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Too Many Notes



Hey, Mozart’s got a new tune out, and it’s got a beat and you can dance to it, I’m tellin’ ya.. He was about ten when he wrote it, so I don’t know about you, but I’m prepared to forgive the hint of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I picked up in there.

Mozart’s latest. 

Going To The Dogs



Malachy’s wife was preggers. She started into craving this and that. Peanut butter and olives. Saltines and vermicelli. Liver and garlic. Malachy is constantly going to the store and fetching odd assortments of ingredients. She tells him she wants snails and cabbage. Honestly, snails and cabbage. Malachy shrugs on his coat and goes out to find such a thing. He’s passing the local. His friends call out to him. Malachy! Come in and wet your whistle, nothing more than that, surely. Malachy goes in. He comes up with an idea. Bet you can’t guess what’s in the bag, he says, to one innocent party after another. Put up a whiskey against what’s in the bag. Who in God’s green would figure Malachy would have a bag of snails?

Seven hours later, and somewhat the worse for wear, Malachy arrives home. He was hoping the light would be off, and he could sneak in, but nothing doing. He looks at the soggy, disreputable bag of snails he’s got, pawed over by various and sundry personages, thinks the better of it, and dumps them in the gutter. Then he puts the key in the lock as quietly as a man three sheets can manage, but it’s too late. His wife jerks the door open, takes one look at bleary-eyed Malachy, and wails, “Malachy, where have you been! I’ve been starving here alone.”

Malachy waves towards the snails in the gutter, and says, “Come on, boyos; we’re almost there!”

Well, At Least She’s Not Texting

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

I have children, and they play music.

It’s interesting to me to see what they pluck out of the dump of pop culture to resurrect. It’s very difficult to predict in advance, although we’re more or less the same people on the cellular level. We got all the nature and more unadulterated nurture than any public school kids are ever going to get, and yet they are their own people with their own opinions. On second thought, that premise is exactly wrong. Of course they think for themselves. They don’t attend public schools where that’s not allowed.

So I can say with some standing that somewhere, Nicki Bluhm’s parents are scratching their heads and muttering, “Hall and Oates? Really?”

Sure, why not?

Is Frank Bunker Gilbreth Senior The Greatest Man Maine Ever Produced?

Frank Gilbreth was born in Fairfield, Maine, in 1868. He never went to college except to teach at Purdue eventually. He’s famous, in a way, and anonymous in another. He’s the father portrayed in the original Cheaper By The Dozen, using a stopwatch to figure out how to make his family more efficient. That was his thing –efficiency.

He was a bricklayer. Built houses. He got to wondering if the repetition of laying one oblong slug of fired clay atop two others in a bed of mortar could be improved by observing the motions of skilled persons, breaking these exertions down into their component movements, and eliminating the wasted motions in the routines.  It can, and he did. I’ve been a hod carrier and mason tender, and I can tell you that working off the ground or a platform the same height as your feet would be backbreaking and slow way to assemble masonry. We always used the footing form boards and leftover planks to assemble ad hoc shelves just lower than waist height behind the mason so that they could turn and pick up a brick and some mortar and go back to the next slot in the wall. I had no idea Clifton Webb, er, Frank Gilbreth came up with the idea less than a century before. It would be literally impossible to calculate how much time, money, effort, and  how many worker’s backs Frank Gilbreth (and his wife, who was his partner and carried on after his early death) saved anonymously. His method is now universal and uncontroversial. How many people are incalculably useful to their fellow men?

Gilbreth’s ghost is in so many well-known aspects of everyday life that you can’t hope to find them all. He’s in here, in a scene that’s repeated one way or another in so many movies you can’t count them, never mind the tens of millions of real-life examples:

It’s Gilbreth’s method that’s used to train soldiers to be able to disassemble and reassemble the components of their small arms, even if they are in total darkness. It’s not a pointless trick; if your weapon doesn’t work and you can’t fix it under any conditions, including at night, you might pay for it with your life.

Want more? How about this:

Guess whose idea it was for a nurse to organize and hand instruments as called for to a surgeon. Think of how ubiquitous that method is. It’s universal and uncontroversial. How many people could tell you it was Gilbreth’s idea?

There was a contemporaneous and competing version of efficiency expert abroad in the land with Frank and his wife: Taylorism.

Frederick Taylor is the progenitor of so many things that are in the common language today that he deserves to be discussed with the most influential people of his time. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Almost all the fruit of Taylor’s tree is rotten.

Taylor is the guy standing behind dehumanized workers with a stopwatch, keeping track of bathroom breaks, and generally treating all work as a series of unrelated steps that any unskilled human could do, and constantly finding new ways of measuring it and subdividing it to harangue a little more out of the continually less and less skilled worker. “Scientific Management,” they called it. The Soviet Union loved it. They thought all people were just cogs in a big machine anyway. Most of the terms for malingering in dead-end jobs come from Taylorism. Goldbricking. Dogging it. Taylor observed that when normal people are in a group and everyone has the same duties, it is human nature for everyone in the group to devolve and perform at the level of the least capable and energetic member. His solution was a big expansion of management. He is the busted idol of micromanagement, and by extension, big government.

Taylorism is often touted as the reason you need unions. I don’t see it. The death embrace of unionized workers finding dignity in organized heel-dragging while management tries to find ways to lay everyone off is the most soul-destroying work setting I’ve encountered. Workers are just slaves with two masters instead of one, afraid to work too hard to suit the union, afraid to work too little for the boss. Unionized Taylorism simply puts off the benefits of creative destruction until in the end it leads to just plain destruction. See Detroit. Eventually Taylorism leads to management giving up and finding people for the mind-numbing work overseas, where the boss is the union and the government and the Pinkertons and the mafia rolled into one.

Gilbreth believed in craftsmanship, and in the dignity of productive work. His efficiencies were certainly scientific, in the true sense of the word, but he didn’t look at people as robots, or worse, as farm animals. Look at Taylor’s most famous nostrum for the men he observed unloading pig iron ingots at a factory:

…the labor should include rest breaks so that the worker has time to
recover from fatigue. Now one of the very first requirements for a man
who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic
that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any
other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this
very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding
monotony of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best
suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of
doing this class of work.

That is a profoundly malignant view of your fellow human beings. That view of the world is on display on every Internet comment section I’ve ever seen, now disguised as referring to people capable of only asking if you want fries with that. Unionizing the situation, or keeping the management in one country and the oxen in another (yeah, Apple, I’m looking at you) doesn’t alter the disdain the people in charge have for the people that work for them.

I like Gilbreth’s world of meaningful work that’s freed from plain drudgery, and I try to live in it, but it’s getting near impossible for the average person to cobble it together now. You don’t have to coerce people to follow sound advice. The government at all levels is all coercion, all the time, about everything, and in their hearts most government functionaries of both parties have a profound contempt for their constituents, and they get elected solely on assembling a coalition of voters with a profound contempt for just under half of their fellow citizens. Businesses solve all their problems by Taylor-ing their jobs overseas, and locally just annoy their white collar workers with Six Sigma slogans and cover pages for their TPS reports until they can find a javascript widget to do their job, too. Everyone’s angry and envious of everyone else, and no one knows how to do much except some weird little sliver of a byzantine process to earn their keep. Everyone thinks they have the right to micromanage everyone else’s life, right down to the lightbulbs and happy meals.

The abolition of drudgery through efficiency should allow people to be craftsmen, and scholars and healers, and counselors, and other meaningful things, and so have rich full lives — not make them obsolete and useless to themselves and everyone else.

Gilbreth or Taylor. Choose. I’m afraid we already have, and chose very, very wrong.

I Got Asked Again The Other Day, Rather Bluntly, Why We Don’t Send The Kids To School

Nothing on this infographic is news to me. My wife and I are peculiarly equipped with first-hand knowledge of the whole enchilada. Either one of us or both of us and one of our children or both of our children have been homeschooled, attended private religiously themed schools, and attended public kindergarten, grammar, and high school. We’ve been dirt poor, poor, middle class, and for about ten minutes about ten years ago, I felt like a swell when I made enough money to stop paying into Social Security for a few months of the year. I wasn’t rich, but I felt that way.

I can assure you in advance that whatever sophism or misunderstanding of statistics you’d like to trot out to refute this chart is nonsense. Don’t give me the academic credentials of the parents business. Every public school teacher has a baccalaureate or better. The academic achievement of public schoolchildren’s parents that don’t teach their children doesn’t matter. I will laugh you out of here with “socialization” horsehockey. Not knowing from whom to buy diverted prescription drugs in third period and which “special needs” teacher puts out is not useful information, and does not make for a potent lifetime social lubricant.

It’s science, biatches. The idea that if public schools had more money they’d be swell is nonsense. If you cut the education budget to zero, and had entirely unqualified teachers (parents) teaching their own children, children would be overwhelmingly better educated than they are right now.  And we’d be able to cut taxes by 400 billion dollars or so. All the good teachers (I know many) should be teaching in private schools and making more money anyway.

Better still — it costs 11 large a year per student to send a child to public school around here. Mail my wife 22 grand every year and see how much better she’ll do. You can keep the iPad toys they squander public money on these days, though. Training for children to push imaginary buttons on a terminal with pictures of food on it is offered free at all McDonald’s restaurants. We’ll buy real computers with the money. We won’t be able to belly up to the “Genius Bar” when they don’t function, standing next to college grads that spell it “genious”, but we’ll try to bear up under the shame of it.

[Updated: Peter at College@Home sent me another visualization of homeschool info they have at their website]

Homeschool Domination
Created by: College At Home

The Heir’s In The Paper. Again

If you’re new around here, that’s him playing the guitar in the video and on the soundtrack. If you’re not new around here, that’s still him.


RUMFORD — Picture giant Beanie Baby sumo wrestlers bouncing around a mat and you’ll get a good idea of Saturday night’s St. Patrick’s Day Sumo Wrestling Throwdown Showdown. The debut event at Mountain Valley High School pitted community and business members and students against each other for rollicking laughs in the fundraiser for the Greater Rumford Community Center and its programs. (read more at the Lewiston Sun Urinal)

Well, that’s pretty good, son. But you’re nothing until you appear with Puppet Show

Mars Rocks!

The Rock Of Fergus

Two drunkards are staggering down the lane in the middle of the night. A copper grabs them by the collar and says, “You two look like you’re up to no good. You; what’s your name and where do you live?”

The heavier fellow rears up a bit, straightens an imaginary belt, clears his throat, and says,” I’m Malachy Curran, of no fixed address!”

The cop turns to the other drunk.

“I live in the flat above Malachy.” 

Related: Orange Line

Month: March 2012

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