Archive for the 'Rules' Category


the answer is “no”

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend on Facebook posted an article about a realtor who had been murdered by the “client” to whom she was showing a house. Horrifying.

A friend of this friend of a friend wrote “Everything happens for a reason. Prayers for you and her family.”

Even more horrifying.

All I could think was, does this person realize that they’re saying that this poor woman’s life was worth less than whatever positive element (!) might come of her brutal murder?

But people say this all the time.

Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom covered this very topic in Sunday’s NYTimes article: Does Everything Happen for a Reason? They say it even better than I do — both why people choose to believe it, and why it’s dangerous. The last few paragraphs are the best, so, just in case the article is TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read):

WHATEVER the origin of our belief in life’s meaning, it might seem to be a blessing. Some people find it reassuring to think that there really are no accidents, that what happens to us — including the most terrible of events — reflects an unfolding plan. But the belief also has some ugly consequences. It tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.

Not everyone would go as far as the atheist Richard Dawkins, who has written that the universe exhibits “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” But even those who are devout should agree that, at least here on Earth, things just don’t naturally work out so that people get what they deserve. If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen.

We should resist our natural urge to think otherwise.


tax day

My husband is the “Taxpayer.”
I am the “Spouse.”
Does this mean I don’t have to pay taxes?
Or are we waiting for women to be paid the same amount for the same work, and then both categories will be “Taxpayer”?
Maybe I’m overthinking it.

Oh, and it took 40 minutes and two consultations of the directions online to fill out the 1040 “EZ” for my 17-year-old. I made 3 mistakes that I had to white out, and I’m a reasonably intelligent person. It shouldn’t be that difficult to fill out a form for someone who made $3,600 last year and can’t itemize lunches at Noodles & Co. or purchases from Game Stop.

Can any tax reform enacted include a rule that one shouldn’t need to hire a CPA and pay $20/form to complete even the simplest tax forms? Does anybody really know what terms such as “Amortization” or “Domestic Production Activities Deduction” actually mean?

Do I earn any karma points for being perfectly willing to pay my fair share even if GE doesn’t? And what about my paying my taxes for potholed roads and closing police departments and schools that “my” governor can take over with one of his non-elected Emergency Financial Managers? Guess this crosses over into questions about whether democracy is alive and well in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and maybe that’s a topic for another day.

Gotta go write that check and send it off to Uncle Sam. Or should I have my husband write it, since I’m just the Spouse?


why is this MY problem?

Just read Cracking the Male Code of Office Behavior, from last Sunday’s New York Times, which discusses Shaunti Feldhahn’s book “The Male Factor: the Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace.”

The point of the book, and the article, is to describe how men work, think, and behave as compared to how women work, think, and behave, and to offer suggestions to women as to how they can best position themselves for promotion and advancement. Shaunti says: “Women who want to avoid hidden traps and break through the glass ceiling need to know how to shape the way men perceive them.”

We are advised that women should try to shut down their emotional responses to things like criticism, be careful not to push their own ideas too hard, and to try to avoid any implications of personality conflicts with any of their coworkers, as this will “. . .cause men to view that worker as less business-savvy and less experienced,” or even downright illogical. We should also realize that men are, by nature, quite insecure, and to take care to avoid inadvertently “hitting a nerve” so that the man won’t become defensive.

Ironically, male managers are often put out by women who try to be just like men — “it’s . . . distracting.”

Are you wordIcan’tsay kidding me?

Now, I’m not saying this isn’t true, mind you. I believe, in fact, that this is exactly what happens to a lot of women everywhere. But why is this OUR problem? Why aren’t men being asked to take steps to crack the “female code” of office behavior? Did we all get together at some point and decide THEIR way was the BETTER way? Trust me, if I had been at that meeting, I would remember it. And does anyone else sense the ludicrousness of asking women to shape their actions “just enough,” because, God forbid you go too far and try to be just like a man.

But wait, isn’t that what they were just asking for?

And THEY say WE’RE not logical.


just don’t mess with “my” Spanish coffee

Apparently there is a new beverage market out there among twenty-somethings for a drink that mixes alcohol and caffeine and is sold in brightly-colored cans reminiscent of Red Bull.

This is considered to be particularly dangerous because a) it is targeted towards young (barely-of-age) drinkers and b) the effects of the caffeine mask the effects of the alcohol, causing those partaking to be unable to recognize how “drunk” they actually are.

According to the story, one twenty-something was admitted to the hospital and found to have a blood alcohol level of .40.

Yikes. That can’t be good.

This does bring to mind a persistent question I have: why is it that it is legal in this country to get married (that is, decide you are ready to decide who you want to spend the rest of your life with, raise children with, etc., etc.) and join the Army (kill! kill! blood and guts and veins in your teeth [blame Arlo Guthrie, not me]) at the age of 18, but aren’t considered responsible enough to consume alcohol until you’re 21.

Just wondering. Maybe it’s just me.


The Freeloaders

This article in the Atlantic describes today’s reality: the tendency of this generation to get as much of their media — music, movies, games, books — for free.

I ask my students, and my children, to pay for that which they use. They scoff, and consider me old-fashioned. But what will become of all of us when the people making the music, and the movies, and the games, and writing the books, can no longer make a living at it?

“Sharing” should not equal stealing. Buy your own stuff.

Hmmm. . .I just downloaded a picture, as I always do, from Google images to headline my blog post. It is my understanding that if I post the link to the source, it’s okay. Any input?


Us vs. Them

. . . A former truck driver and neo-Nazi skinhead, Pawel, 33, has since become an Orthodox Jew, covering his shaved head with a yarmulke and shedding his fascist ideology for the Torah.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, reducing much of its capital to rubble. It was the worst earthquake in the region in more than 200 years. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the cost could be between $7.2 billion to $13.2 billion, based on a death toll from 200,000 to 250,000. The devastation created serious obstacles to those attempting to deliver promised foreign aid.,2933,583221,00.html

State Department: 15 Americans Killed in Haiti Quake

We seem to live in a world of “us” against “them,” and it seems to start from the youngest ages, with kids forming packs on playgrounds and chasing the kids from “Other” packs away from Our tree or Our fort or Our soccer field.

These struggles seem to be genetically programmed into us; to find our place in the hierarchy, to find which group we belong to and then to plant our flags and stand our ground. Remember high school (shudder) and the compartments you had to try to fit into? The cools the geeks and the stoners and the jocks; who dressed “right,” who didn’t; the few who managed to forge their own path but also still managed to be considered “ok” by those who were qualified to make such fine distinctions. The pressure to conform while being very careful not to look like you were conforming. [Ugh. Wouldn’t go back if you paid me.]

But the problem is bigger, and much, much more sinister than that.

If I define myself in terms of which group I belong to, then I draw a circle around this group, and the rest of “you” are outside of it. There. Now I don’t need to care about you, about whether you have health insurance or an opportunity for a decent education or enough food in your cupboard to feed your children. I can even decide I hate you, that you represent evil incarnate or that your beliefs are a threat to my narrow, self-righteous view of the world, and give myself permission to hurt or demean or destroy you. And if I happen to go to church myself I have people, set off from me by their position and their attire and their title, telling me all of the reasons I’m right and those of you outside MY circle, are wrong. (Notice that one of the sources of evil on the twistedly confusing but popular TV series Lost are known merely as “The Others.”)

On a global scale, we Americans live proudly by what has been carefully determined to be humanity’s inalienable rights: that we are all created equal, that we have a right to free speech and free press and freedom from the fear of lawlessness and tyranny and a fair trial before our peers. Oh; but only if you’re an American. And as long as you’re NOT, then I can feel free to incarcerate you endlessly or torture you deport you or villify you by nature of your color or country or creed.

I think, instead, we should all live by the 4 rules outlined by Anne Lamott:

Rule No. 1: We are all family

Rule No. 2: It is immoral to hit first

Rule No. 3: You reap exactly what you sow

Rule No. 4: Don’t be an asshole.

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