Archive for the ‘The Unofficial Rules’ Category

Murphy’s law in theory and practice

September 6, 2012

As Mark Sackler wrote on his Millennium Conjectures web log, Murphy’s Law is the only law that works better in practice than it does in theory.

The Two-Soprano Rule

August 19, 2012

As the judge in a singing contest,

never award the prize to the second soprano

having heard only the first.

via The Reality-Based Community.

How to Treat a Woman? | Ask Old Jules

July 22, 2012

Old Jules is the handle of a blogger who lives in the Texas hill country.  In his Ask Old Jules blog, he answers questions from readers such as this one.

Old Jules, what can you tell me about how to treat a woman I care about?

I was only married 25 years, divorced 15 years ago.  Still learning a lot, but I think there are some learnings I’ve gleaned from 45 years of intimate contacts with women.

  1. Be attentive and listen to what they say, even if you don’t agree or like what you hear.  The person probably knows you better than anyone else on the planet. Knows things about you that you don’t even know about yourself.  Listen and consider what’s said, ponder whether it’s true, or untrue.  And ponder whether, if true, it’s something you respect in yourself and don’t wish to change, or something you’d like yourself better if you changed.   Not for the woman you care about, but for yourself.
  2. Respect boundaries.   Recognize the woman you care about is a human being with a life and desires unrelated to your own.  Recognize for your own benefit and for hers that much of what goes on in her head, her heart, and her life is simply none of your business unless she chooses to tell you.  Care enough about her to support her needs and goals even if they mean nothing to you.
  3. Don’t expect your woman, nor anyone else, to ‘make you happy’.  That’s your responsibility.  Not hers.
  4. Don’t use the phrase, “You make me feel [fill in the blank]”.  Nobody ‘makes you feel’ any way.  People behave the way they do and you choose how you will feel about it.
  5. Remember things you might consider unimportant if they are important to her.  Valentines, anniversaries, birthdays and just simple hugs, hand-squeezes and touches mean a lot more to most women than they mean to many of us men.  It’s a small thing to us, but frequently a big thing to them.  Not doing it is nearly certain to result in frustration and tension.
  6. Remember to say “I love you” frequently if you want to keep the woman you care about feeling you are the man she cares about.

Click on Make a Girl Like Me? for another sample of Old Jules’ wisdom.

Click on Ask Old Jules and So Far From Heaven for Old Jules’ blogs.

Sebastian’s Rule

June 8, 2012

Don’t give sweeping new powers to a branch of government that you wouldn’t ever want to see in the hands of your political opponents.

via Obsidian Wings.

Bertrand Russell’s maxims for paranoids

June 3, 2012

1.  Remember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself.

2. Don’t overestimate your own merits.

3.  Don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself.

4.  Don’t imagine that most other people give enough thought to you to have any desire to persecute you.

These maxims are from Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness.

Click on Bertrand Russell Bulletin for information about Bertrand Russell and the Bertrand Russell Society.

Click on Russell Texts Online for writings by Bertrand Russell.

Click on Bertrand Russell Facebook for more about Russell.

Click on Schedule of Greater Rochester Russell Set for Russell-related talks and discussions in Rochester, N.Y.

Benefits of the unexamined life

May 31, 2012

Socrates is supposed to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

But Martin Cohen, commenting on a Marginal Revolution post, disagreed.

1.  You don’t have to waste time and energy listening to those others you know are wrong.

2.  You can make use of the dynamic duo of “It’s not my fault” and “It’s not my problem”.

3.  You can get from here to there much faster if you ignore the “Warning – thin ice!” signs.

4.  You will be supported in so many ways by the others living in the fact-free zone.

5.  It’s much easier if you think of those things you are climbing over as minor obstacles rather than people.

6.  It’s so much fun to creatively decorate those walls that surround you.

7.  Focusing on your own well-being takes all your energy, anyway.

8.  Finally, if you’re screaming inside, you don’t have to listen.

Click on Marginal Revolution and scroll down for Cohen’s comment in context.  The comment is on a thread discussing Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments for Teachers.

The “Cui Bono?” rule

March 18, 2012

American Extremists - I think we're all cui bonos on this bus

Click on American Extremists for more.

Victor Lustig’s 10 commandments for con men

March 6, 2012

Victor Lustig, born in 1890, was one of the world’s most renowned con men.  In 1925, he posed as a French government official, took five businessmen on a tour of the Eiffel Tower and sold it to one of them as scrap metal.  This scam worked so well he did it a second time.  He once tricked Al Capone out of $5,000.  He had 25 aliases, spoke five languages and, by the 1930s, was wanted by 45 law enforcement agencies worldwide.

The following was his advice to aspiring con men.

  • Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).

    Victor Lustig

  • Never look bored.
  • Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
  • Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
  • Hint at sex talk, but don’t follow it up unless the other fellow shows a strong interest.
  • Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
  • Never pry into a person’s personal circumstances (they’ll tell you all eventually).
  • Never boast. Just let your importance be quietly obvious.
  • Never be untidy.
  • Never get drunk.

Click on The World’s Greatest Con Artists: Victor Lustig for more about his career.

Click on Victor Lustig wiki for his Wikipedia biography.

Hat tip to Lists of Note.

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for writing

February 26, 2012
  • 1.  Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  • 2.  Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
  • 3.  Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  • 4.  Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • 5.  When you can’t create you can work.
  • 6.  Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  • 7.  Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  • 8.  Don’t be a draught-horse!  Work with pleasure only.
  • 9.  Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day.  Concentrate.  Narrow down. Exclude.
  • 10.  Forget the books you want to write.  Think only of the book you are writing.
  • 11.  Write first and always.  Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Click on Lists of Note for more lists.

Click on The Reality of Henry Miller for an appreciation of Henry Miller by Kenneth Rexroth.

Click on Henry Miller wiki for his Wikipedia biography.

Click on Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction for another writer’s rules.

Fun, money, honesty: pick any two?

February 8, 2012

Enjoy your work.

Make lots of money.

Work within the law.

Pick any two.

I don’t know who originated this.  It is clever, but is it really true?  Joseph Wilson of Xerox, Dr. Edwin Land of Polaroid, Milton S. Hershey of Hershey’s Chocolate, and George Romney of American Motors were examples of business executives who were decent, honorable, enormously successful and, by all accounts, happy, and there are plenty of examples outside the world of business.

Equating the unethical with the practical is a way of excusing unethical behavior and also a way of excusing failure.  This kind of thinking goes back a long time.  G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man speculated that ancient Carthaginians sacrificed infant children to Moloch because they thought that just because this was so savage and cruel, it would be practical and effective.  I could imagine a Carthaginian merchant saying, “Our religion might not be very pretty, but it works.”

I don’t think Chesterton knew much about ancient history, but he had great insight into universal human nature.  Today’s admiration for greed and ruthlessness in business is no more rational than the worship of Moloch.  Rationality means behaving toward others in such a way as to make it in their self-interest that you succeed.

Bertrand Russell said that if people really understood their self-interest, their behavior would be on a higher ethical level than it is.  He wrote nearly 90 years ago in Skeptical Essays: “It may be laid down as a general rule to which there are few exceptions that, when people are mistaken as to what is to their own interest, the course they believe to be wise is more harmful to others than the course that really is wise.”

When I was small, we boys would organize games, and everybody was expected to play by the rules.  If you cheated, nobody would play with you.   In adult life, it takes longer for cheating to catch up with you, but very often (alas, not always) it does.

Good intentions alone won’t make you succeed, but neither are crookedness and double-dealing a magic formula for success.  The saddest thing in the world is somebody who has in effect sold their soul in return for success, and failed to find a buyer.

Click on shirky’s law: “equality. fairness. opportunity. pick two” for a related “law,” somewhat off topic, of which I also am skeptical.  I found the “enjoy, money, law” version in the comment section of that post.

Click on Shirky: Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality for thoughts on the sources of success in blogging, and an argument (with which I disagree) that these are the same as the rules for success in the real world.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss

January 7, 2012

Nine ways to cheer yourself up

November 26, 2011

The following bit of wisdom comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, a book (which I haven’t read) about her experiences testing various theories on how to be happy.

Gretchen Rubin

1. Raise your activity level to pump up your energy.  If you’re on the phone, stand up and pace. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Put more energy into your voice.  Take a brisk 10-minute walk. Even better…

2. Take a walk outside.  Research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood.  For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning.

3. Reach out.  Send an e-mail to a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or reach out to someone new.  Having close bonds with other people is one of the most important keys to happiness.  When you act in a friendly way, not only will others feel more friendly toward you, but you’ll also strengthen your feelings of friendliness for other people.

4. Rid yourself of a nagging task.  Deal with that insurance problem, purchase something you need, or make that long-postponed appointment with the dentist.  Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a rush of elation.

5. Create a more serene environment.  Outer order contributes to inner peace, so spend some time organizing bills and tackling the piles in the kitchen.  A large stack of little tasks can feel overwhelming, but often just a few minutes of work can make a sizable dent.  Set the timer for 10 minutes and see what you can do.

6. Do a good deed.  Introduce two people by e-mail, take a minute to pass along useful information, or deliver some gratifying praise.  In fact, you can also…

7. Save someone’s life.  Sign up to be an organ donor, and remember to tell your family about your decision.  Do good, feel good―it really works!

8. Act happy.  Fake it ’til you feel it. Research shows that even an artificially induced smile boosts your mood.  And if you’re smiling, other people will perceive you as being friendlier and more approachable.

9. Learn something new.  Think of a subject that you wish you knew more about and spend 15 minutes on the Internet reading about it, or go to a bookstore and buy a book about it.  But be honest!  Pick a topic that really interests you, not something you think you “should” or “need to” learn about.

Source: Real Simple.

Click on The Happiness Project for  Gretchen Rubin’s home page.

Click on Gretchen Rubin’s secrets of adulthood for an earlier post of mine.

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks”

November 24, 2011

Chief Tecumseh

I’ve always liked the following quote, which is attributed to Chief Tecumseh.

Live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for your life and your strength.  Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.  And if perchance you see no reason for thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.

I’m not sure the quote is correctly attributed, but I like it.


Lemony Snicket on Occupy Wall Street

October 22, 2011

Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket

People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.



Some aphorisms of Hugh MacLeod

September 23, 2011

Hugh MacLeod is an on-line cartoonist whose home page gets more than 1.5 million hits a month.  I never heard of him until a few days ago when I came across a reference to him on another web site.

These aphorisms are from his book, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity (which I haven’t read).

The more original your idea is, the less good advice people will be able to give you.

Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships, which is why good ideas are always initially resisted.

Your idea doesn’t have to be big.  It just has to be your own.

The price of being a sheep is boredom.  The price of being a wolf is loneliness.

Being good at anything is like figure skating – the definition of being good at it is being able to make it look easy.  But it never is easy.  Ever.

Your job is probably worth 50 percent of what it was in real terms 10 years ago.

Part of being a master is learning to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own.  Put your whole self into it, and you will find your true voice.  Hold back and you won’t.

The biggest mistake young people make is underestimating how competitive the world is.

Click on Gaping Void for Hugh MacLeod’s home page.

Click on Almost Famous for the story of how he gave up his job as an advertising account executive and began his present career.

Hat tip to Freedom Twenty-Five.

Murphy’s laws of programming

August 24, 2011

1.  Any given program, when running, is obsolete.

2.  If a program is useless, it will have to be documented.

3.  If a program is useful, it will have to be documented.

4.  Any program will expand to fill available memory.

5.  The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.

6.  Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capacity of a programmer to maintain it.

7.  Make it possible for programmers to write in English, and you will find out that programmers cannot write in English.


Toulmin’s Law of Composition

August 14, 2011

The effort the writer does not put into the writing, the reader has to put into the reading.


Firemen First principle

August 6, 2011

When forced to cut budgets, bureaucrats will cut muscle rather than fat, because they are the fat.

Corps of Engineers Corollary.

When bureaucrats have money to spend, they will not only seek ways to spend it, but constituencies to demand that they keep spending it.


Law of superiority

July 24, 2011

The first example of superior principle is inferior to the developed example of inferior principle.


Elbert Hubbard’s recipe for perpetual ignorance

July 17, 2011

Be satisfied with your opinions, and content with your knowledge.


Top 5 regrets of the dying

July 10, 2011

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish I had let myself be happier.


Parkinson’s Law

June 12, 2011

     Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
     Parkinson’s Second Law. Expenditure rises to meet income.
     Parkinson’s Third Law. A person denied the possibility of making important decisions will regard as important those decisions he is allowed to make.


Bertrand Russell’s rule

May 22, 2011

When people are mistaken as to what is to their own interest, the course they believe to be wise is more harmful to others than the course that really is wise.


Limiting rule for prophets

May 1, 2011

Never prophesy anything less than 10 years ahead.

By that time, nobody will remember what you said.


Campbell’s law

April 10, 2011

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is supposed to monitor.