Manners: Decisions

We have all had this conversation at some point in our lives:

  • Person A: I’m hungry. Lets eat.
  • Person B: Oh yeah. Where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I’m so hungry, I don’t care.
  • Person B: Ok. How about [This place]
  • Person A: Oh no, not [This place] I don’t feel like [their food]
  • Person B: Alright, where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I don’t really care.

How many of you knew by the third line where this conversation was going?  How many felt their butt clench with internal rage because we have been Person B too often in our lives?

So skipping over some of the fun conversations about healthy communication, boundaries and emotional labor here… let’s get right to the meat. Person A doesn’t want to have to make a decision but they want a vote in the decision that’s made.

This is terrible manners.

For the folks in the back:

This is TERRIBLE manners.

The why is that it is very disrespectful to PersonB (for sure).  They are trying to show kindness and compassion and they are shot down.  It hurts when this happens.  Sometimes it’s a dumb thing, but when this becomes a habit in a relationship it begins to crop up in more and more important conversations (not just romantic relationships – siblings, friends, and co-workers).

This is why my husband and I play what we call “the veto game.”  In this world, we both come into the situation knowing if we veto an idea (specifically when it comes to “solutions for a problem”) we are responsible for coming up with the alternative.  It completely changes the conversation (and associated emotions):

  • Person A: I’m hungry. Lets eat.
  • Person B: Oh yeah. Where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I’m so hungry, I don’t care.
  • Person B: Ok. How about [This place]
  • Person A: Oh no, not [This place] I don’t feel like [their food]
  • Person B: Alright, your turn. Where should we go then?
  • Person A: Hmmm. What about [Other Place]

Can you see the difference?  When PersonA takes the responsibility that they have shot down an idea it transfers to them – this conversation goes Very, Very (yes, those are capitalized!) differently.  The balance of power is equalized and respect to the first suggestion is not somehow dismissive (and this part I can’t full explain) even if the second choice gets veto’ed and Person B has to come up with a third option – the “value” of each suggestion is increased.

Alright, so we’ve all had this conversation about food.  I’m now going to sneak in two more examples that are far more “serious”

  • Person A: The car has a flat tire.
  • Person B: We should take it to [TirePlace]
  • Person A: The tire is already flat, we’d have to have it towed.
  • Person B: Ok. What do you think we should do?
  • Person A: I was hoping you had an idea.
  • Person B: Well, can we put on the doughnut?
  • Person A: I don’t have a doughnut.
  • Person B: Then I guess you’ll have to get it towed.
  • Person A: We can’t afford that.

Is anyone else feeling their butt clench again?

  • Person A: The car has a flat tire.
  • Person B: We should take it to [TirePlace]
  • Person A: The tire is already flat, we’d have to have it towed.
  • Person B: Ok. What do you think we should do?
  • Person A: I’m really worried how much that costs. Can I use the doughnut from your car?

Person A took a risk.  This might be the wrong size and Person B may not want to risk their own tires. They might not have doughnut (this is apparently a new trend where cars don’t have doughnuts?!?) between the two cars.  BUT – Person A is being an active participant.  They aren’t just passively saying “No. No. No.”  Can you see/feel the difference?  In one of them Person B is having to come up with all the solutions & options and …. they bear all the stress while Person A shoots them down over and over and over.

Manners is defined “as a way of doing, being done, or happening; mode of action, occurrence, etc.”  What way are you doing?  Because DOING is manners.  A mode of action, not passively shooting down others.

When you step into any argument where two people agree on a point (something is “broken”) but can’t agree on a solution; listen. Are both people putting forward options or does one side like to shoot down all the options because although they technically agree that they hate the status quo; the idea of “winning” or “being right” or “:proving the other guy wrong” is actually more important.  And then think about the last example. When the person finally can just ask for what they really want – that risk of rejection.  It takes courage. It takes courage to ask a girl out instead of claiming “friendzoned” and it takes courage to tell people you want to strip-mine their land.  You might get rejected.  But it’s still the right thing to do.

Review: Shanghai Girls (Lisa See)

I’m going to start out that there are sections of these 2 books which are 5/5 stars and parts that are 2/5.  So an average would be about 3.5/5 score between them, but they can be a bit of a wrestle.

These books span about 20-25 years, focusing on Pearl Chin, her sister May, and her daughter Joy.  In the first book we spend 100% in Pearl’s head.   In the second book we split pretty much 50/50 between Pearl & Joy.

  • I didn’t like these characters much.  None of these women.
  • The plot had strange ways in which it did-but-didn’t-quite follow the traditional cycle of rising and falling action.
  • The world building and research Lisa See put into these novels was phenomenal.

The lack of strong judgement on the potentially explosive politics around issues like the Chinese Exclusion Act, WWII Japanese internment camps, and Moaism/Communism as it impacted Chinese-Americans is actually quite impressive.  She mentions these issues but manages to never sound preachy. (It is really difficult to look at the abuses of power in Moaism, the control of communication, art, etc. from an American perspective NOT get a little dumbfounded.)

Shanghai Girls (book1 of the series) focuses on the relationship (and 20 years of animosity) between Pearl & May. There are secrets (god the secrets) which is one of the core elements of the books.  The lies the sisters tell themselves, each other, and the outside world… I can’t imagine living like that. It drives a huge wedge into every relationship they have.

Lisa See occasionally has Pearl say something like “a good Chinese doesn’t tell others…” and then whatever lie Pearl is about to tell is somehow justified.  I began to wince every time Pearl said it in the first book (she was worse there) because I knew things were about to be bad. Joy does the same shit only through stupidity instead of choice.

Seriously, if your mother and father tell you “you don’t want to do marry him – he lives in a shithole” and you’ve never seen his shithole, maybe you should go look at it before you marry him? Just maybe? Understand where he comes from by like having a conversation with his parents instead of just amusing yourself with romantic stories of who you think they are?!?! Maybe ask him what he wants in 5 years or 10 years and make sure you want remotely the same things in life? Even writing this review, I have to stop and take a deep breath and remind myself that Joy was 20 and 20-year-olds in America are frequently stupid.

So why, if I hated these characters so much did I read two books by this woman?  Lisa See, for all that these main characters were terrible people, writes a great cast of diverse characters.  The main characters were selfish and stupid, but there were a LOT of wonderful, generous, kind, and interesting characters around them.  Then there were some whose greed, and selfishness and… God, I could hate them and part of me railed “who could do that.” even while I know people DO THAT.

And then there was the interesting pacing.  It wasn’t bad. There were a few places (usually when she was skimming months or years at a time) that it lagged, but there were these peaks and valleys that were beautifully subtle.  So one of the comments I’ve made about Pearl Buck’s Imperial Woman to friends is that because it’s based on someone’s life, it doesn’t/can’t follow the “traditional” novel plots’ ups-and-downs.  Lisa See manages to feel like she is following someone’s life (which shouldn’t have those “normal” flows) AND yet if I were to go back and plot the points – I bet she did actually follow that normal peak-and-valley template. ESPECIALLY for something that spans 20 years. I thought about it as I waited for book 2 to become available and realized she HAD done this well enough I didn’t notice it until later (which is pretty unusual to me).

Lastly, there is the world-building.  This is some amazing storytelling of the 1930s-1950s experience of Chinese-Americans.  I said it before, Lisa See somehow managed to touch on things like Japanese internment without sounding judgemental.  Hell, she managed to make Maoism sound positive (until all the starvation and death). -And granted, it helps that the idealism of communism/socialism appeals to some part of my bleeding-hearted-soul.  STILL – it is hard not to come into a communist state with an American character and not sound/come off as super judgy.

Would I necessarily recommend these books?  I mean, I said it ends up being like 3.5 on average, so yeah.  To the right person/audience I would absolutely recommend them.  To anyone who likes historical fiction absolutely.  To anyone who has come from abusive families of lies…. maybe actually.  It’s a good study in why lying tears people apart from the inside out.  Most people? If you want to explore a different voice, a different view of the world than the “shiny” side of the “American Dream” 1930s-1950s – damn is this a good one.  Let it say that if/when my library has more Lisa See books on audiobook available in the future I WILL probably pick them up and add her to my regular roster of authors I enjoy (I hope I’ll like other protagonists better, but I am very willing to give her that chance).

Politicis: Smaller Government

Ok, so my title might already be making people see red.  Hell, if you read my blog regularly you’ve heard me advocate higher taxes. So before you jump to “HOW COULD  YOU?!?!”…. let me explain.

The US Federal government is terribly inefficient.  Honestly, the breakdown between Federal, State, and smaller is atrocious and when I listen to “small government” speakers I always wait to see IF they will say any of the things I want/need to hear to support them.  (FYI, I don’t remember ever hearing it from “tea party” or “libertarian” candidates)

#1 – we spend more than we take in

I’ve written about taxes before:

Politics: Taxes (Part 1)

Politics: Taxes (Part 2)

Politics: I like to pay my taxes

So I won’t drone too much on this point.  But yeah, we DO spend more than we take in. How much of that is a problem with the fact we have drastically lower taxes per capita (which is proven over and over and over – go see it here: http://bfy.tw/Eabd) verses how MUCH our government does with those funds…. different question.

#2 – HOW we spend the money

Ah, now for ME – this is the rub.  I’m going to use an example for this.  So, Story Time!

When I got married I eloped to the courthouse.  We couldn’t get our marriage certificate the same day.  We had to go back like 10 days later.  That is twice we had to go to that courthouse that month.

Once I had my marriage certificate I had to take it (and other proofs) to the Social Security Administration office to get it changed (I actually had to go twice ’cause the mis-spelled it the first time!).  When my SS card finally arrived in the mail, I then had to go to all sorts of other offices to get things changed:

  • Drivers License
  • Car Title/Tag
  • Passport
  • Library

Alright, I know the library is very different but still – government!  Why the flying squirrel of living purple doom did I have to take (a) time from my life but (b) a bureaucrat’s time to get these done? THIS is the kind of inefficiency I object to – WHY do have to go to each of these offices?  Would there ever be a scenario where I legally change my SSN and keep the old name on the driver’s licenses or passport?

When I’ve mentioned this to people they look at me like I’m saying something weird and say “but SSN is federal and driver’s license is state…..” OK – what about SSN and PASSPORT at least?  Why can’t some of this be automated in some way? Why can’t there be some communication from the SSNA and Passport folks (IRS does it automatically!)

So that is a pretty simplistic example, but if we could reduce 10% of the inefficiency of our current government; the waste of having to have so many staff to process a single piece of information…. 10% is not tiny.  With a budget of $3.8 TRILLION, 10% would be something like 300 billion? Am I doing this math right?  A lot. Alot alot (aside: did you ever meet an alot)  Of course, all this would just go to reducing the deficit (which was over 600 billion in 2016) not actually putting money “back in the pot” to be used on anything new.  But it would help! It’s a step in the right direction and would make people less annoyed that they have to go to 6 different places for everything.

The problem is I don’t necessarily think we should cut anything that is a “general service” (ie the EPA or Parks Services…) but we should work on efficiency of those services.  This would make everyone happier! It would save taxpayers money!

 

Writing: Prep’ing for NaNoWriMo

This weekend my husband asked me if I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  I looked at him like he asked if I wanted to go on a 90-day fast.  Of course I’m doing NaNo.  I will almost certainly fail but damnit I have to try. So we talked a bit about what we needed to do in order to prep for NaNoWriMo/Nov.

In some ways his work schedule will probably help – he works until pretty late so I’ll have most/all evenings without him distracting me. Now I just have to have discipline not to let anything else distract me: food, cats, books, movies, tv shows, and of course the ever-present House/Garden fights.

I also need to decide what I want to write.  Do I want to try a re-write, add-to-writing, or a fresh write ?

Re-write is the easiest of the three. It is not really the spirit of NaNo. BUT, I do have something I’ve been mulling on the world/plot and I can’t just edit it into place. It would require a 100% re-write.  But…. not really in the spirit.

Then there is the add-to-something-already-started.  You know, finish something.  This is closer.   I have a lot of half-done projects and more-than-one of the writers I admire says “FINISH it.  No matter how ugly it is, get a conclusion.” This would be fresh(ish) thoughts and a good thing as far as well – finishing something.  But it still feels a little like a cop-out on the spirit if not the letter of NaNo.

The third option is the most “pure” to the purpose of NaNo.  Staring at the blank page intimidates a lot of writers.  I’m actually not one of those (I’m weird, I know!). The blank page is exciting to me. It is limitless possibilities.  It is the perfection of those first few sentences and words that can set the whole tone for my writing.  Honestly, it sets the the tone per section – every time I sit down to write I get a little of that excitement (until I write myself into a super-painful corner).

The other big benefit to this “100% new” approach is it’s a good opportunity to try something completely new.  I’ve done this several times and gotten to explore different genres and characters and plot-styles.  Some of them I walked away hating (and not reaching 50k) and some of them I incorporate into my existing works.

At the same time, sometimes these “adventures into the new” are my excuse not to push through and finish something I’m struggling with.  It lets me avoid the painful parts of a story and by the time Dec comes around I’m so disillusioned with the old story… it’s that much harder to step back into the painful push-past-the-hurtle part of writing.  So that story might swirl and float and eventually drown and disappear. I don’t want to be the person who never finishes. And yes, I can already safely remove the “never” – I have several FINISHED pieced. Still might be crap, but they have AN ending.  Still…

So, I have these three options and about a week to decide which one to follow.  Do I take the “easy but not-quite-true way” the “harder but healthy-if-not-true way” or the “easy but true way” to participation in NaNoWriMo.  Because none of these are outside the official rules, they all are technically viable.  I’m putting my own lens on the rules, so I might be completely off base on my assessment of the ways. I feel these are in line with the spirit of the month.

Review: Copyright

I have strong if only 85% formed opinions on copyright law.  On the one hand, I am a writer and I can imagine the sort of horrors which could come from NOT having copyright laws in place to protect artists.  However, we live in a weird world where I also think copyright is used and abused.

The Good:

Harry Potter is an excellent example of a few people have tried to claim Rowling “stole” their idea (magical school isn’t exactly original…) and there is a LOT of fanfiction out there.  About the original characters; folks putting themselves into that universe; and just in the universe but utterly “original” in other ways.

Things like not being allowed to copy a book and resell the copies; “steal” and/or “pervert” characters; and simply changing names and re-publishing are all (unfortunately) required protections.  There is no part of these elements I would like to remove.

The Bad:

All that said, I do stand by saying copyright is broken.  Mickey Mouse is 89 years old – Walt Disney died over 50 years ago.  Why the hell isn’t Mickey (and everything else from the 20’s/30s) Creative commons yet? There are not a lot of folks old enough to even remember his original incarnation first-hand.

And Mickey is a terrible example for this because he is still a creative character in “active use” – but what about all the novels, music, & art which was produced in the 20’s, 30’s & 40s that is still under copyright because some “publisher” (corporate or private holder) has kept submitting to get their information renewed?   what has been lost in smoldering remains of a basement file because it wasn’t “cost effective” to keep publishing it but they sure as HELL aren’t going to let go of that copyright that might “someday” make them money!

Look at the stories of all the movies/tv we’ve lost because studios wouldn’t share and wouldn’t sell and stuff literally got moldy and destroyed?

The Idea:

Ha! You thought I was going to call it the ugly.  Well…. it is a pretty ugly idea right now, so….

This is a “rough draft” of an idea I’ve had for more-than-a-minute.  I know it isn’t perfect – I don’t understand enough how copyright protects completely visual art (painting, photography, etc.).  So Let me just say this is separating what I would call “individual” art (ie a painting)  from what I will call “replicative art” (ie tv shows, movies & books)

So here it is:

I would like copyright to say if you have your work of art unavailable for sale for >12 months (ie not on Amazon digital/ Google Play/ your website with a snail-mail-order-form), you lose the copyright.  With an adendum that if a Publisher (ie book publisher) “owns” the rights and THEY fail to keep it available, it can then revert automatically to the creator (ie the author) for an extra 12 months.

  1. False Scarcity (such as Disney hording movies in their “vault”) would be stopped
  2. Authors/creators would not be “held hostage” by a publishing house or bad agent-negotiated contract because their book wasn’t well received immediately (despite decades of evidence that sometimes stuff only becomes popular “later” rather than “now” ….)

Now, I know movies/tv shows have a weird relationship with like Netflix and Hulu, but in those cases the movies ARE available, I just might not like the price/location – which is a different issue altogether.  I might not like a font on a book, it doesn’t give me the right to scan the book in the MS word and start editing it for myself…. and shouldn’t.

Like I said, it’s a rough-draft idea.  I know it still has holes, but the more I read writers’ blogs, the more the current copyright laws make me UN-happy.

Politics: Local

So last year my husband and I bought a house.  And usually, I can ignore any elections in odd-number years, but 2 of the the 3 city council “at large” posts are on my local ballot.  So it’s time for:

Annual Election Coverage

Now, because I am just a hair paranoid, I won’t list candidate names.  And my city is new, so some of our local issues are as simple as “people figuring out how a city works.”  So of the 2 council-at-large seats up, one of them is the incumbent, facing no challengers (makes THAT vote pretty easy…)  The other seat is more fun:

Candidate #1 – The Man-Boy

So I don’t like this candidate and I will be voting against him.  Done.  I hate the tone on his website – he sounds smug and condescending and stupid.  He says things like “I won’t vote for the city to raise taxes” because he “believes in limited government” (our city does three things – it’s already frickin’ limited!)

Take your damn libertarian/anarchist stupidity into the wilds where you aren’t affecting other people. I live in a city of 35,000 people in 16 sq/mi – which if I’m doing the math right puts us at about 2,200 people/sq mile. We might need to have someone who will raise our taxes because it’s the right choice for the city. And you apparently don’t have the balls or the backbone or the brains to do that because you want to “protect the individual from the government” (the gov’t ain’t gonna rob my house or jack my car or shoot my dog or dump waste into my rivers or build a strip club at the end of my neighborhood…)

And then he has this human-trafficking thing that he’s against… and it just is weird. It’s just this like white-knight bullshit-feeling…. Like really? THIS is your issue for the city? There are *gasp with me* FOUR massage parlors which must be doing something other than massages! Did I mention that he sounds like a condescending worst-of-white-male asshat?

I don’t like anything he says. He makes my skin crawl with every heeby-jeeby that jocks in high school and frat boys in the college EVER illicited. I will vote against him – especially ’cause there are 2 other candidates I like a LOT more.

Candidate #2 – The Newcomer

Here’s the first candidate I like. He is the “newcomer” because he’s running against the incumbent and I couldn’t come up with a better title for him…

He isn’t exciting (which let’s be honest, is what I want).  He does kind of hint at the “limited government” thing but he talks about accountability and sustainability – I like these words. I like these words a lot.  He talks about the diversity of my city (maintaining & encouraging) – which I think is decently diverse but I like a candidate who makes it part of their platform.

He talks about encouraging “appropriate” growth in businesses – which is huge.  We have a traffic problem and one of the city’s mandates is zoning. I want someone who won’t let developers build higgly-piggly without considering the impact on already-bad-traffic-zones.

I like his picture & his announcement youtube video. He is this middle-ages black dude and wears a t-shirt & khakis. I know it’s a dumb reason, but he looks like someone I could have a beer with AND talks like an intelligent, thoughtful person…

Candidate #3 – The Incumbent

To anyone who knows me, they will shocked to hear – the incumbent stands a chance with me.  I like my city (hell, I bought a house in the city limits BECAUSE i like the city).  I like what they are trying to do and I think the current city council is already doing a good job.  She has served on the city council since it’s inception, has done a ton of gov’t training at the county and state level…. she knows what she’s doing. I haven’t been so awesome that I’ve gone to a council meeting… so she could be horrible on the council and I wouldn’t necessarily know.

So I have to go off her rhetoric.  She does get a point in her favor that I’m happy with the status quo….

Somewhat like C#2, she talks about “cost effective” and “customer service oriented” government.  But, and this is a pretty big BUT – she talks about our millage rate being zero, and promising to keep it there.  I actually don’t like that.

The older I’m getting the more this whole “zero taxes” thing pisses me off. If we decide to institute a police department or a parks & rec dept (because the county isn’t keeping up OUR parks…!) I would not object to raising my taxes.  Now, if she said, “I would never raise taxes without support of a ballot measure” I might roll my eyes but accept this.  I actually am very mad at politicians who say “I promise to NEVER raise taxes” because that means they aren’t willing to do everything, even risk their own re-election (though smart tax raises SHOULDN’T be a killer) to do right by me & mine.

Conclusion:

Well, I’m not sure how I’m going to vote.  Do I vote for the incumbent because I like her track-record or do I vote for the new guy who I like what he says?  I love that I have good choices!  Not so much the one bad choice who I will vote flip-a-coin for etiher of the other two instead of him!

Manners: When Winners Lose

One of the reasons I do not particularly like competitive sports is “winners.” A turn of a foot, a play that is only successful one in eight times can win or lose a game. Yes, there is skill. And there is “will” to be the best. These help – but usually (not always, but all-to-often) when you come to things like “championships” they are (or should be!) close on skill and will. The best games are the ones where everyone is guessing who will win. They are fun to watch. They are tense to play.

The players who walk away from those games are disappointed. Man do I get that… that is an awful feeling. And the winners are elated. Who wouldn’t be? Especially for those massive games where it was close and no one knows who will walk out victorious.

You see, there are the winners who rub it in. They wear their badges of honor and wins and tell everyone how amazing they are. Their win was only impressive because they managed to eke one more goal or run or point than the other team. And sometimes it was luck more than skill.  It was combination of throwing, good shoes, no pebbles, and JUST the right angle. A hair in a different direction and the game could have been vastly different.

One of the skills that is rarely taught now (or doesn’t seem to be) is the concept of humility. Merriam-Webster’s definition for those who don’t speak English is:

the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble

Winning when you are much better at something than the other person isn’t fun. Just watch any adult playing tic-tac-toe with a toddler/very-small child. It isn’t fun to WIN against them because the odds aren’t even in the same realm.  The adult IS better than the child – they are older and wiser and lost tic-tac-toe a lot themselves before learning the tricks.

So when you win a tight “game” and you want to celebrate – start by thanking the other team/person. Thank them for pushing you to be your absolute best. Thank them for making that mountain damn hard. Thank them with all the sincerity that it was their loss and their battle which made your win so awesome. You weren’t playing against a toddler, you played against an equal.

This is the essence of humility.  This acknowledgement that no success is isolated and the greatest successes (think about the Manhattan project or the moon race) are when the opponents are stronger because of the other. Would we have made it to the moon in less than 10 years if USSR hadn’t been pushing us? I doubt it.  Look at how little distance the USA has gone since we lost that great rivalry to push us, challenge us, and encourage us.

Next time you win, look at who pushed you; who challenged you; and who helped you.  Thank them. Thank them all.