It’s who you know

Fortune cookie wisdom from my drive home:

You should have at least two people in your life: one who sees you for who you are and likes you anyway, and one who sees you the way you wish you were and makes you want to be that way.

If you don’t have these two people in your life, you need to meet more people.

Just once

In discussing the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a friend of long standing made an interesting point.  I’m paraphrasing, but she said, “I often say ‘I hate people’.  I don’t always mean it.  Sometimes I say it to be funny, or I say it about someone I disagree with.  But when I see people do good things, it gives me hope.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day.  It’s one of the main reasons I’ve largely disengaged from Facebook.  The guiding principle of Facebook seems to be, “Say mean things to be funny, or to gain the approval of like-minded friends.”  Maybe I read more into things than is really there.  I’ve made the comment before that communicating via social media or IMs is a lot like having Asperger’s.  There’s a ton of social clues that can’t be conveyed with the written word.  Emoticons are a poor substitute for facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture, etc.  I once had an online argument with a girl I was seeing because she typed the wrong emoticon, accidentally conveying anger instead of amusement.  Not my finest hour.

Nowadays, I use a different analogy for Facebook.  I liken it to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Buffy is accidentally given telepathy, and can hear the dark thoughts of her friends, the ones no one ever speaks out loud.  The difference is that people now trumpet their dark thoughts to the world, expecting (and often receiving) approval for things they should be ashamed of. Continue reading

Giving, but not giving back

Thoughts for too early on a Sunday morning:

We make it too easy to outsource compassion.  This thought woke me up this morning, maybe because I still have to do my taxes today.  Every year, I pay the government thousands of dollars to provide me with “government”.  Some of it is good, like roads and border control.  Some of it is stupid, like cowboy poetry festivals and paying artists to put crucifixes in urine.

And some of it I have mixed emotions about.  Some of the money goes to provide people with food, and shelter, and medical care.  These are all good and necessary activities, and I’m not going to rant today about how the way governments do this creates a culture of dependency.  (Disclaimer: it does.)

But they take away something from people that’s just as important — the opportunity to give.

Not the obligation to give.  We have plenty of that.  We give because we’re told to.  We give because we received when it was our turn.  We give “back” because we feel guilty about having too much.  But I wonder if we’re losing the ability to give simply because the opportunity arises. Continue reading


PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance.  This blog entry has nothing to do with that.

When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying one time that he noticed that his kids (my brother, sister and I) seemed to be the only kids in the neighborhood who were happy most of the time.  It was true, and for me it still is.  (Actually, for all three of us, but this is about me.)  A big part of this is my sense of humor.  Every day is an opportunity to laugh at something, and whether I find it or not, I know it’s out there.

Another part of being happy is that I live in harmony with my surroundings.  Not nature.  Nature’s been out to get me since I was a little kid.  Between taking advantage of my having fair skin that burns easily and a conspiracy to put poison ivy all through the woods behind my house, Mother Nature has had it out for me for almost half a century, and the feeling is mutual, so we’ve learned to pretty much stay clear of each other.  (Disclaimer: Some people say they were born too late, that they were meant to live in the Old West or the Renaissance.  I never say that.  I was born too early.  I was born to live on a space colony, where no one asks you to go play outside, because its 200 degrees below zero and there’s no air.) Continue reading

John’s Rules of the Universe

As an observer of humans for over half a century, I’ve come to realize that there are certain rules and ideas that make life easier to manage.  I’ve come to call these John’s Rules of the Universe.  For years I have thrown these into conversation to help people understand why they’re unhappy, or why I’m unhappy, or how things really do make sense, or how they really don’t.  I use the same rules over and over, but after the first one, I started making up the number.  Recently, my manager started writing down the ones she liked, but that just put pressure on me to keep the numbering straight.

Here’s the full list.  Sometimes I swap #2 and #3 (usually based on my mood), and the order of #6 thru #9 changes as needed.  #1 was a very important lesson from my mother.  #6 has been with me since college.  #2, #4, #5, #7 and #9 were inspired by IBM.  #3 and #8 were inspired during my post-layoff wandering in the desert.  #10 has been around for a while, but I only got the wording right in the last couple years.  #11 was one of the great lessons from my stroke.  And #12 is my response to people who demand my approval without bothering to find out what I approve of.

  1. Don’t pick at it, it’ll get infected.
  2. The best way to get others to do what you want is to get them to want it too.
  3. If something is unacceptable, don’t accept it.
  4. Never give up what you need to get what you want. Always give up what you want to get what you need.
  5. If you’re not willing to play the game, don’t be upset when you don’t win.
  6. Never kick a man when he’s down unless you’re the one who kicked him down in the first place.
  7. Only change things to make them better.  Never change things because you’re bored.
  8. Unhappiness is the difference between what you want and what is. Pick the smaller one and change it.
  9. Happiness is not a destination.  Happiness is a mode of travel.
  10. Benefit of the doubt requires doubt.
  11. If other people can’t laugh at your misfortunes, why bother having misfortunes in the first place?
  12. Respect is not an entitlement.  Respect is a reward for good behavior.