had it pay off — the $90M for La Rossee don’t come from trees. That’s why my first reaction to them is “how old were you when daddy left?” Psychopaths ruin everything.

      2. There is this very pious Jew named Abraham who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “G0d, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?”

        But the lottery would come and Abraham wouldn’t win. Week after week, Abraham would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Abraham wouldn’t win.

        Finally, one Sabbath, Abraham wails to the heavens: “G0d, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”

        And the heavens parted and the voice of G0d came down: “Abraham, meet me halfway! Buy a ticket!”

        1. I’m used to it as a dumb blond joke, but yeah…lots of truth there.

          Also touches on my a certain kind of Christian really grates me.

      3. Luck is important, but now I have to get back to studying Haskell.
        Self taught in FORTRAN, COBOL, etc, etc., C, C++, SQL, Python,…,…? I’m a lucky guy!

        1. The Marine Corps made me keypunch for a day. I was so bad they made me a computer operator. They sent me to Japan, and they needed someone to be a programmer when I got there. I read the book and wrote Autocoder. They got rid of the IBM 1401 so I taught myself COBOL. They taught me JCL. I became a mainframe Systems Programmer and a manager, then a UNIX admin. (I am the only one of my peers who outlasted the company mainframe.) I learned enough of a lot of languages along the way, most of which didn’t set the world on fire. ADA, APL, PL/1, S/370 Assembler, Python, Java, Perl, Shell Scripting. You just have to keep learning whenever something new comes along.

          In IT, it’s mostly different names for the same stuff. Good livings can be made from knowing the old stuff. Nobody ever gets noticed by not being there when something is needed.

          1. Here is what I learned. Once you learn the nuts, bolts, and concepts, of programming and programming tools, down to your soul (I mean really, really, get beat up in the process, make mistakes, Learn It), be it first, second, or 4th gen, language tools, you can learn any tool. Learn it quickly to be productive in it within weeks. It is just syntax and format. Critical with 4th generation or higher language tools? How do they hide pointers? How do they do garbage collection? If needed how to you take advantage? If you do, how do you clean up afterwards?

            Most eye rolling line in job recruitment descriptions? Beyond the “it has only been out in both beta and final release for 3 years”, eye roll? “Must have 5 years experience in … language/tool.” What HR doesn’t know, everything being equal, the company can’t afford anyone with actual 5 year specific experience in any specific tool, and they likely can’t afford anyone without the 5 year experience but could learn it because they have more than 5 years experience learning more than one other tools.

            In my experience it has never, ever, not once, been the programming tools that were difficult. It was the application program systems dropped into that were the issue. There was a reason the job I got in ’90 were tickled down to their collective toes when they got my resume. Timber company who wanted someone with a Forestry and a Computer Science Degree, with experience in both. By ’90 there were graduates with Forestry degrees with minor in Computer Science, or Computer Science with a minor in Forestry. But rarely experience in both. I not only had experience in both, but both degrees were full degrees, not minors. In their words, they “shot for a ‘Hail Mary’ and got one”. Wish the division hadn’t shutdown (financially was better off overall, but still …). Subsequent two jobs, I probably wasn’t the most standout of all the candidates. Just enough to edge others out and get the job. Other than retirement, I’ve never left a job, they always leave me.

          1. In the end are there any decent programmers who only learned a language in a class?

            Not that I know of.

            I don’t think that it is possible to only learn a language in a class or seminar, then use it to do anything useful.

    2. > One of the great lies is that success comes from hard work.

      Oh, it’s not really a lie. It’s just that the one who gets the “success” isn’t necessarily the one who does the work.

      You bust your ass to get the project done on time, your manager gets a promotion and a raise, you get an “opportunity to bid for a position in Tech Support” doing phone calls with rejects from Jerry Springer auditions.

  4. I remember tradpub lies: “If you didn’t get published, it’s because you didn’t write a good enough book.” Because that meant that everyone who was selected could say, “Obviously it’s because I’m a better writer.”

    Ugly stuff.

      1. I remember a panel with Harlan Ellison talking about Dan Simmons and a writer’s workshop where one participant announced he had written over a hundred novels…none accepted. Ellison’s take was the other participants gently told him it was because he was, simply, an awful writer. He told them he would continue writing anyway.

        Given I’ve never been interested in Simmons’ work and Ellison was hit or miss, I wonder if the guy ever managed to get into print.

        1. “You shouldn’t be a writer unless you can’t not be a writer.” Because if someone can be a writer and also has several other fields of work (as has often happened in the past, including with great writers), the publishing industry and the agents probably had a harder time messing with that person.

    1. Especially when the counter-argument was blindingly obvious. “You end every chapter with a false cliffhanger, there are exclamation points all over the place and not in dialogue, and there are grammatical and punctuation errors everywhere. Your plot is puerile and you somehow manage to have the closest thing to a climax in the first third of the book.”

      Yes, I’m referencing a particularly horrible book I read once in high school. (No worries, it was the school library’s monthly subscription box, and reading that awful thing only took my lunch break.)

      1. And of course, nowadays, if you are selected, it’s because your work is high quality, but if you are rejected, it’s because there is systemic injustice blocking you from being selected.

        It is grotesque.

        1. Even if the industry isn’t as horrific as publishing, the contamination by HR and the worse sort of academic is everywhere, so the poison splashes on everyone.

          Detecting and countering the bullshit as it seeps inside is everyone’s skill for healthy living.

          There isn’t a specific subset that is the only ones hurt by some model of systemic behavior. Group behavior has positives and negatives, and the negatives hit everyone to some degree. Managing the negatives is personal growth as an individual, and no bureaucracy can do that for you.

          APologies for the ranting, I apparently haven’t calmed back down.

          1. No need to apologize. I sit on my hands a lot as the first generation American citizen of immigrants who experienced racism and didn’t let it stop them.

            Or at least, I used to. I am done, now, with silence.

              1. That reminds me, I have six Dr. Seuss PDFs I need to convert to a series of images for the next six Samizdat Saturdays on the blog.

            1. My husband does tax returns for immigrant families. He has NO patience with, “systemic racism,” and its various ilks.

        2. Unless you’ve been cancelled. Oh, wait, cancelling is systemic injustice blocking you from being selected. Except the Woke never want to hear that!

          1. Yes, right. It’s not cancellation, it’s being ‘held to account.’

            Even saying these things makes my head feel poisoned. Ugh.

          2. Cancellation is another QAnon conspiracy theory and doesn’t exist. Just another reason the left had to shut them up.

      2. I thought I’d never forget the title of my personal, “Good grief, this got published?” book. All the characters had names derived from mythology, (the starship officers were mostly named after gods), the plot involved a female Messiah forced to drink hemlock who then mysteriously resurrected and vanished from the ship, and her story was recorded by, of course, a blind poet….
        I used that thing as an encouraging example, “Look, if this thing can get published…”

        1. Cruiser Dreams by Janet Morris?

          That might be the plot. I can’t tell you too much because the first chapter had so many words that the large dictionary in my school library that sat on a stand didn’t have (so of course mine didn’t either) that I gave up maybe a third of the way through.

          Put down the GD thesaurus and just use regular words.

          1. No. Cruiser Dreams was High Lit compared to this. I wish I could remember the title. I do remember the starship had a “ship’s ritualist,” named Valerie Pleiades. The other names were equally “portentous.”

              1. If she had siblings they weren’t on the ship. Honestly, the book was so bad I read it in disbelief.

            1. The things you guys get me into…

              The book may have been from a writer named either “Valerie Donner” or “Valerie Barrow.” Sure sounds like a Mary Sue. Talks regularly to Mira of the Pleiadian High Council. Or she might be “Andromeda Val from the Galaxy Andromeda M31.” Who knows. Can’t find any title by the woman, though.

              One of her newsletters apparently discusses “the galactic destruction of the California Deep State bases during the California “earthquakes.””. (Pretty incompetent Galactics, there, I would say.)

              I.e., a very good e.g. of a complete fruitcake.

              Cruiser Dreams. Oh, Good Ghu, I had managed to forget that trainwreck. Along with its prequel (Dream Dancer) and sequel (Earth Dreams). Yes, I at one time owned and read all three – while at a very liberal arts college where the Dean of the English Department (John Morressy) had “persuaded” the bookstore to carry them.

              Reading in disbelief is probably why you can’t recall the title. There’s one that I cannot for the life of me remember – something about a guy reincarnating into the real Age of Aquarius, or some such. Mom handed me that one when she realized that it must have been mis-shelved among the historical romances at the Phoenix used bookstore she used to go to. (She would just clean out an entire shelf of whatever titles she didn’t recall already having, it being a full day trip down to the Valley and back. We took three full size truck beds worth to the dump when we cleaned out the house…)

            2. I feel like we need the occasional “What was the title?” thread, where you describe the books/movies/etc. that you can’t remember the name of and see if someone else can identify it for you. You probably won’t find a better crowd to try that with and It would give Sarah an easy post to make once every few months.

          2. Put down the GD thesaurus and just use regular words.

            Or use the thesaurus correctly. If you’re writing a story with description and all, and someone can’t figure out the basic idea of what you mean from context, you’re either writing wrong or using the word wrong.

            To call up an example from earlier this week– zaftig.

            I ran into it with the woman-shaped lady being compared to the…well, teen boy shaped ladies, and boys-with-melons shaped ladies. I kiiiiinda figured it out, y’know?

            Newspapers are horrible for rewriting the AP with a thesaurus, and assuming synonym means exact same meaning.

            1. The gate has inadvertently been opened for the entry into our reality of FLYINGMIKE’S LANGUAGE PET PEEVE:

              {James Earl Jones voice}:
              “If you use ‘utilize’ you are really just saying ‘use’ with more syllables. More syllables do not actually make you sound smarter, so just use ‘use’.”

              “And another thing…”

              [Pow, boom, crack, zap, bang bang bang, “Reloading!”, bang bang bang, boom!, {Stargate closing sound}]

              OK, phew, I pushed it back through the gate and got it closed. That was close – it could have gone on for hours…

              1. As they almost ALWAYS freaking use the word “utilize”? Yeah.

                Using it to mean “that guy uses the tools, this guy utilizes the tools and has much greater effect”– that is, employ vs make effective use of– is acceptable.

              2. One of my favorite quotes:

                “The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard.”—G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)

                But then, I also liked this from a random usenet commenter back in the day:

                “Never say with words what you can say with an air strike.”

              3. Utilize is far preferable to use if you are playing Scrabble or rhyming sighs, lies, eyes, or thighs.

              4. “Utilitizationalism” … the determined practice of bloating small words into bigger words to sound schmarter.

          3. There is pretension and there is also the use of a word that might seem strange, but has the exact intended shade of meaning. I have been accused of the former while at least attempting the latter. Using color as a(n admittedly poor) example, sometimes something is not brown, nor purple, but is actually puce.

            1. I have a spot where the word I want is chary. Neither wary nor cautious, but that space between. Sadly, the desired word will probably cause readers’ eyeballs to turn funny colors.

              1. Bright people with Large Vocabularies tend to underestimate how little-known those words are. “Puce? Chary? Pastoral? Those words aren’t that uncommon, and I’m using them to be precise rather than pretentious. So why is everyone looking at me funny?”

                    1. For decades I thought “denouement” was pronounces “dee-no-ment” instead of “day-no-mah”.

              1. And then there’s that “flea-bitten” does NOT necessarily mean “having been bit by fleas” but can describe a specific coloration pattern.

        2. A sad fact is that nobody really knows what the public will buy — it is why industries such as publishing, cinema, television and music are so emulative. Copy what is currently selling and add just a little twist to it to make it seem less imitative. People advance in those industries by being lucky, more often than not, at guessing what the public will want in a year or two.

          Sure – some things are relatively easy. The public will usually want sex, the public will usually want violence, but even then the presentation preference for it may vary (and they generally do not like to be pandered too brazenly.) The public might want Hitchcockian icy blondes this year but waifish Holly Golightly brunettes next year, or even demanding Lorenian voluptuaries. They may want their 007s with chest hair or without, callous or sensitive.

          Supposedly Motown Records had a 14-year-old girl as their market research; hers was the taste of the masses and if she liked a song it was probably going to be a success. Did that mean the songs she liked were good and the ones she disliked were bad? Or did it just mean the public was probably goig to like a song if she had?

          Ya just never know.

      3. Alternatively, the fact is that publishing (and writing of best-sellers) is a crapshoot and nobody knows what the dice say until weeks/months after the roll. The history of publishing is rife with books turned down by multiple publishers (e.g., Harry Potter) because they couldn’t see a way to market the book. (They offer plenty of reasons why the book “does not meet our current needs) but mostly it means they’ve no idea how to sell it.

        And they may be right – there might not be a market for a given book (I am confident we could fill this blog with book ideas that are guaranteed to tank) but then again, who knows? It may even be a great book, brilliantly marketed and yet just not what the Zeitgeist wants.

        Of course, it can also be because you are a truly, truly, terrible writer and a worse story-teller. The reading public will buy terrible writing but not usually bad story-telling.

      4. And yet KU is now infested with 6-“book” (first 3 are FREE!!!) garbagefests featuring all of the above redflags, I’m learning to bail early

    2. I suspect that is why sports stars have tended to be conservative while artists have been liberal. The former are in a much more objectively measurable world than the later.

      1. Don’t forget the CIA’s efforts to influence the art world with massive funding. It’ll be generations before art recovers.

          1. Socialist Realist art can in fact been reasonably good to look at. Take for instance, “Wedding on Tomorrow Street” You could write a good Usanian story about it; the only problem with it is that the planners were using it to lie, not the painting itself.


  5. All we can do is ‘try’ to get our 20% out there. And give our best day to day. Blogs are work, no question, but it does allow us to reach out to those who might like what we write. Re Praeto, we used that a lot in R&D, especially in data reconstruction and it does hold true. Right now I think we’re in the ‘grip’ of the 20% that hate America and everything it stands for. Their problem is that the 80% who haven’t chimed in are not happy with the direction the country is going. And the 80% are stirring slowly…

  6. I got into my current “career” because I was friends with some people who worked the night shift here and said they had an opening for a dispatcher during the day. Since it paid better, and had better perks, than the job I had at the time I applied. 20+ years later I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve been doing this job at various departments for a fair amount of time now and can see retirement options in the future (not immediate, but I can see them).

    1. I also got into my current second career-in-retirement (publishing) because one of my freelance bosses two decades ago decided that I and one of his clients were perfect for each other. The freelance boss was a very gifted computer nerd with a Tiny Bidness doing repairs, maintenance, and in-person training. And one of his maintenance clients was the owner of the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and Freelance Boss just decided that she and I had so much in common that we ought to get together and make wonderful publishing music together. He always meant to introduce us to each other – but then he died of a catastrophic heart attack, within the same week that the Owner of Tiny Publishing Bidness lost her husband. So, six months later, I remembered how Freelance Boss had talked up how we ought to get together … and I had just published The Adelsverein Trilogy through Booklocker, so … what the hell. We met, hit it off, just as Freelance Boss had predicted, and went into partnership.
      She was a crackerjack editor, btw – and loved my own books. When her health began to fail, I bought her out, and took on her existing clients and all her files. Still miss her – she was a die-hard conservative, and knew simply everyone in the writing business in San Antonio.

  7. Learn. Learn as widely and effectively as you can. Even if 20% of that is ever needed, you don’t know what 20%.

    Almost every job I have ever had was due to things I had learned informally because I was interested in them, and the ability to keep learning as the job changed or expanded.

    And having worked in small teams I discovered that the one person perceived to be doing most of the work generally could not have done it without the rest of the team. Yes, productivity may have doubled when you added that one person to a four member team – but adding a person very similar to the original four would have only increased it 15%. It’s not that the one person is doing so much work, it’s that the rest of the team members are working more efficiently due to that diverse packet of motivation & facilitation skills that characterize Leaders.

    1. Teams can be soo much fun. Masters seminar in History small group project. Night class, and each team to present for 30 minutes, we were in costume, and ended up taking the entire 2 hour class it was so good. All three team members got ‘A’ s, I rcvd a B. Asked why. Prof said he knew I led the team and inspired the entire performance, but that I did it with one hand tied behind my back while they all had to stretch. So that I did not work to MY full potential. I of course countered with but A work is still A work. He did not budge. Left school shortly after. Fast forward 15 years and I am taking a distance class with same Prof and he is using my analysis (with my permission) in his other classes. Wants to be my advisor for a PHD. But two toddlers and seventy hour wrk week building custom racing sailboats and the answer is no Point is I did not really think twice about my contribution to that team, just driven to lead and to have a blast doing it.

      Have always trained that the secret to your success in any endeavor is not the hard work, but the smart work and that the last 5 percent can take the same energy as the first 95 percent. I always know when I am getting close to a major goal or success because it seems the universe puts up major roadblocks or stumbling stones, I think just to see if you are serious.

      Now we all just have to keep learning everything we can. No real idea what will contribute to the success of our rebuilding. Sites like this give me hope especially that there will be a synergy of thinking and resolve to rebuild. Such a cluster. Every day gets more ‘interesting’ for some value thereof.

  8. One of my character flaws is that I always have unrealistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a day, or a weekend. I make long lists of things to do, and if I run into the list a couple of months later I’ll be lucky if 3/4 of the list has been completed. In 2 months instead of 2 days. Yet somehow I keep doing it, because some part of me thinks that I really really could do it this time if I just get motivated. Which I never am. Sigh.

    I go for months with no lists at all, then I start making lists and it does seem to help somewhat. But it never lasts. Anyway. Despite all of this personal history, I’m thinking it’s time to go into a list making phase again 🙂

    1. make a list
      do a few things on it
      cross them off
      make a new list
      rinse and repeat
      You’re never going to be listless, just get into the habit of doing a couple two or three everyday.

      Perfection isn’t just the enemy of good enough.
      When you hit perfection, God recalls you for your next assignment.

      1. I dunno. I’m kind of listless. Or maybe that is shiftless. I can never remember.

      2. My wife has a codicil to list making. Include tasks you’ve already done, and cross them off.

    2. I know that feeling all too well. Beating myself up for not getting everything done that I feel I “ought” to be able to accomplish, and then wondering what is a realistic expectation for how many things to get done in a day.

      I too have gone back to making lists each day, and trying to feel reasonably accomplished if I can get most of them done. Or at least the most critical or time-sensitive ones (got the Schedule C figures pulled together for our taxes today — had expected it to be much more of an uphill slog).

  9. I spent the majority of my working years in the utilities field, operating, managing, water and/or wastewater treatment facilities, coal or diesel powered electing generation plants or teaching others how to do so.

    Early on I realized a utility operator is much like a fireman, a fire fighter. Your real job is to deal with the occasional crises but meanwhile you tap gauges, tweak valves and polish the fire engine’s brass.

    It took me a bit longer to understand brass polishing, mopping coal dust up, greasing bearings, walking a steel girder to change light bulbs behind a boiler sight glass 3 stories above the operating floor might not fit in the 20% deal with a crises, put out a fire, area but if the brass ain’t polished, you didn’t check the air in the tires, your equipment ain’t gonna roll to put out the fire when needed.

    The other thing about brass polishing, floor mopping; you’re in and around your equipment, touching it, listening to it running smoothly. You learn to hear wrong notes,see the misaligned shafts and repair, adjust or replace faulty equipment accordingly,.

    As Sarah notes; “…Pareto Principle is that you can’t decide who are the 20% being effective. “, -nor can you do your 20%, bring home the bacon, without the 80% brass polishing nor the maybe 80 bean counters behind your 20 treatment plant operators assuring assuring they’ve the grease, polishing rags, etc. available to do their jobs.

    1. Sometimes one leg handles 100% of my weight, and sometimes the other. My arms tend not to support much unless I’m trying to lever myself out of bed in the morning. It all mostly works, though, and only my shoulder complains.

    2. First FIL taught me to spend ten minutes every week with the hood up on your car. Just looking. Sure check the fluids etc, but just look. It would become so familiar that anything out of place the next time would stand out and you would fix it. I applied that lessons to many other endeavors and it holds true. Avoided a fair amount of costly nonsense in the process.

      Also need to guard against the hubris. The seeds of the failure in any endeavor are within those processes. We think that when we succeed everything was great, change nothing and repeat. No no no! You may have succeeded by the skin of your teeth. All those close run things that went your way need to be looked at because they probably won’t go your way next time. Stare under the hood for awhile and you start to see it.

    3. Meeting a payroll as CEO/Owner, chief cook & bottlewasher taught me to appreciate those worthless parasites at HQ,

  10. Maleducated might not be an 80/20, might be some other mechanism that results in a different distribution. Briggs has a book out, which I need to read, that seems to be on the ‘missing information’ understanding of statistics.

    Fun example of harm by maleducation. Diversity, equity and inclusion HR types are now doing mandatory training in CRT and maybe also “mathematics is white”. The HR types and also the folks coming up with these notions are largely humanities sorts, have not personally been trained in mathematically modeling physics and applying it to the real world.

    Suppose you are in a technical business. Your employees are doing complicated mental tasks, and their defect rate, and rate of inspecting to detect and repair errors matters hugely to your customers.

    Your HR types are employed to save costs by complying with employment law, minimizing legal costs, meeting arbitrary diversity targets, etc.

    If your costs from technical errors are high enough, it no longer makes sense to employ HR types.

    Stress absolutely kills complicated mind work. Folks who are already very skilled can manage with high stress levels, so long as they are not having to learn a bunch of new mental tools at the same time.

    If CRT is true, it is inherently stressful for a colored person to work around or with white people. An integrated technical workforce inherently would have an increased defect rate by the colored workers. And this stress is not something that can be avoided by simple measures such as not speaking the n word, and not carrying out lynchings. It would be inherently stressful to use or learn techniques invented by white people. One would expect colored workers to have inherent difficulties with white technical tools. If CRT is true, we should not have integrated work forces, we should have segregated work forces.

    If work forces are sex segregated, and one is choosing a male or female work force to employ at a technical task in a location, ‘female ways of knowing’ implies that technical tasks should be male. At least, the most demanding ones, that getting right most matters. If you have equal numbers of technically trained males and females, the lower demand for female workers would imply that it makes sense to hire them for lower priority tasks, if you can keep the costs down.

    If you have fewer technically trained females, and this logic holds, increasing the number of technically trained females is not important. Increasing the numbers of technically trained males might be more cost effective.

    When you look at numbers of US ‘races’, it makes more sense to ignore hispanics and blacks, and employ whites, than the reverse does. Also, we should then have segregated education, which rearrangement at the university level means that we would need to figure out whether Chinese and Indian engineering faculty count as white, or what.

    So, the fact that nobody is seriously entertaining the idea of Apartheid, or a return to Segregation, means that nobody believes that what HR is asserting is actually true. HR is simply stressing people for no real purpose.

    HR and the more extreme flavors of academic nutjob absolutely do not speak for technically trained women and minorities who like the work. They probably are not speaking out personally in public, because they can predict consequences of actions, and “if you believe this, you should fire me” is bad strategy.

      1. There’s false, and then there is everyone knows it is false, while being afraid to say that it is false.

      2. It’s Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad’s “white people are the devil” dressed up in academia speak. Period.

        1. One other thing about CRT: it is an excuse to apply your efforts where they will be least productive.

    1. There’s a relationship between the Pareto Principle and the Normal Distribution curve. And I’m going nuts trying to remember which book that was in…

    2. So far the hospital hasn’t pushed any CRT crap on us. And while they’ve had a bunch of silly seminars on transgender equality for patients and workers, none of it has been mandatory. Which is fortunate, because I haven’t had do decide whether to quit, or deliberately sabotage a course if they try to force me into one.

      1. Disrupting negative training isn’t sabotage, it’s process improvement. You’re being innovative, not stubborn.

      2. I can help with that. It was honestly unintended at the time, but one woman ended up flapping her arms and screetching and it all fell apart.

        You just ask the wrong questions.

    3. Every time I see “CRT” my mind says “cathode ray tube” and the rest of the paragraph gets really . . . Odd.

        1. Yep. “CRT is not true…” OK, an electron gun alignment problem then…Oh, wait.

    4. Early on in my business career, I started a book that advised to set your goals and plan accordingly. When he got saying, in the next sentence, so if you want to be CEO you should take up finance, I dumped the book. The only way an accountant knows how to make money is to not spend it, and that drives a company into the ground.

      Also you can tell when a startup is dying by when they create an HR department.

  11. When I first started teaching, I was completely freaked out when students were taking notes. My first thought was, “hell, I could tell them anything! This is scary!” I ran into a friend from grad school at the community college (first teaching job for both of us) and she said she felt like one of those vaudeville actors where the hook comes out from the side and pulls you off the stage. Now, I know I’m a good professor. But, damn, it took almost 20 years to figure that out!

  12. Off topic.

    As reported Son has had gastronomical problems all day this last Sunday and Monday. It was really bad Monday, but after having Imodium AD, Pedolite (which is OMG awful), and Gatorade, he finally ate something Monday night that stayed with him, slept his normal hours Monday/Tuesday, ate Tuesday, went to work Tuesday swing shift … Wednesday mid-morning it hit all over again.

    Called the clinic and talked to the clinic triage. They sent him to Urgent Care for a Covid test. First we’d heard that gastronomical issues are on the symptom list. No wonder the flu diagnoses are non-existent. Another two days before we hear results. Clinic said they didn’t believe it was Covid, but he shouldn’t be going back to work until Saturday. Got a sick letter for his work JIC, but reality with no work scheduled this Friday (for a change, 10 hour shift work M – Th, ), there is only Thursday work day to worry about until Monday swing shift. They won’t say what is going on until test results is back. Beyond “self isolating” (he has two older roommates — Us) he was given anti-nausea prescription, told to take Imodium AD, drink clear liquids, and eat bland light meals. He does have PTO time to use, which he is. Just means he won’t have to burn any PTO (get paid for it without using it to prevent losing PTO due to max cap allowed on books) for awhile.

      1. That and “presumed positives” based off of symptoms without test results. Guess what bucket they end up in by the time the states make their reports.

        1. The result that is striking is that as a percent of tests done, the flu took a nosedive.

          All I can figure is that maybe there’s something like they test for the kung flu first, and if you’re positive, they don’t test for flu– while usually a significant number of the flu tests are a shotgun test where they get folks that are opportunistic infections or something.

          1. My mother-in-law is a physician in New York State, where they were required to test for Covid *and* the flu every time. She says that the low flu numbers, at least in New York State, are real: people are getting widely tested for the flu, and mostly coming out negative. She attributes it to people mostly staying isolated, and therefore the flu not getting passed on very much.

            She’s rather conservative in outlook, BTW; you should hear her rant about government interference in health care sometime.

            1. Is good to have additional data– not sure if anyone remembers my rants from Thanksgiving two years back, but I was highly peeved about folks being rude idiots about respecting others as far as “hey I’m sick I’ll take steps to avoid infecting others.”

              …No, no masks were involved. It was mostly hyper attention to hand sanitizer/washing hands/sneeze into elbow/ avoid places if possible.

              Would be useful if we could get a “compare rates in states with a shotgun vs COVID first testing rule.”

    1. I feel for him.

      It could be norovirus, though the repeat hit is odd. OTOH, I haven’t had a case of such in forever. The first time my serious gluten intolerance hit, I had the lose-it-at-both-ends syndrome until I got put on an IV. The loose bowels lasted a week. FWIW, it took about 15 years of occasional repeats before we figured out it was a food intolerance. (The sensitivity gradually ramped up, but the catch was it took about 30-36 hours after ingestion before symptoms presented.)

      Not sure now, but there doesn’t seem to be a fast way to identify such intolerances beyond a food diary.

      1. Not sure now, but there doesn’t seem to be a fast way to identify such intolerances beyond a food diary.

        In ’96 triggered by stress did it to me. Not as violent as what my son is experiencing now. Tomato based sauces were my trigger. I still have some problems but not to that extent when originally hit. Didn’t affect work. The stress trigger was the shutdown of the western IP region, which meant my layoff. Only hubby got layoff notice too, as his company lost 16 contracts with the shutdown. His layoff didn’t happen. But the stress had already triggered. I thought I had the flu. Only instead of lasting no more than 10 days, it lasted for two months … I wasn’t pregnant (dang it).

        Something I plan on keeping in mind. He could be developing food intolerance. But one incident doesn’t make a pattern.

        1. Nobody in my family (other than me) ran into the gluten intolerance*, but $SPOUSE’s family has celiac disease and wheat/gluten allergies all around. (Her sister’s husband’s family is like that too.) The repeat is odd, unless it was the same food eaten again. Hope not; such are a painful mystery story.

          If it is norovirus, take care. Lost an older (80ish) friend in a nursing home when they had an outbreak.

          (*) Partly due to some odd eating habits, no longer in play. I liked bread way too much and the high gluten artisanal varieties can be a problem.

          1. If it is norovirus, take care. Lost an older (80ish) friend in a nursing home when they had an outbreak.

            We are paying attention. Luckily he is not in an apartment by himself or with indifferent roommates. His roommates Care. Have cared since June 1989 when 21″, 7#’s, funny smelling bundle came home and upset our 5 cats by having the gall to take over mom and dad’s laps … Plus every single time that bundle issued a noise, both jumped up to see what was wrong, no matter how recent the empty lap had just been occupied. To add to the outrage, the cats weren’t allowed to occupy all those nice new quilts and soft blankets in that big box installed in the backroom, let alone the smaller one in mom and dad’s room, or the rolling one near the front door. I mean, really 🙂

            1. That kind of stuff is seriously no fun. Did that myself in 2016 in a run in with ischemic colitis. Basically a blood vessel on the colon gets blocked (briefly or otherwise) and bad things happen. For example stomach cramps that feel like someone is trying to rip you in half. Can be exacerbated by dehydration (which it itself causes). Really unpleasant spent 3 days in the hospital ended up with 7 liters of IV fluids over 24 hrs. Make darned sure he gets plenty of fluids (gatorade/pediasure at least some of it or you’ll mangle the body electrolyte chemistry). And if it goes on more than 3-4 days without clear recovery consider hitting the ER especially if he seems dopey or out of it (classic dehydration issue).

              1. Thank you.

                He’s already had a sudden onset muscle cramp, which we figured was dehydration and early unbalancing. Been gauging his decision processes. So far everything is fine. To the point he’s been directing asking me to do follow up and other items he needed done (deposit check), pickup food items, get prescriptions, because he was told to isolate. He is even using his mask around the house even though I pointed out it is a bit late. If it is contagious … we’ve already been exposed.

                He is getting Pedolite … apparently it is most foul. Drinking Gatorade, Sprite (clear liquid), and water. Has eaten bland solids and kept them down. He is doing better following instructions than I would have at his age, or any age if I was honest.

    2. When my kidneys started to fail, it was exactly like that. I’m not saying kidneys, but there might be a problem with an organ or an allergy to something. Even an infection (bladder or something else) can cause this.

      1. Unless they are working with different wood? He works at a local cabinet maker, very large on the Pacific Coast. Large enough that they’ve dropped their individual homeowner custom division. They still service local large contractors on new builds putting in entire subdivisions. Otherwise, mostly multiple housing units. Guess we’ll see after the test comes back. See if his system settles down. Then if it hits again after being back to work Monday … The job requires wearing masks … dust. Helps, but not enough.

        1. Different wood, different glue, different stains. Heck, a different oil in the saws.

        2. Exotic woods can have some interesting effects, but I can’t see such in big builds. OTOH, new adhesives/binders for the cabinet stock? I recall some talk about using a shellfish derived binder a couple of decades ago when the formaldehyde crunch came down.

          Interesting to see if he’s not the only one.

          1. Not in his immediate crew at this point. Will see where this goes over the next week. If needed will start more in depth investigation.

            He has two known allergies to medications – sulfur (minor) and ceclor (major), but not the antibiotics derived from ceclor.

            1. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an intestinal/digestive parasite. Those can cause the same types of symptoms as well, and don’t resolve until the parasite is eliminated.

    3. I hope the tests they ran were broad enough to check for things other than “it must be CCP Virus of Flu” type stuff, as there are non-infectious disease problems that can cause similar symptoms, including things like gallstones.

      1. Good news is the test for Covid-19 came back negative (he just got it). Bad news is doesn’t appear they tested for anything else.

        He says they haven’t changed anything at work that he is aware of. You’d think that if they changed glues, etc., they’d have to do the new chemical routine safety stuff (don’t remember what it is called, haven’t dealt with that in decades now).

        Fingers crossed that bland diet, etc., takes care of it and he is done with it.

  13. I’m retired now, but worked as an attorney for industrial manufacturing and software companies. HR was always my pet peeve: more empire builders than productive workers.
    In an ER currently. I’ll see how things go.

    1. In an ER currently. I’ll see how things go.

      I hope things work out OK. The local ER is quite good, though I’d rather not have needed to use them.

  14. I’m retired now, but worked as an attorney for industrial manufacturing and software companies. HR was always my pet peeve: more empire builders than productive workers.
    In an ER currently. I’ll see how things go.

    1. Here’s to the reason being simple, easily fixable, and you getting better soon!

  15. “History is the sum of low probability events.” – April Lewis (via Mackey Chandler).
    I rather like that perspective, which is of course why I remember the quote.

    1. The Battle of Leipzig, 1813. There is NO way one corporal could destroy the French Imperial army. No way. And yet . . .

      1. I just reviewed the Wiki. Always somebody who a) doesn’t get the word, and v) is a dangerous idiot.

      2. Battle off Samar.

        The idea that a few metal dinghys with guns attached could chase off the biggest battleship ever built and its escorts is laughable.

          1. Thus ensuring they got the range wrong and then used armor piercing shells, which went straight through rather than exploding inside the ships. . . .

            It fed itself.

        1. OMG yes … If you wrote Tin Can Sailors as fiction, no one would believe it. Either that, or it would make great space opera.

            1. Couple of months back I was at the local cigar bar when a new face sat down across from me wearing a NAVY ball cap. Got to talking about the battle in any detail with another person who’d read the book. Wonderful afternoon. (Turns out he was a microbiologist and well connected to the local COVID bureaucracy. And that, as they say, would be another story.) Absolutely great to find someone with an appreciation of Samar.

          1. If you wrote it as space opera Honor Harrington herself would think it utterly improbable. 7 destroyer class ships and a couple escort carriers held off 23 cruiser+ ships of which they sank 3 and severely damaged at least that many more. The Tin Can Sailors were seriously tough although something like 1000 of them never came back from that encounter

              1. A handful of DEs which the IJN misidentified as Fletchers, two Fletchers the IJN ID’d as Baltimore heavy cruisers, and the CVEs which the IJN ID’d as fast fleet carriers – so basically wrong on every single instance in the direction of the scariest stuff they were expecting to see. So the frelling superbattleship YAMATO and the rest of the BBs and heavy cruisers and net probably nearly a thousand long lance torpedoes turned and ran away.

                Best undercredited credit I’ve seen is to the folks back home who built the smoke generator hardware and chemical mixes used by all those DEs and DDs as they madly dashed back and forth laying smokescreens, and even the CVEs were making smoke while they conducted flight ops.

        1. Sounds all too right. OTOH, let’s keep SMOD out of the picture. The Year of the Jackpot? Noooooooo!

        2. I figured we were in a low-probability timeline when the Soviet Union fell without any nukes going off. (Well, unless you count Chernobyl…)

  16. I’m just trying to keep me turning. Not really effective. At least I’ve managed to take my meds at mostly the proper times, eat enough protein, and care for the dog. Everything else is catch as catch can… TG my brothers helped me out with a Washer and Dryer or I wouldn’t be able to laundry enough.

  17. And there were days, like when I found older son eating croutons from the bag, because I was writing and forgot to make lunch; he was hungry and that’s what he could reach in the pantry.

    Honey peanut butter tortillas.

    I just walked in on the two year old making herself one. (yes, it’s messy, even with the honey already in the peanut butter)

    They seem to be growing fine anyways…..

    1. I had to read that twice.

      First time through I thought it said Honey Peanut Brittle Tortillas, and said, “Damn! I need to ask her the recipe for those!”

      1. I think my blood sugar spiked when I read that 🙂 (It’s running about 10% higher than before the knee blowout. Couldn’t possibly haveanything to do with inactivity. Nah.)

    2. A 2 year old eating a stick of butter like it was a popsicle. I got distracted making her dinner and she (and one of the cats) were helping themselves to butter from the fridge.

      1. I haven’t had that problem.

        …because they’re sneaky. I don’t KNOW who keeps taking spoonfulls out of the butter, and I dont KNOW who it is, and if they’re feeding it to the cats (unlikely, they’re not that glossy) or putting it on bread or just eating it straight….

      2. Sometimes, reading these stories, I end up unsure whether to thank God for his mercy that my elder child hasn’t tried X yet or worry that I’m undermining her potential for independence.

    3. When my boys were around 7,4, and 2, I got one of those stomach ailments that are short-lived, but dramatic. Fortunately, the husband was at home. He spent the day installing a jungle-gym sort of thing behind the house for the kids, but did not spend much time actually supervising the young ‘uns. At one point in the late afternoon, oldest son ran into my bedroom and cried, “Mommy, Ben (the youngest) is so hungry he’s eating vitamin pills!” I pulled myself out of bed, went to a back window and told Husband to please make some PB sandwiches or something for the kids. Youngest son survived.

  18. I’ve done primarily network firewall work for a long time. Writing or creating the rules is typically fairly simple, you have source, destination, and type of traffic you are allowing or denying. It’s when those rules don’t work that you then need to understand the underlying principles of tcp/ip and the OSI model and how it all works together so you can figure out what’s not working and how to fix it. I think half my job is being able to do that well enough to show that it’s not the firewall causing the problem when users complain.

    I see a lot of requests from our companies ‘experts’ in their areas and most of them don’t understand how their stuff works. While I do make the occasional typo, the majority of the things I have to go back and fix are mostly due to the people requesting the rules not knowing what they’re asking for.

    On another note, anybody else feel like this week has been Halloween? I’ve been watching with horror all the bills the House has been passing.

    1. And it is, of course, Trump’s fault. If he wasn’t such a clown he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and thereby lost, fair and square, to a guy running a campaign from a basement, and if he hadn’t personally gotten the Georgia elections thrown by his stupid sore loser’s tantrum, we wouldn’t be seeing this.
      NOT MY OPINION, but it’s a close paraphrase by a never-Trump type on Twitter. He feels such deep contempt for Trump (and his followers, who are all “obviously,” foolish dupes in a “cult of personality,”) that he CANNOT let him self even suspect the election wasn’t legit. And the fact he’s getting defensive in his responses suggests that at some level, he knows it.

      1. Pretty sure we have more contempt for him and we have actual reasons, like the content of his tweets. Trump has plenty of faults, but, unlike damn near every other GOP politician, he tried his best to follow through to do what he said he’d do. That seems to be the issue with the Never-Trump faction, you’re not supposed to actually DO Conservative things, you’re only supposed to talk about them and let the Democrats have their way with the country. After all, if all these problems are well on their way to being fixed, what would they have to talk about? Why would people give them money? Like the old joke about paying a consultant to do a job, the consultant isn’t in any hurry to complete the job so it stays fixed. because then he stops getting paid.

        Little stories are still leaking here and there, like a Democrat political activist being given access to mail in ballots days before they were counted. Arizona is still trying to get Maricopa County to come clean. Not to mention the lovely article about how big tech allied with others to make sure the election went to Biden. There’s so much smoke from the 2020 elections that it puts the Colorado fires to shame. Hell, if it was physical smoke, the climate would be so cold the glaciers would be advancing.

        1. This is why I’ve been pounding on the “Elections don’t matter anymore” doom gang in the Instapundit comments. The more we vote they more they have to cheat to win, which means that more people will see the cheating, which either gets us more vote (making them cheat more) or to the point where throwing off the brahmandarins becomes possible. And hey, it’s possible that they won’t cheat enough to win.

          1. Jeff Gauch said:
            And hey, it’s possible that they won’t cheat enough to win.

            I kind of think that’s what happened in 2016. Hilary Clinton and her people were SO overconfident that they were spending advertising money in NYC and LA to boost the wins there in the heart of Blue America. In 2020 they realized that they had a hubbard squash for a candidate. They accepted him because they knew Bernie would lose to make Mondale and McGovern look like Democrat landslides (oh and apologies to hubbard squash). So they OVER did it so badly that a blind man would see it. Except the News folks were in the tank so bad that they didn’t (or at least didn’t WANT to ) see it.

            Given they know the mainstream media will cover for them I can’t forsee them NOT cheating at that level in the future…

            1. The Dowager Empress’ election wizards knew they had the Electoral College locked and were just worried about DJT getting a higher popular vote total, which is why they were spending that money in NYC and LA to try and pad their vote count in a safe state. They got their vote total (barely, all due to California), but arguably that same money spent in WI would have made a huge difference.

              That’s why the giant TRUMP sign along the LA freeway last year was truly brilliant – but too little and too late. If earlier and part of a distributed high visibility campaign of sowing doubt, especially leveraging the fears of the upper-class ruling party elite in mostly SF and Sacramento about how much hidden non-locked votes were actually out there outside their poop-filled urban cores, it might have forced a shift of resources to the deep-blue golden state, and thus away from other places actually in play like Nevada or Arizona.

              There should have been hundreds of those signs all along CA freeways, getting put back up every night as soon as they were unconstitutionally removed.

              It is so very important to generate disruptive doubt-sowing activity, especially behind the lines in “safe states” – make them nervous enough and they’ll spread themselves too thin, and not deliver baksheesh bags of cash payment to local vote-synthesizing operatives or miss paying off a local county election commissioner or judge, and given a not-locked-down voter pool they’d be in as much trouble in the Electoral College as they were in all the local races they lost.

              The number one near-term objective is to flip the House so Nancy Grey Goose is not #3 in succession, which is all up to money spent in local races. That is why the Trump SuperPAC is so important, taking the money flow out of the hands of traitorturtle and warm-hairgel-ziploc and the rest of the country club loyal opposition good loser wing. The fact that redirecting the money flow under DJT’s control will also punish the squish Senators who are falling over themselves to hold hands across the aisle is just a bonus – and flipping one D seat in the Senate means Chucky can be told to shut up.

              1. The big problem with the Senate is that there are three states with Republican Senators (Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania) where if something happens to one of those Senators, a Democratic Party governor appoints their replacement, giving the Dems an outright majority. Given that McConnell, for all his faults, seems to be hinting he may leave office early (at his age I can see a health problem that could cause him to do so), the Senate is extremely precarious. Indeed, it would nut shock me that if Harris formally becomes President, resulting in a true 50/50 tie, that an “accident” doesn’t happen to one of those Republican Senators with a Dem governor precisely to give the Dems the majority back.

                There is literally nothing that the Dems won’t do in their pursuit of absolute totalitarian power. The Dems are the party that believes that the President can dictate whether and how people celebrate July 4th. They are the party that thinks that speech they don’t like can be banned and that people don’t have an individual right to bear arms.

            2. But my point is that cheating at the level of 2020 won’t be enough for the Democrats to win. Biden enjoyed the votes of people who didn’t like Trump and those who wanted to just go back to normal. The second group has already learned the folly of their ways, most of them are going to stay home at best. There’s a good chance that Trump will stay out of the race in ’24 and enjoy his role as Republican kingmaker, taking the first group out of the Democrat column. That’s a few million votes nationally and several thousand in the swing states.

              Roughly 65% of the electorate thinks that 2020 was legitimate. Something like 80% of the electorate thinks that 2020 was abnormal. Many of the people in the overlap are going to have their credulity strained if the abnormalities of 2020 repeat in 2024.

                1. >> “And no, 65% doesn’t think 2020 was legitimate.”

                  Source? I remember a Rasmussen poll saying nearly half the country was suspicious, but I don’t remember hearing of a poll saying two-thirds. That’s even better if true.

      2. Golly, if only never-Trumpers hadn’t spent so much time, energy and money focusing on Trump’s faults and considered there was but a binary choice … and that at least Trump would appoint Republicans to DOJ, DOE, DOD and other bureaucratic posts … it is possible there would have been better conservative operatives for Trump to draw upon.

        Even if you consider Trump to be poison, he was a slow-acting one, unlike the Biden-Hemlock the country is currently gulping. There is no effing way any sane person could have disputed Trump’s mental competency and been fine with Biden.

        Continuing to blame Trump for his flaws rather than accept culpability for their own is why never-Trumpers should never be permitted power.

        1. They seem to have a deep urge to feel morally superior. If only those misguided Trumpkins would see the light and return to the Way of True Conservatism, all would be well. Or if the GOP can only attract moderates and suburban women, they won’t need those embarrassing populists with their “nativism.”

    2. They’re shoving everything through as fast as possible, before they have to admit that President Biden is not mentally competent to remain in office. Or just drops dead.

      The chaos that will ensue will be “interesting” as President Harris attempts to fire all the would be puppet masters.

          1. Damn. 5 years without a decent meal! And 3 more ahead! That must be a tough prospect for (only) Trump officials.

      1. I think the Pres. Biden in store episode this week made it 1000% obvious that the current POTUS* ain’t all there up there. To the point that the 25th Amendment should have been invoked within days of the Inauguration.

        I fear there’s not enough popcorn in North America for the epic battles over 1) if he should leave office, 2) who will become Harris’ VP, and 3) the role of the former FLOTUS.

        1. I think all of this was worked out in the negotiations that led to ,la being named Biden’s running mate. Doc Jill will get a respectable time in the White House before Joe suffers his debilitating stroke (he won’t be declared senile, that would let the Trump crow about being right. A stroke would cover the mental decline, but a heart attack would also be possible. Assuming, of course, they don’t just kill him). The administration is likely staffed with a mix of Biden and ,la people.

          Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if ,la graciously invited Joe and Jill to stay in the White House as her guests, in recognition for all the work Joe did for his country.

          1. They need to keep Biden as the nominal President for as long as possible because the minute that Harris formally becomes President, she is no longer VP and the Democrats lose their tie breaking 51st vote in the Senate. That 50-50 split would include the vote for a new VP. Given that Schumer just burned any bridges left that would have gotten Collins to vote for anything Dems want:


            (It’s via Fox but Tyler Olsen seems to be one of the remaining sane reporters there)

            So basically the Democrats have openly stated that they believe that NOT exercising single party rule is a mistake that they won’t repeat.

          2. They are going to have him shot and blame it on Trump. They will then use it to pass their gun bans and net neutrality and other laws to put their boots on our necks.

                1. At that time, the Southern States (and their citizens) considered themselves to be States (nations).
                  See then U.S. Army General Robt. E. Lees’ statement that though he was serving in the U.S. Army, he was first a Citizen of Virginia, and if Virginia was leaving the Union, he must leave with it.
                  The corruption of the present political system, and the apparent likekyhood that no politician can trust any other whom he doesn’t have the ability to coerce, even if the coercial can be mutual, leaves the bench on both sides empty of back-up players.
                  The premised reduction of leading players would be far more disruptive now than in 1859/60.

                2. Assuming a 100% kill rate, and untraceable operatives. neither of which is possible…. a couple of years longer.

          3. Bet they were REAL ANNOYED with the Woman Of Color promise — since that would have been real trouble to repudiate.

      2. I wonder what impact “FICUS is now not competent so immanentize the 25th!, and oh, and his condition is materially unchanged since the inauguration” would have on challenges to his executive orders – if he’s non compos mentis and has not been since the end of January, how could he sign those and have them be valid?

        I know, we’re in The Crazy Years, so all the upper class media reporting will all be “His Sudden Decline!”, “Unexpectedly!”, “Frau Doktor Biden Is Distraught” and “The Nation Mourns Its Fallen Hero!”, but a rational world would put all his actions into question on such a finding.

        1. That’s why I think Biden’s ouster will begin with a medical crisis, probably a stroke. That’s assuming they don’t just kill him. Which, now that I think of it, would give them a line of attack against Trump in ’24. “He’s almost as old as Joe Biden was and look what happened to him. Do you really want to go through another President dying in office? ,la is young and healthy!”

          1. Part of me WANTS to see them go to the 25th. “Dr” Biden will certainly cause FICUS to protest and then it goes to the congress where you need a 2/3rds supermajority. Hell if I were a Republican I’d vote against it just to be a pain in the neck. at least 33 senators and probably a similar section of Republican reps will do that. Get the popcorn…

            1. For those playing the FICUS CLUE home game, I have “Dot-not-Black, in the Lincoln Bedroom, with a Pillow”.

            2. And as I like to point out, Joe has been in the Senate since Harris was a teenager, and Dr. Edith Wilson Jr. has been by his side for all but six of those years. If they don’t buy her off properly, she could exhume enough skeletons to take down Harris and Pelosi.

              1. I had not considered that Edith Wilson II might know where all the bodies are buried. Well either she will be able to blackmail, or she will disappear quietly as if her last name were Epstein. In any case we’re going to definitely need more popcorn…

              2. Unless the first wife died because she ‘knew too much’, and he was a little more careful with the replacement.

          2. Maybe they should consult with Bill and Killary to figure out what to do with Uncle Joe. They’d get the job done right.

  19. Someone in the comments yesterday said that he feels as though a few very competent individuals are keeping civilization going. He’s not wrong. There’s a metric and ratio and a name for them.

    According to the Pareto Principle:
    More generally, the Pareto Principle is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. It can mean all of the following things:

    20% of the input creates 80% of the result

    I’ve been chewing it over, and what jumps out is that what it at first seems to say or mean, isn’t accurate.

    It’s not that there are competent individuals like “Here! This, this and this guy are Competent. It’s what they are.”

    It’s that activities have competent individuals doing them– for an example, I am a competent cook, generally speaking. I am not competent at making pie crusts, and I’m not so hot on properly cooking steaks.

    That means that when I’m cooking in a group, the most effective place for me to spend most of my time… is in steaks and pie crusts. Doing the prep work that you just need to be decent at, so that the folks who are actually competent can do the fiddly bits I can’t. I outsource the stuff I’m not competent in for that final 20%.

    I am not actively incompetent, so getting the low hanging fruit is a good place for me.

    1. “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

      In your case, you know how to do somethings well. But you also know how to organize and manage well because you know what you’re not best at, and know when to bring in people who are better.

      That’s one of the things that people who hate Trump love to excoriate him about; he’s hiring and firing people right and left. They don’t understand that he hires people to solve the immediate problems he’s confronting; he’s not hiring them for a tax payer funded career. Problem solved, or they demonstrate they can’t, they’re fired. Usually. Don’t know why he didn’t toss Fauci out on his butt.

      1. There’s also….

        *vague handwaving*

        It’s like…respect.
        I respect even the stupid little jobs, because I know they matter.
        Aviation, debated using a Gremlin based ‘nym, familiar with the popular theories of why gremlins are banished by truly obsessive FOD searches and tool control, but I respected the “stupid little jobs” before that, too, because I know they make stuff better. Sweeping the floor is important, it stops bugs and other nasty things and it makes folks FEEL better.
        Chopping the veggies is important, even if everyone praises the roast.

        The work gets done by the wheel that turns. But the oil makes it so the wheel can turn.

      2. You literally can’t draw any comparison between Trump’s personnel management in civilian life with his Presidency. He wasn’t working with the same ground rules. It matters when any hiring and firing must be done exclusively through the lens of an HR department that hates you, backed up by a board you can’t even buy out,

        I’ve been saying since the early days of W that elections are rendered meaningless when the bureaucracy remains in place. Well, here we are,

      1. Meh. Ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times zero is all the same.

        But thanks all the same.

        1. Now, now, they must have SOME tiny trace of wisdom somewhere.

          However little they use it.

  20. It goes the other way, too: 20% of your clients will cause 80% of the trouble.

    1. And then there’s Sturgeon’s “Law” (“90% of everything is crud.”) which suggests that 20% is twice as good as might be expected.

  21. I think among the Left’s problem is a lack of understanding how complex civilization is. Note the things they considered “non-essential” that wound up with empty shelves and serious concerns about crops getting planted and harvested.

    As to the 20/80 . . . sometimes that last 20% that 80% are doing is needed, and it’s certainly better for them individually and the world as a whole that they do it instead of sitting on their rears waiting to be given a portion of the 80% that is now all that’s getting produced.

    1. “There is no unimportant job.” Yeah, maybe some are make-work nonsense, but even those can at least be used to occupy the time of some who might do real damage elsewhere.

      Used to work a few hours a week at a convenience store (You’ve all seen stranger things than my kind in those.) and many mornings a fellow would come in and buy coffee & such for his ‘crew’… his work-release crew. One day he related, “The problem is most of theses guys just don’t get it. It’s not that they need to even give a damn about who they work for. If they just had some pride of their own workmanship, they could be golden *anywhere*.” And that has been my experience. Give a damn about you do, and, “Bob’s your uncle.”

      1. There are low-value jobs, but that’s not the same thing as unimportant.

        A classic example is the hot shot executive or lawyer who can type 120 wpm. He’s better off hiring a secretary who types at 60 wpm so as to free up his time to do more-valuable executive/legal things. Now the Usual Suspects will whine about the secretary being paid less than half as much the hot guy, but there’s no shame in being paid what you’re worth, and no lack of importance if you’re worth what you’re paid.

        1. That’s a poor example, likely dating back before the “personal computer” era, and certainly before widely-networked computers.

          A secretary to filter incoming paper and electronic mail, certainly. And that’s a *very* valuable job, involving a high level of knowledge and responsibility. Some largeish amount is simple boilerplate the secretary can handle on her own, or with a quick yes/no question. (even for American types of ‘secretary’; in Britlish it can mean a management-level position)

          But for the mail the secretary passes through, it’s almost always faster for the executive to deal with it directly than to dictate a reply.

      2. Over a lifetime, it’s been distressing to observe how a vast swathe of society exhibits an apparent total lack of pride in workmanship. These people seem interested only in putting the absolute minimum of effort into their jobs. As long as the boss isn’t actively reaching for a pink slip, the hell with it. Only the pay itself counts.

        I seriously wonder what would happen if all the truly competent folks who care about the work itself were to suddenly abandon the major cities for smaller communities in the countryside — large towns and so forth. Want to bet the major cities would simply collapse into anarchy within months if not weeks? Continual blackouts as the giant electricity generators break down, no potable water as the water treatment plants break down, no refrigerated foods as grocery store machinery breaks down, no functioning computerized checkout stations, and on and on in a horror of uncontrolled decay. Widespread riots over food and death illimitable as fires rage across communities with no functioning fire hydrants and few or no working fire engines.

        Ho-ho-ho. It’d be almost fun to watch from afar if it weren’t for all the undeserving innocents — children, retirees, etc. — caught in the conflagration of fools and incompetents. -_-

      1. But given the volume of food and feed that we export, it may suck more for others.

        1. Even here. If they are not exporting excess and have the means to export …

          I hope they are exporting excess and home is served first. Some of these farms, and ranches, are mega farms and the decision makers aren’t even on the farm or ranch. Not to mention the trend to purchase farms/*ranches and let them lay fallow (god for wildlife); might be unforeseen consequences. The Farm/Ranch managers are onsite. Here is hoping their pipeline infrastructures are just enough disrupted that all stays internal nationally.

          There are at least 3 that I know of in the west. Two in Oregon. One is for sale in Douglas County (or was, might have sold), very clear from descriptions it isn’t a “working” ranch. The other two have gone 501(c) as private wild horse range rescues (agree with the premise to save the wild horses, plus it is a way to not sell to mega conglomerates). That doesn’t count the family ranches in places in the Greater Yellowstone/Teton ecosystems, where they maybe working ranches, but they get most their annual income from tourist lodging and activities. Those seem to be are mostly? family ranches trying not to sell out to the conglomerates.

      1. Need a huge one cast of solid depleted uranium and stick it in the middle of Times Square. Watch the woke go crazy trying to tip it over then.

      2. I’ve been shopping around for one of these today. I’m just not sure I want to buy something from a Chinese-language-only website, which is the only place so far I’ve found one.

        ‘zon does have a listing, but no reviews, and fairly pricey:

  22. 64 years old and the one thing I’ve noticed in my life and the life of most people I know is that the most significant events in life tend to be unintended consequences of opportunities that presented themselves while we were “planning” our lives … opportunities we grabbed and they worked out …

  23. There must be some intersection of MBA school curricula and Executive retention patterns that leverages the Pareto Principle to justicify the cyclical layoffs I went through in semiconductor cubeland – basically, after Corporate Executives tried and failed to explain away actual market contraction which they had no plans to face in a known-to-be-cyclical market, a RIF is implemented to “control expenses” but no taskings or projects are cut because all of them are first priority.

    When the layoff survivors stretch and work late and figure out how to do the work of all the riffed departed ex-coworkers anyway, at the cost of their real lives and sleep and sanity and various maintenance and upkeep stuff that gets deferred, the Executives pat themselves on the back for cutting all that deadwood that was outside the 20% of real contributors.

    Usually the downturn continues, there’s another round of layoffs and another after that, things still sort of manage to get done until there’s some minor failure that dominoes into a major stuff-falls-apart incident. Instead of saying “I guess all these layoffs mean we can;t just keep doing everything we did with 30% more warm bodies” the Execs go scurrying around, hold angry meetings, and look desperately for scapegoats before they get awarded that role themselves.

    My point is, based on my experience, sure, 20% get the work done – but the other 80% are there to enable that to happen, to get the donuts, make the coffee, answer the phones, write the reviews, handle teh customers, and provide depth so those 20% are not maimed and chained to the forge, so they can take their kids to softball or go on vacations.

    And some business school execs just cannot see that value provided by those non-superstars.

  24. Part of our problem is that we enter this world thoroughly naïve and utterly unappreciative of how much of a head start the grown-ups have. We never saw our parents and teachers as squalling, snot-nosed brats and thus measure ourselves against them as they are rather than as they were when our age.

    So we discount their efforts at acquiring the skills we struggle to master, having never seen their struggles.

    1. Yep. I always told my students about my year on academic probation due to having screwed up my freshman year in college. They were astounded. “But…you’re a professor now!” Yes. And I didn’t repeat my mistakes and worked my butt off. I also tell them about my brother who has a GED and a PhD from Cambridge. None of the other faculty tell them these stories. And so students either give up, or become overly confident in their own abilities and decide they don’t need to listen to the experiences of those older than them.

      1. HS classmate flunked out of freshman college year. Too much partying. Skated through HS 4.0 GPA, not the easy pathway either. Joined the Army. As of the last class reunion I attended he was working on his 4th PHD curtsy of Armed Services. I think he was a Colonel. Our 50th reunion will be 2024 …

      2. I knew one or two people from HS who were smarter thn me, but who crashed and burned first semester. Then, there was Don, not brilliant, but who worked his butt off, and ended doing quite well.

        1. Yes. I know of at least 4 people who quit their first year of college who I went to HS with. (More if you count the ones I didn’t go to HS with.) Including the person I mentioned above. Two of them had better HS grades than I did. We all were heavy on Math and Science. The other two had grades equal to mine but weren’t heavy on the math and science. Me? I think I mentioned I was too stubborn to quit. I worked a lot harder for the lousy not brilliant grades for the Forestry degree than I did for the programming AA and CS BS degrees. For a lot of reasons (not having English as second language math professors helped, but that wasn’t entirely the reason). Pretty sure I didn’t suddenly have a genius gene suddenly come out of hibernation.

    2. This is why every generation is sure that the one before never had to suffer what they are suffering. It’s also why every generation thinks that they’ve invented sex.

      1. That reminds me of a scene in the first Addams Family movie about ‘where do babies come from?’ The yuppie Girl Scout recites a whole long convoluted blather with bunnies, a cabbage patch and a stork.

        Wednesday listens stoically, then says, “Our parents had sex.”

        End of discussion.

        1. When/if I ever get around to re-watching those movies, I will be doing so primarily for Wednesday. Such a shame they didn’t get to make a third.

    3. The older I get the more I appreciate the power of perspective. It’s also one of those things you don’t realize you lack until you develop it and interact with those still lacking it.

      1. Also note how the party of 700+ genders reverts to their being two, men and women, in order to impose this massive overreach and effort to dictate prices of products and services.

      2. That’s right, equality is achieved when everybody is abused equally. All busybodies concerned comrades are urged to point out anybody not receiving their fair share of abuse.

  25. “How did I get into being instapundit? By accident. Like most things in my life.”
    How true. It may not be quite right to call it accident (I just changed my work biography’s title from “The Accidental Professional” to “A Geek’s Progress: Navigating a Software Career from the 80’s to the 20’s”—less cliched and more accurate.)

    I like the lines from Neil Diamond’s song, “Man of God”.

    “I’m a man of God,
    though I never learned to pray.
    Walked the pathways of the heart,
    Found Him there along the way.”

    I find that pursuing my path in a moral manner has led to opportunities that I could have never planned for.

    And for you Sarah, from my wisdom file: “The people I’ve met who do great work rarely think that they’re doing great work. They generally feel that they’re stupid and lazy, that their brain only works properly one day out of ten, and that it’s only a matter of time until they’re found out.” – Paul Graham

    1. Paul Graham is still adding to my quote file occasionally.

      “One of the most conspicuous patterns I’ve noticed in my life is how well it has worked, for me at least, to work on things that weren’t prestigious.”—Paul Graham, What I Worked On

      “…lasting is not merely an accidental quality of chairs, or writing. It’s a sign you did a good job.”—Paul Graham, Write Simply

  26. Name-dropped again? If your shoulder blades are itchy it is likely because of that growing target there. Does Professor Reynolds offer health insurance?

    Petty Health Tyrants Strike Again
    One of my favorite lines in the Declaration of Independence refers to how the King “sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” I’d have to say that things are similar today. Swarms of governmental officers are harassing us and eating out our substance.

    Here’s an example I just came across. On his Behind the Black blog, Robert Zimmerman writes about the decision of Alexandria, Va., officials to close down a student-journalism conference that had been scheduled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. All it took was one anonymous complaint to city health officials for them to declare that the conference would violate their COVID regulations.

    When there are vindictive people who take delight in messing up the plans of people they dislike and officials with the power to collaborate with them, freedom disappears.

    Zimmerman comments, “Note the dishonest game played by Alexandria government. They clearly misused their insane and odious COVID rules — rules that make no sense under any definition of scientific and medical research — to silence a political event that they disagreed with, proving once again that these COVID restrictions never had anything to do with preventing the spread of COVID, but instead were designed to prevent the spread of ideas hostile to leftist ideology.”


    Hat tip: Sarah Hoyt

  27. Geez Sarah, have you been having secret meeting with my therapist? Because this is literally the same list that she keeps beating me with. I listen to you better than I do her though, FWIW.

    1. Mr. Reynolds does not go far enough.

      Per the website of the University of Tennessee law school, Doug Blaze, who signed that execrable letter, is still interim head.

        1. It is hypocritical of me to say that he should do things that I am not personally willing to accept the costs of doing.

  28. While the 80/20 rule is a useful popular generalization of the Pareto principle, it actually doesn’t go far enough in describing the lack of parity in the situation. What the Pareto distribution actually implies, mathematically, is that for any given endeavor, a fixed percentage of the output (for instance, half) will be produced by the square root of the total population.

    Ergo, in an organization of 10 people, 3 or 4 of them will be responsible for half of the output. In an organization of 100 people, 10 are responsible for half. And, in an organization of 1 million, half the output is produced by a mere 1000 people, or 0.1% of the total population.

    The reason this happens is that competence (or efficiency, or whatever you want to call it) tends to be self-reinforcing, leading to exponential gains in productivity at the top of the curve. Those familiar with software development will know that, no matter how big the project, there will typically be that one guy who has the entire codebase memorized and can solve almost any issue that pops up – usually before anyone else even recognizes it’s an issue. The same sort of pattern emerges in just about every field – in fact, if that pattern *doesn’t* emerge in a given field, it’s a sure sign that that field has been distorted enough that competence is no longer a relevant measure of success.

    So, when someone says that all of civilization rests in the hands of just a few individuals, it’s not hyperbole. And, when those few individuals finally decide that they’ve had enough, well… that’s what Heinlein calls “bad luck.”

  29. Maybe it’s because of all the other crap that Baen has pulled on some of their mid list authors that makes my opinion of the house somewhat biased, but in my heart I know that were Jim Baen still alive and running the business Baen’s Bar would not be shut down, certainly not for long.

  30. Last thought for me. Listened to as much of Uncle Joe as I could tonight. I appreciated how he said he “became” President. Someone with less honesty would have said “was elected.”

  31. Came across this in a column, seems worth passing along:

    “Hey, did you see Biden in a hardware store the other day?”

    “The owner asked, ‘Could I help you?’ and Biden said, ‘Yes, I have a loose screw.’ ”

    1. Biden only has one screw left, and it’s loose. 😀

      But not as loose as his vice-president…

      1. $SISTAUR once proclaimed that, once upon a time I had loose screws and they all fell out and now I am just nuts. It’s been… some time. Why, yes, we DO get along rather well now.

  32. One thing about our Southern border has been preying on me: does this enrichment of the cartels smuggling drugs and trafficking humans through our border constitute an act of war against the Mexican government?

    1. I’m waiting for the cartels to start taking over U.S. border towns like they’ve taken over towns in Mexico.

      1. What makes you think they haven’t?

        They could just move in and take over, and nobody would know – or care – as long as they maintained a reasonably low profile.

        Then, among other things, they’d have a direct connection to the county/state/Federal law enforcement systems and their databases. Way too useful of a tool to pass up. Having their own judges, prosecutors, and courts – also plugged into the Justice system – would be a-verra-nahss too.

        And it’d be *cheap*. And there’d be almost nothing the higher-level jurisdictions could do about it… assuming they cared, and wanted to do something about it. Nobody cares about Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York being run by criminal enterprises; who’s going to lay their budget and career on the line to bust some crooked pols in Hooterville? Who will, incidentally, be able to use public funds for their defense?

        1. To paraphrase “Cauldron of Ghosts,” a mob is something that demands money, protects you from (other) criminals, and provides basic social services. A city government is something that demands money, protects you from (other) criminals, and provides basic social services. A well-run mob can do a better job governing than a poor-run city council.

          I offer no opinion on how well the cartels do at governing.

          1. Cyril Kornbluth addressed this in his 1953 novel The Syndic:

            The prologue introduces the setting, a future North America divided between rival criminal gangs the Syndic on the East Coast and the Mob in Chicago, who have driven the federal government into exile in Iceland, Ireland and other North Atlantic islands. Life has more or less returned to normal in Syndic territory – as long as protection money is paid on time. The rest of the world has collapsed into either peasant life or tribalism.

            Attitudes to sex are generally tolerant, with free sex outside of marriage and both polygamy and polyandry accepted. (However, male homosexuality is not, and lesbianism is never mentioned.)

            The protagonist, Charles Orsino, is a low-ranking member of the Syndic who collects protection money in New York. After a failed assassination attempt, he is invited to a meeting of the leaders of the Syndic, who suspect that the exiled government were responsible. To discover the truth, Charles volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the government, with a false personality created by hypnosis to fool lie detectors. He is taken to the main naval base on the shores of Ireland. He also visits Ireland outside of government territory: it is tribal and governed by sorceresses who have genuine powers of telepathy. It is mentioned in passing that England is also tribal and much weaker.

            While escaping home, he also visits Mob territory and finds it much more disorganised. He proposes that the Syndic becomes more like a regular government to protect itself. But his mentor rejects this, and the book ends on that note.

            Over his career Kornbluth addressed a great deal of our contemporary situation.

            I am undecided whether William Tenn’s “Null-P” foresaw this era.

            1. The Syndic always felt like a novel that had been chainsawed into something about a third of its true size. True, Kornbluth did very little in the long form, and maybe it was just something he hammered out and forgot about after he got the check, but there’s so much *missing*; it’s almost a series of vignettes with little or no connective tissue, like he pasted it up from several different short stories that weren’t really intended to go together.

              the serialized version, from Science Fiction Adventures magazine at
              the novel, from Gutenberg:

              Both from 1953. The texts are approximately the same size, allowing for formatting overhead.

        2. Even if they don’t ‘own’ towns outright, it’s safe to assume that they have plants who can get them all that information.

  33. What your son said about you not giving yourself enough credit is very true. I first came across you while reading Instapundit which I check on regularly. I confess I’m no fan of SciFi, just have never had an interest in it. But I would see your posts and would follow the links you’d provide. I found I liked the cut or your jib.
    I also wondered why this Hoyt woman always seemed to post in the wee hours of the morning.

    Then I found out you were from Portugal and I wondered how the heck your were able to make a career out of writing in what was not your native language. I spent several years in Brazil and picked up Portuguese while there. I still correspond with friends there, in Portuguese, from time to time. But I could never imagine myself writing for a living in Portuguese. Just the differences in idiomatic expressions and having to be up to date on the latest “giria” would make it impossible for me. I greatly admire native speakers who can express themselves well in English, that’s difficult enough to do. That you can do it in an adopted language borders on incredible.

    I admire you greatly for who you are and what you do.

        1. Proof? No, but I’ve evidence, to wit:
          The only way you could be more impressive would be if you were a wallaby.
          You are not more impressive.
          Ergo, you are not a wallaby.

  34. I like the way your head works. It talks to my head without any interpretation needed. Thank you for being a sane voice in this insane world.

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