Introduction To Econ010: Economics For Normal People

I am not a very observant person (you need to smack me in the face 4-5 times with a dead mackerel before I realize you have a fish in your hand). I don’t really make a point of watching other people when I go anywhere but lately I’ve been listening to talk around me. The people discussing next week’s election proposals on taxes, millages, proposals, and other conversations on minimum wage and inflation, interest rates and the economy in general has led me to an obvious conclusion: the average [American] knows nothing about economics.

Long, long ago in a galaxy college far, far away, I graduated with a BBA in Accounting. The following year, the dean at the school decided I could help to repair the damage to universal karma by teaching a couple of courses as retribution. I agreed to the sentence and was assigned to teach Basic and Advanced Algebra (not unexpectedly, as I was the only tutor for Calculus in the college and had a couple of students travel 60-90 minutes each way to come to my tutorial sessions, along with the countless others assisted in all math classes locally). Then she announced (with a strange gleam in her eye) I needed another class to fill, and casually announced I would take the 10:00 AM slot in Macroeconomics.

I thought I would choke to death. My protests of inadequacy and that I had only just completed the course the year previously were brushed off without a thought. “You’ll do fine” she announced and it was settled. I would teach mornings Monday through Friday and have office hours from nine to noon on Saturdays. There were over sixty victims in the two algebra courses and only 2 fatalities in grading.

The Econ group consisted of just seven brave souls and a terrified teacher. The principle truth of the education process is that you don’t necessarily need to know MORE than your students, just that you need to learn FASTER than they do. Eventually we finished, all much wiser (and at least fractionally smarter) than when we started. I felt we had accomplished a great task, that there were at least eight people in my local area that understood more about how the world worked that when we started.

Recently I discovered my notes from that class and, with the above mentioned observations, I have decided to write a series of posts to help others get an overview of this topic. I will setup a table of contents page (not sure where it will be or what it will look like, but I’ll get it worked out for you) listing articles as they come out, including a glossary with terms used for review. All relewant postings will start with the title ECON010 (based on the numbering system of schools where 1xx classes are first year, 2xx are second and so forth…while 099 is normally used to do remedial classes like refresher English or Math, I think the current level of general knowledge requires a remedial class to take the remedial class…). The goal is to post an article a week to this topic (a new Category and Tag will be made just for these postings) and there is at least a dozen lessons to cover. I suspect some (many) [most] {all?} will need to take a couple of posts to cover the materials, so eventually it will probably go to several dozen posts altogether.

I expect the first will come next week, the first full week in May. Of course it will depend on the available alternative choices and ultimately where the greatest utility lies (teaser) but I hope to have at least a small input in the lives of several people over the next year. So that (perhaps) the next time I hear a discussion at the mall I might hear something other than pointless drivel spewing from the participants.

Then again, maybe I need to move further away from the cell phone sales area…

Phred

post 56 of n

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49 Shades of Gray

I guess it was inevitable. I got a question from a friend about the use of the “strange” numbers in my book and movie reviews. Why not just use a 1-10 scale or something like that?

There are several reasons, actually, but it should not really be a surprise for anyone that has read many of my posts. One of the many reasons is that the odd values is just plain fun (maybe plane fun is more appropriate in this context). It has a kink, a twist that appeals to my sense of honor.

A more practical reason, though, is to dodge a (potential) flaw inherent in most surveys of this kind. For example, I went to the IMDB site to check out the Ex Machina movie before attending the other day.  It gives the movie a rating of 8.1 and encourages me to add my voice to the mix. However, My choices for rating the movie is to give it 1 star, 2 stars, and so on to a maximum of 10 stars. I presume the X.X rating is a mean average of all people voting for the movie (the total stars given divided by the number of people voting). And there is a subtle but important error in this method.

If we take a hypothetical example, sets say we think the movie is the worst in the history of cinema, that had Edison foreseen this abomination resulting from his invention he would have slit his wrists rather than allow this creation to come to fruition. It is clear this “movie” should get a rating of “1 star.”

Now, if we take the other end of the scale, rating the perfect movie, one so great that even divine intervention would be insufficient to add an iota of improvement to this masterpiece. The only movie showing for the rest of all time and yet no one complains or desires any other movie to even be considered for creation or playing. This automatically deserves (and naturally receives) a rating of “10 stars.”

All is well, so far. But what do we do with the movie exactly in the middle? A movie so nondescript that you are unable to think (or say) a single good or bad thing about it? A truly middle-of-the-road piece of cinema that deserves an average score, right down the middle of our scale.

It can’t be done….! The quick answer is “5 stars” and that is what most people would give it, but this is actually a vote for DESPISE the movie rather than ADORE it, albeit with only a slight degree of disgust.

Let’s make the example simpler. If you were presented with the three movies above and you were asked to chose between “ONE” = “BAD,” “TWO” = “EH,” and “THREE” = “GREAT” the choice is easy. If, on the other hand, you are only given “ONE” or “THREE” (there is no “TWO” option) it is impossible to honestly evaluate the third movie. You either have to declare it horrible or great when it is neither.

The problem is tn the level of gradation in the choices. The first (artificial) scale has an odd number of choices (1-3) and when you take the mean of all choices [(1+2+3)/{3)] you get an answer that is included in the answer set (2). You are really capable of making a “middle” choice.

in the second (really third on the page, but the second “simpler” example) survey, you still have a mean average of 2 [(1+3)/(2)], but this time you can’t vote for the average value. There is only an even number of choices so the mean value falls between two of the choices (the only two here, but the truth continues in the larger world). In the IMDB rating system, you CAN’T vote for “five and a half stars” like you want to. You need to lie and either like a movie you don’t or hate it more than you really do.

Not that this restriction of choice is necessarily bad. In some cases you really would rather have people expressing slight (but overall important) levels of satisfaction when gathering data. Example: your group (company, agency, family, whatever) is trying to determine if you should make an important change. If you give people a survey with a “hate…dislike…indifferent…like…love” scale you stand the chance of getting absolutely no information at all. What do you learn if everyone is indifferent?

On the other hand, if you leave out the indifferent option (a “hate…dislike…like…love” selection) you might still end up with a tie, but some must chose plus and an equal set of people would need to select minus to balance out. This is more unlikely than to allow indifferent people to express their inclination.

Of course you could just make the survey use a larger number of smaller units but the even/odd number of choices issue still raises its head. And for practical reasons computer surveys will use integer values for the choices (whether 1-10 or 0-1000) and not give you the chance to enter a value of 4.7 as a floating number (which adds its own level of inaccuracy due to floating math rounding errors). Expressing my thoughts as a ratio of two numbers allows me to include a level of precision with an acceptable degree of accuracy. This should apply in about 72 of every 77 times it comes up.

But the real reason for using iconic (ironic?) values is summarized in the last line of an earlier posting.

Phred

post 55 of n

Book Review: Rework

In my internet scanning to increase my abilities in computer graphic design, I was pointed at a few (several) [many] resources to help grow my skills and usefulness. A couple were interesting enough to see if they were available at the local library. I found three quickly and put holds on them to grab them next time I passed by. Later I collected one of them (in stock, the others will be when they come back into circulation) and spent part of the day reading it.

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is a collection of practical ideas about business success, gathered from their own experience in running their own successful business (37Signals).

It’s an easy read, in part because it is written in seat of the pants language and in part because each chunk is small. I has 94 articles in 14 chapters within the span of just 280 pages (by their own count only about 27,000 words total). REALLY small chunks. I read it in about an hour, waiting for the evening news to start.

The first pass through was not revelational (to me, at least) as this was pretty much a collection of things I had discovered or determined over my 30+ years in the workforce. It was during the second reading the scope and power of the book came into focus. It was precisely because it took me three decades to accumulate the wisdom contained in this book that makes this a great read. The proverb “experience is the best teacher” may be true, but better is the idea it doesn’t have to be YOUR experience. You should leap at the chance anytime you can pickup tips that work by spending an hour or two reliving another person’s experience (rather than paying years of effort yourself).

I originally intended on picking a couple of articles to point out as areas of wisdom to share (and cling to).  After the third read of the book I gave up. In essence I’d have to include everything (a low productive use of time). So, instead I will point out several chapters for first consideration and review (although you should probably just read cover to cover anyway).

The chapter Takedowns provides a different paradigm to view work through, debunking many traditional ideas about what it takes to start. Progress articles shift towards quality versus quantity in overall focus, that the goal is to “build half a product rather than a half-assed product.” Productivity includes the best synopsis of why meetings are a horrible waste of time I have read.

Then there’s the chapter Hiring. Every single place I have ever worked (including BNI/SAR, my own consulting firm) would benefit from making EVERYONE involved in the process read this chapter. Read it over and over again, until it is burned on the backs of the eyeballs of the whole group. Then another read just for good measure. This one section would result in game-changing results for the company bold enough to apply it.

I highly recommend this book (if you haven’t figured that out by now), giving it a rating of 37 out of 39. While I don’t think I will add a copy of this to my personal library, I will keep it in my reference list of go-to places for inspiration.

Why else have nine (9) library cards in my wallet?

Phred

post 54 of n

Movie Review: Ex Machina

Yesterday was my son’s birthday (surprising and depressing how quickly 35 years passes… but that’s for another post or ten) and after a nice dinner we went to the movies. This review is in two parts: the theater and the movie.

We went to Celebration! Cinema in Lansing MI, one of the largest multiplex theaters in the area. They have IMAX (the HUGE screen and format movies), D-BOX (a more immersive experience where each seat is on a gimbal mount and can shake and move synchronized with the movie), 3D projectors (for 3D movies, duh), and Reserved Recliner Seating in all of their studios. There are a dozen locations around the state and have been in business at least a decade.

This was the first time in a couple of years we went to this location (the kids having moved out of town and I seldom go to the show anymore) and discovered the challenge of reserve seating when we walked in the door. They started the policy this month that all seats in all theaters were mapped and assigned, sort of what I had experienced in going to live performance theater venues in the (distant) past. I guess this could be a good thing in the right conditions, but for our “spur of the moment” decision to go to the show it was vastly more annoying than helpful.

By adding power reclining chairs they effectively reduced the capacity of the theater by half, so there were fewer places to sit than in the past. Because the seats are physically MUCH larger, they cut the number of rows in the room by nearly 2/3 and raised the height (from ground level) of the back row, so you had to climb 4 stair treads to get to the next row. These changes together made it impossible to find three seats together at ground level. Either our party needed to split (where we would be separated by 3 rows of viewers) or I had to climb to row “G,” the third level above the ground. We got there early enough to make the ascent to Everest in time to see half of the trailers, but it wasn’t pleasant.

Then there was the “recliner” seats. I think they used Lurch (from the Adam’s Family show) for the model of a person to seat, based on the ratio of “butt length” to “leg length.” I’m 186 cm tall (6′ 1″) and the tallest of our party, but when I leaned the seat back I wasn’t tall enough to match the shape and size of the chair. I had to shift back about 6″ to put the bend at the base of my spine where it is supposed to be (or use a watermelon as a lumbar support) and then my knees were not at the front of the seat. Until the lower section raised far enough to provide support it was really uncomfortable. Eventually I was able to find the sweet(est) spot where I was in the least amount of pain and still could see (some of) the screen.

The control for the seat was on the inside edge of the armrest, not immediately obvious (but necessary in a public place, I guess, lest your neighbor adjust your seat for you) but eventually discovered. That is, I discovered mine and my son inadvertently found his when his wallet did the “butt call” thing by changing his seat position at random times throughout the movie.

Overall the experience of “watching” the movie was at best a rating of 13 out of 87 (and I think that is being generous).

The movie itself was better. I had not seen a trailer or heard about it when I was invited to see it (part of the birthday thing) the day before. A quick scan of the IMDB page suggested it would be a movie I’d like to see, as Sci-Fi has always been my genre of choice. Lest I spoil too much of the movie for future viewers, let me just say it was good, not great and not what I expected. It’s a love story (but then 97% or more of all movies are) and there’s a twist at the end, but I guess I expected more. It gets a rating of 64 out of 91. I think I’d rent it to watch it again, but doubt if I’d pay more than the $2 to see it in Grand Ledge (a local theater does second run movies for two dollars, the best value in the area). It is completely certain I won’t go back and see it at Celebration!

SPOILER ALERT: Rosebud is a sled

Phred.

post 53 of n

Today’s Forecast: There Is A 100% Chance Of Weather

It is the third week of April in mid-Michigan and we are being “blessed” with congealed precipitation this morning. Making my way to my car to commute to the bi-weekly writing session with John, I noticed there were small chunks of icy crud on the wiper blades and in a crevice at the edge of the windshield. The sky was about half overcast and half deep blue, deceptive in it’s partially jovial appearance. Clear areas were breathtakingly beautiful, hinting at the delight of sunshine and short sleeved outerwear. The cloud covered segments of the sky were ominous, dreadfully reminiscent of the darkness of November, falling leaves guiding temperatures down to the cold, barren ground. Starting the car it was not apparent which segment of the sky would prevail.

Two hours have passed, It is time to declare the winner: ick. Either I overslept last night by about seven and a half months, or daylight saving time has expanded to move the clocks by seasons rather than hours. The sky is a mottled grey, darker where the daemons of despair have determined to drop daggers of dismay. Doh!

Somewhere there is a climatologist that will claim the late spring snow is a direct result of man-made global warming. Right…. Listening to the NOAA weather radio while in the shower, I could possibly accept some correlation for the lower than normal precipitation for the year (we are about 2.5 inches below the “average” for this year) but our local area is apparently not any warmer than usual. The accumulation of Cooling Degree Days (a measure of when the daily average temperature exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit) from the daily broadcast suggests we are 1 unit below the normal for this date. So we are actually cooler than “normal” this year.

The local TV stations compete for my attention when it comes to the weather forecast. There are two to choose from (there are about 6 local stations, but for some reason most of them piggyback on the two main reports), channel 6 and channel 10. Each has a staff including a senior forecaster and others to provide additional faces for the remainder of the broadcast day. Both stations claim to have the latest in Doppler radar and fancy doohickeys to help them provide the “most accurate forecast” ever. They are always similar, but hardly ever identical.

We have a weather station at the airport that reports to the national weather service. I can go to the National Weather Service web site and (in theory) get the same information available to the pros. There is radar, satellite images, hourly and daily forecast discussions and charts, and more data to download than I have storage space to hold.

So, if we are all playing with the same cards, why is there a difference in the information provided? One station might show the expected low tonight to be a couple of degrees warmer that the competitor while the other gives a slightly greater precipitation chance. Even the “current” temperature is often different. If they are using their local station sensors for the numbers a difference would be understandable (the stations are a couple of miles apart). But, when they show the values for around the state, they should both be showing the same data from the same sites, so they should match.

I have been to the airport in Charlotte (a small village south of Lansing and not the similar location several states away) and know exactly where the NWS station is collecting the data. So they should show the temp at the airport and it should match. Usually it does, but occasionally not.

Perhaps the weavers of the modern fiction that is the news broadcast really DO participate in the global conspiracy of spin, to present information filtered through the demands of the shadow government so we see the world as it is supposed to be rather than how it actually is. If this voice suddenly disappears you will understand why.

Newspeak declares rain to be white and crystalline in structure during certain months of the year. Welcome to Spring in [REDACTED].

Phred

post 52 of n

How To Get Ahead In Business

I have “discovered” there is three ways to get ahead in business (speaking now as an employee rather than an entrepreneur or independent contractor) that pretty much describes what you must accomplish to advance up the “ladder of success.” You advance by using PUSH, PULL, or SUCK.

Push is the idea of being promoted by your peers. Working well together in teams, sharing credit for success and accepting blame for your failings, your teammates insist that superiors move you upwards in the organization for the benefit of all. Often found while working in the presence of Leaders (rather than Managers, see Why Nobody Plays “Follow The Manager”) it is the most satisfying and least common method of rising in your career. Your advancement is based on what you do.

Pull occurs when you have a benefactor somewhere in middle or upper management and they have a vested interest in your career. (Note: “vested” may not mean “personal” interest. It is possible the shadow broker has chosen the pawn in play to enhance his own fiefdom rather than to benefit the victim’s career.) Not restricted to familial relationships (but a family “friend” is often a good source for this advancement method) a secret, closed meeting somewhere generates a ripple in space-time that propels the target’s career forward in a non-linear fashion, often to the dismay of more talented (and worthy) peers, who are left to try and understand why they were slighted for the promotion. Truth is many (if not most) people using advancement by Pull are at or near the event horizon of the Peter Principle (often it is the last Pull that truly demonstrates the effect has already occurred). Your advancement depends on who you are.

Sadly, the last method is the most insidious of all. Suck requires the person to prostitute their ideas, ethics, and actions to any and all members of the higher echelons of the company. They will polish apples, salute any and all flags run up flagpoles, follow any and all orders and declare their eternal “yesness” for any idea. They will “kiss” [REDACTED] as often as is necessary to be seen. Their motto is “it’s not what you know but who you blow” that get’s them advanced.Your career path depends on how willing you are to….

It would be funny (in a pathetic way) if it weren’t so demoralizing to see these leaches advanced over the people doing the actual work without getting the credit due. Even worse is to eventually be a subordinate of a person that successfully activates Suck as their preferred method of advancement. They often reciprocate within their circle of influence, providing potential proteges with the opportunity to skip vast amounts of effort, watching as their career launches into the loftier regions of the company. You can end up making (and fetching) a lot of coffee over the years.

Of course, you could also spit….

Phred

post 51 of n

Why Nobody Plays “Follow The Manager”

In a meeting this week we were discussing the idea of “servant leadership” and what it would look like. It got me thinking and I shared with the group my experience of the difference between management and leadership.

Managers work primarily with “things.” They hold the world view that problems are things that need to be fixed. Usually, this will result in the assignment of a person to take care of a problem with the idea “who can get this done in the best (fastest, cheapest, most efficient) way?” Making the problem go away is the focus and driver in decisions. A manager is threatened by the success of his subordinates, knowing if they get “too good” at their job they might be advanced to management, possibly sending you out to pasture.

Leaders work primarily with “people.” The paradigm in view is problems are opportunities to let others grow and improve. A leader will be directed by the thought “who can benefit the most (learn new skills, enhance existing talent, stretch self confidence) from working on this project?” Short term efficiency can be sacrificed for long(er) term growth and capabilities from the team members involved, resulting in a greater net value over time. A leader is encouraged and delighted in the success of his people. By building strong replacements it allows him to move into other areas to grow and advance the company even further.

This does not mean managers never work with people or that leaders don’t fix things. It is more where the driver for the actions come from. A core philosophy that views the company as the product or the producer, the cake versus the baker. Both are needed and valuable, just which is ordered first differs for each style.

In my career, I have mostly worked for managers. These were average, normal, even good jobs where I felt good after putting my 40 hours in, to enjoy my weekend and go back on Monday. I think most bosses in America fall into the manager slot.

A couple of times I had the incredible experience to be slotted under a true leader. These people were the ones where you would walk barefoot through burning glass shards to put in your 60 hour week, then despair of having to leave at all. There was no feeling of being a cog in a wheel in a machine. Rather you felt as if you were the most important element of the whole organization.

There was a recent news article about the CEO that cut his salary and raised the minimum wage in his company to $70,000 a year. Whether this is a good or bad decision is not the point in this blog. It is optically clear to me this man was a leader rather than a manager. He demonstrated focus on the people rather than the company (alone). This is the most extreme example I can remember, but it sure sounds like the kind of person I’d like to have worked with, long before this decision. I think a closer review would reveal other people-driver choices (as opposed to company-drivers).

It’s easy to follow a leader, they are out front encouraging you to get up there. Following a manager is not so easy, they’re likely at their desk pointing the way for you to go. If you are a high(er) link in the food chain of your organization, then you can determine what kind of supervisor you will be, one who leads from the rear, or from the front.

When you work for yourself, your choices are more limited, as it depends not only what kind of person you are as a director but what kind of person you are directing. In my consulting firm (BNI/SAR) I am required to manage, not to lead.

I have (am) the worst employee known to mankind…

Phred

post 50 of n

Patching Potholes On The Highway To Hell

I am fond of using phrases and proverbs incorrectly, usually with some kind of kink. For example, I am often heard referring to someone “running around like a head with their chicken cut off.” Proverbial phrases often carry a some kind of pithy saying that has a general or universal application or meaning. This post’s title comes (indirectly) from the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I suspect that, with all the traffic on that road, there are a lot of potholes to fill.

One saying that bothers me is “it’s not the gift but the thought that counts.” The thought may have been intended, but the lack of thought is what’s visible. Buying a peanut butter ice cream cake for the birthday of my son (who has life threatening allergies to both peanuts and dairy) would not be a “nice thought” but about as stupid an action as it is possible to conceive. Administering epinepherine while driving him to the hospital might actually be a thoughtful intent after carrying out such a blunder.

The phrase that I find myself using more and more often these days (and it might be original, since I don’t remember ever hearing it in the distant past) is “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Most commonly it in in some interpersonal relationship context where a story is being told about an action taken by a third party (not currently present) having ongoing consequences that were unexpected or undesired. Often it involves one (or more) of the three drivers of rock and roll: sex, drugs, and rebellion against authority (or one of the country and western parallel vices: adultery, alcohol, or agitation directed against law enforcement).

I could say a lot more about this but…

Phred

post 49 of n

First To Win Sixteen Is The Champion

My team is in the playoffs. Now that basketball season is over, (I guess they are in playoffs, but living in Michigan the words “professional,” “basketball,” and “playoffs” appear together nearly as often as winning Mega Millions lottery tickets) maybe TV networks can start broadcasting sports for the rest of us. It’s hockey playoff season now and I have had the chance to watch two games today. I have a vested interest in both of them, but for different reasons.

The Red Wings (the Detroit team) lost and are tied at 1-1 for the series. I have a natural affection for them because they are the Wings! I have been following them as long as I have had a radio and could listen to WJR, the better part of six decades. Followed the Tigers for the same time and for the same reason, too.

Over the years, I have had the (dubious) pleasure of working various shifts and times, thus requiring commute travel throughout the day and night. During hockey season, there were times when my Wings were not playing (or at least not while I was driving) so I would scan the AM dial for other stations to see what was available. I eventually discovered WGN broadcast the Chicago Blackhawk games, KMOX sourced the St Louis Blues, and WBZ was the way to follow the Boston Bruins. Depending on weather conditions (thunderstorms were terrible for AM) and the sunspot cycle (something I only discovered halfway through my radio listening journey), I was able to listen to SOMEONE play hockey all season long. What joy!

One of my greatest disappointments in my military career was the too-late discovery that the Boston team played in Chicago the weekend I came home for Thanksgiving of 1975. I could have turkey just about anytime, but the ‘Hawks and Bruins together?

Today, since sports is such a money generator it is nearly impossible to follow games without paying for premium services. The “networks of NBC” are showing every playoff hockey game this playoff season. EVERY ONE! Except that most of the games are on the premium sports network channels on cable. Over-the-air broadcast in my area has two games today and these are the first ones from this series. Altogether there have been eight games played so far (or will at the end of the third period). They only showed half of the games from my local market and won’t show another until game 4 (maybe… I’m not sure they will even play that one). I can see more soccer from England than hockey from North America, and watch 6 hours of golf and 400+ miles of NASCAR every weekend (could watch in theory, they are broadcast every week). But only 2 hours of hockey on a special occasion (normally they might show a game every other week).

It’s not fair. Someday we will have the opportunity to have a-la-carte TV where we can watch what we want, maybe when we want. I’m not talking about DVR, either. I mean we can ask for television that meets our desires rather than some committee in a network headquarters that believe we need another sit-com aimed at a third-grade intelligence.  Delivered in a reliable format (digital over the air is NOT it… at least analogue signals could be watched at 50% signal strength, snow, hiss, and all; digital TV at 50% is mostly black screen and silence) at a reasonable price (preferably free, since the government supports public broadcasts).

And please don’t get me started about the recent trend to add “retro” TV broadcasts to the lineup. Most of the shows I see on the stations in my market rebroadcast programs that we didn’t watch when they were initially shown in the 60’s and 70’s because they were bad. They are not fine wine and haven’t improved with age. About the only thing that can be said for these shows is to prove to the grand-kids we didn’t have HD colour programs back in the last ice age.

Oh, I nearly forgot. I said I had a vested interest in both games today but failed no explain why the NY Rangers versus the Pittsburgh Penguins game would be “must see TV.” True, neither team falls into my favorites list, but if history is any indication of future events, then there is only about a dozen or so more broadcast games left this season to watch. Then a barren wasteland till September brings the 2015-2016 season start.

Any port in a storm…

Phred

post 48 of n

“Be Well, John Spartan”

[Movie quote: Sandra Bullock to Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man, 1993]

Today was a high pain level day. Depending on many things, my arthritis can range from annoying to debilitating. It was rather higher on the scale today than desired, so I stayed home. I was scheduled to work with my author friend, helping him to stay motivated while he writes his book. I sent him a text to not expect me to show up at the usual time. He responded with “feel better.”

While I understood what his intent was (that I should reach a point in life where I was in less agony) his choice of words offers just the opposite request. To feel “better” would suggest being able to feel more effectively, thus experiencing pain with more clarity and intensity. After all, when we express the idea of practicing a musical instrument (for example) to get “better” we desire to be more skilled and proficient in our playing. Since my friend’s desire was that I didn’t hurt so much, he would have expressed it more clearly by desiring me to “feel [pain] worse.”

No wonder English is so hard for people to learn as a second language. It has much that doesn’t make sense and has nearly as many exceptions as rules. My favorite is

I before E

Except after C

Or when sounding like A

As in neighbor or weigh

Or whenever it damn well feels like it.

(Technically the last line doesn’t belong, but I add it in ’cause it’s true!)

I found I never really understood English until after I had taken a foreign language for a while (Greek in my case). It was only after seeing how a sensible language worked that I was able to work my way through the morass of foibles that makes up my common tongue (I often claim English to be my second language, but I hardly speak gibberish anymore).

So, it seems highly unlikely that the movie quote request is for Stallone’s character to act as a source of oil, water, or natural gas as the words might suggest.

Although there IS a Taco Bell in the movie, so maybe the gas…

Phred

post 47 of n