Assorted Musings

Your monthly edition of quick thoughts, cheap shots, and bon mots:

1. We go to great lengths to be consistent, especially on decisions central to our identity. I think of this when I meet vegetarians who are not morally opposed to eating animals, nor do they dislike the taste of meat, nor do they champion the environmental reasons, nor do they feel especially healthy in their leafy ways. I know a vegetarian of this variety who gets upset to the point of crying if she accidentally eats meat. Why upset? Because it's inconsistent with long-standing behavior that is long-standing because…it's long-standing. This might also explain why I don't see myself smoking marijuana anytime soon — it has less to do with any moral opposition or health reasons as much as it would be inconsistent with past behavior.

2. When no party is willing to express a preference out of politeness or genuine deference to another party of the decision — on what type of cuisine to eat for dinner, say — the decision-making process often gets trapped in a death spiral of deferential indecision. Certain decision-making tricks are needed. One reader taught me the 3-2-1 rule for deciding where to eat. The first person person names three types of cuisine (Chinese, Japanese, and Indian). The next person picks two of those three (Indian and Japanese). The next person picks one of those two (Indian). Done!

3. I know men who are on the fence about whether they should get a prenup before marrying. The prenup question looms in their mind when they date women: Would I want a prenup before marrying this woman instead of that woman? It acts as a good proxy for underlying trust. Myself, I plan to do a prenup with whomever I marry, no matter how much I trust or love her. By declaring this now, I hope she will not take it personally. There's no easy way to have the conversation but I think it will go better if I have a long-planted stake in the ground. It reminds me of how to win a game of chicken.

4. This is the best last line to a blog comment I've read in a long time: "As Pressfield might say, shut up and get back to work. Insert smiley face here, if necessary."

5. Comment of the Day on my post about short bullshit motivational sentences: "You don't hang around with people like this, but there are a lot of folks who need to read this apparently vapid motivational content over and over until they get off their duffs and in fact do something, anything, that expands their horizons just a feather. At least until personality transplant technology advances."

6. Early on in a romantic relationship, in the courting and shameless flirting stage, sarcasm, irony, witticisms, etc. characterize the communications. At some point, the tone shifts to be more earnest. Instead of witty indirect acrobatics to indicate that you miss the person, you might just state simply: "I miss you." The shift to earnestness in communications represents a milestone in a romantic relationship.

7. Speaking of romance, and speaking of being individuals in an individualistic culture, finding romance is harder when the other fish in the sea conceive of themselves as individuals. It's harder, for example, to know what women want. 30 years ago if I met a woman I was interested in I could be pretty sure that if we were to marry I would be the one working and earning the keep, and she would be the one doing the actual keep. Now…who knows? So men spend more time searching. Women, meanwhile, are stuck with a ticking clock….

8. On September 11, 2009, I overheard an elementary school teacher, on a PA system, tell the students, "Eight years ago, some not so nice people knocked down some of our buildings." It reminded me why I could never be an elementary school teacher: the need to dilute and dumb down a message to be age appropriate. And as the saying goes, You are the average of the five people you spend the most time around.

9. Your Facebook profile picture should be of yourself. People who include their friends are trying too hard to signal popularity or that they have close friends at all. People who include their significant other in that small little square picture perhaps are insecure about their relationship. It's like people who have pictures of their family in their office on their desk. If the pictures are facing outward, it's to signal something. If they're facing inward — toward the owner sitting at desk — it's to be a comforting reminder.

10. Call bullshit when someone says, "I'm bad at staying in touch." Tactically, it's not hard to stay in touch. Therefore, this is more a statement of priorities — you don't want to stay in touch. (The same can be said whenever hear, "I'm too busy to do X." Priorities.) A variation on this sentiment that is more honest: "I underestimated my desire to stay in touch, and now it's too late to re-kindle anew." Though I would say: it's never too late to try to re-kindle what once was.

11. Taunter Media is a blog written by a smart dude with an entertaining style. Here he is on why Chicago should be happy they didn't win the Olympics. Here he is in praise of the Polanski arrest.

(thanks to Steve Dodson and Aleksandra K for helping inspire some of these musings.)

8 comments on “Assorted Musings
  • 1) Some of us also have a very strong sense of accomplishment about accruing those days, one by one, of abstinence from a particular thing. I was recently quite upset when I found out that I may have unknowingly eaten sugar, after several months of not having had any. It meant so much to me, all those days (I count them) of being “clean”. I don’t object morally to sugar, but it’s not something I want in my body. I felt violated as much by the person whom I believe misled me as I did by the substance.

    6) Manipulators know this very well, and often use it to gain the benefits of implied deeper intimacy. I hate to generalize, but my experience is that men do this more often in romance, women more often in friendship. If someone is inappropriately earnest with you, beware: They are either a parasite or an emotional wreck who will complicate your life, and not in a pleasant way.

  • Hey, that’s MY best last line! That was a nice surprise. Thanks!

    You may like me less after I respond to your long-promised post on the benefits of elites, though.

    Speaking of which, if you want evidence of the very worst our elites have to offer, and the real danger of putting elites into positions of power, watch the upcoming Congressional floor debate on the health care bill. It will make you embarrassed to be an American.

    Remember, Ben: flirting with women is one of the great pleasures of adulthood. Practice makes perfect, and don’t stop just because things get “serious.”

    Dan Owen

  • That pre-nup thing could backfire in case if she hires a better lawyer.

    It’s better to take your own sweet time whether to get hitched at all and then think of having it on record.

    Anything that’s implied can be twisted the way we like. Anything that’s recorded becomes inflexible.

    There are some things were you should be a little less prudent and a lot more sensible.

  • 🙂 I was speaking for the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and others that got their networth eroded significantly courtesy of impulsive pre-nups.

  • Re: #10. I encountered an infuriating variation on this recently, with an acquaintance I was hoping to move into the ‘ally’ column. After a handful of unreturned calls and emails promising a get-together soon, I ran into him at an event and kidded him about it. He said, “yeah, I’m kind of an a*****e that way, you know?” I feel like the business world needs a mantra comparable to ‘he’s just not that into you’.

  • Marriage is already a contract. It just needs an accompanying contract to lay out property rights before and after that contract is severed, should it be. I can’t imagine marrying someone who objected to this (and yes, I’d insist upon one even if the person to whom I was betrothed had a net worth far exceeding my own). It’s just common sense.

    Anyone who rushes into any contract is acting foolishly.

  • Your criticism of elementary school teachers is repugnant. I’ve known Kindergarten teachers every bit as smart as you. (You’ve definitely got them beat when it comes to being patronizing, mind you.)

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