How to Stifle Creativity

This guide was NOT inspired by “How to Argue like an Idiot” guide. THAT guide is designed to destroy thinking of any and all types. This one targets only creative thought.

“One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine…”
– From a Soviet Junior Lt’s Notebook

Why Discourage Creativity at Work? The new economy demands it. Global competition and world wide technological stagnancy in fields such as automotive and medicine have left many of us scrambling. If your business is a moneymaker, and profitable, STATUS QUO is the order of the day. DO NOT INNOVATE. STICK WITH WHAT WORKS! After all, things like toilet paper and umbrellas have not changed significantly in thousands of years, and they work great! If people really had a voracious appetite for ideas and innovation , they would change things themselves, not wait for you to do it!
Punish Failure. If anyone dares to try something risky or creative and fails, be sure to let them know you “told them so.” Make them regret it for the rest of their days there, which should be few, because you need to use them to set an example. The biggest success stories result from the one guy that knew absolutely what he was doing and was a super genius without compare. Remember Edison and the light bulb?
Eliminate Ambiguity. Something either works, or doesn’t. You. Are. The. Boss. Stamp out uncertainty. If you think it won’t work, it probably won’t. Why try if failure is even a possibility? FEAR FAILURE! Straight A students didn’t get straight ‘A’s because they were smart, they got them because they were terrified of failure!
Interrupt your Inferiors and pull them away from what they are doing without asking. Don’t ever let them build up enough steam to do anything worthwhile that might improve working conditions or threaten your job.  Periodically, even the best employees begin to work up come creative mind-flow which must be disrupted. Preferably, wait until you see them furiously intent on what they are doing. If they are working with power tools, so much the better because there is nothing better than when the “Days Without An Incident” sign reads “0”. Remember, productivity decreases by as much as 40% when people “multitask”, and if people are 100% productive then that is less productivity for you to steal.
Don’t Pay Attention to Others when they say things you don’t understand. How dare someone have an idea in your magnificent presence? When someone comes to you with an idea, or you hear an idea, interrupt them with an idea of your own, yawn, grimace, frown, sneer, look at your email, look at your blackberry, start a side conversation, do ANYTHING but pay attention to them. And DON’T make eye contact! It will only encourage their rambling. Be sure to write their idea down, though, so that you can claim it as your own later on.
Censor EVERYTHING. Stifle the creative juices by monitoring employee communications. Correct employees on everything from grammar to punctuation. If they send a funny email out to the entire company that is relevant, pertinent, and thought provoking, call them into your office and chew them out. “’Everyone’ is for HR only!” Make sure they understand that all of their ideas must come from you first. The added benefit to this is that if you run across an idea that actually has merit, you can take it.
Sleep During Meetings. If you don’t hear the idea happen, then it didn’t. Long, unnecessary meetings, full of boring graphs and charts that berate and belittle every department, including your own, are fantastic sleep induction devices.
Create Rules and Boundaries. People are supposed to toe the line, not cross it! Punish violators severely. Promote at least 50% of your staff to some sort of management responsibility so that the rules may be enforced most effectively. Post inspiration slogans on the wall like these time honored axioms:
• “Stay Within The Lines”
• “Follow Procedures!”
• “Watch the Bottom Line”,
• “Quarterly Profits are not everything, they are the ONLY thing!”
Remember, a demoralized staff is a hard working, obedient staff.
Don’t Ask Questions. People ask questions when they are interested in something. You can’t maintain conformity and status quo if things are being questioned. Things are going just fine the way they are. Why mess with your perfect world?
Happiness is the Enemy. Foolishness, silliness, storytelling, imagination, etc… these are all things that distract from productivity. Nip them in the bud on sight. Begin your correction of the wayward employee with phrases like :
• “Well THAT won’t work.” (or any variety of “it can’t be done”)
• “Let me tell you what we’re not going to do…”
• “Be Serious”
• “Think before you speak!”
• “Sit down and shutup.”
• Get back in your box?”
• “Who let you off your leash?”
• “We don’t do that here.”
• “Wipe that smile off your face! If you are smiling, you aren’t working!”
Procedures Must be Followed. In the military, there is an entire command of officers and non-com’s who exist for the sole purpose of approving any changes to procedures. It takes months, if not years, to change even a simple procedure. And look at how successful they are! In some countries, they are the ruling body! Establishing a rigid command structure will guarantee your corporation a place in the annals of history.

Some day, I will release a book that is a tell-all about all the shitty bosses I have been plagued with in my life.  For now, though, this will have to do.

P.S. If you have read this far and don’t realize it is satire, then you just might be a shitty boss.  Good luck with that.

How to Speak in Public – a troubleshooting guide

 About me : I have been public speaking and training people for over 20 years on everything from aircraft repair to managing a big data infrastructure .  I have trained side-by-side with Larry Tracy, a well known speaker who delivered the daily report to Ronald Reagan.  I am a writer with publications by Elsevier, CRC press, and Morgan Kaufman, and I have testified on computer forensic matters in state and Federal courts.  I blog on whatever I feel needs clarification and explanation that has direct relevance in my life.  If you enjoy this post, follow me on twitter : scoraellis.  

I’ve seen experienced public speakers make the mistakes listed here.  The biggest two that even the most seasoned pros make are eye contact deficits and projector spotlighting. 

If you have ever had to speak  in public, you’ve probably experienced fear.  That is the trouble, and these are the most common causes and solutions for dealing with that fear. If, at any step of the way, one of these things occurs, it can trip off a collapse of your ego.  When that happens, your presentation caves in along with it.

Here is a bullet list of the problems (in bold) followed by the solution.

  1.  When I start my presentation, I don’t have anyone’s attention and nobody is paying attention. You Didn’t Start Out With a Reason Why. Don’t start with “today we are going to be talking about metabolic subatomic mass spectrometry…(see, you are already bored)”   Instead, start with The Reason Why.. Give the audience information that will motivate them to listen. Some startling statistic, a relevant quote or headline – something powerful that will get them to buy in to the subject matter and realize they should listen
  2. I am trying to act just like William Shatner when I speak. Everyone listens to him, why aren’t they listening to me? This is Because You Are Imitating Someone Else.  A lot can be said be said for  “Fake it ‘til you make it,” but William Shatner  isn’t even doing William Shatner very well anymore.  Be careful who you model. It can back fire horribly, especially if nobody likes who you are imitating.
  3. The people in the audience are skeptical of me, they don’t seem to understand why I am talking to them or what the point is of this talk.  You Failed to “work” the room. The audience actually wants to meet  you. Mingle beforehand and get to know some of the people. If you can do it without them knowing you are the speaker, all the better, and the nicer the surprise. If they like you, they have a vested interest because these people hate being wrong.  If you are standing at the podium when people come in, messing with your computer, they will probably think that you’re the computer guy, and that that handsome man over there, chatting it up with everyone, must be the speaker.
  4. I’m so nervous I feel like my heart is going to pound out of my chest and I might faint…Failing to use relaxation techniques will cause this every time.  Breathe deeply, do 2 or 3 deep, slow knee bends. Raise your hands over your head, and shout to yourself “I am awesome!” 6 times.  These things have been proven to reduce heart rate. I still get a bit of a pounding sensation in my chest when speaking, but after testifying in some of the most high pressure courtrooms in the country, well, things are relative.  If you ever have the opportunity to speak in front of a very challenging or large audience, take it. Everything else will be easy after that.
  5. I’m reading my speech word for word, and it’s an awesome speech!  Then, why is everyone fidgeting and looking like they’d rather be anywhere else? This is as bad as having a huge PowerPoint presentation and reading from it. Why?  Because, whereas  a 4 year old child wants to be read to, adults want to be talked to.  They want to feel like they are having a personal and connected conversation with you.  You can’t do that with your head down on a podium. Ask questions and interact with the audience.  Watch them for cues, like a quickly raised hand that might not make it all the way up, or looking around a lot at others to see their reaction, and looking at their phone – they may be fact checking you.  In case this is not CLEAR.  DO NOT READ FROM YOUR SLIDES — EVER!
  6. Using someone else’s stories: Nobody wants to hear someone repeating what other people have said. That’s what Google is for. It’s okay to use brief quotes from other sources, but to connect with the audience, you must illustrate your most profound thoughts from your own life experiences. If you think you don’t have any interesting stories to tell, you are not looking hard enough.
  7. Unnecessary Movement, unusual faces.  Don’t dance around and sway back and forth! Move, plant.  Move, plant.  Keep their eyes as steady as you can with just enough movement to keep things interesting. And try to keep a straight face as much as necessary. When you make lot of weird faces and exaggerated gestures, you come across as condescending and arrogant.  And that’s ok, if that is what you are going for and it actually works for you.  For most, it won’t.
  8. Hogging the Spotlight Dilemma. It’s not a spotlight! It’s a f’ing projector!  DO NOT STAND in the projector light.  It is super annoying. I mean it. You all do it.
  9. The Escape Artist This guy continuously scans the room, and never lands on one person for more than a second or so, which is about 4 words.  Are you talking to the audience or looking for an escape route in the event that things don’t go well?  TALK to people.  Pick someone.  Say something to that person – don’t look away in the middle of your sentence – FINISH IT.  Keep your sentences brief.
  10. Instant dull – just add wet noodles. You think you are doing everything you think you need to do, so what additional “edge” can you bring to your speaking? Speak in short sentences. Speak with rhythm.  Speak with certainty.  If your spoken words have no rhythm, then you can’t set expectations, you can’t create suspense, and you won’t win your audience. Remember the “Rule of Three” and make use of doublets and triplets. Let your excitement about your topic show, engage the  audience!  For example, Winston Churchill once said “Never in the course of humanity has so much been owed by so many to so few.”  What if he’d said,  “A lot of people have done great things and we owe them a great debt” – this is not nearly so nice. Watch TED talks.  Those guys are usually great speakers.  Watch my YouTube channel (google scorellis, you will find it).  Some of the videos are old, and could be better, but taking the time to make all these videos has been great practice for public speaking. After all, what is public speaking?  It is a “How to.”
  11. I’m at the end of my speech, and I’ve asked if anyone has any questions, and nobody does. What should I do? Your mistake was that you ended a speech/ talk  with the cliché “questions and answers.”  Instead, tell the audience that you will take questions and then say, “But first, let me move to the closing point.”  Make your closing point one that will spark conversation.  This should be the final arrow in your quiver!  For example, summarize a couple of key points, and then say something like “So, now ?”  Don’t forget, You can ask questions too, but don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer to.  Make a list of questions you think the audience might have, and then ask them.   Conclude with a call to action, for example, “If you have any trouble after downloading my widget, shoot an email to easyToRemember@email.com.
  12. Failing to prepare properly  What is proper preparation is subjective. Recognize what you’ve done in the past when you were at your best. Sometimes, too much preparation will leave you coming across as a dry accountant type. The biggest mistake is not knowing the material, and having an audience that has not been prepared for the topic.
  13. Failing to recognize that speaking is an acquired skill. Effective executives learn how to present in the same way they learn to use other tools to operate their businesses. They practice and they take classes. They listen to advice.  They try, and try, and they try again.

Bonus Tip:

Be cognizant of the health of people in the room.  If someone appears to be experiencing some sort of attack, you should stop speaking and render your complete assistance to them.  If you see someone looks distressed, you can ask them how they are doing.  Don’t tell them why you are asking.  As you work the room, and are interacting with the group, a simple “How you doing?” will suffice.   YOU are in charge and everyone will look to you to ensure that the person is cared for.  The first thing is to always call 9-1-1, ensure that someone is doing this while you render whatever aid you can or ask the room if someone has any medical training.  Know how to recognize and treat shock, it’s simple and easy and can make a person more comfortable while help is on the way.

 

 

Brick Pilers strike again.

This is in response to a post on the Lake Bluff Patch.  

http://patch.com/illinois/lake-forest-lake-bluff/daily-grind-loses-lease

I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case here, but my observation has been that there is a highly vocal faction of people in Lake Bluff that seem to want downtown Lake Bluff to be somewhat like a downtown Libertyville, with trendy little shops and bars and lots and lots and lots of people pouring through. What motivates this faction?  Ultimately, this is how the landlords will be able to raise rents and reap serious profits – when their tenants are raking it in.

How did this happen, how did we get here?  It started with the loss of Center Video, included a building collapsing “accidentally,” followed with an erection of what can only be described as (IMHO) a hideous monstrosity (the building that houses Lake Bluff Brewery and Lulu’s), and has transformed Lake Bluff from the quaint, hidden community into a caricature of North Shore suburban life.  Quietude and peacefulness was the reason that so many of us moved here. Loud, blasting music that can be heard from 2 miles away WAS NOT.
I’m not sure that Douglass had anything to do with any of the afore mentioned items, I’m not sure if he owns more buildings than the old Village Market building.  I seem to recall he was involved in the design and building of the Monstrous Brick Pile (again, just my infinitesimal opinion, which I am allowed to freely express).
One thing is certain – “progress” for this brick pile faction in the community (let’s just call them “The Brick Pilers” because that is what they do, and we should call a brick a brick) of Lake Bluff is not about building community and consensus, it’s about getting their way, getting their profits, increasing the tax base, so they can get more money more money more money.  “Let’s cover it all in concrete and asphalt.  Hey, isn’t a bustling community of shoppers and tourists what we want here?” they demand. Not me, no thank you.
The critical mass needed to satisfy the Brick Pile faction is NOT the kind of community of which I would be proud.  It’s not community – it’s just converting Lake Bluff into a beach-side tourist attraction that brings in lots of outsiders, spending money.  That’s it.  At the end of the day, that’s all the residents will see: Lot’s of outsiders, spending money and attracting crime, clogging the streets, and creating a general nuisance to the residents of the town.
Perhaps, the days when kids could leave their backpacks on the ground outside of Village Market, with zero fear they’d be stolen are already gone forever.  Thank you Brick Pilers.  Thank you. (<- that was sarcasm.)

Eulogy for Marilyn Swieck (How to Make Fudge and be a Good Person)

Greetings, and good afternoon.  My name is Scott. I am most honored to be here today, to talk to you about my Aunt Marilyn.

These next few stories are slices from my life, my life with Marilyn and my family’s life with her. I don’t have much time to deliver this message, my cousins have threatened me with an undisclosed punishment should I take too long. So, some of my transitions will seem abrupt, and through it all, I’m going to interject bits and pieces of Aunt Marilyn’s fudge recipe, so please pay attention and keep your pens at ready. This will hopefully not be as all over the place as I am, but it probably will be. I’ll make liberal use of strategic pauses.

A few years ago, Marilyn and I made fudge together, and I captured it in a series of videos.  The first step, she told me, was:

*Get yourself a big, wooden spoon.  Preferably one that says “chocolate only”

I don’t remember a world without my Aunt Marilyn.  She was a familiar motif for me, in my never ending tangled up state, in my rush to understand everything.  Her home always offered a calm, stable place.

*butter just the sides of a heavy, 3 quart saucepan.


Marilyn meant so much to me and my family, that not mentioning the impact on my life that she had would be unfair, so forgive me if I seem to digress – everything here relates to Marilyn, and where and how I saw her in our lives.

*add 4 cups granulated sugar.

For the past few weeks,  I’ve had this song going through my head, and it has this motif, this concept of home, of the moon being in my side, of angels not arriving, and being able to hear the choir. So there’s that, this concept of home that Marilyn understood, and that I learned from her.  I remember her playing Blue Moon.

*Add one 14.5 ounce can of evaporated milk

I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  But every year, at Christmas time and at my birthday, I would receive books.  Books on astronomy, on nature, works of fiction, and then of course there was the penguin mug.  I still have most of these gifts.  That was the thing about Marilyn, she gave thoughtful, helpful gifts, and education was important to her – as a result, it became important to me, and to my children as well.

*Mix it up before you put the margarine in.


My wife’s mother passed away 9 months before we got married, and this created a deep void in our lives. Aunt Marilyn was there for us during the very difficult grieving that followed, and I don’t think I ever thanked her enough

*add 1 cup land-o-lakes. because grandpa didn’t think there was anything else.  Cut it up, 6 or 7 times per bar so that it melts


When my son Ethan was born, Marilyn came and stayed with us for a week. She helped around the house, did laundry, cooked, and taught me that how you fold your towels depends entirely on the shape of the cabinet where you store them. We had just been folding them randomly and stuffing them in. She referred to our dog as her favorite area rug. He was half Great Dane.

*Turn on the stove, setting it to just below medium.  It really shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes to make the fudge.



*now just let it melt.  Don’t stir it.

It was maybe ten years ago or so, I used my engineering and carpentry skills to install a handrail for Marilyn at her house – she had a short flight of stairs that had no rail. I told her I would take care of it. She gave me no requirements- she didn’t have to. It was Marilyn, and so it would be strong, beautiful, and it would last.  That something could be made better, stronger, and made to last, by these hands, became a standard in my life on that day.

*As the concoction on your stove warms, it boils up.  Let it.  Some recipes say to not stir it, but you can stir it every now and then.

I remember forgetting to return the library books I borrowed from Oak Park library, and my absolute terror that she would find out.Well, she was the head of circulation so I’m thinking she might have known. I don’t even remember if I returned them – if there is anyone here from the Oak Park library, please see me after the service for a donation…

*cook over medium heat to soft ball stage (236 degrees) or maybe a little below medium.  It cooks longer, but you won’t get it [to come out right] as..as much.


When Ethan was 11 months old, we (my wife and I), drove to Ohio with Marilyn. She rode in the back with Ethan the entire way. At this time, he was all “gibahbah*pbbbbbt” he had no words yet

*In the video, Marilyn changes her mind and says, “Ok, stir it more than you have to…and don’t worry if you scorch it a little.  Dark pieces might come up, but they’ll blend in with the chocolate.  Nobody will know.”

On the way back from Ohio, I think my wife was driving, and I looked at Ethan,  point at Marilyn and say “Aunt Marilyn” and he looks right at her, then at me, and he says, as clear as a bell , “no, Nana!” It was his first word, and the name stuck. “Nana.”

*To perform a softball test, take a little bit of the batter into your spoon and pour it into really cold water.  Dump the water out, and see how the fudge is.  Is it fudgy? Does it have substance?

Now, I’m sitting in an Italian Restaurant a couple of nights ago – all the most important events of my life have taken place in Italian Restaurants – and I’m writing this, and trying not to cry into my lasagna, and I’m thinking of my daughter, who left her sweater here, the sweater that she wore the last times she went to see her Nana.

I think it was last Tuesday or Wednesday, not this past one, the one before, that Elaine took Addie to see Marilyn that last time, wearing that wonderful sweater, with all her colors and her twirling, flouncing, bounce, Marilyn awakened, and in a strong voice, says “Oh my goodness gracious, look at you,” and she held out her hand to her. Those would be her last words.


*1 heaping, rounded serving spoon of marshmallow fluff. So that was the secret, a heaping, flouncing, bouncing serving spoon of marshmallow fluff. 

Recently, I was taking a class and the instructor asked me how I felt about being there, and I said, “I’m excited to be here!”  I think a big part of life involves always being excited to see people, and one thing is certain, is Marilyn was always excited to see people. 

*add one 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces and a couple of small Hershey bars.
*1 teaspoon vanilla

For the past few weeks, while this song was going through my head, this entire time, we: Marilyn, my cousins and my children and my wife, and all of us, waited for the angels to come, to carry her Home.

I am thankful for the definition of home that she taught all of us, and I know we will carry it for the rest of our lives in our hearts, and in our minds.

*Once the pour has fully settled, score while warm, let cool, and call for someone to come, and carry it home.

Rules for dating (for women)

Scott’s Theory of Relationship and Social Imminence

1. Never call more often than you see in person

This is a no brainer and it is also a great way to filter out the crap people from the good people. Desperate people call a lot.

2. If your text message goes unanswered, you may only send one additional text per year that you have “known” someone.  By “known”, I mean in the carnal sense.

In  other words, if you have been “knowing” someone for 10 years, firing off ten unanswered texts in a row is perfectly acceptable.  Annoying as hell, but acceptable.

3. If he gave you his phone number, delete it after the first call. You can get it again if he calls back. There is no excuse to call twice with no face-to-face in-between.

4. NEVER DATE A MAN WHO THINKS HE IS PRETTIER THAN YOU ARE!
If he looks in the mirror more than he looks at you…Does this really need an explanation? Clearly a dude that commandeers his rearview mirror while he drives needs to be thrown out of the car (stopping first is optional). As for men that use product and pluck their eyebrows? Or use eyeliner? What the fuck!? I suppose he will want cuddle time, too, right before he runs off with your gay hair dresser.

5. You know everything that he needs to know about being in a relationship with you. Don’t let him tell you differently. If he ever pulls the “We need to talk…” line, walk away.  Don’t hesitate.  Just turn, and walk away.

6. When men do it, they call it “stalking.” When women do it, they call it “marriage.”

The best stalkers stalk their prey silently, from afar, and give up if it is too elusive. Their prey never even know they were stalked.  Ever.

7. There is no problem that a blowjob can’t fix—except a bad blowjob.

8. If something breaks, he’d better get out the tool box. He doesn’t have one? Run. Away. He’d better know how to fix broken things and move heavy objects or he will become the butt of your every joke and you will fuck the pool boy. At least he knows how to handle his pole! After all, if he can’t work a screwdriver, he probably can’t work his built in tools either. This is especially true for men who are fabulously “successful” and have great, white collar jobs. They might be over-compensating.

9. Women fake orgasms, men fake feelings.
Like it or not, deny it, try to defy it, resist it, argue against it, don’t accept it, but when the time comes, you will come to the light and know the truth. Generally, men just don’t have it in them to care about anything for longer than it takes them to kill it and eat it or to try and stick their dicks in it, which is about 15 minutes. Male emotions are pre-programmed battle responses. They are a form of weaponry. Ask a man what he is feeling and immediately he begins to look for the door. Love is not a “feeling”– it is a verb (a wise woman told me this). Love is totally different and is real.

10. At the first sign of trouble, get out.

11. Never make plans further ahead than you’ve known each other.
That is the simple rule for traditional dates, such as going to a movie, going to a party (mutual friends), a concert, etc. When family is involved, it gets complex. Suffice it to say, making plans to meet family members should be weighted by time in relationship and the closeness of the family member (only meet the parents as a last resort!).

Appendix – social media
1. facebook is for friends only, and permanent relationships. End of story. If you decide to begin dating someone that you know through facebook, the best thing you can do for him and you is unfriend him. It would be like friending parents of students. It’s just a bad idea.

NOTE: This guide is based entirely on the experiences of the author and anecdotal evidence. No formal studies have taken place. Nor will they. Now go out there, and “have fun”. Studies have shown that people that fun more are happier and that an increase in fun activity by people who are fun would actually lead to a decrease in the incidences of fun transmitted diseases (always fun responsibly, use a fundom!).

*no actual science of any sort has been cited, quoted, or even ever read by the author of this article, who also happens to believe that oral sex is the solution to all relationship problems in the world today.

How to Quit a Bad Habit

Please pardon any typos. I do this entirely on my iPad, on the train.

The other day I had a conversation with someone about how he never gets anything done.  That sparked a mention of Parkinson’s Law, which reminded me of this essay I wrote quite some time ago….Now, mind you, I’m not an economist, or even that smart about money. I don’t really understand where money comes from, even though it’s been explained to me a hundred times by people smarter than me.

Last year I decided to delete my Facebook app from my iPad. It was a distraction, not because I couldn’t focus on the work I needed to do, but because it was intrusive. I would be typing an email, creating a calendar appointment, or simply browsing the web and there, at the top of the screen, a little thingy would roll over with my friend Douglas saying, “gotta go to the store! Outta beer” or Eric’s status update of, “checking in at the Recliner,” as though I know what “the Recliner” is, and would want to come right over if I did….so I removed it.  The app, not the Recliner.

“Wait, Scorellis!” you say, “Why not just change the settings?”  Because I don’t have time! I find my way around computers OK; it’s just that whenever I try to change anything about how Facebook works, it usually means going down one rabbit hole or another.

I decided that my desire to avoid the complexity of digging into my preferences to prevent the unwanted notifications was greater than my desire to keep facebook on my device.  And the pop-ups werre intolerable. Besides, Zuckerberg would just change my preferences later on without asking, and it would start to do something else equally annoying.  The dude has serious stalker-like issues.  Facebook is like some sort of super-app for stalkers, right?

Later, on my iPhone (which doesn’t constantly annoy me, not with pop-ins), as I struggled with wading through the timeline navigation, my aggravation levels slowly increased.  With its pretty graphics and immense page size, this timeline feature crushed the performance of my iPhone. I am teetering on the edge of deleting the app.  Then, (now. pay attention!) as I browsed facebook I suddenly read a post by a friend of mine.  Oh joy of commiseration! He bears similar anti-timeline angst!

“Aaaaargh! I’ve been timelined!” he posted.

I think about how to respond to him.  I experience a landslide of thoughts in my mind.

Mind-slide

I want to express my frustration in a single sentence, as direct and short as his, but I cannot find the words.   I want to suggest that we all delete the app from our devices. I am fairly certain that if we delete the app, the complexity of the task of finding it and reinstalling it will probably be an effective preventative against ever again using Facebook.

This would not be a terrible thing. I went 20 years without talking to most of these people, I can probably go another 20 and if, after reconnecting as we have, they want to maintain the relationship, there are other ways. I have a phone. Perhaps they could send me email messages..?

Or maybe I could make an RSS feed from my facebook newsfeed that filters the spam posts (really, nobody has done this yet?)…besides, 98% of the people that I became friends with never even say anything, they just lurk, like a bunch of creepers.

When I signed up for Facebook, I thought we’d have these amazing conversations, but most of my friends never say anything!  Recently, one of my friends from Facebook who I occasionally see in the physical realm made a comment that he knew something about me because he read it on fb. Deja vu.

Now, all of the wheels in my mind are spinning, like a juggler spinning plates; I wanted to compress this avalanche of thought and empathize with my friend in just a few poignant words. I want this whthin mind-slide of thought to crash.

“Congratulations,” I say sarcastically. “you’ve been timelined.”

But what does that mean?

How do I  calculate the tipping point, the point of no return, when something becomes such a pain in the ass that it becomes obvious I should not be doing it anymore? If i have a certain amount of time allotted to complete a task, then at what point will the expansion of the work by an outside force cause me to abandon the task.  Is it a return on investment (ROI) problem? Certainly the point of no return involves ROI, but clearly people invest time and money in things that have not clear ROI at all! I have more questions than answers now.  I don’t understand how to calculate the coefficient of nuisance. When, exactly, does something become so bothersome that I can no longer be bothered by it? My mind-slide completes, the wheels stop spinning, and I turn to the Internet for answers.

I Google It.

I got to thinking that there must be some inviolate law of economics which would explain my behavior, so I searched the phrase, “complexity of task is so great that people won’t be bothered to do it. They would rather suffer the consequences instead.”

This search yielded lots of hits on how to stop procrastinating, but one link caught my eye: “How to use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage.”

(OK, you can stop reading now.  Here is where it gets crazy.)

I had read about Parkinson’s law before, about the Coefficient of Inefficiency, but all my question are not answered. When does an increase in consumption due to an increase in efficiency become less a matter of paradox, and more a matter of poor decision making? For example, as automobiles become more fuel efficient, rather than being responsible and increasing gas mileage, what has Detroit done? They have increased horsepower and in many cases, gas mileage has gotten WORSE!

This is the Paradox, the absurd contradiction. The price of gas hits $5.00 a gallon, but still people can be bothered to buy cars, put gas in them, and do what they always do. They don’t mind the longer hours at work, lower wages, less savings, and more money, more money,  more money being thrown down the rabbit hole. The most exquisite paradox of all is that if everyone is raising prices, then nobody is raising prices! Except the first few people, who experienced a momentary, monetary gain!  Then there is the additional vector of manufacturing and consumers placing visceral pleasure over social responsibility. Is this Parkinson’s law, Jevon’s Pradox, or poor decision making?

Does the amount of pleasure derived from an act have something to do with all of this? (tongue in my cheek, we know it does).  Jevon’s Paradox states that with any increase in technical efficiency, there will be a corresponding increase in demand.  I would add that the demand will always outpace the efficiency.  It’s a paradox because one would expect that as efficiency increase, then the demand for raw materials would decrease.  For example, think of automobiles. Fuel efficiency has improved, yet the demand for gasoline continues to increase.

But is this really a paradox, or mightn’t it just be stupidity?

There must be a theoretical upper limit to how much horsepower an automobile needs, and perhaps there is a theoretical limit to the need for travel, but ultimately, according to my sources (the Internet), the only effective cap that will truly limit demand is cost. An increase in cost from either green incentives or simple taxes will decrease use. Expensive gas, taxed to hell, will, therefore, increase fuel efficiency?  Or will people just drive less?  I sense a conspiracy in all of this! The Internet is wrong, of course (well, actually, after this post it will be right again, won’t it?). If something is a serious, serious pain in the ass to do, people will also stop doing it.  For example, swimming in Lake Michigan is far less popular in February than in July, because there is a very large barrier to doing it. It’s f’ing cold.  You have to buy a thermally insulated, diving dry suit, or you have to be slightly nuts. Like I always say, you aren’t crazy until you start acting on your crazy thoughts.

There are a number of versions of Parkinson’s Law, such as: “Work Expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  Perhaps another would be that “the list of things to do always exceeds the amount of time we have to get it all done,” which naturally begets “if it’s important enough to get done, you’ll find the time to do it.”

My favorite version of Parkinson’s law is, “if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.” or “if you want something to only take a minute to do, wait until the last minute to do it.” Recently, I wrote a few chapters for a book titled “Network and Computer Security Handbook.” As I approached the deadline, I found that my critical thinking skills improved. What does that mean? I cut, hacked, slashed, wrote and viewed the work with far, far greater decisiveness than I did three months ago when I still had all the time in the world to get it done. I wrote more pages of content in one week than I did in three months. Perhaps I also spent considerably more hours on it in the final few weeks than I probably did in the final three months.

There is another law, too, which relates to this one, called Wirth’s law.  It states that “software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.”  I don’t know what that means.  Maybe this was a 1995 thing.  At one time, I might have thought that this meant that innovations in programming were allowing programmers to perform and code tasks of far greater complexity than there exists computing power to accomplish.  Duh!  For example, “computer, tell me please what is the highest prime number that exists?”  just because I can ask a computer to do something doesn’t mean anything.  I don’t see why this Wirth guy gets a law, but heck, if he gets one then so do I, right? Here is the law of Scorellis:

“The amount of work that some humans will attempt to get their computers to perform will always exceed the capability of the infrastructure to successfully complete it.”

The ability of the software to accept user requests will usually exceed the capacity of the hardware to get it done. This is because people do not want to be told “no” by a machine.  The interface between humans and computers leans strongly towards one of a passive nature. Like watching TV, a user in Seattle of a website in Chicago has no notion of the 10,000 other users across the country hitting the machine at the same time. To her, it is just slow.

Essentially, people will always ask more of the subsystem than the subsystem is capable of delivering. No surprise there, right? We do the same things to ourselves and each other, too.  Software developers are people. ( I think. ) Some software developers are better than others, but computers have a funny affect on psychology.  If I ask a computer to do one thing, should’t it be able to do that one thing, even when I multiply it by a thousand times? And in the same amount of time? I once accidentally opened 20 photos on a PC.  So then I tried to open 200 photos; thinking that it would only take 10 times as long. Ha!  I was young once, too.

Somewhere in here there is a moral…if you want to quit a bad habit, it needs to be excessively cost prohibitive to do so from both a financial and efficiency perspective.  Hmmm. Maybe that could be called “the moral of Scorellis.”

 

How to Write a Short Story : The Last Piano

The other day a friend of mine read some passages from a book to me and the prose, being all prosy and stuff, reminded me of a story I wrote a long time ago that had a lot of very visual elements to it.  I believe that was my goal – the story was an exercise in visualization and verbalization of emotion and drive. Mostly, what was read to me reminded me of this:

A young, very attractive and elegant woman sits, watches me.  I know I was killed, but here I sit, playing the Last and I’m fine.   A woman, virtually untenable in her beauty, listens to me play.  Mind this: she is not beautiful in that symmetrical, coldly compelling way that drives many men to great insanity.  No, she is her strength and she is her innocence and nothing is layered over this.  I can see it in the way her chin tilts just so, the way her eyes gaze knowingly and in the softness of the set of her lips.  I watch her lips when she speaks, I watch them in her quietude, I watch I watch I watch. Her movement is music; there: in the graceful poise of her hips; there: in the hands moving to rest placidly in her lap.  Mark the time!  I’m enslaved by her motion and I begin to play again, enjoying the silky smooth roughness of these ancient, ivory keys.

I’ve probably written dozens, maybe even hundreds, of short stories, primarily for my own amusement, but also because when the churn in my head starts, well, words are what comes out. I wrote this story in 1997; I believe that it is one of my better works. It has romance, suspense, intrigue, drama, and murder. It’s actually a rather heinous little tale. I hope that you enjoy it, and since the title of this is “How to Write a Short Story,” well, I suppose I should actually tell you how to do it.  Here is the secret of how to do it: Write.

Wait, what? Yep. That’s it: Write. Don’t sit around thinking up ideas for stories, you won’t have them or, if you do, they will have a certain emptiness to them. Stories don’t come from your head, they come from…somewhere else (I will explain this, someday). So, to get the story to come out, you just need to sit down and go to that place you went to when you were a kid, when you played pretend, and you just need to check in. See what is going on. Say hello to some old friends and ask if they mind if you start-up a new game of Battle Commanders. Or Cowboys and Indians. Or legos. It doesn’t matter. You see, the stories never stopped. While you were off being a grown-up, all this stuff kept on happening in your head, completely without you. Now, you just have to tap it.

And, here is the best tip I ever heard – begin at the end. Don’t start a story with “On Tuesday, John was walking down the street, coming home from work…” and then proceed to bore me to death with every mundane detail in John’s life leading up to and chronologically detailing him making a ruin of his life, and ending the tail with, “then John spent the rest of his miserable days in prison.”  Rather, begin with something like….

©1997 Scott R. Ellis 

The Last Piano Player

by Scott R. Ellis

I remember the blood soaked, black sands of the beach-head encapsulated within the prison star-world; the way the water teemed with stinging mantas and how the seascape seemed to curve upward to where the brackish blue of the sky traced out the ­disjointed curve of the horizon.

As I stood sifting through the sand, the crashing ocean waves exploded behind me into frenzied sprays against the silver steel pinnacles and ramparts of the fortress-prison.  Its ugly spikes slid motionlessly out of the ocean to curl fortified arms around the island.  Many men were imprisoned here, but only some of us knew that this was no island bastille—those of us who had not forgotten—to us it was a self-contained nightmare, floating in outer space.  It was no Devil’s Island, I was no Papillon.  No, I would escape this space-flung prison only through death.

I am Benedict, and this is how it felt when death’s talon grip snared me:  a penetrating thrust cleaving through my body to rest cold in my soul, twisting it—torturing me.  And then my consciousness slowly abated;  a need for reminiscence emerged from the coldness which encroached on the periphery of my vision, a need for some thread to coalesce, to gather . . . my thoughts drift like particles, drifting about in a sunbeam, searching for a place to settle.  But my acuity fails to pierce through to the past. There is a veil….

I remember I died, but here I am again.  Only, it is no longer a prison, and she, this amazing “she,” with me, explains the prison is this: a  place that people danced and listened to music, where troops gathered and formed to go to battle.  A place where I fell in love again. Oh, and where they kept the Last piano.  She asks me, “How could you have forgotten this?”  She explains, “It has been a century or more since your imprisonment, and since the once star-bound prison vessel crash landed, and cracked open its chrysalis to the free skies of Sanctucity.”  It feels rehearsed and so does my response.  “I don’t remember much about what happened before my return here.  It seems so long ago—it’s a sanctuary now?  Really?”

“Yes, my Bened, yes.”

But, before I died, it was just a prison, a shell of a world—small, but somehow, through the use of science, warped to seem large. They, some of the interred,  say the engineers added a fifth  dimension.  Time was the fourth.   And some said that when they built the Stellar prisons they didn’t add a dimension; rather, love was removed.

 **

I am, returned from the grave, a very old man now.  Gaunt, my skin stretches over my cheeks like paper and my eyes—eyes so stark that even a hawk’s stare would divert from them.  The old piano is still in the rectory of the prison— I don’t know what else they call it now.   Prison is as good a word as any.  My God, that piano is old.  It’s small, and upright.  The keyboard is perched high on the harp, like a spinet but this piano you have to climb up a small ladder to play.   I’d really never heard anything play that way,  play so beautifully that time loses you. Hit any rhythmic combination of notes and they play through the air with the bitter-sweet resonance and delicate timber only an age-old instrument can deliver. Beauty for its own sake. No one really even knows how it got there; perhaps its placement was a clerical error.

Strangely, I remember the first time I ever played that piano and, as I remember that first time,  I also remember the first death: bullets piercing my flesh,  piercing my head, killing me, and the hot searing feel of it punching its coldness into, and through the base of my skull.  They brought me before a small man, and first his assistant shot me in the leg.  I fell—more because I knew I should than from any true feelings of pain.  Then he handed the weapon—a projectile type—to the small man and he shot me in the head.  They may have shot more than twice. I don’t know; I never felt a thing, except terrified.

Some time passed, I think, and I drifted, trying to cling to life.  I grasped for the scattering, filament-thin attenuations of consciousness and felt them slip through my clutch.  Then: awareness returned to me, drifting lazily on outstretched wings, languorously soaring before taking purchase;  and I was here, at the piano, playing.   A glimpse of memory of the darkly burnt cerulean blue sky, cracking open, etches a vivid image in my mind’s eye, a splash of multi-colored paints across a fresh canvas.  Suddenly I awake and gasp for breath with unrestricted lungs.  I look about; I am sitting at the piano.  I look down;  the keys are all where they are supposed to be so I know this is not just some post traumatic hallucination.  I know, with an alacrity born of a hundred years of experience, that this is life, that this is real, and that, only a moment  ago, I died.

A young, very attractive and elegant woman sits, watches me.  I know I was killed, but here I sit and I’m fine and a woman, virtually untenable in her beauty, listens to me play.  Mind this: she is not beautiful in that symmetrical, coldly compelling way that drives many men to great insanity.  No, she is her strength and she is her innocence and nothing is layered over this.  I can see it in the way her chin tilts just so, the way her eyes gaze knowingly and in the softness of the set of her lips.  I watch her lips when she speaks, I watch them in her quietude, I watch I watch I watch. Her movement is music; there: in the graceful poise of her hips; there: in the hands moving to rest placidly in her lap.  Mark the time!  I’m enslaved to her motion and I begin to play again, enjoying the silky smooth roughness of these ancient, ivory keys.

I stop, and I turn to her.  She is radiant, smiling at me.  I think I must have somehow become her hero.  “How long have you been here?”  I ask.  To ask her how long I had been playing may have seemed senile.  My voice is dry and I cough.  I touch my face.  It feels slightly different, but familiar.   She is youthful, attentive, and dressed in a black costume gown with white trim and an ankle length skirt.  I look down at myself to discover that I, too, wear strange, costume  apparel, complete with ruffles at the sleeves and a close fitting tunic which drapes beneath my knees.

“Bened! You Silly.  I came here with you on the shuttle.”  She pulls out a small fan and fans herself.  My hand moves.  A chord strikes in the piano and in my mind.  A harsh, dissonant chord, dark and foreboding.  I wonder how I have so strangely escaped the prison, escaped death.  How I have seemingly left my body and then returned again.  Perhaps I am crazy, completely insane, and it is all a hallucination.  No.  I think, were that the case, I would have thought to hallucinate something a little less extemporaneous.

“I want to leave here.  I don’t know why I wanted to come here to begin with.”  I want to tell her that I have been a prisoner here, that being here torments me, that I had, in fact, been bludgeoned then shot to death—to death! not fifteen minutes ago in a steel room deep in the bowels of this monstrosity. I feel my face again.  The corners of my eyes, are there more wrinkles now?  I can’t feel to tell.

“People are coming, you know, to hear your Improvisations.  The troops will be forming up soon.  We can go to the refresher area if you like, and you can have a drink maybe.

“You are playing very well, though I don’t know why you started and stopped like that.”   She shakes her head slightly, her hair shakes at me but I only see my recollection of it, like a distant memory. She holds out her arm to assist me down from the piano pedestal.  I gracefully accept her help.  I no longer need to feel my face to determine my age.  Simply moving tells me, and the sudden, needful way in which she moved to help me.   I am old.  Very old.  Much older than when they killed me.  Senility will certainly be excused in a man my age.

“Are you my lover?”   I ask her.  She giggles.  I sigh

“Love, of course I am.”  She blushes and kisses me on the cheek.

“Where is everyone—all the prisoners?”

“Oh, Benedict.  That was so long ago.  Don’t you remember? ”

“No . . . my love, I don’t.  You are so pretty.”

“Darling, I’m almost as old as you and twice as wrinkled.”

“No,” I protest adamantly, “—you are young, sensuous, opulent.”  She begins to blush.  I see only this young, beautiful woman before me, and I am confused.  I turn away from her and look up at the piano. It is almost all solid wood.  They don’t make them from wood anymore.  Actually, they don’t make them at all anymore, and haven’t since . . . since forever.  They were never made in these colonies.  It’s a mystery how this one found its respite looming over prison congregations thousands of light-years away from a woodworker’s rasp. I turn back to the woman and I speak to her, looking so deep into her eyes that I lose my sense of balance, of place. I am spiraling into her.  ” I- I’m just an old man who doesn’t know what has happened since he has died.” She seems so familiar to me, as if I’ve known her all my life and have been with her for years.  But I can’t shake the feeling I arrived only moments ago.

I turned to her as we walked up the aisle toward the entrance at the back of the chapel, the prison sanctuary.  The beginnings of noise were shaping outside in the mezzanine area.  I could hear talking, and glasses chinking.  “You are so kind,” I tell her. She strokes my chin and turns.  We start to walk again and it is a slow process.

“You were telling me–where are the prisoners?”

“Oh, Benedict.  That was so long ago.  Don’t you remember?  You escaped the prison a dead man.  You were shot sixteen times, but somehow, you survived.  The prison had docked here for repairs. . .”

It came to me as she spoke, I remembered.  Well, I still only remembered the two shots.  Sixteen was perhaps an exaggeration in the retelling.  I was a young man then.  Time was nothing to me, I had plenty of it.

When I was told one day that I had killed a man in cold blood, I thought it a joke.  When they told me they were putting me under the highest security available, I laughed in their faces and bet the judge my freedom that I would escape.  You see, he knew of my past exploits—he knew I was a war hero who had been captured during the Wars and had led an escape from their dungeons.  I had squirmed through half a mile of air shaft and battled insanity to gain my freedom.

“You are a fool, Benedict.  I’m putting you in Stellar H where, even if you escape, you won’t have escaped.”  And then he laughed, a sinister sound to hear in the docket. Those were the final words of the judge.   He disregarded my bet and stood, dark and foreboding, laughing as he left the court.  Black hooded guards led me from the chaos, bound and levitated.

I imagine, now, that it was an ordinary chuckle, a good belly-laugh over an insolent convicted felon, but at the time I imagined it to be the most ominous bone-marrow freezing laugh that he ever chortled.   It echoed in the halls with the hooded guards, followed me, and continued to linger just on the edge of audibility for the rest of my imprisonment.

I began pondered and planned escapes. One minute I believed that I would have to lead a full scale riot and take over the piloting of the vessel/prison and dock her in some neutral territory in order to escape one day and believed I could rematerialize in another world with the power of my mind the next.  I planned.  And I planned.

No matter how ludicrous or impossible, I considered it.  I met other prisoners who were sympathetic, but most just wanted to go on with their lives.  Most led lives of accep­tance, of quiet, suffering desolation.  I was, as you know, innocent.  I had killed men in the wars, yes, but as a civilian I had entered into a career as a systems navigator.  I was well paid, had a nice home and family, and was actually off planet on business, a hundred light years away from the murder scene.  But computers and DNA and photon residual emission tests did not lie.  I actually watched myself committing the murder in a computer generated, courtroom reconstruction of photon residual emissions and DNA extrapolation.  I was getting convicted by a jury of my peers of premeditated murder.  “Besides,” explained the judge, “everyone knows travel records can be forged by anyone with a moderate amount of travel computer codes.  This court finds the defendant, Benedict Arnold, guilty of murder in the highest degree.  We sentence you to Stellar H for life, up to and including Second Death.”  He pounded his gavel on the bench. He almost seemed to be shaking his head as he did this.  His white powdered wig shook its curls at me.  They too condemned me.

Think about it—I did. I even believed, for a short time, that I had done it, that I had killed.

Then, I had an epiphany.  In a universe of billions of humans, the possibility that my exact DNA structure could exist twice. . . in our society, a man with altered DNA could behave with impunity. . . my defense, I realize, had been tragically inadequate.

There is no appealing from Stellar H.  Even the Warden is a prisoner.

The Warden of Stellar H was a small man.  He had us digging through the sand sifting for gold twelve to fourteen hours a day.  We never found any.  We just got stung by the sting rays which infested the waters and every now and then they managed to kill and devour a man.  They never bothered me though.   I discovered by accident one time that I could wade in the water and they would avoid me. It was the time the sky cracked open.   Funny, the expression on the faces of the men around me when it happened.  As if they had forgotten what the real sky was like.  As if they had forgotten how truly bright a real sky was.  They cowered and covered their eyes with their arms as the dome above us split. Sting rays writhed and roiled,  frothing the water up to my knees.  I raised my arms in supplication as I stood naked and bathed in the natural warmth of the light. My legs had grown thick and powerful with the labor.  For a moment, I beleived that I could fly and I leapt toward the sky. The ground fell away beneath me. The noise of the machinery operating the dome whined and screeched in protest, but I didn’t even hear it.

And then they grabbed me and dragged me fighting and kicking down into the depths of Stellar.  Their fists hammered me down again and again as I fought them.  Blood poured from us and then I broke free from them and began to run toward what I believed was my escape.  More uniformed guards came, captured me and they beat me till finally I submitted.  I would fight another day, I vowed.  I would return.  They brought me through a doorway and into a room where a man sat on the floor.  He was a small man and he sat there on a carpet and ate some spherical object that he seemed to be peeling.  It looked like fruit.  He looks at me.

“Kill him.”  He resumes eating.  At this point I assume they think I had opened the dome somehow.  I begin to protest, to tell them I had nothing to do with it and that the true escapists are using me as a dupe. No words come out of my mouth.  The bullet is already on course and I am already falling.  I gasp, but I don’t feel any pain.  “Wait!”  says the small man.  He stands then, and holds out his hand to the guard who just shot me in the leg.  The guard hands him the gun. I turn away, I can’t watch it come.

The second bullet pierced the back of my head and I felt the world, consciousness, whisked away, drawn away from me, attenuating to an  imperceptible thinness.  I drifted com­pletely detached in a warm, soft haze as the skeins of death’s pirouettes danced around me in tattering shapes of white, black, and grey.  I could hear nothing, feel nothing, taste nothing, smell nothing, and see only the grayish-white haze, like a thin veil all around me.  And then it slowly dissolved as I began to hear music, and feel the pleasure beat of the keys under my fingers, the slow pulse pulse of the music’s rhythm cascades my senses.  I ride the gestalt to awareness and then see that I’m in the prison ecclesia, playing the old piano with its archaic script across the front panel, spelling out in Gothic lettering “Last.”

Now I’m led down the aisle by this sublime young woman who claims she’s my lover but, God (are You listening?!) it—it only seems like twenty minutes ago that I died and now a whole lifetime has passed and I’m back where it all started.

I don’t even remember if I’ve done anything worth anything—I escaped the most secure prison in the universe and she tells me I did it by dying.

I look to her.  Seeing the love in her eyes discomfits me;  I want to tell her, show her, somehow prove through some thing I do that I am worth it.  Instead, I feel a binding in my chest, incredible pain shoots down my arms and my breath comes in short gasps.  I realize I’m on the floor; she cradles me in her arms.  I smile at her, and she smiles back.  She is fragile when she smiles.   I tell her, “There was never enough time to . . . the things I want to show you . . .do for you . . .”  and I watch as tears flow from her eyes.  I see the piano, this “propylaeum”, rising over me.  Too near to me are the arched sanctuary doors.   From a distance— I am far away now—I hear her whisper to me as she cradles my stilled body, she weeps, and says,  “I don’t love you for the things you’ve done; I love you because you’re the one who did them.”  I finally understand:

There is nobody left now to play the Last piano;  the push pull of the hammers tapping on the strings are stilled,  and the sting rays glide through oceans without bound.  This is the Second Death.

 ****

How to Argue Like an Idiot

Idiot n : A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action but “pervades and regulates the whole.” He has the last word in everything. His decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions of opinion and taste, dictates the limitations of speech, and circumscribes conduct with dead-line.

                                 ~Ambrose Bierce “Devil’s Dictionary”

(This is based on all the ridiculous ways people try to win arguments and has nothing to do with the “12 Ideas for Arguing your Point Effectively” that I read the other day; you just think it does because you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.)

  1. The Selfishly Selfless Position: Make the argument about you. Defend your turf and the superiority of your decision making skills. Do not accept that you may be wrong. After all, you were there first! Just make sure that you frame it as “It’s not just me, but I am sure that everyone thinks…”  or “Think of the kids…” and “It’s not you, it’s me…”
  2. The Ignorance, oh the ignorance: There is only one side to any argument – the winning side. Your side. Do not pay attention to your opponent’s arguments. The best thing to do with an argument you don’t understand is to ignore it.
    Create lengthy arguments over easily reconcilable differences. Reconciliation takes time and means giving up something you want. Don’t do it.
  3. The Verbose, Brilliant Idiot: If you can’t blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with industry-speak and techno-babble. If your opponent uses masterful language and relevant examples and metaphors, rip them apart as irrelevant and fanciful. This is also known as the Proton-proton Chang of Nuclear Confusion.  If nobody understands your argument, it cannot be proven to be incorrect.
  4. The Irrefutable Irrefutableness of Irrefutability Argument: Allow people to believe that your opinions and beliefs are irrefutable truths, regardless of the fact that you are completely speculating and making it up. If they refuse to drink your lemonade, criticize them on a personal level, and point out their past failings.
  5. The Impending Gloom of Doom Offensive: For example, “I don’t see this project ever coming to light, don’t you remember what a huge failure your project management software solution was (ignore the fact that you may have caused it to fail). Certainly you can’t be trusted with an initiative like this one!” or “Coming from someone with a constant problem of x…” or “Allen is an imbecile and can’t be trusted with this” or “Whaaaah, my dog died last night.”
  6. Inverted Nascency : If it isn’t time tested it isn’t true. Likewise, if it isn’t brand new it must be worthless. Take whichever stance is applicable.
  7. The Defensive Offense: Be offended by even the slightest social misstep of anyone. It will give you great power over them. A good defense is the best offense.
  8. The Inverse Rule: “If everyone is doing it, then so should we.” Rely on arguments that stress wide acceptance and popularity, even if the others are not in the same industry, market, or building. It is also fair to execute the inverse of this argument, depending on your position. “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we should.”  Many arguments can be fairly inverted, this is just one example (and a good one! You read it on the Internet, right?)
  9. The Oz Emulation If your opponent’s argument is exceptionally strong, submit a straw man attack. For example, “Julie, I am surprised to hear this position from you. I wouldn’t expect this pro-nouveau argument from someone who still uses a PALM IV to organize her day.”
  10. Injected with Redirection: Simply create an argument that has nothing to do with the fact. Phone conferences are best for this. “I can’t believe the email I just got. Mike, your special project is over budget, again? I guess this means I can’t fund my special project to generate tons of new revenue sources and make me look really good after all….” You may not win, but Tim will be destroyed. Do your best to misdirect the attention from yourself. Make this appear to be inadvertent.
  11. Unobtainable Perfection Theorem: If the solution being offered is not perfect, it will not work. Do not accept anything less than perfect. This is called the “unobtainable perfection postulation.”  Your opponent’s way will NEVER be perfect; key-in on the imperfections and bloat them with aggrandized tales of your own horrific experiences with imperfect solutions. Once you get this argument tacked onto his back, he will slink back under that rock that he came from.  Get back in your box,Bob!
  12. The Kluge Deterrent: Do not accept “work-arounds” as anything less than costly and ineffective or allow them to mitigate the risks associated with imperfection. You will not lose this battle. Everyone hates “kluged” and “rigged” solutions. Say things like “We don’t want to leave any revenue on the table” or “We need to extract value from this engagement” and “We need to optimize profit potential” to emphasize your bottom line driven focus. How else will you get that Rolex?
  13. The Interior Posterior Perspective : Employ flattery. For example, tell the person how ‘cool’ they will be if only they help you and do as you ask. Inviting people to a special event is a form of flattery.  This idiot tries to jam his entire head up your butt.
  14. The Internet Proof: It’s on Wikipedia/Google, so it must be true (never mind you that I put it there and then used muy own book as a source for it to prove it.)
  15. The Trepidation: We’ve all played this angle, so you know the power of this one! If all else fails, throw a fit, yell, call them names, and break things. Nobody will dare defy you ever again. If there is no rebuttal, then you win. Here is a great example a friend sent over to me:  “…so outweighed by the fallacies as to firmly place you in the category labeled “dumbass”. Thanks for playing.*
  16. Locus of Origination:  If you aren’t from around these parts, you got no business being here, let alone sticking your nose into our business.  This works best when combined fluidly with The Trepidation: “Are you a complete MORON or just a Liberal import into Colorado from California that is trying to ruin this state like you did California. I guess you can’t fix STUPID!”*
  17. The Pabst Deflection: If it has a pretty blue ribbon, it must be good. (never you mind that the ribbon is 100 years old) If you can make your argument short enough, sweet enough, and put it in a pretty package with a pretty blue ribbon on it, nobody will ever look inside.  Heck, even if they do look, the package is so pretty they won’t care what’s inside.  It could be a pile of dog poo, and they will love it!  The best example of this is the many memes that get posted onto facebook.  If the picture is pretty, or says something you beleive in and connects point A to point B, nobody cares how accurate it is.  It’s TEXT.  On a pretty PICTURE -> therefore it MUST be true.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tremendously powerful tools. Remember, if everyone else is using them then you should,  too!  As you embark today into the world of idiots, remember : In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is just a lying fool, telling fancy tales.

*Quote is used for educational purposes and originated in a long, trailing post of idiocy by multiple people on that bastion of idiocy known as “facebook”.  Quote authors are Mike Wilson, whose profile pic is a picture of his girlfriend, and Nancy Shileikis, a former Target and Hobby Lobby employee.  Original thread can be viewed here.