Selling your Grandmother’s Wig off her Head

MARY: I don’t know if I could work in sales again; in some cases you have to be willing to sell your grandmother’s wig off her head.

ROB: Is that an expression, or did you just make it up?

MARY: What?

ROB: Selling your grandmother’s wig. That’s hilarious. I’m using it.

MARY: I just made it up. Off the top of my head.

ROB: Ha ha. I’m stealing it.

MARY: Maybe your sleeping grandmother’s wig….

ROB: Nah, why would she be wearing her wig while sleeping?

MARY: True.

ROB: Maybe your old, 98 year old, osteoporotic, walker-bound grandmother’s wig. While she’s on her way to church.

MARY: And sell it back to her. At twice the price!

ROB: What a wretched picture that conjures up!

Big Green Trucks

A few things about when I was a little kid:
A: I was gullible
B: I took everything my parents said literally
C: I had a wild imagination.
D: My mother sometimes gave scary explanations to things (not on purpose……. usually)

Conversation when I was about five about being in the army:

ROB: But what if you didn’t want to be in the army anymore?

ROB’S MOM: Well, you’d have to stay, whether you liked it or not!

ROB: Well, what if you snuck out when nobody was looking?

ROB’S MOM: They would send big green trucks out to find you!

Well, I knew my dad had been in the army. He was part of the ROTC program, so after college he served as a Lieutenant in the military police, in the early 1960s. He served two years of active duty.

ROB: Dad, were you ever in any wars?

ROB’S DAD: No, I got out just in time!

What did five year old Rob get from that?

That the big green trucks were out, looking for my dad. That one day, a big green truck would pull up to our driveway and take my dad away to fight in a war.

I remember we were in the car, and passed a few military vehicles (perhaps we were by a military base), and getting really scared. The big green trucks had found my dad!

Not sure when I figured out that wasn’t how it worked. Probably around the same time I realized the Soviets weren’t going to nuke Albany or Hudson. Or that every stranger wasn’t going to pluck you off the street and sell you into the slave trade.

Long, Hard Evidence

ROB: Both the blood pressure meds I take these days are consolidated into one little pill. So instead of having to take two pills, I just need to take one little capsule. It’s a scary looking capsule, though. It’s blue and white.

COLLEAGUE: You should try {homeopathic remedy}

ROB: Well, I’m going to listen to my doctor on this one. This stuff works; it keeps me from dying of a stroke, so I am not going to start experimenting behind my doctors back.

COLLEAGUE: {homeopathic remedy} works if you believe it will work.

ROB: Well, my little blue & white pill works whether or not I believe it will. That’s the beauty of it. No psychological gymnastics required. If I believe it will make me sprout horns, it won’t. It will just lower my blood pressure. If I don’t believe it will work, it will still lower my blood pressure. That’s all it does.

COLLEAGUE: Well the mind is a powerful thing. Have you ever heard of the placebo effect.

ROB: Yes, I agree. But if it is all in the mind, why would you need the homeopathic remedy? That’s putting a lot of responsibility on the mind. I am not going to rely on my mind to think myself out of a stroke. Besides, my mind has a history of not co operating when given critical tasks.

COLLEAGUE: Like what?

ROB: Like not thinking of inappropriate things at inappropriate times. My brain can be a real jerk sometimes. If I’m in a situation where solemn decorum is required, my brain will start conjuring up the most bawdy, comically inappropriate things. If I can’t rely on my mind to do the job it was tasked with, I sure as hell am not going to trust it to save my life! I repeat: My mind is the kind of asshole that would just let me die.

COLLEAGUE: What kind of bawdy, inappropriate stuff?

ROB: Never you mind.

COLLEAGUE: People have been able to channel their thought into all kinds of things. Did you ever hear about people undergoing dental procedures with hypnosis instead of anesthetic?

ROB: Yeah, I would not be a candidate for that. No way. I want the shot. My mind would never let itself be hypnotized.

COLLEAGUE: Every try it?

ROB: Yeah. When I was sixteen, a hypnotist came to my school and supposedly hypnotised a bunch of kids. I was one of them. I faked it, though, but the hypnotist was fooled. I am convinced, so did everybody else, but that begets another social phenomenon.

COLLEAGUE: Have you heard of people getting stigmata through their minds?
ROB: Not buying it. It was a myth foisted on naive people by crooked clergymen to extract more money out of them. Your mind cannot break your skin.

COLLEAGUE: If your faith is strong enough it can.

ROB: I’m keeping my weak faith and my blue & white pill.

COLLEAGUE: You’re cynical.

ROB: No, I’m skeptical. Logic and hard evidence is king.


COLLEAGUE: So I heard they have the Space Shuttle on the deck of the Intrepid.
ROB: Yes, they do.
COLLEAGUE: I heard they damaged it when they were moving it there.
ROB: Nothing a little Bondo won’t fix.
COLLEAGUE: Are you serious? Bondo on the Space Shuttle?
ROB: Why not? It’s not like it’s going into space anytime soon.
COLLEAGUE: But wouldn’t that be unpatriotic? Defacement of a national monument or something?
ROB: Actually, given the state of our economy and our uncertain future, I think the Bondo is kind of apropos.
COLLEAGUE: What’s Bondo made of, anyway?
ROB: Play Doh with fiberglass or something like that.

Pee the Change You Want to See in the World!

Peeing makes things happen for you. It’s what makes change in the world.
For example, if you are in a restaurant, and you are waiting for your food, go pee. When you get back from the bathroom, the food will be on the table.
If you are making spaghetti, and need the water to boil before you put the spaghetti in, go pee. When you come back, you’ll have a nice rolling boil, all ready for the pasta.

If you are in the airport, and you are waiting for your plane to start boarding, go pee. Have your boarding pass out and ready when you get out of the bathroom, because it will be time to get on the plane!

If your wifi goes out and you reset your router, go pee. It will be internet ready before the toilet is flushed.

In fact, the next time someone asks you a question that begins with, “When will…….?”

Your answer should be, “After you pee!”

If you want the next step to happen, whatever it is, pee. That is the magic button. Everybody thinks Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

They misheard him.

He actually said:
“Pee the change you want to see in the world!”

See, he knew!

PS: You can also use this to your advantage. If there is something you need to do, and somebody asks you the “When will…..” question and you give the requisite answer, use the time they are in the bathroom to buy yourself time to do the task. Or use it to escape. Or lock them in the bathroom.

Growing Feathers on your Feet!

When I was a little kid, I thought that if you ate an apple without washing it first, you would grow feathers on your feet.
Here’s why I thought that:
I lived across the road from an apple orchard. Every now and then the guy who owned the orchard would spray the apples. He did it with a “spray rig”: a loud, noisy, scary, cylindrical vehicle that would make a whining sound and emit a big white cloud of pesticide. While on the spray rig, the guy would wear a respirator mask.
If we were out playing, my mother would make us come in the house when he was spraying (because, of course, houses are airtight, aren’t they…..?) I always complied; I was scared of that thing.
Among the chemicals they were spraying on the apples was a substance called ALAR. IT was banned by the EPA in 1989 because of health concerns, including that it was a possible carcinogen. Moreover, it was suspected of causing genetic mutations. My mother had heard of a case where birds had been growing feathers on their feet, and it was not ruled out that ALAR might have been a contributing factor. ALAR was nasty stuff.
The rule was that we always washed an apple we were going to eat, to wash the ALAR off. My logic was that if you didn’t wash all the ALAR off, you would grow feathers on your feet, because that is what it did to you. My mother, who was very good at stretching the truth to convey a message might have even said,”Make sure you wash that apple or you’ll grow feathers on your feet!”
Having feathers on your feet sounded like a horrible fate.
Of course, in retrospect, those apples were probably so infused with ALAR that no amount of washing them made a significant difference. And today, I wouldn’t eat a piece of fruit that had been sprayed with ALAR, period, whether or not it had been washed. Fortunately, that is a moot proviso, because, as I said, it was banned in 1989, before many of you were even born, so there is zero chance you will ever eat an ALAR infused apple.
The lesson to be learned is we should be very thoughtful about what we put into our mouths, and to have a real, scientifically backed up metric on the safety of it. There is much to be learned from boring, science based research, even it is not as glitzy or fun to read and talk about as anecdotal suspicions. Look at hard, objective evidence and make your decisions based on that, rather than pop media, hysterical anecdotes or any of that which almost invariably get lost in translation.
That bird that may or may not have grown feathers on his or her feet because of ALAR? Most likely a red herring, if, in fact he or she existed at all. The spectre of a feather footed bird was the manifestation of the well-founded suspicion that, with regard to food safety, there is much more than meets the eye. The scientific community is still on the fence as to whether ALAR presented any real health risks.
That uncertainty is scarier than any stories about birds.

Wisdom From A 41 Year Old Geezer…

These are all things I have learned on my 41 revolutions around the sun. I have learned them by experience, trial, error, and the consequences of both. The good, the bad and the very bad.

My mother always said, “Don’t make my mistakes. Make your own.”
With that logic, nobody would ever make mistakes. Every success and mistake has been recycled many times.

So, without further ado, I give you Wisdom From a 41 Year Old Geezer.

A: The world is full of people who want to be singers, who want to be artists, who want to be writers, who want to be students. And that’s the problem. They want BE these things. But do they want to sing? Do they want to create art? Do they want to write? Do they want to study? Don’t strive to BE anything. Strive to DO the thing. Don’t strive to be the person who does it.

B: And on that note, stop trying to be successful. Try to be valuable.

C: The idiom “Work smarter, not harder” is a strategy, not a hack. It will not get you off the hook from working hard. It will just make your hard work more effective.

D: Contrary to what you may have been told, other people’s opinions of you DO matter, if it is likely they’re right.

E: You should eat the garnish on your food, if it is edible. If you are eating a meal that is fancy enough to get a garnish, you should also think of needy people who would be happy to eat that garnish.

F: Authenticity is not a measure of quality. Something can be authentic and still be crap. That just makes it authentic crap and you probably paid too much for it.

G: Related to F. Contrary to what you may have been told, you shouldn’t ALWAYS be yourself. For example, if an integral part of who you are involves burning other people’s stuff up, you should retire that part of your identity that is an arsonist. Your identity is not a static thing, and it’s ok to rebrand if you look in the mirror one day and don’t like what you see.

H: With very few exceptions, everybody deserves a pass for stupid shit they did in the first twenty years of life. I’d even give an extra couple of years for slow learners.

I: Forgiveness is a noble thing, but remember to genuinely forgive, you waive all claims to retribution. You are under no obligation to forgive, so think long and hard about what you are giving up before you forgive.

J: You should always exude having your shit together, even if you don’t. Have your shoes polished, even if you didn’t change your socks. Iron your shirt even if you didn’t have a shower. Answer questions in complete sentences and a clear voice even if your answer is that you are not sure. Walk in straight lines even if you don’t know where the hell you are going. If you aren’t sure how to do something, learn as much as you need to keep a step ahead of the process and never let on you don’t know what the hell you are doing. However: do not put yourself in the position of not being able to deliver the goods.

K: Related to J: If you are going to present your shit, make damn sure your shit is presentable. Promise conservatively, deliver generously. Under promise, over deliver.

L: Related to J & K. Be optimistic, but avoid the trap of letting your optimism cross the line into wishful thinking.

M: “Nice” is a pleasant and gracious demeanor. “Altruism” is doing good deeds. The sweet spot is “kind”. To be kind, you must not only do good deeds, but do them graciously.

N: Think of various aspects of your life as strings. Every now and then a string will get a knot you must undo. The secret in untying a hard knot is knowing what to pick at, what to pick at it with, what to pull on and when to pull on it.
O: Smile if you are happy, but never smirk. Frown if you are displeased, but never sneer. If you are angry, convey your displeasure clearly and firmly even if it means raising your voice. But don’t ever make snide comments.

P: In order to be involved in politics, a minimum requirement should be that you are “of good moral character” (And yes, I am aware this, in practice, would cost the jobs of about 85% of government officials). If you intend to vote for a particular person, stand up, and say in a clear, sincere voice:
” [This Person’s Name] is of good moral character.”
If you cannot say that and keep a straight face, you shouldn’t vote for them.

Q: There is an abbreviation in the transit industry: MDBF. That stands for Mean Distance Between Failures. Closely related, there is another abbreviation: MTBF. That stands Mean Time Between Failures. It refers to how long and how far a piece of equipment, on average, can go without malfunctioning. A piece of equipment is most valuable when it has a high MDBF/MTBF and less valuable when it has a low MDBF/MTBF.
We should extrapolate that to ourselves and anything we accomplish. We are most valuable when our average ratio of distance and time to screw ups is high. That is our MBDF and MTBF.

R: We all know we should avoid distractions while completing a task. However sometimes the biggest distractions come from within the task at hand. These are also the toughest to tackle because they covertly present themselves.

S: In conveying a message to someone, the onus is on the person conveying the message to make sure it is accurately received by the person to whom it was given. Everybody has their own way of receiving and processing information, and may end up with a different take-home than what we intended. We should never assume our delivery was crystal clear and we should never berate the person for “not listening” It is our responsibility to ensure the information was transmitted and received accurately.

T: If a food item is deliberately misspelled (as in Froot Loops, or Cheez Whiz), it is a fair conclusion that the food does not contain a crumb of the ingredient it wants you to believe it has. With that in mind, choose carefully whether or not to put it in your body. Not only will it be used as an energy source, it will also be used to construct part of your body.

U: There is a fine, but clear line between initiative and presumption. It is of the utmost importance to be on the correct side of that line.
V: There is no such thing as sex with no strings attached. If you end up in bed with somebody, the relationship changes, and it may not change in a way you want or expect. If you think if won’t, refer to item L about wishful thinking.
W: You should never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm, but if there is a problem you could easily fix, and you fail to do so, that makes the problem, by default, 100% your fault.

X: Everybody knows you should never make important decisions if you have been drinking, but you should never make important decisions when you are hung-over, either. How you feel affects your mood, and your mood affects your decisions. That means you should only drink in any serious quantity if you are sure you have no major decisions to make in the next 24 hours.
Y: the embodiment of a gentleman or a lady did not disappear with progress. It evolved. We should strive be aware and execute that which constitutes gentlemanly or ladylike behavior.

Z: You are born into this world with two things: Your naked ass and your good word. If you get to a point where your word is no longer good, your ass is not worth anything either.

BONUS: When I was student teaching, the professor associated with that part of my education, Mr. Axel Norden, described the four types of success and failure. To paraphrase what he said:
“I am interested in your:
PRODUCTIVE SUCCESS: You succeeded, and you know exactly what you implemented to succeed, so you now have the tools to replicate the success.
And, yes, also your:
PRODUCTIVE FAILURE: You didn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish, but you have the insight to look at your process and see where you went wrong so you DON’T replicate it.
I am very concerned about your:
UNPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS: You accomplished what you set out to accomplish, but you have no idea how or why, and therefore lack the tools to replicate the success.
(application of a blind squirrel finding a nut sometimes)
And, of course your:
UNPFODUCTIVE FAILURE: You failed to accomplish your goal, and more depressingly, you have no idea how to get out of this mess. History will repeat itself until you learn.”
The hierarchy here is clear, and it always stuck with me. Many times I have applied this to other facets of my life. Success is a good teacher, but Failure is a great teacher, despite being harsh and unforgiving sometimes.
Do with this what you will. There is nothing new under the sun, and you will make your own mistakes, mistakes that I’ve made, and mistakes my mother made. And likely her parents before her, and before them and before them.
History is a crooked, but ever upward line.

Give a Man a Fish….

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

Be that as it may.

If you have given a man some fish to eat, he’ll be in a better position to pay attention to your fishing lesson and not be worrying about how hungry he is.
You still may need to give him some fish while he’s getting the hang of it.
If somebody went and stocked the fish pond you own with delicious, fat pike and trout, and you and your buddies repeatedly emptied your chamber pots into the fish pond he has access to, knowing how to fish is less relevant than the body of water he is fishing in.

Because of this you may still need to give him some fish.

Knowing how to fish will do someone zero good in the desert. You may need to ship some fish from your thriving fertile fish pond there to help the people in the desert. Extra points if you can do it without carping (no pun intended)

If you have never given a fishing lesson in your life, nor do you intend to, you don’t get to use the “give a man a fish…” saying

If you expect people to pay up front for the fishing lesson, with fish, you don’t get to say that saying.

If you routinely vote to cut funding for the “fishing education department” because you don’t want your fish tax to pay for it, and voting to get out of the expectation that you give up a few fish to feed hungry people, you have forever lost the right to say the “give a man a fish….” saying.

Seems to me there are a lot of people who love to throw around the “give a man a fish” saying to avoid sharing their fish, but not too many people giving fishing lessons.

My $.02

Little Kids in Sweatshops Making Toys for American Kids


When I was a kid, about seven or eight, I had a toy rocket. It had an American flag on one of the fins.

One day I turned the rocket over, and noticed that it said “Made in China”

So I asked my mom,” Why doesn’t it have a Chinese flag on the fin since it was made there?”

My mom answered,”It might have been made in China, but it was made for American kids to play with.”

So then I asked,”Well, do they also make rockets with Chinese flags, for Chinese kids to play with?”

My mom answered, “No, kids in China are too busy making toy rockets in sweatshops for you to play with and don’t have time to play.”

Bit of an exaggeration, but the point was well made and always stuck with me.
I don’t remember it making me feel guilty, but I sure thought about it!
Sometimes parents have to build our outlook on things in life by pointing out the less fun things.

The Vile Soup Heretic

ROB: Did I just see you put an ice cube in your soup???

COLLEAGUE: Yes, it was too hot.

ROB: Soup is supposed to be hot. Now you’ve diluted it.

COLLEAGUE: No I didn’t. I just cooled it down a bit.

ROB: Yes, but after it melts, you might as well have just watered down your soup.

COLLEAGUE: Why would it water down my soup? It’ll just cool it down a bit.

ROB: And look, see it already melted! So you’ve watered down your soup.

COLLEAGUE: It’s still in there. It just sank!

ROB: No, I’m afraid it melted. If the chef had wanted the soup to be more watery, he would have added more water. He’d be very insulted that you altered his recipe!
[affecting odd accent]….”Vell! If yooo don’t like my soop…..!”

COLLEAGUE: The chef made the soup too hot.

ROB: Again, soup is supposed to be hot! You just turned that soup into lukewarm, watery gazpacho!

COLLEAGUE: What’s gazpacho?

ROB: Cold soup.


ROB: No, it’s delicious. If you make it right.

COLLEAGUE: This soup is still too hot! I’m going to get another ice cube!
ROB: At your own peril!

COLLEAGUE: What’s the peril?

ROB: Soup that sucks. Because you made it suck! You have also already forfeited your soul. You are a soup heretic.