Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Tuesday, November 30, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "If life gives you lemons, shut the hell up and eat your lemons."
    -- seen on the internet


    Posted by Tom, 11/30/2010 6:34:50 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, November 22, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "My scars remind me that the past is real."
    -- Papa Roach, Scars


    Posted by Tom, 11/22/2010 6:51:51 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, November 18, 2010


    Thought for the Day

    Contemporary parlance has it that "disabled" people are properly described as "differently abled".

    I wonder if that means I'm differently gruntled.

    Posted by Tom, 11/18/2010 8:19:05 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "The average man is destitute of independence of opinion. He is not interested in contriving an opinion of his own, by study and reflection, but is only anxious to find out what his neighbor's opinion is and slavishly adopt it."
    -- Mark Twain


    Posted by Tom, 11/17/2010 1:05:06 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, November 11, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "What's morality?"
    "It's the difference between what is right and what you can rationalize."
    -- Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping


    Posted by Tom, 11/11/2010 7:30:53 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010


    Fifteen Authors

    The latest Facebook meme:

    Don't take too long to think about this. List fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste these rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people under Tags below the note.)

    Unfortunately, if your Notes page draws from an RSS feed like mine does (pulling from this blog), entering anything manually seems to screw up the imports. So I'll make my list here and tag it when it pops over to Facebook.

    Also, I don't ordinarily participate in these things. I've already seen this one several times and I've been studiously ignoring it. But my beloved brother did it and specifically tagged me in his list, so here goes:

    1) Robert Heinlein (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, etc.)
    2) Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian)
    3) David Weber (Honor Harrington series)
    4) Christopher Moore (Bloodsucking Fiends, A Dirty Job, etc.)
    5) Bertrand R. Brinley (The Mad Scientists' Club)
    6) H. P. Lovecraft (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and many short stories. Famous for The Call of Cthulhu, which sucked heinously and was probably his worst work.)
    7) H. L. Mencken (journalist)
    8) Thomas J. DiLorenzo (economic historian)
    9) Robert Murphy (economic historian)
    10) Gene Callahan (economist)
    11) Murray Rothbard (economist)
    12) Ludwig von Mises (economist)
    13) Peter Norton (programming guru from the 80's)
    14) P. J. O'Rourke (political humorist)
    15) Dave Ramsey (personal finance)

    These are the first fifteen that popped into my head, but I've read so much and for so long, and I retain so much of what I read (the "always stick with you" part) that I could probably make a list 5 times as long without much effort. Even as I type this sentence, at least a dozen more names have come to mind. Such is the life of a bibliophile, I guess.


    Posted by Tom, 11/10/2010 6:53:09 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, November 5, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "The next time you have a thought... let it go."
    -- Ron White


    Posted by Tom, 11/5/2010 6:05:18 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.
    -- Robert Heinlein


    Posted by Tom, 11/2/2010 11:36:50 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Voting is Violence

    Once again, we engage in our biennial orgy of self-congratulation over participating in the governmental process. We go to local schools, churches and courthouses, select from a list of various would-be masters on the basis of what flavor of candy they're promising, and then wear our little stickers proudly. To hear it told by the media or the average boob on the street, voting is a purely edifying activity, lifting us up from the mud of simple serfdom -- we are the masters of our own political destinies, and democracy is to be thanked for it. We're Americans. We voted.

    As is usual, among the pageantry and pomp there is nowhere to be found even the slightest hint of awareness or sober reflection of what it is we are actually doing. None seem to know or care that at one end is a voting lever, but at the other end is a gun.

    Remember that.

    When your nephew or grandson gets caught in a zero-tolerance sting at school and is expelled or given a conviction that will follow him for a lifetime on some trumped-up charge over having a Boy Scout pocket knife on his person, remember that you voted for that.

    When your wife or daughter or little sister is fondled inappropriately by the security jackboots at the airport, touching her in all manner of places that not even her most intimate partner would be touching in public... or when the new high-definition x-ray machine starts producing photorealistic child pornography of every kid that walks through it, and gets released to the pedophile sites on the internet by some enterprising TSA employee trying to make a buck on the side... remember that you voted to have that happen.

    When the kindly old neighbor doesn't die quickly enough to suit their avaricious relations, and has their house surrounded by an army of cops attempting to force them from their homes on the veracity of an unsubstantiated claim that they are "mentally ill", remember that this is what you wanted.

    When your relative is dying of some excruciatingly painful disease, is unable to end it peacefully, on their own terms, or even acquire the simplest relief in the form of prohibited substances or adequate doses of legal ones, remember that you pulled the lever in favor of that tough-on-drugs crusader.

    When more and more innocent people are caught in the web of an increasingly corrupt and irrevocably broken system that can only be laughingly described as "justice", remember your ballot's endorsement of that system.

    When your every health care decision becomes the purview of some bureaucratic oversight committee, and you can't get appropriate treatments because they've got to draw a line somewhere and you just happen to be below it, and it's illegal for you to make other arrangements, remember that you voted to put healthcare in the hands of the government.

    And when the simplest act of kindness exposes good Samaritans to arrest, jail, and worse, remember that your vote helped make it happen.

    The only way that a vote doesn't do these things is when it is a vote to reduce government's size, power, "effectiveness", reach, and responsibility. The only way that the lever doesn't end in a gun pointed at some poor schmuck's head is when the lever is pulled into the position that says "put the gun away and leave him alone". The violence perpetrated as a result of voting invariably falls upon those least able to defend themselves against it. Voting is thus about as edifying as rolling drunks for beer money.

    By all means, be proud of your vote, however you use it. But don't vote for the gun and try to convince me that you're dedicated to the proposition of peace.

    I know differently.

    Posted by Tom, 11/2/2010 11:13:26 AM (Permalink). 7 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, November 1, 2010


    2nd Assistant Hosemonkey

    I'm getting ready to blow in more insulation for my 30-year-old house. The attic is under-insulated as it is, and until last month was under-ventilated as well.

    The date is set, the plans are made, the shopping and product research has been done. I'm halfway through with the basic prep work that needed to happen up there, although I'll have a few odds & ends to do after I'm done with this step.

    One of my friends, who I hadn't been counting on for help due to his work schedule and interest in college football, unexpectedly started talking about helping out, at least for the morning of the day that we do the insulation installation. He joked, as he usually does, that he's willing to drink coffee and bark orders.

    I will be up in the attic at the business end of the hose, because it's my house and therefore my responsibility to make sure it gets done right.

    My father will be loading bales of insulation into the blower machine, because I don't really want to ask him to crawl around in the attic with all the dust and crap that will be floating in the air.

    One other volunteer will be helping maintain the hose at the point where it comes up into the attic.

    It'd be really nice to have someone else helping me drag the hose around, somewhere along the halfway point.

    So I told my friend, "that's nice... but what I really need is a 2nd Assistant Hosemonkey."

    And that got me thinking...

    How many times do we misidentify the needs of the organization, no matter the organization or its purpose? How often is it that our own desires override what we can plainly see, and cause us to interpret those needs differently?

    I'm presently involved in an organization that's suffering a void of leadership. There are board member positions that are currently unfilled, and no one seems to be willing to step forward and take on the responsibility. Everyone's willing to work (at the time when it's convenient), and all seem to just want to be told what to do, rather than taking the responsibility for identifying what needs to be done and making sure that it gets done.

    On the other hand, there are other organizations where leadership is top-heavy. Everyone wants to be Guy-in-Charge, and nobody wants to be a 2nd Assistant Hosemonkey.

    And some organizations seem to swing back and forth between the two states... one week or month or year, it's "too many Chiefs, not enough Indians", and the following it's a whole crowd of 2nd Assistant Hosemonkeys, all taking a step back when the call for leadership goes out.

    Is it as simple as glamor vs. responsibility? If I'm in charge, I get all the glamor of getting things done, but if something goes wrong I have to take responsibility, so my desire for the work to do is based on my evaluation of which result is most likely to happen?

    Or is there something deeper than that?

    I note that the organization with too little leadership is one that preaches "servant leadership". In other words, you get the glamor, the responsibility, AND a heaping helping of the "grunt work" to go with it. Maybe a fair number of folks figure that as long as they have to do the grunt work anyway, they might as well pass on the responsibility.

    How do we know there's a leadership void? If there's an election of officers and there aren't even enough candidates to fill the vacant slots.

    How do we know the organization is top-heavy? If there's an election of officers and there's three or four times as many candidates as needed, but almost nobody shows up on "work day".

    I also know that I'm guilty of mis-evaluation and mis-volunteering myself. I think a fair bit of the problem has to do with what it is that I want to do, rather than an honest evaluation of what the organization needs. On the other hand, sometimes I just don't know and there's nobody to tell me.

    I wonder how much better off a lot of organizations would be if folks could somehow more reliably evaluate the organization's true needs, and step up to whichever position needed filled, without grumbling one way or another about having to do it. I especially wonder how much this problem manifests in organizations like the Church and other volunteer efforts. Maybe I'm overthinking it, maybe not, but I have noticed that the best times I have volunteering are when I stop at the threshold, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and say to myself, "whatever they need, I'll do my best to provide"... even if it means I'm going to hate it.

    Sometimes what's needed is a 2nd Assistant Hosemonkey. Sometimes it's not. Discerning the true need, as opposed to which role we desire to fill, is probably more valuable than providing more of what's already abundant.

    Posted by Tom, 11/1/2010 6:30:17 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...