Getting Older, Caring Less

There are three ironclad rules about getting older:

  1. Make no long-term investments.
    This means not making any kind of investment where you’re unlikely to live to see the outcome.
  2. Never trust a fart.
    I don’t think I have to explain this one.
  3. Never waste an erection.
    Ditto. Believe me, when you get up there in age, these physiological miracles are not as common as they were in your twenties.

Let’s go back to #1 for a moment. Perhaps it’s because the past few years have been so difficult for me, nursing an ailing wife and then having to deal with her death, one realizes that most stuff is irrelevant by comparison, on a personal basis of course.

It has worried me that things that would in the past have brought from me a seething rant full of invective, rage and possibly even threats, now occasion from me a wry smile, a scowl or a muttered curse. (This would include almost every idiocy / lunacy perpetrated by Our Beloved Government — may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their nether regions.)

Why is it that I don’t really care much about anything, most especially when it doesn’t affect me personally, or if it does, it’ll likely happen after I’m dead? (There is a tangential discussion to be had on this topic, by the way, which would argue that if  my attitude is common among senior citizens, then old farts like me should never be allowed to formulate any kind of long-term government policy or change any social institutions. But we’ll do that some other time.)

When we lived in the Chicago ‘burbs (Prospect Heights, for those who know the area), our little municipality was one of the very few which did not use “city” water, but relied on wells. (This despite Lake Michigan being but a few miles from our front door — inexplicable.) Property taxes were of course lower, but that was offset by occasional water shortages, which totally sucked. Anyway, a referendum was held on whether the Heights should go to city water — it would require a bond to finance bringing water lines to the streets, but residents could have the choice of paying for the water line from the street to the house, or just sticking with well water. The bond would require a one-time per-household fee of a few hundred dollars — payable by an addition to the property tax bill (which, as  I mentioned earlier, was very low). We were overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the measure to pass. It failed. It failed because about 50% of the residents were elderly and didn’t care that the future residents would have a better quality of life — because they themselves wouldn’t be around to see it, and thus weren’t interested in spending even the few dollars necessary. So we were stuck with tepid, unreliable well water, which situation we resolved by moving to the City of Chicago when our lease ended, and living not a few miles, but a few yards from Lake Michigan. We never stopped hating those elderly residents of Prospect Heights, though — even though they were obeying Rule #1.

I don’t want to be one of those selfish old bastards; but at the same time, I find myself getting the same kind of perspective. My conscience will generally make me do the right thing, I hope — I would vote in favor for that water bond in a heartbeat, for example — but from what I can tell, that’s not the way to bet when it comes to other people, and most especially older politicians whom one would hope have the same social conscience as I, but who clearly don’t.

Have I gone soft? (This is not a reference to Rule #3, by the way; at least, I hope not.) I’ve noticed that events that would normally make me livid with rage now simply irritate me; and paradoxically, things I would have shrugged off in the past now make me want to reach for the 1911.

Maybe it’s because of the circumstances I find myself in now, maybe it’s an effect of age, or maybe it’s some of both. I need to think about it some more, and figure it out.

Your opinions on this topic will be welcome. This is important stuff to me.


17 comments already!

Grinding Halt

Like many people, I suspect, I have become fascinated by the advancements made in robotics — not from a technological standpoint (because I’m a high-tech retard), but from a sociological one. I’m also not interested in robots which will perform brain functions: the arrival of spreadsheets and their macros in programs like VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 foreshadowed all that, and considering that most of life is incredibly boring bureaucratic shit (e.g. legal documents), I have no problem with delegating the mundane tasks of life to the bots — as long as I still have final control over the output, that is.

No, I’m very interested in the effects that sexbots will have on our society. I’m completely ignoring the bleats of womyn who see, correctly, that female sexbots will eventually replace actual women in  terms of the male meat market, where schlubs who used to live in their parents’ house will now be able to score with a “woman” who won’t castrate him and/or pillage his wallet. Sure, sex with a bot isn’t going to be as good as with a live, breathing woman, at least until the technology improves anyway (although quite frankly I can think offhand of about half a dozen women in my experience who would make the most basic sexbots feel like porn stars, so indifferent were they to sexual activity).

I often use the old movie Cherry 2000 as an example: the “housewife robot” (played by the exquisite Pamela Gidley) was charmingly termed a “gynoid” (vaginoid would have been a better description) who is in all respects a perfect wife: she cooks, cleans does laundry for her owner, and has a voracious sexual appetite. (Evil Kim also points out that she has an OFF switch, which would be a major selling point to most men.)

Given the transition of modern women from Donna Reed:

to this (fortunately anonymous) specimen:

…it’s not too difficult to understand why a great many men might prefer a Cherry 2000 — here’s Pam Gidley:

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

…or, in realistic terms, they’d even choose instead a RealDoll:

Well and good. Now let’s assume we’ve made at least a partial leap from inanimate RealDolls to something a little more lifelike so we can take this situation to the next level. Of course, men being the fantasists that they are, it was only a question of time before sexbots could be offered in “custom” finishes: apparently, for a small premium, one can order a RealDoll which is a licensed replica (replicant?) of various porn stars. Which leads to the next logical step: why not a non-porn star, such as the lovely Mila Jovovich? (Who kinda looks RealDoll-y in this pic anyway.)

With advances in 3D printing, such a concept is eminently doable. Needless to say, this has caused a scramble among movie stars to seek legal protection from having their likenesses used for this purpose without their consent. (As I understand it, a couple of them were too late, and anyway, I foresee a booming black market for unlicensed sexbots replicating all sorts of fantasy women. Can’t find the “Nigella Lawson” model anywhere, incidentally.)

Even this situation is all well and good. It’s actually an example of how “the market” works: there is a desire [sic] for a product, and the market rushes to satisfy it, with all the little complications involved.

Now let’s take it to the next — and perhaps darkest — level: what about LittleGirl sexbots?

Aaaah, well now we have a problem, don’t we? Because pedophilia is super-doubleplusungood — and yes, justifiably so — one might say that having little-girl sexbots is Beyond The Pale. Which was my initial reaction.

But let’s talk about this logically, if we can. We know (from Science) that as a psychopathology, pedophilia is largely irreversible / incurable — once a pedo, always a pedo, hence the Sex Offenders Registry. That being the case, and as we seem to be incapable of locking these criminals up for life, why not LittleGirl (or, ugh, LittleBoy) sexbots? Is it completely unfeasible to think that if these sick assholes have a surrogate child with which to play their abhorrent little reindeer games, then they’d be less likely to hit the playgrounds and schoolyards? Maybe, maybe not. If there’s one thing we know about the human condition, it’s that once sated, a sexual urge will tend to seek greater titillation and stimulation, often through deviant ways and practices. So maybe we draw the line on this side of child sexbots, and say, “No” to the Pedophile-Industrial Complex. But I’m tempted to give it a chance nevertheless — with all sorts of safeguards and caveats. Even the Supreme Court may be thinking as I do, in that they held that cartoon porn, in all its variations and including pedophilia, is not the same as real-life porn.

I have to say that I’m undecided on the issue.

Because I am who I am, however, if we were to allow the manufacture and sales of child sexbots, I would support drastic punishment for a pedophile who owned a child sexbot and then still went out and molested a real child — and I say “drastic” in the sense of “summary execution” (and yes, I know that this might suppress sales of said sexbots; don’t care).

This is a complex issue, and it goes far beyond the topic of driverless cars, autonomous shopping carts, drones and so on. As I said earlier: this group of things addresses the mundane tasks of life; but when we start talking about things which affect us on so personal a level, it starts becoming difficult. I hope I’ve been able to shed just a little light, or at least a slightly different perspective, on the topic — because make no mistake: this issue is not going to go away. We need to address it in terms of our societal principles and mores, and start deciding on boundaries, sooner rather than later and before it runs away with us.


19 comments already!

Holiday Cars

I’m using the word “holiday” in its universal sense, not in the American one (which refers to “holy days” because we’re too literal). I’m doing that because “we’re going on holiday” sounds more cheerful than “we’re taking a vacation”, and this is a cheerful post.

So you arrive at your holiday destination at some excellent beachside place (Cannes, Cabo, Caymans, whatever) and decide that you want to do a little exploring of the town, the area, whatever. Assuming that you’ve flown in and not driven, how are you going to get around?

Well, that depends. If you’re in the Greek Islands or somewhere thereabouts, you’ll either rent bicycles (ugh… way too much hard work) or one of the near-ubiquitous Vespa scooters (fun but dangerous, even if you are, as writer George Mikes once described it, walking sitting down).

The problem is that both bicycles and scooters are pretty much single-seater conveyances — yeah, the Vespa nominally has two seats, but on anything other than downhill you’ll be traveling at slower than walking pace (especially if like me you are a Fat American and therefore, statistically, your companion will also be a Fat American). Really, if you aren’t traveling solo, a single-seater isn’t an ideal option. So you want a car; but yuck, you’re in some sun-bleached paradise, so you want to be en plein air (if you’ll excuse my French) rather than in a small rental econobox with, most likely, no air-conditioning.

What to do?

Unfortunately, now that Foul Government has stuck its safety-first fat nose into all our fun activities, our options are limited because what was fun and available in the 1960s, for example, is now streng verboten (yeah, sounds better in the original German, doesn’t it?) and I’m going to suggest at this point that we may be safer nowadays, but we’re the poorer for it.

What am I talking about? I’m talking, of course, about little open-air runarounds like the VW Thing, the Austin Mini-Moke, and the Fiat Jolly, all of which can still be found, but sadly in ever-shrinking numbers. Pound for pound (and dollar for dollar), these little things probably offer more fun and excitement than any other car ever made. Here they are, in the same order:

 

Now at this point, of course, the Safety Nazis are reaching for the smelling salts because OMG no seatbelts! no roll bars! no doors! wicker seats? and all the usual crap that the PC Crowd like to throw around when telling us how to behave For Our Own Good. And yeah, I know they’re unsafe, by any standards let alone today’s. But I have to ask myself (and I have absolutely no data to back this up): did people die in their thousands from driving these wonderful little buggies around in the manner intended? I sincerely doubt it. If driven around at 20-30 mph around seaside towns and villages (i.e. as they were most of the time), I bet the total “death toll” in the 1960s would have been measured in single digits, if there were any deaths at all.

Imagine what the Safety Nazis would think when seeing this little sight:

They’d probably have a collective heart attack. Which would be a Good Thing. (I would too, just for different reasons.) And let’s not even talk about the decorations one could add to these lovely little runabouts:

No wonder they’re banned. That’s Way Too Much Fun for our modern-day Puritans.


Afterthought: I know some crowd called “Jollycars” is retrofitting the new Fiat 500 into a modern equivalent of the Jolly:

…complete with either canvas seats or wicker ones. Problem is, these cars are selling for $85,000 — or, the cost of a new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

No comment.

 

 


6 comments already!

Restored Beauty

As a rule, I’m not one for restoring old cars — I’m irretrievably non-mechanical and worse, I hate getting my hands dirty — so when Longtime Friend Knob sent me an email about the old Citroën Type H Van being restored, it took me a while to get up the enthusiasm to click on the link. I mean, sure, the Type H was in production from 1947 until 1981(!), and apart from only a few cosmetic changes, looked pretty much in  1981 as it did in 1947.

When you’ve got decent style, good engineering and excellent functionality, why change, right? (And yes, I do love the Colt 1911 for precisely the same reasons.)

To be honest, the Type H never got me going, although I cannot deny its appeal: those corrugated panels make it look like the French van-equivalent of a Junkers Ju-52 transport airplane (which is unsurprising, because the Citroën engineers actually copied the Ju-52’s style), and its 1.9-liter engine was more powerful than most other Euro vans of the late 1940s. (By the way, although the Ju-52 originally started production in 1931 and finished in 1952, it remained in service with various airlines around the world until the 1980s — making the similarities between it and the Type H even more striking.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

When I finally did click on the link Knob sent me, it was not some boring nut-by-bolt restoration story; oh no, it involved transforming a modern Citroën Jumper van back into a Type H. Here’s what the Jumper looks like before the retrofit:

…which is okay, but dead boring in the usual modern wind-tunnel-design kinda way. However, here’s the retrofitted Type H:

…and I think it looks fantastic. Of the two, I’d take the retrofitted Type H any day of the week; but you knew that about me already, didn’t you?


5 comments already!

French Friday II: Salted & Unsalted

I have occasionally written quite scathingly about my recent past as a college student, but I have to make one thing quite clear: at a rough guess, I passed through the classes of approximately three dozen professors, and with maybe only a few exceptions, they were all good to excellent. One of the excellent ones was Professor Michael Leggiere PhD. of the U of North Texas Military History Department, who schooled me on Napoleonic Warfare. Dr. Mike is actually a world-renowned expert on this topic, is often called away to give talks and seminars at places like London’s University College, and in fact the last time I spoke with him in person, he was about to tour some of Napoleon’s Polish battlefields with another military historian, Hasso von Bismarck — yeah, that Bismarck family.

Part of Leggiere’s Napoleonic Warfare course was a brief but typically-superb biography of Napoleon himself, and as I’d read only superficially about the Little General before, this was an eye-opener, to say the least. To a history junkie like myself, this meant reading about Napoleon outside the course curriculum, and by happy coincidence, this extra study dovetailed very nicely with a course on French cultural history I was taking concurrently (yes, I picked my classes carefully, why do you ask?).

Napoleon, you see, wasn’t just some military adventurer or conqueror (although he was both those things, par excellence); he also laid the foundation for the modern French state: its system of (Napoleonic) law, its education system, and its administration — most of which remained more or less unchanged until the 1970s. (Just to make everyone feel inadequate: he’d laid out the blueprint for all the above reforms by age 24, while studying at a military academy and being involved as a junior officer in a couple of military campaigns.)

I’ve told you all that so I can tell you this.

One of the quirks of French cuisine is that most often the butter is unsalted, and at a French dinner table you will usually find a tiny cruet of salt with a microscopic spoon inside, so that you can salt your butter (or not) according to taste. To someone like myself, accustomed only to salted butter, this seemed like an affectation, but it wasn’t that at all: it was the result of taxation, and this is one of the things changed forever by Napoleon’s administrative reforms.

One of the best parts of our U.S. Constitution is the “interstate commerce” clause, which forbids states from levying taxes on goods and services passing from one state to another, and through another in transit. This was not the case in pre-Napoleonic France. Goods manufactured in, say, Gascony or Provence would pass through a series of customs posts en route to Paris, and at each point the various localities would levy excise taxes on the goods, driving up the final price at its eventual destination.

Which brings us to salt. French salt, you see, was produced mainly on the Atlantic coastline, and was a major “export” of Brittany to the rest of France. Butter, of course, was produced universally — in and outside Paris and ditto for every major city — but the salt for the butter came almost exclusively from Brittany, and having been taxed  multiple times by the time it reached points east like Paris or Lyons, it was expensive.  So the cuisine and eating habits in those parts developed without the use of salt — or, if salt was requested, at an added cost. It’s why, to this day, many French recipes use unsalted butter as an ingredient. (In contrast, butter for local consumption in western France was [and still is] almost always salted, because salt was dirt cheap there.)

Napoleon’s reforms did away with all that; he saw to it that the douane locale checkpoints and toll booths along the main roads were abolished (causing salt prices in eastern France to plummet and become a mainstay of French cuisine at last). And when the towns and villages protested about the loss of tax revenue, Napoleon made up the shortfall with “federal” funds out of the national treasury.

Of course, the French treasury had in the meantime been emptied out by, amongst other things, the statist welfare policies of the Revolutionary government (stop me if this is starting to sound familiar). Which is why, to raise money, Napoleon invaded wealthy northern Italy and western Germany (as it is now), pillaged their rich cities’ treasuries and garnered revenue from the wealthy aristocracy, who paid bribes to avoid having their palaces sacked and their wealth confiscated.

So yes: Napoleon was a Crool Invader, a Warmonger and Plunderer. Except that in the wake of his cruelty and so on, much of Western Europe ceased to be oppressive feudal monarchies and became instead republican democracies, because while he took their money, he left behind Revolutionary ideals and democratic government.

But I’ll talk about that another time.


In passing, if any one of you has kids or grandkids who are going to study modern European history, tell them to go to U of North Texas just to take classes from Professors Michael Leggiere and Alfred Mierzejewski, and to take every single class they teach, every semester. (Each professor teaches about four or five topics, but never simultaneously, and spreads them out over several semesters.) I missed a couple of their courses simply because I just wasn’t there long enough, and I regret it to this day. I’ll talk about the brilliant Dr. Alfred Mierzejewski in another post, when I talk about Nazi cattle cars.


3 comments already!

Snowflake Test

Reader Dave O, in the Comments to my post about job interviews, asks:

What’s your opinion of Kyle Reyes’ “Snowflake Test”?

As I don’t watch TV much, I had no idea that Mr. Reyes had set off a shitstorm by revealing that he used a personality test (his description) to weed out potentially harmful and unproductive applicants from the hiring pool. So I looked the thing up (it’s excellent), and just for fun, I’ll take the test. As I don’t know the scoring metrics Reyes uses, I have no idea whether I’d pass or fail, but here we go:

Outside of standard benefits, what benefits should a company offer employees?
— Other than healthcare, disability, life insurance and pension (to vested employees), I can’t think of any other than perhaps a paid day’s leave for a birthday. Maybe.

What should the national minimum wage be?
— There shouldn’t be a national minimum wage.

How many sick days should be given to employees?
— It depends on the employee. Any condition that may require a regularly-taken sick day should first be vetted by an independent doctor’s opinion. Other than that, maybe half a dozen per annum total, non-accumulative. (Catastrophic injury or illness is obviously a different matter.)

How often should employees get raises?
— Other than CoL adjustments, only after exceptional performance or growth on the job.

How do you feel about guns?
— (Okay, you guys can quit laughing now.) I love guns and have been shooting them for well over fifty years. I love the self-control they demand of me when I’m trying to shoot them accurately, and I love the ability they give me for self-defense and defense of my family and community.

What are your feelings about employees or clients carrying guns?
— Don’t care who carries a gun, as long as they’re careful with them and/or keep them holstered.

What are your feelings about safe spaces in challenging work environments?
— Don’t see the need for them. (Especially if everyone’s carrying a gun.) The whole concept of “safe spaces” makes me irritable, and the people who demand them are childish and not worthy of respect, but of ridicule.

In a creative environment like The Silent Partner Marketing, what do you envision work attire looking like?
— I go to work every day wearing a jacket and tie to show respect for the company and towards my clients. I’m as creative as anyone on the planet, but I don’t think “creative” staff should get a pass to dress like hippies or golfers just because that somehow “helps” their creativity.

Should “trigger warnings” be issued before we release content for clients or the company that might be considered “controversial”?
— Absolutely not. Content should rise or fall on its merits, not whether or not it may hurt someone’s feelings.

How do you feel about police?
— I have to say, I’ve always trusted the police — at least I did twenty or thirty years ago. Of late, however, I’m becoming uneasy at their increased use of “no-knock” raids, warrantless wire-tapping and suchlike. But local cops and cops on the beat? I’ll always have their back, and my local guys know it.

If you owned the company and were to find out that a client is operating unethically but was a high paying client…how would you handle it?
— Fire the client. No amount of revenue is worth it. Lawyers often have to make that compromise; marketing companies should never.

When was the last time you cried and why?
— (My Readers already know when that was and why, so forgive me if I don’t answer this one.)

You arrive at an event for work and there’s a major celebrity you’ve always wanted to meet. What happens next?
— I’m not interested in meeting any celebrity, major or otherwise.

What’s your favorite kind of adult beverage?
— I have many favorites, so it depends on the mood, occasion, company and geography. In Wiltshire UK, Wadworth 6X bitter ale; in Paris, vin rouge; lunch on a a hot day, g&t or screwdriver; late night chatting with friends, single malt or Cape brandy; with Greek food, retsina — and those are just some of the options.

What’s the best way to communicate with clients?
— Face to face.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
— In no special order: read, write, shoot, or go out to dinner with family or friends.

What are your thoughts on the current college environment as it pertains to a future workforce?
— If we have to rely on the modern college for our workforce, we’re doomed.

What’s your typical breakfast?
— Before work, a cup of coffee, a croissant and maybe a piece of fruit or some yogurt. Over weekends, a cooked breakfast.

What’s your favorite drink when you go to a coffeehouse?
— I don’t normally visit coffeehouses except in Vienna, in which case it’s a Brauner. I normally drink ordinary coffee like Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme Regular, black with sugar.

How do you handle bullies?
— I destroy them.

How do you handle it when your ideas are shot down?
— If the idea is fatally flawed or unworkable, then fine and I’m an idiot. If it’s a good, workable idea but rejected because of NIH or politics, I shrug and walk away, then work to see how I can get it adopted anyway.

What do you do if a coworker comes to the table with an idea and it sucks?
— I tell him that it sucks, and why, then try to improve it with him.

What does the First Amendment mean to you?
— It’s everything. Without freedom of speech, not much else works. And I don’t care if it’s “offensive” — it’s offensive speech that needs both protection and the light of day.

What does faith mean to you?
— Not much, personally, if we’re talking about religion. I always respect it in others, however, as long as they leave me alone.

Who is your role model and why?
— My late grandfather. He taught me about honor, and decency, and duty, and devotion to family. He was a WWI veteran and fought in the trenches on the Western Front, at age 17.

You’re in Starbucks with two friends. Someone runs in and says someone is coming in with a gun in 15 seconds to shoot patrons. They offer you a gun. Do you take it? What do you do next?
— I don’t need someone else’s gun because I always carry my own. Next, I’d tell everyone to get on the floor (so I get a clear field of fire), then find some cover from which to shoot behind, and finally slip the safety catch off the 1911. It’s an unlikely situation per se because I never go to Starbucks, but I understand the general issue you’re addressing.

What does America mean to you?
— Everything. I’m an immigrant, and the proudest day of my life was when I became a U.S. citizen. This is it, this is the best, and we are the last great hope of the civilized world.

You see someone stepping on an American flag. What do you do?
— Shove them away roughly and pick up the flag. After that, it’s up to them what happens next. (And yes I know that contradicts what I said earlier about the First Amendment, but in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia: messing with our flag is “fighting words”.)

What does “privilege” mean to you?
— Something earned, such as Gold Status in an airline’s frequent flier program.

What’s more important? Book smarts or street smarts? Why?
— Street smarts. Book smarts are the foundation; street smarts are the application thereof in real life, suitably modified. We live in real life.

I wonder if I’d get a job offer…


8 comments already!