Category Archives: focus

What is it worth?

Labor and value

Adam Smith and David Ricardo argued that all value comes from labor, and the value of something is in the amount of labor it took to produce it.

But Henry George understood that this is backward. The value of something lies in how much labor we’re willing to exchange for it.

Too often, we’re tempted to price things based on what they cost us to make. It’s more useful to price things based on what they’re worth to those that might want to buy them.

This is a quote from Seth Godin’s blog. He is a very wise man.

How much ARE we willing to pay for things we want to buy? Look at shoes, for instance. There is, I suppose, a lot of effort in designing footwear for specific types of activities, specific types of feet, and specific design elements such as color and logo. What do they cost to make? What would you consider a fair mark-up for the profit over the cost of manufacturing?

Do you believe your every day, run-of-the-mill shoes are worth $165? If so, why do so many go to Walmart and PayLess to get cheaper versions of those shoes? What exactly are the shoes for? Protecting your feet from injury so you can run or walk longer without causing damage is the main use. We also buy shoes to correct arch problems. Some buy shoes with extra support for sporting activities. Others buy them to match the jacket and purse they’re wearing at the time. But if all they did was protect our feet from injury, who would pay $165 for a pair?

How much ARE we willing to pay for the convenience of not having to cook for ourselves? The average price we pay is between $4 and $7 per person. So for 4 hamburgers, 4 small fries and 4 drinks, we pay $16 to $28.

  • $2.00 for a 2-liter bottle of soft drink.
  • $2.00 for 8 hamburger buns.
  • You can get 10 pounds of potatoes for $5.00.
  • at $4.00/pound, you can get 2 pounds of hamburger

In other words, you could have enough ingredients to feed 8 people instead of 4. Our time for 20 minutes of prep and cooking is converted to, (and this is ironic), about $15/hour. But you must understand that fast food restaurants make all their profit on the drinks. They give us 12 oz. of soft drink in a glass 1/2- 2/3 full of ice. The biggest expense in the meal is the drink cup. Because they buy in bulk, their burgers and precut fries are much much cheaper than what an average person pays. The cost of the ingredients then is 1/4 the price they charge. Labor is about 1/3 of the cost, the profit margin is about 3-5%. The rest of the cost goes to fixed costs like building rent, franchise fees, insurance, and utilities. If all you wanted to do is eat, would it be worth the 20 min of prep time and cooking to save you 50% on your costs?

Now imagine you are sick. Is your health something that you price shop on? If you’re diabetic, what would you be willing to pay to stay healthy? We are willing to pay $600 for a dose of insulin that costs the company a miniscule percentage of that. The companies that manufacture this don’t care what the profit margin is. They charge that much for something people need that much because they CAN. They know people are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money because we value our health and life as something essential. (Well, duh!) Should people decide they are NOT going to pay that much and refuse to buy it, they’ll die! That will show those heartless companies a thing or two. The concept of supply and demand has no meaning because reducing the demand doesn’t reduce the price. It is the same as allergy pens…epi pens. If you are allergic to bees and you get stung, are you going to haggle as to whether the shot should cost $50 and now costs $700 with no change in delivery system or contents? No?

If you look at all these examples, they obviously are NOT basing their prices on the costs of manufacturing plus a profit, but they are charging what they think the market can bear. They are pricing their items and services based on the value to the people that want to buy them.

They believe (and rightly so) that fashion and comfort are more important than just foot protection.

They believe that convenience is more important than nutrition.

They believe that living is more important than money and equal access.

This is where a high moral standard comes in. If you believe in a cost + a reasonable profit and price your goods and services in accordance with that principle, you will be in the minority. Then you have to ask yourself: Is profit more important than accessibility and common sense? You may undersell your competitors and come through with a modest profit, but will it allow you to buy that big house and nice car? Is that important? What is it worth, to you?

Where are you going?

When you’re in the car with us and you ask, “Where are we going?” whoever’s driving points out the windshield and says “That-a-way!” It gives immediate direction but doesn’t tell you how fast or what the ultimate destination is. Not Helpful, but it’s technically correct. If you are in the car and not driving, will the ultimate destination be something over which you have control? Will the speed and the options for the quickest route, the one with the least traffic lights, the one with the least traffic, the scenic route, the one where you don’t get lost or anything else about the actual travel be anything you can influence? Maybe, if you whine loud enough. Most likely, however, you, as just a passenger on this madcap adventure, have no part in any of the decisions.

For the sake of perspective, let’s say we all get together to discuss traveling to a State Park for a weekend. You and your friends decide on the weekend and one of you gets assigned the task of reserving a spot for you all to stay. Some of your friends have tents, some have campers, some want to rent a cabin. You can’t agree so you all pick a landmark to meet together at a specific time. You, intrepid leader, LOVE this park and you want to get there early and stay in the park, but your son decides he doesn’t want to get up that early and opts to ride with his best friend who’s leaving after work that day. You don’t believe that’s a good idea because you know what his friend’s car is like and do not trust it or the driver to get to the right place in a reasonable time. Your son argues that he’s perfectly capable of handling anything that comes up and is familiar with all the ins and outs of getting to this park as he’s traveled with you on numerous occasions. Finally, you agree.

You arrive at the campsite and set up and have a wonderful lunch. You fly kites and think, “My son would love this! But he’s not here.” You go on a short hike and take pictures of the beautiful views, and note, “My son would be telling me where to stand to get the best framing.” You get back to camp and start supper. “My son would be recalling all the crazy adventures we had trying to cook on some of our other trips.” At the appointed time you go to the meeting place. You wait, and you get a phone call from one of your friends. “We decided to stay in the motel tonight and were so tired we took a nap and can’t get there for another hour.” The wife gets an IM from her friend, “We couldn’t fit all the stuff in the car and had to rent a trailer and it took us three hours to get all the paperwork done and the thing packed. We should be pulling in some time in the morning.” Nothing from the son. You wait another hour, and none of the rest of your group shows up, so you call them and text them and IM them. One rings and rings and informs you that their voice mail is full. Another replies, “Was that this week?” Another just doesn’t answer the message. So, disappointed, you go back to your campsite. Still nothing from your son.

You inform all the people on your current list, the one that includes all the people who say they are still coming and even your son whom you assume is coming that you will meet at the big dining hall at the welcome center for breakfast. The next morning, you go to the dining hall, and you reserve a table for 10 and sit and wait. After an hour’s worth of waiting and 3 cups of coffee, you decide to order anyway. You finish your breakfast and still no one shows up. You contact them all again. The one in the motel decided to have the continental breakfast since it was free, and were unable to find the campsite so they went back to the motel. The one with the trailer pulled in to discover that there wasn’t a reservation in your name or theirs. They had traveled to a different RV park with a similar name. You tell them it was a State Park, not an RV park, and they’re mad and frustrated and decide not to waste any more time on this and head home. Still nothing from the son.

You go to see the bow and arrow demonstration. Then you go horseback riding, and then head to the main event with the old-time melodrama followed by fireworks. Still nothing from the son. The next morning, you enjoy watching the sunrise, have a great breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs and coffee, clean up, and leave the park with fond memories and some amazing pictures.

You get home and there’s your son. He’s lying on the couch, his arm in a sling, bandages around his legs and face all swollen up.

He got to his friend’s house and nothing was packed, but he didn’t know that. He threw his go-bag into the back of the car and they headed off. “I had never traveled to this park in the dark, so none of the landmarks looked the same. He didn’t have a map, and the gps kept sending us down unpaved roads that bounced the signal around. At one point we were near the town, and it bounced to fifteen miles on the other side of the river and kept telling us to return to the route. We turned down a gravel road that turned into a rock road, that turned into a suggestion of a road and ended up axel-high in mud. We had to go to the farm house and have the farmer pull us out with his tractor. I wrenched my shoulder when we were trying to get the car out. We got back onto a paved road but had no idea where we were and started to argue. He confessed that he didn’t care if he met up with his parents and didn’t want to go on the trip in the first place. I said I’d promised you I’d be here and he kicked me out of the car!!!! About then is when I noticed that my phone was out of charge. I headed off to where I thought I’d last seen the town.

“I was hungry so I got some stuff out of my pack to snack on and sat down on the edge of the road. I ate some and since I was exhausted from trying to move the car and walking, just fell asleep next to the tree. I was awakened in the middle of the night to hear these weird sounds. Raccoons had gotten into my snacks. I wasn’t thinking straight and I tried to grab them away and the raccoons were not happy and wanted to bite and scratch me. I didn’t know they could run that fast. They tore my legs up some, but not as bad as the raspberry bushes I crashed into. I fashioned a sling for my arm as the shoulder was really hurting then, and then grabbed the ace bandages and wrapped up my legs. Does blood come out? I got to the town about 4 in the morning, and found a motel. As I looked like some sort of hobo, he didn’t want to rent a room to me. I reached for my credit card to pay for the room and realized my friend had used it to fill up his car and STILL HAD IT. I had $12 in my wallet. The guy sent me to the police station to see if they could help me get my card back–meaning, they’re not going to do anything to help you or let you sleep in the lobby!

“I went down to the police station, and they didn’t believe the credit card story. They sent me to the homeless shelter. I had to fill out all sorts of paperwork and they wanted to know if I was abused and did they need to send CPS over. That unknown number that called you about 6 this morning was them and they didn’t even leave a message. I got a few hours of sleep, but I didn’t want anyone to touch my wounds as I wasn’t sure they had any medical training at all. There was no place to charge my phone. I borrowed one and called my friend, Bobby to come and pick me up, and he came for me about noon. We went to the city park for lunch, and he discovered, you guessed it, a bee hive. It was in the slippery slide and he decided it wasn’t safe for little kids and he was going to knock it down. No amount of screaming on my part made him change his mind, and then suddenly both of us were screaming. The cops came and recognized me and told me in no uncertain terms to get the heck out of their town as I was a trouble maker. Bobby dropped me off here and went to his doctor for the bee stings he got on his arms, torso, and face. Can you take me to the doctor?”

We all have free will. Had the son gone with his you, his family, he would have enjoyed some wonderful experiences. But even though his plans were to go to the same location, his means of transportation was not reliable. The timing was off causing him to travel this well-known route in the dark. His friend wasn’t motivated to go and had not made any preparations. The difference in the perspective caused the boys to argue and may have ruined the friendship. All these unpleasant experiences were associated with a destination that the son had previously thought was a fun place to go. None of the things he was expecting came to fruition. The joy he sought was time without stress with his friend, and he got time with a lot of stress instead. He thought separation from his parents would give him more autonomy and yet he was subjected to the same powerlessness because his friend was driving. His friend, being young and inexperienced, did not know how to prepare, how to plan, how to set a goal and reach it. He was expecting his friend to be as knowledgeable and calm and cool under pressure as you.

When we go our own way, and it’s not God’s way, we may get to the same destination, but not in the same shape.

Experts

Seth Godin’s Blog

Let the experts be experts. If it were easy enough to do after watching a youtube video, why would we need experts? Wouldn’t a diligent person, having watched all the videos and studied all the online information available be able to perform like an expert? It takes life experience to contribute to your expertise? Oh.

He’d rather stuff be done by an expert. I’d say check the credentials first. Surgery by a surgeon is good. Surgery by a tree surgeon, not so much. Surgery by a certified doctor is good. Surgery by a doctor certified delusional and OCD may not be as good. (No the organs have to be in order according to SIZE!) And check the diploma on his wall to make sure the names match. Dr. Frankenstein might be a good choice if you have multiple organ failures, but not your first choice if you have hepatitis.

An unskilled laborer who was over 500 years old with no experience in ship-building built the ark. It sailed for about a year before it was grounded. The Titanic was built by experts…it lasted 4 days.

 

ADHD or Autistic

Isn’t it strange that every little kid in elementary school is on drugs to BECOME autistic? No, the teachers don’t want to teach autistic kids. That would be really hard! But if the 5-year-old can’t sit at his desk and quietly do his school work for 6 hours a day, he needs drugs. If your kid is daydreaming, we need to get him on drugs. If he’s laser-focused and suddenly starts rocking back and forth and jumps when someone touches him, he needs drugs.

All the genius detectives out there are slightly autistic or OCD or Sociopaths. If there are as many genius villains out there, YOU WILL NEVER CATCH THEM! They’re all smarter than you are! And yet…since we don’t want ADHD kids or Autistic kids in school, we try to drug the ADHD kids to focus more and the Autistic kids to focus less. They’re the anomalies. But remember how I once said that there is no normal? Where do you draw the line? Well, in the Normal Curve, 68.27% of people should be considered normal, about 14% are above normal and below normal, and the tiniest sliver (2%) are genius-level and way below normal. Kids are expected to act autistic and not be autistic, and Autistic kids have to learn to act ADHD to keep from being ostracized by “normal” people.

According to APA (American Psychiatric Association) the number of kids who are ADHD is in the 5% range, but the CDC puts it at 11%. The number of geniuses is about 1-2%, but they don’t know for sure because geniuses are ostracized and bullied and ignored by teachers because nobody knows what to do with them. There should be about 6 million geniuses in the US. How many do we know about?

I have had to work with a variety of students…from painfully shy and withdrawn to bouncing off the walls, from IQs of 60 to IQs of 140, from painfully dull to technicolor imaginations. Everyone learns differently, and yet, I haven’t run into a single person that couldn’t be taught.

I’m teaching 2 brothers. One is 8 and has been taking lessons for 4 years, and his little brother is almost 5 and just starting. The older one has a laser focus but only for a short time. But he didn’t use to be able to finish a song during his lessons. He would stop in the middle and ask me if all the planets were round. He’d stop on the next to the last note of the song and have to tell me what he learned in his history lesson. He plays Beethoven now. The younger one believes that any note that he plays with his thumb is a C. Each note in his book has a weird-looking alien that represents it. The green alien is C, the Blue is B, the Red is F. He remembers all their names but not the names of the notes on the page. He doesn’t focus on position, he focuses on color and facial expressions. Do I teach him using the alien method? No, but he will remember the aliens long after I’ve finished teaching him in 20 years. He will learn auditorially faster than visually. His ability to focus will get better and he will be able to focus for longer periods of time.

I have another student that will sit down to practice 15 min every day, and find that 2 hours have gone by. He’s always surprised that he’s lost time. See? I am glad I have these students on a one on one basis rather than sitting like little dolls on boxes. We don’t want to teach them to be JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER LITTLE KID. Because there is no “normal” type of behavior. We don’t want them medicated to act like “normal” kids because that is impossible. Enjoy them just the way they are. Why? Because that kid you bully may be the next serial killer, and he’s coming after you first.

Um…

Stage 1: OH NO a Pandemic!! Grab all the Toilet paper! People shown fighting over 12-packs and 24-packs. Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 2: Oh No a Pandemic! All the Primary hoarders are hiding in their TP forts planning for the onslaught of gun toting TP thieves breaking into houses to get TP. HA! Secondary hoarders make themselves known. The fools are stealing the 1 ply rolls from the restaurants and gas station bathrooms. Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 3: oh no a pandemic. All the hoarders are peeking out from behind their TP walls, surprised not to see gangs roaming the streets with plungers threatening to clog toilets with napkins, paper towels, wet wipes unless supplied with 2 12-packs. Streets are empty. Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 4: oh no a pandemic? If the hoarders, primary and secondary, all have all the toilet paper they can carry and resell, and plaster their houses with, why is it still disappearing from the shelves? Tertiary Hoarders? “Ya never know when that truck is coming in…” Pay attention to when the coupons come out. That’s all I’m saying. You don’t need a supply for a month, take just enough to last you until next pay check. Do NOT spend your entire stimulus check on TP! Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 5: Oh No an epidemic. Those that didn’t panic during stages 1-4 are starting to get nervous now. They buy just enough to last 2 weeks. But they have to get to the stores early. Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 6: Oh No. People become creative with toilet brushes and hairdryers. Toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 7: Oh. Hoarders quit buying Toilet paper. Everyone else quits buying burritos and chili. Toilet paper is being left on the shelves. Those that didn’t panic are starting to breathe again. Shorter toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

Stage 8: Hoarders have to call contractor to add onto house so they have room for their 200 year’s worth of TP. More TP is left on the shelves. No toilet paper lines form as the truck comes in for deliveries.

 

 

Another program, up in smoke

Weight Loss programs.  Lose weight!  Keep it off! Small steps, small goals. You gotta believe.

So I tried it. They give you little inspirational messages daily. They talk about your perception of food. They talk about psyche tips to help you overcome mental barriers. They encourage group support. There are manuals about exercise and food choices. Recipes. Coaching. I bet this works for most people.

Those that participate in the group discussions are frustrated that they’ve only lost 4-5 pounds in the first month. Some have lost 8-10 pounds. You have to weigh yourself every day. They give you a great incentive program…just walk 300 more steps today than you did yesterday. Ding! You’re at 10,000 steps! Woohoo! So why wouldn’t this work?

One of the things I’ve heard over the past 18 years is that “this program/job/self-improvement/learning system doesn’t work.” And over and over the people who run these programs/learning systems, etc.,  say it works if you work it. Ooops.

The one thing they stressed yesterday was that mistakes, setbacks, falling off the path are just that, not character flaws. Just like in music. This one student I was working with messed up her left hand going to the wrong chord repeatedly. Every time she got to that point in the music, she would panic and play the wrong note and say, “I’m so STUPID! Why can’t I GET this?! I’m hopeless!” I asked her why she was giving herself this rule? “What rule?” The rule that at this point in the music you MUST screw up. “I always mess up there” is a stupid rule to make.  Practice this part, erase the circle, and say to yourself, “I’m glad I solved that problem. Now it’s my favorite part of the song!” So when the program doesn’t seem to be working, it’s because I’m not working the program. It’s not a character flaw, it’s a consistency problem that I do not choose to fix. Well, that’s a dumb idea.

Sooooo, 4 weeks and have not lost a single pound. Not 1. I’m still at 2000 steps, not 10,000. It does NOT matter if I average 900-1200 calories a day. If I eat the wrong stuff, I don’t lose weight, I just get tired at weird times of the day. It doesn’t matter if I go to the gym and do 6000 steps and do a weight-lifting circuit if I don’t repeat the process the next day.

What can I conclude? There IS a character flaw. At this point in time, it is easier for me to distract myself from a plan than to work it all the way through. This can have a detrimental effect on every project I have chosen for myself.

  1. Conference Handbook
  2. Transcribe some music
  3. Clean and remodel the house
  4. Develop a rose garden
  5. Run a music business
  6. Run a financial business.
  7. Blog

So, TODAY and every day, my mantra is “Finish something today!” Even if it isn’t the full project, finish a part of it.

What do you desire?

Read the Think and Grow Rich book, and one of the points is that you have to have a goal that burns into your very being–a desire that you cannot contain, something that keeps you going during the day and awake at night. What do you desire?

Ever watch Lucifer?

I have wracked my brain for decades, going from interest to interest, all fleeting, all shallow. I am addicted to music teaching, but also any kind of teaching, but like most things, after a while, I have to take a break to maintain some sort of sanity and avoid burnout. I have some amazing knitting projects. I have entered those and other crafts into the state fair and won some pretty nice ribbons. I used to make Christmas baskets of homemade goodies–breads, jellies, fudge, and candies. I got very good at financial service. I have a vested interest in Toastmasters. But none of that is really a burning desire. Smoldering desire? Smoking desire? Nope. I thought college would focus my desire and even went back to school to get a degree in business, but though it was interesting, nothing sparked.

Dig DEEPER they said–all the books on “Having your best year ever,” and “Success in ___ easy steps,” (You can fill in any number in the blank, it doesn’t matter.  There ARE no easy steps or the success would be cheaper.) “Finding the leader within you” and “21 irrefutable laws of leadership” tell you that unless you know what you want, you can’t help others get what they want. So deeper I went.

As I was pondering this apparent lack in my personal development about 3:00 AM yesterday, it came to me that the thing I most desire is this:

Are you ready?

Do you have a guess?

No?

Understanding. What a weird thing to desire! Once you understand something, you’re never done because then you want to understand something else. I want to understand the Big Bang. I want to understand Special Relativity. I want to understand how people think. I want to understand group dynamics. I want to know why, when I’ve studied every leadership style, read dozens of books, watched dozens of seminars, webinars, podcasts, and workshops, I can tell you step by step how to be a leader and no one follows me. I want to understand how caterpillars become butterflies. I long to understand why some songs are popular and some are not. I wish I understood why my blogs have no readers. The quest for understanding is not the same as the quest for knowledge because facts without understanding do not answer questions.

When understanding is your underlying desire, it is hard to justify to those who long for proficiency in their fields, who long for a certain income, who crave a big audience, who long to help lots of people with their skills. What kind of job requires understanding as opposed to facts in evidence? Psychoanalysis? Understanding is gleaned from asking the right questions. And your understanding of your client is based on incomplete information because it is impossible for someone to convey thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and philosophy to someone in such a way that every single darkened corner is flooded with light. Your total focus is in asking the questions that make the client self-aware and lead them to a better understanding of themselves. You will NEVER understand them totally.

Case in point:

If we continue in our current behavior, the earth will be destroyed in less than 50 years. That is a FACT! Deny it if you can!

Ok, denying it.  It is the principle of unintended consequences. Greenhouse gasses cause the planet to warm up, the ice at the poles to melt. It changes the migration patterns of the birds and the sea creatures. It allows tropical flowers to grow in Nebraska. It makes things like the bomb cyclone happen. The reduction in the sheet ice also reduces the albedo or reflective surfaces of the earth which causes more absorption of solar radiation further raising the temperature. It may change the gulf stream and change the salinity of the oceans. What if it turned the Sahara Desert back into the rain forest it used to be?

Have you seen the pollen storms?

Never in my 60 years have I ever experienced that. Why is that happening? As the water heats up and the surface area of the oceans expands, there is more evaporation which causes more humidity which makes the air less stable. This increases the number and size of hurricanes and cyclones and bomb cyclones. What do we know about these clouds?  The tops of the clouds increase the albedo of the planet, which cools the planet. The increased pollen causes more plants to grow and thrive. The fires cause more dust particles in the air which gives the moisture in the air something to cling to and increases the precipitation rates.

The earth is not a completely closed system since it receives energy from the sun continuously, but it is pretty darned close. The earth doesn’t care if there are humans on it. There will be life on the planet: civilizations, teeming and swarming life because of the proportion of water to land and the proximity of the moon. Greenhouse gasses are called greenhouse gasses because they are favorable to plant life. I tell you if you go back 10k years and say to man, “Man? QUIT PLANTING AND DOMESTICATING FOOD ANIMALS! 10 THOUSAND YEARS FROM NOW IT WILL KILL THE PLANET…AND PUT OUT THAT FIRE!” they will not listen. Note that the amount of dust and ash spewed out by volcanos completely dwarfs the number of particulates and gas in the air (including cow farts) produced by man and his manufacturing and agriculture. I could go on, but I won’t.

So here’s the thing. How does understanding this do me any good?  Does it make me money? Does it make me famous? Does it make me powerful? No? Then why would I desire it? It’s a mystery.

Because I still get paid for giving music lessons and the financial business, I am not considered a drain on society, but if I only did what I desired, I would be reading, sucking up information and formulating theories and plausibilities for my own amusement and would be considered a lazy bum. My son Ben also ponders things like this though he’s more into human behavior than I. (https://puppettron.wordpress.com/) My daughter Jo writes fantasy/fiction based on a desire for understanding as well.  https://ithilen.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/freshman-francis-the-library/

Maybe we all have that thirst for understanding, but for some, it’s not a craving or a desire, just a mild curiosity.  Let me tell you though: once you have delved into the mystery that is understanding, every single other desire seems shallow and inconsequential. I am not ready to settle for a lesser desire. Though for the sake of society, maybe I should.

Unwilling Learners

Ever taught an unwilling learner? They are the ones that question the validity of the subject matter, question the expertise of the teacher, and/or refuse to do the homework because of priorities in their lives. I was a band director. I required practice from my band students. I got calls from parents accusing me of being unreasonable to require 20 minutes of practice EVERY NIGHT for band students.

“How DARE you require daily practice! Kids have sports, homework, and chores to do every night!”

“Oh? They never take their books home with them. I know, I watch them as they leave. They’re in 6th grade, how often and how long are their football practices? Oh? They’re not in football yet? Oh, they ARE in football but it’s club football, not school football, so practices once or twice a week for an hour? So you mean to tell me that on the nights they don’t have practice, they’re doing homework for two hours and chores for three to four hours and going to bed at 9:00? Too bad they won’t get to play Football in High school. How will they EVER squeeze in time for the mandatory two-hour practices for football every night? High School homework is what, two to three hours a night? And they’ll have part-time jobs as well in High School.  So unless they work only on weekends, they get home after football practice at about 6:00 PM, do three to four hours of chores, homework for two to three hours, puts them in bed at 1:00 AM.”

“What? You’re going to keep them out of Football because they won’t practice for your stupid band?”

This is a conversation I had many, many times. They refused to give their kids any sense of responsibility.  Of COURSE, they weren’t doing chores around the house. Of COURSE, they weren’t doing two hours of homework every night. They were watching TV, playing video games, hanging out. It was amazing that the students ever learned enough music to fill out a concert.

There was one 6th grade band that did so badly (because I had 0 support from the parents) that I made them play the concert anyway. They got 1/2 way through their third song and just basically quit because they were all lost. I explained to the parents (and the children that were upset behind me) that with band practice once a week, we only got together for 14 lessons. 14 lessons should give them at least 14 notes they could play, plus the ability to play in two different time signatures, and the ability to follow a director. But for the days between lessons, without practice, the students lost about 20% per day of what they had been taught, lost the endurance and strength in the muscles that allowed them to play more than five minutes on their instruments, did not improve or maintain the eye-hand coordination necessary to process the information on the page and could not improve their listening skills so they could be in tune and play together. That’s why practice between band lessons is important and it’s important that these kids learn this concept and that you, the parents, learn this. Ya, I got fired.

“Why don’t we teach tax preparation and finance in school?” We do.  Do you think that the tax laws remain the same from year to year? Do you think your kids will completely reject your advice about money and ignore the advice from banks and other financial institutions that profit from people’s ignorance when it comes to money management? Or do you think you have all the money issues figured out because of what your Insurance Agent told you was a good investment?

“When will I ever need algebra and geometry? I have my iPhone.” Which bag of flour is the better value? Which car is the best for my money? How long does it take to get to work? Why does my shed keep falling down? Where do I put the jack on my car when I have a flat? Show me on your iPhone how you would input that information to get the answers to those questions.

“Why do I have to learn this Olde English Shakespeare stuff?” Ever watch Game of Thrones? Where do you expand your vocabulary? Can you communicate in phrases that are longer than 140 characters? Can you make a point? Can you win a debate? Can you logically defend a choice?

“What do YOU know about math? (English, Statistics, Computer Science…fill in a subject)” I know more than you. I know where to look to get the information I need to fill in your gaps. Do you?

The culture has changed. Kids don’t HAVE chores. They can’t have fun unless it is regulated by parents. Playdates? Really? Organized sports for 5-year-olds? Video games and educational programs on a tablet for kids under 4? What is WRONG with us?!!! If we want to immerse kids into a love of learning, they have to be surrounded by people that love learning. Because we denigrate learning to something that only happens during the first 12 years in school, and we abhor reading or going to concerts or seminars, what have we taught the children? Learning is a CHORE to be endured. Maybe we should establish mandatory boarding schools!

Welcome to the House of Husker.  There are 4 teams: Crimson, Cream, Black, and Runza. Their respective Beasts are the Crimson Pegasus, the Cream Cow, the Black Spectre, and the Runza Dragon. Each team will be responsible for learning basic life skills such as Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Geography, Physical and Biological Sciences, American and World History, Civics, and Visual and Fine Arts. Each team will be responsible for a farm consisting of garden and farm animals including pigs, goats, chickens, and cattle. Each team will be responsible for the finances and business management of their farms and other related ventures. There will be related businesses such as cottage industries that specialize in industrial technology such as carpentry, metal work, small and large engine repair, information technology, and animal husbandry, etc. Each class in each team will be responsible for cooking for the whole team one weekend of every month. (7th graders–Breakfast, 8th graders–Lunch, 9th graders–supper on Saturdays, 10th graders–Breakfast, 12th graders–Dinner, and 11th graders–Supper on Sundays.) Homework will include a mandatory hour for every class taken and an hour’s practice in the Arts course in which the student has enrolled. The heads of teams will be two faculty members per team, a senior student leader, a vice-leader, a business manager, a project manager, and representatives from all the classes in that team. Each team will wear student robes with the team uniform during class time. Intramural competitions will be encouraged.

Applications accepted on a first come, first served basis.

Update: I have had NO applications up to now, 5/10/19. I thought I’d have at least a dozen!

Update: I STILL have no applications as of 7/17/2019. What is WRONG with people!

Update: No applications as of 1/7/2021, but I suppose it’s because of COVID. Difficult to have a boarding school when no one is allowed out of their houses.

Let it all Hang out!

There is this inspirational poster making the rounds.

Wear your fancy lingerie.

Light those candles!

Use the good china!

Drink the Champagne!

Don’t wait!  You don’t know how much time you have left.

How inspirational.

Take things that are special and make them common.  Don’t save the chocolate cake for birthdays.  Don’t take care of the china that your mom passed on to you; serve hamburgers on it.  Buy NOTHING but fancy lingerie and wear it when you’re working in the garden.  Light all the candles in the house regardless of the scent…and the fire hazard.

We’ve taken traditionally special things and made them not matter any more.  A portrait used to be only for the rich, and they had to sit for days while the artist painted in all the nuance and the secret smile that reflected on your inner self.  Click!  Selfie!  Click!  Another selfie!  So portraiture is not important or special.

We used to have champagne flutes and beer steins to give the liquid a special feel and smell.  Solo cups are OK, now.  As long as there’s alcohol in the cup and it is strong enough to get you drunk, it doesn’t matter how it’s served.  We don’t enjoy the taste of the beverage, it is just a means to an end–getting so blasted you don’t remember or care what you drank to get to that point.

Fixing dinner for your family was an act of love, and the smells filled the house.  The food was shared along with the events of the day.  It was a time to connect to your siblings and parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents…  Now it’s what you do in the car on your way some place.  Food is what you order to eat during football/baseball/basketball games on TV.  We don’t just eat, we have to eat and be entertained at the same time.  We don’t like silence much.  Turning on the TV is easier than talking at the dinner table.  You’ve seen people out to dinner at a nice restaurant and everyone at the table is texting or playing games on their phones.  They are not talking to each other.  Eating together is not important or special now and neither is cooking.

Church was where you went to worship, and you dressed up.  It was a solemn occasion with prayer, hymns, and a rousing sermon.  After church, there was the church in the parking lot.  You socialized with people you only saw on Sundays and got caught up.  You went to the graveyard next to the church and visited the departed.  There were potluck dinners served for special occasions and funerals.  That was your community and your social circle.  Now, people skip church to go to soccer games.  The elders of the church will wear jeans to services.  Hymns that used to put scripture to music to help the masses remember the verses now are repetitive phrases that say how good their God is.  It might be seen as more meditative because of the chant-like quality of the words, but the main message of the words is that we get to define God in a way that meets our criteria as a super being that gives us anything we want if we write a big enough check.

Weddings?  Don’t get me started.  Too late.  We’ve made the circus of the wedding so important that it sometimes causes the divorce.  Yes, the wedding may be one of the most important days of your life, but it’s not the flowers, or the band, or the pictures, or the honeymoon.  It is the commitment to each other.  We’ve gone and made the actual marriage “just a piece of paper” that gives us rights and privileges in the sight of the law.  Whereas the wedding is so important that people will be in debt for decades to pay for it.  That makes the couple committed to the bank, not to each other.  So the marriage–the important part of the relationship–is unimportant, but the wedding–the show that goes with the celebration that the couple that’s been living together for 5 years is finally legitimate–is more important than any other single event in the couples’ lives.  If the wedding is so important, why did they live together and have a child together before they got wedded?  Oh…because marriage is just a piece of paper.

Why is the TV the biggest object in the house and placed in the most prominent location?  Because conversation is not important.  Having people on an island sniping at each other and planning each other’s demise in full high definition clarity and color is of the utmost importance.

So I ask you this:  Why wear the fancy lingerie, use the fancy china, light the fancy candles, and use the nice crystal for real champagne when you wear jeans to church and sweatsuits at home, never cook, do nothing but watch TV, drink whatever is alcoholic in the house just to get drunk and pass out, and never talk with your families.

I say KEEP SOME THINGS SPECIAL!  You wear that dress only when…  You break out the good china when…  You light the fancy candles because…  There ARE special occasions.  Keep them special.

Flower Duet

You’ve never heard of it, but you’ve heard it…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf42IP__ipw

This duet is featured in Piranha 3D, Meet the Parents, Superman Returns (Kevin Spacey’s scene), Bronson (with Tom Hardy), Carlito’s Way, True Romance,  and The Hunger.  Hmmm, only seen Meet the Parents and Superman returns.  Then there’s the Trout Quintet.  That was in Sherlock Holmes, Game of Shadows.  The villain, Moriarity uses that song to torture Holmes.  Over and Over and Over we see Classical music being the music of choice for the villains.  Why is that?

It is the music of the elite.  Rap, Punk, Metal… yes those bands are expensive, but there are only a few members of each band.  An orchestra though, that’s some heavy stage production!  What if you wanted to cut it down to one or two people…Bach Cello Prelude comes to mind, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGgG-0lOJjk.  Look at the look on his face!  He’s transported!       

Fur Elise  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1iZXyWLnXg is another solo you might request.  But when it comes to performing these songs, it takes years of practice and study to play them as they were meant to be played.  It’s not something you can just play.  So the music is not music of the common person.  It is relegated to those who have the time to listen, truly listen and appreciate this type of music.

Fine art is the same way…Modern, Renaissance, Impressionistic art, is appreciated with time and study.

  Is this sculpture modern or ancient?  Is it a work in progress or finished?  What does it mean?  How was it conceived?  Who was the artist?  Fine art, whether it is Modern, Renaissance, Impressionistic art, is appreciated with time and study.

Classical Dance, same story:  you can go to the ballet, but unless you understand what you’re seeing, there is no appreciation.  All the finest art is for those few with the inclination to study and become familiar with the forms, and the time to expend on the appreciation.

If you look at the portraits in the Louvre, those are not primitive photos.  Most think of the Mona Lisa as a rather large painting.  It’s not.  It’s only 20″ X 30″

Each painting reveals the subject’s place in time, their character, the character of the artist, and the perspective unique to the piece.  The photographic portraits reveal the skill of the photographer to get the subject to sit still for 20 seconds.  In fact those really aren’t portraits; they’re just pictures.  A modern artist in photographic portraits spends a lot of time placing, posing and dressing the subject and the background to achieve art.

Do you understand why the best actors prefer the live stage to the movie or t.v. set?  It’s continuous acting!  Engaging oneself for the duration of the play and intense interaction with the other players and the audience as well.  In those plays that have long runs, the dynamic on the stage and with the audience changes each time it is performed and makes it critical to fully engage in every performance as if it was Opening Night.  The appreciation of this interaction by members of the audience takes an understanding of the play, the players, the direction and the venue.

This appreciation takes education in areas not normally associated with the common man.  “Common men” have no interest in art for art’s sake, no curiosity in the finer things in life.  They don’t need a higher level of education, and I’m not talking about degrees and certifications.  You will find “common men” with PhD’s.  They thirst for knowledge, but not knowing.  They focus on intellect not understanding.  “Common men” do not ponder.  Highly intelligent people think differently than Smart people.  Smart people can regurgitate facts and statistics and fascinating trivia, but they cannot interpret this information in a way that opens new insights into how the universe works.  Highly intelligent people, on the other hand, see connections that link seemingly unconnected things.

Most have heard the butterfly effect.  Tiny, almost inconsequential differences in initial conditions can result in vastly different ending conditions.  The ripples of change brought about by nearly unnoticeable actions of so many different sources makes things that would seem random to actually be traced, action for action, second for second back to a set of initial conditions that due to the “randomness that is our existence” cannot be duplicated.

Benjamin Franklin

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

― Benjamin Franklin

All the Cumulative stories like that one and “The House that Jack Built” told to children are impressing on children that some things that happen without apparent reason can actually be traced back to the actions of one person or event.  What the “common man” sees appears random, and what the “Smart man” sees is interesting, but what the “Highly Intelligent man” sees is turns of events.
So the “Highly Intelligent man” craves the understanding of the arts, not because it is elite but because he thinks beyond the ordinary.  Classical music, visual arts and performance arts take mundane subjects and changes them into metaphysical expressions, and takes the metaphysical and translates it into a language that can be understood by few.
To further our understanding, let us define villain then.  Not all criminals are villains.  A villain is a criminal that is so self serving and so psychopathic that he’s more interested in the reaction to his crime than the actual monetary or emotional gain derived from his illegal acts.  He seeks the elite.  He looks at the victims of his crimes as a scientist would look at his experimental rats.  He doesn’t derive emotional satisfaction from his crimes.  His emotional, spiritual, and physical fulfillment is found in outside sources such as the fine arts…experiences that are usually restricted to an elite group of people.  They find beauty in the architecture of Rome, the music of Bach and Mozart, the ballet of Diaghilev,  the art of Raphael and Salvador Dali, the poems of Robert Frost, the cuisine of Le Gabriel restaurant in Paris.  They seek out new cultural experiences, read prolifically, and listen to music in all types of venues.  They study color and composition to appreciate art.  So this highly intelligent man will seek the same appreciation as the members of this elite group.
I’m not saying that these pursuits are restricted to the elite; they are most certainly not.  Anyone can turn on a classical station or go to a concert or a ballet or an opera.  It is the cost of a ticket to see great art in a museum.  It is a library card away from books about art and music and any other cultural medium.  It is just a click away on the internet to access some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.  What I am saying is that most people do not want to make the effort.  The villains do because the only beauty they will find in life is outside of themselves.  They crave what they cannot find in themselves.  They look for evidence of Heaven on earth because they know they will never experience the real thing.
Except…
This may be an artifice that Hollywood has come up with.  Is there any research that proves that the music of choice in villains is classical, or proves that they have a higher appreciation for beauty and art than heroes?  Yes, Hitler loved Wagner, but that’s because Wagner wrote about Teutonic gods and heroes.  I find it difficult to believe that evil people can love beautiful music or art.  You cannot love something you cannot relate to, can you?
We, who have an abundance of beauty within us and surrounding us, do not make the effort to cultivate these longings for the extraordinary beauty that is available because good is good enough.  We let “good” eclipse “extraordinary” much to our loss.